Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

October 18, 2006 12:07 ET

DFO/Protecting Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems: The Facts

Attention to Opinion Page Editors

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 18, 2006) - Recent media reports concerning bottom trawling contain some significant misperceptions about Canada's commitment to protecting the marine environment. As Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, I want to set the record straight.

Despite what some detractors may say, there is no growing momentum for a blanket ban on bottom trawling at the United Nations. Canada is among the majority of responsible fishing nations in saying that such an approach is impractical and unenforceable under current international law.

I made it clear that Canada would be looking for approaches that are practical, enforceable and fair.

Oceans ecosystems are complex; some areas are home to biologically significant resources, such as deep-sea corals and seamounts. Fishing activities can harm these vulnerable areas, but that does not mean that fishing in other areas is destructive. It's the 'where, when and how' that determines whether fishing is destructive or not - trawling in the sand does not have the same impact as trawling in corals.

That's why this government believes that the real way to protect sensitive marine areas is to enforce responsible and precautionary fishing practices. Responsible fishing respects both the environment and those who depend on it for their livelihoods. This is the balanced approach we take in Canadian waters, and we're working quickly to examine new ways that we can do more.

To date, we've required industry to modify some gear types to reduce the impact on vulnerable marine habitat. This includes developing and using new technologies that are less damaging to the ocean bottom. We've restricted some areas of the ocean to fishing activities entirely. We're also working on improving our knowledge of where sensitive marine habitat is situated.

Enforcement of these rules cannot be overlooked. Strong regional fisheries management organizations across the high seas is a fundamental goal shared by most UN members, including proponents of a moratorium on bottom trawling on unregulated areas of the high seas. Canada's New Government has already put significant effort into ensuring that flag states are compelled to control the fishing activities of their fleets and comply with international standards and rules, and we will continue to do so.

Canada is on the right track on this issue. We are advocating for effective, long-term measures internationally that we currently practice at home. We are also advocating for real standards of protection, understanding the urgency for real protection of oceans and marine resources.

When the United Nations General Assembly debates in early December the adoption of a resolution for sustainable fisheries, I am confident that states will speak in unison for a similar way forward.

The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Contact Information

  • Steve Outhouse
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Sophie Galarneau
    Manager, Media Relations
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa