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Research Document 2020/013

Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus L.) in NAFO Subareas 3 and 4 in 2018

By Smith, A.D., Van Beveren, E., Girard, L., Boudreau, M., Brosset, P., Castonguay, M., and Plourde, S


The status of the northern contingent of Northwest Atlantic (NWA) mackerel (Scomber scombrus L.) is assessed every two years using an age-structured stock assessment model that explicitly accounts for missing catch statistics from Canadian and American fleets. This document presents the data and methods used to calculate the main stock status indicators that inform Fisheries Management in the setting of quotas (i.e. Total Allowable Catch; TAC), potentially as part of Harvest Control Rules (HCR). This document also provides a review of research pertaining to mackerel distribution and how changing environmental conditions influenced mackerel recruitment, condition and distribution of landings throughout the fishing season. This stock assessment indicates that in 2018, mackerel were still within the Critical Zone as per Canada’s Precautionary Approach (PA) framework and have been since 2011. While there was a slight increase in SSB from 2016 to 2018 due to the arrival of the 2015 year class into the fishery, mackerel numbers have actually decreased. Low biomass is accompanied by overexploitation, the loss of older individuals from the population, and in the last two years, historical low recruitment. Short term projections over three years indicate that there is a 48% chance of leaving the Critical Zone by 2021 under a TAC of 10 000 t. Even under the most restrictive exploitation scenarios (e.g. TAC = 0 t), there is only a 68% chance of leaving the Critical Zone by 2021.

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