Thursday, March 31st, 2022
Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) - Yesterday, Canada’s Fisheries Minister announced the closure of the commercial and bait fisheries for both Atlantic mackerel and southern Gulf of St Lawrence spring spawning herring. This will impact thousands of coastal communities and fishers across Atlantic Canada and Quebec and was undoubtedly a difficult decision to make.
The reality is, however, that these closures have been long overdue: both populations are severely depleted and in what Canada’s fisheries framework calls ‘the critical zone’ - for a decade in the case of mackerel and two decades for spring spawning herring. When populations are in the critical zone, Canada’s Precautionary Approach policy requires fishing to be reduced to the lowest level possible. Past management decisions by the government have not done this and have not encouraged the rebuilding of these populations. They have only prolonged the decline and associated economic impacts. Unfortunately, at this point the only course of action remaining for effective rebuilding is what we hope will be relatively short-term closures to allow these populations to rebuild.
The Ecology Action Centre calls on the government to now focus on the thousands of people across Atlantic Canada and Quebec that will experience financial hardship because of these closures. It is imperative that the government steps in with direct support to the people affected, particularly small-scale fishers and plant workers who will likely be impacted the most. It is important to ensure the people directly affected have support to manage financially through these closures, their coastal communities are not further impacted by lack of opportunities, and that they can be ready to fish when these stocks are healthy again.
At the Ecology Action Centre we strive to help create and maintain vibrant and healthy communities. In the same way we support a just transition for workers in the energy sector as we shift away from fossil fuels, we want to see a just transition toward sustainable and resilient fisheries that directly supports people and ensures the space for community-based fisheries to adapt to our rapidly changing oceans, with priority access to low impact fishing opportunities and enabling policies for adaptation.