03-06-2009, 06:31 AM
Halibut allocation plan is working
Courier-Islander - March 6, 2009
I'd like to respond to recent letters questioning the 2003 Halibut Allocation Policy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
In 2000, then Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal initiated a series of facilitated meetings between representatives of the commercial sports industry and the traditional commercial halibut industry, which includes the First Nations commercial halibut fishery. Although agreement was reached on a number of points, including the necessity of allocating the resource between these user groups, the actual percentage allocations were in dispute.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada retained the services of Stephen Kelleher QC, now a BC Supreme Court judge, who heard the submission of both sides. He recommended a 91% traditional commercial, 9% recreational split based on fairness and equity.
The Minister of Fisheries then implemented an 88% commercial, 12% recreational allocation policy, giving the recreation sector room to grow by an additional 3% above the recommended share. He also instructed the sectors to negotiate a "market-based transfer mechanism" to allow adjustments to be made into the future. Since then harvesting rights have flowed both ways, from the recreational sector to the commercial in 2004-5, and in 2008, from the commercial sector to the recreational. The 2003 policy is working.
North Pacific halibut stocks are in a cyclical decline at present. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in BC has dropped by 45% in the last three years. In theory, both harvesting sectors should reduce their catch commensurately. The commercial sector, tightly monitored with 100% video at sea and 100% dockside validation of catch has stayed within its 88% share of BC's TAC. The recreational sector, whose catch is very loosely estimated (and likely under-estimated) has exceeded it's allocation in 2006-8 by a cumulative total of 700,000 lbs. Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates that 69% of the recreational catch is taken by the lodge and charter sector.
At some point, the commercial sports industry must come to the realization that there is a conservation issue around the BC halibut resource. To insist that they be able to fish as usual, when the stocks have fallen by almost half, and while commercial and First Nations fishermen have seen their fisheries and incomes drop proportionately is contemptuous of both the stock and of other user groups - user groups whose tenure in the industry goes back hundreds and thousands of years. The commercial sports halibut industry is less than ten years old, yet these Johnny-come-latelys shrilly expect long-established stakeholders to bear the entire burden of conservation. That's unfair, that's not the Canada that I know.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Jim's Fishing Charters
03-06-2009, 06:44 AM
Seafood Industry Leaders Meet at First "Seafood Summit"
Leaders of the west coast fisheries and seafood industries gath-ered in Vancouver in late May for the inaugural "B.C. Seafood Summit 2001". The summit was organized to provide the first-ever opportunity for aquaculture, fisheries and management repre-sentatives to meet togeth-er and examine the over-all state of the B.C. seafood industry and chart a course for its future. The event was sponsored by the BC Seafood Alliance, a broad-based umbrella organization who's 14 member-groups represent over three-quarters of B.C.'s annual fisheries and seafood production. Alliance executive director and key event organizer, Michelle James, focussed the day-long proceedings on the theme "a climate for change" with targeted presentations aimed at establishing and building links between non-allied segments of the industry.
The event kicked off with two reports prepared for the summit on behalf of the Alliance. The first, a "State of the Seafood Industry Report" by PricewaterhouseCoopers, outlined in economic terms the structural upheavals and market changes that have transformed the industry over the past decade. Key indicators in the report showed the percentage of B.C.'s wholesale seafood value represented by wild salmon and roe-herring has fallen from 55% to 19% and 16% to 14% respectively, while the overall value of the industry has remained relatively constant at about $1 billion per year between 1990 and 2000. Making up for the declines in salmon and herring have been increases in farmed salmon production (from 8% to31%), groundfish (from 14% to 19%) and shellfish (from 7% to 16%).
In a second report, presented by Brian Emmett of Archipelago Marine Research, summit delegates heard that at least some of those offsetting increases have come through changed fishing practices which have produced improved access to many species and increased landed values. His report, "Progress Towards Environmental Sustainability in B.C.'s Seafood Sector", details ten years of improvements in gathering stock assessment data and monitoring fisheries. The Archipelago report also reviewed the sustainability records for major fisheries, many of which have moved from derby-style openings to individual or over-all quota management in that time- period. Archipelago gives good marks go to, among others, the roe herring, geoduck and halibut fisheries which today have better TAC achievement than in the past. The groundfish trawl and shrimp trawl fisheries were also singled out in the Archipelago report for their significant improvements in gear selectivity and bycatch reduction.
