96% of respondents (363 votes) to an informal overnight SEA-NL Facebook poll on The Newfoundland Fisherman's Forum agree DFO should reopen the commercial mackerel fishery to gather scientific information at the very least, given reports of unprecedented amounts of the fish in waters around the province, and questionable stock science.
Mackerel videos like this one taken on Monday (Sept. 5th) in Virgin Arm are being shot around the province. In March, DFO ordered a moratorium on the Atlantic mackerel commercial/bait fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec — even as U.S. fishermen continue fishing the same stock with a 4,963-tonne mackerel quota this year.
Ottawa's decision to close the mackerel fishery isn't based on new science — because there is none.
In fact, the strength of DFO's mackerel science must be questioned given it is based primarily on annual egg surveys, and the 2020 survey was cancelled outright due to the Covid pandemic.
Inshore skippers with decades on the water report "never seeing the likes of it before" in terms of the schools of mackerel along Newfoundland's northeast coast in recent weeks.
According to DFO science (which isn't exactly known for its credibility), mackerel found in the northwest Atlantic from North Carolina to Labrador is a single stock, genetically distinct from mackerel found in the northeast Atlantic.
Mackerel fishermen in this province question that conclusion.
For now, the inshore fleet is strongly encouraged to report mackerel bycatch (whether on hooks or in gillnets) in your logbooks when the fall cod fishery opens on Sept. 11th.
Scientists are more likely to put credence in a fisherman's logbook than wharf talk.
But then it's time for scientists to drop by more wharfs.
Regardless, DFO's decision to slap a moratorium on the Canadian mackerel fishery while the U.S. fleet continues to fish away — combined with relatively weak DFO science, and now even less data without fishermen off the water — is grounds for the federal Minister to revisit her decision.
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.