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Hands off: DFO says fishermen cannot collect dead mackerel on beaches for bait, must be left to rot

Untold hundreds of thousands of pounds of mackerel have washed up on the shores of Newfoundland's northeast coast over the past week (skippers speculate they froze with a drop in water temperature), but DFO says fishermen are not permitted to collect the dead fish for bait.

The picture to the left shows dead mackerel washed up on the shores of Charleston, Bonavista Bay on Dec. 23rd. The other two photos were taken Dec. 19th, and show mackerel washing ashore in Virgin Arm, Notre Dame Bay.

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray slapped a moratorium on the Atlantic mackerel fishery in March, and earlier this week SEA-NL called on Ottawa to reopen the fishery in 2023).


Fishermen have asked whether they can keep the mackerel that has washed up on shore for bait. Bait and fuel prices have gone through the roof in recent years, and every dollar counts in the inshore fishery.

DFO's response: "As there is no commercial or bait fishing permitted, the fishing for, catching or attempting to catch mackerel by the method you describe would not be permitted."

In other words, the mackerel must be left to rot.

DFO added that the recreational mackerel fishery is still open until Dec. 31st with a daily limit of 20 fish per person. (The minimum possession size is 26.8 cm, so fish smaller than that must also be left to rot.)

Even I'm still shocked by the absence of common sense in Canadian fisheries management, and there is no better example than the 2022 mackerel fishery.

Closing the fishery actually weakened already weak science by removing fishermen from the water.

Only not all fishermen were removed — the U.S. kept fishing the same stock.

That brought back memories of the Government of Canada's introduction of the '92 northern cod moratorium even as foreign draggers continued to fish away outside 200 miles.

Then, this fall, skippers reported unprecedented amounts of mackerel off the northeast coast, and most recently mackerel started washing up dead.

Only fishermen can't keep the dead fish, and must either pay more for bait or catch more fish that would otherwise be left in the water.

The 2022 mackerel fiasco was yet another example of how far our once great fisheries have fallen, and the death of common sense in federal management.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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Jan 04, 2023

doesn't make sense that the fishers can't take the dead mackerel to use for bait. Who concots such brainless rules. What a waste !!!


Jan 04, 2023

this is absolutely ridiculous ,just like dumping bycatch over the side , one of the first things I intend to change if elected president of the FFAW

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