Oceana Canada Audit: Government’s Failure to Improve Fisheries Management Performance Continues to Cost Canada’s Wild Fish and Coastal Communities - Oceana Canada

Oceana Canada Audit: Government’s Failure to Improve Fisheries Management Performance Continues to Cost Canada’s Wild Fish and Coastal Communities

Despite millions in new investments, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has so far failed to rebuild Canada’s fisheries to support marine ecosystems, coastal communities and seafood economies

Press Release Date: November 22, 2022

Media contacts: Angela Pinzon, Pilot PMR, angela.pinzon@pilotpmr.com, 647-295-0517 and Lesley Wilmot, Oceana Canada, lwilmot@oceana.ca, 647-535-6326. Media assets and additional quotes are available here.

Ottawa, Traditional, Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People – Oceana Canada’s latest audit of Canada’s fisheries, and their stewardship by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (DFO) reveals that for the sixth year in a row, less than one-third of wild fish and invertebrate stocks can be considered healthy, and most critically depleted stocks lack government plans to rebuild them. The number of healthy fisheries has decreased since 2017, with no meaningful improvement to many of the indicators of good fisheries science, monitoring and management.

Oceana Canada’s annual Fishery Audit assesses the state of Canada’s fisheries and fisheries management and provides recommendations to meet federal policy commitments to return wild fish populations to abundance in Canada’s oceans. Alarmingly, this year’s Audit shows that despite the government making significant investments, developing new policies and updating laws to improve fisheries management, these changes have not yet led to healthier fisheries.

Highlights from Oceana Canada’s Fishery Audit for 2022 include:

  • Nearly one in five wild fish stocks (17 per cent) are still critically depleted. The number of healthy stocks has declined since 2017.
  • Less than 20 per cent of these critically depleted stocks have plans in place to rebuild them, and some continue to have high fishing pressure that risks their recovery.
  • More than one-third of stocks (37 per cent) fall into DFO’s “uncertain” health category. Of these, nearly one-quarter (25 per cent) are likely critically depleted; however, rebuilding action isn’t required by law until DFO assigns each of them a health status.
  • Despite scientific evidence showing the impact of climate change on fisheries, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of DFO’s management documents do not formally consider this.
  • Canada’s Fishery Monitoring Policy to count all catches in a fishery was released in 2019 and has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of fisheries management. However, it hasn’t been fully implemented in a single fishery.

“The time for action and measurable improvement is long overdue. The need to rebuild depleted wild fish populations has never been more urgent, especially in the face of global overfishing and accelerating climate change and biodiversity loss,” said Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada. “Canada has the legislative, regulatory and policy framework in place to make real improvements for marine ecosystems and coastal communities — but only if those policies are implemented with the urgency required by the current state of wild fisheries.”

Last month, Oceana Canada hosted leading marine conservation and fishery experts, Indigenous and fishing industry leaders and policymakers from across the country at a symposium held in Ottawa. Sector experts shared perspectives and evidence of the urgent need to rebuild healthy fisheries, outlining priority actions to improve fishery and ecosystem-based science and management, mobilize Indigenous Knowledge systems, and address the growing threats of climate change. To benefit fishers, coastal communities and cultures, our seafood economy and the planet, there needs to be a shift toward prioritizing the long-term value of a resilient ocean, instead of continuing to focus on maximizing short-term fishery yields.

“The continuing poor health of Canada’s fish stocks indicates that we’re failing to manage our fisheries for success and we’re getting a dismal return on investments,” said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada. “The loss of abundance and diversity — and the consequences that it creates for future generations — cannot be overstated.”

Oceana Canada is urging Prime Minister Trudeau and Fisheries Minister Murray to address the most critical gaps in Canada’s marine fisheries management by prioritizing the following actions:

  • List all remaining critical and cautious fish stocks, including those currently classified as uncertain, under Canada’s amended Fisheries Act and make management decisions that are consistent with its rebuilding regulations.
  • Meaningfully engage with Indigenous communities and organizations and mobilize Indigenous Knowledge Systems into fisheries decision-making.
  • Integrate ecosystem-level considerations into fisheries decisions, prioritizing rebuilding depleted forage fish that other species rely on as prey, and addressing vulnerabilities to climate change.
  • Improve fisheries monitoring by counting everything caught in a fishery — including for recreational and bait purposes.

To read the full Fishery Audit, and to add your name to Oceana Canada’s urgent call to rebuild Canada’s fish populations, visit FisheryAudit.ca.

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to ban single-use plastics, end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work 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. Find out more at www.oceana.ca.