Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 157, Number 11: Regulations Amending the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations, 1996
March 18, 2023
Department of Fisheries and Oceans
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Amendments are being proposed to various provisions within the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations, 1996 (BCSFR) to address several conservation, public safety, and enforcement concerns.
Sustainability of Dungeness Crab, Red Rock Crab and King Crab in recreational fishery
Although the conditions of licence for licences issued under the Pacific Fishery Regulations, 1993 prohibit the possession of female crabs in the commercial fishery, there is no comparable requirement in the BCSFR for recreational crab fisheries. To address the problem, since 2007, the mandatory release of female Dungeness and female Red Rock Crabs has been a condition placed on all Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licences. Mandatory release of female King Crab was added as a condition in 2019. However, enforcement of recreational licence conditions is time-consuming and inefficient, as any violation must be addressed in court by both the accused and the issuing officer. As this prohibition on the possession of female crabs is now considered to be a permanent management action, it is more appropriate to have it enshrined in regulations as an offence that could be made ticketable at a later time, and would then not require a court appearance unless the ticket is contested.
Barbless hook requirement
In 2004, the Province of British Columbia implemented a barbless hook requirement for all species fished in the non-tidal waters of the Fraser River. This measure was intended to protect a sensitive population of White Sturgeon by reducing the post-release mortality of fish caused by the use of barbed hooks. White Sturgeon in non-tidal waters are managed by the Province while White Sturgeon in tidal waters are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Since the Sturgeon move freely between the non-tidal and tidal environments, the Province asked DFO to implement the same barbless hook requirement in the tidal portion of the Fraser River. In response, DFO imposed a barbless hook requirement in the tidal portion of the Fraser River as a condition of all Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licences in 2005. As this is now considered a permanent management action, it is more appropriate to have it enshrined in the regulations. Furthermore, enforcement of recreational licence conditions is time-consuming and inefficient, because any violation must be addressed by a court appearance.
Use of rot cord
Lost or abandoned traps have the potential to “ghost fish” or continue catching fish for years. Rot cord is a biodegradable material woven into a trap that will rot if the trap is left immersed for an extended period of time. The intent is to prevent the trap from continuing to catch fish if it is lost or abandoned. Commercial crab traps, commercial shrimp traps, and recreational crab traps must contain biodegradable rot cord. However, the presence of rot cord is not currently required in recreational shrimp and octopus traps that have netting. Given the popularity of recreational trap fishing and the likelihood of traps being lost, requiring rot cord in all traps that have netting is a simple and effective way to minimize the incidence and impact of ghost fishing.
Sinking buoy lines
The BCSFR do not contain provisions requiring the line running from a recreational trap to the buoy to be submerged under water, despite the public safety concerns associated with floating buoy lines. Floating buoy lines in recreational trap fisheries have been identified as posing a hazard to boaters or other water users due to the possibility of entanglement. A swimmer entangled in a line could panic and be unable to free themselves. A line caught in a vessel’s propeller can result in a sudden stop with personal injury or a breakdown on the water and repair costs for vessel damage. Historically, DFO has relied on voluntary compliance from recreational trap fishers, but officers and the public have noted numerous examples of harvesters not following the recommendation to sink their lines. DFO Fishery Officers have no recourse when voluntary compliance measures are not followed.
The BCSFR currently only require that markers or buoys used in recreational trap fishing carry the name of the operator of the trap. In cases where trap gear has been removed from the water, or lost and recovered, having only the name of the operator on the tag or float has proven, in many cases, to be insufficient for contacting the trap’s operator. Amendments are being proposed to require additional information on recreational traps to facilitate contact with the gear operator.
The BCSFR set out the requirements for sport or recreational fishing in the Canadian fisheries waters of the Pacific Ocean and of the Province. The BCSFR regulate the conservation and protection of fish and the proper management and control of the recreational fishery. The regulations include measures such as restrictions on the retention of certain species, gear requirements to minimize harm or prevent indiscriminate fishing, gear marking and safety requirements.
