DFO adopts new regulations targeting depletion of fish stocks

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has enacted new regulations that require its minister to rebuild Canada’s depleted fish stocks and ensure they remain healthy, a move that comes weeks after the closure of two East Coast fisheries in the name of sustainability.

The regulations are the teeth behind changes to the Fisheries Act passed in 2019 and have been closely watched by the commercial fishing industry and environmentalists. The changes were published Wednesday in the Canada Gazette.

It has identified 30 major fish stocks that will require a recovery plan if they fall below what is known as the “limit reference point” – where there is a high probability that its productivity will be so impaired that serious damage will occur.

DFO has declared that 16 major fish stocks are in this situation. Rebuilding plans for five have already been developed and the remaining 11 stocks are in various stages of plan development.

The minister responsible for the department will have up to three years to produce a rebuilding plan once the stock has reached the limit reference point.

Plans publicly explained

Publicly posted plans should explain why the stock is in trouble, measurable goals, timelines for rebuilding and how to get there.

If a stock cannot be replenished, the Minister must publicly explain why.

The regulations state that fishing is permitted during the development of a plan, provided that “the level of fishing of the stock during this period is compatible with the recovery of the stock above the limit reference point”.

“The regulations will result in the increased transparency and accountability that comes with regulatory oversight over policy approaches,” DFO said in a statement accompanying the regulations.

The regulations follow recent decisions by DFO to close fisheries on both coasts on the grounds that stocks have been depleted by overfishing.

Late last year, DFO closed a Pacific herring fishery. At the end of March, it closed the spring spawning herring fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the entire Atlantic mackerel fishery.

Frustrated fishermen

On the East Coast, the decision caused an outcry from an industry whose livelihoods have been shut down.

Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, is frustrated that the spring spawning herring moratorium was imposed after his organization had been asking DFO for a recovery plan for years. This is one of those still in development.

“If you look at the successes that we have in other resources like lobster or snow crab, they have all been managed successfully because, from the start, we have a very good collaboration of fishermen and science”, Mallet said.

“And right now in many of these stocks that we see in this list, we don’t have that collaboration with DFO and the minister.”

Mallett said DFO’s science assessments need to better reflect the impact of predators like seals on stocks and climate change that can move fish to areas where they can’t be caught in surveys.

Mallet added: “I think there are some positive things in there in terms of a roadmap to get those restocking plans in place.”

Environmentalists support regulation

Josh Laughren, executive director of environmental group Oceana, said he fully supports the regulations and said it was time DFO acted to protect depleted stocks.

“I think it’s a sign that they have the courage of their convictions here. Stocks like herring and mackerel, herring from both coasts, mackerel [on the] Atlantic, have clearly been depleted, clearly due to overfishing,” Laughren said.

Laughren said the regulations enshrined in law “what was supposed to have been the policy and the way the fisheries were supposed to be managed for a long time. Implementation is important, of course, but it’s a good and strong step that puts in place good fisheries management that has been on the books for some time.”

In Atlantic Canada, rebuilding plans are in place for depleted cod stocks off most of Newfoundland and Labrador, and for all northern mackerel and shrimp off the northern part of the province.

In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, recovery plans are underway for winter flounder, white hake, American plaice, spring spawning herring and cod. Atlantic cod off southern Nova Scotia and southern Newfoundland and Labrador are in development

In British Columbia, bocaccio rockfish, west coast Vancouver Island chinook salmon, Okanagan chinook salmon, interior Fraser coho salmon, Haida Gwaii Pacific herring and redfish yelloweye in inland waters are the main stocks below the limit reference point.

Claire Teichman, press secretary to Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, said the regulations were the result of consultations with industry, Indigenous and environmental groups.

“Minister Murray’s priority is to sustainably develop Canada’s fish and seafood sector,” Teichman said in a statement to CBC News after the article was published.

“The new amendments modernizing the Fisheries Act are essential to strengthening our management framework, as they impose binding obligations on DFO to sustainably manage prescribed fish stocks and implement rebuilding plans in a timely manner. they run out.

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