Top Canadian researchers reveal Canada's fish populations still severely depleted decades after collapse

Only 24% of fish stocks considered healthy; 45% cannot be determined due to lack of data

TORONTO, June 23, 2016 /CNW/ - Today, Oceana Canada and renowned Canadian marine scientists released the most comprehensive public study ever conducted on the state of Canada's fish. The results revealed that less than a quarter of Canada's fish stocks are considered healthy and the status of almost half is unknown. The report also outlines the extent to which overfishing and decades of poor management practices have severely depleted our fish populations.

"As Canadians, we perceive ourselves to be good stewards of the environment. But when it comes to our oceans, we have failed to live up to that ideal," says Dr. Julia Baum, University of Victoria and lead author of the scientific report. "We need to get serious about ocean conservation in Canada. Sound management and recovery of our fisheries must become a political priority."

"These findings are extremely concerning," says Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada, the organization that commissioned the research. "We need public scrutiny and accountability to ensure our fish populations are sustainably managed, and the political will to implement rebuilding plans where they are urgently needed. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a responsibility to steward this precious resource, and they have to date been unwilling or unable to share basic information on the state our fish populations, and actions needed to bring them back."

Canada is making more money from our seafood industry than ever before, but this is based primarily on a small number of shellfish stocks, mainly lobster, crab, shrimp and scallops. The lack of diversity makes coastal communities and the Canadian seafood industry vulnerable, as communities could have little to fall back on if these stocks decline. Research shows that a diverse, abundant ecosystem supports a more sustainable industry that can provide further employment and a healthy source of protein for billions around the world.

The collapse of the cod industry in 1992 led to tens of thousands of people out of work and financial losses of $4 billion. Nearly twenty-five years after the collapse, only one stock has a rebuilding plan. Without government transparency and proper administration, it's impossible to assess the risk of – and ensure we avoid - another major fisheries collapse.

"The good news is the report shows that with proper management our oceans can recover and fisheries can be rebuilt, allowing Canadians, and the world, to benefit from a truly diverse ecosystem," says Dr. Jeff Hutchings of Dalhousie University, one of the two leading scientists who peer reviewed the report.   

Oceana Canada is part of the world's leading ocean conservation group. It is encouraged by the federal government's commitment to transparency and recent investment in the oceans through the hiring of scientists, but cautions that how this increased capacity is used will determine the future of our oceans.

"Canada has a world-class resource that employs more than 79,000 Canadians and exports $6 billion worth of seafood a year," adds Laughren. "But we could be getting more from our oceans – sustainably. The federal government needs to invest in rebuilding depleted fish populations through transparent management based on science."

A summary version of the report, entitled: Here's the Catch: How to Restore Abundance to Canada's Oceans, and the full report, written by Dr. Julia K. Baum and Susanna D. Fuller, can be accessed at www.oceana.ca.

About Oceana Canada

Oceana Canada was established in 2015 as an independent charity and is part of the largest international group focused solely on ocean conservation. Canada has the longest coastline in the world, with an ocean surface area of 7.1 million square kilometres, or 70 per cent of its land mass. Oceana Canada believes that we have an obligation to our country, and the world, to manage our natural resources responsibly and provide a sustainable source of protein for a growing world.

Oceana Canada works with civil society, academics, fishers and government to return Canada's formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada's oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits, and protect our future.

To learn more, please visit www.oceana.ca

SOURCE Oceana Canada

Image with caption: "Oceana Canada (CNW Group/Oceana Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160623_C2540_PHOTO_EN_720363.jpg

For further information: Holly Thornton, Public Inc., holly@publicinc.com, 647.642.6846, www.publicinc.com


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