HomeIndustryCanadian Fisheries Minister Announces New Mackerel Bait Fishery

Canadian Fisheries Minister Announces New Mackerel Bait Fishery

Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, recently announced the opening of a 470-tonne Atlantic mackerel personal-use bait fishery alongside the continued closure of the larger commercial mackerel fishery in 2024.

The 470-tonne quota, according to the ministry, has been put in place to allow harvesters to continue to fish for bait without “jeopardizing the ongoing rebuilding of [the Atlantic mackerel] stock.”

“For generations, harvesters have always been our eyes and ears at sea, and our government recognizes all their expertise,” said Lebouthillier. “Today’s announcement is really about striking the right balance between protecting the resource, equipping harvesters with the bait they need, and obtaining recent data from the ground, which can only better inform next steps in this fishery so vital for our coastal communities.”

The quota for bait fishery will be released in two equal parts in accordance with the migration of the mackerel stock around Québec and Atlantic Canada. The bait fishery, according to Mike Kelloway, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, will also allow for data collection on the stock going forward.

“This will allow harvesters to catch mackerel as it migrates through the water of Atlantic Canada and Québec,” said Kelloway. “So, today’s announcement is really about striking the right balance between protecting the resource, equipping the harvesters with the bait they need and obtaining recent data from the ground, which can only better inform next steps in the fishery that is so vital to our coastal communities.”

Some, like the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW), have called this announcement a “slap in the face to license holders.” The union claimed a bait fishery will do nothing for Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters and have called for a “modest directed commercial quota” for the province.

“Newfoundland and Labrador has a history of a fully monitored directed fishery that provided top quality product in a traditionally fall fishery. FFAW-Unifor’s proposal for a directed fishery with temporal coverage would bridge the existing information gaps,” said FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle. “Moreover, today’s release is not clear what portion Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters would receive and when.”

Previously, the FFAW proposed a commercial mackerel fishery with a quota of 10,000 tonnes for license holders in the province. The union said this proposal did not receive a response. Moreover, they said that bait fisheries are not closely monitored in the same fashion as a commercial fishery, and that the announcement by Lebouthillier did not clarify how landings would be accurately recorded.

“The silence from the liberal MPs in our province is absolutely astounding,” said FFAW President Greg Pretty. “The federal government has abandoned our province, and more than that, they’ve stripped away the livelihoods from those living in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

The food, social and ceremonial fishery for First Nation communities will remain open for Atlantic mackerel alongside the recreational fishery, which allows for a daily limit of 20 mackerel.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) also announced the release of an Atlantic mackerel rebuilding plan. Among its objectives are improving stock growth over a two-year period, improving monitoring, increasing bilateral cooperation with the United States and providing fishing opportunities while the stock rebuilds.

“I’m pleased to confirm that this plan will be available on DFO’s website in the coming weeks,” said Kelloway.

 

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