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Ecotrust Canada's at-sea observer Kathryn Bond.

Revitalizing a coastal economy through local fisheries management

Ecotrust Canada's at-sea observer Kathryn Bond.

There are many tangible and intangible benefits to having a vibrant community-led commercial fishing sector. Community fisheries are vital for local food security, our cultural connection to the sea, and supporting rural and remote economies. To unlock these benefits, Ecotrust Canada works with active fish harvesters in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to create new, enabling government policies, and improve fisheries monitoring, observing, and data collection. Below the surface, Ecotrust Canada is diving into the very foundations of what allows active fish harvesters, their families, and coastal communities to thrive holistically for generations to come.

“For the first time in many years, there is hope for rebuilding a sustainable and economically vibrant fishery in B.C.” — Rick Williams, policy director of The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters, a board member of Ecotrust Canada

Why Ecotrust Canada?

Ecotrust Canada has 25 years of experience working in coastal communities on fisheries issues. Some of Ecotrust Canada’s most important innovations include prototyping affordable electronic monitoring solutions, designing and implementing a model to support small boat fishing fleets and fisheries diversification, and creating an online platform to bring transparency to illegal, underreported and unregulated fishing. Ecotrust Canada has also launched two independent social enterprises that focus on monitoring and fisheries traceability. In 2013, Ecotrust Canada became the first charitable organization to obtain Corporation Certification to deliver at-sea and dockside fisheries monitoring programs. In addition, we have a long and respected track record for bringing together fish harvesters and fishing interests to build a consensus for change.

The strategy

Ecotrust Canada has three core approaches for building a sustainable, fair and vibrant commercial fishery in BC.

  1. Fisheries Policy Change: Through research and analysis with harvester organizations and allies, Ecotrust Canada is creating a federal and provincial road map for fisheries policy change using an inclusive and transparent consultation process. Specifically, Ecotrust Canada will work with community partners to develop and implement owner-operator and fleet separation policies tailored to the unique needs of BC fisheries.
  2. Monitoring and Management: Ecotrust Canada works with fishing communities to strengthen capacities for monitoring and management of local fisheries. These programs include training courses for human observers as well as data collection to ensure all federal fisheries data standards are met while fish harvesters have the data they need to make informed decisions on the water. With our First Nations partners, Ecotrust Canada has established a framework for locally-led monitoring programs along the North and South Coast of BC and designing training programs for Great Slave Lake observers in the Northwest Territories.
  3. Illegal, Underreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing: Ecotrust Canada is creating transparency around Illegal, Underreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing through Spyglass, an online database of criminal fishing activities across the globe. Spyglass is a cooperative platform that publishes information on fishing vessels linked to illegal fishing activities that affect ecosystems, people, and coastal communities.

The outcome

  • A reimagined commercial fisheries system in BC that will contribute to the resilience and well-being of coastal communities, First Nations, and the people who rely on the resource for their livelihoods.
  • Active fish harvesters will have the capacity and know-how to monitor and collect data for their own fishery, giving them the tools to be stewards of the sea where they make informed decisions that allows fisheries to rebuild and thrive for generations to come.
  • Young people can afford to enter the fishing industry and make a living, while bringing the benefits of their career back to their families and into the coastal communities where they live.

The team

Racheal Weymer, Director
Renee Samels, Manager
Dianne Villesèche, Quality Management System Program Manager
Jen Paton, South Coast Program Manager, Fisheries Monitoring
Kirstyn Bruce, Northern Project Coordinator, Fisheries Monitor
Kathryn Bond, Project Manager for Area A and North Coast Salmon
Dale Robinson, Data Analyst, Fisheries Monitoring Program
Dyhia Belhabib, Principal Investigator
Shelby Huebner, Project Coordinator and Deployment Supervisor, Five Nations Fishery Monitoring Program
Tasha Sutcliffe, Senior Advisor, Fisheries Policy Program
Lyndsey Bodgener, North Coast Project Coordinator, Community Fisheries

Key learnings

  1. Gaining the support of decision-makers requires that constituents — active independent fish harvesters — have opportunities to engage directly with their political representatives.
  2. Equally important is communicating the story of fish harvesters to all Canadians through effective communications strategy.
  3. World class research and analysis is required to create factual, robust guidance to inform decision-making. So equipped, advocates can play an important part in helping to build good policy.
  4. Day to day management of fisheries monitoring operations is complex and resource intensive — staffing and budget must accommodate these needs.