PEI Tuna Charter Captains are hoping for an exemption for the closure of mackerel | Atlantic

NORTH LAKE, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – A sport fishing industry that is synonymous with Prince Edward Island is hoping for an exemption from the recent closure of the Atlantic mackerel fishery, which is its main source of bait.

Troy Bruce, president of the PEI Tuna Charter Association, says the commercial closure is a problem for charter boat captains on the island who rely on mackerel as live bait to catch Atlantic bluefin tuna.

With mackerel stocks severely depleted, federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray announced in March the closure of this fishery in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

“If we’re not allowed to use live mackerel, then it’s going to be very difficult for us to hook a tuna on a charter,” Bruce said in an interview earlier this week.

He said the 15 captains of charter boats in his association will have to use dead bait or just pull a line with a lure, a method known as trolling.

He said alternative methods aren’t as effective at catching the massive fish, which can grow to over 450 kilograms.

Bruce noted that sport fishers around the world have long considered Canada’s smallest province a prime destination for fishing tuna with rod and reel.

“For people interested in big game fishing, it’s a dream trip to come to Prince Edward Island,” he said. “Tuna is part of our culture here.”

Bruce now wonders if the lure will remain in the long term if the chances of catching a big tuna are reduced.

He noted that sport fishing for tuna is catch-and-release fishing, so he is optimistic that something can be worked out under an exemption that allows recreational fishing participants to catch 20 mackerel per nobody.

He said charter boats are limited to catching three tuna per day during the season which runs from July 15 to October 31, and with up to six customers per boat, they are asking for a limit of 20 mackerel per boat.

PEI Fisheries Minister Jamie Fox supports the association’s position, Bruce said.

In an email, Fox’s department confirms that a letter was sent to Murray this week arguing for similar access to the recreational mackerel fishery for the tuna charter industry, which is worth an estimated $6 million. dollars a year for the island’s economy.

“The Minister hopes the federal government will be open to this exemption as Prince Edward Island looks to economic recovery,” the email read.

But in an email on Friday, Murray’s press secretary Claire Teichman gave no indication that the request was being considered and simply reiterated the federal minister’s reasons for implementing the mackerel closure.

“Southern Gulf spring herring and Atlantic mackerel are two stocks that are in the critical zone,” Teichman said. “Fishing has a significant influence on the state of the Atlantic mackerel stock, and limiting fishing pressure will help protect young spawning fish, which are at an all-time low.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 10, 2022.

– By Keith Doucette in Halifax

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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