BC Fish Slip Through Regulatory Cracks

Do you know how many fish sports fisherman are taking from BC waters? Neither does the government, according to the ELC report “Why is BC’s Fish Resource Slipping through Cracks in the Regulatory System?” Written for a First Nations client by ELC Clinic student Laura Sworn, the report recommends that government track the catch of BC sports fishers. “Canada’s ocean management is half a century behind neighbouring jurisdictions which actively monitor the fish caught through recreational fishing,” says Sworn. “In comparison, the majority of fish taken by British Columbia’s sports fisherman go undetected. Fish populations are literally slipping through the cracks in our outdated laws.” The First Nations client is deeply concerned about the effects of unmonitored recreational fishing on fish stock sustainability and enlisted the help of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre to canvass all the coastal jurisdictions of North America to determine the best monitoring practice. This research demonstrates that the common practice is a mandatory catch-card system, which monitors what, when, where and how fish are taken. The data compiled through this strategy provide Fish and Wildlife Boards with critical information for the proper management of sustainable oceans and the viable future of sport fishing. “You can’t possibly manage your fishery well if you don’t know how many fish you have lost,” says Sworn. The report notes that Washington has been using a catch-card reporting system since 1967; it started with Steelhead and is now in place for numerous threatened species. In January 2010, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans introduced a Pacific Fisheries Reform aimed at improving biological sustainability and fishery management. The new policy direction provides a vision and set of principles with themes of strengthening conservation efforts, improving the monitoring, certainty and stability of all fisheries. Clearly, according to the report, the next step to achieve these goals is implementing an up-to-date mandatory catch-card report system. “Research, management and enforcement go hand in hand for the management and long-term viability of fish stocks,” according to Sworn. “Knowing what is being caught, where and when fish are taken and what size they are is key. Data from fishing report cards will give tremendous insight into the status and ecology of British Columbia’s fish populations.”   Laura Sworn (ELC Clinic Student Summer 2010)