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DFO holds up west coast herring fishery without explanation

The opening of the herring fishery off western/southwestern Newfoundland (fishing zones 4R,3PN) — which DFO describes as the “most stable herring fishing in Atlantic Canada" for 50 years running — has been delayed for weeks without explanation.

The annual total allowable catch (TAC) for herring in 4R,3PN has been set at 20,000 since 2007, and is fished by mobile (35%), and fixed-gear (65%) fleets. A 2020 agreement between the FFAW/processors set a “floating price” for herring, to be decided between fisherman/buyer. Last year the herring price was said to be 20¢/lb.

Owner-operators in the west coast herring fleet, which included almost 600 license holders in 2017, want an immediate opening before the season is lost.

In 2021, the herring headed offshore around May 7th, and didn’t return again inshore until January.

Herring is used for bait in the lobster, snow crab, and halibut fisheries, as well as for commercial purposes.

In March, DFO shut down both the herring fishery in the southern Gulf, as well as the mackerel fishery — creating huge waves in the fishery.

Only the herring stock in 4R3Pn is completely separate from the herring stock in the southern Gulf that was closed.

The department's 2019 assessment of western Newfoundland herring stated the herring stocks are not being overfished.

That sentiment is repeated in the draft 2021/2022 assessment.

SEA-NL has posed questions to DFO NL, and will post the department's response here.

In 2016, herring accounted for about 25% of the total landed value of all species harvested by the under 65’ fleet.

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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