Looking to the future, keynote speaker Bob Kennedy, director of industry development for the United Kingdom Sea Fish Authority, spoke about his experience managing an industry organization made up of a wide variety of fishing and processing groups, all with disparate interests and points of view. Although the U.K.'s fisheries and government management practices vary from those here in B.C., the parallels were strong enough to give listeners a better understanding of what lies ahead if the west coast is to move towards the same industry unity and benefit from the kind of economic growth the U.K. group has achieved.
The last half of the summit was devoted to workshop sessions that encouraged frank and open discussions of the problems facing the west coast industry as a whole. A recurring theme voiced from the floor was the difficulty of overcoming regulatory and marketing hurdles without a strong, cohesive voice to represent industry. As a result, said several speakers, the B.C. industry has not been able to define its position clearly, either to itself, or to Ottawa or the public, its ultimate market consumers. The result is that the B.C. industry is often viewed by outsiders as preoccupied with its own internal divisions. To counter that, "industry must take the initiative and create the structure," said shellfish grower, Sam Bowman. "Government has a role to play, but nobody is going to be more expert than the industry itself," he added.
That view was echoed by fisherman David Boyes, vice-president of the Pacific Halibut Management Association. "Consolidation is coming, and we need to get together," he said.
In late June, the BC Seafood Alliance will produce a report based on the summit proceedings. That report, says James, is intended to act as a blueprint for the seafood industry's future. "The document will show the way," she said. "It will identify specific objectives, targets and actions for public and private sectors in an effort to realize the full potential of B.C.'s seafood resource in the years ahead."
For more information on the BC Seafood Summit 2001, contact the BC Seafood Alliance. Tel: 604-734-5929. Fax: 604-734-5919. Email: email@example.com .
Jim's Fishing Charters
03-06-2009, 07:04 AM
Stocks to watch
Ben Parfitt | Image: Nik West | Published: July 15, 2007
There is little more depressing than the bleak accounts of our oceans. The deep blue cover of the April 2007 National Geographic says it all. Under the headline “Saving the Sea’s Bounty,” a dead, upended swordfish lies tangled in a net intended to catch tuna. Similarly disturbing images accompany an article on the Mediterranean Sea’s lethal bluefin tuna fisheries. Such rapaciousness, you learn, can only be countered by turning portions of the sea into marine parks where we learn to revere “magnificent” fish just as we do the African leopard. Failure to do so means certain collapse. To hammer home that point, the magazine takes you to “the end of the line”: Newfoundland. There, as you know very well, once-abundant Atlantic cod have pretty much gone the way of the dodo. As a result, droves of Newfoundlanders have fled The Rock for Alberta, where they are digging a very deep hole in the oil-laden earth.
But before you head out to buy that new wide-screen TV, it might help to know that all is not lost. One of the unheralded conservation successes in the world’s oceans today is right here in B.C. It involves the province’s most lucrative commercial fishing enterprise, the $170-million-a-year groundfish sector, whose vessels ply B.C. waters for ocean-bottom-dwelling fish such as halibut, black cod and rockfish. Today the industry is subject to the most comprehensive audits applied to any fishing fleet in the world. We know more about what deepwater fish are caught, when and where, than ever before. And there is hope that with hard work we may yet sustain the diversity of life in B.C.’s coastal waters while conducting fisheries that pay people well and that deliver high-quality products to consumers.
None of this was possible without the courage of individual fishers, some doggedly determined players in B.C.’s fractious environmental community and long-time staff with the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). And it has not been without its critics and casualties, including one of the province’s high-profile environmental leaders, who was suddenly and inexplicably pushed out of her job as her organization’s leading conservation campaigner. But its results have been widely embraced from radically different quarters, including leading environmental organizations on one side and free-market champions like the Fraser Institute on the other.
Read on to learn why all is not as hopeless as it seems.
On a chilly April morning, the crew aboard Dave Boyes’s halibut boat repairs equipment as winds gust off Georgia Strait and through the rigging of dozens of vessels docked in Comox. The mood is relaxed, collegial. Now in their early 50s, Tim Noot and Pete Wyness were buddies in high school. Angus Grout, nephew to the skipper, Boyes, is 29.
As the men splice sections of rope looped through rusty 10-pound weights that help weigh down long lines with hundreds of baited hooks, Noot gazes into the empty hold of the boat. Soon someone will be down there in the cold on their knees in a rolling
sea heaving heavy fish over their shoulders. “It’s hard work for old buggers like us. But for young guys like Angus,” Noot says with a friendly slap on his co-worker’s back, “it’s no problem at all.”
