Saturna Environmental Education Centre (SEEC) students, together with SIMRES, have started a pilot project to monitor the Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCA’s) adjacent to Saturna Island and to educate fishers and the public about the decline of rockfish. We are following the protocol of Galiano Conservancy and the students have been trained by their biologist, Sarah Stelte. Cameras have been installed overlooking RCA’s to monitor the number of times boats are fishing illegally in these areas. Galiano has had a significant reduction in the number of illegal fishers and we hope to do the same around Saturna.
There are 6 species of inshore rockfish in the Salish Sea that are at low levels of abundance—Quillback, Copper, Yelloweye, China, Tiger and Black. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) established Rockfish Conservations Areas since 2002 to protect and allevate further reduction and within RCA’s all recreational and commercial fishing is prohibited. Two RCA’s are adjacant to Saturna Island and fishers are commonly seen within them.
Cameras have been installed in two locations overlooking the Java Islets and Anniversary Island. The students download and review all the images looking for boats in the area. They are able to discern if the boat is moving through or is stationary for more than 5 minutes, an indicator that it may be fishing.
So far, the pilot project has been successful in identifying illegal fishing and it’s expected that the project will continue in earnest through 2021 and perhaps longer.
Along with monitoring the RCA’s, the students will be doing outreach within our community to educate everyone on rockfish and their importance to the Salish Sea.
Thank you to the Saturnina Foundation for funding the camera equipment for this project.