Some fishermen say the time to insist on more than the 2,000 tonnes of Atlantic mackerel set aside for NL's inshore fleet this year was not last week — when the quota was caught — but last March before the quota was set.
In mid-May, the 2021 Atlantic mackerel quota was set at 4,000 tonnes (half the 2020 quota), but was divided in half to account for the migration of mackerel through Maritime/Quebec waters, and to give all fleets a chance to catch some.
DFO made the second 2,000 tonnes of mackerel available to NL's inshore fleet on Aug. 15th, but it's only lately that the fish — which are reportedly plentiful — began showing up in many bays.
Mackerel catches by NL harvesters far exceeded those of other provinces for years. Landings of Atlantic mackerel reached over 40,000 tonnes a year between 2000 and 2010, with more than 80% caught by NL boats
DFO closed the mackerel fishery Nov. 10th this year when landings were within 25 tonnes of the overall quota being taken.
Two fishing boats alone from the northeast coast landed almost 540,000/lbs over two days just before the fishery closed.
Another fisherman said he spent thousands of dollars on fuel looking for mackerel, and was frustrated at not accessing more fish before the closure.
"Seems like that's all they know is to take something good, and f--k it up."
Make no mistake, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the absolute power to increase the mackerel quota (or any other quota) — "for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons.".
(As long as fish quotas are outside NL's hands she will never control her own fishing destiny, but that's another post.)
What's clear is it's going to take a hell of a lot more than two press releases to get DFO to move on mackerel.
Much of the Atlantic mackerel quota is used as bait for other species including lobster, crab, tuna, and halibut, which compounds the economic importance of the fishery.
STORY ON MACKEREL PRICE
The 2021 mackerel price to NL inshore fishermen was rolled over from 2020 (the FFAW has yet to update its site.)
The per pound price paid to harvesters in 2020 was down a fraction from 2019:
• 200-400 gram, 22¢/lb;
• 400-600 gram, 26¢/lb;
• 600 gram plus 34¢/lb.
Find the 2020 price decision here.
Last year, the FFAW argued the share to harvesters hadn't kept pace with markets, particularly in 2019, and requested a share “recalibration.”
In response, the province’s price-setting panel said straight up it “does not have access to the information required to make an informed, evidence-based decision on this issue.”
Canada's Atlantic mackerel fishery pales in comparison to one across the Atlantic.
The 2021 mackerel quota for Norway, the European Union, and the Faroe Islands was set at 853,000 tonnes.
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