Reefs and Rockfish Protection

The MLSS, Marine Life Sanctuaries Society, is focused on protecting unique marine reefs and underwater environments. 

Howe Sound encompasses the beauty in nature. Looking at the many bays and fiord fingers, it’s hard to believe that it’s on Vancouver’s doorsteps. Natural treasures galore hide underwater in the form of rocky reefs covered in fish and other marine life, but the rockfish are struggling to survive. Poaching efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic are at an all-time high, inflicting constant pressure on the rockfish stocks, day after day. The fish need assistance – we need to help save them from extirpation from the Sound.

Looking at this issue from the poacher’s perspective, they feel that it’s their “God given right” to fish anywhere they like or fish just out of total inexcusable ignorance. Either way the fish stocks suffer. It’s true that rockfish will bite at almost anything in front of them and are very easy to catch. This feeding aspect of rockfish behaviour can decimate a colony in short order, and coupled with a long maturing period before reproduction, results in total depopulation of the species. Catch and release of rockfishes does not work well. The fish’s swim bladder expands upon surfacing (often protruding from the mouth) and can kill or permanently damage the animal.

The MLSS holds special and unique information about habitat areas in Howe Sound the ocean and are trying hard to get these areas protected.

See video – Journey to the Deep Reef:

But this protection effort is difficult and at times not recognized, not acknowledged, not believed, or just plain ignored. Protection is a ‘chicken and egg’ problem – which comes first. How can we protect a special area like glass sponge reefs without releasing the data about it?  If we release the data, will there be anything left of the reef to protect?

It may take years to work through the Federal bureaucracy with the fisheries staff to gain protection. Even then it can turn out that the fisheries officers decide that our requests are not worthy of their efforts, or do not fit their idea of a protected area. All this time the poachers are watching and listening.  Word gets out and “bam”, just like that the fish are illegally caught and cleaned out. 

Have you ever wondered why species of fish can’t be found any longer; or perhaps a bigger question of why Canada can’t control its fish stocks? Most Canadians are ignorant of our natural world. We revolve around ourselves in a narrow-minded and selfish human-concentric merry-go-round. And the last place we want to think about, or learn about, is the depths below the surface of the ocean. But that’s where the ‘canary in the coal mine’ lives. So really the question is – does extinction start with fish and end with humans?

Another bad side to the COVID-19 pandemic, is that it has increased fish poaching to a level never seen before. It’s produced the ‘tragedy of the commons’ in our local waters. Those who have the money to cruise our waters scramble to remove every rockfish they can find before the next person can get it, all the while shouting it’s their ‘right’ to do so. What about their responsibility? Enforcement is so lax it’s almost non-existent. If hope for marine ecosystems is dying in Canada what is going on in other places in the world? Can humans survive without fish? Do we really want to? But fish cannot survive if humans don’t stop fishing them out of house and home.

This link identifies some enforcement records for BC saltwater: 

https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/charges-inculpations/pac-eng.htm

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