Charter tuna boat captains in P.E.I. hope for mackerel closure exemption

·3 min read

NORTH LAKE, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND — A sport fishing industry that is synonymous with Prince Edward Island is hoping for an exemption to the recent closure of the Atlantic mackerel fishery, which is its primary source of bait.

Troy Bruce, chairman of the P.E.I. Tuna Charter Association, says the commercial closure is a problem for charter boat captains on the Island who rely on mackerel as live bait to catch Atlantic bluefin tuna.

With mackerel stocks seriously depleted, federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray in March announced the closure of that fishery in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

“If we are not allowed to use live mackerel, then it’s going to make it very challenging for us to actually hook a tuna on a charter,” Bruce said in an interview earlier this week.

He said his association’s 15 charter boat captains will have to use dead baits or resort to simply dragging a line with a lure, a method known as trolling.

He said the alternate methods aren’t nearly as effective for catching the massive fish, which can reach over 450 kilograms in size.

Bruce noted that sport fishermen from around the world have long seen Canada’s smallest province as a prime destination to catch tuna with a rod and reel.

“People that are interested big-game fishing, it’s a dream trip to come to P.E.I.,” he said. “Tuna is something that’s part of our culture here.”

Bruce now wonders if the allure will remain over the long term if the chances of catching a large tuna are reduced.

He noted that the sport tuna fishery is catch and release, so he’s optimistic something can be worked out under an exemption that allows participants in the recreational fishery to catch 20 mackerel per person.

He said charter boats are limited to hooking three tuna each day over the season that runs from July 15 to Oct. 31, and with as many as six clients per boat, they are asking for a limit of 20 mackerel per boat.

P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Jamie Fox is supportive of the association’s stance, Bruce said.

In an email, Fox’s department confirms a letter was sent to Murray this week advocating for similar access to the mackerel recreation fishery for the tuna charter industry, which is worth an estimated $6 million annually to the Island’s economy.

“It is the minister’s hope that the federal government will be open to this exemption as PEI looks towards economic recovery,” the email states.

But in an email Friday, Murray’s press secretary, Claire Teichman, gave no indication the request is being considered and simply reiterated the federal minister’s reasons for implementing the mackerel closure.

“Southern Gulf spring herring and Atlantic mackerel are two stocks that are in the critical zone,” Teichman said. “Fishing has a significant influence on the status of the Atlantic mackerel stock, and limiting fishing pressure will help protect younger, spawning fish, which are at the lowest level ever observed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2022.

- By Keith Doucette in Halifax

The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting