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Sablefish

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish

Anoplopoma fimbria

Method

Wild

Bottom longline, Bottom trawl

Location

British Columbia

Overall Rating

3.0 / 5

Summary

Sablefish are caught as part of a multi-species groundfish fishery in British Columbia. In 2012, BC landed $104.2 million worth of non-hake groundfish. A large proportion of the groundfish are exported to countries including the US, Japan, the UK and Russia.

Management of BC groundfish is moderately effective as management measures such as reference points and harvest control rules exist. However these measures are not applied to all stocks, and are not always supported by scientific research. The Committee on the Status Of Endangered Wildlife In Canada (COSEWIC) has identified several groundfish of threatened status, although recovery of these species is challenging given limited data. Fisheries officers are highly effective in enforcing management regulations such as total allowable catch. Vessels are monitored with 100% at-sea, 100% dockside and 100% observer coverage. The population is at a healthy level, and is fished at a sustainable rate. Total sablefish catch was 1970.6 mt in 2012.

Non-targeted species caught in the BC groundfish fishery include: bocaccio rockfish, green sturgeon, redstripe rockfish, soupfin shark, sharpchin rockfish, splitnose rockfish, spotted rackfish, sixgill shark, steller sea lion, Pacific halibut, giant grenadier, Pacific grenadier and flathead sole. Amongst these species include those whose stock status is of concern, whose inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure is high, or whose fishing mortality rates are high. Bottom longlines and jigs typically cause less bycatch than bottom trawls.

As immobile gear types which do not drag across the ocean floor, bottom longlines cause less habitat damage than bottom trawls. Many of the species targeted by the BC groundfish fishery are found in areas of hard substrate which are more susceptible to damage than areas of soft substrate. In order to mitigate habitat damage, a number of regulations including spatial regulations are in place. For example, no commercial fishing activities are allowed in Rockfish Conservation Areas. In 2012, additional measures were imposed in order to protect corals and sponges.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish

Anoplopoma fimbria

Method

Wild

Bottom longline, Bottom trawl, Trap

Location

California

Overall Rating

3.5 - 3.6 / 5

Summary

Groundfish in the US are caught as part of a multi-species fishery. Out of the 56 species/gear combinations, only 4 were found to be unsustainable: Kelp greenling from Oregon caught by handline, canary rockfish caught by handline, black and yellow rockfish from California caught by handline, and grass rockfish from California caught by handline. These species are covered in separate reports. Rockfish landings reached historically low levels in the early 2000’s. Recently, management has rebuilt the overfished stocks and 6 stocks are classified as rebuilding. In 2009, the value of the fishery was $66.1 million.

Management of a multi-species fishery can be challenging. However in this case, management is strong, as regular stock-assessments are performed, and regulations exist regarding biological reference points, harvest control rules, and incorporation of uncertainty when determining catch limits. In 2011, individual fishing quotas (IFQs) were established which requires 100% at-sea and dockside monitoring. Recent improvements in information availability on groundfish stocks have shown a general trend of increasing abundance and rebuilding stocks.

Some non-targeted species caught in the US Groundfish fishery include: Bocaccio rockfish, yelloweye rockfish, greenstriped rockfish, cowcod rockfish, spotted ratfish, darkblotched rockfish, shortbelly rockfish, splitnose rockfish, yellowtail rockfish, California sheephead, China rockfish, giant grenadier, black-footed albatross, big skate and California skate. Amongst these species include those whose stock status is of concern, whose inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure is high, or whose fishing mortality rates are high.

Bottom trawls have the potential to cause large amounts of habitat damage due to the fact that they drag across the ocean floor. In order to mitigate these impacts, a number of regulations including spatial restrictions are in place. For example, groundfish bottom trawling is prohibited in 25% of Essential Fish Habitat in waters shallower than 700 fathoms. The targeted groundfish are not classified as species of exceptional ecological importance, and a fishery ecosystem plan is currently being developed for the fishery.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish

Anoplopoma fimbria

Method

Wild

Bottom longline, Trap

Location

Alaska

Overall Rating

3.6 - 4.1 / 5

Summary

Groundfish in Alaska are caught as part of a multi-species fishery. Out of the 43 species/gear combinations, only 1 was found to be unsustainable: shortspine thornyhead caught by bottom trawl. This species is covered in a separate report. Alaskan groundfish are exported worldwide.

Management of a multi-species fishery can be challenging. However in this case, management is excellent as regular stock-assessments are performed with up-to-date assessments available, and regulations exist regarding biological reference points, harvest control rules, and incorporation of uncertainty when determining catch limits. Much information is available on stock status, and data indicates that populations are healthy. The groundfish are fished at a sustainable rate.

Some non-targeted species caught in the Alaskan groundfish fishery include: steller sea lions, giant grenadiers, killer whales, starry flounders, tanner crabs, snow crabs, Pacific sleeper sharks, longnose skates, spiny dogfish, northern fulmar, atka mackerel, sharpchin rockfish, harlequin rockfish, black-footed albatross, laysan albatross, and Pacific halibut. Amongst these species include those whose stock status is of concern, whose inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure is high, or whose fishing mortality rates are high.

Bottom trawls have the potential to cause large amounts of habitat damage due to the fact that they drag across the ocean floor. Although longlines, pots, and jigs are immobile gear types, they nevertheless make contact with the ocean floor and have the potential to cause damage. In order to mitigate these impacts, a number of regulations including spatial restrictions are in place.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish

Anoplopoma fimbria

Method

Farmed

Open net pen

Location

British Columbia

Overall Rating

6.7 / 10

Summary

Sablefish farming is limited to two farms in BC. This recommendation is based on an assessment of the Totem Sea Farm Inc. Totem Sea Farm produces about 50-60 mt of sablefish per year. The majority of the farmed sablefish is exported to Japan and the US.

Open net pens allow discharge to flow into the environment. However, the small scale of the farm as well as the location of the farm which is in deep well-flushed water, limits the impact of effluent to the surrounding environment. Benthic impacts are limited to the immediate vicinity of the farm. As Totem Sea Farm is part of the Canadian Organic Standards for Aquaculture, chemical use is limited in order to comply with the organic certification. No antibiotics or parasiticides have been used.

Farm-specific data is available although not independently verified or peer-reviewed. The farm is part of the Canadian Organic Standards for Aquaculture. This subjects the farm to annual evaluations. Source of stock is wild broodstock from a Washington commercial sablefish fishery. Although the farm relies on wild populations for broodstock, the Washington fishery is well-managed and is sustainable. Farmed sablefish requires about 1.4lbs of feed for every 1lb produced.

Sablefish are resilient against many common pathogens. Together with vaccinations and a low stocking density, this has minimized disease outbreaks at the farm. However, the open nature of the net pens could allow for transmission of disease to the wild population, and no data is available on the proximity of wild juvenile sablefish to the farm. The sablefish farm has the potential to affect predator species, but only two predator mortalities have occurred in the history of the farm’s operation, neither of which are at-risk species. Escape from the pens is possible, but the farmed sablefish are genetically similar to the wild population. Therefore escaped individuals would not have a significant impact on the ecosystem.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - US West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl

Variety

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish

Anoplopoma fimbria

Method

Wild

Bottom trawl, Midwater trawl, Various

Location

Washington, Oregon, California

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
US West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

Learn more about harvest methods

Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - US North Pacific sablefish

Variety

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish

Anoplopoma fimbria

Method

Wild

Bottom longline

Location

Alaska

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
US North Pacific sablefish

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

Learn more about harvest methods