HALIFAX—Today, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced a 470-tonne bait fishery for Atlantic mackerel in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, a critically depleted stock that has been closed to commercial and bait fishing since 2022. The mackerel caught will be for personal use.

“While we recognize the importance of the bait fishery for harvesters, we have concerns about how the catch will be monitored,” says Katie Schleit, Fisheries Director at Oceans North.

Last year, a report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) found many issues with DFO’s approach to monitoring marine fisheries catch, including that it frequently lacked dependable and timely catch data. This has been a particular concern for bait fisheries, where catches have traditionally been underreported. This in turn impacts stock assessments.

Furthermore, DFO conducted an assessment on mackerel that was presented at the Atlantic Mackerel Advisory Committee this year which revealed there is a high risk with the data quality for the stock. This stems from high levels of mortality that are not being accounted for and inconsistencies in monitoring and reporting requirements across regions.

“Without a plan for monitoring and data collection, it’s not obvious how DFO will ensure that the catch limit isn’t being exceeded or how the quality of these data will be improved for science assessments,” Schleit explains.

Forage fish such as mackerel play a key role in marine ecosystems, providing food for a variety of other species. They have also traditionally supported large fisheries, although only one of Canada’s forage fish stocks is currently considered healthy. Atlantic mackerel have been in the critical zone for over a decade; DFO says it will publish a rebuilding plan for the stock “in the coming weeks.”

“We look forward to seeing the rebuilding plan for Atlantic mackerel and working to ensure a healthy stock that can support the ecosystem and coastal communities,” Schleit says.

For more information, please contact:

Alex Tesar
Communications Manager
Oceans North
[email protected]




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