In Canada, the management of fisheries in tidal waters (salt water) is the responsibility of the federal government. In non-tidal waters (freshwater), there is a shared responsibility between the federal government and provincial governments. The Fishery (General) Regulations provide that the Province may make variation orders to vary a close time, fishing quota or limit on the size fixed for an area of non-tidal waters for any species of fish (other than salmon) under the BCSFR. By way of this provision, the Province can effectively manage fisheries, except for salmon, in the non-tidal waters of the province. This split responsibility requires that orders for management actions intended to apply in tidal and non-tidal waters be “mirrored,” or duplicated by the other party.
Because of the structure of the BCSFR, DFO was unable to implement the requirement to use only barbless hooks in the tidal portion of the Fraser River as a regulatory action. The requirement was instead put into place as a condition on the sports fishing licence. Similarly, the release of female crabs could not be implemented under the current BCSFR and was also imposed as a condition. This amendment will make the requirements currently on the licence part of the regulations and, at a later time, DFO will work with the Department of Justice to seek amendments to the Contraventions Regulations (CR) in order to add a fine consistent with other sport fishing tickets.
While there is no data from which one can draw a comparison, there is consensus among all key players (federal institutions, enforcement authorities, the courts and the public) that enforcement by way of ticketing results in savings to the entire justice system as it provides the offenders, law enforcement, and courts with a quick and convenient process for handling offences. Ticketing, to a large extent, is intended to reduce pressure on the courts, resulting in savings for the Government in terms of prosecution costs, and enabling the courts to focus on matters that require judicial consideration. Ticketing also frees up a great amount of enforcement officers’ time. Officers spending less time in the office preparing for court can focus on monitoring, control and surveillance efforts. Furthermore, offenders will be subject to a process that is more appropriate and proportionate to the nature of the offence. The offender can pay the fine and avoid the burden of having to appear in court or, should they choose to plead not guilty, the ticket can be contested in court.
The proposed amendments would address conservation issues by enshrining long-standing conservation practices in regulations while improving conservation measures to support sustainable fisheries and protect sensitive species. The proposed amendments would also strengthen enforcement efficacy, and increase public and boating safety.
More specifically, the proposed amendments would
- support viable breeding populations of Dungeness, Red Rock and King Crab;
- reduce post-release mortality of Sturgeon in the tidal portion of the Fraser River;
- reduce ghost fishing by lost recreational shrimp and octopus traps;
- reduce the possibility of personal injury, and/or vessel damage; and
- make it easier to trace the operator of trap gear that has been removed from the water, or lost and recovered.
The proposed regulatory amendments would
- Prohibit the possession of female Dungeness, female Red Rock and female King Crabs.
- The possession of female Dungeness, female Red Rock and female King Crabs would be prohibited. In the future, DFO will seek to add the violation as a ticketable offence to Schedule II.1 of the CR and assign a fine of $200.00, plus $50 per crab over the limit (i.e. the minimum fine would be $250.00). This proposed fine is consistent with other retention and quota fines currently in the CR.
- Prohibit the use of barbed hooks in the tidal portion of the Fraser River.
- The use of a barbless hook in the tidal waters of the Fraser River would be required, as defined in the regulations. In the future, DFO will seek to add the violation as a ticketable offence to Schedule II.1 of the CR and assign a fine of $500.00. This proposed fine is consistent with other fines currently in the CR related to gear violations that directly affect the resource.
- Require rot cords in all recreational traps.
- The use of biodegradable “rot cord” would be mandated in all recreational fishing traps that have netting. In the future, DFO will seek to add the violation as a ticketable offence to Schedule II.1 of the CR and assign a fine of $500.00. This proposed fine mirrors the fines for using recreational crab traps without rot cord currently in the CR, and is consistent with other fines in the CR related to gear violations that directly affect the resource.
- Require sinking or weighted buoy lines for recreational traps used for fishing.
