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Jake Rice


Throughout this report, reference is sometimes made to the BC groundfish fishery and sometimes to the BC rockfish fishery. The analysis is specifically of the multi-species rockfish fishery. However, many of the management innovations were directed at the entire trawl sector and not just the portion of the trawl fleet specialising on rockfish. It is hoped that usage is clear on a case by case basis.

This fishery was selected because it combines many of the greatest challenges of multi-species tropical fisheries with the technology and institutions of developed-world Northern Temperate fisheries and management. It has many interesting stories to tell, and lessons to illustrate. This meant that the report is somewhat long; a shorter contribution would require greater preparation time. An evaluation within the framework set by the International Workshop on Factors Contributing to Unsustainability and Overexploitation in Fisheries held in Bangkok, Thailand 4-8 February 2002 (“the Bangkok Workshop”)[88] appears in section 3: Why is Fisheries Management Successful (or Not). The rationale for the conclusions, together with the history, appears in the preceding sections.


1.1 Description of the resource

At least 36 species of rockfish (Genera Sebastes and Sebastolobus; Family Scorpaenidae) occur regularly along the coastal regions, continental shelf, and slope of the Canadian Pacific coast. There are probably fine-scale differences in habitat preferences among the rockfish species, but these are poorly known. Generally subgroups of species are recognised, and commonly referred to as “inshore rockfish”[89], “shelf rockfish”[90] and “slope rockfish”[91]. Even these categorisations are rough, with many species being present in more than one habitat type and simply more common in one of the three (Love et. al. 2002).

Some species are considered closely tied to the seafloor, particularly many of the inshore rockfish (reported for copper rockfish, quillback, tiger rockfish). Others may be diurnally migratory, spending the night foraging up in the water column and days densely schooled near the sea floor (reported for widows, Pacific Ocean perch, yellowtail rockfish; ex Stanley et. al 1999). The juveniles of many slope and shelf species are largely pelagic, and some, such as yellowtail rockfish and black rockfish remain largely pelagic as adults. As expected from the name “rockfish” the species generally occur over hard, structurally complex substrates, but this tendency is also relative, not absolute. Adults are generally considered to be fairly sedentary, particularly in the inshore group, but extensive movements by tagged individuals have been recorded in many species. This sedentary tendency, combined with a preference for structurally complex habitats, means that there is almost certainly meta-population structure in many of the species. Some biochemical genetic work has been conducted on rockfish is recent years, and not surprisingly, shows complex population structure is common in the species that have been studied. However, knowledge of population structure is still in its infancy, and management are quite large, generally reflecting only major depth or substrate discontinuities.

Rockfish are long-lived, with fish aged up to 100 years or more commonly encountered in lightly exploited populations (a rougheye rockfish was aged at 205 years). They also mature relatively late; from the early teens to 30 years or more. Rockfish have internal fertilisation and are live-bearers, although reproductive traits vary among species and have been studied thoroughly in very few. It is widely believed that stocks depend on the highly sporadic production of strong year-classes to replenish biomass, and in a typical year production of recruits is very low. However although rockfish have clearly marked otoliths, the slow growth and long life spans mean that accurate aging of adult rockfish is difficult, and year-classes cannot be resolved with precision.

Taken together, these life history traits mean that adult populations of rockfish can sustain only very low exploitation rates. Because many slope and shelf species commonly school densely and come off the sea floor, and present strong hydroacoustic signals, the species are highly vulnerable to fishing. Little is known of the dispersal of young with or without density dependence in habitat quality and population density. However, because rockfish are generally live-bearing, the potential for dispersal of progeny is thought to be lower than for many other species supporting directed commercial fisheries.

1.2 Description of the fishery

Of the 36 species of rockfish along the BC coast, at least 14 are harvested commercially. Moreover, mixed catches are the rule, with four being the modal number of species per tow in the shelf trawl fishery during the mid 1990s. Long-standing prohibitions on trawling in near-shore areas, to avoid conflicts with sport salmon fisheries, means that exploitation of inshore rockfish has been almost exclusively by hook-and-line gears. This became a limited-entry fishery in 1992. It is prosecuted primarily by vessels under seven metres and serves a speciality high-value restaurant market for live rockfish. With the decline in salmon stocks, the sport fishing sector turned attention to inshore rockfish. Inter-sectoral conflicts have led to major changes and many area closures in the hook-and-line rockfish fishery.

This inshore hook-and-line fishery has some interesting features, but will not be the focus of this report. Reference will be made to it in a couple of places where the developments are particularly relevant to building an understanding of the evaluation framework with which we are working. However, the fishery developed completely independently of the trawl fishery that is the focus of this evaluation.

The first commercial harvest of the shelf and slope rockfish stocks preceded extension of jurisdiction, when distant-water fleets from several countries “discovered” and first fished many of the rockfish stocks and species along the coast. Catch records and biological samples from that period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s or even later are poor and known to be incomplete. However, all indications are that at least major stocks of the more attractive species such as Pacific Ocean Perch were overfished during this period, and have never fully recovered.

When the 200-mile limit was implemented, the Canadian trawl fleet was put under limited entry. Total licenses never exceeded 142 for all groundfish, and more than 25 of those were inactive for most of the 1980s onward. Of the active groundfish trawl licenses, some license holders primarily took rockfish incidentally while pursuing other species, whereas some others specialised heavily in them. The analysis that follows is for the trawl fishery component of the rockfish fishery, covering almost the entire harvesting of shelf and slope species.

In British Columbia, fisheries have always been a secondary component of the provincial economy. Industry, trade and tourism all are strong, and of resource-based industries, forestry dominates over fishing and mining is also significant. Moreover, within the fishing sector, salmon has always dominated the public opinion and government policy environments. Until the 1990s the commercial salmon fishery also dominated economically. Beginning in the 1980s rapid development of the sport fishing sector, especially the commercial-recreational (tour outfitters) created major management and policy challenges for the salmon fishery. During the 1990s major declines in the status of many salmon stocks, as a consequence of numerous factors but particularly an unfavourable ocean environmental regime for salmonid productivity, exacerbated the difficulties in salmon fisheries, management and policy setting. This is germane to the rockfish trawl fisheries, and other fisheries particularly developing fisheries for invertebrates, because it focused both public and political attention on the salmon fisheries. This focus (obsession?) on salmon allowed developments in the other fisheries to take place away from intense external scrutiny.

Innovative development was aided by groundfish processing (other than the high-volume conversion of Pacific hake [Merluccius productus] into surimi) being centred in just two ports. The Co-op plant in Prince Rupert in the North Coast of BC was a major local employer. On the other hand, Steveston, a suburb of Vancouver, received the majority of rockfish landings, but the employment created in fish processing was economically a minor factor regionally. Over most of this period only three companies processed rockfish for export, which also facilitated innovation and experimentation in management activities. The processors were strongly committed to long-term stability of supply of product to markets, which made them allies of the managers in achieving sustainable harvesting. Moreover, in the mid 1990s one of the companies based in Steveston purchased the Prince Rupert Co-op, further consolidated the processing sector.

By the end of the 1990s the value of the groundfish trawl fishery exceeded the value of the commercial salmon fishery substantially, as did the combined value of invertebrate fisheries. The creative bookkeeping in the recreational and commercial-recreational fisheries for salmon makes it difficult to compare value with those fisheries. However salmon still dominate the policy and public opinion climates in BC.

Through the 1990s there were major changes in management approach to the BC trawl fisheries, as industry and government both sought sustainability in harvesting and responded to changing markets and policy frameworks. These changes comprise the core of the assessment below.


2.1 Bio-ecological component of sustainability

Does the organization (national/regional/provincial government and or regional fishery management organization) responsible for fishery management understand that its main bio-ecological aim is to protect, conserve, and restore fishery resources, the environment, the habitat, the ecosystem and bio-diversity; that overfishing should be prevented, and that the resources, the habitat and the ecosystems should be restored to conditions capable of producing the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), taking into account multispecies and ecosystem considerations?

What concrete actions substantiate that the organization does/does not understand its main bio-ecological aim?

From the mid 1980s onward, the rockfish trawl fisheries were managed with an objective of keeping fishing mortality ~ natural mortality (PSARC 1985). This F = m strategy had been proposed as a generally robust management strategy for long-lived species. This harvesting strategy meant that the target exploitation rate was at or less that 5 percent of standing biomass annually. Notwithstanding a substantial increase in knowledge about rockfish biology, a 2-5 percent exploitation rate is still considered a reasonable target for these fisheries (Clark 1991, Restrepo et al 1998).

Not surprisingly, industry perceived a five percent exploitation rate as highly conservative, and the Science community invested substantial time in informing industry of the biological imperative of leaving the very large majority of the fish they detected on their sounders in the water. Special meetings were held between biologists and harvesters in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to discuss the rationale for the target exploitation rate, leading to a planned experiment with industry to demonstrate the impact of higher exploitation rates on stock status (Leaman and Stanley 1990).

This experiment had both desired and undesired consequences. In the first phase of the experiment, which involved a pulse of five years of intentional overfishing of one discrete area, working relationships with industry improved greatly, and industry gained experience in accurate catch monitoring. A marked signal was inflicted on the age composition of the targeted Pacific Ocean Perch stock. The second phase of the experiment, consisting of a five-year total closure, proved difficult to implement. One plant had become dependent on landings from the overfishing phase of the experiment, and new staff in fisheries management and a new party in power in the federal government were sympathetic to continuing the local employment that had been provided. The second treatment was implemented after two years of postponement (and continued overfishing) and the results, from monitoring in the last 1990s, provided Science, Fisheries Management, and industry much improved estimates of stock productivity, aging accuracy, and levels of sustainable exploitation. Many of the results are available in the primary and fisheries literature (Leaman and Stanley 1993).

