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

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What is Fishery Monitoring and Catch Reporting?

Fishery monitoring means observing and understanding the fishery and its dynamics (DFO 2002). It includes observation and examination of the catching and landing of fish and any related activities, such as counting vessels, gear and sampling of any fish caught. Monitoring is carried out by harvesters, First Nations and, increasingly, third party observers designated by DFO. Departmental staff including fishery officers, fishery guardians, fishery managers, biologists and scientists also conduct monitoring activities.

Catch reporting means providing information either verbally, in writing or electronically on catch and other essential details related to fishing activity (e.g., location, gear type, etc.). Reporting is performed by harvesters or by fish buyers, off-loaders or designated third party dockside monitors/observers on behalf of harvesters.

Other activities associated with monitoring and reporting include the specification of catch information and biological sampling requirements, auditing of collected data for accuracy and completeness, information management, compliance enforcement of catch reporting regulations and licence conditions, summarizing and analysis of catch and fisheries monitoring data, and communication of catch estimates and other information within DFO and to harvesters and the public.

The current status of monitoring and reporting

Fishery monitoring and catch reporting in the Pacific fisheries has evolved since its inception more than a half-century ago (See for e.g., DFO 2002; Beath et al. 2004; DFO 2009b; DFO 2009c).  Today, the level of information gathering ranges from no monitoring in some fisheries (e.g., remote recreational and First Nations shellfish harvesting) to enhanced monitoring programs (as exemplified by the integrated commercial groundfish fishery).  The extent and intensity of monitoring requirements varies significantly with the fishery’s size and location, particular management risks and information challenges, and other factors.

Over the years, outside reviewers including the Auditor General of Canada and the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council have identified shortcomings in fishery monitoring and catch reporting.  In response, DFO committed to pursue shared accountability and the development of “basic standards for monitoring and reporting” in consultation with all harvesting groups (DFO 1999).  In 2002, the Department released a Pacific Region Fishery Monitoring and Reporting Framework setting out principles with which to review and improve fishery monitoring and catch reporting systems (DFO 2002).  The framework also identified a number of fishery attributes (geographic scope, number of species, fishing power, etc.) for consideration when determining specific monitoring and reporting strategies.

Building on that work, selected measures have been taken to improve monitoring and reporting in various fisheries.  Under the pilot Integrated Groundfish Program launched in 2006, full accounting of all catch and 100 per cent at-sea video monitoring was implemented for all commercial groundfish hook and line and trap vessels.[1]  A preliminary review in 2008 of the pilot program found that more timely and comprehensive information on fish catch, including releases, had successfully modernized this fishery subsequently enabling full market access, eco-certification and global recognition of sustainable fisheries management (Fraser 2008).

Other recent monitoring developments include:

  • Several commercial invertebrate fisheries, such as Geoduck, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumber and Euphausiid have operated under 100% Dockside Monitoring Programs for many years.  Some dive fishery licence areas also use independent On-Grounds Monitors for additional verification and fishery management tasks.  The Crab fishery uses enhanced monitoring to verify vessel and harvesting activity electronically (GPS tracking, hydraulic sensors, video cameras).  The Prawn fishery has been testing Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and electronic logs (e-logs) to enable faster, more accurate data reporting and fleet tracking. 
  • Several commercial demonstration salmon fisheries, such as the Area F troll fishery on the North Coast, have adopted enhanced monitoring to verify all catch in a pilot quota fishery; as well, all gear types have been testing electronic logs (e-logs) to enable faster, more accurate data reporting.
  • Some pelagic fisheries including herring food and bait, herring roe, herring special use, herring spawn on kelp and sardine require 100% dockside validation.  Herring Food and Bait, and sardine require and at sea observers ranging from 25-100% coverage. These tools as well as hail and vessel logbooks programs are used to meet specific fishery monitoring objectives.   
  • Customized E-logs have also been piloted by some commercial fleets, sport fishing guides, and lodges and recreational creel surveys have also evolved to include halibut and other groundfish information.
  • In FSC fisheries, a new role (Data Management Advisor) to better plan for and coordinate data collection for several First Nations has been successfully piloted; further, catch calendars and customized data systems have been adapted in many communities to collect and forward local catch data.

Despite such improvements, deficiencies remain in information gathering, in terms of coverage of the fisheries, missing or unreliable data (particularly on bycatch and discards), reporting delays and other issues.  A preliminary analysis on monitoring and reporting levels of Pacific fisheries including every species group and harvesting sector, identified that there were many fisheries in need of better monitoring and reporting.  Consequently, a systematic approach must be applied for determining fishery information requirements and how best to meet them. 

[1] This change filled a monitoring and reporting gap for the commercial groundfish fisheries, which already had 100% on-board observer coverage for the trawl fleet and 100% dockside monitoring across all fisheries.  Prior to the program, the trap/hook and line fleet was subject to only partial (10 to 15%) on-board observer coverage.