Overview Of The Precautionary Approach Framework's Rebuilding Plan Guidelines

In 2009, Fisheries and Oceans Canada published the Sustainable Fisheries Framework and several associated policies. A key policy under the Framework is “A Fisheries Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach” (Precautionary Approach Framework), which outlines the departmental methodology for applying the precautionary approach when making decisions regarding harvest levels in Canadian fisheries.

Much of the focus since the launch of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework has been on the implementation of the Precautionary Approach Framework.

In general, the precautionary approach in fisheries management is about being cautious when scientific knowledge is uncertain, and not using the absence of adequate scientific information as a reason to postpone action or failure to take action to avoid serious harm to fish stocks or their ecosystem. This approach is widely accepted internationally as an essential part of sustainable fisheries management.

A key component of the Precautionary Approach Framework requires that when a stock has declined to the Critical Zone, a rebuilding plan must be in place with the aim of having a high probability of the stock growing out of the Critical Zone within a reasonable timeframe. As such, through the Precautionary Approach Framework, the requirement for rebuilding plans for depleted stocks has become departmental policy.

The purpose of the Rebuilding Plan Guidelines is to provide guidance to Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials, particularly fisheries managers and others that are tasked with the development of rebuilding plans for growing stocks out of the Critical Zone. The document builds upon the guidance already provided in the Precautionary Approach Framework. It describes the rebuilding process and provides guidance on developing objectives and rebuilding timelines. The Guidelines also review key factors that may affect rebuilding success, as well as best management practices which have been demonstrated to be successful in promoting stock rebuilding. The need for regular performance reviews to ensure the rebuilding process is on track is also identified.

The overarching goal of the Precautionary Approach Framework is to prevent stocks from declining into the Critical Zone in the first place. However, for some stocks, particularly those which are currently depleted and in the Critical Zone as a result of past declines, putting in place rebuilding plans is essential for applying the Precautionary Approach Framework and is central to the Department’s efforts to sustainably manage Canadian fisheries.

While the Precautionary Approach Framework specifically requires the development of rebuilding plans which aim to grow stocks out of the Critical Zone, this is only part of the overall rebuilding process.  The goal of any rebuilding process is to grow stocks up through the Cautious Zone and ultimately into the Healthy Zone, as defined by the Precautionary Approach Framework. As such, the Rebuilding Plan Guidelines have been developed to be consistent with the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan process, which will be used to continue the growth of a stock through the Cautious Zone and into the Healthy Zone, where possible.

Find out more information about the Precautionary Approach Framework and the Critical, Cautious and Healthy Zones.