New report reveals more fish populations are in critical condition than reported by the Government of Canada | Oceana

New report reveals more fish populations are in critical condition than reported by the Government of Canada

Press Release Date: October 25, 2017

Location: TORONTO


Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

Today, Oceana Canada released the most comprehensive review of the state of Canada’s fisheries and the first annual assessment of how the government is managing them. The results revealed that Canadian fisheries are in trouble: only one third of stocks are considered healthy and 13 per cent are in critical condition. Further, the health of 36 per cent can’t be determined because there is insufficient information to properly assess them.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada reports that there are 19 Canadian marine stocks in critical condition; however we found 26 in our independent analysis using the same sources,” says Dr. Robert Rangeley, Director of Science, Oceana Canada. “What’s more concerning is that there are only three plans in place to rebuild these 26 dangerously depleted populations.”The contrast across Canada’s coasts is stark: 22 of the critical stocks are in Atlantic Canada, only one of which has a rebuilding plan.

Canada’s fishing industry employs more than 79,000 Canadians and exports more than $6 billion worth of seafood a year, yet most of Canada’s commercial fish populations are depleted. Since 1970, an estimated 52 per cent of their biomass has disappeared. Rebuilding is essential to ensure the stability of Canada’s multi-billion-dollar seafood industry and to avoid another economically devastating fishery collapse.

“In as little as 10 years, many Canadian fish populations could once again be healthy and thriving, strengthening the economy, sustaining coastal communities and feeding the world’s growing population,” says Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada. “Fisheries and Oceans Canada has identified the steps needed to rebuild Canada’s depleted stocks. Now it needs to implement them.”

Canada lags behind international standards of sustainable fisheries management. In countries with some of the best managed fisheries, governments are legally obligated to rebuild stocks and, as a result, fish populations have rebounded. Rebuilding became mandatory in the United States 20 years ago and since then 43 stocks have been rebuilt, generating on average more than 50 per cent more revenue than when they were overfished.

“The Canadian Government has made good progress on fulfilling its commitments to transparency and scientific investment in the oceans, and has committed to developing five more rebuilding plans by 2019. These are great first steps.” says Laughren. “Now, with the the current review of Canada’s Fisheries Act, the government has a rare opportunity to set Canada on a path to ocean abundance by updating the Act to include the legal duty to rebuild depleted stocks.”

By implementing Canada’s commitments to sustainable management and legally mandating the recovery of depleted fish populations, Canada’s fisheries can be restored. These much-needed actions will result in thriving coastal communities, a more vibrant economy and stronger food – and job – security for future generations. 

Oceana Canada’s Fishery Audit 2017, includes information on 194 stocks, representing all major marine fisheries and the most ever analyzed in Canada. The report can be accessed at