Strategic Framework for Fishery Monitoring and Catch Reporting in the Pacific Fisheries

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1.  Introduction

Faced with a myriad of challenges, including climate change, declining fish stocks, reduced economic viability, an evolving global marketplace, and heightened competition for aquatic resources, Canada’s Pacific fisheries are undergoing reform.  Demands for sustainable management that considers the larger ecosystem, respects Aboriginal rights, strengthens engagement of resource users in decision-making, and finds solutions to allocate scarce resources are putting pressure on governments and fishery interests alike.  In many fisheries, the distrust of reported catch data and inconsistent monitoring has helped to fuel conflicts between harvesting groups.   

Reliable, timely and accessible fisheries information is the foundation of sustainable management.  While the importance of good catch data is certainly not new to the Pacific Region, the worldwide trend towards sustainable fisheries and supporting management practices is calling for significant improvements in monitoring and reporting.  In this environment, it is vital that our fisheries have a consistent approach to determining information requirements and monitoring programs—one that inspires confidence and cooperation among harvesters, global consumers and the Canadian public. 

This discussion paper sets out a strategic framework to guide Pacific fishery monitoring and catch reporting into the future.  The framework was developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in consultation with First Nations, commercial and recreational harvesters and other stakeholders.  It is intended to serve as one of the tools within the Sustainable Fisheries Framework of DFO’s overarching Fisheries Modernization agenda.  As such, the purpose of this tool is to provide a common understanding of the importance and need for fisheries monitoring and catch reporting standards.  This framework is intended to provide guidance to Pacific Region staff and to all harvesters (Commercial, Recreational, aboriginal food, social and ceremonial (FSC)) on various catch monitoring requirements and the development and application of specific standards.  However, DFO recognizes that not all fisheries operate on the same basis or have the same impact therefore a consistent risk-based approach to the development and application of catch monitoring standards in all fisheries is included (see Appendix 2). 

While this framework addresses the information requirements for all fisheries, it recognizes the unique basis for FSC  fisheries, for which the right to access is constitutionally protected and provided priority over other harvest sectors.

Policy context

Fisheries Modernization is the Department’s national initiative to achieve a long-term stable approach to fisheries management decision making, support the conservation and sustainability of fisheries resources and set the context for greater economic prosperity.  Central to this initiative is the Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF) established in 2009 to consolidate existing and new fisheries sustainable development policies and tools [1].  The SFF embodies a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach to management and seeks to stabilize fishery allocations through defined sharing arrangements between harvesting sectors.  This move to clearer allocations or shares both within the commercial fisheries and more generally between harvest sectors in all fisheries, in turn, requires enhanced catch accountability to ensure that all removals are properly considered.

Important policies and tools of the evolving SFF include:

A Fishery Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach - This policy applies to key harvested fish stocks managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada; that is, the fish stocks that are the specific and intended targets of a commercial, recreational, or subsistence fishery. It may be applied more broadly to other stocks, if necessary or as circumstances warrant.  The Framework requires that a harvest strategy be incorporated into respective fisheries management plans to keep the removal rate moderate when the stock status is healthy, to promote rebuilding when stock status is low, and to ensure a low risk of serious or irreversible harm to the stock. It also requires a rebuilding plan when a stock reaches critical levels.

Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs) – IFMPs are the primary tool for balancing the ecosystem, social and economic dimensions of fishery decisions.  These plans include arrangements for food, social and ceremonial and treaty fisheries by First Nations, selective harvesting, other regulatory harvest measures and decision-rules and documentation of information requirements and monitoring programs. All of the new SFF policies and tools will be implemented through existing IFMP processes.  Fishery managers in collaboration with harvesters and other interests, will address ecosystem and fisheries management risks and monitor progress in meeting associated goals.  Various tools (such as internal DFO Fishery Checklists) will be used to collect data and input into transparent performance reporting. 

Fishery monitoring and catch reporting requirements must support these and other SFF components—for example, the Policy for Managing the Impacts on Sensitive Benthic Areas, Policy on New Fisheries for Forage Species and the Policy Framework on Managing Bycatch and Discards —as they are finalized and implemented.

“Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon” (WSP) (DFO 2004) has important implications for the application of this Strategic Framework to the monitoring of salmon fisheries. In  establishing salmon conservation units (CUs)  as a key focus for decision making, specific additional harvest information is required (especially in chinook, coho and sockeye fisheries) to address fisheries encompassing numerous CUs. Furthermore the WSP highlights the importance of understanding and incorporating broader ecosystem values into integrated plans and monitoring performance against objectives over time. 

Canada’s Selective Fishing Policy also requires greater accountability to ensure identified selective fishing standards and objectives are being achieved (DFO 2001).

[1] See for a full list of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework tools and policies