Policy on New Fisheries for Forage Species

Forage species play a special role in aquatic ecosystems. Situated below the top of the food chain, these species are a significant source of food for dependent predators and other fish, marine mammals, reptiles, and birds. Examples of forage species fisheries include fisheries for herring, capelin and shrimp.

When a forage species declines in abundance, a dependent predator may experience: major changes in diet; reduced growth rate and fat storage; reduced reproductive success and/or delayed maturation; and changes in normal seasonal distribution patterns. Therefore, the role played by forage species in the ecosystem places additional constraints on the planning, implementing and evaluation of their sustainable harvest.

Sustainable and economically viable fisheries for some forage species, such as herring, have been ongoing in Canada for many decades, without causing undue alteration to the related ecosystem. New fisheries for forage species must continue this trend.

The Policy on New Fisheries for Forage Species has been developed for this purpose. It outlines an approach to managing new forage species fisheries to ensure that they are planned and conducted in ways that sustain ecosystem integrity. It also complements the New Emerging Fisheries Policy which identifies the requirements and procedures necessary to initiate all new fisheries in Canada.

The Policy on New Fisheries for Forage Species has five primary objectives:

  1. maintain target, bycatch, and ecologically dependent species within natural abundance fluctuations;
  2. maintain ecological relationships (e.g., predator-prey and competition) among species affected directly or indirectly by the fishery within natural abundance fluctuations;
  3. minimize the risk of changes to species’ abundances or relationships, which are difficult or impossible to reverse;
  4. maintain full reproductive potential of the forage species, including genetic diversity and geographic population structure; and
  5. allow opportunities to conduct commercially viable fisheries on forage species.

This policy responds to increasing domestic and international emphasis on the application of ecosystem and precautionary approaches to fisheries management, while addressing growing industry interest in new harvesting opportunities. It also responds to strong public interest in the ecosystem effects of fishing, and consumer demand for evidence of sustainable fisheries practices.

The policy will be triggered as new forage species fisheries proposals are brought forward to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Existing forage species fisheries are being reviewed against the principles of the new policy. Any adjustments that may be identified will be discussed through the fishery advisory processes. However, any significant changes proposed to existing forage species fisheries – such as considerable changes to exploitation rates, gears, seasons or other modifications that could affect the conservation of the species – will require an assessment to determine whether they meet the objectives of the new policy.

Related Link: