Science Advisory Report  2015/028

Assessment of Newfoundland East and South Coast Herring Stocks to the Spring of 2014

Summary

Biological and Ecological Information

  • Spawning stock composition changed in the 2000s on the northeast coast (White Bay-Notre Dame Bay [WBNDB] and Bonavista Bay-Trinity Bay [BBTB]) as fall spawners accounted for an increasing proportion of the catch, this is likely attributable to a change in environmental conditions.
  • Lengths and weights at age of spring and fall spawning herring decreased in the 1990s in all areas; there were further decreases in the 2000s on the south coast (St. Mary’s Bay-Placentia Bay [SMBPB] and Fortune Bay [FB]).
  • The L50 of spring spawning cohorts decreased through the late 1980s and 1990s, but showed an increasing trend from 1996 to 2009. The average L50 of spring spawners in the commercial fishery from 2010 to 2013 was 248 mm and for fall spawners was 254 mm (fork length).
  • An increase in the frequency of occurrence of herring in spring multispecies offshore trawl surveys has indicated a change in distribution. Year class composition in the 2011‑13 surveys was similar to that of the commercial and research gillnet fisheries, but it is unknown to which stock complexes herring found offshore belong.
  • The peak of spring spawning shifted from May-June to July during the 2000s, coinciding with declines in spring spawner catch rates and rising ocean temperatures.

White Bay – Notre Dame Bay

  • Due to poor market conditions, reported landings were 1238 t in 2013, 47% of the TAC, similar to 2011 and 2012. An estimated 282 t were caught in the 2013 bait fishery and purse seine fishers estimated 460 t of discards, largely due to small herring.
  • The 2008 fall year class and 2009 spring year class continued to account for a large proportion of the commercial landings. The percentage of fall spawners in the commercial fishery remained high in 2013 at 65%.
  • Fixed gear and purse seine fishers indicated an increasing perception of abundance from 2012 to 2013.
  • The age structure of the commercial fishery was similar to that of the BBTB research gillnet catch at age where stock status improved in 2013.
  • A standardized performance index indicated that stock status declined from 2009 to 2011 and improved in 2012; this index was not updated in 2013 due to the discontinuation of the research gillnet program.
  • There are no indications of a decline in abundance and several strong year classes are present in the commercial catch at age, indicating that current stock status is positive.

Bonavista Bay – Trinity Bay

  • Reported landings were at their highest in 2013 since 1992 at 4112 t, nearly twice as high as 2012 (83% of the TAC, mobile gear and tuck seine allocations were taken in most areas). An estimated 509 t were taken as bait in 2013 and purse seine fishers estimated 58 t of discards.
  • The 2008 fall year class and 2009 spring year class continued to account for a large proportion of the commercial landings. The percentage of autumn spawners in the commercial fishery remained high in 2013 at 65%.
  • Fixed gear and purse seine fishers indicated an increasing perception of abundance from 2012 to 2013.
  • Combined catch rates in the spring research gillnet program were just below average in 2013, and at their highest in 7 years in 2014. Fall spawners continued to account for the majority of the catch at 66% in 2013. The 2008 fall year class and 2009 spring year class each accounted for over 20% of the catch in 2013, with spring and fall age 11+ fish accounting for a further 20%.
  • Recruitment of age 4 fish in the research gillnet program was high for spring spawners in 2013 compared to the time series mean (1988‑2013). Fall spawner recruitment was high in 2012 and average in 2013. Three mature spring year classes and 8 fall year classes were above average in 2013.
  • There are no indications of declines in abundance and several strong year classes are present in the stock complex; a standardized index indicated that stock status has remained stable for the last 3 years, giving an overall positive evaluation for current stock status.
  • Short term prospects for the stock are positive, with mean catch rates of age 4‑6 herring of both spawning components in the research gillnet program increasing over the past several years.

St. Mary’s Bay – Placentia Bay

  • Reported landings were 212 t in 2013, 9% of the TAC, higher than 2011 and 2012 when there were no purse seine landings. An estimated 112 t were caught in the 2013 bait fishery and purse seine fishers estimated 60 t of discards.
  • The age distribution in the commercial fishery was uncertain in 2013 due to small sample sizes. Preliminary results from commercial samples show a higher proportion of younger fish in 2014.
  • Purse seine fishers indicated increasing abundance in 2013, whereas fixed gear fishers indicated a decrease.
  • A standardized performance index indicated that stock status remained fairly stable from 2008‑10, increased in 2011 and decreased in 2012; this index was not updated in 2013 due to the discontinuation of the research gillnet program.
  • Due to low activity in the commercial fishery few samples were available for the calculation of catch at age in this area and there is a high level of uncertainty in reporting age structure, therefore current stock status is uncertain.

Fortune Bay

  • The TAC was reduced by 25% to 2260 t in 2013 as a result of concerns about poor recruitment in the area; reported landings for that year were 986 t, 43% of the reduced TAC. In 2014 landings were 797 t, 35% of the reduced TAC. An estimated 58 t were caught as bait in 2014, the lowest value in the time series (2006‑14).
  • The commercial catch age distribution continued to be highly skewed toward older fish, with over 80% of the catch consisting of age 11+ spring spawners in 2013. Unlike other stock areas the proportion of fall spawners has not increased significantly in FB, with spring spawners accounting for 97% of landings.
  • Fixed gear fishers indicated declining abundance, as has been the case since 2001.
  • Combined catch rates in the spring research gillnet program have been below the long term average during the 2000’s and below the decadal average from 2011‑14. The age distribution in 2013, like that of the commercial fishery, was highly skewed toward age 11+ spring spawners.
  • There has been extremely poor recruitment of both spring and fall spawners since 2002.
  • A standardized performance index indicated that stock status was at its lowest point in the time series in 2013, giving an evaluation of negative current stock status.
  • Short term prospects for the stock are negative, with mean catch rates of age 4‑6 herring of both spawning components in the research gillnet program decreasing in 2011 and remaining at historical low levels in 2013.

This Science Advisory Report is from the February 3‑5, 2015 Status of Division 3KL and Subdivision 3Ps Herring. Additional publications from this meeting will be posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Science Advisory Schedule as they become available.

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