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For seven years, Oceana Canada’s annual Fishery Audit has highlighted a huge concern for Canadians: our fisheries are in decline with no concrete plan for revival.

As of 2023:

  • Only 1/3 of Canadian Fisheries are considered Healthy
  • Almost 40% of Canadian Fisheries have an Uncertain status due to lack of updated stock assessments
  • Only 6 out of 28 critically depleted stocks have rebuilding plans in place despite legal requirements to do so

A healthy fishery is one where each year there are enough fish reproducing that the stock can continue to be fished sustainably

These findings paint a troubling picture. In a country abundant with natural resources, access to seafood that is both local and sustainable should be easily attainable. It is clear there is a lot of work to be done. But there is a way forward.

Below we’ve highlighted three areas where Ocean Wise is supporting action to increase the sustainability of Canada’s seafood industry.

Indigenous Knowledge Integration

As longstanding stewards of the ocean, with centuries of gathering Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), coastal First Nation communities hold valuable knowledge for fishing with the ocean’s health in mind.

Unfortunately, policies often create barriers for the inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge systems like TEK, excluding the input and expertise from Indigenous knowledge holders.

Together with Ikaarvik, an independent, Indigenous-led not-for-profit organization, we’re creating a more inclusive method for evaluating the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. Our goal is to redefine sustainability by harmonizing Western science with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) – an Inuit values system where ecological, social, and cultural aspects are encompassed.

Through assessing the community, environmental, and ecological impact of a fishery, we can move towards fishery management plans that are accurate and attainable for a more ocean friendly future.  

Embracing Emerging Technologies

To successfully end overfishing, fishery management approaches need to modernize, as do the methods used to collect fisheries data – and what better way than with new and innovative technology?

For effective and sustainable fishery management, proper catch monitoring is essential to ensure accurate harvest counts and identifying bycatch species. The current process for collecting this data is filming countless hours of footage for manual review.  

On Deck Fisheries AI is creating an artificial intelligence system that analyses the video footage in real time – revolutionizing the future of catch data collection. Ocean Wise is proud to back this innovative and cost-effective solution to time intensive catch monitoring.

Increasing Consumer Knowledge

Knowledge is the backbone of informed decision making and we’re committed to giving businesses and consumers the information they need to support sustainable seafood.  

However, the fishery assessments necessary for substantiating sustainability claims are incredibly expensive and time consuming to complete. This often results in many Canadian small-scale fisheries being excluded from sustainable seafood spaces, despite their contributions to Canada’s seafood economy. And Canadians are missing crucial information about the current state of their domestic seafood landscape.

Ocean Wise developed their Rapid Assessment Standard (RAPSTA) in 2022 to bridge this knowledge gap and decrease the barrier of entry for small-scale fisheries. RAPSTA quickly and efficiently translates domestic fish stock assessments into necessary information for Canadian consumers and Ocean Wise Seafood partners – turning fisheries with no sustainability information available into either a ‘Recommended’ or ‘Not Recommended’ option.

Improving both the frequency of data collection and diversifying the ways we source knowledge is essential for fostering genuine sustainability for our ocean. The more accurate and comprehensive assessments we have for Canadian fisheries, the easier it becomes to create science-based management plans and enact meaningful change at the fishery level.

Wondering what you can do to help restore Canada’s fisheries? Every time you choose Ocean Wise Recommended seafood, you’re helping to increase the demand for ocean-friendly options and drive change on the water. You can also sign Oceana’s petition calling for Canada’s government to stop overfishing.

All Photo Credits: Samantha Renshaw

Posted December 18, 2023 by Kim Bricker

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