Marine fish, local ecological knowledge, and the species at risk act in Canada: lessons from the case study of three species of wolffish

Dawe, Jennifer L. (2010) Marine fish, local ecological knowledge, and the species at risk act in Canada: lessons from the case study of three species of wolffish. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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In the last decade there has been an increased focus on assessing the at risk status of species on a local, national, and global scale. In Canada legislation to assess and protect species at risk comes in the form of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Three species of wolffish, the Atlantic (Anarhichas lupus), Spotted (A. minor), and Northern (A. denticulatus), have the distinction of being the only fully marine Atlantic Canadian fish to be listed under the Act. This listing was based on limited scientific and behavioural data from a relatively short time series of offshore scientific trawl survey data. It is worth exploring the wolffish listing process and outcomes of the listing, different types of knowledge available on stock status, and their relationship, if any, to listing and to recovery strategies. This multi-method study uses an analysis of stock assessment data for the Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, on-board observation, semi-structured interviews with Northern Gulf fish harvesters, and a review of existing documents and key informant interviews to understand how wolffish came to be listed and evaluate the degree to which Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) can be used to strengthen species assessments and endangered species legislation. -- All data sources showed that wolffish have always been relatively rare in the Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Results from LEK interviews and onboard observations detailed harvester knowledge on wolffish life history, abundance, and biogeography. Harvesters reported their observations on the opportunistic nature of wolffish feeding and the seasonal distributional changes of wolffish over the course of their fishing seasons, which corresponded with wolffish reproduction seasons. Though wolffish meet the COSEWIC criteria for Threatened and Special Concern listings, harvesters reported a lack of declining trends in relative catch rates. This was consistent with ECNASAP data for NAFO division 4R. Onboard observations and interviews reported higher annual variability in catch rates than stock assessment averages. Wolffish sizes seen onboard and reported by harvesters indicated adults (>55cm) are predominately being caught in inshore fisheries. Sentinel mobile data shows an A. lupus juvenile:adult ratio of 9.8:1 (n=1940), indicating offshore maturing of juvenile wolffish and a later migration inshore, possibly for reproduction. -- Though the SARA legislation is a pivotal step forward in the protection of species at risk, results from key informant interviews showed that implementation in 2003 resulted in mixed views about the benefits and problems associated with the requirement for consultations and incorporation of stakeholder knowledge into the listing process. There are also concerns that the listing process has become more litigious and more challenging for science. There is some evidence that the wolffish listing process has increased harvester stewardship and engagement and benefitted from their input into safe release of wolffish. Finally, little attention has been paid by any of the stakeholder groups consulted to the potential future delisting of wolffish under SARA, which is arguably the most important goal of species conservation. Without delisting requirements or timelines set up in a species recovery plan it is impossible to establish concrete guidelines for recovery.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 9253
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 72-74).
Department(s): Divisions > Community-University Research for Recovery Alliance (CURRA)
Science, Faculty of > Environmental Science
Date: 2010
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Atlantic Ocean
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Endangered species--Law and legislation--Atlantic Ocean; Fish stock assessment--Atlantic Ocean; Rare fishes--Conservation--Atlantic Ocean; Wolffishes--Conservation--Atlantic Ocean

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