Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) - The Ecology Action Centre welcomes the decision to reduce catch for southwest Nova Scotia-Bay of Fundy herring, a necessary action for a stock that has been in the critical zone since 2017. However, the best available science indicates this reduction alone will not be enough to actually recover this population without subsequent and larger reductions in catch for the next number of fishing seasons. The government’s announcement does not indicate a commitment to follow through on continued step-wise reductions that would give these herring populations a chance to rebuild – to the contrary, the Minister has opened the door to a new round of discussions rather than committing to any science-based rebuilding strategies stemming from many years of work by the department.
We understand that large cuts to fishing has serious economic consequences for fishing families, companies, and fleets that rely on these herring for income and bait – every year this population remains in the critical zone makes it more difficult to rebuild. We are concerned that DFO is simply repeating management mistakes that we saw with Atlantic mackerel. A hesitancy to act early and make the full reductions in catches advised by science to have the best chance to rebuild the population resulted in a series of small catch reductions that were ineffective. This year, DFO was forced to close the mackerel fishery – the only measure left to try to stem the population decline and a devastating blow to coastal communities. Early, strong action may have prevented this. was closed for rebuilding, which resulted in this year's closure being the only measure left for mackerel. We are disappointed that the outputs from the Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) process were not adopted. This process, which lasted more than three years, was robust, underwent peer-review, provided ample opportunities for all stakeholders to provide feedback, and is the only assessment we have of the catch reductions required to rebuild this population of herring out of the critical zone.
This year's decision was based on a management procedure (MP) that was not discussed during the extensive stakeholder consultations on the MSE process. In simple terms, this MP gradually reduces catches by 33% every year until the stock is out of the critical zone. However, for this MP to effectively rebuild these annual cuts of a third would need to compound over multiple years (more than five) which means future quotas would have to be much lower, likely below 5,000 t, until the stock rebuilds.
In other words, the department is kicking the can on rebuilding by setting this year's quota using a management procedure that wasn't discussed during the MSE process, and which trades minimal upfront cuts to fishing quotas for potentially much larger cuts to fishing quotas in the future. However, and crucially, it does not commit to those future larger cuts that are needed to rebuild.