GCIFA questions timeline for mackerel rebuilding plan

·3 min read

A local fishers association is questioning new amendments to regulations regarding the development of stock rebuilding plans announced Jan. 2.

The regulatory impact analysis statement, published on the Canada Gazette website says the amendments strengthen the “decision-making framework to support sustainable fisheries management, including the development and implementation of rebuilding plans for depleted stocks.”

The stocks under consideration include 30 of DFO’s annual survey of 177 commercially fished stocks, including Atlantic mackerel, and it is this that has the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association (GCIFA) concerned.

The new regulations include a timeline for the creation of a rebuilding plan, but they also include an amendment that states: a plan to rebuild a major fish stock, required under subsection 6.2(1) of the Act, must contain a timeline for achieving objectives. And here lies the sticking point for the GCIFA.

Ginny Boudreau, the GCIFA manager, told The Journal on Jan. 6 that, “This association certainly isn’t demanding that DFO put timelines on rebuilding plans unless adequate science and adequate consultation has happened with those fishermen that will be affected by those changes.”

A rebuilding plan for Atlantic mackerel has already been created through consultation with stakeholders and is currently being circulated for comment, said Boudreau. But she added, “We don’t feel, that for mackerel, there is a complete picture yet of what is going on … the environmental work has not been done on the mackerel; definitely not in the Scotia Fundy region.”

This is further complicated by the international nature of the Atlantic mackerel.

“We share the same stock (Canada and United States). It’s very complicated. For us to say we are going to put a timeline on that (rebuilding plan), I don’t think that is realistic. We’d be setting ourselves up by saying we were going to do something we have absolutely no control over,” Boudreau said.

The GCIFA will make these concerns known in comments responding to the rebuilding plan currently in circulation.

“That’s all we can do,” said Boudreau.

The Journal contacted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about these concerns and received the following response via email on Monday, Jan. 11: “In regard to Atlantic mackerel, a rebuilding plan was completed in 2020 thus the Department is well positioned to meet the 24-month timeline. Note that neither the proposed regulatory amendments, nor the Fish Stocks provisions in the Fisheries Act set out a specific timeline within which to rebuild a fish stock. The timeline to rebuild a stock will be determined during the development of a rebuilding plan for the fish stock.

“Despite a slight increase in spawning stock biomass between 2016 and 2018, Atlantic mackerel remains in the Critical Zone, and scientists have expressed concerns with the lack of incoming recruitment. Preliminary analysis suggests that Atlantic mackerel recruitment and condition are negatively affected by warming water temperatures and the reduced availability of their preferred prey.

“Since 2018, the Department has made significant improvements in Atlantic mackerel catch monitoring and has enhanced measures to protect spawners. To help address the industry’s views, the Department established a Mackerel Science Working Group and is working with industry partners to continue to collect samples of mackerel for analysis throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec to further our understanding of mackerel stock structure,” said DFO spokesperson Robin Jahn in the email.

In response to the GCIFA’s concerns about the international nature of the Atlantic mackerel stock, Jahn wrote, “As we move forward on this rebuilding plan, Canada will engage with the counterparts from the US to discuss opportunities for joint science and cooperative management of this migratory stock.”

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal