Positive Results from N.S. Herring Fishery

The herring purse seine fishery based off Yarmouth and Pubnico, Nova Scotia ended Oct. 1 and has been labelled as a decent season.

This fishery has run the gamut of mega-TACs (total allowable catch) in the 1970s-1980s when fish meal and oil plants were in full swing, to the roe fishery which severely put a dent in the biomass as half the harvested herring were unceremoniously dumped back at sea due to the lack of markets.

The fishery literally collapsed and went from a sector which saw over 60 purse seiners chasing the herring from the Bay of Fundy to the Northumberland Shores, to a mere handful of seiners operating from southwestern Nova Scotia ports.

The TAC has been at 5,000 tonnes for a few years now and the fishery has turned into a food fishery, with the bait component also an important part of the mix.

Although some purse seiner operators speculated in August that they might not catch their entire quota, this was realized by Oct. 1.

The roe fishery on German Bank went exceedingly well with quota caught in a few sets. The Bank was then left undisturbed for the rest of the week.

“We saw a lot of larger fish this year and the price was up from last year,” Donna Larkin, Executive Director, South West Seiners Co. Ltd. out of Pubnico, said in an interview.

“We also saw a lot of small, immature fish in St. Mary’s Bay and in the Upper Bay of Fundy which is a very good sign,” she added.

It’s obvious that massive schools of herring no longer exist in Atlantic waters. Proof of this was noted in the behaviour of Bluefin tuna off Prince Edward Island this summer. The Bluefins followed the fishing boats around, in some cases were hand fed with herring.

Quotas were easily caught as fishing boats were swarmed with dozen of Bluefins obviously seeking food. The tuna congregated in the few places where herring schools persisted.

Right whales disappeared from their traditional summer grounds at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy this summer. Scientists at Dalhousie University, with the use of high-tech drones, found the whales off Gaspe in a bid, it is surmised, to find food, as was the case with Bluefin tuna.

There were 46 occurrences of right whale sounds recorded by the glider drones in the Gaspe area. Finding out where the 60-tonne endangered mammals are located is key to protecting them from entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes.

Alain Meuse

Contributor - Nova Scotia

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