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SGaan Kinghlas – Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area Management Board Meeting with the CSA

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December 02, 2011 10:00am – 5:00 pm
Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, BC
Meeting Notes

2011-12-02 Meeting Notes [PDF]

In Attendance

Jason Thompson (CHN) Biologist / Planner, Haida Oceans Technical Team
Jason AlsopMB (CHN) Representative, Council of the Haida Nation
Sean CowparMB (CHN) Representative, Council of the Haida Nation
Russ Jones (CHN) Haida Fisheries Program
Robert DavisMB (CHN) Representative, Council of the Haida Nation (pm only)
Peter Christensen (CHN) Socioeconomic Planner, Haida Oceans Technical Team
Guujaaw (CHN) President, Council of the Haida Nation (pm only)
Bob Fraumeni (CSA) Canadian Sablefish Association
Chris Acheson (CSA) Canadian Sablefish Association
Sean Cox (CSA) Scientific Advisor to CSA
Mel KotykMB (DFO) Area Director, North Coast (chair)
Jeffrey LemieuxMB (DFO) Area Manager, Ecosystem Management, North Coast (am only)
Amy Wakelin (DFO) ICZM Coordinator, North Coast Oceans
Rob Kronlund (DFO) Research Biologist, Science Branch (telephone)
Chantelle Caron (DFO) Sablefish/Halibut Coordinator, Fish Management
Matt Bond (DFO) Biologist, North Coast Oceans

CHN = Council of the Haida Nation
CHN = Canadian Sablefish Association
DFO = Fisheries & Oceans Canada
MB = SK-B MPA Management Board member

1. Welcome and Introductions

  • Chair: Mel Kotyk (DFO)
  • Russ Jones welcomed everyone to Haida territory
  • The CSA noted that the intention behind requesting this meeting was not to replace the advisory process, but to provide an opportunity for the CSA to communicate face-to-face with the CHN
  • Review of agenda
  • Objective of meeting: To develop a common understanding of the sablefish fishery and management practices within the SGaan Kinghlas – Bowie Seamount MPA and share perspectives on possible management measures

DECISION: Agenda accepted

2. Background and History of Sablefish Fishery with Specific Emphasis on the SGaan Kinghlas – Bowie Seamount MPA

DFO provided a brief description of how the fishery is currently managed within the Marine Protected Area and the management tools that are currently in place.
These include:

Management Tools

  1. Season length – 6 months, April 01 – September 30
  2. Limited entry
    1. Lottery system – Any sablefish licence holder that uses trap gear is allowed to apply for the Northern Seamount fishery. One boat per month, for the months of April-September, is selected and then has the choice to participate or not. If they do not participate the next vessel to be chosen in the lottery would be given the opportunity, and so forth. Thus, a maximum of 6 boats fish the northern seamounts in a given year and only one vessel per month that the fishery is open.
    2. Those that accept the lottery opportunity are given a licence amendment that allows them to fish any of the northern seamounts within Canada’s EEZ (SK-B is only one). To fish any of the other northern seamounts located outside of Canada’s EEZ, lottery winners must also apply for a “High Seas License”
  3. Gear restrictions
    1. Trap gear only, with a requirement for rot panels to avoid lost gear ghost fishing and escape rings (minimum diameter of 8.89 cm) to allow sub-legal fish to escape
    2. Requirements – Maximum 4-day soak time
  4. Closed areas
    1. Zones 1 and 3 are closed to commercial fishing. Zone 2 (which extends to the 250 fathom bathymetric contour) is the only zone which permits the commercial sablefish fishery. This protects photic zone, eliminates fishing on Hodgkins and Davidson Seamounts
  5. Monthly Vessel Limits
    • Prior to 2010 there was no limit at SK-B
    • The current monthly vessel limit is 75,000 lbs, round weight
    • The monthly vessel limit was calculated using an average monthly catch from 2007 to 2009 with the addition of 1.5 times the standard deviation. The average catch was calculated at 39,000 T,
    • This monthly vessel limit could result in larger than average catches.

