Banner Photo Credit: Ocean Wise
Overfishing is one of the biggest threats facing the global ocean today, with over 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks fully fished or overfished. Yet, in B.C., commercial fisheries and aquaculture contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the province’s economy annually. Further, exports of B.C. seafood products have increased by 10 percent each year for the past few years. Maintaining healthy fish stocks isn’t just critical for the health of B.C.’s environment; it is also a central issue for the economic sustainability of these industries. Achieving this balance is no easy task, but progress is being made.
The Ocean Wise Seafood Program has put the issue of sustainable seafood on the radar of consumers, fishers, suppliers, grocers, and restaurateurs throughout Canada. Since its inception in 2005, Ocean Wise has grown from 16 Vancouver partners to more than 700 nationally. It is also the only Canadian partner in the Global Seafood Ratings Alliance, which works to improve the effectiveness of seafood ratings around the world. In 2015, Ocean Wise launched its own assessment program for small-scale Canadian fisheries to promote local sustainable seafood options, and create livelihoods for responsible fishers, particularly in rural and First Nations communities.
Conservation aims have also driven change in Canada’s commercial fisheries with the implementation of a sustainable fisheries framework, higher accountability for catch limits, and at-sea and dockside monitoring of groundfish species, bycatch and type of gear used. However, much of B.C.’s seafood sector harvest is due to an increase in aquaculture production – an industry that continues to attract criticism over its impact on ocean health. As the seafood industry continues to put pressure on our oceans – and face new challenges such as the impact of climate change – increased scrutiny, regulation and monitoring of all types of seafood harvest is needed.
Ocean Watch Rating Legend
Ratings are meant to provide the reader with a visual snapshot summary about the subject. Subject ratings were assigned by the Coastal Ocean Research Institute based on application of the criteria to the information in each article.
1) The status is healthy according to available data, 2) the trend is positive if known, 3) some data are available, and/or 4) actions to address or mitigate are well underway and are known to be effective. Actions should be taken to maintain positive status and/or trend.
Status, trend, data, and/or actions provide contradictory or inconclusive information. Actions are needed to move into positive status and trend and avoid negative status and trend.
1) Impacts or issues are high risk or have resulted in a low or vulnerable status, 2) improvements are uncertain, minor, or slow, and/or 3) actions to address or mitigate are non-existent, vague, or have low effectiveness. Actions are needed to move into positive status and trend.
Not rated due to the nature of the article, or there are not enough data to produce an assessment.
Interest in sustainable seafood has grown exponentially since the Vancouver Aquarium established its Ocean Wise Seafood Program in 2005. To date, the program includes more than 700 partners and has recently launched its own monitoring program for small-scale Canadian fisheries.
Seafood production contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to B.C.’s economy each year, with 2016 reaching over $400 million. But while the sector’s value continues to grow, balance must be achieved between environmental sustainability and the economic wellbeing of those who work in the industry.