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Assessing the viability of the Species at Risk Act in managing commercial exploitation and recovery of threatened and endangered marine fish in Canada

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Commercially exploited threatened or endangered marine fish are consistently declined for listing under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), largely due to predicted socio-economic impacts associated with SARA’s prohibitions. However, commercial exploitation can be exempted from SARA’s general prohibitions. If exemptions were utilized, commercially exploited species could benefit from other aspects of SARA listing, and support continued economic opportunities for fishers. I conducted a literature review, key expert workshop, and interviews to develop potential criteria to determine when this management approach might be appropriate. I administered a questionnaire to experts and stakeholders to evaluate the importance of the criteria, and elicit opinions on SARA’s possible role in marine fisheries management. Respondents favoured criteria that supported the biological feasibility of species recovery, and promoted compliance with management objectives, but disagreed over how at-risk marine fish could best be managed. Recommendations focus on ways to resolve the listing bias against marine fish.
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