- The proposed amendment would require that all buoy lines either sink or be weighted to remain below the surface of the water. In the future, DFO will seek to add the violation as a ticketable offence to Schedule II.1 of the CR and assign a fine of $250.00. This proposed fine is consistent with other fines in the CR related to gear violations that do not directly affect the resource.
- Require operators’ telephone numbers on recreational trap buoys.
- Failure to have an operator’s telephone number on a buoy or tag will be a ticketable offence in Schedule II.1 of the CR and accompanied by a fine of $250.00. This fine is consistent with other fines in the CR related to gear violations that do not directly affect the resource.
Key stakeholders that were consulted include the Province of British Columbia, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO), recreational and sport fishers represented by the Sport Fishing Advisory Board (SFAB), and commercial operators such as recreational fishing guides and lodge operators, represented by the Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia (SFI).
The majority of consultations on proposed changes have taken place at the SFAB Main Board biannual meetings. Consultation documents have also been provided to the local advisory committees and membership. The SFAB represents individual fishers and others with interests in the recreational fishery, such as the B.C. Wildlife Federation. Guides and lodges are represented in the SFAB process by the SFI, which participates in all SFAB meetings as well as in the SFAB regulatory working group.
Consultations on the proposed amendments took place at the following SFAB Main Board meetings:
- 2021: February 5–6; April 9–10
- 2020: February 14–15; April 17–18
- 2019: February 8–9; April 5–6
- 2018: February 3–4; April 14–15
- 2017: February 4–5; April 8–9
- 2016: February 6–7; April 16–17
- 2015: January 24–25; April 18–19
During the April 2021 meeting, DFO delivered a 45-minute presentation on the proposed amendments, as well as the fine amounts that will be proposed under the Contraventions Regulations. No objections were raised. The only comment received expressed approval at the fines increasing. Members of the SFAB were invited to contact either the recreational fishing coordinator or the presenter directly to submit any comments or ask any follow-up questions. No comments or questions were received.
Many of the proposed amendments are the direct result of stakeholder requests and feedback provided through the SFAB. For example, in February 2003 and again in January 2004, the SFAB requested that DFO amend the regulations to require the live release of female crabs. Commencing April 1, 2007, a condition was added to the Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence stating that the retention of female crabs was prohibited. This measure was put in place in order to meet the intent of the request for a regulatory change during the time it would take to enact the change. This condition has been on the licence since that time and is supported by the majority of recreational harvesters. All of the proposed amendments have received overall support from the SFAB and the stakeholders it represents.
The BCSFR regulate sport fishing in BC, and specifically excludes fishing carried out under the authority of a licence issued under the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations. Indigenous sport fishers will have been made aware of the proposed amendments through the consultations with the sport fishing community; however, directed consultations with Indigenous groups took place in fall 2021.
DFO contacted several indigenous groups by email in December 2021 in order to seek feedback on the proposed regulatory changes. There was no opposition to the proposed regulatory amendments expressed; however, opportunities to further strengthen the management of the recreational fishery were identified. Overall, feedback was positive given the beneficial impact of the proposed regulatory amendments on conservation and sustainability.
Eleven environmental non-government organizations were approached by email in March 2021, with details of the proposed amendments and the fines attached to the tickets. There has been no response from any of the groups contacted.
Modern treaty obligations and Indigenous engagement and consultation
The proposed amendments will not affect Indigenous harvesters fishing under communal or other section 35 or treaty rights. Individuals fishing under the authority of a British Columbia Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence will be subject to the regulations in the same manner as other recreational harvesters.
Recreational fishery management measures are implemented through regulations, licence conditions, and/or education and voluntary compliance. Permanent or long-term measures are normally managed through regulation, while conditions of licence are usually used for short-term actions that may be revised from year to year. Education and voluntary compliance are effective when communicating and monitoring recommended best practices; however, such measures cannot be enforced.
