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Mackerel closure extended

By Evan Taylor Jul 5, 2023 | 12:36 PM

Paul VanDerWerf / CC

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has announced the extension of the closure for Atlantic mackerel commercial and bait fishing in Atlantic Canada and Quebec for the 2023 season. The decision, made to facilitate stock recovery, comes after the imposition of a moratorium in March 2022.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian stock assessment revealed a further decline in the Atlantic mackerel population within the critical zone since the last evaluation. The spawning stock biomass has reached its lowest-observed value, indicating significant harm to the species. The department emphasized that overfishing, low recruitment, and high predation pressure have contributed to the collapsed age structure, limiting the stock’s rebuilding potential.

Responding to the news, Oceans North, an environmental organization, released a statement applauding the extension of the fishery closure. They emphasized that it was the necessary decision to ensure the long-term health of the stock and the future prosperity of the fishery.

The closure of Atlantic mackerel fishing has sparked controversy within Atlantic Canada, as it is a major source of bait for the region’s lobster industry. Moreover, the species plays a crucial role in the food chain, serving as a vital food source for seals, seabirds, whales, and other fish.

The news of the extended closure has left many fishermen disappointed, particularly regarding the increased costs of bait. Martin Mallet, the executive director of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, expressed his disappointment, highlighting the hope for some flexibility to access lower-cost bait, specifically for the lobster fishery. Mallet disclosed that bait costs have risen significantly in recent years, with mackerel prices increasing from $0.90 per pound three years ago to up to $1.80 per pound currently. The inability to access traditional bait has discouraged fishermen due to the impact on operational costs.

Katie Schleit, the fisheries director at Oceans North, acknowledged the expected extension of the moratorium, noting the economic opportunities that Atlantic mackerel offers to the region. While recognizing the economic benefits, Schleit emphasized the importance of rebuilding the fishery and its role in the ecosystem. She stressed that forage fish like mackerel serve as vital food sources for larger predators such as bluefin tuna and whales, and also facilitate the transfer of energy through the food chain.

The extension of the closure underscores the significance of conserving the Atlantic mackerel population to ensure its long-term sustainability, protect the livelihoods of fishermen, and preserve the delicate balance within the marine ecosystem.


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