PEI

Gulf herring quota surprisingly high, says researcher

An ocean researcher is questioning why the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set a spring herring quota in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence that is double what was caught last year.

'Fishing levels are generally considered quite high'

About 600 tonnes of herring were caught in the gulf last year. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

An ocean researcher is questioning why the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set a spring herring quota in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence that is double what was caught last year.

DFO says the spring herring stock has been in the critical zone since 2004, and there is a rebuilding plan in the works. Last year, 600 tonnes of this fish was caught in the region. DFO set a total allowable catch this year of 1,250 tonnes.

That was surprising to Katie Schleit, a senior fisheries advisor with Oceans North.

"We're also facing increasing threats from climate change, particularly in the gulf," said Schleit.

"The scientific report is showing that fishing levels are generally considered quite high for a stock that's not doing very well."

The Marine Stewardship Council dropped its sustainability certification for herring fisheries in Atlantic Canada this spring.

DFO said even though the quota was set at 1,250 tonnes, landings are generally much lower. It estimates the catch this year will be closer to 500 tonnes.

The Department said its decisions take into account the latest scientific advice as well as consultation with industry, and socio-economic factors.

Herring is important as lobster bait, but it's also food for Atlantic bluefin tuna, whales and sea birds.

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