The proposed changes related to the release of female crabs and the use of barbless hooks in the tidal Fraser are permanent fishery management measures. As such, moving these requirements from licence conditions to regulations would be appropriate and ensure that violations could be made ticketable offences. As previously noted, this is expected to reduce enforcement costs to Government by reducing the time and expense associated with legal prosecutions; while also reducing costs to harvesters related to court appearances and engaging a legal defence.
The proposed regulatory amendments related to the requirements for rot cord and gear marking are consistent with existing regulatory provisions and will enhance enforcement opportunities. DFO has found that management approaches based on education and voluntary compliance have not been sufficient in the past to make the use of sinking or weighted buoy lines the normal practice in recreational trap fisheries. It is expected that including this requirement in the regulations will improve compliance and provide additional enforcement opportunities.
Benefits and costs
The incremental impacts (benefits and costs) of the proposed amendments were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively where possible. Incremental impacts are defined as the incremental differences between the baseline and the proposed amendments once they are implemented. The time frame of the analysis is 10 years and the discount rate applied is 7%. All present value calculations are in 2021 dollars.
The factors and the key assumptions that were taken into consideration for this analysis are listed below:
- In total, there were 328 000 tidal water sport fishing licence holders in the 2019–2020 fishing season. It is estimated that about half of them, or 164 000 licence holders, are normally engaged in trap fishing, including approximately 54 700 licence holders normally engaged in shrimp trap fishing. While these licence holders are eligible for fishing, they may or may not be actively fishing in a particular year.
- Of the total number of licence holders, there were 236 248 active sport fishing harvesters in the 2019–2020 fishing season. It is estimated that about half of them (or 118 124 harvesters) were actively engaged in trap fishing. There were 44 193 sport fishing harvesters actively engaged in shrimp trap fishing in the 2019–2020 fishing season.
- To estimate the cost associated with the use of rot cord, the number of recreational shrimp trap harvesters is used in the analysis, provided that the proposed amendment will require the use of rot cord in recreational shrimp and octopus traps (while this has already been a requirement for crab traps). As octopuses are generally incidental catches, the cost analysis below is mainly focused on the recreational shrimp traps.
- It is estimated that 90% of shrimp harvesters currently possess non-rot-cord traps and that 95% of the non-rot-cord traps can be retrofitted, while the remaining 5% will need to be replaced by new traps due to design issues.
- To estimate the cost associated with the use of sinking buoy lines, the number of recreational trap harvesters for all species is used in the analysis, provided that the proposed amendment will require all recreational trap harvesters to submerge buoy lines.
- It is estimated that 90% of trap harvesters have already voluntarily sunk their buoy lines for safety considerations. The remaining 10% of trap harvesters will need to attach a weight to their existing lines to meet the proposed BCSFR requirements when they are put in place.
- The analysis assessed the lower and upper bounds of cost estimates and the average value is used below. The lower bound of cost estimates is based on the number of active harvesters in the 2019–2020 fishing season, and the upper bound of cost estimates is based on the number of licence holders who are normally engaged in the fisheries but may or may not be actively fishing in a particular year.
The overall incremental costs are expected to be low. The mandatory release of female crabs and the use of barbless hooks in the tidal waters of Fraser River have been conditions of all Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licences for at least two years or more; therefore harvesters are expected to already be in compliance with the licence conditions. Enshrining these requirements in regulations would not result in incremental costs to harvesters, but rather would allow for tickets to be issued for offences. DFO will seek to add the new ticketable offences to the schedule of violations in the Contraventions Regulations already in use. There will be no additional training required by officers in the use of tickets or the application of the sections. Requiring operators’ telephone numbers, in addition to their names, on recreational trap buoys is not expected to result in incremental costs either. It is estimated that most harvesters have already added their phone numbers on the tags so that their gear can be returned if lost. In the event that they haven’t already done so, there is typically room on the tags for the addition of operators’ phone numbers without the need for a new tag. Some incremental costs may arise from the mandatory use of rot cord in recreational shrimp and octopus traps and the requirement of sinking buoy lines. These costs, as illustrated below, are expected to be one-time costs and are estimated to be approximately $2.64 million in present value (2021 dollars) over the 10-year analysis period or $0.38 million annualized.
