Kjipuktuk [Halifax]—Earlier today, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced that the total allowable catch (TAC) for Atlantic mackerel will be 4000 tonnes for the 2021 fishing year, half of the 8000-tonne TAC from 2020.
“We know that it’s tough news for harvesters. But the science is showing us we have to reduce fishing if we want this fishery to prosper into the future,” says Katie Schleit, Oceans North’s senior fisheries advisor.
Mackerel are a “forage fish,” meaning they are a key prey species for larger predators such as whales, tuna and seabirds. They are also targeted by a $6.7 million commercial mackerel fishery and are used as bait in the $1.5 billion lobster fishery.
Once an abundant fish, the results of the most recent Atlantic mackerel science assessment reveal that the spawning stock biomass (the estimate of stock abundance) for mackerel is at the lowest level ever recorded. Following a decades-long decline, Atlantic mackerel have been critically depleted for a decade now; there are almost no fish over 5 years of age.
According to DFO policy, the department is supposed to reduce fishing to the lowest possible level for stocks that are in the critical zone. Fishing mortality—essentially, the number of fish that are caught relative to those that die in other ways—is high for this stock, meaning that reductions to the TAC will have a meaningful impact on Atlantic mackerel’s long-term chances.
“We are pleased that DFO finally listened to the scientific evidence,” Schleit says. “While not the best option on the table, this decision is a first step towards increasing the population of Atlantic mackerel to a level where it can sustain the ecosystem and harvesters once again.”
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