A Policy for Selective Fishing in Canada’s Pacific Fisheries

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Because different species and stocks often mingle in the open ocean and river fisheries, fishers seeking stocks in greater abundance regularly catch less abundant or threatened fish stocks, marine mammals and seabirds. Even a ban on fishing a particular stock or species will not enable the recovery of a severely weakened population in many cases, unless some way is found to prevent the unintended harvesting, known as bycatch, that is inevitable in conventional mixed-stock fisheries. Coho salmon from the Thompson and upper Skeena rivers, for example, may be intercepted by salmon fishing fleets fishing for more abundant salmon species such as sockeye, pink, chum and chinook. As a result, some stocks of coho will remain perilously low until at least 2005 or 2007, or until ocean conditions improve.

Though concerns for those critical coho stocks have existed for some time, new scientific evidence threatened to shut down the Pacific salmon fishery in 1998. In response, managers in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Region developed a strategy to harvest available abundances of large, healthy stocks of salmon of all species while ensuring conservation of smaller, threatened stocks. The answer, not just for salmon, but groundfish, invertebrates, seabirds, marine mammals, and all other species at risk of over-exploitation, is the widespread adoption of selective fishing techniques.

This document, the seventh in a series that began in October 1998 with A New Direction for Canada’s Pacific Salmon Fisheries,1 sets out selective fishing policy and an implementation framework for Canada’s First Nations, recreational and commercial fisheries in the Pacific Region. It builds on the May 1999 discussion document, Selective Fishing in Canada’s Pacific Fisheries, and incorporates the outcome of discussions with, and comments from, First Nations, commercial and recreational fishers and other stakeholders in the Pacific fisheries that resulted from that release.

— Excerpt from the document