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Research Document - 2011/010

Concept Paper for an Encounter Response Protocol for Fisheries Management

By J. Boutillier, J.L. Finney, and J.C. Rice


In 2009, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) introduced the Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF) to help ensure Canadian fisheries support conservation and sustainable use, and to align domestic policy with international obligations. One component of the SFF, the Policy for Managing the Impact of Fishing on Sensitive Benthic Areas (SBA policy), describes a five-step process to avoid serious or irreversible harm to sensitive benthic areas or species. These steps include: 1) assemble and map existing data and information to determine the distribution of sensitive benthic areas or species; 2) assemble and map existing information on fishing activities; 3) use an Ecological Risk Analysis Framework to assess the likelihood that a fishing activity causes harm to sensitive benthic areas or species; 4) determine whether management measures are needed and implement them where appropriate; and 5) monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the management measure. In March 2011, a national Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) peer-review process was held in Ottawa to provide science advice on the ecological considerations relevant to developing a science-based encounter protocol framework to protect corals and sponges in Canadian waters from serious or irreversible harm.  This paper reviews potential issues with implementing an encounter protocol, and provides a pragmatic encounter response assessment and management framework that could be implemented under the SBA policy to assist in domestic alignment with UNGA Resolution 61/105. The proposed encounter protocol has six components, which are closely aligned to the five process steps outlined in the SBA policy. Decisions to allow fishing and/or implement an encounter protocol are based on the calculated risk that fishing activity causes serious adverse impacts (SAIs) to vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). The six components of the proposed encounter protocol are: 1) assemble and map VME distributions; 2) assemble and map the extent of human impacts; 3) infer the current VME status using VME and human impact distributions; 4) conduct a risk analysis; 5) determine management measures and implementation; and 6) monitor and evaluate responses. The proposed encounter protocol framework provides a potential assessment and decision making system, even for situations where there is limited data. It also provides an adaptable system which can be modified as new information becomes available.

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