Sustainable Capture Fisheries & their Ecosystems

OFI Large Research Module H

Determining the size and productivity of fish stocks is a major governance and research challenge, particularly for good fisheries management. Increasing our understanding of fish populations and their ecosystems — and how they respond to a changing climate — can improve both sustainable fisheries and effective fisheries management, now and in the future.

This research will help Canada meet fisheries sustainability goals by providing novel, computer-model based assessments of specific cold-water fish stocks and their ecosystems. It will also develop innovative technologies and strategies for fishing in the rapidly changing ecosystems of the Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway. This research will significantly improve scientific advice to support successful and sustainable fisheries management in Canada and abroad.

About the research

Canada strives for sustainable fisheries, but ensuring and demonstrating sustainability is a challenge, particularly for north Atlantic fish stocks and ecosystems where observed and forecasted climate change exhibits important spatial and temporal variation. This research encompasses three components:

  1. Develop and improve state-of-the-art computer models for assessing fish stocks. Results will be used to advise government on sustainable fish harvesting.
  2. Assess the health and productivity of ocean ecosystems under climate change. Changes to the Canadian Northwest Atlantic and Arctic gateway waters will be quantified, predicted, and used to assess fish stocks for the effective management of established and emerging fisheries.
  3. Develop innovative harvesting technologies. New harvesting approaches that reduce bycatch and are tailored to the rapidly changing ecosystems of the Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway will be developed.

Sustainability and Canadian Fisheries

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canada exported $6.6 billion in fish and seafood products in 2016 and 72,000 Canadians made their living directly from fishing and fishing-related activities. In order for the Canadian fishing industry to maintain and gain access to premium international fish markets, it must demonstrate the sustainability of its fisheries. Sustainable fishing standards also form the basis for independent eco-labeling programs, which may increase the market value of capture fisheries products.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, fisheries sustainability means “harvesting and farming fish stocks in a way that meets our present needs without compromising the ability to meet our future needs.”

Standards for sustainability are identified in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization code of conduct for responsible fisheries, and require sustainable fisheries to:

  • Establish harvest rates that are sustainable in the long term,
  • Maintain ecosystem structure and function, and
  • Establish a management system that can adapt to changing circumstances.

Understanding fish stocks 
Noel Cadigan of Memorial University — and OFI researcher — has been named the first Ocean Choice International Research Chair in Stock Assessment and Sustainable Harvest Advice for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries. The new chair is an investment of $2.5 million from industry, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial University, donors and OFI. It will be used to advance the way fish stock assessments for the Northwest Atlantic fisheries are conducted. Learn more ...

Caught on camera: ancient Greenland sharks
The Greenland shark is one of the world’s largest marine species, reaching lengths of over six metres. And yet these fish, which prefer the deep, cold waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans, have largely eluded scientific study. However, OFI researcher, Jonathan Fisher was part of a team that captured underwater video footage of Greenland sharks in the Canadian Arctic, providing valuable insight into their abundance, size and behaviour, as well as their distribution.

Learn more by reading an article co-written by Dr. Fisher and PhD student researcher, Brynn Devine of Memorial University in The Conversation Canada …   

Researcher spotlight: Dr. Katleen Robert
Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Ocean Mapping, Marine Institute

Katleen Robert's research is focused on mapping the spatial complexity of the ocean from the seafloor to the surface with the goal of creating an integrated picture of our oceans to better understand where species are and why.

“By studying the complex relationships between habitats, resources and human activities, and by providing a baseline to monitor ecosystem responses to environmental change, this research will help inform management decisions to support sustainable resource exploitation,” said Dr. Robert.

As part of her research she will work with underwater robotic vehicles, which allow sonars and cameras to be brought closer to the seabed to collect high-resolutions acoustic data and videos.

Learn more ...