No recovery of mackerel until at least 2030
Fisheries and Oceans biologists estimate that Atlantic mackerel stocks could take seven to nine years to recover (archives).
Fisheries and Oceans biologists estimate that Atlantic mackerel stocks could take seven to nine years to recover.
And it is a figure that is very uncertain, nuance the researcher of the Maurice-Lamontagne Institute in Mont-Joli, Elisabeth Van Beveren. Several conditions must be met to allow the recovery of the stock, including the continued fishing in the United States.
Clearly, it will depend on many scenarios. It will depend on recruitment, that is to say the number of new mackerels that will enter the population, it will depend on the United States, whether they will increase their quota or lower their quota. So there are many factors that can influence, says the biologist.
Biologist Elisabeth Van Beveren (archives)
Among these factors is the number of spawners which is very low. We also see that in recent years, the average recruitment has been very low, notes the biologist.
Predation is also part of the equation. Biologists do not have a very precise idea of its impact. The seal, more present in recent years in the Gulf, is a predator, but other species are too, and could even have a greater impact. This is the case, among others, of the Gannet.
Recreational fishing also remains an issue, although since last year the ministry has imposed daily catch limits. Fishing on the docks remains very popular in the Gulf and Atlantic provinces, but remains almost impossible to count since fishing is done without a license. However, this fishery remains a very limited one. It does little to change the stock's chances of recovery, says Elisabeth Van Beveren.
Citizens fishing mackerel at Carleton wharf -sur-Mer (archives).
Furthermore, the state of the stocks has deteriorated slightly since the last assessment.
This is not very good news since the biomass was already in what biologists call the critical zone. Ms. Van Beveren points out that the plight of mackerel is not recent. The species has been in this area since a little before 2011 and this decline is believed to be due to overfishing.
According to the ministry, at this level, the resource is at risk of serious damage, which could have repercussions on the ecosystem and other species.
The stock has fallen a little further into this critical zone, comments the DFO biologist. Without giving an estimate of the entire biomass, the scientist indicates that the resource is only 42% of the threshold for leaving the critical zone.
Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray imposed a moratorium on spring fishing last year (archive ).
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans was awaiting the results of this assessment before deciding on the commercial fishing of the resource, which is used as bait by lobster boats.
When a stock has reached the critical zone, a rebuilding plan must be put in place that will, with a high probability, ensure the stock progress out of the critical zone within a reasonable time.
Excerpt from Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Decision-Making Framework including the Precautionary Approach.
Last year, the Minister of Fisheries Joyce Murray has imposed a moratorium on the spring fishery. Pelagic, mackerel and herring fishermen have not received any compensation for the cessation of their fishing and have been asking Ottawa for help for several months.
They had hoped to meet the minister during her recent visit to Gaspésie, but without success.
The moratorium had also been considered for a few years before Minister Murray decreed it.