Discussion regarding the impact of monthly vessel limit on industry. The monthly vessel limit restricts the amount of fish that can be landed by a vessel in a fishing trip. A CSA representative reported that vessels have had to come in earlier than anticipated as a result of the monthly vessel limit. It was noted that this limit is in round pounds and dressed weight is lower.

Monitoring requirements

  • At-sea monitoring via electronic monitoring – GPS coordinates are monitored, all fishing events are video recorded and 10% of the video records are audited against the vessel’s logbook by an independent, third-party service provider to ensure logbook accuracy. If the logbook is accurate it becomes the official catch record. If the logbook and video do not match within the audit standards, there is 100% review of the video (at the expense of the licence holder) and the video then becomes the official catch record.
  • April and September trips to SK-B must have on-board observers (extra requirement for SK-B) – official catch record is the observer logbook. Sometimes one or both of the April and September trips are not subscribed. As a result, there may be less than two trips per year with at-sea observers.
  • All boats are subject to dockside validation of retained (landed) catch.
  • When at-sea observers are not on board, logbooks are validated by dock-side validation of landings and 10% audit of electronic monitoring footage are conducted by an independent third party service provider.
  • Biological sampling at seamounts: May to August – 60 fish are randomly selected for biological sampling by fishermen.
  • April and September: 100 legal fish + 100 sub-legal fish are selected for biological sampling by an at-sea observer.
  • Electronic and at-sea observer monitoring is paid for by the fishermen. There are some subsidies from DFO that extend to the entire hook & line/trap fleet (not exclusive to Northern Seamount vessels).

It was noted that the biological sampling at the seamounts has been in place since prior to 2002 but was far less structured than it is today.

Discussion regarding why it is not a viable option to manage the fishery at SK-B under a scientific permit:

  • Prior to the Larocque decision (Larocque v. Canada, 2005), fish caught during scientific surveys (under scientific/experimental licences) was permitted to be sold. This included the sale of fish caught beyond what was needed for scientific purposes as a method to cover the costs of surveys. Since the Larocque decision, fish caught during scientific surveys must be returned to the water if there is a reasonable expectation of survival (50%).
  • Previously, seamount fishing was permitted via scientific licences because survey work would be required on seamount fishing trips, however the Larocque decision precludes this option as the trips are not fundamentally for scientific purposes and fish that are not killed for scientific research must be returned to the water, thus it is no longer economically feasible for harvesters to use this licence to harvest sablefish on seamounts.

DFO presented materials on the data behind the management of SK-B sablefish. Graphics were presented that (a) compared sablefish landings at SK-B vs. coast-wide, (b) showed the movement of tagged sablefish from near-shore areas to seamounts, (c) showed trends for annual catch, effort and catch per unit effort (CPUE),and (d) the spatial distribution of fishing effort at SK-B. Presentation materials were shown to participants, however were not distributed at the meeting.

Opportunity for Technical Questions for DFO Science and Groundfish Management Unit

Discussion about some of the ecology of sablefish and the tools that DFO uses to manage SK-B sablefish fisheries:

  • In general, data show that tagged sablefish move from the north Pacific coast to seamounts; there are fewer records of movement from seamounts to the coast because the number of tag releases at seamounts has been very limited.
  • Approximately 10,000 tags are deployed in BC waters per year, and approximately 25% of those tagged sablefish are recovered. It is a challenge to estimate movement rates due to low harvest rates and incomplete information along the entire Pacific coast including US waters.
  • It is difficult to interpret population trends based on annual CPUE, as fishing regulations have changed at SK-B.
  • Graphics indicated that fisheries have primarily occurred outside of closed zones, although data represented both pre-MPA designation and post-designation time periods.
  • It is not known why sablefish move to seamounts, except for those fish that migrate it appears to be associated with the onset of maturity.

Discussion about tagging studies and movement patterns of sablefish.

