Photo: B.C. fisheries management makes waves overseas

British Columbia fisherman Wes Erikson (second from right) meets with HRH Prince Charles at the inaugural Fishing into the Future workshop. (Photo: Paul Burns)

By Scott Wallace, Senior Research Scientist

While the world's media waited for the arrival of Prince George of Cambridge, a less auspicious but connected event took place the week before without much fanfare.

The event — the inaugural Fishing into the Future workshop — was hosted by the new prince's grandfather, HRH Prince Charles, under the Prince of Wales' International Sustainability Unit.

And the success story behind B.C.'s groundfish fisheries was recognized. The fisheries worked with environmental organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, to become among the best-managed fisheries on the planet. That was the message delivered at the workshop by B.C. halibut fisherman Wes Erikson, as the only participating non-European present. B.C.'s groundfish longline fishery has moved from unsustainable practices, such as catching and discarding unmonitored bycatch, toward full at-sea video monitoring, dockside checks and integration with other fishing fleets. These reforms allow for more reliable stock assessments and a better understanding of the impacts the fishery has on other species. The fishery was featured as a positive example by David and Sarika Suzuki on the Nature of Things.

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Our fisheries' success story was further amplified at a European Union fisheries workshop on management of deepsea fisheries in Edinburgh where, as the only non-European presenter, I spoke to reforms to B.C.'s bottom trawl fishery (PDF). B.C. now has the world's first habitat quota to protect corals and sponges from the impacts of bottom trawling. The reforms were possible through a multi-year collaboration between our foundation, the Living Oceans Society and the B.C. trawl industry.

And in Sweden, too, the fisheries minister asked to hear about the management of B.C.'s groundfish fisheries.

With media focused on the arrival of a new prince, thoughts turn to succession and future generations. What kind of planet will the next generation inherit? The improvements to B.C.'s groundfish fisheries offer a beacon of hope that future generations can continue to enjoy the rewards from sustainable fisheries, and a healthy ocean, for many years. The world is taking note.

August 6, 2013

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Aug 07, 2013
10:16 PM

I was so pleased to listen to Wes Erikson at the Brixham S Devon event. Such wisdom from a fisherman is not rare, but it is rarely shared on a world platform such as the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit event Fishing for a Future at the Berry Head Hotel. I was so thrilled to show HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall aboard Brixham heritage vessel Pilgrim and then to introduce HRH to skipper Shaun Gibbs and the crew of the Catherina, aboard this Brixham Beam Trawler that uses new designs of ground gear that has reduced seabed impact, has a much cleaner, higher quality fish catch and burns less diesel. Gear designers Darren Edwards and Al Porter also met HRH to explain the gear. They are willing to talk to and to meet other fishermen to explain their innovations and to help design nets for trawlers in other fisheries.

Aug 09, 2013
11:05 AM

The fishing industry is a great example of tragedy of the commons. Fish are a shared good and oftentimes, the fish are caught at unsustainable amounts. Fishers want to maximize their profit by catching as many fish as possible. However, if the unsustainable practices of catching fish are continued, there would not be enough fish for the future generation. Fishers would want to catch mature fish only, and there would not be enough mature fish to repopulate the ocean. It is great that the B.C’s groundfish fisheries manage the fisheries on the planet. I think the at-sea video monitoring and dockside checks are a good idea because the amount of fish caught can be monitored. In addition, the video monitoring will prevent any type of acts in the sea that may harm the environment such as dumping waste in the sea. Also, by protecting other species in the ocean such as corals and sponges, it is maintaining a healthy environment in the ocean. Not only does the B.C’s groundfish fisheries allow the future generation to have enough fish, it also keeps the oceans healthy.

Aug 09, 2013
6:49 PM

I’m currently enrolled in a university course that covers engineering and sustainable development and am overjoyed by seeing that ideas for sustainability are being put into action. I believe that the actions being taken this fishery management system is an excellent example of the strong sustainability model. I believe from this management system that the environment, society, as well as the economy benefit, because the fish are being harvested in a sustainable manner, which will ensure that the fish stocks will not be depleted. Since the stocks will not be depleted the local economy will continue and the people employed in the industry will have stable employment. However, I can’t help but think that the problem cannot be solved without international cooperation, since the worlds oceans are being over fished in a tragedy of the commons. Since there is no regulating body for fish quotas in international waters it is in the best interest of all fishers to fall into unsustainable practices. So for this to be solved these new practices much be spread and I am glad that this goal is being worked towards as you have mentioned with the workshop involving European Union fisheries. Thank you for the intriguing read.

Aug 09, 2013
7:01 PM

Very interesting read.

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