» Observer Training and Monitoring Services Ecotrust Canada

Observer Training and Monitoring Services

Fishing has always been a cornerstone of healthy living in coastal British Columbia – and indeed small coastal communities worldwide – central not only to the economic health of these places and their inhabitants, but also to local community culture and wellbeing. With fish stocks declining, prices dropping and regulatory requirements increasing, communities must figure out new ways of doing business if fishing is to remain a viable part of community life.

Recognizing that monitoring is one of the keys to achieving sustainability in fisheries, one of the primary objectives identified by Ecotrust Canada’s industry, community, and First Nations partners is to build the local infrastructure and  expertise for a coastal community and First Nations led monitoring, compliance, and traceability (MCT) program. This forms one part of the suite of services we provide for community fisheries.

Our work

We continue to work with fishing community members to develop observer training and monitoring programs that aim to:

  • train them to become monitors and co-managers of their local resources;
  • create local labour opportunities – and provide the necessary skills needed for locals to make the most of these opportunities; and
  • not only meet regulatory compliance requirements, but add value for both regulators and industry over and above requirements. We aim to meet these needs by working corroboratively (key to our approach) for the provision of good service and better, more usable data.

For our observer training programs, we work with communities to identify their members who are best suited to fisheries and data collection with relevant experience to train as Observers and/or Sampling Technicians for Catch Monitoring and Biosampling programs. Our approach to observer programming, training, and hiring provides employment opportunities for First Nations and local residents, and long-term capacity building for co-management.

We also work to support the establishment of relationships between Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and First Nations communities around MCT programs. With this strategy we hope to provide ongoing employment for local residents, as well as help to build capacity for First Nations to engage with DFO in future MCT programs and enable more consistent, affordable, and higher quality data for fisheries management.

Our work in practice

In 2010, we successfully implemented the first iteration of our Salmon Catch Monitoring and Biosampling Program. Building on the success of this, in 2011 we worked to ensure the efficient implementation of the Salmon Catch Monitoring and Biosampling Program in North Coast Areas 3 & 4. We also worked with Metlakatla Fisheries on their 2011 FSC Salmon Harvest Monitoring program in Areas 4-9, 4-12 4-15. During the course of the season, 14 community members successfully completed the Pacific Fisheries Observer Training Program and went on to receive observer/monitoring work during the 2011 season.With the arrival of the 2012 season, we worked with DFO to provide At-Sea Catch Monitoring & Biosampling for the seine and gillnet commercial fleets. Again employing members of local First Nations, samplers boarded vessels at sea to conduct important salmon research and data  collection.

Thus far in 2013, we have provided the Alert Bay community with a Dungeness crab biological sampling training course, designed to supplement the 10-day fisheries observer training course run with the ‘Namgis Nation last spring. Working in collaboration with DFO, seven observers were trained to collect biological data as part of the monitoring requirements for the Area G Dungeness crab fishery. We have now hired three members of the ‘Namgis Nation to work as designated monitors and have contracted the nation for the sampling vessel.

Ongoing solutions

We continue to work on building capacity for local communities to provide the monitoring required by local fisheries. This not only helps open up  communication between harvesters, managers and scientists by putting a local face to the work, it also means that more of the money spent by harvesters on monitoring stays in their home communities.