Use of rot cord
Currently, biodegradable rot cord is required for commercial crab and shrimp traps and recreational crab traps. The proposed amendments would require the use of rot cord for recreational shrimp and octopus traps that have netting. Some incremental costs are anticipated from the modification or replacement of recreational shrimp traps, while octopuses are generally incidental catches. As stated above, there are an estimated 44 193 to 54 700 licensed recreational harvesters engaged in shrimp trap fishing (who may or may not be actively fishing in a particular year). Each recreational harvester can fish with a maximum of four traps. Harvesters in possession of non-compliant gear would likely opt to modify their existing traps, at a cost of approximately $35 per harvester including materials and roughly 60 minutes of time to weave the traps. For a small number (an estimated five percent) of traps that may not allow for modifications due to designs, harvesters would need to replace them with new traps at a cost of approximately $100 per trap. The total costs of modifying or replacing the non-compliant traps are expected to be one-time costs and are estimated to be approximately $2.36 million in present value (2021 dollars) over the 10-year analysis period, or $0.34 million annualized. For new entrants into the fishery, there would likely be no incremental costs to them, as the price difference between the rot-cord and non-rot-cord traps is negligible.
Sinking buoy lines
Some costs are expected from the proposed requirement of sinking buoy lines in the recreational trap fisheries. Currently, the regulations do not contain provisions requiring buoy lines to be submerged under water; however, it is estimated that the vast majority (approximately 90%) of harvesters have already sunk their buoy lines to avoid entanglement with vessels which may lead to the loss of their gear. Harvesters in possession of floating buoy lines would likely opt to attach a weight to the existing lines, which is the most cost-effective way to sink lines at approximately $20 per harvester for a total of about 11 800 to 16 400 licensed trap harvesters (who may or may not be actively fishing in a particular year). The total costs are estimated to be approximately $0.28 million in present value (2021 dollars) over the 10-year analysis period, or $0.04 million annualized. The weights are typically made of lead and are expected to last a harvester’s entire lifetime. Harvesters may face slightly higher annual gear maintenance costs, as weights may be lost during a fishing season and would need to be replaced. New entrants would also have incrementally higher gear costs to participate. Since the frequency of loss and the number of new entrants is unknown at this time, these costs have not been estimated, but are assumed to be a small fraction of the first-year costs estimated above.
There may be costs associated with compliance promotion and enforcement activities as a result of new requirements proposed under BCSFR; however, these costs are anticipated to be negligible.
The proposed amendments would support the conservation of fish stocks, which support the long-term sustainability and viability of the commercial, recreational, and food, social, ceremonial (FSC) fisheries in the region with benefits to Canadians. DFO will seek amendments to the CR that would allow for tickets to be issued for offences related to the prohibition on the retention of female crabs and the barbless hook requirement, which would avoid the costs associated with prosecuting offences in court. The requirements related to the use of rot cord and trap identification would reduce the amount of fish caught by ghost gear. Requiring the sinking of buoy lines would reduce the risk of serious injury or death for swimmers or boaters.
Small business lens
The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no additional incremental costs to small business.
The one-for-one rule does not apply to this proposal, as the proposed Regulations would not result in any incremental administrative burden on business.
Regulatory cooperation and alignment
This set of proposed amendments does not form part of any regulatory cooperation program.
The requirement for barbless hooks in the tidal Fraser is made at the request of the province of British Columbia to align with regulations in place in the non-tidal portion.
Strategic environmental assessment
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a preliminary scan concluded that a strategic environmental assessment is not required.
Gender-based analysis plus
No gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) impacts have been identified for this proposal.
