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Science Response: Application of Sablefish Management Procedure in British Columbia

Regional Peer Review – Pacific Region

January 31, 2023
Virtual Meeting

Chairperson: Kendra Holt


Management of the British Columbia (BC) Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) fishery is informed by a Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) framework that has been collaboratively developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the BC Sablefish fishing industry. Under the MSE framework, total allowable catch (TAC) advice is provided annually to DFO Fisheries Management by application of a Management Procedure (MP). Each year the MP is applied to updated data including a coastwide Sablefish survey index and landed catch to generate a recommended catch limit. The MP that has been applied to the fishery since the 2017-18 fishing year was selected in 2017 based on simulation testing of management performance relative to a suite of fishery management objectives (Cox et al. 2019).

In April 2022, Sablefish was prescribed under the new Fish Stock Provisions (FSP) of Canada’s revised Fisheries Act. Alignment of the Sablefish management system with the FSP and the DFO Precautionary Approach Policy (DFO 2009) is achieved via an iterative, structured decision-making process. First, operating models that represent alternative hypotheses about stock dynamics are used to (i) characterize stock status relative to reference points, and (ii) simulate stock dynamics used to test the performance of candidate MPs. This process results in the selection of an MP that promotes acceptable performance outcomes against conservation and yield objectives. Second, the selected MP is applied annually to the fishery for a period of 3-5 years until operating models are again updated. A review of the steps required for annual Sablefish MP application will help to demonstrate that measures are in place that promote legal compliance and policy intent, as well as to document annual harvest advice. The most recent characterization of stock status available from a recent peer review of the operating model conducted in 2022Footnote 1 will also be reported.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (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. New data includes estimated fishery landings for 2022 as well as the 2022 Stratified Random Trap survey index of abundance (Cox et al. 2019; DFO 2020). The harvest advice arising from this Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) Science Response (SR) process will be used to inform the Sablefish TAC as well as the Groundfish Integrated Fisheries Management Plan.


This SR is intended to address the specific objectives outlined below.

  1. Update stock and fishery monitoring data used by the Sablefish MP.
  2. Apply the MP selected to inform Sablefish TACs beginning in 2023-24 with 2022 data, illustrating the steps taken to reach a recommended catch limit. This SR will follow a 2022 CSAS Regional Peer Review (RPR) of the Sablefish operating modelFootnote 1 that included testing of MP performance given updated estimates of stock productivity. Those results are considered when selecting an MP for application to the fishery.
  3. Summarize the Sablefish management system with respect to policy requirements of the DFO Fishery Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach (PA; DFO 2009) and the Fish Stock provisions within the revised Fisheries Act. This summary will include:
    1. The most recent estimates of stock status relative to reference points that are consistent with the DFO PA Policy (e.g., Limit Reference Point, Upper Stock Reference, Maximum Removal Reference Rate)
    2. Previously established conservation, target and yield objectives used to guide selection of an MP
    3. A description of previously documentedFootnote 1 relationships between environmental variables and recruitment

Expected Publications

Expected Participation



Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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