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How can mackerel be 'packed and sold' in Canada when there's a moratorium?: MP Clifford Small

Canada’s Atlantic mackerel fishery has been shut down for two years, but central Newfoundland Conservative MP Clifford Small set off fireworks in Ottawa this week when he alleged that fish is being "packed and sold" as "Product of Canada mackerel."

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is conducting a study of of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Testifying this week before the committee were Jamie Fox, former PEI fisheries Minister, and Ian Macpherson of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association.

"How could that happen? Who would be allowed to catch that fish, and not be charged for catching it?" Small asked witnesses this week as part of a House of Commons study on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The two witnesses — Jamie Fox, a former PEI fisheries minister, and Ian Macpherson from the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association — had no answers.

Small told the committee the mackerel was being packed and sold as "product of Canada," although he also referred to it as "product of Quebec."

He also said the mackerel was being "sold right now in southwest Nova Scotia as bait."

"How is it possible that that product is stamped 2023 product of Canada when that mackerel fishery is shut down for all commercial purposes?

"How do you think the people in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador are going to feel about that product coming on the market. If that’s being caught that’s unbelievable ... they’re going to be pretty riled up down there."


Commercial and bait fishing for Atlantic mackerel in Atlantic Canada and Quebec has been under moratorium since 2022.

Fishing mackerel for food and ceremonial fisheries remains open, and the recreational fishery continued with a limit of 20 fish per day.

While the decision to shut down the Canadian mackerel fishery was to allow the stock to rebuild, the same stock of Atlantic mackerel was fished in 2022 and again this year by the United States.

In February, the U.S. set the 2023 quota for Atlantic mackerel at 3,639 tonnes — down from last year’s 4,963-tonne quota.

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

Right up to January of this year fishermen had been reporting unprecedented schools of mackerel from various year classes along Newfoundland’s northeast coast, with thousands of fish washing up dead on beaches along the northeast coast.

Enterprise owners speculate cold water temperatures killed the mackerel.

This picture of dead mackerel on the shores of Charleston, Bonavista Bay was taken on Dec. 23rd, 2022. Enterprise owners speculate the fish died when the water temperatures dropped. Alf Pike photo.

See other SEA-NL posts on Atlantic Mackerel:

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit to join. If you have any issues contact me at or 709 682 4862.

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