Starting in the late 1990s, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) introduced a new, more selective approach to fisheries management changing how, when and where salmon are harvested. Fishing is strictly limited by time and area to meet conservation goals and to strive for abundant stock levels coast-wide.
Today, DFO is advancing towards co-management or shared stewardship in managing the wild BC salmon fishery together with several key parties: commercial and recreational fishery participants; First Nations; environmental groups; and, other key industry interests. With such a complex and dynamic resource, they recognize the importance and benefits of having all parties contribute their specialized knowledge and experience, participate in the decision making, and share in the accountability to achieve conservation and management goals. The ultimate goal for all is a sustainable resource.
The DFO consults these noted groups to develop and implement the annual Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP), the official plan to manage the Pacific salmon fishery in British Columbia. Using science together with extensive historical experience and knowledge about the resource and ecosystem, the group produces the IFMP that specifically outlines who, when, where and how all fishermen can harvest wild BC salmon each year. For example, as related to the commercial salmon fishery, the plan outlines the forecasted number of each species that will be potentially available for harvest in each tightly defined fishing area, and then notes the specific allocation of this potential harvest to each gear type in that year. These allocations are not fixed entitlements, rather a projection of available fishing opportunities given the most current forecasts of stock abundance and best efforts to achieve coast-wide target allocations by gear type. Often, necessary adjustments are made during the fishing season to address conservation concerns or other unforeseen circumstances.
The IFMP also defines all other objectives and strategies to address the specific resource management issues outlined for that given year.
Scientific stock assessments are particularly important in providing information necessary for developing conservation and management plans such as the IFMP. These assessments support sustainable fisheries by providing fisheries managers with the information necessary to make sound decisions. Specifically, the assessments examine the effects of fishing and other factors to describe the past and current status of a fish stock, answer questions about the size of a fish stock, and make predictions about how a fish stock will respond to current and future management measures.