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Science Forum brings fishermen, scientists together on MPAs

May 14, 2015

In April, 23 fisheries and conservation scientists from around the world assembled at a Science Forum in Vancouver to discuss how marine protected areas (MPAs) can benefit both ocean ecosystems and commercial fisheries. Living Oceans played a major role in the forum’s steering committee which was a collaboration between the fisheries and conservation sectors in British Columbia.

The five day event opened with a speech presented jointly by two well-known and outspoken scientists with differing views on MPAs, Dr. Ray Hilborn from the University of Washington and Dr. Anne Salomon from Simon Fraser University. This set the stage and the tone for the forum that brought experts with different perspectives together to develop points of agreement.

“We wanted to foster a common understanding and to inform the design of an MPA network for our coast that can benefit ocean health and healthy fisheries,” said Karin Bodtker, Living Oceans Director of Mapping and Analysis. “If we don’t work collaboratively with fishermen, and other marine stakeholders, we won’t end up with a network that everyone agrees to support and steward.”

The steering committee worked for more than two years to find the right questions, develop the format, gather experts from around the world, and assemble an audience of 60 government and First Nation decision makers, commercial fishermen and conservationists. Roundtable discussions tackled MPA issues such as the spillover benefits to fisheries, social and economic effects, coordinated fisheries and MPA management, and decision support tools. In a surprise request, members of the Marine Protected Area Team from three levels of government asked the panel of scientists to review draft objectives for B.C.’s first MPA network and make suggestions to better integrate the ecological and fisheries aspects. The scientists enthusiastically took on the challenge at a weekend workshop following the forum.

The steering committee, including Karin, will continue to meet. “The forum strengthened relationships and we’re developing the next steps for our collaboration,” she said. “We need to put a voice to our new shared understanding and continue to plan for a network of MPAs together.”