Research Document 2017/040

Choosing Spatial Units for Landscape-Based Management of the Fisheries Protection Program

By de Kerckhove, D.T., Freedman, J.A., Wilson, K.L., Hoyer, M.V., Chu, C., and Minns, C.K.


With the 2012 revisions of the federal Fisheries Act there is a need to manage the risk to fisheries productivity from anthropogenic activity; however, the scale at which overall productivity should be managed is not clear. In this document, we review how Ecologically Based Management Areas (EBMAs) are developed using both terrestrial and aquatic variables. We present a range of existing EBMA schemes and, for a few, demonstrate their effectiveness at different spatial scales in predicting aquatic variables that are relevant to fisheries production. Last, we present the insights from expert contributions on aspects of developing regional benchmarks of inland fisheries productivity in Canada. We conclude that any EBMA approach for managing Canada’s fisheries productivity will almost certainly increase the number of management areas from the existing six regions. From the few studies available, it appears that intermediate scale management areas (i.e. 20,000 km²) are effective at partitioning variation in important aquatic parameters among regions. Existing classification levels that match this insight are Canadian terrestrial Ecoregions, Ontario’s Fisheries Management Zones, British Columbia’s Management Areas, and the United States’ EPA Level III Ecoregions. We also conclude that there are many ecological models available which allow for fisheries production to be estimated from both broad-scale, top-down approaches and fine-scale, bottom-up approaches. Following recent insight from ecological classification literature, a promising approach for developing EBMAs for use in the Fisheries Protection Program would involve broad-scale parameters that incorporate climatic and geophysical variables as well as at least one of each of the following: terrestrial, aquatic and anthropogenic variables. Once the broad-scale parameters set the foundation of the EBMA, finer scaled variables could also be used to estimate fish production in a range of management scenarios.

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