Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

November 21, 2005 09:00 ET

DFO: Making Progress to Ensure Sustainable Fish Stocks and Fisheries Around the World Canada, Statement on World Fisheries Day

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 21, 2005) - Today is World Fisheries Day;(1) a day to celebrate a resource that nurtures and nourishes millions of people in thousands of communities around the world. It is also an opportunity to remind ourselves that much work has yet to be done or we could place at risk a food source that has sustained humankind down through the ages.

That we are at a crossroads there can be no doubt. More than 70 per cent of the world's fisheries are either fully exploited or depleted. Countless stocks have fallen to historic lows with some being fished to extinction. It is clear that changing the way the world manages global fisheries must take place now to ensure sustainable fish stocks and healthy oceans ecosystems.

Fortunately, we've made important strides to meet these objectives, and there is encouraging news on a number of fronts.

Governments of many fishing nations around the world - and the international agencies to which they belong - have reinforced their commitment to tackle overfishing on a global level. They have taken steps to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is commonly referred to as IUU fishing, and to improve fisheries and oceans governance. Canada has been at the forefront of developing and sustaining this momentum.

Last March, Fisheries Ministers met at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organzation annual meeting(2) and issued the Rome Declaration against IUU fishing. Canada's statement at this meeting emphasized the need to address the social causes and economic incentives of illegal fishing - not just the symptoms. We also took this opportunity to submit our national plan of action to address IUU fishing.

In May, Ministers from 19 nations confirmed their support of the Rome Declaration at a conference hosted by Canada in St. John's, and went one step further. They underscored their concern for more substantial reform, especially as it pertains to regional fisheries management organizations that manage fish stocks on the high seas.

In their Declaration, Ministers agreed to modernize these organizations so they will make decisions based on sound science and equally sound conservation principles. They agreed that these organizations must consider the ecosystem in their decision-making and take a precautionary approach to ensure sustainable catches and ensure compliant fishing behaviour.

That's a tall order, but absolutely essential if progress on saving fish stocks is to be made.

In September, Canada co-chaired with Indonesia the 2nd meeting(3) of Asia-Pacific Oceans-related Ministers in Bali. In their resulting Declaration and Plan of Action, the Ministers indicated their commitment for action to address the threats of illegal fishing and encouraged the use of science to integrate an ecosystems approach to fisheries and oceans management.

At the APEC Leaders' Summit in Korea this past weekend; Prime Minister Paul Martin underscored the progress made in Bali in the fight against overfishing - and the importance of implementing the Bali Plan of Action in the Asia-Pacific region.

The work of the High Seas Task Force on IUU Fishing (on which Canada sits as the North American member with Ministers from the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Namibia) continues. The Task Force will meet again in March 2006 to recommend substantive and practical ways to address illegal fishing activities.

Of course, what Ministers pronounce upon globally, organizations and other stakeholders must act upon regionally.

For Atlantic Canadians, this is especially true when it comes to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) - an organization that manages high seas fish stocks that straddle Canada's 200-mile limit in the northwest Atlantic.

Canadians, to say the least, have found it difficult to reconcile the short-sighted activity demonstrated by some vessels in contravention with conservation and enforcement measures designed to protect straddling stocks.

Reform of NAFO is critical. At its September meeting in Estonia, there was unanimous agreement from NAFO members to reform the organization based on the St. John's Ministerial Declaration. To that end Canada will work with European Union and other NAFO members in 2006 so it can offer a set of concrete changes to the ways things get done.

Support for reform on international and regional fronts must also translate into specific actions closer to home.

More than a year ago, Canada embarked on an aggressive strategy to combat over fishing and improve how fisheries are managed on the high seas. We have dedicated substantial funds to an enhanced program of monitoring and surveillance in the Northwest Atlantic.

It is a strategy that is making a difference.

Since we took these actions in the Grand Banks ecosystem, there are fewer vessels fishing. With more at-sea and aerial inspections, Canada's message to foreign vessel owners and crews is clear - non-compliance and overfishing will not be tolerated. Period.

We've also seen some encouraging signs regarding follow-up action to vessel owners who break the rules. Fines and vessel suspensions are becoming more commonplace as governments get tough with those who choose to break the rules.

In a similar fashion in the North Pacific, Canada's joint enforcement action with the United States, Russia, Japan and Korea in an activity known as Operation Driftnet continues to achieve positive results.

But of course it is more than just enforcement of rules pertaining to any one time, any one ship, or any one activity. The preferred option is always to solve issues at the management table rather than on the water.

In that regard, we've made significant steps forward in our co-operation with fishing nations by enhancing bilateral fisheries relationships. For example, we recently signed a memorandum of understanding on fisheries co-operation with Portugal. We're also making in-roads with a number of other important fishing nations.

It is through key steps like these that we are gaining support around the world for our objectives, and building momentum and credibility for changing the way fish stocks will be managed internationally and regionally.

There is a recurring theme in all these efforts. Overfishing must be stopped in its tracks wherever it is found. Good fisheries governance cannot exist without an understanding of the need for a holistic approach to fisheries management - based on sound science that puts conservation and protection of marine ecosystems first. Stakeholders and communities must also play a role in the decision-making process.

Overfishing is a global problem requiring global solutions. No country can do this alone.

Let it be said that the decisions taken in the first decade of the 21st century took us back from the edge of wholesale fisheries extinction. And took us to a place where succeeding generations of fishers had a livelihood to go to and millions of the world's citizens continued to have access to a life-sustaining food source.

On this World Fisheries Day 2005 we have much to be concerned about and much to be hopeful for. It remains a work in progress. For its part Canada pledges to remain both vigilant and proactive.

(1) Created in 1998 by the World Forum on Fisherpeoples

(2) UN Food and Agriculture Organization

(3) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ocean-related Ministerial Meeting

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Steve Outhouse
    Media Relations
    (613) 998-1530
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Office of the Minister
    Sujata Raisinghani, Press Secretary
    (613) 992-3474