Overview on the Policy on Managing Bycatch and its Implementation Guidelines
The aim of the Policy on Managing Bycatch is to further improve the management of bycatch in Canadian fisheries, where necessary, by building on the success of existing management practices. The Guidance on Implementation of the Policy on Managing Bycatch provides support to resource managers and aquaculture management coordinators for implementing the Policy, through their respective management planning processes. The Bycatch Policy is consistent with the Food and Agriculture (FAO) International Guidelines for Bycatch Management and Reduction of Discards adopted in early 2011.
Scope of the Policy on Managing Bycatch
This is a national policy that applies to all commercial, recreational, and Aboriginal fisheries managed under the Fisheries Act, including aquaculture activities, regulated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
As a general rule, the Policy applies to that portion of the retained catch for which the harvester was not licensed, but that he/she may or must retain. It also applies to all non-retained catch, including birds, marine mammals and sea turtles that become entangled in fishing gear.
The Policy does not apply to:
- any catch that harvesters are licensed to fish and that is retained, as the management of the retained, targeted catch is guided by the Precautionary Approach Policy Framework. This includes any catch that licence holders are authorized to fish in catch-and-release fisheries
- bycatch of corals, sponges, and other sessile benthic organisms (i.e. non-mobile organisms living on the sea bottom), as conservation and management of these features are covered under the Sensitive Benthic Areas Policy.
Objectives of the new Policy on Managing Bycatch
The objectives of the Policy are:
- to ensure that Canadian fisheries are managed in a manner that supports the sustainable harvesting of aquatic species and that minimizes the risk of fisheries causing serious or irreversible harm to bycatch species; and
- to account for total catch, including retained and non-retained bycatch.
Implementing the Policy
The Bycatch Policy is accompanied by a document that provides Guidance on Implementation of the Policy on Managing Bycatch. More specifically, the document includes guidance on the following: the categories of catch that are subject to the policy; strategies for achieving the policy objectives; steps for incorporating bycatch considerations into management plans; and a toolbox of measures for managing bycatch.
Depending on the circumstances, the actions necessary to achieve the overall objectives may include:
- ensuring adequate reporting and monitoring systems are in place to account for bycatch mortality;
- evaluating the impacts of fishing on bycatch species, whether retained or not;
- minimizing the capture of bycatch species that will not be retained; where the capture is unavoidable, maximizing the potential for live release of species that will not be retained; and
- developing and implementing appropriate measures to manage bycatch and regularly evaluate their effectiveness.
As with the other Sustainable Fisheries Framework policies, the implementation of the new Policy on Managing Bycatch will be phased in over time, according to priorities determined at the national, regional and fishery level. The Policy will be implemented through the existing Integrated Management Planning processes.
Experience has shown that the most durable and effective solutions to bycatch problems are developed with harvesters. Implementation of the new Policy will thus involve working with harvesters to tailor solutions to the specific problem, with the aim of managing the fishery so that the total catch, including retained and non-retained bycatch, is within conservation limits.
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