Entering this year’s fishing season, Oceana Canada Urges Canadian Government to Finally Address 30-Year Fisheries Crisis as Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss Accelerate

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Better management could bring unparalleled value to coastal communities, seafood industries and the planet

OTTAWA, traditional, Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People, March 20, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Since the collapse of cod and other groundfish in Atlantic Canada more than 30 years ago, communities continue to be shortchanged by overfishing and widespread fisheries mismanagement.

Heading into the 2024 fishing season, less than one-third of Canada’s wild fisheries are considered healthy and most critically depleted fish populations have no plan in place to rebuild them to healthy levels.

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Canada’s continued failure to address the ongoing fisheries crisis has devastating consequences for people and the planet, fueling continued food and economic insecurity for many front-line fishing communities and undermining our global seafood economy. The situation is becoming more urgent because of accelerating climate change and biodiversity loss.

“The state of our fisheries is far from what it could be, and less than we should accept; in fact, staying on our current path will only lead to more losses,” said Rebecca Schijns, Fishery Scientist at Oceana Canada. “We have what it takes to rebuild abundance in the oceans. With the newly modernized Fisheries Act in place, Canada has a window of opportunity right now to step up and become global leaders.”

Despite new federal investments in science and management, the government’s decisions during last year’s fishing season were often delayed and sometimes inconsistent with science advice, making it harder for the fishing industry to respond to changing market and environmental conditions.”

The good news is that rebuilding is already happening in some cases. For example, the return of highly depleted redfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to healthy levels after a fishing moratorium and favorable environmental conditions shows that fish can rebound when given the chance. Now, the Canadian government has an opportunity to demonstrate how to successfully re-open a previously collapsed fishery and provide benefits now and for generations to come. The key to this is for DFO to follow its own policies and lay out a clear, measurable plan.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans faces many fisheries management decisions in the coming months which could help set Canada’s fisheries on a path to recovery and abundance. Oceana Canada is calling on the Canadian government to:

1. Make management decisions that support healthy wild fisheries:

  • Redfish (Unit 1+2): Reopen the redfish fishery once a management plan is developed that includes measures to sustain growth, mitigate bycatch and monitor all catches.
  • Northern cod (in NAFO area 2J3KL): Implement and follow the rebuilding plan, including measures to reduce fishing pressure and increase monitoring.
  • Mackerel: Ensure the fastest recovery by maintaining the fisheries closure (commercial and bait) and implementing a rebuilding plan.
  • Herring (in NAFO area 4T, spring spawners): Implement and follow the rebuilding plan, including maintaining the fisheries closure (commercial and bait) to support recovery to target levels.
  • Capelin (in NAFO area 2J3KL): This stock has failed to adequately recover and remains at just nine per cent of its historical biomass. To recover capelin to healthy levels and maintain community use for food and cultural significance, close the commercial fishery and establish management measures that ensure population growth, rather than stagnation.

2. Deliver on the Fisheries Act rebuilding regulations

  • Immediately add at least 60 additional stocks under the Fish Stock Provisions of the Fisheries Act and initiate public consultations to prescribe all remaining fish stocks.
  • As required by law, publish rebuilding plans for the 12 highly depleted stocks currently prescribed under the Fish Stock Provisions by April 4, 2024.

3. Modernize fisheries management to reflect commitments to reconciliation and protecting biodiversity

  • Collaborate with Indigenous Peoples to meaningfully include Indigenous Knowledge Systems in fisheries management.
  • Use proven climate-adaptive and ecosystem-based approaches to manage fisheries.
  • Account for all sources of fishing, including for recreational and bait purposes.

For more information and to sign Oceana’s petition to support rebuilding healthy fisheries visit www.oceana.ca/RebuildAbundance.

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.

Media contacts:

Vaishali Dassani, Oceana Canada, [email protected], 647-294-3335;
Angela Pinzon, Pilot PMR, [email protected], 647-295-0517

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