Can the Fisheries Act help bring Canada’s fish back? Amendments to Bill C-68 could finally make that a reality - Oceana Canada
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April 20, 2018

Can the Fisheries Act help bring Canada’s fish back? Amendments to Bill C-68 could finally make that a reality

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Since Oceana Canada was established in 2015, we’ve been campaigning on reforming the Fisheries Act to require rebuilding plans when stocks are depleted. It’s a priority because we know it’s one of the biggest ways we can make an impact for the health of our fisheries and the oceans.

Internationally, we’ve seen how strong laws requiring rebuilding plans helps recover depleted fish populations. The United States and the European Union legally require rebuilding plans be put in place when a fish population is in decline. In the U.S. alone, this has led to an incredible 32 fish stocks being rebuilt since 2006, generating 54 per cent more revenue than when they were overfished.

The purpose of a rebuilding plans is to ensure that depleted fish stocks are rebuilt to healthy, sustainable levels in as short a time as possible. Without legally mandating that a rebuilding plan be implemented, the government can choose not to act when a fish population is in decline. For example, decades after the collapse of Canada’s Northern cod, this population is only now getting a rebuilding plan.

Canada’s depleted fish populations need to be rebuilt, so we can reap the social, cultural and economic benefits that come with healthy fisheries. That’s why Oceana Canada has been calling for a Fisheries Act that legally requires rebuilding plans for all depleted fish populations.

How we are calling for Fisheries Act reform

We’ve been working tirelessly with the Canadian government, Indigenous Peoples, communities and other stakeholders to strengthen the Fisheries Act for the benefit of our oceans and everyone who relies on them. Here are some of the milestones we’ve accomplished so far:

  • In 2016, Oceana Canada presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee, outlining how creating a modern Fisheries Act could rebuild fish populations. This presentation helped ensure that the committee’s report to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, included a recommendation for rebuilding fish populations.
  • In 2017, Oceana Canada Wavemakers contributed to the public consultation process on Fisheries Act amendments.
  • In 2017 we also worked with the Assembly of First Nations, calling on the government to make rebuilding fish populations a priority.
  • In February 2018, the government announced a new Fisheries Act (Bill C-68) which included provisions for rebuilding fish populations, but the current purposed language is weak. Without stronger wording, the Act will continue to leave depleted fish populations unprotected.

What’s next for the Fisheries Act

Currently the new Fisheries Act (Bill C-68) doesn’t require a rebuilding plan for depleted fish stocks. We can’t leave whether to help a declining fish population up for debate. We need a law that requires the government to take action when a fish stock has been overfished. Bill C-68 needs stronger wording. It’s what Canada’s fish populations need and what the future health of the oceans depend on.