Canada has taken a major step forward in ocean conservation by putting into law a modernized Fisheries Act that will not only completely rebuild the management of fisheries but will also end the import and export of shark fins in Canada.
The Fisheries Act was first incepted in 1868 and this marks the first time that rebuilding plans are required for depleted fish populations. Along with the fin ban, the passing of the law takes a giant step forward in ocean conservation not only in Canada, but one that will be felt worldwide.
“Today is a great day for our oceans. The overhauled Fisheries Act has the potential to be one of the most transformative things that has happened for our oceans in many years,” says Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada. “We thank Fisheries Minister Wilkinson and former Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc for prioritizing rebuilding fish populations. The Act now lays a strong foundation to support healthy oceans for generations to come.”
Current statistics put only 34% of fish populations in Canada at a heathy level while more than 13% are critically endangered. Of the 26 critically depleted stocks, only five currently have rebuilding plans. The Act’s new provisions will push for this to change as it mandates that rebuilding plans be created for all fish populations in the critical zone, with the target of getting them to sustainable levels.
“Rebuilding fish populations can increase revenue and jobs in coastal communities. The United States has some of the most stringent and effective legislation in the world mandating fisheries rebuilding. It has successfully rebuilt a total of 45 fish stocks resulting in more resilient ecosystems and greater economic opportunities for the fishing industry,” says Laughren.
Just as exciting as the new mandate on rebuilding is the ban on importing and exporting shark fins in Canada. Shark fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade every year, even from those species that are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.
Now with the ban, Canada, who was the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia, will put a halt on the fin trading which is the largest threat to the health and survival of most shark species worldwide.
“This is a huge victory for sharks and for the many Canadians, advocacy groups and politicians who joined together to champion the ban of this cruel practice,” says Kim Elmslie, Campaign Director, Oceana Canada. “We applaud everyone’s efforts, including Senator Michael MacDonald and MP Fin Donnelly who initiated and championed the private members bill calling for a ban.”
The importance of sharks cannot be overstated due to them being a keystone species. Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem. Whole systems in the past have collapsed due to the loss of sharks and in recent studies, areas that have had protections for sharks have not only seen shark species rebound, but almost every other species of marine life made a comeback as well due to the balance sharks bring.
The amendments upheld the rights of Indigenous Peoples and will continue to recognize Indigenous knowledge, incorporate modern fisheries management practices which include precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches, restore important habitat protection measures, and feature a clear purpose to manage and control fisheries.
Information via Oceana Canada press release: