TORONTO - The federal government is not meeting its commitments to sustainably manage and restore Canada’s fish populations, resulting in a less resilient and secure seafood industry, according to the latest report from Oceana Canada, a leading ocean advocacy organization.
Oceana Canada’s annual Fishery Audit reports on the state of fish stocks and tracks progress on how well the government is meeting its policy and management commitments. This year’s report reveals that recent investments made in federal fisheries science capacity have not yet yielded measurable change in fisheries management or stock health, and the organization is calling on the government to deliver on its commitments.
“The government is falling behind on commitments, including the development of rebuilding plans, which threatens the long-term health of the industry,” said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Oceana Canada’s director of science. “This is a crucial time for oceans and fisheries. Rebuilding abundance in our fisheries will make them more resilient to climate change and other cumulative environmental changes, so they can continue to be a sustainable source of protein and support the livelihoods of those who rely on them."
The report states that only 34 per cent of Canada’s fish stocks are known to be healthy. Just over 13 per cent of stocks, including the iconic Northern cod, are critically depleted, requiring immediate rebuilding actions.
Of the 26 critically depleted stocks, only three have rebuilding plans in place; all three plans do not include the recommended content based on global best practices, such as targets and timelines for recovery. In addition, more than 37 per cent of Canada’s most important fisheries lack adequate data to assess their status.
“It takes time for fish populations to rebuild, so stock health will change slightly each year. However, with management changes we expect to see more healthy stocks, fewer critical stocks, and fewer stocks with insufficient information,” said Rangeley. “Most importantly, we expect to see improvements in the metrics that assess how well the government is implementing policy and meeting commitments, such as completing rebuilding plans for critical stocks.”
Rangeley adds that if the federal government keeps its commitments, several fisheries management metrics would improve dramatically, including an over 40 per cent increase in the number of critically depleted stocks with rebuilding plans.
“Putting rebuilding plans in place to allow overfished stocks to recover has been proven to deliver results,” says Rangeley. “In the U.S., rebuilding plans became mandatory 20 years ago and 43 stocks have recovered generating an average of 50 per cent more revenue than when they were overfished.”
A proposed new Fisheries Act, Bill C-68, is now before the Senate. This Bill sets an expectation that stocks must be managed to healthy levels. If supported by strong regulations, it could set Canada’s fisheries on a path to abundance.
The 2018 Fishery Audit outlines key recommendations to the government that will support better management of Canada’s fisheries, including passing and implementing a new Fisheries Act, completing rebuilding plans, filling in data gaps and finalizing the Fishery Monitoring Policy.
The full report can be read online at FisheryAudit.ca.
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For more information, please contact: David Berry, Pilot PMR, 416-462-0199 x248, 416-738-8730, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Oceana Canada
Oceana Canada is an independent charity and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Canada has the longest coastline in the world, with an ocean surface area of 7.1 million square kilometres, or 70 per cent of its landmass. Oceana Canada believes that Canada has a national and global obligation to manage our natural resources responsibly and help ensure a sustainable source of protein for the world’s growing population. Oceana Canada works with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits, and protect our future.