“Today, 85 per cent of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited, over exploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2010 State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture report.
State of our oceansCanada was once known as a global leader in ocean stewardship and the first country in the world to establish laws that recognized the need for better oceans management. But this role has been neglected over the past generation.
In the early 1990s, decades of over-fishing and poor ocean management finally came to a head. The collapse of Newfoundland’s Grand Banks ecosystem and North Atlantic cod fishery devastated coastal communities, and is known as one of the worst ecological crises in history.
The Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans comprise 40 per cent of Canada’s geography. We have one of the world’s most valuable fishing industries, and seafood is our second largest exported food commodity. Canada’s fishing industry contributes over $2 billion to our GDP every year and accounts for more than 70,000 jobs. In 2010, Canada exported $3.9 billion worth of fish and seafood products, with Atlantic Canada accounting for 65 per cent and British Columbia 25 per cent. Our five most valuable exports were lobster, snow/queen crab, Atlantic salmon, shrimp/prawn and herring.
Photo gallery: Watch seafood harvesting in Newfoundland.
What WWF is doing
We need a sea changeThe demand for seafood is growing. On average people eat about 17kg each year and for over three billion around the world fish provides at least 15 per cent of their average animal protein intake. Aquaculture production, which is increasing at an annual rate of nearly seven per cent, has enabled this expansion. In fact, it is set to overtake wild-capture fisheries as the world‘s chief source of food.
From 2007 to 2009, total production of fish and fish products grew from 140 to 145 million tones. It is expected to grow by 50 million tonnes by 2025, putting tremendous pressure on fisheries, processors, suppliers and retailers to meet demand. Already, about 32 per cent of world fish stocks are urgently in need of rebuilding.
Watch Robin Davies, deputy leader of WWF's Global Smart Fishing Initiative, talk about marine conservation in Plenty More Fish in the Sea? Solutions to a Global Food Crisis
Ensuring that there are fish in our seas for human consumption is not the only way to secure the health of our oceans. We need to protect the entire web of life that constitutes a thriving marine ecosystem; that which connects tiny plankton to 100-tonne whales. To do that we have to conserve critical habitat and reduce threats. Destructive fishing methods pose the greatest and most immediate risk to the sustainability of our ocean ecosystems. For example, more than one third of reported global catch is identified as bycatch (unintended capture of non-target species).
There is an urgent need and opportunity for Canada to meet the increasing national and international demand for ‘sustainable seafood’ by changing the way we fish. Wide-spread adoption of a sustainable vision for stewarding and protecting our oceans and the wildlife inhabiting them is essential.