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

Dawson Road Maintenance crews have been working on road base failures on Highway 20. (Dawson Road Maintenance Facebook photo)
ROAD REPORT: Dawson Road Maintenance provides update on Cariboo Chilcotin road conditions

Road bases still soft, saturated at multiple locations in Cariboo Chilcotin due to spring freshet

The Central Coast snowpack is now sitting at 146 percent (Felicia Harris photo)
Central Coast snowpack now 46 per cent above normal

The risk of spring flooding is elevated due to the above normal snowpack across the entire province

Residents line up socially distanced at the Seedy Saturday event, held at the Lobelco Hall parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 3 with strict COVID-19 restrictions and precautions in place. (Nicole Kaechele photo)
Seedlings, plants and seeds offered at Seedy Saturday

“It was a fairly good turnout,” noted Elizabeth Howard

The Bella Coola Valley Arts Council (BCVAC) has recently received two awards totaling $40,000 from the province-wide British Columbia Arts Council, part of the StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan. The grants are to be used to stimulate local arts communities and to help them cope with impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo submitted)
Bella Coola Valley Arts Council receives $40,000 for local projects

The grants will be used to stimulte local arts communities and help them cope with the pandemic

Nuxalk Sputc Crew technician Scmlh (Jason Moody) walks in Bella Coola River towards sputc holding tank with cinematographer Louvens Remy (photo submitted)
Documentary to highlight importance of sputc for Nuxalk Nation

Sputc: We Shall Eat When the River is Full is a cinematic tale of wealth, loss and recovery

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Ocean Legacy Foundation members conduct a shoreline pollution cleanup in Vancouver. (OLP)
It’s time to end ‘suffocating’ plastic pollution along B.C. shorelines, advocates urge on Earth Day

Ocean Legacy Foundation is launching a free educational platform to educate the public about plastic pollution

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. girl’s wish granted as her cat came back, two years later

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

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

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident wants Columbia River better protected

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Most Read