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Canada shuts down mackerel fishery while U.S. continues fishing same migratory stock

That's like Ottawa slapping a moratorium on northern cod in the early '90s even as foreign draggers continued raking the Grand Banks outside 200 miles, or closing the Atlantic salmon fishery for decades when Greenland fished away. The States are not known for poor fishing practices, but their fishermen will still fish a 4,963-tonne mackerel quota this year, when the Canadian/NL fleets — who fish the same stock — will have none.

On Wednesday, federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray announced a closure of the Atlantic mackerel commercial/bait fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and ordered no directed fisheries for spring herring in the southern Gulf.

In terms of mackerel, it is not fair/makes zero sense for one nation to stop fishing a stock on one side of an imaginary line in the water, while another nation continues fishing the same stock on the other side.

Not only can U.S. fishermen still fish mackerel, but food, social and ceremonial fisheries for First Nation communities will remain open for both herring and mackerel.

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray explained Canada's decision to shut down its mackerel fishery while the U.S. keeps fishing by saying the American catch is a fraction of what it used to be.

“So they are clearly recognizing the challenges to mackerel stock and the importance of mackerel stock to other larger fish like the northern cod," she said.

That reason doesn't cut it.

Twillingate fisherman Richard Gillett has fished herring/mackerel for years, and says DFO hasn't had new mackerel science since 2019, a point also made by the FFAW.

Indeed, DFO in this province has acknowledged that its science program has been hampered by research vessel breakdowns, and other going issues in fisheries such as cod, snow crab, shrimp, etc.

Canada's total allowable catch (TAC) for Atlantic mackerel in 2021 was set at 4,000 tonnes (half the 2020 quota), but was divided in half to account for the migration of mackerel through Maritime/Quebec/NL waters, and to give all fleets a chance to catch some.

That's even though catches by NL harvesters represented the vast majority of Canadian landings for years.

That information is contained in the Rebuilding Plan for Atlantic Mackerel.

Landings by our harvesters exceeded 40,000 tonnes three times between 2004 and 2010 — representing 80% of total Canadian landings during that period.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail Please sign SEA-NL's petition to the House of Commons on non-core commercial fishing licences here.

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