Not so long ago, every halibut crew here would have been frantic getting hooks and clips stored; thousands of feet of line checked; fuel, bait and food loaded; and boat engines and winches oiled and repaired. That was back in the “derby fishery,” which Boyes first experienced in Hecate Strait in 1986 as a deckhand aboard the Summer Wind. Back then every halibut-licence holder who wanted to fish did so at the same time. A total catch for the entire fleet was set, and fishing days were carved in stone no matter what the weather.
“There were battles for the best fishing grounds,” Boyes recalls. “Then everyone ran back to market with millions of pounds of fish. They would all hit town on a Wednesday or whatever. And then the companies had to deal with going from having purchased no fish at all to a huge glut.”
The glut meant low prices and a generally tough business environment. And it was mirrored in an equally brutal and disquieting story at sea. Virtually all fish that halibut boats caught other than halibut – the so-called bycatch – were thrown back overboard. Dead. That’s because halibut-licence holders were legally entitled to little else. The same rules applied in other groundfish fisheries such as ling cod, dogfish and black cod, also known as sablefish. No one knew what the bycatch was in his or her fishery, let alone in another.
The trawl fleet complicated matters further still. Trawlers are the big daddies of groundfish boats. Their nets scrape or nearly scrape the ocean bottom, catching thousands of fish. But only a few species – those commanding the highest prices – were kept. The rest were chucked overboard.
You can bet this was bad for the sum of all living things. But thankfully, things have changed. In B.C. alone, the DFO has now established legal catch limits for 30 different groundfish species (see “Scaling back,” p. 133). And further regulations are in the offing for other groundfish species that are routinely caught but are not yet covered by catch limits.
Diana Trager, groundfish coordinator at the DFO’s regional headquarters in Vancouver, credits a 2001 report by the Sierra Club of B.C. (SCBC) with spurring the reform process. Written by Terry Glavin, a journalist and author renowned for his fisheries expertise, the report revealed that the weight of fish caught annually in coastal B.C. exceeded the weight of the province’s human population. Much of the catch comprised deep-dwelling fish, about which science knew little.
Glavin’s report decried the scant resources that the DFO devoted to understanding B.C.’s groundfish fisheries, noting that its entire Pacific Region budget of $300 million was less than half what U.S. authorities spent each year trying to conserve the Columbia River’s salmon alone.
The report also noted that B.C.’s halibut catch for 1999 was 5,400 tonnes. That same year, halibut fishers brought 320 tonnes of rockfish back to the dock, much of it valuable red snapper. “And that’s just what the halibut boats brought back,” Glavin wrote, noting that by that point the DFO had approved a partial non-halibut catch for halibut boats. “Unknown” was how many fish were dumped overboard. The suspicion was a lot.
Vicky Husband, an Order of Canada recipient and former chair of the Sierra Club of B.C., was instrumental in getting the report published. She also initiated a new campaign that steered the SCBC into heavy seas. Eschewing the conventional environmentalist’s *approach of “protecting” patches of seabed, Husband championed sustainable fishing. People should fish, Husband said, but only if the diversity of fish stocks was maintained.
Her approach struck a chord.
“People like Vicky… had no desire to shut fisheries down,” Boyes says. “But they were very insistent that fisheries should be prosecuted in a sustainable manner. And on this point, industry and the environmental organizations were in total agreement.”
Brian Mose is a trawl-vessel owner and among B.C.’s most successful commercial fishers. His parents were in the trawl business in Esbjerg, Denmark, and his forefathers fished the North Sea as far back as the 1500s. In 2003 Mose joined other fishers from other groundfish fleets in an industry-led process in response to strong signals from the DFO that things were about to change. The process, funded by government and industry, would involve as many as 60 days of meetings a year over three years at various hotels in Vancouver and Victoria.
“We couldn’t do one-off decisions for each individual fishery anymore,” Trager recalls telling the industry. “We needed to get them to one place.” Mose knew that the process would be acrimonious, at least at first. Many of the gathered fishers viewed the “big bad” trawlers as the problem. “It was even hard for them to look at me,” Mose recalls. “One of the big challenges for me was to try and show them that we have issues that are kind of the same.”
Mose recalls that, much like a 12-step recovery program, the biggest hurdle was the first one. “We had a lot of people in that room who were in denial,” he recalls. Mose wasn’t one of them. For seven years, he and other trawlers had paid to have DFO-approved people aboard their boats monitoring everything they caught and discarded.
