Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

November 21, 2006 08:00 ET

Statement by Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans: Ensuring Sustainable Fisheries for Today and the Future/World Fisheries Day-November 21, 2006

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 21, 2006) - World Fisheries Day is a day to reflect on our connection and responsibility to the world's fisheries - past and present. It's also a day to look to the future and at what we're doing right to manage these precious resources, and what more needs to be done.

Fishing is a way of life for millions of people, and millions more rely on fish for their nutritional needs. In Canada, the fishing industry provides 80,000 direct jobs and many thousands more in related areas of the industry.

Countries around the world all seem to understand the value of having healthy fisheries, but we need to make serious changes if we want to ensure fish stocks are healthy.

In 2006, we are still confronted with rampant overfishing on the high seas. Close to home, scientists are telling us that Greenland halibut will fail to rebuild if quotas are not respected. Scientists are also warning of a collapse of Atlantic bluefin tuna if fishers of the eastern stock don't start following the rules. These stories are unfortunately not unique - you'll hear these kinds of stories from coastal nations around the world.

A key part of the problem is the fact that there are simply too many very efficient boats chasing too few fish. But cutting the number of boats or decreasing their killing power is not the only answer - we have to change the entire way that we manage fisheries. We need to focus on what we've done well, the solutions we know that can work, and finding new ways that allow us to benefit from the resource while ensuring it's around in the future.

When the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas imposed sanctions last year on one of the parties that fish, their fleet size was dramatically reduced, mandatory port inspections were put in place, and at-sea investigations began.

When members of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission decided to deal with shrinking Pacific salmon stocks, they stopped high seas salmon fishing in the North Pacific Ocean and pooled their efforts to enforce the changes. Strong cooperation on monitoring and surveillance has cut illegal driftnet fishing in this area by 90 per cent.

Canada and its allies were determined to get similar results at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization this September, and it worked. With the new NAFO measures, vessels caught misreporting their catches will be fully investigated and directed to port for immediate inspection. And, they will face penalties in their home countries that are no longer a slap on the wrist. They include fines, gear and catch seizures, and licence and quota suspensions.

Getting tough with rule breakers is part of the equation. We also need to ensure our decisions for managing fisheries are based on sound science, and that they integrate ecosystem and precautionary approaches. This means considering fish habitat and sensitive marine areas when we make decisions. It also means erring on the side of caution when we don't have all the facts on how the fish are doing.

When you combine the ways to reach this goal - making decisions based on sound science, exercising precaution and keeping the whole ecosystem in mind, and then, you back it all up with strong enforcement - sustainable fisheries can become a reality.

We have examples to prove it. Salmon stocks in the North Pacific Ocean are healthier; near-record catches were registered last year by NPAFC members. Yellowtail flounder in the Northwest Atlantic recovered after a four-year moratorium was imposed by NAFO. And, Atlantic swordfish recovered within a few years of a 10-year recovery plan put in place by ICCAT.

We need to see more of these examples, and we need to continue to learn from the mistakes we've made in the past and the successes we've achieved to date. We also need to remember to act sooner than later; to forget the short-term gains and to focus on long-term interests.

Canada has a long and proud fishing history. Our coastal communities and our way of life were built on this profession, and I am determined to see it continue.

World Fisheries Day is an occasion for reflection and a cause for celebration. From this day forward, it should also be a record of how we've changed the old ways of doing things to ensure sustainable fisheries.

The Honourable Loyola Hearn

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Office of the Minister
    Steve Outhouse, Director of Communications