David Suzuki Foundation and Living Oceans Society Reach Landmark Agreement with B.C. Groundfish Fishery
Canadian conservation groups The David Suzuki Foundation and Living Oceans Society recently reached a landmark agreement with the industry-led Canadian Groundfish Research and Conservation Society (CGRCS) on measures to limit the effect of trawl nets on sensitive corals, sponges and deepsea habitats on the British Columbian coast.
The new measures include:
- Defined boundaries for the fishery
- Individual limits on coral and sponge bycatch
- A procedure to alert skippers if a bycatch in excess of 20 kg of coral or sponge occurs
- A joint habitat conservation review committee composed of representatives from industry, environmental groups, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Scott Wallace, Sustainable Fisheries Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation, said in an interview that “The whole idea is to provide strong accountability at the tow-by-tow level, which is quite unique in fisheries. Each time they put down the net, they’ll be thinking, ‘Will I hit corals or sponges here?’ If they do, in any large number, they’ll be in trouble… I can’t think of another fishery in the world that has this level of personal accountability.”
For the industry, the economic rationale is clear: “Our markets are increasingly demanding evidence that fisheries are well managed, employ sustainable practices and address ecosystem impacts,” said Brian Mose, a fifth generation fisherman and member of the CGRCS. “We know that in order to maintain and expand market opportunities, we need to provide assurances to environmental organizations, retailers and consumers that we are serious about managing and reducing our impacts on ocean ecosystems.”
Bruce Turris, Executive Manager of the CGRCS, said his industry has taken measures to evolve over the past 15 years, including adopting an individual quota system and 100% observer coverage. “It is important to address these habitat conservation issues, because we recognize that our industry’s future is reliant on a healthy ecosystem,” he said. “Our partnership with the environmental organizations has allowed us to come up with an innovative solution that works for our industry and conservationists.”
He hopes the effort leads to trawl-caught rockfish being removed from the ‘red’ list as determined by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which is used as a reference by other environmental organizations, including FishWise.