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Holy mackerel, still time for Ottawa to repent for mistake of shutting down Atlantic fishery

Seven months after DFO Ottawa slapped a moratorium on Atlantic mackerel, the inshore fleet reports the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast are teaming with the fish and various year classes — reflecting a strong stock, and yet another example of WTF management. DFO has some explaining to do, and the fact it hasn't already reveals its distance from/arrogance toward the very fishermen it serves.

These five mackerel, ranging in size from 4-15 inches (130 grams to 700 grams), were caught Thursday morning with a rod and reel in Roberts Arm. Ottawa slapped a moratorium on the Atlantic mackerel fishery in March, although the mackerel food fishery remains open with a limit of 20 fish a day.


Roberts Arm fisherman Brad Rideout says mackerel are as thick today off Newfoundland’s northeast coast as they were in July, and the various year classes he and other enterprise owners are seeing reflect good signs for the stock into the future.


Other well respected owner-operators who've fished mackerel for years tell me the amount of mackerel they're seeing is unprecedented.


If it wasn't bad enough that Ottawa shut down the Atlantic mackerel fishery in Atlantic Canada, U.S. fishermen continue fishing the same stock with an almost 5,000-tonne (11 million pound) quota.


Again, that's comparable to Ottawa shutting down the northern cod fishery inside 200 miles, knowing foreign fleets would continue fishing the same migratory stock in international waters outside.


Not only that, but DFO's mackerel science — like the rest of its fish science — is flimsy at best, and suspect for political/bureaucratic interference.


DFO's mackerel science is based primarily on annual egg surveys, and the 2020 survey was cancelled outright due to the Covid pandemic.

According to DFO science, mackerel found in the northwest Atlantic from North Carolina to Labrador is a single stock, genetically distinct from mackerel found in the northeast Atlantic where Iceland, for example, is reporting a mackerel return.


To be blunt, enterprise owners do not trust/respect DFO management or science, and who could blame them?


DFO's decision to slap a moratorium on the Canadian mackerel fishery while the U.S. continues to fish — combined with weak science, and even less data without fishermen on the water — is grounds for the federal Minister to reopen the Atlantic mackerel fishery with a small quota.


Do the right thing.

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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