Research Document 2020/020
Risk assessment of permitted human activities in Rockfish Conservation Areas in British Columbia
By Thornborough, K.J., Lancaster, D., Dunham, J.S., Yu, F., Ladell, N., Deleys, N., Yamanaka, L.
The Government of Canada has committed to reaching domestic marine conservation targets (MCTs) of protecting 10% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2020. One area of action that supports reaching Canada’s MCTs is the identification and advancement of “other effective area based conservation measures” (OEABCM). To determine whether Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) in Canada’s Pacific marine waters contribute to the MCTs as OEABCMs, RCAs were evaluated against the five criteria for inclusion as OEABCMs. In 2016, an internal evaluation of RCAs by DFO determined that a more fulsome review was required, including a risk assessment to assess whether permitted human activities inhibit RCAs from meeting criterion 5. To this end, a literature review of RCA documents provides evidence that RCAs align with OEABCM criteria 1 through 3, while greater clarity that RCAs will be in place for a long-term duration is required to meet criterion 4. A Level 1 qualitative risk assessment was conducted to assess RCAs against OEABCM criterion 5. The assessment was conducted on three significant ecosystem components: Inshore Rockfish, their Prey and Rocky Reef habitat, and the impact of twenty-one currently permitted activities. Eight activities were identified as having the potential to prevent RCAs from fulfilling the OEABCM criteria: outfalls, Crab by Trap, coastal infrastructure, oil spill, Prawn and Shrimp by Trap, FSC dual fishing groundfish hook and line, movement and storage of logs, and finfish aquaculture. Future assessments at the scale of individual RCAs will provide clarity regarding the impacts of stressors in each RCA. Recommendations include: developing clear long-term conservation and/or stock management objectives; collecting empirical observations of habitat in RCAs; improving research and monitoring efforts to reduce uncertainties about activities with highest relative risks; and improving fishery monitoring and catch reporting of sectors fishing inside RCAs.
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