Doesn’t get much more foolish. Then again, it is the same Government of Canada that slapped a moratorium on cod 30 years ago as foreign draggers continued to fish away outside 200 miles, and the very same Ottawa that closed the Atlantic salmon fishery for years only for the fish to be caught once they swam to Greenland.
Mackerel were incredibly plentiful this year in waters around the province, as reflected in this Sept. 5th video from Virgin Arm. In March, seven months earlier, DFO ordered a moratorium on the Atlantic mackerel commercial/bait fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, even as the U.S. continued fishing the same stock with a 4,963-tonne quota.
It makes zero sense for one nation to stop fishing mackerel on one side of an imaginary line in the water when another nation continues to fish the same stock on the other side.
While U.S. fishermen had a quota of almost 5,000 tonnes of Atlantic mackerel this year, their 2023 quota has been set at 3,629 tonnes.
Canada slapped a moratorium on mackerel this year, although next year's quota decision has yet to be decided.
DFO Minister Joyce Murray has reportedly been trying to land a joint management agreement with the United States to manage the stock, but has yet to get anywhere with it.
(The Minister is not one bit eager for joint Canada/NL fisheries management, but I'll leave that for another day.)
Formal talks between Canada and the U.S. are scheduled for February.
The inshore fleet reported earlier this fall that the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast were teaming with mackerel of various year classes — reflecting a strong stock, and yet another example of questionable DFO management.
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 (not all fishermen agree), 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.
DFO's decision to slap a moratorium on the Canadian mackerel fishery while the U.S. fleet continued to fish — combined with relatively weak DFO science, and then even less data without mackerel fishermen on the water — was a poor decision from the get-go.
Let's hope the minister smartens up ahead of next season, and reestablishes a mackerel quota.
(SEA-NL will send her a reminder.)
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.