The federal agency Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) says stocks of Atlantic mackerel are at an all time low. They say there has been an 86 per cent decline over the past 20 years.
The DFO scientists also say the number of surviving fish able to breed is also at an all time low and the fish stocks are in a “critical” state.
Overfishing is seen as the main reason for the decline. The catch limit in Canada last year was 10,000 metric tonnes. In 2005 it was 55,000 tonnes. In the U.S, where mackerel winter off the New Jersey coast the quota this year is 9,100 tons.
As spring arrives the mackerel move north to Nova Scotia then up around Cape Breton to spawn in the southern Gulf of St Lawrence before dispersing.
Now adding to the uncertainty ard changing environmental conditions in the areas where they normally breed. The waters tend to be warmer, and the zooplankton on which they feed are not as plentiful.
East coast fishermen however say DFO is wrong and that the stocks have moved to the northeast coast.
In Britain, the Marine Stewardship Council has removed its accreditation for mackerel in the northeast Atlantic as a “sustainably” caught species. It also says that overfishing is the reason it has removed its “blue label”.
Mackerel represent Britain’s most valuable fish stock, comprising about a third of seafood landed.
- CBC: P Withers: Apr 10/19: Mackerel stocks 86% decline in 20 years
- Independent (UK): J Gabbatiss: mar 3/19: British mackerel sustainable status cancelled
- Undercurrent News: Apr 12/19: new quota coming with stocks down 86%
- PewTrusts:J Gordon: Oct 31/18: (op-ed) NOAA should give overfished mackerel a chance