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What Keeps Canada’s Fish and Seafood Safe and Sustainable?

Fisherman handling a net
Fisherman handling a net
Paul Lansbergen

Paul Lansbergen

President, Fisheries Council of Canada (FCC)

A strong regulatory environment, and close ties between industry and government, make Canadian fisheries among the most responsible in the world.

Sustainability and stewardship are really part of the DNA of the fish and seafood sector,” says Paul Lansbergen,President of the Fisheries Council of Canada (FCC). “If we weren’t responsible operators, we would only be jeopardizing our future prosperity and viability.”

Fish and seafood are renewable resources, but only to the degree that fishing is practised with a keen eye for ocean stewardship. Fortunately, Canada boasts a strong regulatory environment for its fisheries, which is fortified by close collaboration between industry and government.

Regulation and research fuel Canada’s fish and seafood sector 

“It’s important for us to work with government, since they do excellent research to determine what’s sustainable and what isn’t,” says Lansbergen. “The industry is constantly innovating to improve on the past.” 

Today, 96 percent of Canadian fisheries harvest at sustainable levels, based on federal regulatory requirements. Beyond that, Canada is a world leader in the adoption of voluntary third-party sustainable fisheries management certification, and is multiples higher than the world average of 14 percent.

The collapse of Atlantic northwest cod populations in the late 1980s is a prominent past misstep. Overfishing led to a moratorium on cod fishing in 1992, which stands to this day. “We didn’t fully understand the implications of our activities, and this situation was certainly mismanaged,” says Lansbergen. “But there have been major changes since then, including the adoption of third-party sustainability certification. We’ve learned to reduce our impact.”

Fishery and healthy ocean ecosystems can coexist

“We believe that sustainable fisheries management can contribute to the health of the ocean ecosystem and marine conservation efforts. If a particular fish or habitat is threatened, there are ways that we can change our practices to accommodate and offset those threats,” says Lansbergen. Recent research published by University of Washington scientist Ray Hilborn demonstrates that effective fisheries management, such as that in Canada, is improving the health of fish stocks globally. 

In practice, effective management means using gear that only harvests target species without creating undue disruption to aquatic ecosystems, as well as consistently monitoring the health of those ecosystems and intervening well before fish populations become threatened by overfishing. Through these efforts, the industry is proactively contributing to marine conservation efforts. 

Dedicated ocean stewardship on the part of the industry makes Canadian seafood among the safest and most sustainable in the world. It also happens to be highly nutritious, tasty, and abundant — a true win-win for industry and consumers, both within Canada and abroad. Find out more about Canadian fisheries on the FCC website by visiting fisheriescouncil.ca, where you can also learn about the sector’s new Canadian Seafood brand.  

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