Fisheries Sustainability


Read about the sustainable industry and management of Canada’s wild capture fisheries:

Canada is one of the world leaders in the sustainable management of fisheries and aquaculture.

The principles of sustainable development maintain that environmental, economic and social issues are interconnected and must be integrated into the decision making process. Decisions based on sustainable development help Canadians achieve a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and a vibrant society for current and future generations.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada works to secure the future of our wild capture fisheries through sustainable and responsible fisheries management that is science based, applies the precautionary approach, addresses ecosystem considerations and uses a risk based approach to managing our resources.

While conservation remains the top priority, DFO also supports an economically prosperous fishery that can improve its competitiveness, invest in conservation measures and activities, self-adjust to better balance harvesting effort with resource capacity and provide more stable employment, particularly in coastal communities.

Canada’s model for the sustainable management of Canadian fisheries cover the following five key areas:


Management plans are the primary tool DFO uses to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources – they integrate all the factors that lead to good decision-making.

Management plans guide economically viable and environmentally sustainable fisheries.

For wild capture fisheries, a management plan includes important considerations for all aspects of the fishery.

  • It outlines the biology and status of the fish stock,
  • the total amount of fish that can be caught to keep the stock healthy and viable,
  • the share of the total catch that can be caught by license holders or the fishing fleet.
  • It also sets out the rules for the fishery, such as when and where the fishing season can take place and what types of gear can be used.
  • It establishes the objectives for the fishery and the management and enforcement approaches to be employed.

Science as a Cornerstone of Decision-Making

DFO’s scientists are involved in some of the most advanced national and international research activities taking place in oceans and freshwater today. This includes studying large areas of the ocean to learn how all the elements of an ecosystem are affected by human activities, such as fishing.

Wild Fisheries
Sustainable fisheries means the harvesting and farming of fish stocks in a manner that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

We rely on the latest data and the resulting scientific peer reviewed advice to make important decisions for the sustainable management of Canadian fisheries. To create management plans that regulate size limits, quotas, seasons, and gear, managers require information on:

  • the biology of the fish species,
  • their migration,
  • their abundance
  • and other biological and environmental factors.

DFO scientists work closely with recognized universities and science-based international organizations such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the World Health Organization. DFO scientists also participate in regional fisheries management organizations such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to share and improve global scientific research and knowledge.

Managing Environmental Impacts

Wild capture fisheries operations affect ocean and freshwater ecosystems. This is true of most natural resource industries. The key is to find the balance that serves the needs of Canadians, while managing environmental impacts.

When managing wild capture fisheries in Canada, DFO considers the effects of the fishery on various components of the ecosystem, including:

  • the target fish stock
  • other fish species caught incidentally, including species at risk
  • the food source for other species (forage species)
  • fish habitat
  • sensitive or unique bottom habitats and ecosystems, such as seamounts, hot thermal vents, corals and sponges.

Enforcing the Rules

Canada has one of the most advanced fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance programs in the world. Enforcing the rules across Canada’s seafood sector is an important element to sustainable fisheries.

Fisheries And Oceans Canada spends approximately $130 million annually on monitoring, control and enforcement across Canada. A variety of tools are used to monitor and enforce compliance with DFO rules.

Key elements of this program include:

  • aerial and at-sea patrols to monitor fishing-vessel activity within and beyond Canada’s 200-mile limit
  • independent onboard observers to monitor catch
  • electronic catch monitoring
  • electronic monitoring systems for fishing vessels and gear
  • dockside monitoring services to monitor catch
  • More than 630 fishery officers and 108 habitat officers are working across Canada to ensure fish harvesters comply with the rules.
  • Canada has legislation and regulations that set out the rules for the fisheries industries.
  • Every fish harvester requires a license to harvest or conduct aquaculture activities. These licenses also contain the basic rules.

Monitoring Results

Fisheries and the environment change regularly, and management plans are regularly reviewed to ensure that fisheries are sustainable and environmentally responsible.

  • DFO monitors progress in meeting conservation, management and overall sustainability goals.

More Information:

Sustainable Fisheries Framework