Fishing is a global industry, and of key importance to Canada. Bringing $6 billion into the Canadian economy, fish and seafood were Canada's second largest single food export in 2015. We export our fish and seafood products to 140 countries worldwide.
Sadly, the future health and competitiveness of our fisheries are threatened by unsustainable or illegal fishing practices around the world and through harm to the marine environment.
Canada's marine ecosystem is affected by the health of waterways around the world, so Canada has significant fisheries interests to defend and to advance in international fora. Protecting the marine environment for future generations is, quite simply, fundamentally important to us all.
Our International Priorities
Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO) international priorities are to stop overfishing, improve how the world manages high seas fish stocks, ensure healthy oceans ecosystems, enhance a trading and commercial system that guards and promotes Canadians interests, and help keep Canada safe and secure.
Ultimately, our strategy considers and integrates all stages of the international fishery together – an “ocean to plate” concept - to ensure the long-term health of the world's shared oceans and fish stocks. It incorporates sustainable fisheries, sustainable industries, and sustainable ecosystems.
Canadian Leadership To Protect the High Seas
The department is taking a leadership role in the world arena to help ensure the long-term health of the world's shared ocean resources.
We have achieved significant successes in recent years in managing fisheries resources. Among these:
- With our input, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) is becoming an effective Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO).
- We have largely halted foreign overfishing in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and are working to prevent illegal high seas driftnet fishing in the North Pacific Ocean.
- We have also been instrumental in international activities to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems beyond our national waters, including seamounts and deep-sea/cold-water corals.
Working Together with the International Community
Canada works with others in the international community at the United Nations and other international organizations to commit to better and more sustainable fisheries and oceans management. Commitments made at the international level between sovereign states are usually achieved through consensus-based decision-making.
- To advance our international plans, DFO works hard to build relationships and strategic alliances with key fishing countries, both in the developed and developing worlds.
- We also work through several Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, where we share knowledge and best practices.
- As members of these RFMOs, Canada supports and promotes ecosystem-based management and the precautionary approach, based on sound scientific advice.
Protecting Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems
Through the 2006 United Nations General Assembly Sustainable Fisheries Resolution, States agreed on the need for better protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts of bottom contact fisheries. DFO played a leadership role during those negotiations to ensure that the resolution would be practical and effective. That leadership continues.
DFO works to ensure Canadian economic interests in fisheries are promoted internationally. Today, environmental issues increasingly have an impact on markets. For example, certification and traceability are key to ensuring access to international markets. DFO works with industry to help demonstrate the sustainability of Canada's fish and seafood products. Our cooperative efforts help protect and expand access of Canadian fish and seafood industries to both domestic and foreign markets.
Enforcement and Compliance
To ensure international rules are respected, the department has strong enforcement capabilities.
Regular monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing vessels within and beyond Canada's 200-mile limit is an important element of Canada's fisheries management strategy and it is key to deterring illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Our presence on the water, in the air and in port sends a clear message that illegal activity and overfishing will not be tolerated by Canada.
Our goal is to achieve sustainable fisheries through management decisions based on sound scientific advice which support ongoing economic opportunities for our coastal communities.
There is still much to do.
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