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Image: CBC News

Atlantic mackerel population continues to decline, a year after fishery moratorium

  (CANADA, 3/6/2023)

The following is an excerpt from an article published by  CBC:

The Atlantic mackerel population is continuing to decline after a decade of falling numbers, according to a federal assessment presented to industry and environmental groups in Halifax last week.

According to the 2022 assessment, mackerel stock remains in the "critical zone" — where serious harm is occurring — and the average number of fish reaching spawning age is only 27 per cent of what it was between 1969 and 2011.

"The amount of young fish entering your population has been rather low in the last couple of years. That's concerning," Elisabeth Van Beveren, a biologist with the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans, said during a break of the Atlantic mackerel advisory committee.

"And then there's an age structure, so you're going to have less and less of those older fish in the population. So all of that put together means that your stock isn't doing very well."

This latest assessment leaves Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray with a big decision in the coming weeks — whether to continue a regional mackerel fishing moratorium that was imposed in 2022 to try to rebuild the depleted population or remove it.

The department is not tipping its hand just yet.

"The Atlantic Mackerel Advisory Committee process is an important part of Minister Murray's considerations. That process is ongoing and a decision will be made following the completion of the scientific and consultation processes," it said in a statement to CBC News.

Mackerel is an important food source for other species, including seals, seabirds, whales and other fish.

The 2022 assessment included a rough estimate of the impact of predation, reporting to the advisory committee that grey seals in Canada ate 8,000 tonnes of the fish in 2020 and northern gannets ate 15,000 tonnes.

'Colossal mishandling' by DFO, union says

Mackerel is also a major source of bait for the region's lobster business — valued at over $3 billion in 2021 — making the shutdown a controversial one in Atlantic Canada.

The moratorium also caused some resentment after it was placed in Canada, while the United States allowed a scaled-down fishery on shared stock. In January, the U.S. announced a reduced quota for mackerel for 2023.(continues...)

Author/Source: Paul Withers · CBC News | Read the full article by clicking the link here

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