  • There are very few records (i.e. 3 or 4) of coastal recoveries of fish released at SK-B – there were 2-3 sets of tagged fish released at Bowie Seamount and there is no ongoing seamount tagging program due to the cost of working at seamounts and competing priorities for the management of the coastal population.
  • Several studies have investigated the movement patterns of sablefish from coastal waters to offshore seamounts, for example the Parks and Shaw (1994, NOAA Technical Memo) paper discussed the movement patterns of tagged sablefish released along the American coast (California, Oregon) and recovered on seamounts

Discussion on catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) at the seamounts

  • CPUE is based on how many fish come out of each trap. When the set comes back the total catch over the set is divided by the number of traps.
  • It was noted that starting in 2010 escape rings were required on traps and it is difficult to estimate the decrease in CPUE due to the introduction of escape rings intended to allow sub-legal sablefish to escape. Changing regulations, such as the introduction of escape rings, makes linking trends in CPUE to abundance more difficult.
  • CPUE also depends upon the experience and skill of the skipper, which is variable.
  • It was noted that there are generally 50 to 65 traps per set. Typically the traps are soaked for a day but the maximum soak time is four days by licence condition.

Discussion regarding bycatch of Rougheye and Black-spotted rockfish

  • Science has been doing genetic work to identify Rougheye and Black-spotted rockfishes. These related species cannot be reliably discriminated visually, genetic methods must be used to identify the species . It was noted that hybridization occurs.
  • It was noted that the catch of these rockfishes at the seamount is a small portion of the coastal bycatch. Full retention of rockfishes has been required since 2006 and this is one of the main reasons for the introduction of electronic monitoring. DFO is working with the CSA to do genetic sampling but this work requires the presence of an at-sea observer. The September 2011 trip was not subscribed so plans are in place to attempt to gather samples on the April and September 2012 trips.

Discussion on why SK-B sablefish are not included in the coast-wide total allowable catch (TAC)

  • It was explained that it is not possible to calculate a reliable TAC for an area like SK-B without having an accurate biomass estimate. Several factors combine to make this impractical for SK-B including the absence of a reliable fisheryindependent stock index and unknown rates of immigration/emigration.
  • It is believed that abundance at SK-B follows abundance on the coast. Surveys are costly especially at remote locations.
  • If seamounts were included in the coast-wide TAC, there could be a shifting of the catch to seamounts. As an extreme but unlikely example, the application of a coast-wide TAC could result in the entire catch being taken from seamounts.

A question was asked by a CHN representative regarding why some boats decide not to go out to the seamount. CSA representatives explained that the decision is partly based on what other fisheries are available to the vessel during the month they are allowed to fish the seamount, market conditions, and weather.

A question was asked by a CHN representative regarding the application of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF) at SK-B. It was explained that the coastal sablefish fishery is in line with the SFF in many ways; however the fishery at the seamount presents bigger challenges because of the difficulty of stock assessment, different management systems, etc. The SFF provides little guidance for input controlled fisheries such as that operating at SK-B.

Discussion regarding CPUE and size/sex ratio of sablefish at the seamount

  • It was noted that the legal size limit at the seamount is 55 cm fork length, consistent with the coastwide fishery.
  • CPUE at the seamount could be lower than the coastal fishery due to a seasonal bias – CPUE is usually higher in the winter and the fishery occurs during the summer.
  • The CSA noted that there are more males the farther you go off the coast and therefore smaller fish (large male will measure 60 cm – some stay under 50 cm for their entire lifespan). It was also suggested that the presence of few immature sablefish on the seamount may reflect a trend of sablefish migration from coastal areas to seamounts at the onset of maturity.

Lunch Break

Recap of Sablefish Science Presentation

  • A summary of the sablefish science presentation from the morning was provided that reviewed much of the morning discussion for the benefit of new participants at the meeting
  • There was discussion about some of the commercial fishing practices at SK-B and how electronic monitoring tracks fishing activity, for example vessel speed can be used to determine if fishing is occurring.

