For Immediate Release, October 5 2016
K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – The Commissioner on Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD), a branch of the Canadian Auditor General’s Office, released its fall reports on October 4th. Among them is a report on Sustaining Canada’s Major Fish Stocks. The findings of the report include:
- Out of 15 stocks in the “critical” zone (meaning severely depleted), only 3 have rebuilding plans.
- Only 21 out of 110 of the up-to-date Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs) included an evaluation of whether or not objectives in the plans had been met.
- Most Integrated Fisheries Management Plans are either not up-to-date, non-existent or not publicly available.
- 80 out of 154 stocks examined did not have science-based reference points in place. This makes assessments of the health of the stock, and any related management decisions, relatively ineffective.
“Unfortunately, none of the findings were much of a surprise, “ says Susanna Fuller, Senior Marine Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, and co-author of a report released by Oceana in June which also reviewed the status of Canada’s fish stocks. “We are hoping, however, that this report is a call to action for DFO – and the Canadian government to allocate the necessary resources and fill critical gaps in how we manage our fisheries – from data collection, stock assessments, and publicly available and accountable fisheries management plans.”
The Mandate Letter delivered by Prime Minister Trudeau to the Fisheries Minister in November outlines a significant number of areas of work for the department. Unfortunately, there is relatively little mention made of the sustainable management of Canada’s fisheries. The federal government has however, committed to restoring some of its science capacity with the hiring of 135 scientists. As well the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO) is currently doing a study on Northern cod – still considered “endangered” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Hearings on revisiting changes to the Fisheries Act made by the former federal government will also resume this fall, which is a step in the right direction.
“Several of the gaps and failings identified in the report can be addressed by a commitment to modernizing the Fisheries Act,” says Fuller. “In other developed fishing nations, the fisheries legislation includes provisions for stock rebuilding and targets and timelines to guide this work. Canada’s Fisheries Act has none of this, not even references to the precautionary or ecosystem approaches to fisheries management – which have been enshrined in international law for over 20 years.”
Budget cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as Strategic Reviews of the Department over the last several years have led to reduced investment in fisheries resources, despite the fact that many coastal communities depend heavily on wild fisheries.
“People forget that fisheries are one of the few – perhaps the only – public food resource that we have in Canada. It is imperative that we manage our fisheries with the future in mind, not only for our coastal economies but for food security as well,” notes Colleen Turlo, Sustainable Seafood Coordinator. “Think about Nova Scotia, for example, without the lobster fishery. It would be a very, very different place.”