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‘Never seen the likes of it before’: inshore skippers report record mackerel off northeast coast

Five months after Ottawa shut down the Atlantic mackerel fishery, enterprise owners are encountering record amounts of the fish along Newfoundland's northeast coast. Skippers like Keith Bath of La Scie, who has never fished mackerel, and Brad Rideout of Roberts Arm, who's fished mackerel for 40 years, say they have never seen the fish so plentiful.

A school of mackerel near the surface in Green Bay earlier this week. Brad Rideout photo.

In March , federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray slapped a moratorium on the Atlantic mackerel commercial/bait fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec — even as U.S. fishermen continue fishing the stock with a 4,963-tonne mackerel quota this year.

Fishermen say DFO's latest science is from 2019, and suspect mackerel off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador is a different stock from the mackerel in the Gulf/along the U.S. eastern seaboard — possibly originating from the northeast Atlantic.

"I've never seen the likes of it before," said well-known Skipper Keith Bath of La Scie, who has 60 years on the water. "They're everywhere, around the Horse Islands everywhere."

Fisherman Brad Rideout said DFO officials have told him in the past they don't know where the mackerel off the province's east coast originates, which is yet another condemnation of the state of DFO fish science in this province.

DFO has acknowledged that its science program for species from snow crab to northern cod has been severely hampered by research vessel breakdowns, and other issues.

So between the U.S. fishermen still fishing mackerel while our inshore boats are tied to the wharf, and DFO's questionable science, the inshore fleet has every right to be pissed.

It's simply not good enough.

A school of mackerel this week on Brad Rideout's sounder.

The Atlantic mackerel fishery remains open to the general public, with a limit of 20 fish a day.

In 2018, Canada’s mackerel exports were valued at $3.2 million, with Newfoundland and Labrador ($2.2 million) and Nova Scotia ($600,000) sharing the majority (89% by value) of those exports.

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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