We expect national and international fisheries and marine conservation law, policy and regulations which are science-based, transparent and enforceable.
Why is this important?
Fisheries management in Canada has largely failed to maintain healthy fish populations. Management policies and practices do not adequately protect seafloor habitat from the impacts of fishing, and do not account for the incidental catch of non-target species. Canadian fisheries management has had a tendency towards consolidation of the fishing resource and “self-regulation” by large fishing interests, with neither being embedded in the precautionary approach or ecosystem-based management. As a result, there is a widespread failure to implement Canadian fisheries law and policy, and a failure to uphold international agreements on fisheries and biodiversity.
Additionally, public opinion is rarely sought on fisheries management issues and ENGOs are largely excluded from fisheries management meetings. Such practices limit the transparency that is imperative in the management of a public resource. Opportunities for fishermen to contribute to policy are often insufficient, and so many management policies have had devastating social consequences. As fisheries management in Canada begins to move towards ecosystem based management, it is important to require transparency, accountability and evaluation in all decision making processes.
Marine ecosystems do not follow national boundaries, and we have extended our work to areas beyond national jurisdiction and have been involved in international fisheries policy work. The United Nations 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement for Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Species is a binding international law that provides for international fisheries management and governance of the marine ecosystem. High seas fisheries management is notorious for failing to protect fish stocks – with the collapse of cod and tuna iconic examples of the loss of the “common heritage of mankind.”
Recent Successes and Initiatives
Canadian Fisheries Law and Policy
In 2002, we sued the federal government, with the legal counsel of EcoJustice, for failing to protect fish habitat by authorizing bottom trawling to continue on Georges Bank. Section 25.2 of the Fisheries Act states that it is illegal to harm or destroy fish habitat. Despite the evidence of hundreds of peer reviewed scientific papers and seven expert witness submissions, our application for a judicial review was dismissed as the judge ruled that the act of fishing was not a “work or undertaking” as defined under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and that the current habitat protection provisions do not apply to fishing “activities.” In retrospect, we should have appealed the decision.
Since 2006, we have been a member of the National Fish Habitat Coordinating Committee, along with three other ENGOs and representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Habitat Branch. The committee has facilitated the organization of five workshops across Canada to bring together ENGOs and DFO to discuss concerns about the failure of DFO to protect fish habitat. We completed a report synthesizing these workshops and provided recommendations to DFO on how to improve habitat management.
In 2007, ENGO’s from across Canada united in opposing the passage of a new Fisheries Act for Canada on the basis that the bill did not adequately address public ownership of the fisheries, protection of independent fishermen or protection of fish habitat. However the dissolution of Parliament resulted in the bill not being passed.
We obtained a commitment by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regional Fisheries Management Branch to have an annual regional meeting with ENGOs where concerns can be discussed and collaborations realized.
We continually work towards transparent and effective integrated fisheries management plans (IFMPs) in Atlantic Canadian fisheries and support active public engagement in fisheries management decisions for ecologically damaging fisheries.
Fishery Specific Changes in Regulation and Policy
Atlantic Canadian Swordfish Fishery
In 2009, together with the David Suzuki Foundation, we submitted a proposal to the Atlantic Large Pelagics Advisory Council, suggesting that the Council adopt population based bycatch estimates and increase observer coverage particularly on the Atlantic Canadian Swordfish Longline Fishery The Council agreed to convene an Ecosystem Working Group, and we launched the Friends of Hector public campaign in response to its failure to act to protect bycatch specieis and increase observer coverage.
The EAC is an active member in the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) working to protect high seas marine ecosystems. In Canada, the EAC together with the Living Oceans Society (LOS) and the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) raised public awareness and support for regulation of destructive fishing practices outside areas of national jurisdiction (see www.deepseasblogspot.com). In December 2006, EAC attended the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Sustainable Fisheries negotiations where strong language was adopted regarding the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive fishing activity, and requiring action on this issue in international waters by December 2009. We have worked to ensure that the Canadian government implements the UNGA provisions and begins to protect coral, sponge and other vulnerable marine species.
Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs)
EAC attends the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) meetings and continues to encourage the Canadian government to manage destructive fishing practices in line with the UNGA Resolutions. There are now 17 areas in the NAFO area closed to bottom fishing, in part due to the work of the EAC and DSCC.
Phone: (902) 446-4840
Fax: (902) 405-3716
Are you interested in mysterious sea creatures, fishing boats and gear, tasty and sustainably caught seafood dishes, or the unique and beautiful Sable Island? Then you’ll be in good company at our monthly Marine Issues Committee (MIC) at the Ecology Action Centre on the last Tuesday of every month at 5:30.
Check out our Small Scales blog