` Oceana Fishery Audit 2020
science

Science Indicators
Progress Stalled; Data Gaps Spell Danger

The better the data that fisheries managers have, the better the decisions they can make. And when science information is produced in a timely way and is made publicly available, it supports transparent decision making, allowing Canadians to have increased confidence in how our fisheries and oceans are managed.

To track Canada’s progress in improving fish stock health, Oceana Canada uses a set of key science indicators that are consistent with DFO policy guidelines.

Stocks with sufficent data to assign health status

Purpose: Allow scientists to make robust estimates of how many fish are in the water and assign stock heath status.

2017
63.9%
2018
62.9%
2019
61.9%
2020

Stocks with recent biomass estimates

Purpose: Help managers make decisions based on recent estimatesΔ of how many fish are in the water.

Several stocks haven’t been assessed since 2014 and are therefore considered outdated in this year’s analysis.

Δ  Within the last five years.

2017
65.5%
2018
63.9%
2019
58.8%
2020

An upper stock reference point identifies the boundary above which a fishery can be considered healthy, while a limit reference point identifies the boundary below which it can be considered to be in a critical state. Corrective action should be taken before a stock reaches the limit reference point.

redfish

According to government expectations outlined in its policies, decision-making processes should be open and transparent, and the public should have access to scientific findings and advice as early as possible. However, less than five per cent of DFO’s scientific publications were released on time.

Stocks with reference points established

Purpose: Allow managers to assess whether a stock is in healthy, cautious or critical condition, set appropriate harvest levels based on status and gauge the success of management measures.

Limit reference point

2017
53.1%
2018
58.8%
2019
64.4%
2020

Upper stock reference

2017
42.3%
2018
45.4%
2019
47.4%
2020

Stocks with fishing mortality estimates

Purpose: Help determine the rate of fish removal and sustainable fishing limits.

2017
20.6%
2018
18.0%
2019
19.1%
2020

Stocks with natural mortality estimates*

Purpose: Help make better fisheries management decisions by determining the rate at which fish naturally die.

2018
13.9%
2019
15.5%
2020

Science publications released on time*

Purpose: Make better fisheries management decisions by providing the most up-to-date information publicly available.

2018
10.9%
2019
9.2%
2020

*New indicator in 2018.

data gap

72 stocks don’t have sufficient data to assign them a health status.

REDFISH REBOUNDING

Given a chance, depleted fish populations can come back. For example, after many years in the critical zone, due to overfishing in the early 1990s, deepwater redfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence recently increased to historically high abundance because of an unexpected boom in juvenile survival in 2011 to 2013, and these redfish are now approaching sexual maturity. To make the most of this opportunity for redfish and for the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem, strong science is essential.

In 2018, DFO established an experimental research fishery in the area to explore ways for harvesters to target the more-abundant deepwater redfish and avoid the less-abundant Acadian redfish. It is also helping to determine how many of each species are being caught and identifying ways to reduce impacts on small redfish, depleted species and sensitive habitats. The results of this research must inform the rules of a management plan to ensure a sustainable fishery and continue this comeback story.

GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT:

DFO committed to developing limit reference points for all major commercial stocks. However, in 2020 the percentage of stocks with LRPs hardly changed, while the percentage with USRs crept up just a single percentage point. Without these crucial benchmarks, DFO can’t assess stock health or set targets for rebuilding depleted stocks. Under DFO’s Precautionary Approach framework, fisheries managers can’t use a lack of information as an excuse for inaction. Instead, they must move forward using the best data available.

data gap

A third of stocks still lack limit reference points, and more than half lack upper stock references.