Throughout the 1990s, annual briefings of the trawl industry on results of stock assessments included review of the rationale for the target exploitation rate. These efforts were widely, but not universally, successful in building industry support for the target exploitation rate. By the end of the 1990s, disagreements between industry and Science were primarily centred on the accuracy of estimates of stock size, and not the exploitation rate to be applied to the stock. When the periodic assessments failed to show evidence that stocks were continuing to increase, industry, as well as the Department, took these signals seriously (Minutes of Groundfish Trawl Advisory Committee)

The TAC-based management applied to only a few core species in each of the shelf and slope complexes. The information and resources needed by Science[92] and Fisheries Management to support TACs for even for these few species proved hard to meet. Assessments of stocks with such low exploitation rates converge very slowly, the stocks are hard to survey, and there are more than a score of cohorts in the annual catch at age matrix, yet ageing has non-negligible errors. It was recognised by both Science and Fisheries Management that the many other species not being managed to individual TACs were vulnerable to overharvesting, and a variety of much more ad hoc measures were added to management plans to address these concerns. In the early 1990s management of the quota rockfish included trip limits for each trip, as well as the TAC, divided into quarters. The Department also implemented trip limits for catches of many “minor” rockfish species (Table 1), which were combined with limits on the number of trips per month to restrict catches of the minor stocks, even though an overall biologically-based annual ceiling on catches was not set for these species.

Industry found it impossible or inefficient to fish for a large number different trip limits. Because completely “clean” targeting by species was impossible within the complexes, either trips had to be terminated with the first limit was reached, or crews discarded species whose limits were being approached (Richards 1994). Therefore, in the mid 1990’s industry and Science developed a system of aggregate management (Rice and Richards 1995), which fisheries management accepted. This system allowed some overages of trip limits on single trips, with the species-specific trip limit of the next trip reduced correspondingly. The intent was to keep in place incentives to industry to harvest selectively among species within the shelf and slope complexes according to whatever was known of their relative sizes and productivities, but not require perfect accuracy on a trip by trip basis. Two other checks were put in place as well, to keep exploitation from becoming excessive. One was an aggregate limit for each trip across co-occurring species within each complex, to prevent the overage allowance from being used as an opportunity to go over many individual limits on the same trip. The second was a rule that if specific limits were exceeded in two consecutive trips, an observer was obligatory on the next trip, and if an overage on the same limit occurred on that trip, the vessel lost an allowed trip in the next quarter, when all stocks had new quarterly TACs to harvest.

The system of many-species trip limits and multi-species trip limits with the aggregate & overage system both were complex to develop and challenging for both industry and government to implement and maintain. They gave way in the late 1990s to an IVQ system described under the institutional sustainability section. However, their very existence, and the desire of both government and industry to go to such lengths to conserve a large number of species being harvested together, clearly documents an understanding of the need for conservation of the resource base on which the fishery depends.

Fisheries, of course, affect more than the species on which they target. Both by-catch and effects of the fishing gear on habitats are issues for mobile trawl gears. For rockfish, the major by-catch issues were within the fishery; it was the mixed species rockfish catches which presented the major challenges. Non-rockfish by-catch was low to begin with, and with the low sustainable exploitation rate of rockfish, other species taken incidentally could almost always sustain the by-catch mortality suffered in these fisheries.

Impacts of trawls on the seafloor were another story. Although some species could be harvested effectively with pelagic trawl gears, many could not be. Moreover, with a general preference of rockfish for hard bottom and complex substrates, trawling was focused on substrate types vulnerable to damage. Through the 1980s and early 1990s this ecosystem aspect of sustainability was largely ignored (or brought out to threaten industry when other discussions were going poorly). As the profile of this issue grew, discussions were held with industry to gain agreement to restrict fishing to areas traditionally trawled, with the objective of at least containing impacts to areas already affected the most by trawling. Industry was sympathetic to these discussions, in that substantial costly gear damage was common when unfamiliar grounds were fished. These efforts were aided by reductions in annual effort levels, as TACs were reduced to bring exploitation rate down to the goal of <5 percent. Reduced TACs combined with trip limits necessarily resulted in fewer trips, and hence fewer opportunities to impact habitat.

On the other hand, as trip limits became more restrictive on fishing choices, and better enforced, industry was continually seeking locations where the catches were novel mixes of species - lots of the species for which there was room in the trip limit, and little of the species whose limits were being approached. This created a positive incentive to continually be exploring new fishing sites. In response to these conflicting pressures, more and more areas were designated as closed to trawling. Originally closed areas were selected largely to avoid known concentrating areas for juveniles or parturating females (Live-bearers don’t spawn), or conflicts with other fisheries. However, by the end of the 1990s, the roster of closed areas had risen from seven (1992) to nearly 30 areas outside the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait area, and nearly a third of the entries were based at least in part on protection of vulnerable habitat substrates. Some others were intended for conservation of rockfish itself, such as the seasonal closure of the mouth of Goose Island Gully. Mature female Pacific Ocean perch congregate there to release their larvae, and during the parturating season catches are more than 85 percent females. Industry has supported the prohibition on fishing there during the spawning season for more than a decade, despite exceptionally high catch rates of large fish during that period. Moreover industry itself has proposed some areas to the department that it argued needed protection, most notably a large area of deep-water sponges.

Taken together the developments in management of this fishery since the 1980s clearly documents that the Department does understand the complex bio-ecological aim of conservation of the resource base, and the ecosystem in which the resource occurs. Not all the complexities were grasped initially - nor even now - and the attempts to accommodate the complexities in management were at best incomplete successes. Nonetheless the efforts attest fully to the knowledge that these things do matter, and must be priorities.

2.2 Social component of sustainability

Does the organization (national/regional/provincial government and or regional fishery management organization) responsible for fishery management understand that its main social aims are to achieve optimum utilisation of the resource, ensure safe, healthy and fair working environments and conditions, that they should be considered a means to promote diversification of income and diet, and that they should assist developing countries.

What concrete actions substantiate that the organization does/does not understand its main social aim?

The role of the rockfish resource and fishery in supporting social well-being, equity, and stability has rarely been articulated clearly, and has not often even been a topic of discussion outside those directly associated with the fishery and processing sectors. As noted in the description of the fishery, the spotlights of public opinion and government policy focused much more on salmon fisheries, and economic concerns extended beyond salmon to herring, but not much further.

In the context of a safe, healthy and fair working environment the processing sector of this fishery stands up well. The workforce in the processing sector has been unionised for decades, and the union had a strong track record of addressing issues of workplace safety and employment in the processing plants. Plant owners commonly complained that the cost of worker benefit packages made their products un-competitive on international markets. However, their primary action to address that problem was to seek ways to increase product value, and not withdraw benefit packages.

On the vessels few crew were unionized. Rather, the large majority of vessels were owner-operated, and employed quite small crews (rarely more than four-five individuals. Rockfish trawl fishing was always considered a high-skill occupation, because of the skills required to fish effectively on hard-substrate bottom and to match species composition of catches to the complex suites of trip limits that applied at any particular time. There was strong competition for experienced crew, and crew shares - the basis of payment - were considered generous in comparison to working in the salmon fleet. Vessel conditions were not always comfortable, but trips were generally short, pay was good, and to my knowledge workplace safety on vessels was reasonable for a fishery. Certainly in eight years of attending meetings with industry it was never raised as an issue.

In terms of economic diversification, there were never any efforts to put more licensing capacity into the fishery - rather the pressure was to reduce fleet size to address issues of biological sustainability. Within the licensed trawl fleet, the move from Pacific cod and flatfish to rockfish was itself an attempt to diversify the trawl fleet. Prior to the late 1970s almost all the rockfish were harvested by distant water fleets with non-Canadian crews landing in foreign ports. New skippers found it more challenging to fish rockfish than other trawl species, and only built up the proportion of rockfish in their catches slowly. However with sufficient skill vessels could earn higher returns by specialising on rockfish than cod and sole, so the rockfish fishery became the “endpoint” of fleet diversification.

Only the largest trawl vessels could harvest volumes of Pacific hake large enough to participate in the summer hake fishery, and few of those vessels could cover expenses fishing to the comparatively small rockfish trip limits. At the other end, many of the smaller vessels in the trawl fleet also fished herring with gill nets during the brief herring roe fishery. However, regulations intended to minimise competition among different fleets forbid trawls from retaining salmon or Pacific halibut. These regulations impeded diversification in favour of protecting historic status quo situations among fleets. This could be viewed as protecting the stability of social structures, but was perceived by the trawl fleet as protecting established interests from competition from more a innovative and adaptable fleet.

In terms of optimal use of the resource, three points are relevant. With regard to merely optimising catch, many management measures were explored in attempts to spread the fishery through the year, rather than have the large harvesting capacity of the fleet take the full TAC in the first few weeks of the fishing year. These measures included dividing the TAC into four quarterly portions (not necessarily equal), and further implementing trip limits for every species within the quarterly quota. These measures were all justified on grounds of optimising economic value of the resource than in terms of maximising value to society, however, and will be picked up in the next section.

Socially optimally use was a primary consideration in government initiatives to direct where catches would be landed. Originally the Prince Rupert Co-op branched into processing rockfish to fill slow periods in the salmon fishery. Their distance from markets made it difficult to compete with the Steveston plants. However, the Langara Spit experiment referred to earlier produced a regular supply of rockfish to the Co-op, and over just a few years a local dependency on processing jobs developed. The desire by the community to keep the jobs, supported by the local Minister of Parliament, in fact because a pressure to continue unsustainable fishing in the northern waters of BC. This was only resolved when one of the Steveston-based companies bought the Prince Rupert plant and agreed to direct some portion of landings to it throughout the year. The company was held to this commitment, despite strictly economic reasons to consolidate landings close to the markets, until IVQs were introduced and the entire nature of the fishery changed.

In the early 1990s, processing plants in Washington State began to make offers to rockfish skippers to buy their catches taken in BC. These plants were located in Puget Sound, and just as easy and cost-effective to reach as Steveston. To the vessel skippers, these offers were attractive, as the US plants offered several cents a kg more than offered for the same fish by BC-based plants. Fuel in the US was also cheaper. The BC processors appealed to the federal and provincial governments to prevent non-Canadian landings, arguing that the price differential was caused by the higher wages and greater benefits paid to the processing workforce in Canada. These differential costs were in Canada’s interests, and in part to comply with Canadian social legislation.

The Canadian government did invoke a land-in-Canada requirement for all fish harvested in Canada. However, rather than tie the regulation specifically to supporting Canadian plants, the announced basis for the regulation was protection of the resource. Under the management plan of the day, subscription of quotas was being monitored for eight-ten rockfish species and compliance with trip limits for nearly 20 species. Because the US plants did not report rockfish landings by species, it was argued that the entire approach to management to achieve conservation would be jeopardised by US landings (memo 28 September 1992, Director Fisheries Management to Regional Director General). The US plants offered to discuss implementing administrative measures to ensure effective monitoring and reporting of catches by Canadian vessels, to ensure compliance with the Canadian management plan. Nonetheless, through most of the 1990s agreement could not be reached on what administrative measures were adequate to satisfy Canadian management, and a de facto land-in-Canada policy was kept in force. In this case optimal use for on sector of society (plant workers - and owners) was perceived as achieved at the expense of sub-optimal use for another segment of society (license holders and crew). Again, the complete overhaul of this fishery with implementation of IVQs affected the land-in-Canada requirements.

