HALIFAX—Earlier today, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced that the commercial and bait fisheries for Atlantic mackerel will remain closed for another year.
“Extending the closure was ultimately the only decision that could ensure the long-term health of the stock and the future prosperity of the fishery,” says Katie Schleit, Fisheries Director at Oceans North. “While rebuilding is expected to take years, we hope that this decision is a step towards healthy fisheries that can support both the ecosystem and coastal livelihoods.”
As “forage fish,” mackerel play a crucial role in Atlantic ecosystems: they are prey for whales and seabirds, as well as for commercially caught species such as tuna. They are also commonly used as bait in the region’s lucrative lobster fisheries.
However, mackerel have been in decline for a long time. Atlantic mackerel have been in the “critical zone”—meaning the stock is severely depleted—for over 10 years. This year’s assessment showed that, in 2021 and 2022, the spawning stock biomass of mackerel in Canadian waters reached the lowest levels ever recorded. There have been no signs of growth since 2015.
The decision to continue the closure of the fishery comes as questions are being asked about how Canada should manage its fisheries in the face of climate change and amongst global biodiversity commitments. “Adaptive and ecosystem-based management strategies, especially for species as important as mackerel, are going to be all the more important going forward,” Schleit says.
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