Modernized Fisheries Act a historic victory for fisheries rebuilding and sharks - Oceana Canada

Modernized Fisheries Act a historic victory for fisheries rebuilding and sharks

Press Release Date: June 18, 2019

Today, a modernized Fisheries Act became law, setting the stage for rebuilding fish abundance in Canada’s oceans. For the first time since its inception in 1868, rebuilding plans are now required for depleted fish populations. The Act also ends the import and export of shark fins in Canada. These changes, among others, unlock tremendous potential for renewed ocean health.

“Today is a great day for our oceans. The overhauled Fisheries Act has the potential to be one of the most transformative things that has happened for our oceans in many years,” says Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada. “We thank Fisheries Minister Wilkinson and former Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc for prioritizing rebuilding fish populations. The Act now lays a strong foundation to support healthy oceans for generations to come.”

Around the world, the catalyst for fisheries recovery—and the social, cultural and economic benefits that come along with it—has been a legally binding requirement to rebuild fish populations and prevent them from becoming depleted.

In Canada, only 34 per cent of fish populations are healthy and more than 13 per cent are critically depleted. Of 26 critically depleted stocks, only five have rebuilding plans.  The Act’s new provisions should change this, mandating that rebuilding plans be created for all fish populations in the critical zone, with the target of rebuilding them to sustainable levels. 

“Rebuilding fish populations can increase revenue and jobs in coastal communities. The United States has some of the most stringent and effective legislation in the world mandating fisheries rebuilding. It has successfully rebuilt a total of 45 fish stocks resulting in more resilient ecosystems and greater economic opportunities for the fishing industry,” says Laughren.

The Act also bans importing and exporting shark fins in Canada. Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade every year, including many endangered species. Canada has been the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia.

“Billions of people worldwide depend on our oceans for their food and livelihood. By rebuilding its fisheries, Canada is helping lead the way toward healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient oceans,” said Michael Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action.

“This is a huge victory for sharks and for the many Canadians, advocacy groups and politicians who joined together to champion the ban of this cruel practice,” says Kim Elmslie, Campaign Director, Oceana Canada. “We applaud everyone’s efforts, including Senator Michael MacDonald and MP Fin Donnelly who initiated and championed the private members bill calling for a ban.”

The Act’s amendments also uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples and recognize Indigenous knowledge; incorporate modern fisheries management practices, such as the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches; restore important habitat protection measures; and feature a clear purpose to manage and control fisheries.

Oceana Canada worked closely with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations, advocacy groups, fishers and others to bring the changes to the Act to fruition and will continue to advocate for fisheries rebuilding in Canada.


For more information, please contact: 
Kathleen Munro,; 416-462-0199

More about rebuilding fisheries
Since its inception, Oceana Canada has advocated for rebuilding Canada’s fisheries. To understand Canada’s full potential for abundant, healthy oceans, Oceana Canada recently commissioned a study by leading fisheries economists that analyzed the socio-economic costs and benefits of rebuilding fisheries. The study revealed that a rebuilt northern cod fishery could provide 16 times more jobs and have a net present value worth up to five times more than today. These findings underscore the importance of setting science-based quotas that support recovering the population to a healthy level.

More about the shark fin ban
In April 2017, Bill S-238, a Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation Act, was introduced by Senator McDonald in the Senate.  It was sponsored in the House of Commons by MP Fin Donnelly.  The Bill was backed by conservationists, marine scientists, animal welfare advocates and the family of the late ecological activist Rob Stewart. More than 300,000 people signed a petition and more than ten thousand contacted decision-makers calling for action. In May 2019, the government incorporated the provisions in Bill S-238 into Bill C-68.

About Oceana Canada
Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 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.