2.3 Economic component of sustainability

Does the organization (national/regional/provincial government and or regional fishery management organization) responsible for fishery management understand that its main economic aims are to match fishing capacity to the productive capacity of the resources, the environment and the ecosystem; to conduct trade according to the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, including the elimination of subsidies and to prevent illegally caught fish from reaching their markets.

What concrete actions substantiate that the organization does/does not understand its main economic aim?

Early in development of the Canadian West Coast trawl fishery, limited entry was implemented (1976). This capped the fleet at about 140 vessels which, given the size and technology of the day, was considered reasonable matched to the resource productivity. Moreover, all but about 20 of these vessels had licenses in other fisheries, such that in any given year nearly a third of the fleet might not pursue groundfish. Those vessels that were active fished many species besides rockfish, which comprised less that 15percent of the groundfish catch by volume but nearly 30 percent by value (1991 statistics). Not only was the fleet relative modest in numbers, more than two thirds of the vessels were less than 30 meters in length. By the mid 1980s there was also a vessel replacement regulation that although licenses could be transferred among vessels, replacement vessels could not be larger than the vessel being replaced.

Notwithstanding these measures to regulate capacity, the low productivity of rockfish and the diversity of species mean than TACs could be fully taken within just a few weeks of openings. This would produce the typical economic inefficiencies of market glut with poor prices, followed by long periods of lay-ups. The negative economic consequences of such a strategy would be amplified by the much larger quotas of flatfish and Pacific cod, which would have gone largely unharvested. Hence by the early 1990s, the management plan had a variety of provisions whose sole purpose was to allow a 12-month fishery. These measures included species-specific trip limits for each “rockfish trip”, and a limit of either two or three trips per month per vessel. (The two-trip or three-trip options were associated with different trip limits, to accommodate the different economies of the larger and smaller vessels in the trawl fleet, but keep the playing field level.). The measures also included an unlimited number of “incidental” rockfish trips, where the rockfish catch was below a specified tonnage, so fishing for other species could continue without requiring the discarding of rockfish taken incidentally when targeted cod or flatfish. This incidental value was 4.5 tonnes in the winter, when only the larger vessels in the fleet could operate, and 3.0 tonnes from April through September, when the larger vessels were fishing Pacific hake, and the smaller trawlers were fishing the other groundfish.

The very existence of regulations so numerous and complex, solely to stretch the fishing season through the year, indicates that the fleet had not been kept well matched to stock productivity. By the mid 1990s a portion of the industry was lobbying for IVQs to allow further rationalisation of the trawl fleet. Neither the fleet nor the government was able to converge on a consistent view of whether ITQs were a desirable direction for this fishery however. In the fleet, a number of new, business-oriented owners bought licenses and vessels, and began to cultivate high-value, low-volume markets. Their success was paralleled by the processors, who took advantage of resource and legal crises in the US to enter new markets for high quality fresh and glazed products. These markets wanted reliable supply, which in turn made some of the processors and new operators both lobby for ITQs. Many of the most experienced license holders opposed ITQs however, believing they could benefit more from an Olympic-style fishery, particularly with the regulations to spread out the fishing season. The union also opposed ITQs, fearing a concentration of harvesting and loss of jobs. Within the government, a number of key individuals in regional Fisheries Management supported ITQs as a way to simplify management an increasingly complex fishery. However, the national level, there were important pockets of opposition to ITQs, fearing precedents would be set for other fisheries with important social roles.

This impasse might have continued for many years, had there not been a major crisis in Pacific salmon and Atlantic groundfish in the 1990s.This led to a major release of government funding for restructuring, and an opportunity for fisheries to come forward with their own proposals for fleet reduction. The Groundfish Development Authority was created with joint membership by industry, Management, and Science. After extensive consultation, between 1997 and 1999 it facilitated introduction of both an industry-funded license retirement program and a conversion to IVQs (individual vessel quotas, with transferability details to be worked out) throughout the fishery. By 2001, the fleet was down to approximately 70 active vessels, with only two vessels larger than 30 meters.

The Groundfish Development Authority went quite far in terms of overhauling the entire approach to the industry. A number of their innovations will be presented in the section on the Institutional Component of Sustainability, as the industry took on responsibility for many aspects of its governance, and the government moved into an audit role on the effectiveness of their stewardship programs. However, the economic benefits of the management changes are quite apparent. Between 1991 and 2001, the value of rockfish landings by the BC trawl fleet increased from approximately 12 million dollars (Can) to over $ 37 Million, whereas the volume of landings decreased from over 21 000 mt to under 17 000 tonnes (although several more species of rockfish were landed in 2001). For some key species, price per kg when delivered to the market had increased nearly an order of magnitude, due to increases in quality for more specialised markets.

Not only was the economic performance of the fishery greatly improved, but the industry had assumed a significant portion of the management and research costs. Again, some details will be presented in the Institutional Component portion of this report. However in 1991, the industry paid the government $100 per year per license in fees. In 2002, industry bore $3.65 MILLION in direct costs for management of the fishery. Moreover, ten percent of the TAC of every species went into a special pool, with the revenues from the pool being used to fund specific projects to improve the knowledge base for science or management of the resource.

Throughout the history of this fishery, international trade issues were rarely a focal concern. A variable but always large percentage of the processed rockfish was exported, almost exclusively to the US and Japan. Both trading partners have been quick to protect their trade interests, and challenge practices thought to interfere with WTO approved trade practices. The land-in-Canada policy for rockfish is an exception to this generalisation, but that practice, too was modified with the implementation of IVQs. The presence of 100 percent observer coverage has meant that accurate catch records are assured wherever product is landed, but changing economics in the US industry has also made landings outside of Canada less attractive.

Direct subsidies were also never an issue in this fishery. Because of its relatively minor stature in the political agenda of BC, it never had the leverage to attract direct government support. As a year-round, profitable fishery, few participants took advantage of the special provisions for seasonal fishermen in the Canadian unemployment insurance policies. These UI provisions have been challenged as a significant indirect subsidy in some trade disputes (as well as a major contributor to unsustainability in some other fisheries), but are not a factor in the BC rockfish trawl fishery. If anything, the issue has been the relatively great economic wealth that has been centralised in a very small sector. (One of the more successful skippers in this fleet reported, off the record, that each of his five regular crew-hands had received well over $120 000 annually between 1992 and 1997 in crew shares, and the fishery has increased in value since 1997).

With regard to keeping illegally caught product from reaching markets, several factors always worked in favour of close regulation of landings. With such a small fleet, a system of daily hails has been mandatory since the 1980s, and it actually worked well. Each licensed vessel had to radio into a Fisheries Management office prior to leaving port, start destination and the species it was seeking. Once on the fishing grounds it had to hail in daily with location and catch by species. With many enforcement vessels at sea for much of the year, dealing with the much larger fisheries for salmon, Pacific hake (summer) and herring roe (spring), encountering enforcement vessels and suffering opportunistic inspections were always a threat to the skippers. Likewise, few ports had the facilities for unloading groundfish, and only three plants had processing facilities, so monitoring of catch at those ports was also feasible and effective. Penalties for failure to hail in accurately were not terribly great, but cases were slow to court and skippers were prevented from fishing while charges were being handled. This was a strong incentive to comply with the regulations on accurate reporting of landings. (These measures were no deterrent to discarding, of course, but that was addressed elsewhere.)

By 1995, even before the IVQ system was implemented, a program of 100 percent dockside monitoring was established. This required all vessels fishing groundfish to hail into a Fisheries Management office at least 24 hours before returning to port, and informing the managers which of eight (later 10) designated ports in intended to land at to unload its catch. All vessels were met by a dockside monitor, who oversaw unloading of the catch. The dockside monitoring program was 100 pecent cost recovered.

With implementation of the IVQ system, the dockside monitoring program was augmented by 100 percent at-sea observer coverage, also at 100 percent industry expense. This program was intended to deal primarily with prevention of discarding a high-grading when trying to meet the many species-specific IVQs, but effectively ensures no rockfish harvested by the licensed trawl fleet enters the market illegally. Vessels without trawl licenses cannot carry trawl gear on deck, so the system probably is highly effective.

2.4 Institutional component of sustainability

Does the organization (national/regional/provincial government and or regional fishery management organization) responsible for fishery management understand that its main institutional aims are to use the best scientific information (on resources, the environment, the ecosystem, on social and economic factors, including traditional knowledge, the collection and dissemination of statistics, the evaluation of the cost effectiveness, efficiency, and socio-economic effects of alternative management measures, and the revision or elimination of inefficient or useless measures); to apply the precautionary approach to conservation and management; to do monitoring, control and surveillance, in their areas of jurisdiction but also for those vessels flying their flags on the high seas or of foreign vessels using their ports; to co-operate with other States and other RFMOs to promote conservation and responsible fishing, and to resolve dispute peacefully; to implement transparent decision making process and involve interested parties; to promote the awareness of responsible fisheries through education and training; and to duly take into account the interest of their fisheries in planning the multiple use of coastal areas.

What concrete actions substantiate that the organization does/does not understand its main institutional aim?

Best scientific information (on resources, the environment, and the ecosystem, on social and economic factors, including traditional knowledge: In the BC rockfish fishery, scientific information on the resource was used as fully as possible from the outset of Canadian management. As explained in the section on the resource, rockfish can only support very low exploitation rates. In the 1980s, although rockfish were known to be long-lived, their ages were underestimated, and the target exploitation rate was too high, leading to overly optimistic scientific advice. One of Canada’s (possibly globally) first large scale planned experiments on harvesting specifically designed to improve the estimate of a sustainable exploitation rate was conducted on a BC rockfish stock (Leaman and Stanley 1993). Unfortunately for sustainability, as knowledge accumulated and was applied to decision making, the progressively lower target exploitation rates made the TAC-based management more and more vulnerable to errors in estimating the stock biomass to which the exploitation rate was applied.

