` Oceana Fishery Audit 2021

Rebuilding Abundant Wild Fish: A Five-Year Vision

Imagine a future where abundant oceans support all coastal communities, Indigenous Peoples and a thriving ocean-based economy. Canada has the tools to bring that vision to life — including significant investments, world-leading expertise and a modernized Fisheries Act with provisions that prioritize the health of marine ecosystems.

But there’s no more time to waste. Dozens of fish stocks remain depleted decades after their collapse. Canada depends on only a handful of species for most of our seafood value, making us economically vulnerable to any downturns in those stocks. Coastal development and resource exploitation are on the rise. And climate change is adding pressure and uncertainty, shifting species distributions and changing marine ecosystems.

The need for precautionary science-based fisheries management has never been greater — to build resiliency, hedge against climate change risks and create a thriving ocean economy. This requires developing and implementing strong rebuilding plans, informed by science, Indigenous Knowledge and monitoring data.

There are some things we can’t control, like natural fluctuations in fish numbers. And some challenges like climate change will take generations to rein in. What the government can and needs to control today is our approach to managing fisheries, making ecosystems and wild fish populations as resilient as possible.

We’ve seen some progress. Canada has many policy tools in place to help meet our international commitments. In 2017, DFO established the Sustainable Fisheries Framework Work Plan with a goal to implement these policies. In 2019, the federal government unveiled a new Fisheries Act and committed $100 million over five years to assess and rebuild fish stocks.

But as Oceana Canada’s indicators show, the government has been too slow to put those policies and dollars to work. These failures are having a significant impact. The past five years produced no improvement in the health status of Canadian stocks, and less than half of critical stocks have rebuilding plans.

Canada has the tools. Now we need action. By implementing ecosystem-based management approaches that already exist, we can rebuild bountiful wild fish populations. As a result, we’ll create a future where abundant oceans support thriving coastal communities, contribute to Canada’s post-pandemic prosperity and help to feed the world.

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Credit: iStock/RnDmS