October 6th, 2016
The Ecology Action Centre is disappointed to learn that the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Southwest Nova Scotia/Bay of Fundy (SWNS/BoF) herring spawning component was maintained at 50,000 metric tonnes for the 2016 fishing year. The failure of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to adequately manage fisheries for forage species has been raised repeatedly over the last six months and it is accepted that herring are important to several other ecosystem components. We also note that this is particularly relevant given the recent report from the Commissioner on Environment and Sustainable Development, an arm of the Canadian Auditor General’s Office, which identifies several shortcomings in DFO fisheries management, including the failure to develop rebuilding plans for a suite of fish populations that are considered at low levels
We are concerned about the maintenance of this TAC for the following reasons:
- Since 2001, DFO stock status reports for SWNS/BoF herring have indicated the need for more rebuilding.
- The stock is considered in the “cautious zone” of the DFO Precautionary Framework.
- Despite this recognition, few measures have been put in place to achieve rebuilding and as a result recovery has not occurred.
- Continuation of the status quo – including maintaining the TAC at 50,000 MT – in no way contributes to rebuilding into the future.
The SWNS/BoF spawning component of Atlantic herring is particularly significant due to its proximity to the Gulf of Maine, the diversity of the fishery it supports, and the fact that landings in this area are significantly higher than anywhere else in the surrounding area. The importance of a healthy herring stock extends beyond the value of the fishery itself. Herring are a forage fish that are important to the ocean ecosystem as they eat plankton and transfer energy up the food chain to larger species. The herring caught in this fishery are used directly for human consumption as well as reduction fishery for fish meal and fish oil, as well as bait for lobster, the region’s most lucrative fishery. Furthermore, herring is an important food source for many of the regions important predators including whales, sharks and bluefin tuna.
We recommend that:
- DFO prioritize rebuilding with a focus on quotas that take into account the needs of the ecosystem as a foundation.
- DFO begin to manage this fishery at its next advisory committee meeting in winter 2017 in accordance with the Sustainable Fisheries Framework’s Guidance for the Development of Rebuilding Plans Under the Precautionary Approach Framework and consider aligning its management with the direction provided under the New Forage Fish policy.
We hope to see a different outcome when DFO considers possible additional conservation measures, including a TAC reduction, when new science advice is brought to the fisheries managers early next year.
To learn more about the Ecology Action Centre's work on forage fish, click here.
For further comment on herring and the importance of small pelagic fisheries, please contact:
The Ecology Action Centre is Atlantic Canada’s oldest and largest environmental organization. The Marine Issues Committee of the Ecology Action Centre works locally, nationally and internationally towards conserving and protecting marine ecosystems and maintaining sustainable fisheries and vibrant coastal communities.