Fisheries Management for the Future

A close-up of a Dungeness crab during a survey in Wuikinuxv Territory.

In 2019, Central Coast First Nations signed an historic agreement with other coastal First Nations and Canada’s Federal Government to help revitalize sustainable fisheries throughout the North Pacific Coast.

The landmark Fisheries Resources Reconciliation Agreement (FRRA) is a major step forward in co-governance and the future health of coastal fisheries, which is fundamental to our cultural and economic well-being. After decades of unsustainable management, this framework will enable Central Coast Nations to take back control of these integral fisheries resources and contribute to managing them sustainably for all future generations.

The primary goal of the FRRA is to provide a framework for collaborative decision making in fisheries management; it will guide everything from the science and research that informs early planning, to active resource management efforts through compliance monitoring and enforcement. Nation-based resource stewardship staff and managers will carry out these concrete actions, but how that happens will depend on a host of factors, such as each Nation’s priorities and the health of the marine ecosystems and species.

The FRRA also aims to revitalize economic opportunities in coastal communities by supporting a significant increase in commercial fishing access for First Nations, including the development of a commercial Fishing Corporation owned and managed by the Nations with devoted funds that new fishers can use to purchase or improve vessels and gear.

A ground-breaking example of collaborative governance, this effort is challenging and complex. Though there is still much to accomplish, clear examples of collaborative governance in the spirit of the FRRA are visible in the Central Coast Nations’ efforts to manage and enforce closures in important locations for harvesting Dungeness crab, a culturally significant species for Central Coast Nations.

After observing and documenting declines in catches of Dungeness crab within Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv territories, Nation leaders engaged with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to create new collaborative management measures, which included closing key fishing locations in 2021 to improve access for FSC crab fishers into the future.

Central Coast Nations will continue to work with DFO to manage and monitor crab abundance and ensure compliance of the existing crab closures, while considering if the Nations’ crab needs are being met over time – now under the context and structures of the FRRA. Crab, salmon, herring, geoduck, and halibut are all species which will be included within this Agreement.

As a pilot species for collaborative governance, including from the earliest stages of data collection and research to understand catch numbers and population dynamics, the effort to manage Dungeness crab serves as an excellent example of evidence-based decision making and provides a glimpse into the future of more sustainable and collaborative fisheries management.

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