Sustainably managed oceans create enormous benefits. That’s the core principle behind the blue economy. Healthy, abundant fisheries are foundational to a thriving blue economy, employing tens of thousands of Canadians on all three coasts. But Canada’s fisheries — and the livelihoods connected to them — are in trouble.
Today more stocks and a greater variety of species are on the decline. We know what happens when fisheries fail. In the 1990s, the Atlantic cod collapse put nearly 40,000 people out of work and left many of Newfoundland’s coastal communities in desperate straits.
As cod and other groundfish numbers dropped, the industry shifted to shellfish. Today, lobster, crab, shrimp and scallops make up most of the economic value of Canada’s fisheries. However, human and environmental pressures have pushed more shellfish stocks into the critical zone. In 2017, only one of these populations was critically depleted; today, there are eight.
Snow crab numbers off Newfoundland and Labrador have raised alarm bells. In 2009, crab landings totalled 53,400 tonnes. Ten years later, they are barely half that, with stocks hitting near-historic lows. Further shellfish declines would be devastating for coastal economies, Indigenous Peoples and the seafood sector.
Canada can’t afford complacent fisheries management. Short-sighted decisions that allow unsustainable fishing on critically depleted populations fail the communities and people who depend on fish. While rebuilding fisheries may require substantial short-term catch reductions, we can reap sustainable, long-term economic gains and avoid steeper, longer-lasting reductions. According to Oceana Canada’s 2019 report on the economic and social benefits of fisheries rebuilding,~ restoring stocks like redfish, rockfish and Pacific herring to healthy levels could provide up to 11 times more economic value than today.
~ Sumaila R and Teh L. 2019. Economic and Social Benefits of Fisheries Rebuilding: Six Canadian Case Studies. www.oceana.ca/en/publications/reports/economic-and-social-benefits-fisheries-rebuilding