The new Fisheries Act is now law, and the federal government has committed $100 million to assess and rebuild fish stocks. However, the most important elements of the new law have yet to take effect.
For example, the Act makes rebuilding plans mandatory for all depleted populations listed in regulation, but Canada still has not created the regulations needed to implement the law. In other words, the law does not currently apply to any stocks.
Work plans to implement DFO’s own policies are rarely completed on time. The backlog was particularly significant in 2020 and only some of those delays can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been delays in releasing 80 per cent of IFMPs, more than half the reference points and harvest control rules, and all rebuilding plans. At the current rate,^ it will take 10 more years until all index stocks have an LRP and 25 years until they have USRs. It will take 37 years until all critically depleted stocks are included in a rebuilding plan, which is just the first step toward deliberately promoting the growth of a collapsed population.
Meanwhile, the rebuilding plans DFO has released lack the rigour needed to make them effective. Without core elements like timelines and targets for rebuilding included in these plans, there is little reason to expect that management measures will be effective in returning stocks to health.
^ Based on the average annual increase in the percentage of stocks with each indicator over the last four years.
“Implement the recently modernized Fisheries Act, which restores lost protections, prioritizes rebuilding fish populations and incorporates modern safeguards so that fish and fish habitats are protected for future generations and Canada’s fisheries can continue to grow the economy and sustain coastal communities. The sustainability of our ocean resources remains paramount.”
— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, December 2019