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Science Response 2023/009

Application of the British Columbia Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) Management Procedure for the 2023-24 Fishing Year


Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the British Columbia (BC) Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) fishing industry collaborate on a Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) process intended to provide a transparent and repeatable harvest strategy. Total allowable catch (TAC) advice is provided annually to DFO Fisheries Management based on the application of a Management Procedure (MP) to updated stock index and landings data.

The Sablefish MP is a specific, repeatable algorithm for computing a recommended annual catch limit (‘MP catch limit’). Criteria for selecting the MP for application to the fishery are based on performance statistics compiled during simulation testing of candidate MP options, where each statistic summarizes an outcome related to a specified management objective. Uncertainty and robustness are considered by testing each candidate MP against alternative scenarios for Sablefish stock and fishery dynamics defined by operating models (OMs). MPs that do not meet imperative objectives related to conservation are rejected from consideration. For MPs that do meet conservation objectives over a range of alternative scenarios, the final selection of an MP is based on examining trade-offs among management outcomes linked to socio-economic objectives.

Since 2011, annual total allowable catch levels (TACs) used to manage Sablefish fisheries have been informed by application of a simulation-tested MP as part of the MSE process, with the MP catch limit being adopted as the TAC in most years (Appendix, Table 1). Each year, under the terms of a Collaborative Agreement, DFO Science and the Canadian Sablefish industry work together to apply the selected MP to data in order to calculate the MP catch limit for the upcoming fishing year. Consistent application of the same MP to the fishery over multiple years is expected to lead to management outcomes that are similar to simulated performance. However, the MP may be revised when OM scenarios are updated based on new information, or changes are made to fishery management objectives. The MP is not used to evaluate stock status and serves only as a means of calculating a recommended catch limit based on the most recent monitoring data.

DFO Fisheries Management has requested that Science Branch evaluate the effect of updated data on annual MP application and resulting harvest advice for 2023-24. This Science Response applies the Sablefish MP to data updated to the end of 2022. The resulting MP catch limit informed the TAC for the 2023-24 fishing year. This is the first time that annual application of the Sablefish MP has been documented in this format. Accordingly, the document provides background on the MSE process, as well as stock summary information on sustainability elements required by DFO’s Fishery Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach (‘PA Policy’; DFO (2009)).

This Science Response results from the regional peer review on the Application of Sablefish Management Procedure in British Columbia on January 31, 2023.

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