So Mose bided his time before eventually placing a spreadsheet on an overhead projector. What it showed in graphic terms was that in nearly every case, one fleet was catching the others’ fish. This led to a decision to try to quantify exactly what each fleet caught.
What came back was explosive. Switching to another spreadsheet, Mose flicked off the lights and turned on the projector.
“I was standing very near the exit door when I showed that page because I thought I would be hung,” Mose recalls. “We were talking tens of millions of pounds of discarded fish. There were several sectors whose total discarded pounds were far in excess of what they were bringing back to the docks.”
Predictably there was a backlash. But after another round of counting and at a subsequent meeting two months later, the picture barely changed. Any vestiges of denial disappeared, Mose says. “We were free.”
Free to wrestle with what to do next. Nothing less than a radical solution would do. Knowing that the DFO would insist on a complete accounting of every fish caught, the industry proposed doing just that. Last year federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn approved the plan, which was tested that year and is now in the second of a three-year trial.
“The new plan called for 100-per-cent monitoring of all fish caught in commercial groundfish fisheries,” Trager says. “What that meant in practical terms was that skippers had two choices. They could either pay to have a DFO-approved person on board their boats to literally watch and record everything brought over the side or discarded back into the ocean. Or they could pay to have a camera put on board their vessel.”
Trager figured that the costs were about $400 a day to put a DFO person on a vessel and $140 a day for a monitoring camera. Fishers choosing the camera option also had to pay $8,000 for the camera equipment or rent it. The only boat owners given no choice were trawlers. Because of the magnitude and diversity of their catch, they had to have a DFO-approved person on board.
The other industry proposal was that every groundfish fishery move to a system of individual transferable quotas, or ITQs. Quotas were already in place for the trawl, sablefish and halibut fisheries. Under the new system, all other groundfish vessels would move to quotas, but with the added wrinkle that quota holders could temporarily transfer quota to any other fishers in any groundfish sector.
In practical business terms, this meant that fishers could legally catch and sell a
variety of the fish that they used to routinely throw overboard because they lacked the
licence to catch them. Now many of those fish would go to market instead but only if fishers had obtained the requisite quota. For example, if a halibut-licence holder thought it likely he would catch sablefish, he needed to go into the market and find a willing sablefish-quota holder to lease or trade him quota. Fishers wanting to avoid such costs, on the other hand, could change when, where and how they fished to reduce catching species they had no quota for. In short, they could fish more selectively.
On a windy afternoon in Victoria, sunlight glances off the brightly painted houseboats at Fisherman’s Wharf. A local restaurateur searches the display case at a fresh-fish stall. Tourists and locals line up for fish and chips. Others gawk at the Emma III, a small aluminum longliner, where two deckhands wrestle a halibut they’ve gaffed onto a scale. The sight of the walloping, ivory-white fish with a sprinkling of grey along its fins freezes a British tourist in his tracks. The fish weighs 63 kilograms. The boat’s remaining halibut catch – 31 fish – weigh in at about 11 kilograms each. Also offloaded are one two-kilogram rockfish and 44 kilograms of “wings” from six flatfish known as skate. All of these fish will be subtracted from the vessel owner’s quota.
Some halibut boats bring in up to 23 tonnes of fish, whereas the Emma III’s halibut haul is just under half a tonne. But it is a sign of today’s rigorous monitoring effort that even this small catch is counted by someone standing at the dock, in this instance a personable young woman by the name of Marianne Bloudoff.
Bloudoff works for Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. in nearby Esquimalt, which has pioneered the use of on-board cameras to document fish catches around the world. But its use here in B.C. is unique.
“This really is the first program in the world where a fisherman’s log is being used as the basis for managing the fishery, with cameras and dockside monitors acting as an independent audit,” says Shawn Stebbins, Archipelago’s president, after placing his lunchtime order for a halibut burger and French fries at a nearby restaurant.
If the results from the program’s first year are any indication, it is having the desired effect. As Trager says, every commercial groundfish fishery in 2006 stayed within catch limits for its target species – for example, halibut boats did not exceed their quotas for halibut – and within overall catch limits for the other fish they caught. “It’s amazing,” Trager says. “And it is certainly the first time since I started working here 12 years ago that that has happened.”
This year Archipelago is contracted to monitor fish catches at designated docks such as Fisherman’s Wharf and to review camera data. The contract is worth more than $1.5 million, with the DFO paying $680,000 and the industry kicking in about $850,000.