Implementation, compliance and enforcement, and service standards
The public will be directly advised of the new regulatory requirements through public fishery notices posted on the Pacific Region DFO website. This is the normal vehicle for disseminating information to recreational and commercial harvesters. In addition, notices are regularly posted in fishing businesses such as outfitters, tackle shops and marinas. Most guides and lodges will be made aware through their association with the SFAB or SFI and will advise their clients of the amended regulations.
Fishery officers will seek to gain compliance at the outset through education and warnings, rather than enforcement. Once there is broad awareness among harvesters of the new requirements, officers will employ formal enforcement. As four of the proposed amendments have been either conditions of licence or recommended as best practices for a number of years, past harvesters should be aware of them already.
Compliance monitoring will form a part of officers’ normal recreational inspection process, so there should be no additional cost associated with the proposed amendments. Further, the use of tickets under the Contraventions Regulations reduces court costs and time for both officers and individuals found in contravention.
Compliance will be measured and evaluated through DFO’s enforcement reporting and violations system.
Policy and Regulations
Conservation and Protection
PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT
Notice is given that the Governor in Council proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations, 1996 under paragraphs 43(1)(b)footnote a, (c)footnote a and (e)footnote a of the Fisheries Act footnote b.
Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. They are strongly encouraged to use the online commenting feature that is available on the Canada Gazette website but if they use email, mail or any other means, the representations should cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be sent to Geneviève Cauffopé, Chief, Regulations, Policy and Whales, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 401 Burrard Street, Suite 200, Vancouver, British Columbia V6C 3S4 (email: Genevieve.Cauffope@dfo-mpo.gc.ca).
Ottawa, March 9, 2023
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council
Regulations Amending the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations, 1996
1 Section 8 of the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations, 1996 footnote 1 is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):
(2.1) No person shall angle in the tidal portion of the Fraser River with a fishing line to which a barbed hook is attached.
2 The Regulations are amended by adding the following after section 14:
14.1 No person shall possess female Dungeness, red rock or king crab.
3 Subsections 39(2) and (3) of the Regulations are replaced by the following:
(2) No person shall fish for crab with a ring net or crab trap unless a tag, float or buoy that bears the operator’s name and telephone number is attached to the net or trap.
(3) Despite subsection (2), if two crab traps are attached to one ground-line, it is sufficient to attach a tag, float or buoy that bears the operator’s name and telephone number to one end of the ground-line.
4 Subsections 40(2) and (3) of the Regulations are replaced by the following:
(2) No person shall fish for shrimp with a shrimp trap unless a tag, float or buoy that bears the operator’s name and telephone number is attached to the trap.
(3) Despite subsection (2), if two traps are attached to one ground-line, it is sufficient to attach a tag, float or buoy that bears the operator’s name and telephone number to one end of the ground-line.
5 Subsections 40.1(1) and (2) of the Regulations are replaced by the following:
40.1 (1) No person shall fish for octopus with an octopus trap unless a tag, float or buoy that bears the operator’s name and telephone number is attached to the trap.
(2) Despite subsection (1), if two traps are attached to one ground-line, it is sufficient to attach a tag, float or buoy that bears the operator’s name and telephone number to one end of the ground-line.
6 Sections 41 and 41.1 of the Regulations are replaced by the following:
41 No person shall fish with an octopus trap that is made of open mesh or with a crab or shrimp trap unless the trap has a section in the top or in a side wall that has been laced, sewn or otherwise secured by a single length of untreated cotton twine no greater than grade No. 120, which, on deterioration or parting, produces a rectangular opening with a minimum size of 7 cm × 20 cm or a square opening with a minimum size of 11 cm × 11 cm.
41.1 No person shall set, operate or leave unattended in the water any octopus trap, ring net or crab or shrimp trap unless the tag, float or buoy attached to the ring net or trap bears the operator’s name and telephone number.
41.2 A line or rope attached to a trap referred to in any of sections 39 to 41.1 must be submerged in such a manner that the line or rope does not come into contact with a person or a boat.
Coming into Force
7 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
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