Banner Photo: Spot prawn (Pandalus platyceros). (Credit:Maxwell Hohn)
Stocks have been declining since 2015, resulting in fishery closures. Industry is trying to decrease bycatch mortality.
Celebrated as sustainable seafood, Howe Sound’s spot prawns and shrimp fisheries continue to be one of the most economically valuable fisheries in the region. Steps are being taken to further reduce the industry’s impact on the ecosystem by reducing bycatch and limiting fishing in sensitive areas, such as glass sponge reefs.
Shrimp and Prawn Fisheries: managing declining stocks
Author: Amber Dearden, Research Assistant, Ocean Watch, Ocean Wise Research Institute
Reviewer: Dennis Rutherford, Science Advisor, Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association
Excerpt from 2020 article
Although annual stock sizes can vary, regional declines in pink and sidestripe shrimp stocks have been observed since 2014. Declining stock size has led to the closure of the Fraser River Shrimp Management Area (SMA), which includes Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/ Howe Sound waters. Prawn stock status (based on using commercial catch as a proxy of abundance) in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound has been more variable, with a record low catch in 2017, followed by a slight increase in 2018.
Read the full article to see what else is happening.
Background: Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association survey photos, October 2019. (Credit: Maxwell Hohn)
What’s been done since 2017?
The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.
|2017 Action||Action Taken|
|Individual and Organization Actions|
|Use “rot cords” (a biodegradable escape mechanism) on your traps to allow bycatch to escape in the event traps are lost.||An amendment to the B.C. Sport Fishing Regulations will likely soon require a biodegradable escape mechanism, or “rot cord,” on all recreational prawn and crab traps, allowing bycatch to escape.|
|Make sure your buoys are clearly identified with your name.||This is now mandatory, along with a phone number or unique Fisher Identification Number (FIN). DFO is working towards adopting standardized buoys. Talks continue in 2019, in consultation with the Sports Fishing Advisory Board. When adopted, this will eliminate the use of Styrofoam and other plastic containers that break down and contribute to ocean plastic pollution.|
|Release prawns and shrimp that are carrying eggs under their tails (known as berried prawn and shrimp) as soon as possible at the fishing location.||As of April 2018, prawns with eggs are no longer allowed to be kept. This is in addition to seasonal closures in some areas during critical spawning and larval hatching times (January 1 to March 31).|
|Government Action and Policy|
|Expand sponge reef closures to include all sponge reefs and bioherms identified in Átl’ḵa7tsem/ Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound, in accordance with the Sensitive Benthic Areas Policy.||The previous report detailed nine glass sponge reef areas where bottom contact fishing was prohibited (as of 2015) (see Prawn and Shrimp Fisheries, OWHS 2017). In March 2019, DFO formed eight marine refuge areas to encompass the nine additional glass sponge reefs placed under voluntary protection in 2017. DFO Fishery closures were implemented, which included all fishing activities likely to damage the reefs, including fishing activities for shrimp and prawn. Nine additional glass sponge reef areas in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound still require verification in order to determine their ecological importance.|
|Allocate more resources to enforcement of fishing regulations, including protected area closures.||The Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association (PPFA) provides funding annually to DFO for enhanced enforcement; in 2018, $29,000 was provided. At-sea observers in the prawn trap fishery conducted gear inspections and licence compliance checks (i.e., trap tagging, trap mesh size, buoy identification and logbook completion) on 80% of active vessels during the 2018 season along the B.C. coast.2 Currently, DFO lists the investigation of illegal prawn sales as a top enforcement priority. The PPFA received funding support to purchase and supply every commercial prawn vessel with a rockfish descender for the 2020 season.|
What can you do?
A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below. Additional actions marked as NEW also follow.
Individual and Organization Actions:
- Make sure your licence is up to date and comply with catch limits when you are sport fishing.
- Keep your traps away from sensitive areas including sponge reefs, bioherms, and RCAs.
- Release live catch (i.e. bycatch) in waters where caught.
- Report any gear theft and the theft of catch from traps to the police.
- Report accurate fishing activity and catch to DFO when requested to do so.
- NEW Carry a rockfish descender when fishing within Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound, and if accidental bycatch of rockfish occurs, make sure to release it back to the depth caught within two minutes.
- NEW Choose to buy Ocean Wise recommended shrimp and prawn.
Government Action and Policy:
- NEW Verify the remaining glass sponge reefs and set up marine refugia and associated fisheries closures.
- NEW Establish citizen enforcement officers throughout the Sound, who are granted limited enforcement powers, such as checking catch size, species, and fishing method, and handing out fines for fisheries infringements.