Photo: David Suzuki Foundation makes waves in ocean conservation

By Theresa Beer, senior communications specialist

Collaboration to reform fishing practices recognized with prestigious award

The Vancouver Aquarium has recognized the David Suzuki Foundation's work to reform the B.C. trawl industry and make conservation gains with its Murray A. Newman Award for Significant Achievement in Aquatic Conservation. Canada's Pacific Groundfish Trawl Habitat Agreement was lauded at the Aquarium's 21st annual Coastal Ocean Awards as a global precedent negotiated between fishers and environmental groups, led by the David Suzuki Foundation, to address the impacts of bottom trawling on sensitive seafloor habitats by reforming fishing practices. 

In 2007, when the Foundation published senior research scientist Scott Wallace's "Dragging our Assets: Toward an Ecosystem Approach to Bottom Trawling in Canada", the relationship between us and B.C.'s bottom trawl fleet was chilly, at best. By 2012 the former adversaries were putting differences behind them and working together for major conservation improvements to habitat. They also received support for the approach from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The trawl agreement has been recognized as the first in the world to set up a quota system to limit habitat damage, especially to highly impacted corals and sponges. In four years of fishing, there has been high compliance in following the ecosystem-based boundaries and coral and sponge catch has been greatly reduced.

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Experts at meetings in Europe, Asia and North America have hailed the agreement for its innovative approach. It has also been presented to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and recognized by the scientific journal Marine Policy as the first agreement of its kind.

The Coastal Ocean Awards celebrate B.C.'s leaders in marine science, conservation, art, technology, volunteerism, communication and philanthropy. Recognition from the Vancouver Aquarium emphasizes that protecting habitat is good for the ocean and for the future of our fisheries. The success story is far from over, with more improvements continuing in trawl-related habitat protection, thanks largely to the work of Foundation scientist Scott Wallace. Now, what was once one of Canada's most criticized fisheries is being transformed into one of its most highly regulated success stories.

February 23, 2016

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