Consequently, research in the 1990s shifted to improving biomass estimates. BC rockfish became the test case for developing state of the art age-structured population analyses, taking account of errors in abundance indices and ageing (Richards and Schnute 1992, Schnute 1994, Schnute and Richards 1995). They also became the objective of fully co-operative industry-Science survey efforts, to augment the limited capacity of the government research lab to conduct surveys. These went far beyond just using an industry platform for conducting surveys. Industry knowledge was used to formulate hypotheses that had not occurred to the scientists, and to design novel ways to test those hypotheses (Rice 1998, Stanley and Rice 2003). Some of these efforts have led to primary publications with vessel skippers as co-authors with DFO biologists (Stanley, Mose, et al. 2001), a level of use of traditional knowledge with few precedents in fisheries.

Traditional knowledge was not used in the survey context. In addition to the advisory process described in the “openness and transparency” section, by 1994 an official working group of industry, Science and Fisheries Management was functioning. Formed initially as a forum for discussing areas of disagreement, starting with the 1994 Management Plan, there was an agreement that the landed value of the overages allowed by the aggregate management approach would go into a research and management fund. This removed any incentive for individual fishers to abuse the overage allowance, but gained industry support for directing the revenues directly back into “their” fishery, rather than government coffers. Both industry and science and management could propose projects to be supported by this fund. Science got to screen the list for scientific merit and tractability, with unilateral authority to remove (providing justification) any proposals considered silly or impossible. Of the remainder, industry had the right to select the project that would proceed in any year.

This initiative was so successful that it was taken up quickly by the Groundfish Development Authority as it restructured management of the entire groundfish fishery between 1997 and 1999. The Groundfish Development Fund now not only receives overages when they occur due to overruns of IVQs, but also receives ten percent of the TAC of every stock. Research projects are solicited, reviewed, selected and overseen by a Board comprised of industry, science and management, with industry holding a majority. This clearly demonstrates the value placed by industry on advancing knowledge about their resources, and the acknowledgement by the Department that industry can fill the role of a full and equal partner in advancing knowledge.

Not only is the science done, it is used in management. Information is adequate for analytical assessments of fewer than ten of the more than 17 species that are harvested commercially. For the species for which data and biological knowledge is adequate, though, since 1985 assessments have been done and then peer-reviewed by the Groundfish Subcommittee of Pacific Science Advisory Review Committee, which provided harvest options to the Regional Fisheries Management Executive Committee. A consultation process (described below) followed afterwards, but with only a few exceptions within the past 20 years, all TACs have been set consistent with the scientific advice from PSARC.

All the above developments addressed the biological and ecological aspects of the resource. Although Fisheries Management hired a resource policy/economist in 1992 and again in 1994 to work on the groundfish trawl fishery, neither stayed in the position long enough to complete a thorough review of the social and economic components of the rockfish fishery. Hence, until Fisheries Management and the industry formed the Groundfish Development Authority, and the Authority itself began to contract economic studies, there was little factual basis on which develop social and economic strategies for this fishery. Since the GDA has been functioning, most of the attention of the economics research has been on fleshing out the details of the IVQ system. Among the products of work so far are estimates of reasonable caps on the percentage of the quota that could be allowed to be accumulated by one license holder, and estimates of an economically based scaling factor for trading of IVQ shares of different rockfish species among license holders. The results of both of these studies were taken up directly in the 2001 and onward Groundfish Trawl Management Plan.

The collection and dissemination of statistics has been a part of this fishery since it came under Canadian jurisdiction. Initially this was through sales slips issued by the processing plants, which reported landed catches by species. Port samplers, taking length composition and otoliths for assessment purposes, were also working in the processing plants. Co-operation was so good that two of the plants actually provided office space for the port samplers, so the individuals would not have to transport equipment records back and forth to the workplaces. As enforcement of trip limits and species quotas of rockfish became more important, the hail system and dockside monitoring programs were implemented. On-board observers were introduced in the mid 1990s, initially meeting substantial opposition from the fleet, both for cost and for the inconvenience of carrying another person under cramped conditions in the smaller trawlers. With the restructuring that came with implementation of full IVQ fisheries, the smallest vessels largely retired from the fleet. The remainder carry observers on all trips. The combination of full dockside monitoring, full observer coverage and significant level of catch sampling mean that collection of statistics is complete for this fishery. Dissemination has always been done through annual reports of official fishery statistics by Fisheries Management and in PSARC reports by Science.

Through the 1990s, significant effort was invested by industry, Science, and Fisheries Management to find measures that would be effective in matching harvesting to the differential productivity of the many species taken in the rockfish fishery. The extensive series of meetings occurred, initially informally, then through a working group established by Science and the trawlers’ association, and finally through a formally constituted Groundfish Development Agency, entrenched in the fishery’s Management Plan, have been described above. Efficiency of alternative measures from a biological perspective was investigated through simulations conducted by Science. Results of analyses were presented to PSARC on multiple occasions. Cost-effectiveness and impact on efficiency from the industry perspective was evaluated by the industry, probably in largely unquantitative ways, although one of the processing companies, deeply involved in these discussions, had clear and quantitative indicators of the benefits of being able to provide a reliable, high-quality product to market. The first efforts by Fisheries Management to evaluate administrative efficiency were incomplete, but by the mid 1990s, an individual in Fisheries Management was conducting formal analyses of the management overhead.

As results of these various initiatives became available, they were presented to and discussed by the Groundfish Trawl Advisory Committee. Minutes of those meetings record the sequence of recommendations, many leading to incremental changes in successive Management Plans through the decade. Recommendations did not always support the cost efficient alternatives, and the annual Management Plans did not always act on all the GTAC recommendations. Nonetheless, over the 1990s the Management Plans became incrementally more complex. The sequence was usually that provisions were added to address concerns about biological sustainability of the mixed-species harvesting. Because of the strong working relationship of Science and the processing sector, such measures were usually ones that, although often resulting in reductions in volume of catches, would result in more stability of harvesting, and hence also improved economic performance of the fishery. However, commonly within a year or so measures would be added to address compliance issues with the biologically-based measures. Rarely were any measures dropped, once they were included in the annual Management Plans.

The evolving complexity of the Management Plans through the 1990s was one of the drivers the consolidated industry support behind IVQs, as opponents in the industry found the regulatory web more and more difficult to operate within. Government, too, found enforcement more and more difficult, so opposition from within some key positions in government (based primarily on concerns about precedents that might be set for other fisheries, rather the appropriateness of IVQs in the rockfish fishery) also weakened.

The transition to IVQs between 1997 and 1999 provided an opportunity to overhaul the Management Plans systematically. The ones since 2000 are hardly simple, but the classes of measures are at least well co-ordinated to achieve the goals of the fishery. Measures that were ineffective were discontinued, but there is still some concern that redundancy persists, particularly between the dockside monitoring and ob-board observer programs. Each has a different focus, but some argue that with only modest adjustment the observer program could make the dock-side monitoring program unnecessary.

Revisions to this fishery commenced when the precautionary approach to conservation and management was still in early stages of development. However, some aspects of the precautionary approach were foreshadowed by the developments in the rockfish fishery, even if the early attempts look a bit naïve with today’s knowledge and experience with the application of precaution in fisheries. By the early 1990s, the Management Plans always began with a clear statement of objectives for the fishery, which is a fundamental tenet of the precautionary approach. Although individual goals were a bit general and as a suite some often were vulnerable to pointing in incompatible directions, the goals stand up pretty well as Objectives within the Precautionary Approach (Table 2). These goals were augmented in the mid 1990s by the results of a PSARC Working Group on Biological Objectives, which addressed the issue of objectives for biologically objectives systematically across all stocks and fisheries in Pacific Region (Rice et al. 1995). The groundfish Management Plans, covering the rockfish fishery, were among the first to formally pick up the results of that work in the list of goals stated in their Management Plans.

Even though the analytical assessment methods were poor at handling analytical uncertainty in the early 1990s, this was one of the first fisheries in Canada where scientific advice from PSARC at least designated Low Risk, Medium Risk, and High Risk harvest options (PSARC reports). As the analytical methods to address uncertainty improved (see the section on assessing status of the resource) the biological basis for the Low, Medium, and High Risk options improved, whereas the form of advice remained much the same. By the end of the 1990s PSARC ceased providing High Risk options in its advice, and the likelihood that Fisheries Management would select the Low Risk option was much higher than earlier in the decade.

Although Science continues to explore biological reference points for these stocks (CSAS Proceedings), the identification of Limit and Precautionary/Buffer Reference points for these highly mixed-stock fisheries is proving challenging. Formal reference-point based management is still a desired goal for this fishery, but it is not expected in the near future, as some multi-species aspects of such an approach remain to be worked out. The multi-species issue is not one of adding dynamics attributable to predator-prey relationships or environmental regimes to the reference points (problems being investigated in a number of centres around the world). Rather the reference points must address the mixed-species harvesting with differential knowledge and different productivities among the species, and only partial ability of the fleet to target selectively with the multi-species complexes. Similar problems plague application of reference-point based management to mixed stock salmon fisheries, and are proving similarly difficult in those applications. The solutions that offer the highest protection to the least productive stocks forego very large amounts of yield from more productive stocks, and are considered highly inefficient.

Many of the governance and consultation aspects of the Precautionary Approach have been dealt with in preceding sections, or will be covered in the following treatment of transparency of decision-making. However, there have been industries Advisory Committees formally recognised and supported by the Department for over 20 years. With implementation of the Groundfish Development Authority, a tri-partite board now has a great deal of scope to develop and implement Management Plans and strategies for the rockfish fishery. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans retains final authority to approve all management measures, but in practice industry is becoming significantly empowered in these fisheries.

The various programs to monitor fishing activities, control catches, and conduct surveillance have been described in other sections of this test, because their lack of effectiveness was a major driver in revisions to this fishery. Surveillance was always relatively straightforward in this fishery, because of the small number of vessels that were licensed to participate. The daily hail system, with at opportunistic at-sea surveillance by the multi-purpose Fisheries Management fleet, was sufficient to know who was fishing where and when for most the past two decades.

Knowing what amounts of which species of rockfish were being caught was not nearly as straightforward. The commitment of government to monitor and control catches was never in doubt; it was simply a matter of finding effective tools. The purchase slip system, supported by port monitoring proved effective at monitoring landings at a modest cost. However, it provided no information about at-sea discarding and dumping of catch overages, and self-reporting of such practices in vessel logbooks was never considered reliable.

