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

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The Uses for Fisheries Information

Fishery monitoring and catch reporting provides information of value to DFO, other government agencies at the local, provincial, federal and international levels, First Nations and stakeholder groups. Monitoring programs serve a variety of purposes.

Resource Managers use data on the quantity, timing and location of catch and bycatch as well as vessel and gear details to make in-season management decisions, e.g., opening and closing fisheries. This information also guides pre-season fisheries planning and post-season evaluations. Scientists need data on fishing mortality and various biological characteristics (e.g., size, age, sex, feeding behaviour) to conduct stock assessments and research. Fishery officers require catch and other data to carry out compliance and enforcement with respect to catch and bycatch limits, gear restrictions, area closures, seasonal restrictions and other regulations and licence conditions.

Government planners and policymakers use fisheries information for socioeconomic analyses (e.g., to assess the employment and income impacts of different harvest regimes) and administration of programs including employment insurance and workers compensation. In addition, data must be provided to meet the specific reporting provisions of domestic and international treaties and agreements, such as the Nisga’a Treaty, regulations by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and UN fisheries agreements.

Principle 1: Conservation and sustainable use

Fishery monitoring and catch reporting must provide the right information to support prosperous, sustainable fisheries that ensure the protection of fish populations, their habitat and the broader ecosystem.

Sustainable fisheries based on the conservation of resources are the ultimate objective of better monitoring and reporting systems.  Sustainability means that fish stocks are harvested in a way that meets today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own requirements.  Pacific fisheries must be able to clearly demonstrate their sustainability, in environmental and socioeconomic terms, if they are to be viable for the long term.

The growing national and international concern around ecosystem impacts of fishing has put a spotlight on the need to demonstrate the long-term sustainability of fisheries.  The information necessary to sustain and protect fishery resources and their habitat is the first priority of monitoring and reporting.  Monitoring will encompass documentation of all catch including, retained target fish stock(s), releases, and bycatch and discards, as well as information on further components of the ecosystem such as habitat impacts.  Key additional information required includes, for example, specifics on species at risk and critical habitat such as estuaries and sponge reefs.  Where a fishery has significant ecosystem impacts, these impacts must be adequately assessed and tracked over time.   Comprehensive monitoring and reporting information is also key to gathering the data to manage to identified limits and to evaluate the success of a chosen management and/or harvest strategy.

The Policy Framework on Managing Bycatch and Discards, part of DFO’s Sustainable Fisheries Framework, describes in detail the need to account for total catch, including bycatch and discards (DFO in prep (b) – also see Appendix 1).

Principle 2: Consistency and transparency

While monitoring and reporting requirements will vary by fishery, they will apply equally to all harvesters and will be determined based on consistent criteria and in a transparent manner that allows information to be easily accessed and understood by Resource Managers, other data users and the general public.

Different fisheries require different levels of information, in view of their individual characteristics and risks (see Principle 3).  However, it is vital that a standardized approach be used when determining the appropriate information level for each fishery.  In every case, fishery managers must clearly explain the requirements for monitoring and catch reporting, and how they were derived, to harvesters, other stakeholders and the public.

A consistent set of criteria will guide the determination of monitoring and reporting requirements for all Pacific fisheries.  These criteria will consider the status of retained target and non-target stocks, discards, habitat and ecosystem impacts, allocation arrangements and other factors.  For any given fishery, the resulting requirements will apply consistently to all harvesters.

Information management systems must provide timely access to monitoring and catch reporting data to serve fisheries management and other uses.  The information should be of defined quality and in a consistent format that enables various kinds of data (e.g., fishing effort and catch, catch from different fisheries in the same area) to be integrated.  It will be stored in centralized data systems that balance the need for access by all users with the protection of proprietary information.