Canada focuses on the future

Canada has one of the world’s most advanced and respected fisheries inspection and monitoring systems Canada has one of the world’s most advanced and respected fisheries inspection and monitoring systems

The Canadian fishing industry is making sure the next 10 years is just as prosperous as the last decade, reports Adrian Tatum.

They say that history doesn’t repeat itself. And the Canadian fishing sector has done everything it can in recent years to ensure that a repeat of the cod fishery collapse of the early 1990s never happens again. 

While struggles with the cod fishery that led to a complete closure in 1992 is well documented, the work that has been going since in the Canadian fishery industry is not so well known. 

Only recently, Canada and the European Union (EU) agreed on a comprehensive trade agreement that will significantly boost trade and investment links and create job opportunities and further business partnerships for the fishing sector. When the agreement comes into force, approximately 96% of all EU tariffs on Canadian fish and seafood products will be eliminated straight away, with 100% gone after a further seven years.  

This is just one example of how the Canadian fishing sector is viewing the future - by trying to take opportunities to develop more fish sales abroad via traditional catches and investing in aquaculture while strengthening and maintaining the situation at home.

Vital role
Commercial fisheries continue to play a vital role in the country’s economy, particularly for the coastal regions. In 2013, Canada exported $4.4 billion of fish and seafood products, which was an increase of $268 million from 2012. Alongside this, the aquaculture sector now creates over 14,000 full time jobs in rural, coastal and Aboriginal communities throughout Canada.  

The next step for Canada is to restructure its Pacific Aquaculture Regulations so that a licence fee system is created to allow for annual payments in return for multi-year aquaculture licences.

But one of the biggest challenges the sector is facing is how it copes with Aquatic Invasive Species, which continue to pose a significant and growing threat to Canada’s freshwater and marine ecosystems. At present Canada does not have any national regulations in relation to this.

In June, Canada re-enforced its vision for growth as Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers met at the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM) annual meeting, where they reinforced their commitment to job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity, while discussing sustainability and a broad range of fisheries and aquaculture issues.

Ministers emphasised the continued importance of opening other international markets through trade agreements to ensure long term growth and prosperity and to create job opportunities for Canadians. Ministers noted that to capitalise on these new markets, access to a stable workforce for the aquaculture, harvesting and processing sectors is required, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Ministers also reviewed a presentation on the continued implementation of the Fisheries Protection Program, and received an update on the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program (RFCPP), which has been given a total investment of $25 million through the Economic Action Plan.

Recreational fishing is a significant industry in Canada and contributes greatly to the Canadian economy, especially in rural areas. In 2010, anglers generated $8.3 billion for local economies.

Following the CCFAM meeting, the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers met to discuss the important challenges still facing the Atlantic lobster industry. They also discussed the World Trade Organisation’s recent ruling on the European Union ban on seals.

Ministers recognised the importance of the consultations and efforts made over the last number of months to address lobster industry issues. They also acknowledged challenges facing the fisheries, such as acute local labour shortages in the processing sector.

“Healthy oceans and waters as well as aquaculture, recreational and commercial fisheries are an important part of Canada’s economy. Our Government is committed to work with our provincial and territorial partners to maximise job creation and economic growth in these sectors, while maintaining strong environmental and conservation standards,” said Gail Shea, Minster of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

World leader
Canada has become one of the world leaders in the sustainable management of fisheries and aquaculture. The secret, says Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is to ensure 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 its 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 its 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. 

Management plans
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. 

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. 

DFO’s scientists are involved in some of the most advanced national and international research activities taking place in oceans and freshwaters right now. 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. 

Canada also 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.

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.

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.  

Safety of fishery workers has also been a focus over the past few years. According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), fatalities in British Columbia’s fishing sector have declined sharply over the past decade. Research from the board has stated that the west coast has seen an average of 2.33 deaths per year in its fishing industry since 2004 — a decline from 4.16 in previous years. 

And despite the growth of the industry and its focus on exports, fishing communities still play an important part in the industry. About 100 communities on the Pacific coast and more than 1,000 in Atlantic Canada depend on the commercial fishery.  

Inland, fishing communities range from small lakeside settlements on the northern Prairies to substantial centres on the Great Lakes. Native communities on both coasts and inland pursue commercial fisheries, and Inuit have traditionally depended on fish or marine mammals for food and income. 

The degree of reliance on the fishery varies but hundreds of communities, mostly small and rural, depend on the industry almost exclusively. 

Fishing provides direct employment on boats and onshore. It also provides thousands more jobs for boatyards, trucking companies, and suppliers of all sorts. 

Fishing communities are facing challenges now. For some, the dropping numbers of boats and fish harvesters have eroded the economic base. 

Some of those challenges include rising of costs for boats and licenses as well as operating costs. In part, due to rising costs, some young people who traditionally would have entered the fishery are seeking other careers, according to the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH).

And it is these communities and others in the industry that have benefited from excellent fisheries research over the past few years. Continuous investment in fisheries science by the Provincial Government is increasing knowledge about the province’s fish stocks in a changing ecosystem, and helping to ensure the overall sustainability of Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishing industry, according to the Director of the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research.

Since the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research was launched in 2010, the Provincial Government has invested $13 million to support fisheries science research.

Dr George Rose, Director, Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research says it is through the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research that the Marine Institute applies its resources and expertise to help understand the fish stock dynamics in the Northwest Atlantic.

Several of the ongoing research projects made possible through public investment include acoustic surveys of northern cod, ecological and biological studies of haddock off the south coast of the island, research into shrimp distribution and dynamics, and the world’s first long-term cod satellite tagging project.

Glenn Blackwood, Vice-President, Memorial University (Marine Institute) says that the Provincial Government’s investments in fisheries science have allowed CFER to collect valuable data which has greatly increased understanding of the fisheries ecosystems surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador. The Provincial Government has also contributed a total of $150,000 to support student research placements since 2010. 

Canada: The facts

Surrounded by the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and home to the Great Lakes, Canada boasts one of the world’s most diverse fisheries in the world. Canada offers a wide variety of sustainably harvested species from many different areas of the country. In 2011, Atlantic Canada and Quebec commercial fishing landings were valued at $1.8 billion. Top Atlantic species in terms of value were lobster, snow crab, shrimp, scallops and Greenland turbot. Pacific commercial fishing landings were valued at $279 million. Top Pacific commercial species in terms of value were wild salmon, halibut, geoduck clams, spot prawns and Dungeness crab. Freshwater fish commercial landings were valued at $58 million. Top freshwater commercial species in terms of value were yellow pickerel, perch, whitefish, white bass and smelt.

Canada’s commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors provide more than 80,000 direct jobs to Canadians. They are the economic mainstay of many rural and coastal communities across Canada.

Canada was the world’s fifth largest fish and seafood exporter in 2011, with exports to more than 130 countries. In 2012, Canada’s fish and seafood exports were valued at $4.1 billion. The United States is Canada’s largest export market (representing roughly 62% of seafood trade) followed by China (11%), the European Union (8%), Japan (6%) and Hong Kong (3%). Canada’s fish and seafood imports were $2.8 billion in 2012, resulting in a significant annual trade surplus.

Canada has one of the world’s most respected fish inspection and control systems. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) sets the policies, requirements and inspection standards for fish products, federally registered fish and seafood processing establishments, importers, fishing vessels, and equipment used for handling, transporting and storing fish. All establishments which process fish and seafood for export or inter-provincial trade must be federally registered and must develop and implement a HACCP-based Quality Management Program (QMP) plan.


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