For BC’s sablefish fishery and the CSA, sustainability means making concrete investments in intensive scientific research to protect the resource. This research informs a highly strategic management approach which places the CSA among the world leaders in sustainable fisheries management. A few highlights of CSA’s commitment to sustainability and sustainability research include:
- Coastwide stock assessment and research surveys since 1991;
- Unique tagging and recovery programs (over 150,000 fish tagged) that provide migration, selectivity, and mortality information for stock assessment;
- Management strategy evaluation process since 2006 for developing and testing robust procedures for setting annual quotas;
- Fishing gear impacts research in collaboration with Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management aimed at assessing impacts of trap and longline gear on seafloor ecosystems.
Maintaining healthy and productive fish stocks means putting long-term conservation of fish stocks ahead of short-term economic gains. This sounds nice in theory, but can be difficult to achieve in practice because it’s not always clear when a decision should favour conservation over economics.
Our knowledge of the abundance, productivity, and conservation status of fish stocks can only be gained over time by intensive data gathering and analysis. In the meantime, we will always be uncertain about the consequences of harvesting decisions. Sustainable fisheries carefully consider the risks and consequences of alternative actions so that errors due to our ignorance do not leave the stock in unhealthy and unproductive states.
In developing the BC sablefish management system, we focus on sustainability as a process, not a product. Natural ecosystems like the northeast Pacific Ocean are highly dynamic, so we recognize that sustainability – as a product – is a moving target that we will likely never hit. On the other hand, a fishery management process that takes uncertainty into account with a primary goal of maintaining healthy and productive stocks will remain sustainable regardless of the ups and downs that are characteristic of natural systems.