British Columbia’s seven separately licensed commercial groundfish fisheries were integrated in 2006 when the trawl, longline, and trap sectors were brought under a single management plan characterized by Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs), 100% dockside monitoring, and 100% at-sea monitoring. Integration resulted in a fishery with more than 50 fish stocks under quota and some of the highest monitoring standards in the world. Fully-observed ITQ systems can have spatial redistribution consequences for multispecies fisheries by providing incentives for vessels to avoid habitats of low-quota species and exercise high selectivity for different species. Habitat avoidance can consequently result in the creation of spatial refugia for some species. Fisheries and Oceans Canada now has a unique database containing high-resolution verified, set-by-set locations of all commercial fishing effort since 1996 for trawl, and since 2006 for all other groundfish gears. We present analyses on spatial effort shifts in BC’s integrated groundfish fishery in the longline sector since integration in 2006.
The spatial footprint of the longline fishery has been reduced from 193.08 km2 to 113.82 km2 since integration. Using a hieararchical clustering approach of fishing lines, we reconstructed intra- and inter- annual vessel-specific fishing opportunities. We then used multivariate modeling to investigate the relationship between temporal and spatial shifts in fishing opportunities, per-species catch, underlying groundfish distributions (from survey data), bathymetry and habitat type (from random forest and backscatter analyses), and per-species quota allocation. Preliminary results suggest that integration of the groundfish fishery with ITQs and 100% monitoring has resulted in a spatial re-distribution of the fishing effort in the Pacific fleet, with areas being selectively avoided that have Yelloweye Rockfish species, a species of conservation concern and low quota. This study provides evidence of non-spatially explicit management plans leading to positive spatial outcomes, through a reduction in the footprint of the fishery and the potential for spatial refugia for groundfish species of conservation concern.