Mackerel trap approved for St. Margarets Bay

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has approved a commercial mackerel trap in a popular recreational area of St. Margarets Bay, N.S., outside Halifax. 

The case prompted a community debate about whether the historical fishery still fit in the increasingly urban area.

“Obviously, I’m pleased with it because that’s what we applied for and it finally came through,” said fisherman Gary Burchell.

Burchell has been given a two-year licence to install a large mackerel trap at the tip of Micou’s Island, a protected nine-hectare island on the eastern side of St. Margarets Bay.

Opponents said the cumbersome trap is not compatible with recreational uses like boating and swimming.

There were also concerns about nets and gear washing up on the shores of the island.

Resident Anna Hall said it would increase the risk of shark attacks because the trap would attract seals. Burchell denied the claim.

The mackerel trap is a long fence extended from shore that directs fish into a a large netted bowl anchored to the ocean floor. The fish are trapped and later harvested.

The trap leader will run 183 metres from shore into the bay, and the bowl where the fish are trapped is more than 120 metres wide.

“Well I hope we don’t cause any great inconvenience,” Burchell said.

“Hopefully, they’ll appreciate what we’re doing when it’s all said and done. We plan on having that very well marked and … with a little bit of time in there hopefully we can coexist.”

Stewardship group stays neutral

The St. Margarets Bay Stewardship Association declined to take a position on Burchell’s trap when asked for its opinion by the federal government.

Opponents argued a mackerel trap is not compatible with recreational interests in the area. (iStock)

“The St. Margarets Bay Stewardship has chosen to remain neutral on the matter of the mackerel trap application,” chair Nick Horne wrote DFO on Jan. 2 this year.

“I would like to say, however, that the stewardship association strongly supports sustainable fishery and recognizes that this mackerel trap is much more sustainable than other methods.”

Burchell currently fishes from Cape Breton, but has deep family roots in the area.

He hopes to revive a trap fishery carried on by his grandfather and other relatives.

The Micou’s Island trap will fish from mid-May to July, with a harvest goal of 45,000 kilograms.

Burchell also holds a licence for another mackerel trap in nearby French Village. He said that will not be fished until August, if at all.

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