• A recent report produced by Oceana Canada found the fishing industry is dependent on a handful of species, and that this lack of diversification is unsustainable. (Image courtesy Oceana Canada)

Canada’s seafood industry is at its peak—economically that is.

A recent report produced by Oceana Canada—titled Here’s the Catch: How to Restore Abundance to Canada’s Oceans—is considered the most up-to-date and comprehensive analysis of Canada’s fish stocks, and sheds light on some of the less than desirable aspects of the fishing industry.

The main issue unveiled by the report is that less than 25 per cent of Canada’s marine fish are considered healthy, and the status of 45 per cent of stocks couldn’t be determined because data didn’t exist or was outdated.

The report also pointed to fisheries’ dependence on a handful of species—namely lobster, crab, shrimp, and scallops—as problematic.

“If Canada wants to ensure a sustainable economy and resilient coastal communities, we need to ensure healthy and diversified fisheries,” says the report. “A lobster fishery collapse, for example, would be devastating because the value of shellfish is so high and there’s a lack of other options fishers can turn to.”

The report points to the government as one of the main drivers of unstainable fishing by failing to enforce fisheries to conduct regular assessments and by not being transparent with data.

“Fisheries data is often unavailable…Canadians must be able to assess how our government is doing and hold them accountable for management decisions,” it says.

The authors highlight limiting overfishing, improving transparency, and improving legal and policy framework as the three main changes needed to ensure Canada’s fishing industry remains viable into the future.

With more than 46,000 Canadians directly employed in wild fisheries—not to mention the other 33,000 jobs in the seafood processing and packaging sector—ensuring sustainable fishing practices is urgent and, according to the report, possible.

“Canada and the rest of the world could increase the number of fish in the oceans by 40 per cent—and do it sustainably. The key is effective management.”