Canada’s changing Fisheries Act: What it can mean for the future of our fish | Oceana Canada

Today is a big day for fish and marine habitat in Canada, thanks to proposed amendments announced by the government to the Fisheries Act. Bill C-68, tabled by the Government of Canada, addresses one of the greatest challenges in managing Canada’s oceans: the need to rebuild depleted fish populations and restore ocean abundance.

The health of Canada’s fish populations and the requirement to rebuild them to healthy levels has not previously been included in the Act – an absence that has left them vulnerable to decline and a lack of intervention to support their recovery. The proposed bill, if passed and implemented, has the opportunity to support thriving coastal communities, build a more vibrant economy and stronger food—and job—security for future generations.

“This is a potentially historic turning point for Canada’s oceans – where we move from depleting our fisheries to restoring them,” said Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada. “Canadian fish populations declined by 52 per cent from 1970-2006. To realize the Act’s potential, it must clarify the goal of restoring populations to abundance and be backed by new regulations that ensure robust rebuilding plans are developed.” 

Leading fishing nations such as the United States and the European Union are successfully tackling overfishing by legally requiring rebuilding plans when fish populations decline. In the U.S. alone, this has led to a record number of 32 fish stocks being rebuilt since 2006, generating 54 per cent more revenue than when they were overfished. The new Fisheries Act begins to address this issue by requiring the Minister, when making decisions, to consider whether actions to rebuild stocks are in place for depleted stocks. 

And that’s not all the Act takes on, it also restores habitat protection measures removed in 2012, recognizes Indigenous Rights and features a clear purpose to manage and control fisheries as well as conserve and protect fish habitat. It also incorporates modern fisheries management practices such as the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches.

Oceana Canada will continue to work tirelessly with the Canadian government, Indigenous Peoples, communities and other stakeholders to strengthen and implement the proposed Act for the benefit of our oceans and everyone who relies on them.