Canada’s sustainable fisheries
In 2018, Canada exported a record $6.9 billion in fish and seafood products. Learn how we manage our fisheries to ensure continued prosperity and sustainability for the future.
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Sustainable fisheries mean harvesting and farming fish stocks in a way that meets our present needs without compromising the ability to meet our future needs.
Canada ensures our fisheries remain sustainable by making decisions that consider the connection between environmental, economic and social issues.
Approximately 72,000 Canadians make their living directly from fishing and fishing-related activities. So, while conservation remains our top priority, we also support 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
- provide more stable employment, particularly in coastal communities
We work to secure the future of our fisheries through sustainable and responsible fisheries management that:
- is science based
- applies the precautionary approach
- addresses ecosystem considerations
- uses a risk-based approach to managing our resources
Model for sustainable management
A successful model for sustainable fisheries management relies on 5 areas, which are:
- making science-based decisions
- managing environmental impacts
- enforcing the rules
- monitoring results
Management plans are our main tool for ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources. They guide economically viable and environmentally sustainable fisheries.
A management plan includes important considerations for all aspects of the fishery, such as:
- outlining 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 licence holders or the fishing fleet
- setting goals for the fishery, and the management and enforcement approaches to be used
- setting rules for the fishery, like when and where the fishing season can take place and what types of gear can be used
Management plans include all the factors that lead to good decision making.
Making science-based decisions
Our 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.
We rely on the latest data and scientific 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
- species migration
- species abundance
- other biological and environmental factors
Good decision making comes from collaboration, which is why our scientists work closely with:
- recognized universities
- science-based international organizations, such as the:
- World Health Organization
- International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
Our scientists also participate in regional fisheries management organizations to share and improve global scientific research and knowledge. These include the:
- Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
- International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
Managing environmental impacts
The operation of fisheries affects ocean and freshwater ecosystems. We aim for a balance that serves the needs of Canadians while managing environmental impacts.
When managing fisheries in Canada, we consider the effects of the fishery on the ecosystem, including:
- fish habitat
- the target fish stock
- the food source for other species (forage species)
- sensitive or unique bottom habitats and ecosystems, such as:
- hot thermal vents
- corals and sponges
- other fish species caught incidentally, including species at risk
- an incidental catch is a fish that’s accidentally caught while targeting another species
Enforcing the rules
Canada spends approximately $130 million annually on monitoring, control and enforcement across Canada. We have one of the most advanced programs in the world.
Key elements of this program include:
- electronic catch monitoring
- licence requirements for fish harvesters
- dockside monitoring services to monitor catch
- independent onboard observers to monitor catch
- electronic monitoring systems for fishing vessels and gear
- legislation and regulations that set out the rules for the fisheries industries
- aerial and at-sea patrols to monitor fishing vessel activity within and beyond Canada’s 200-mile limit
- more than 630 fishery officers and 108 habitat officers who work across Canada to ensure fish harvesters comply with the rules
Fisheries and the environment change frequently. This is why management plans are regularly reviewed to ensure that fisheries are sustainable and environmentally responsible.
We monitor progress in meeting conservation, management and overall sustainability goals.
Top 10 global exports
Our continued focus on sustainable management has made fish and seafood among Canada’s largest exports of food products.
The following list shows Canada’s most valuable fishery exports for 2018, which reached 139 countries worldwide.
- Lobster ($2.2 billion)
- Atlantic salmon ($971 million)
- Queen/snow crab ($886 million)
- Prawn/shrimp ($469 million)
- Crab ($420 million)
- Salmon ($220 million)
- Scallop ($163 million)
- Herring ($136 million)
- Clam ($120 million)
- Hake ($116 million)
Other sustainable exports include the following.
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