What we heard - Rockfish Conservation Areas review
On this page
- Consultation Process
- Timeline of the consultation process
- Consultation summary
- Feedback themes from email, online, and workshops
- Next steps
There are 162 Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) in British Columbia, covering roughly 4,350km2 of the Canadian Pacific Coast. These areas are closed to a range of recreational and commercial fisheries to protect rockfish and their habitat. Inshore rockfish species protected by RCAs include:
These Rockfish Conservation Areas were initially established between 2003 and 2007, and we’re reviewing their effectiveness, following:
- New peer-reviewed science advice from the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat.
- Canada’s adoption of new protection standards to better conserve sensitive and important parts of Canada’s oceans.
We engaged with Canadians to seek feedback on how to improve protection for rockfish and their habitat in RCAs. The first step in our engagement process focused on 69 Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB). We asked for input on potential changes to the fisheries management measures and the boundaries in these areas.
We used a wide variety of methods to gather information and receive feedback in the first phase of consultations including:
- Correspondence and meetings with First Nations groups, fishery advisory boards, and other stakeholders.
- Regional meetings with multiple First Nations and representative organizations (e.g. Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management (AAROM) groups)
- Introductory webinars for First Nations.
- First Nations and multi-stakeholder workshops in Prince Rupert and Campbell River.
- A consultation website with electronic surveys for submitting written feedback.
Timeline of the consultation process
Beginning in June 2018, we focused on introducing the Rockfish Conservation Areas review to First Nations and stakeholders. We started conversations on how the current multi-year fishery closures have been working from different perspectives.
At the same time, our scientists worked on 2 studies to support the review. Based on this research, preliminary proposals were developed to improve the effectiveness of Rockfish Conservation Areas:
- A Regional Assessment of Ecological Attributes in Rockfish Conservation Areas in British Columbia
- Used updated rockfish habitat information to analyze existing boundaries and locations of each RCA.
- Analyzed whether the management measures currently in place for Rockfish Conservation Areas align with the criteria for Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) that contribute to Canada’s international and domestic marine conservation targets.
May to July 2019
Engagement activities explored initial proposals for boundary adjustments and changes to fisheries restrictions.
First Nations and multi-stakeholder workshops
We held 2 First Nations and multi-stakeholder workshops to provide an opportunity for more in-depth engagement on the proposed changes to Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion:
- May 29, 2019 in Prince Rupert, BC
- June 11, 2019 in Campbell River, BC
We arranged workshop notes by key themes and circulated to participants for review.
Comments/questions received included:
- Support for the ecosystem benefits provided by RCAs beyond those to rockfish and rockfish habitat, however, varying positions on modifying management measures to protect other habitat features.
- Comments on meaningful engagement with First Nations and a desire for co-management.
- Interest from some First Nations on collaborating on monitoring and/or enforcement of RCAs in their territories.
- Questions on the design criteria and process for developing proposed changes to RCAs.
- Questions on the current status of inshore rockfish populations, and level of monitoring to evaluate effectiveness of RCAs.
- Support for the development of a robust monitoring program and ground-truthing of modelled habitat information.
- Questions and concerns regarding enforcement of fisheries restrictions in RCAs.
- Concerns by several fishing sectors regarding the displacement and concentration of fishing effort to smaller areas as a result of multiple fishery closures by a variety of initiatives.
- Concerns regarding the socio-economic impacts of proposed changes to RCAs and other initiatives in the Northern Shelf Bioregion.
- Questions of clarification on the intent of the RCA review and alignment with the Northern Shelf Bioregion Marine Protected Area Network planning process.
Online survey and consultation email inbox
We collected public input on how to improve Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion through a consultation website from June 3, 2019 to July 31, 2019. The online survey was advertised via emails to First Nations and fishing advisory boards, a fishery notice and public announcements on social media and links across our website. The consultation website included a list of 69 Rockfish Conservation Areas currently under review. Respondents could search by RCA to view maps and descriptions of the proposed boundary changes, and submit feedback through an online form. Approximately 127 survey responses were received during this online consultation period.
We also received input directly through a dedicated e-mail address listed on our consultation website: DFO.RCA-ACS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
Comments on the proposed boundary changes and support for additional fisheries restrictions varied in the online feedback. Some comments identified concerns over the socio-economic impacts of the proposed boundary adjustments on recreational and commercial fishing sectors. Other comments supported additional fisheries restrictions in Rockfish Conservation Areas and several of the proposed boundary changes.
Comments/questions received included:
- Comments requesting improved enforcement of existing Rockfish Conservation Area management measures, rather than boundary changes and additional fishing restrictions.
- Comments seeking socio-economic analysis of impacts caused by changes to Rockfish Conservation Area boundaries and fishing restrictions.
- General concern about closing important fishing grounds.
- The position that management measures in Rockfish Conservation Areas should apply equally to all stakeholders and First Nations given potential risks to rockfish and their habitat.
- The position that additional scientific analysis and ground-truthing of Rockfish Conservation Area effectiveness and rockfish habitat are required to inform any proposed management changes.
- Support for maintaining current management measures and boundaries as they provide adequate protection.
- Concerns around cumulative impacts of other fishing closures on fish harvesters.
- Comments on the need for better alignment of the Rockfish Conservation Area review and Northern Shelf Bioregion Marine Protected Area Network planning process.
Feedback themes from email, online, and workshops
Several key themes emerged from regional and bilateral meetings, webinars, workshops, emails, and online surveys in the first phase of consultations:
- The need for improved monitoring and enforcement in Rockfish Conservation Areas, to both understand and increase their effectiveness.
- The importance of considering socio-economic impacts and the cumulative effects of multiple initiatives reducing the area available to fish.
- A call for better alignment and communication around the Northern Shelf Bioregion Marine Protected Area Network process and the Rockfish Conservation Area review.
Of the 69 Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion, the following RCA proposals received the most attention in workshops and online consultations:
- Maud Island
- Menzies Bay
- Kanish Bay
- Deep Water Bay
Most responses about the proposed changes identified these areas as important to commercial and recreational fish harvesters, and requested that the boundaries of the Rockfish Conservation Areas not be changed.
Input collected from the Rockfish Conservation Area review will help inform rockfish conservation within the Northern Shelf Marine Protected Area Network planning process.
There will be more opportunities to provide feedback on Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion in the near future. We’re also planning to review Rockfish Conservation Areas in other regions of British Columbia at a later date.
Thank you to participants
Thank you to everyone who has participated in the Rockfish Conservation Areas review to date. Our broad vision for rockfish conservation is to ensure sustainable Pacific fisheries for future generations, and your feedback is valuable in realizing this vision.
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