As discussed earlier, it took most of the 1990s to develop a program of at-sea observers that gave full coverage throughout the rockfish fishery. For a time in the mid 1990s, not only was there a program of partial observer coverage, with complex rules for allocating observers to vessels, but Science regularly conducted comparative analyses of landings of vessels with and without observers. Discrepancies were taken of evidence of discarding. These analyses were never strong enough to support charges of illegal practices (discarding of any species under quota was illegal, if its retention might have put a vessel over its trip limit) when charges were contested in court. However, they became justification of allocating observers to future trips of vessels whose species or size composition differed from that of vessels fishing nearby and carrying observers.

With implementation of the IVQ system in this fishery, there is full observer coverage and dockside monitoring of every vessel. This gives an extremely high degree of monitoring and control of catches, with all costs of the program (including program administration) borne by the industry. The effectiveness is complemented by regulations that prohibit discarding of any catch other than a small number of prohibited species, where practices must be in place to maximise likelihood of live release of the prohibited species. The industry was given from 2001-2003 to trade bits of their IVQ quota shares of different groundfish species, including rockfish, so each skipper can match his roster of TACs to his particular interests and skills at catching different species. From 2003 onward, exchange of shares will be much more difficult. This difficulty, combined with prohibitions on discarding any rockfish covered by any of the aggregate IVQs (including a category of “Other rockfish” which includes essentially all species currently of commercial value) will be the true test of the effectiveness of the monitoring and control of this fishery. Industry is expected to find ways, on its own, for each license holder to take his TACs for each rockfish aggregate, through fishing as selectively as practical, and taking advantage of modest overage tolerances (with compensatory subsequent reductions), but without any discarding.

Since extension of jurisdiction in 1978, international fishing fleets have never been an issue in this fishery. The continental shelf is so narrow along the BC coast that trawlable habitat ceases well within Canada’s EEZ. The Canadian fleet has consistently operated with the Canadian EEZ, except in a very small number of planned experiments in high seas fishing for completely different species or stocks. These experiments have always included taking biological observers from DFO Science, and registering fishing plans with Fisheries Management. Therefore, the international behaviour of the Canadian rockfish fleet is unlikely to be a conservation issue.

There have been very occasional cases of United States fishing vessels from Washington State or (more often) Alaska crossing the international boundary and fishing in Canadian waters. Such events have been rare, however, and Canadian and United States officials generally co-operated effectively on deterrence measures.

There are several seamounts much further offshore, where international fishing could be more of an issue. Like the other experimental fishing events discussed above, visits by the BC rockfish fleet to the seamounts have always carried biologists and been planned with Fisheries Management. Co-operation between the fleet and government was extremely high as the harvesting potential of the seamounts was explored. Intervention of environmental activists into these planned experiments led to a story which has important lessons, but is a side issue to the theme of this report.

There are also issues to do with trans-boundary rockfish stocks, exploited by both US and Canadian fisheries. Assessment of stock status has long been done co-operatively. The two countries have followed somewhat different approaches to rockfish management, but the differences were not large enough make complementary management impossible. However, major difficulties in the United States, stemming from tendency for litigation of fisheries management measures in the United States courts, has presented the United States management system with challenges that slowed greatly their own efforts at conservation. Stocks shared with Canada have suffered, of course, but these institutional problems in the United States cannot be solved by Canadian management initiatives. The only short-term option for Canada is to adjust harvesting as stock status changes in these shared rockfish stocks, and that has been done consistently.

The relatively small size of the BC rockfish fleet made the Groundfish Trawl Advisory Committee, created following extension of jurisdiction, and effective mechanism for involving the industry in management of the fishery. Through the 1980s and early 1990s is was nearly the sole forum for industry input to management, and functioned solely as an advisory body. GTAC was chaired by Fisheries Management, although industry did get to select its representatives. Annual results of stock assessments were presented to GTAC, discussed, and industry views on management options were presented. Fisheries Management would then take the results of the assessments, advice of GTAC, and develop a draft Management Plan each year. The draft Management Plan was presented to another meeting of GTAC for their consideration, but modifications, if any, were solely the prerogative of Fisheries Management.

Through the 1990s, industry was given many more fora in which to participate. Most have been mentioned in earlier sections: the Science - industry working group evolving eventually into the Groundfish Development Authority. The GDA is still formally an advisory body, in that according to Canadian law, decision-making authority lies solely with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. In practice it exercises a great deal of autonomy in allocating the funds made available through the ten percent quota allocations to the GDA, plus overage revenues. GTAC remains a consultative body, but through its executive is much more actively involved in development of the annual Management Plans. A subcommittee of GTAC, the Groundfish Special Industry Committee provides specific advice on the IVQ program. These committees and subcommittees, all officially recognised in the Management Plans, give management of the rockfish trawl fishery a very open and transparent framework for decision-making.

The PSARC Groundfish Subcommittee also includes industry members as full participants. They are able to table information, share in review of all assessment documents, and are part of discussion leading to consensus advice on harvest options and other measures. In a few cases they have been authors or co-authors of PSARC documents themselves, and on others, industry or the GDA has contracted independent technical experts to prepare materials for PSARC review.

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing has a special place in management of the groundfish trawl fishery (including rockfish) in BC. Another ten percent of the quota of each species is reserved as Code of Conduct Quota. It is allocated as increments to each vessel’s IVQ, on an annual basis; conditional on each vessel’s rating on the provisions in the Code of Conduct with regard to fair treatment of the crew and safe vessel operation. The GDA conducts the vessel ratings, so industry itself is fully involved in the criteria used and judgements made on compliance with the industry’s Code. This makes education and training of all license holders and their crews with regard to provisions and practices of responsible fishing a very high priority.

Multiple uses planning for coastal areas are in its infancy in Canada, but are being developed as Canada’s Ocean Act is implemented. The experimental initiatives that are being tried on the BC Coast have focused heavily on near-shore areas, where the trawl industry has long been prohibited from operating, in order to avoid sectoral conflicts with other fisheries. Hence developments in the rockfish trawl fishery have largely been outside of multiple uses planning in coastal areas.

There are not yet any precedents for how the interests of this fishery would be treated when they do become incorporated into one or more of the integrated coastal zone planning initiatives. However, the integrated planning initiatives under Canada’s Oceans Strategy have been widely inclusive, and community groups, environmental advocacy organizations, and sport fish interests have been well represented. Trawl fisheries are very unpopular with all of those groups, and there is pessimism that their interests will receive sympathetic hearings in discussions. In the near future, it is likely that the industry will continue to seek measures with create clear boundaries between areas of operation of fisheries currently included in the integrated coastal zone management planning initiatives (salmon fishing, inshore commercial hook-and-line fisheries) and avoid these fora. This strategy will not be viable in the long run, as integrated coastal planning initiatives begin to consider offshore hydrocarbon exploration and development of an integrated chain of Marine Protected Areas. Before they are brought into such planning exercises, an investment in educating other participants in the integrated planning fora, with regard to the conservation measures and economic value of the trawl sector would be wise.


3.1 Inappropriate incentives

The incentive structure contributed significantly to biological unsustainability of the rockfish fishery through the 1980s and 1990s. Particularly many of the original participants in the fishery were committed to a competitive, Olympic-style fishery, and indeed were comparatively the better competitors in the fishery. Rockfish fishing is not easy and experience does matter.

The price differential among rock species presented additional incentive for unsustainable behaviour. Wasteful fishing practices, when viewed in the context of all the species in the rockfish assemblage, would earn higher financial payoffs per unit of fishing effort than more responsible ones. On an ecosystem scale sustainability remains a challenge even under the IVQ system, where species with little market value are merely lumped as “Other rockfish”. Without the presence of full observer coverage even the IVQ system would not provide an incentive for responsible fishing with regard to such species.

This fishery has never had a prominent role in social well-being of coastal BC. It had few participants, but the jobs provided were stable and considered among the better opportunities in all the BC fisheries. Neither the earlier competitive fishery nor the current IVQ system places the creation of employment as a priority, although the Code of Conduct includes several provisions to ensure those jobs that are created are safe. Implementation of the IVQ system and a fleet reduction initiative that would have occurred even without the IQ system, reduced employment by nearly 40 percent, but the absolute numbers of jobs lost is not great enough to create serious social upheaval. The value of this fishery is creating an economic elite within the entire fishing sector of BC, but Canada has chosen this option for many of the smaller fisheries in BC as a conscious policy choice. It has opted for high-profit margin fisheries in a number of cases, and in parallel passed over to the fishery financial responsibility for many research and management costs. Some measures have always been in place to prevent over-centralisation of the fishery in too few hands, although unlike on the East Coast of Canada, there was never a legal or policy prohibition on processors owning licensing, so there was some vertical integration of harvesting and processing. Under the IVQ system, licenses cannot be stacked, and there are caps on the percentage of quota of any species that can be held by any one license. These measures are expected to maintain the current level of employment in this fishery.

Incentives for economic sustainability have improved greatly under the IVQ system. When the fishery was fully competitive, much of the landed product was of less than optimal quality, and supplies were undependable. Plants had difficulty remaining viable, and the management costs of trying to control wasteful fishing practices were much greater than the Department was willing to invest in management. In even the first phase of the IVQ system, when assemblage management was in place, trip limits were in place for all the more marketable species so harvesters had to maximise quality of their landings to increase revenues. As processors could contract regular supply of fish to the best markets, price per kg increased for the best species from $0.32 per pound to $2.12 (1995 to 1997 prices, according to confidential data from the major processing plant.). The rockfish trawl fishery seems to be responding to the economic incentives of IVQ management much as textbooks say fisheries should. Moreover, the program was developed with checks on some of the potential abuses of IQ fisheries built into the overall management plan. These checks include the limits on the percentage of quota that one license can acquire, and full observer coverage to deter high-grading at sea.

Institutional sustainability has also improved under the IVQ system. Consultation was always reasonably strong in management of the rockfish fishery. The IVQ system included a tri-partite (industry, Science, Fisheries Management) Groundfish Development Authority, with resource-supplied funding to promote good stewardship practices and innovation in the fishery. Industry and Fisheries Management both participate in the Science-based assessment review and advisory processes. Industry actively supports Science, and the fishery provides much of the cost of management and research. Together, these arrangements provide numerous positive incentives for the stability of the institutions involved in conservation and management of the BC rockfish resource and fishery.