The audit regime, as Stebbins says, begins with skippers’ logbooks. The logs detail all fish caught, whether kept or thrown overboard. Archipelago then randomly selects 10 per cent of the digital camera data from each boat for analysis. Trained staff subsequently slow down, speed up, reverse or freeze the camera footage to identify all fish caught. That analysis is then checked against logbook entries. In the worst case – and it happened at least once in the halibut fishery last year – misleading logbook entries result in uncooperative skippers being forced to pay for on-board inspectors.
There is another cost – one that could affect entire fleets of boats. If quotas are exceeded and individual fish stocks are unduly depleted, boats may be tied to the docks unless they can find a way to avoid taking threatened fish species.
If sound resource management means knowing exactly what you have and adjusting your behaviour accordingly, it’s hard to think of a more effective accounting program.
In addition to the hard numbers, on-board geographical information systems technology tells analysts where boats travel, when they deploy gear, when they pull in their lines and more.
Bloudoff and others at Archipelago may not be Big Brother, but they are watching. And it is a sign of how far some fishers have come that they see the added scrutiny as vital to their business.
“We now have this huge data set,” Boyes says. “And I really hope we use it in as many ways as we can to manage our fisheries, to ensure no one over-harvests and to conduct scientific research.”
Boyes also hopes that one day it will allow his industry to pass muster with the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) tough independent certification program. Brainchild of global food producer Unilever and the World Wildlife Fund, the MSC promotes sustainable fisheries by conducting third-party audits. Fishing enterprises that successfully pass such audits – Alaska’s salmon industry is one – gain MSC’s stamp of approval, which in turn helps them corner green-minded consumers who are willing to pay higher prices.
But while people like Boyes are happy, others are not. One of the higher-profile defections from the industry table was the Vancouver-based Canadian Sablefish Association (CSA), whose members once completely controlled the lucrative sablefish fishery, valued at $25 million annually.
The imposition of the new reforms changed all that. All of a sudden, active sablefish fishers, who until then had exclusive *access to “armchair” sablefish fishers (those who have licences but choose not to fish or to fish only a little and lease their quotas), no longer had a monopoly. With transferability, anyone could bid on available sablefish quota. And that’s exactly what happened.
Bob Fraumeni, a CSA member and long-standing Victoria-based fisher whose bread-and-butter catch is sablefish and who also owns a number of halibut boats and a fish retailing business, says that about 320 tonnes of this year’s sablefish catch will be caught by halibut boats at his and others’ expense. (This likely represents the maximum. Roughly 10 per cent of the quota for a particular groundfish species can move between sectors, and the annual sablefish catch is around 3,200 tonnes.)
“I’m down a couple of trips a year with my big boat,” Fraumeni says. “And I’m going to keep going down because they’re getting more and more quota.”
In an odd twist, the Sierra Club of B.C.’s annual report for 2005 highlights Fraumeni’s support, describing him as a “donor” and “advocate for sustainable fisheries.” The same report makes virtually no mention of Vicky Husband, who for 20 years was SCBC’s *pre-eminent conservation campaigner. That’s because, in 2006, as the report went to press, the SCBC board of directors dumped Husband.
Neither Husband nor the board has said much publicly about what happened. However, in a story last November by Vancouver Sun columnist Stephen Hume, SCBC executive director Kathryn Malloy said that Husband’s marine work was “a better fit” elsewhere. Fraumeni put it somewhat differently, saying that Husband’s fisheries work and that of Terry Glavin led to both being “excluded” from the SCBC. (Glavin, it should be noted, was never an SCBC member or employee, but was consulted on aspects of the club’s marine campaign.)
“They don’t want a developing fishing industry,” Fraumeni said of Husband and Glavin. “They’ve been dead set against quotas.”
That’s an assertion Glavin finds perplexing. “Vicky and I were the most ardent *supporters of quotas,” Glavin says, noting that he and representatives from the trawl and halibut sectors actually co-authored a provincial discussion paper in 2003 that championed transferable quotas. When he and Husband tried to sell the idea to other environmental groups, however, they took the heat. Many of their environmental colleagues were fixated on marine parks. They were also deeply distrustful of quotas, which they tended to feel strengthened the hands of the fishing “industry” – as opposed to hard-working individuals – by essentially privatizing a public resource.
