In 2013, the Fisheries, Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board (FSSSB), in conjunction with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), moved forward with an Atlantic Halibut Sustainability Plan (AHSP) for the Division 4R Atlantic halibut fishery. While the previous plan also included tagging and monitoring, the new plan integrated the traceability project as a catch monitoring tool to improve sustainable fisheries management and to help harvesters best harvest and market what had previously been a very limited, 24-hour derby fishery. The previous fishery resulted in market gluts, safety concerns, and quota overruns. The new AHSP utilizes monitoring tags to better ensure the resource is harvested sustainably. Harvesters can choose between FSSSB monitoring tags or using traceability tags to tag their catch.
The AHSP consists of three key elements including a system of individual catch limit (i.e. cap) and fishery openings to provide license holders with the flexibility to decide when they want to fish; a tagging program and catch reporting system to improve dockside monitoring; and a public traceability system which will contribute to increased market demand and economic returns in the future.
The AHSP also allows harvesters to choose one of six fishing periods, giving more autonomy on when a harvester prefers to fish, as well as spreading out the catch as it hits the market. This has resulted in a greater return in value to harvesters and a halibut fishery that is sustainable, as well as providing a high quality product to market over an extended period of time.
As a result of the amount of publically traceable halibut and lobster available for market stemming from the traceability project, NL buyers are able to market this value-added seafood at a premium price and in turn pass on an increased price to the harvesters. Prices have increased from $3.50 prior to the project to $7.00 last year. The project is important to increasing the value of Atlantic halibut in the Gulf region and ensuring sustainable fisheries.
FSSSB TAGGING REQUIREMENTS
Tagging requirements are intended to enhance the catch monitoring regime that has been implemented in the Division 4R halibut fishery and to provide a mechanism by which DFO can implement a more effective strategy.
Harvesters who elect to fish for halibut (including harvesters who catch halibut as a by-catch in the turbot fishery) are required by FSSSB to:
- Tag each halibut as soon as it is taken off the hook, or in the case of by-catch, out of the gillnet. Possession of untagged Atlantic halibut is prohibited by DFO.
- Attach the tag in a consistent and uniform manner to each fish (i.e. on the inner portion of the left fin of the animal).
- Ensure that the tag remains attached to the fish until it is sold and in the possession of an authorised buyer.
In the case of halibut taken as a by-catch in the turbot fishery or halibut taken in the directed fishery that is subject to onsite dockside monitoring, the tagged halibut cannot be removed from the vessel prior to the arrival of the dockside monitor.
Tagged fish captured in the directed fishery that is not subjected to onsite dockside monitoring may be removed from the vessel in order to weigh the fish, but may not be moved from the landing site prior to receiving an authorization number from the Fish Harvesters’ Resource Centres (FRC).
The Atlantic halibut fish tags will be distributed by the FRC on behalf of the FSSSB.
- Tags will be forwarded to eligible participants subsequent to the approval of the AHSP Application and prior to the start of the selected fishing period.
- In the case of AHSP applicants who intend to fish for turbot, the tags will be forwarded prior to the opening of the turbot fishery in late May.
- AHSP applicants participating in the Traceability Program will receive a different fish tag. Participation in the Traceability Program is not mandatory, however the FRC monitoring tag is mandatory.
- AHSP participants will have to use only one tag per fish (i.e. FRC monitoring tag or the Traceability tag).
- Each harvester will receive a numbered allotment of fish tags and the number of tags in a given set will vary depending on the Catch Limit Option selected.
TRACEABILITY PROJECT CONSULTATIONS
Extensive consultations were done prior to the start of the 2014 halibut and lobster fishing seasons, including several community meetings in the Gulf region and in LFA 11 to explain the traceability project. One-on-one consultations were also held to assist harvesters with the development of profile pages.
Meetings with interested buyers were held to provide education on the traceability system and to provide training on the development of profile pages for buyers.