3.2 High demand for limited resources

Because of the colours of the fillets of most species of rockfish and their distinct, “un-fishy” taste, rockfish was always a valued product in the fish trade. In the 1990s demand grew even more as the “white-tablecloth” market for fresh or fresh-glazed rockfish developed in the US, and Japanese importers developed methods for getting fresh or individually glazed whole rockfish to Japanese markets. The high demand in the face of low productivity of rockfish stocks, combined with their common (but not universal) tendency to aggregate densely in at least parts of the day and the mixed species catches, worked strongly counter to biological sustainability. However, the same demand meant that the fishery had the potential to generate enough value to provide an economically viable fishery; a potential largely realised even before the IVQ measures supported even great economic benefits from the fishery. The combination of high value, high demand, and high revenues, combined with very limited participation, has produced a very stable fishery, with stable institutions. All participants see clearly how maintaining the value of the fishery depends crucially on maintaining the current institutions, particularly the GTAC, GDA, and the Code of Conduct Subcommittee of GTAC. The fishery does very well on this measure, with the high demand and low availability of rockfish a crucial factor in keeping harvesters, processors, Science and Fisheries Management all committed to making the institutions work effectively.

3.3 Poverty and lack of alternatives

Entry costs (vessel and gear until the late 1990s, and then very high purchase costs for a license and quota as well) into the trawl fishery were always so high that it was never viewed as an absorber of unemployment in BC, and significant wealth was needed to enter. This is not true of the salmon fishery or even the inshore hook-and-line rockfish fisheries (prior to implementation of limited entry in 1992). Dealing with social and economic unsustainability in those fisheries created numerous problems in BC, many of which persist today. However, at no time were there attempts to export displaced fishers from those fisheries into the rockfish trawl fishery. At the same time, as the trawl fleet was reduced from 142 licenses to under 75, the amount of displaced labour, although large in percentage for this fishery, was small in comparison to unemployment created by downsizing in the salmon fishery and BC forestry. Programs created to deal with unemployment from those sources disguised, if not solved, any possible social issues stemming from changes in the groundfish trawl fishery.

3.4 Complexity and lack of knowledge

Complexity and lack of knowledge both contributed significantly to biological unsustainability of this fishery. Lack of knowledge was manifest both in terms of the appropriate target exploitation rate for these stocks, and the actual biomass to which the exploitation rate (if known) should be applied. Knowledge is now adequate to set target exploitation rates for these species; a few individually and reasonably for rockfish as a group. However, knowledge of absolute biomass levels remains inadequate, and although assessment tools used now deal much more effectively with uncertainty about biomass, they do so at a cost of estimates thought to be highly conservative. To Science this is a necessary property of the assessments, and consistent with the precautionary approach. To industry, this may be depriving them of substantial catch that they could be taking safely were biomass estimates better. They take this seriously enough that currently (winter 2003) they are exploring the feasibility of conducting, with Science, a comprehensive, coast-wide multi-species biomass survey of all the commercially important rockfish, at industry expense (Starr and Schwartz 2000).

Aside from lack of knowledge, the complexity of what is known about the rockfish resource presents significant challenges to biologically sustainable fisheries on these species. Productivity does vary among species, distributions overlap but do not coincide perfectly across species (even at the scale of “inshore”, “shelf” and “slope”), and harvesting of single species is impossible (not just with trawls but with any gear). These biological complexities mean that even with greatly improved knowledge of absolute biomasses of all commercial species, optimal harvesting of the species complex will be difficult to guide with Science advice and achieve with management (or co-management).

The biological uncertainties and complexities map onto management of the resource, and achievement of social and economic sustainability, in the typical ways. Where lack of knowledge made advice inaccurate, and the advice was implemented, the status of the resource was impaired by over-fishing. This led to subsequent decreases in harvesting, and concomitant loss of economic benefits. Where Science advice became increasingly conservative to accommodate a growing appreciation of the uncertainty in the estimates of population size and productivities, again economic returns were reduced.

The mixed-species nature of the rockfish trawl fishery also added complexity to management. Management tools that would allow multiple targets to be hit more or less simultaneously by the fishery were hard to identify, and harder still to implement. The measures greatly increased the costs of managing the fishery and the costs of going fishing, both effects working counter to economic sustainability. Moreover, the complexity created at least the opportunity, and from the industry perspective essentially the need, to adopt wasteful fishing practices, by discarding and high-grading to keep a single trip limit from terminating fishing trips with much unused hold capacity and many under-subscribed species-specific trip limits. These reactions to regulatory complexity increased economic inefficiencies in the long term through wasted catch, and ecological unsustainability through resultant excessive fishing mortalities on the stocks. The complexity also had a positive feedback effect on uncertainty, because bringing more and more species under increasingly restrictive trip limits created the possibility of ever-greater discarding and misreporting. This made the catch data even more uncertain, reducing the information that the catch data contained about both stock status and the consequences of management measures.

Complexity and uncertainty did not seriously undermine faith in the institutions. Although there was a certain degree of distrust among the three main parties (industry, Fisheries Management, and Science) as institutions, the numbers of individuals involved in the three sectors was small enough that personal relationships, with personal trust, existed among all parties. (Interestingly, perhaps, the port samplers, who were Science Branch biologists with only modest job classifications but daily contact with the vessel crews, plant operators, and enforcement officers, had a focal role as trusted points of communication on particularly difficult or delicate issues.) Although complete candidness was not always possible in formal settings such as advisory body meetings, individuals from all three parties readily agreed on where the problems lay, and shared a determination to find workable solutions.

3.5 Lack of governance

Governance was rarely considered an issue in this fishery. As noted in the preceding paragraph, there were few enough individuals involved in the Science, Fisheries Management, and industry sectors, that people trusted (or distrusted) each other as individuals, not as spokespersons of anonymous institutions. Although industry often questioned the results of scientific assessments, or the feasibility of measures proposed by Fisheries Management, they never questioned the legitimacy of Science or Fisheries Management to undertake such activities. Likewise, the industry was small enough to be moderately cohesive. This may be best attested by industry itself reporting (privately, but effectively) individuals who were particularly flagrant in using wasteful fishing practices. The highly participatory governance systems of GTAC, GDA, and the Code of Conduct Subcommittee of GTAC are all strongly supported by all three parties.

This general trust and faith in governance may not be stable if, in future, new groups are given a legitimate role in the groups specified above. In particular, some radical environmental groups are challenging the ecological sustainability of any form of trawl fishing, and a number of groups are promoting establishment of networks of large marine no-take reserves. So far dialogue on these considerations has not been an important part of governance of the BC rockfish trawl fishery. However, the current governance arrangements would not accommodate all the groups interested in such a dialogue without major changes. These could bring serious governance challenges to the forefront, either from industry if these other groups are given some leverage in decision-making regarding their fisheries, or from the environmental and community groups, if they are denied any role in such decision-making.

3.6 Interactions of the fishery sector with other sectors, and the environment

The rockfish fishery is a part of the larger ground fish fishery, but the interactions are well structured between individual license holders focusing on the multi-species rockfish fishery, and those focusing more on Pacific hake, Pacific cod, or flatfish. There are special IQ fisheries for Pacific halibut and sablefish, which are managed separately under different Management Plans. Fixed sharing agreements of the total sablefish TAC, and a prohibition of retention of halibut have existed for many years. The sectors often accuse each other of failure to comply with the letter (or spirit) of the agreements. However, the measures necessary for the rockfish trawl fishery to comply with the sablefish sharing agreement, and to minimise halibut by-catch mortality are considered neither a major impediment to biologically sustainable operations nor an important driver towards economic unsustainability.

Likewise, a number of species are taken both by the inshore hook-and-line rockfish fishery, and the trawl fishery. Sharing percentages were worked out years ago on the basis of catch composition, and have been stable for some time. Allocating some portion of the total allowable catch of species such as yellow eye rockfish mean that the starting TAC for the rockfish trawl fishery (with or without IVQs) is lower that it would be otherwise. However, the species for which there are sharing agreements have rarely been the most problematic in managing the multi-species fishery or conserving the resources.

To this point, offshore industries other than fishing have had essentially no impact on the groundfish trawl fisheries. There has been a moratorium on offshore hydrocarbon exploration and all undersea mining, and shipping channels are well-defined. Industry can avoid the shipping lanes and still have wide scope to harvest the full TACs. As noted under the governance section, however, these positive situations may change in the future. The TACs are low enough, however, with or without an IVQ system, that it is highly likely that the rockfish fishery can continue to harvest its TAC even with a network of MPAs and some offshore hydrocarbon exploration.

Although it is not another sector, in 2002 Canada passed its first Species-at-Risk Act. This Act includes measures that make it illegal to kill, harm, or harass any species classified as Endangered, unless one has an Incidental Harm Permit, or is operating in compliance with a Recovery Plan approved by the competent national or provincial jurisdiction (in the case of rockfish this would be DFO). The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has adopted only a slightly modified version of the IUCN criteria for assessing risk of extinction; a set of criteria whose appropriateness for marine fish has been challenged (FAO 1999). COSEWIC addressed its first Status Report on a Pacific rockfish in the Fall 2002, designating Bocaccio as Threatened. Bocaccio have never been an important component of landed catches, and are one of the 15 species included in the “Other Rockfish” IQ allocation.

At the Threatened level of risk conservation measures and a recovery plan are necessary, but fisheries taking Bocaccio as an incidental catch can continue. However, many more species of rockfish could be assessed by COSEWIC, and it is likely that of the more than 30, at least a few might qualify as Endangered on the COSEWIC/IUCN criteria - although none are believed to be at any risk of biological extinction. If any are listed, the effects on the economic sustainability of this fishery are unknown. Although the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans could issue Incidental Harm Permits to all rockfish license holders, he can only do that if it can be demonstrated that the resultant by-catch will not compromise achievement of rapid recovery of the listed species. (A “reverse burden of proof”, justified with the Precautionary Approach). Given the biology of rockfish, rapid recovery of small populations will be very slow, even with zero by-catch, so it is unclear if the Act would allow Incidental Harm Permits to be issued under such circumstances. This is presently unknown territory for government and industry, but an area of great concern with regard to sustainable fisheries and conservation.

