` Oceana Fishery Audit 2020
management

Management Indicators
More Rebuilding Plans Required

Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs) are key tools for successful fisheries, outlining how they will be managed for a given period of time. Today, progress has been made, with more than 90 per cent of all stocks being included in an IFMP. But stocks in the critical zone need more. Since 2009, federal policy states it promotes growth by requiring plans to rebuild critically depleted stock, specifying the objectives, timelines and conservation measures. Over the past year, DFO failed to release any rebuilding plans, despite commitments to complete and publish plans for Atlantic mackerel and the repeatedly delayed plan for northern cod. That leaves more than 80 per cent of critically depleted stocks with no plan in place to support their recovery.

Stocks included in Integrated Fisheries Management Plans

Purpose: Provide a planning framework for the conservation and sustainable use of Canada’s fisheries, clearly outlining how a fishery will be managed over a given period.

2017
71.1%
2018
74.7%
2019
90.2%
2020

GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT:

DFO has committed to develop and release Integrated Fisheries Management Plans for all major stocks.

Stocks in the critical zone with rebuilding plans in place1

Purpose: Provide a planning framework to rebuild stocks out of the critical zone. Serious harm is occurring to stocks in the critical zone and conservation actions are crucial.

2017
11.5%
2018
11.5%
2019
18.2%
2020

climate

Work Plan Deliverables

Failing to Deliver

Over the past year, no new rebuilding plans were released and only 20 per cent of the expected IFMPs were completed. While the arrival of COVID-19 undoubtedly contributed to some delays, progress on this front has been dishearteningly slow for many years.

On a positive note, the federal government created a webpage where Canadians can see DFO’s annual work plans (now called Sustainable Fisheries Framework Work Plans), along with annual reports of which deliverables2 were achieved. This is a significant improvement in transparency in fisheries management.

DFO work plan deliverables completed

Purpose: Achieve the department’s own priorities set out each year, including developing reference points, IFMPs and rebuilding plans.

2018
25.0%
2019
43.3%
2020

DFO graph

IF COMMITMENTS WERE MET, WE WOULD SEE CHANGE

If all deliverables outlined in DFO’s fiscal-year work plans from 2017–2020 were completed, here’s how Canada’s fisheries would benefit:

Stocks with LRPs:

currently

would be

Stocks with USRs:

currently

would be

Stocks included in IFMPs:

currently

would be

Critical zone stocks with rebuilding plans:

currently

would be

◊  (2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21)


1  The Atlantic mackerel rebuilding plan was published November 6, 2020, (after the July 1 deadline for the data in this report). The plan lacks the timelines and targets needed to rebuild the stock to healthy levels.

2https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/about-notre-sujet/publications/work-plan-travail/index-eng.html

WHY REBUILDING PLANS MATTER

For five hundred years, Newfoundland and Labrador's northern cod supported a lucrative, sustainable fishery. With the right management, it could again. However, nearly three decades after the stock collapsed, DFO has still not completed a rebuilding plan for it, leaving northern cod without safe harvesting limits or a clear path back to healthy levels.

This has made the critically depleted fish even more vulnerable. In 2019, northern cod showed a slight increase in biomass of 4 per cent. DFO responded by increasing the quota to 12,350 tonnes — a jump of 30 per cent — contrary to scientific advice and the government’s own policy. This year, DFO maintained the same dangerously high catch level set the year before, on a stock supposedly under moratorium to commercial fishing.

fish net

Credit: iStock/piola666

ARE CANADA’S FISHERIES PREPARED FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?

The short answer: No. On top of all the human activities affecting Canada’s fisheries, the impacts and disruption caused by climate change are accelerating. In the face of these changes, DFO urgently needs to assess species vulnerability and adapt to this new reality. By doing so, healthy and resilient stocks will be in a better position to withstand warming, acidification, changing distributions of predators and prey and other effects of climate change.