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bycatch dolphin escape the net

Oceana Canada’s report—Collateral damage: How to reduce bycatch in Canada’s commercial fisheries—reveals how poorly Canada is managing one of the biggest threats to our oceans. The catch of non-target fish and ocean wildlife, or “bycatch,” results in unnecessary waste and harm to sea life. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not taken the steps necessary to monitor or address this serious threat.

Up to 10.3 million tonnes of sea life is unintentionally caught each year around the world, captured in nets, lines and other gear. Some of this is kept and sold, or released safely; but far too much is put back in the ocean, either dead or dying. In Canada, this includes endangered and threatened species like whales, turtles, sharks and fish. For example, an estimated 1,200 endangered loggerhead turtles are caught each year on pelagic longlines in the swordfish fishery. 

The report revealed that there are big holes in Canadian data, that our regulatory approach is inadequate and that hundreds of species end up as bycatch. For example:

  • The north Atlantic Swordfish fishery discards approximately 44.8% of its catch, including threatened and endangered sharks and sea turtles, as well as dolphins and whales.
  • The Eastern offshore lobster fishery discards approximately 22%, including endangered species like Atlantic cod and northern wolffish.
  • The Pacific halibut fishery discards approximately 45%, including endangered basking sharks.

By acting now, the government has the opportunity to be a global leader in ocean conservation and secure a sustainable food source for the world’s growing population.

Campaign goal

Oceana Canada’s report recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada release a national plan to:
  • Count everything that is caught in a fishery, including bycatch species;
  • Cap the amount of wasted catch in each fishery using science-based limits;
  • Control and avoid bycatch by making improvements such as using more sustainable fishing gear;
  • Protect endangered and threatened species so their populations can recover.

Campaign progress