Glass Sponge Reef – Rockfish Conservation Area Alignment

DFO Public Engagement Workshop – Glass Sponge Reef – Rockfish Conservation Area Alignment Project Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound, Indian Arm, Jervis and Salmon Inlets

Jan. 10th/23 Meeting at Gleneagles Com Center West Vancouver

shíshálh Nation in attendance, unfortunately, no representation from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation. Strong representation from commercial prawn and crab fisheries, commercial and recreational fishing sectors, Howe Sound Biosphere, Gibsons Marine Education Centre Society (GMECS), Reef Society and other environmental groups. 50+ attended.

Workshop Objectives
Provide an overview of existing RCA’s (Rockfish Conservation Areas)
GSR (Glass Sponge Reef) Marine Refuge protection in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound, Indian Arm, Jervis and Salmon Inlets.
Provide background and context on the proposed potential changes in these areas.
Gather participant feedback and any new or additional information on the proposed potential changes to RCA and GSR marine refuge boundaries and management measures within these areas.

Note: The presentations for intro. and context were poor – screen was too small to be able to read content, and sound system tended to garble voices. Presentation deck is to be circulated.

Marine Refuge initiative started 1.5 years ago with formation of a team, Heather Brekke, Regional Manager, Marine Conservation Targets Team, Fisheries Mgmt. DFO, Danielle Derrick, Fisheries Mgmt. Officer, DFO, Avery Maloney, Policy and Economic Analyst, DFO, plus 1 DFO staff person from enforcement, and several other young folks who are part of the team that stationed themselves at the various closure maps. The workshop was designed to get the maximum input from attendees.

GSR’s (Glass Sponge Reefs)
Since 2017, DFO has established 17 marine refuges (MRs) to protect GSRs in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound from all bottom contact fishing activities, including commercial, recreational, and Indigenous fisheries for food, Social, and Ceremonial purposes. After workshops and consultations in 2020/21 DFO closed an additional 5 sites for com. and rec. bottom contact fishing activities, including downriggers in Howe Sound in Jan 2022.

RCA’s (Rockfish Conservation Areas)
162 RCA’s were established in Canada’s Pacific waters between 2003 and 2007 as a long term conservation measure to alleviate rockfish population decline and protect rockfish from mortality associated with rec. and com. fisheries. Recent DFO science identified the need to update boundaries and conservation measures for the RCA’s to meet their conservation objectives. A coastwide RCA review of management measures and boundaries was established in 2017 and is currently underway to look at how and if RCA’s can better meet conservation and OECM criteria. (Other Effective Area Based Conservation Measures)

Marine Refuges and OECM (Other Effective Area Based Conservation Measures)
The CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) has defined ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’, in these terms:

A geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio–economic, and other locally relevant values. (CBD Decision 14/8, Nov. 2018)

While protected areas must have a primary conservation objective, this is not necessary for OECMs. OECMs may be managed for many different objectives but they must deliver effective conservation. They may be managed with conservation as a primary or secondary objective or long-term conservation may simply be the ancillary result of management activities.

Fisheries management measures in Canadian waters that qualify as other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) help protect important species, their habitats and ecosystems, including unique and significant aggregations of corals and sponges. OECMs are intended to be in place for the long-term so that they make a lasting contribution to marine conservation. To date, all of Canada has conserved 14.66% of its marine territory. Marine refuges account for more than one third (5.66%) of that. To date, all areas that qualify as OECM’s have been fisheries area closures. Fisheries area closures that meet the OECM criteria are known as “marine refuges.”

In consultation with affected parties, DFO is exploring additional opportunities to establish new area-based measures that have biodiversity conservation benefits and recognize them as OECMs. This way, their contributions to marine conservation targets can be acknowledged.

Workshop Summary
This workshop was intended to draw in and inform the sectors that would be affected by “aligning RCA’s and GSR’s” in Howe Sound, Sechelt and Jervis Inlets, and Indian Arm, and to obtain feedback from these sectors. The merged areas will create increases in restrictions to encompass those of RCA’s and GSR’s in areas where boundaries have been changed to encompass both conservation areas and conserve spillover.

The intent is to minimize confusion on regulations that are in effect or are being modified. Note – not all areas will have the same regulations. Areas that are not encompassing more than one type of protection – ie. Only RCA, (Paisley) or only GSR, (Collingwood, Langdale) will maintain the restrictions for the particular protection type they are, but the majority of Howe Sound RCA’s will have “aligned” closures and thus the restrictions of both the GSR and RCA designations.

Merged or aligned areas will fall into the Marine Refuges designation and become available for the OECM designation. The OECM designation will be used to add to the required percentage of conservation areas according to 2022 Marine Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures. On December 9, 2022, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) published the Government of Canada’s 2022 Guidance for Recognizing Marine Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECM).

The 2022 Guidance will apply to existing and future federal marine OECMs, including marine refuges, which are key in helping the Government of Canada meet its marine conservation targets to protect 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.

Please note that all of area 28 (inc. Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm,) and portions of area 29 (all of Howe Sound, and portions of the South Coast region) are non-retention for ANY lingcod and rockfish of any species.

The goal of simplifying restrictions to avoid public confusion has not been attained with the proposed model. There are variations within the closures that are site specific which will complicate enforcement and confuse user groups. This can be a good thing for protection of biodiversity, but without clarity, could lead to infractions that are damaging to the sensitive habitats they are designed to protect.

GSR-RCA Alignment Information Booklet Compressed.pdf
5.3 MB
Govt of Canada, Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reefs, Refuges vs Closures

A Regional Assessment of Ecological Attributes in Rockfish Conservation Areas in British Columbia

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