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Research Document - 2011/019

Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus harengus L.) on the Quebec North Shore (NAFO Division 4S) in 2010

By F. Grégoire and J.-L. Beaulieu


Herring landings (Clupea harengus harengus L.) on the Quebec North Shore totaled 403 t in 2010 compared to 1,078 t in 2009. Most of these landings were made in unit areas 4Sz, 4Sv and 4Sw using traps, gillnets and purse seines. The trap and purse seine fisheries are usually carried out during the months of July and August, whereas the gillnet fishery takes place from April to August. Spring spawning herring dominate the landings made between April and June while fall spawners dominate those of July and August. Since the early 2000s, the two spawning groups have been characterized by a positive allometric growth and the presence of dominant year-classes. They have been observed for several consecutive years which suggests a low exploitation rate. Maturity at length has changed little over the years compared to a gradual decrease in length and average weight at age. This decrease suggests the presence of an inverse relationship between density and growth and/or environmental conditions that may have a negative impact on growth. Herring is a regular by-catch in the multidisciplinary groundfish and shrimp surveys in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence. During these surveys, the probability of finding herring are generally very high (80-100%) in the regions of Sept-Îles and Anticosti. The species’ dispersion, measured from these surveys’ data, increased significantly between 1997 and 2001, followed by a decline until 2008. The index has been increasing ever since. The abundance index, obtained from the acoustic survey conducted in unit area 4Sw in the fall of 2010, was estimated at 3,500 t for spring spawners and 80,855 t for fall spawners. Given these estimates, the low catch levels and the size of the area, an increase in the total allowable catch (TAC) could be permitted. However, currently available information can not accurately determine to what extent the TAC could be increased. Therefore, any increase in fishing effort on these two spawning stocks should be made gradually and be accompanied by close monitoring of catches (commercial and bait) and of biological characteristics.

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