Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Catching Up

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past month— I’ve been focused on writing a magazine feature on DFO reform. I submitted the first draft last night around 4:30 am. Woke up at noon and still feel slightly underwater.

The research and writing was a big learning curve. Trying to sum up the troubles with the agency and some possible solutions in 3500 words has been like trying to put a 200-lb halibut into a grocery bag.

I'll reveal where it's going to be published a little closer to the release date.

One of the burn-your-fingers issues I learned more about during the article research is that of “missing sockeye” on the Fraser. To read the cranky but informative 2005 report on this issue by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, click here. (Note that it doesn't scroll; you have to page through it by clicking the arrow in the bottom corner of your screen.)

Hopefully the feature will raise some questions about this issue and the DFO's handling of it. It also discusses a couple of radical ways to work around or transform the agency's handling of fisheries and habitat.

Drawing from the work of Ray Hilborn, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a fisheries professor at the University of Washington, the article also considers a better model for fisheries management, drawn from northern latitudes.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some chunks from my research. This one is from a visit with two Vancouver fishermen, Dane Chauvel and Steve Johansen, partners in the Organic Ocean cooperative that sells sustainably sourced seafood from Fisherman’s Wharf on Granville island. Click the "Read Full Post" link below to see an excerpt from a talk we had in the cabin of Chauvel’s troller.

The picture above is from Robert Lackey's site at the US Environmental Protection Agency. Lackey took a "salmon-centric" view of the growth of the Seattle-Vancouver ("SeaVan") metropolis over the coming decades at the World Summit on Salmon in 2003.

Here Dane talks a bit about sustainable fishing. In the next post (give me a couple of days) I’ll give an excerpt where Dane and Steve talk about how fishermen are catching less fish for more money, and why quota systems— which have been controversial in the conservation community, but may be our best hope for saving ocean species—are a good thing for fish and for fishermen.

When you say sustainable, how is that measurable, or tracked, or what’s the definition of that for you in your fishery?

What we do, we’re very specific in terms of the fish or the seafood that we target. We focus on fish that are not endangered, and harvesting practices that are environmentally responsible. Most of our finfish is either caught via hook and line or in a very targeted terminal gillnet fishery so that we’re not harvesting non-directed, unintended bycatch. In the instance of products like BC spot prawns, they’re caught by trap, not by trawl so there s no environmental damage or degradation by that fishery. And again it tends to be very species specific and targeted.

What do you fish for?

I have licenses for salmon, ling cod, halibut, and we have communal licenses for spot prawns.

And all of those ling cod, salmon and halibut are line caught.


The trawl fishery has a fairly bad reputation for its environmental damage. Is that deserved? It sounds like it just scrapes the sh*t out of ocean floor, is that true?

I think that’s generally the case. I think there’s midwater trawl that’s not as invasive, but the issues with midwater trawl are harvesting non-targeted species. By dragging your net along you’re just going to catch whatever’s there. And by dragging along the bottom, that just wreaks havoc on the seabed.

That’s interesting. Now that you mention it it makes sense that troll versus trawl would be the most sustainable. I hadn’t really thought of the gear aspect of it.

What you can do with hook and line fisheries, you can be very species-specific in terms of what you target—

In terms of where you’re fishing, when you’re fishing and what you’re using for bait.


If you find that you’re harvesting non-directed or unintended bycatch, you move to another area. Whereas with some of the other competitive fisheries, by the time you find out you’ve done the damage its too late.

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