Managing the Impacts of Human Activities on Fish Habitat: The Governance, Practices, and Science

Canada’s Approach to Managing the Impacts of Fishing on the Ecosystem

Derek Osborne, Lisa Setterington, Marc Clemens, Brett Gilchrist, Kaija Metuzals, and Lisa Randall


Abstract.—The Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF) provides the basis for ensuring Canadian fisheries are conducted in a manner which support conservation and sustainable use. It incorporates existing fisheries management policies with new and evolving policies. The framework also includes tools to monitor and assess those initiatives geared towards ensuring an environmentally sustainable fishery, and identifies areas that may need improvement. Overall, the SFF provides the foundation of an ecosystem-based and precautionary approach to fisheries management in Canada. The SFF currently includes three core policies and associated tools. The Fishery Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach (PA Framework) outlines how the precautionary approach will be implemented in the context of Canadian fisheries. The PA Framework guides management actions through the identification of three stock status zones (Critical, Cautious, and Healthy) and a Removal Reference defining maximum removal rate in each zone. The Policy for Managing Impacts of Fishing on Sensitive Benthic Areas provides guidance to DFO to mitigate the impacts of fishing on sensitive benthic areas or avoid impacts of fishing that are likely to cause serious or irreversible harm to these areas. The Policy on New Fisheries for Forage Species is designed to account for the important role of forage species in the food web in fisheries management processes and is an important component of an ecosystem-based approach using precaution. The Fishery Checklist is a DFO self-assessment tool that examines practices, policies and programs in support of resource sustainability while monitoring progress in meeting conservation goals, implementing policies and programs in support of sustainability. The renewed Integrated Fisheries Management Plan template incorporates various tools, concepts and processes which lends itself to the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management and considers the target species for the fishery in question, as well as non-target species and habitat considerations.