With regard to interactions with the environment, the long life and low natural mortality makes conservation and management of rockfish not greatly affected by short term or even decadal-scale environmental variability. Few rockfish species have produced strong year-classes in the past two decades, and the lack of recruitment is certainly leading to scientific advice for reductions in harvests - advice that is now being taken in almost all cases. However, analyses of age composition data from a variety of sources suggests that some species may have produced only three strong year-classes in the century preceding the first intensive fishing in the 1950s. If that is true, the absence of any strong year-classes in 20 years is not an exceptional event.


Is it true for this fishery that the main problem with sustainability is not the lack of instruments, but the lack of implementation of existing instruments?

This statement is partially true. The most serious problems with economic sustainability and some of the most serious problems with biological sustainability were addressed through existing instruments. The two important ones were altering the economic incentives in the fishery through individual quotas, and improving the enforceability of a complex system of individual vessel quotas through full at-sea observers and full dockside monitoring. Other problems of biological sustainability were addressed through improved analytical assessment methods which did a better job of including uncertainty in scientific advice, and adoption of more risk averse management, consistent with applying the Precautionary Approach in management.

All of the changes were possible because through the period of change the fishery was characterised by relatively good communication among industry, Science, and Fisheries Management. A formal consultation mechanism was already in place and as the economic incentives were changed, additional processes were implemented that increased the transparency of decision-making, and industry’s role in actual decision-making. Had an attitude of some trust and shared acknowledgement of the major drivers to unsustainability not existed in all parties, progress on the changes to incentives in the fishery probably would have been slower and possibly not viable at all.

The measures used to address the most serious problems in biological and economic sustainability appear to be working, although the IVQ system is too new for firm conclusions to be justified. However, it was only possible to implement the measures in the BC rockfish trawl fishery because social and institutional sustainability were not at issue in this case.

The workforce employed in this fishery was reduced by over 1/3, and further reductions may be possible. Had this fishery been a major employer, even on a local scale, instead of a comparatively small component in the much larger, salmon-dominated view of commercial fisheries in BC, this impact would not have been acceptable to society or government. The huge problems encountered by the commercial and recreational salmon fisheries through the 1990s distracted attention from the major reductions in the groundfish fishery, and may have even made it more possible to obtain Policy support for some innovations.

As it was, two of the three major rockfish processors sold out their interests in all groundfish, consolidating large scale processing in one company. The impact of this quasi-monopoly on processing was mitigated, however, by a number of harvesters going into small-scale processing and marketing of their own catches, changing the processing sector of the entire fishery. Again, the changes are too recent to know if, in the long term, the diversified small-scale processing and marketing is going to be viable.

The other favourable precondition was that rockfish are a high-value fish, at least if handled and marketed well. The institutions necessary to support the IVQ fishery are complex and costly to administer, as are the observer and dockside monitoring program. Nonetheless, rockfish produce enough value that the industry can be billed for the entire costs of these initiatives, providing more than $3.5 Million annually for the core programs. Had this been a lower value fish product, the institutional framework to support the biological and economically sustainable measures could not have been supported without major inputs of government revenues. It is unlikely that the government would have supported such a small employer at a high cost.

4.1 If there are instruments missing, what are they?

The key instrument still missing is the ability to assess so many different stocks accurately, and to manage harvests optimally in such a complex fishery. The current tendency is to become increasingly precautionary with regard to the major target species of rockfish, and be willing to forego potentially sustainable current yield to increase confidence that yields will persist in the longer term. However, this is a strategy with obvious limits, and only works because there is no pressure form society or government to increase or sustain jobs in this fishery. It is also highly vulnerable to just one or a few species experiencing particularly strong recruitment. With what is known of species mixing at sea at present, an increase the TAC and, correspondingly, effort, for those species experiencing strong recruitment would have a very high risk of increasing fishing mortality on other rockfish not experiencing the marked increase in biomass.

The biological sustainability of this fishery also remains particularly vulnerable in the “other rockfish” aggregate. These are the 15 or more rockfish species not targeted individually, but also nearly impossible to avoid when fishing the more major aggregates. It is only faith that supports the belief that the “other rockfish” categorisation offers any protection to the constituent species, and there is almost no analytical basis for determining what quantity of removals are sustainable for any of the species in the Other Rockfish aggregate. Changes in market conditions could always prompt selective fishing within the complex, almost certainly causing overfishing of the species becoming favoured in the markets. Science has almost no chance of acquiring sufficient information about biomass and productivity of the “other” rockfish stocks to allow determination of sustainable harvest levels for these stocks, even though catch monitoring is now reliable. This may not be a missing instrument but it is missing knowledge, and a missing capacity to acquire and apply sufficient knowledge. Determined opponents of trawl fishing could exploit this weakness at any time to use the new Species-at-Risk Act to bring the entire mixed-species fishery to a halt.

There were also no formal instruments to deal with the loss of employment when the IVQ system was implemented. Rather, the reduction in employment was so small that on the provincial and national scales it became masked by the much greater reductions in the salmon fishery and forestry. Based on its track record in Atlantic groundfish and Pacific salmon, Canada has shown little ability to deal effectively with social disruptions caused by reductions in fisheries that were important regional or local employers.

How could the paths to solutions identified in the Bangkok Workshop (allocation of Rights; transparent, participatory, management; support to science; enforcement; planning; benefit distribution; integrated policy; precautionary approach; capacity building and public awareness building; and market incentives) help to overcome the difficulties and obstacles to successful implementation of fishery management.

The changes to improve the biological and economic sustainability of this fishery made great use of a number of the paths to solutions that were identified in The Bangkok Workshop. A brief commentary on the role of each with a subjective evaluation of its importance to allowing improvements in this fishery on a scale of -10 [major step backwards] to 0 [no role] to +10 [major contributor to improvement] follows.

Allocation of Rights (+10). This is a core change. It was the greatest contributor to improved economic sustainability, and a major contributor to improved biological sustainability.

Transparent, Participatory Management (+8). Existence of some transparency and participatory governance at the start of the restructuring of the fishery was a precondition to any progress. Making the fishery institutionally sustainable through paying the major costs for administration and monitoring required much more movement on this path.

Support to Science (+6). An important contributor to improved biological sustainability. Lack of knowledge of species biology and resource status for all the nearly twenty harvested species is currently considered the biggest single impediment to further progress on biological and economic sustainability. Industry is particularly strong in its support for more science, and is willing to contribute beyond the $3.5 million plus ten percent of all TACs that is already contributed to science and management, to support more science projects that they consider urgent priorities.

Enforcement (+9). The 100 percent at-sea observer and dockside monitoring programs were essential to progress on biological sustainability. They were necessary preconditions to allow the changes to incentives that improved economic sustainability.

Planning (+6). Planning has always been a strong point in this fishery. It improved with more participatory management. Success of the IVQ system requires very advanced planning, linked to decision-making and management actions.

Precautionary Approach (+5). An important component in improving biological sustainability of this fishery. Approaching a situation where more and more precautionary interpretations of stock status and complexity are becoming a threat to economic sustainability in the short term.

Market Incentives (+4). Direct market incentives in the form of eco-certification, for example, played no role (yet) in this fishery. However, the much higher value markets that were found for rockfish in the 1990s made three important contributions to improved sustainability. One was an increase in the willingness to trade off volume of catch for stability of supply, which reduced opposition to implementation of IQs. The second was simply getting the harvesters and processors thinking positively about change; they saw first hand that their condition could get better without just catching more fish. They also saw the need for industry and government to work together. The third was that the fishery was capable of generating the revenues needed to support the infrastructure necessary for institutional sustainability.

Capacity Building and Public Awareness (0). The industry made some use of consultants it hired on its own, but most of the initiatives on the industry side came from skippers and plant operators themselves. The rockfish fishers were widely considered a skilled elite in the BC fishing community, and were agents of innovation themselves. Many individuals worked closely and effectively with Science and Fisheries Management, as did the industry organization - the Deep-Sea Trawlers Association. Little capacity building was needed, and the changes would probably have been slower to come had a great deal of effort been spent attracting public awareness. Opponents to trawl fishing are increasing in number and profile in many places, including Canada. Calling attention to the creation of a stable, viable trawl fishery on a long-lived, slow-growing species might have resulted in a great deal of external intervention in the discussion leading to change.

Integrated Policy (-5). The first two times that attempts were made to explore major changes in the rockfish fishery, intervention by broad-ranging policy experts stalled efforts. The fishery was a small and comparative cohesive group, where change was easy relative to change in many of the larger and higher profile fisheries of Canada. Innovation was opposed by the policy sector on the basis of fears that changes in this fishery would be considered “premature precedents” that would create unattainable expectations in other fisheries. In a similar vein, late in the planning for the transition to the IVQ system (about 1998), the new departmental Sector was created with a specific mandate for integrated coastal zone planning. Some officers in that new Sector tried to delay any major changes in this fishery, pending creation of “integrated planning boards”, whose nature in 2003 is still being discussed. Had the Department and industry waited for integrated planning processes to be implemented, change would still be many years in the future.

Benefit Distribution (-7). Over a third of the participants in harvesting and processing lost their opportunity for employment. The fishery paid the immediate costs of the vessel and license retirement programs, but not follow-on support for displaced workforce. In general the overall tax system of Canada is the only tool by which benefits from this fishery are redistributed to those no longer employed. For the successful skippers, their crews, and the better processor/marketers, they are considered to be getting major personal economic benefits from the IVQ system.


Clark, W.G. 1991. Groundfish exploitation rates based on life history parameters. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 48: pp.734-750.

FAO 2000. An Appraisal of the Suitability of the CITES Criteria for Listing Commercially-Exploited Aquatic Species. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 954.

Leaman, B.M. & Stanley, R.D. 1990. Preliminary report on experimental harvest programs for two stocks of Pacific Ocean Perch (Sebastes alutus) off British Columbia. Document submitted to International North Pacific Fisheries Commission, Vancouver, B.C. Canada, November 1990. 43 pp.

Leaman, B.M. & Stanley, R.D. 1993. Experimental management programs for two rockfish stocks off British Columbia, Canada. pp. 403-418 in Smith, S.J.; Hunt, J.J.; & Rivard, D. (eds). Risk Evaluation and Biological reference Points for Fisheries Management. Canadian Special Publication in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 120.

