What we heard - Rockfish Conservation Areas review

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Background

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:

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.

Consultation process

We used a wide variety of methods to gather information and receive feedback in the first phase of consultations including:

Timeline of the consultation process

June 2018

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:

  1. A Regional Assessment of Ecological Attributes in Rockfish Conservation Areas in British Columbia
  2. Risk Assessment of Permitted Human Activities in Rockfish Conservation Areas in British Columbia

May to July 2019

Engagement activities explored initial proposals for boundary adjustments and changes to fisheries restrictions.

Consultation summary

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:

  1. May 29, 2019 in Prince Rupert, BC
  2. June 11, 2019 in Campbell River, BC

We arranged workshop notes by key themes and circulated to participants for review.

Comments/questions received included:

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:

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:

Of the 69 Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion, the following RCA proposals received the most attention in workshops and online consultations:

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.

Next steps

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.