Even if there was a two-year hiatus in the spring herring fishery in the Gulf of St Lawrence, there would still be a 90 per cent chance the fish stocks would remain at critical levels, say scientists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Herring stocks have been dwindling for two decades.

Despite the advice of its own scientists, Fisheries and Oceans Canada still allowed 2,000 tonnes of spring herring to be caught in 2016, and will allow the same this year.

Federal herring biologist Jenni McDermid said there is a risk of pushing these fish beyond the recovery point.

"With any stock I think if you set the quota too high that that is a danger that we face," said McDermid.

"Whether we're at that point or not, I really can't say."

Other factors

McDermid said science is just one factor considered in setting quotas.

"It would be worth talking to fisheries management and finding out why," quotas were set the way they were, she said.

"There's probably a fair amount of other decision factors that go into setting the quota that are more than just the science that we provide."

CBC News asked to speak with Fisheries and Oceans Canada managers about the quota decision, but was told no one was available. It also reached out to several herring fishermen and the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, but received no comment back.

Some fishing areas closed

Fisheries and Oceans has made some changes to the herring fishery recently.

Some spawning grounds have been closed.

Fisherman are no longer allowed to target herring. They have to set their gillnets and leave them overnight. McDermid said it is more difficult to catch herring this way, and that is leading to lower catches.

The next herring stock assessment will be released in 2018.