3. The Sablefish Fishery – The Economic Value

  • Bob Fraumeni (CSA representative) showed a presentation explaining the social and economic importance of the sablefish fishery to the commercial fishermen.
  • There was discussion about bottom impacts of the trap fishery, and what is currently being done to mitigate these impacts:
    • These efforts include supporting research that investigates fishing gear – benthic habitat interactions.
    • Dr. Sean Cox (SFU) invited everyone in the room to collaborate with the CSA and SFU on the research program and analysis
    • Mr. Fraumeni discussed best practices that are voluntarily being used by fishermen:
      • For example, traps are not set on steep slopes and traps do not move much once on bottom. All lost traps are reported and traps are required to have rot panels to minimize ghost fishing.
      • The CHN requested data on lost gear.
  • There was discussion about the economic costs associated with onboard monitoring and fishing at SK-B:
    • The fishery at SK-B requires more biological samples and on-board observers than the coast-wide fishery
    • Mr. Fraumeni reported that it costs approximately $40,000 to get a trap vessel geared and provisioned to fish at SK-B.
    • The CSA will also be supporting research to investigate impacts to benthic habitat, which is to include attaching cameras to traps to document the interactions with the benthic environment during the annual research and assessment survey.
  • There was discussion about the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the sablefish fishery, and the letter that the CHN sent to the certifying body which outlined concerns regarding the current sablefish fishery and the MSC assessment. The CSA noted that they would have been open to discussing CHN concerns in advance of that letter and acknowledged those concerns. Dr. Sean Cox gave a presentation entitled ‘Management Strategy Evaluation for B.C. Groundfish’, in which simulation methods were used to test a number of possible management strategies against a set of objectives or goals.
  • Dr. Sean Cox explained his NSERC-funded research program investigating bottom-impacts from fishing. There are some challenges with putting cameras on traps because of the depths but his research is focussed on developing a deepwater camera system with an accelerometer. The accelerometer will control when images are captured by triggering the camera when the trap touches the substrate. Images will also be captured when the gear moves during the set and when the gear is retrieved.
  • There was discussion about discarding bycatch and non-legal sablefish at SK-B. Dr. Cox mentioned that there is currently being research done to understand whether discarding of sablefish compromises the likelihood of meeting conservation and economic objectives.

4. Sablefish and the SK-B MPA – Conservation and Sustainability

  • Russ Jones reviewed the list of concerns that the CHN submitted through a letter and a backgrounder to the MSC certifying body.
  • There was discussion about the kinds of onboard monitoring that are currently utilized. The CSA suggested that both DFO and CSA science could think about what the onboard observers could do in terms of biological sampling to help answer more questions.
  • There was discussion about research priorities at SK-B. Dr. Cox suggested that habitat-related issues should be first priority because the health of the fishery is based upon healthy habitat. It was noted that there are also MSC conditions related to bottom impacts.
  • There was discussion about the new condition (Condition 5 – benthic habitat related) in the MSC audit report, and how the client action plan was developed:
    • There is currently some limited information on bottom impacts and main habitat types in the area. Dr. Cox noted that the first step in the client action plan is to map out bottom contact in fine resolution. Dr. Cox is planning to collaborate with DFO to analyze video footage of bottom collected by an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in July 2011.

ACTION: A research team from SFU, led by Dr. Sean Cox, will continue to analyze the video footage of benthic habitat at SK-B

5. Sablefish at the SK-B MPA – The Haida Perspective

This agenda item was incorporated into discussion in other parts of the meeting (particularly Section 4 – Sablefish at the SK-B MPA – Conservation and Sustainability).

6. The Conservation Objectives

Due to time constraints, this agenda item was not discussed. An update on the conservation objectives for SK-B was provided at the Management Board meeting on December 1, 2011.

7. Moving Forward

Guujaaw and Russ Jones mentioned that it is important that information is shared transparently between DFO and CHN.

ACTION: Russ Jones will organize a technical meeting with himself, Jason Thompson, Rob Kronlund and Dr. Sean Cox. The purpose of this meeting will be to view and seek a common understanding of scientific data presented and discussed today.

NOTE: It was acknowledged that work will need to be done in advance of this meeting and that DFO Science will require at least six weeks of preparation time, including a list of what information is of interest, prior to the meeting.

ACTION: The CHN, CSA, and DFO will meet again to discuss the outcomes of technical meeting with Jason Thompson, Russ Jones, Dr. Sean Cox and Rob Kronlund.

Video footage was presented from Jim Boutillier’s (DFO) July 2011 research cruise to SK-B. It was noted that all of this footage was from Zone 1.

8. Next Steps and Closing Remarks

  • Mel Kotyk reviewed action items identified during the meeting
  • Closing remarks and meeting adjourned at 4:50 pm