Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

B.C. bottom trawlers get sustainability stamp from SeaChoice

January 22, 2015

Through SeaChoice, Living Oceans and other top North American seafood organizations have given a stamp of approval to several species of fish caught by British Columbia’s bottom trawl fleet. When you're shopping for seafood, B.C.-caught halibut, lingcod, sole, flounder, and Pacific cod are now good options as they receive either a green ‘best choice’ or yellow ‘some concerns’ ranking. This year’s quota for B.C.’s groundfish fisheries is 168,000 tonnes (a tonne of fish is approximately a standard pickup truck full).

Six years ago, we recommended avoiding most of the fish caught by the province’s largest fishery. The turnaround was in part initiated by our first-of-its kind agreement with the bottom trawlers. Adopted in 2012, the management measures limited incidental bycatch and froze the fleet’s footprint. Living Oceans and the David Suzuki Foundation worked closely with the trawl industry to develop the plan to protect fragile ocean habitats.

Verification is key to success

The fleet has been recognized as a global leader in monitoring fish caught at sea. Being able to verify exactly what is caught by all vessels, for all species, for all trips is the cornerstone of the management system. Longline and trawl vessels now have full monitoring, whether through an on-board observer or video coverage.

The assessment report released early in January also highlights several ongoing conservation concerns and a number of red ‘avoid’ recommendations still exist within this fishery. Outdated stock assessments and slow recovery of historically overfished species were identified as primary concerns. Fortunately, the current management system offers solutions to these remaining issues. We anticipate that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will provide updated stock assessments in the next year, which will bring additional species onto the ‘green’ or ‘yellow’ lists of sustainable seafood options.