Love, M.S., Yoklavich, M. & Thorsteinson, L. 2002. The Rockfish of the Northeast Pacific. University of Santa Barbara Press 404 pp.

Pacific Stock Assessment Review Committee. 1985. Advice on the Status and Management of some Pacific Groundfish Stocks. PSARC Advisory Document 85/3.

Restrepo, V.R., Thompson, G.G., Mace, P.M., Gabriel, W.L., Low, L.L., MacCall, A.D., Methot, R.D., Powers, Taylor, B.L., Wade, P.R. & Witzig, J.F. 1990. Technical guidance on the use of precautionary approaches to implementing National standard 1 of the Magnusson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. NOAA Technical Memo 1998/11.

Rice, J. 1998. Fostering sustainable development and research by encouraging the right kinds of institutions. pp.195-201 in Pitcher, T.J.; Hart P.J.B. & Pauly, D. Rockfish Aggregate Management PSARC Working Paper Reinventing Fisheries Management. Chapman Hall Fish and Fisheries Series No. 23.

Rice, J.C. & Richards, L.J. 1995. A preliminary evaluation of the effects of aggregate management in the B.C. rockfish trawl fishery. PSARC Res. Doc. G95-12: 18 pp.

Rice, J.C., Chalmers, D., Harbo, R., Jamieson, G., Joyce, M., Leaman, B., Richards, L., Schweigert, J., & Wood, C. 1995. Report of the Biological Objectives Working Group. PSARC Advisory Document 95/08.

Richards, L.J. 1994. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. Trip limits, catch, and effort in the British Columbia rockfish trawl fishery. 14: pp.742-750.

Richards, L.J., Schnute, J.T. 1992. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science. Statistical models for estimating CPUE from catch and effort data. 49: pp.1315-1327.

Schnute, J.T. 1994. A general framework for developing sequential fisheries models. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 51: 1676-1688.

Schnute, J.T. & Richards, L.J. 1995. The influence of error on population estimates from catch - age models. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 52: pp.2063-2077.

Stanley, R.D., Kieser, R., Cooke, K.D., Surry, A.M. & Mose, B. 2000. Estimation of a widow rockfish (Sebastes entomelas) shoal off British Columbia, Canada, as a joint exercise between stock assessment staff and the fishing industry. ICES Journal of Marine Science 57: pp.1035-1049.

Stanley, R.D., Kieser, R., Leaman, B.M. & Cooke, K.D. 1999. Diel vertical migration by yellowtail rockfish, Sebastes flavidus, and its impact on acoustic biomass estimation. Fisheries Bulletin No. 97: pp. 320-331.

Stanley, R.D. & Rice, J.C. in press. Participatory Research in the B.C. Groundfish Fishery. A.T. Pitcher, et al. eds. Putting Fishers’ Knowledge to Work. UBC Press. 22 pp.

Starr, P.J. & Schwartz, C. 2000. Feasibility of a bottom trawl survey for three slope groundfish species in Canadian waters. Canadian Stock Assessment Secretariat CSAS Research Document 2000/16.


Pacific Groundfish Trawl Integrated Fisheries Management Plans 1990 to 2003 (Annual). Recent ones are available at Earlier ones can be requested by email at the same site.

Scientific Advisory Documents from PSARC (Pacific Science Advisory and Review Committee [before 2000 Pacific Stock Assessment Review Committee]) are available at

Research Documents containing the more detailed assessments are available electronically from the DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat website: Recent documents of particular interest include:

99/16, 99/53, 99/58, 2000/154, 2000/155, 2000/156, 2000/172, 2000/173, 2001/136, 2001/138, 2001/139, 2001/148. Documents from the November 2002 assessments are expected soon.

Proceedings of PSARC Groundfish Subcommittee meetings are also available on the CSAS website: Recent ones of interest include 98/19, 99/32, 2000/25, 2001/34, and 2002/27.

Table 1: Annual TACs (tonnes) and, where applied, Trip Limits (tonnes unless designated otherwise) for rockfish, as set in annual Fisheries Management Plans.





Pacific Ocean Perch

4 050
11.3; 5.0

Aggregate 2 - 7,320 t
30 000/15 000 (pounds)

5 847 (5%)

Yellowtail rockfish

4 800
13.3; 9.1

Aggregate 1 - 8,880 t
25 000/12 500;

4 422 (5%)

Yellowmouth Rockfish

1 380
5.0; 4.5

Aggregate 2

2 365 (5%)

Canary Rockfish

1 275
4.5; 4.5

Aggregate 1

1 046 (4%)

Silvergray Rockfish

1 575
4.5; 4.5

Aggregate 1

1 187 (4%)

Redstripe rockfish

Aggregate 2

1 521 (5%)

Widow Rockfish

Aggregate 1

2 316 (5%)

Rougheye Rockfish

Aggregate 3 - 700 t
20 000/10 000

530 (7%)

Shortraker Rockfish

Aggregate 3

105 (7%)

Shortspine/longspine Thornyheads

Aggregate 3

736/405 (10%)

Yelloweye rockfish

0 trawl (4%)
7 hook & line

Quillback, Copper, China and Tiger rockfish

0 trawl (4%)
5 hook & line

All other rockfish

Aggregate 4 - no TAC
20 000/10 000

A: For 1992, the TAC was divided into quarters in the ratio 30: 29: 21: 20 percent. For trip limits (lower numbers in each cell, first number is trip limit for 1st and 4th quarters, second number is for second and third quarters. Within any quarter, once 70 percent of the TAC was attained for a species, the respective trip limit would fall to 3.0 tonnes

B: For 1995, the TAC for aggregates 1, 2, and 3 were divided equally into quarters. Vessels could choose one of three options for each quarter, with two trips at the Option A limit (listed in cell), four trips at the Option B limit (listed in cell), or an unlimited number of trips at 2 500 lbs per trip. Within each quarter, when 70 percent of the aggregate TAC was taken, the trip limit would drop by 50 percent. When 90 percent of the TAC was taken, trip limits for any aggregate would fall to 10 000 or 5 000 lbs. For Aggregate 3, the 700 tonnes TAC applied only to Rougheye Rockfish, but the trip limit to all species in the aggregate.

C: The number in parenthesis is the maximum TAC share that can be acquired by any single IVQ holder.

Table 2: Selection of Management Objectives relevant to the rockfish trawl fishery as listed in the annual Management Plan for BC groundfish. Where comparable, they are matched by theme rather than presented sequentially as in the annual Management Plans.



To ensure the conservation and protection of groundfish stocks in the Pacific Region through the application of sound scientific and management principles.

To ensure conservation and protection of the various groundfish resources through the application of management principles applied in a risk averse and precautionary manner based on the best scientific advice available.

To continue to apply specific conservation measures for [individual] stocks when required.

To ensure the optimal use of groundfish stocks in order to meet the social and economic objectives of the people of Canada.

In accordance with its commitment to providing opportunities for First Nations to access Pacific groundfish for food, social, and ceremonial purposes, Department will continue to provide opportunities for First Nations to harvest for these purposes ...

To provide opportunity for the commercial trawl sector to harvest groundfish while employing adequate controls and monitoring ...

Continue to develop further measures necessary to fulfil Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s overall mandate ...

Provide opportunities for recreational harvest of groundfish year round using management measures such as daily catch limits and daily possession limits.

To ensure utilization of groundfish stocks over the entire calendar year where possible.

To provide opportunity for the commercial trawl sector to harvest groundfish ... through the continued use of the IVQ management approach ....

To implement no trip limit (other than sablefish which is less that 2.3 t, to reduce at-sea dumping and quarterly over-runs.

To aggregate species wherever appropriate and permitted by regulation while ensuring some form of protection for all constituents of the aggregate.

To develop a credible industry-funded catch monitoring program in designated ports of landing.


To take positive action in reducing at-sea discarding of commercially valuable groundfish. through:

appropriate incidental trip limits
closures when and where necessary
c) introduction of a prohibition on rockfish dumping at sea.

... adequate controls and monitoring in the commercial fishery to ensure commercial TACs are not exceeded. This will be achieved through ...... at-sea observer coverage, and DMP [dockside monitoring] of all commercial landings

To develop and improve industry measures in 2002/2003 season to improve utilisation of catches and reduce wastage.

To account for mortality of all species in the commercial groundfish trawl fishery. The Department has established various target levels of mandatory observer coverage on vessels ...

To ensure trawl license holders are held individually accountable for keeping their catches within the allocated IVQ holdings

Coastwide closures will be avoided where conservation of stocks and reduction in waste allow. If harvest rates threaten the continuity of the fishery, then local closures or reduced fishing effort will be the primary techniques to extend the fishery.

To initiate consultation with industry, other stakeholders, and First Nations, on future measures aimed at developing a more comprehensive and integrated approach to the overall management of groundfish resources ... that will promote responsible fishing and management practices.
To develop mechanisms to support the research and management of the groundfish fishery during 2002/2003. The longer-term vision is to move towards industry supported arrangements with arms-length representative groups/organizations.

[87] The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author, Jake Rice, Director, Science Advisory Secretariat, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Government of Canada, Ottawa, Canada RICEj@DFO-MPO.GC.CA.
[88] FAO Fisheries Report No. 672, FIPP/R672, held under the FAO/Japan Government Cooperative Programme.
[89] Typical “inshore rockfish” include China rockfish (Sebastes. nebulosus), copper rockfish (S. caurinus), quillback (S. maliger), tiger rockfish (S. nigrocinctus), and yelloweye rockfish (S. ruberrimus).
[90] Typical “shelf rockfish” include Boccacio (S. paucispinis), Canary rockfish (S. pinniger), silvergray rockfish (S. brevispinis), widow rockfish (S. entomelas) and yellowtail rockfish (S. flavidus).
[91] Typical “slope rockfish” include Pacific Ocean Perch (S. alutus), redstripe rockfish (S. proriger), rough-eye rockfish (S. aleutianus), shortspine and longspine thornyheads (Sebastolobus alascanus & altivelis, shortraker rockfish (Sebastes. borealis) and yellowmouth rockfish (S. reedi)
[92] The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean contains a sector entitled Science Branch and a sector called Fisheries Management Branch. The separation of duties between the Branches follows very much what would be expected given their names. Throughout this Report, when reference is made to the DFO sectoral entity, “Science” and “Fisheries Management” will be capitalized. When the words occur without capital letters the reference is to the activities of doing research or managing fisheries in a more generic sense.

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