It is an idea that Glavin scoffs at. First, the DFO approves all marine harvests and catch levels and can change them to protect stocks. Second, it is only after setting those levels that licensed fishers are entitled to buy, lease or obtain shares (quotas) of the catch. Quotas also make it easier for public watchdogs to know what individual boats are doing, as *opposed to the mayhem of unregulated *practices such as derby fisheries.
Tensions within the Sierra Club of B.C. and between fishers aside, however, there is remarkably diverse support for quota fisheries.
Earlier this year, Environmental Defense, a U.S. environmental organization, said, “In a commons, where shares of the catch are not specified, each fisherman’s economic survival is predicated on his ability to fish as hard as possible whenever possible.”
Quotas, Environmental Defense continued, are far preferable because they allocate “a dedicated percentage share of a fishery’s total catch to individual fishermen, communities or associations.” Manage fisheries well, moreover, and the shares increase because fish stocks build rather than decline. It’s remarkably similar to what the pro-business and generally anti-regulation Fraser Institute said three years earlier. The institute noted then that individual quotas had transformed B.C.’s halibut and sablefish fisheries.
“Prior to the change, many fisheries were described by fishermen as ‘shotgun’ fisheries, characterized by short openings, supply gluts, harvests exceeding allowable catches and unsafe fishing conditions,” the institute reported. Quota fisheries, by comparison, were “models of sustainability, profitability and safety.”
The Fraser Institute also said something else, which is that these kinds of things are not talked about nearly enough. Most of what you hear these days is doom and gloom. Our coastal cities are in danger of flooding as the ice caps melt and sea levels rise. The permafrost is thawing, belching the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. The super-hot Chinese economy burns more and more coal to produce the goods you and I buy. On and on it goes. And all of it is our fault.
But where does beating ourselves up and wallowing in guilt get us? Not very far. Certainly nowhere near where changing our behaviour and learning to live within
Omnipresent accounts of environmental degradation almost always leave us with the impression that the glass is half or more empty. But in a few fortunate cases, the glass is actually half or more full. For that we owe a debt to people who pushed tenaciously for change, even when it meant alienating some people within their ranks. Thanks to Brian Mose, Vicky Husband, Diana Trager and others, a stale doomsday environmental narrative has been broken. In B.C. waters at least, “the end of the line” turns out to have a fish on it.
Shortspine thornyhead; yelloweye, quillback and copper rockfish; lemon and Petrale sole; arrowtooth flounder; longnose skate; and Gulf hake. These are just some of the 30 separate groundfish species for which the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has set legal catch limits. And there are many other species routinely caught in groundfish fisheries that are not yet managed. They soon may be subject to catch limits too.
In the face of such diversity, determining just how many of each individual species are out there is difficult. Since 2003 the fishing industry and the DFO have combined to spend about $1 million annually on at-sea surveys.
Jeff Fargo, the DFO’s head of groundfish stock assessment in B.C., says the work involves either a commercial trawler or Coast Guard vessel doing net tows at 200 different stations along B.C.’s coast. One year the surveys are off the coasts of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands). The next year the survey moves to the waters of Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. A third assessment survey is also being contemplated for the inshore waters of Georgia Strait.
Based on the fish caught over time, the stations surveyed and the length of time the nets are in the water, scientists believe they can calculate a fairly reliable index of the relative abundance of various species.
“We now have more information for many, many species than we ever did,” says Fargo, adding that the surveys must continue in perpetuity. “As soon as you stop doing them, you lose the index for that year for all of the species that are caught in the survey,” Fargo says.
This year marks the fifth year for the surveys, the minimum needed to begin to get numbers that scientists can have faith in. Ideally, Fargo says, at least a decade’s data is needed “to provide a valid index of abundance that is more *reliable than the data from the *commercial fisheries themselves.”
If the data show that certain fish are declining in number, then the DFO may make any one of a number of different decisions, Fargo says. It can reduce the total allowable catch, or TAC, for that particular species; it can restrict fishing efforts in particular areas; or it can assess the unique habitat needs of particular fish and declare areas of ocean protected no-fish zones.
Diana Trager, groundfish coordinator for the DFO’s Pacific Region, says that in the event TACs for individual fish species are dramatically reduced, there is the possibility that entire fleets could be kept from fishing. The more likely scenario, however, is that individual boats would be forced to adapt to lower harvest rates and change their fishing methods, times and locations.
“It’s up to the fishermen to tailor their operations or figure out how to get the maximum number of fish out of the water while staying within their TACs,” Trager says. “They know if they fish selectively, they’ll be able to continue. And if they don’t, they won’t.”
Jim's Fishing Charters
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