Audit finds Canada’s fisheries in decline and response lacks urgency

Report says 17 per cent of fish stocks are critically depleted, up from 13.4 per cent in 2018

An Atlantic cod in an anemone field. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility/ROPOS, Oceana Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

An Atlantic cod in an anemone field. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility/ROPOS, Oceana Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

An annual audit of Canada’s fisheries has flagged a decline in the number of healthy fish stocks over the last two years and warned they will continue to suffer without more specific government action.

The findings are contained in a report released Wednesday by the advocacy group Oceana Canada, its third report card on the state of the country’s fisheries based on data from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The report urges Ottawa to finalize regulations setting timelines and targets for rebuilding critically depleted stocks, predicting the situation will deteriorate further if such actions are not taken.

This year’s audit concluded that 17 per cent of Canada’s fish stocks are critically depleted, up from 13.4 per cent in 2018. Fisheries in what the group calls the cautious or critical zones outnumbered the 29.4 per cent of stocks considered healthy.

The health status of 38 per cent of stocks could not be assessed due to insufficient data.

Robert Rangeley, science director with the organization, said the series of audits has revealed worrying trends, including a disappointing lack of action on the continuing “crisis” in Canada’s fisheries.

“I thought by our third audit we’d see more progress,” he said by phone from Ottawa.

He said the federal response has failed to keep pace with the rising number of critically depleted stocks, a situation that may worsen as the oceans undergo unpredictable changes from climate change.

“There’s a lot of really good and smart people in charge of the science and management of our oceans, but progress is too slow,” he said. ”The urgency is only getting greater.”

The report cited some progress, including an increase in scientific publications assessing fish stock health and greater transparency of fishery monitoring.

It also pointed to the new Fisheries Act, amended in June, as an opportunity for progress. But it said still-developing regulations should include such provisions as timelines for stock rebuilding plans and standardized monitoring systems in order for the new legislation to make a difference.

READ MORE: Advocates sound alarm on worst B.C. commercial fishing season in 50 years

Twenty-four of the country’s critically depleted fish stocks are in Eastern Canada, including Atlantic cod and northern shrimp. Nine critically depleted stocks live in waters around B.C., where numbers of critical stocks are on the rise, according to the report.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cpl. Victoria Boechler is shaving her head to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation. (Facebook/Ridge Meadows RCMP)
Maple Ridge officer shaving head for BC Cancer Society

Cpl. Victoria Boechler supporting a cousin recently diagnosed with cancer

BC Hydro is reporting a power outage is just north of the Lougheed Highway, between 203rd Street and Laity Street, and Dewdney Trunk Road and Powell Avenue. (BC Hydro)
An employee at the Shoppers Drug Mart at 224 Street and Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge, has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press files)
COVID exposure at Maple Ridge Shoppers Drug Mart

Employee tested positive for COVID-19

Gabriel Fitzpatrick and Shae Laing both received the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Dean’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Masonry. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
Maple Ridge students receive top honours in masonry

Received Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Dean’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Masonry

Tommy Picco lost his life to an overdose in October, 2020. (Special to The News)
Grieving Maple Ridge mother calls for decriminalization of drugs for Black Balloon Day

Five people died in Maple Ridge this January of suspected illicit drug toxicity overdose

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read