Ahead of the G7 Summit, UBC researchers played key role in shaping marine policies

Ahead of the G7 Summit, UBC researchers applied their expertise to tackle key ocean-based challenges and help shape marine policies.

Tim Cashion and Vanessa Fladmark, two researchers from UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, participated in the Youth, Women and Oceans roundtable from September 17 to 18 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The forum was organized by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in partnership with the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub – Seychelles and the Youth Climate Lab.

Two key issues were addressed at the meeting: illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and marine pollution, with a specific focus on abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG). The participants, among them Cashion and Fladmark, shared policy recommendations with Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for him and his team to present them at the G7 ministerial meeting, which took place shortly after from September 19 to 21.

“The purpose of the conference was to get a greater understanding of a youth or women’s perspective on these two issues ahead of the G7 meeting,” explained Cashion, an IOF PhD student and former research assistant at the Sea Around Us, who presented directly to the Minister on IUU fishing.

Tim Cashion and Vanessa Fladmark. Photo: Robert Wiebe

 

IUU fishing not only threatens the environment, but is also closely linked to illegal activities like drug trafficking and modern slavery. Since seafood supply chain processes often lack transparency, it can be unclear how seafood travels from the ocean to the table and whether IUU fishing – along with human rights abuses – forms part of the process. For instance, Canada is not required to label where its seafood comes from or how it is caught, allowing illegal activities to lurk in seafood catches.

“We know that it’s not just a problem at the final purchase, but that information is lost or mislabelled intentionally throughout the supply chain,” said Cashion. “And so our recommendation is really to try and give more credence to that.”

To combat this, the attendees recommended that G7 countries implement more controls throughout supply chain processes. This would require fisheries and seafood companies to declare a fish’s common name, scientific name, where the fish was caught and the fishing method used, allowing consumers and companies to make informed purchasing decisions.


This would require fisheries and seafood companies to declare a fish’s common name, scientific name, where the fish was caught and the fishing method used, allowing consumers and companies to make informed purchasing decisions.


The attendees also recommended the creation of an “IUU Blue Action Challenge” that would engage youth with the issue through mentorship and apprenticeship programs, and increase research opportunities.

The second issue discussed, ALDFG, or ghost gear, poses an immense threat to marine life. Each year, approximately 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear are lost in the oceans, accounting for over 50 per cent of macroplastics by weight. Ghost fishing – when ghost gear entangles with marine life – is extremely harmful, as was demonstrated recently when the bodies of five seals washed up on the shore of British Columbia’s Fraser River.

In addition to increasing funding to study the impact and reduction of ghost gear, the attendees recommended that G7 countries enact laws and regulations to incentivize gear retrieval and join the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, an international ghost gear reduction movement.

“The gear obviously has a value, and if fishers lose it, they have to replace it, so they already have an incentive, but it’s a matter of whether the incentive is strong enough,” said Cashion. Finding a market for selling unusable fishing gear would also encourage fishers not to throw away unserviceable gear, he added.

Considering recent movements to ban consumer plastics like straws, Cashion said he expects such efforts to support their recommendations on ghost gear.

“It will be interesting to see how that will play out, because it has the momentum of this other marine anti-plastic movement,” he said. “We’re going to see some good progress likely on ghost gear and other marine plastics.”

 

By: Kristine Ho