The Atlantic Canada Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada invites Sierra Club members and their friends to its celebration of Oceans Day 2009. The celebration is scheduled to happen in front of the Fisheries and Oceans Building 200 Kent Street, Ottawa on Monday June 8, 2009. The Atlantic Canada Chapter sees the celebration as an opportunity to encourage groups and individuals to show their support for the restoration and recovery of Canada’s oceans and how we can conserve them for future generations.
The Atlantic Canada Chapter has identified several areas which require national attention for healthy oceans recovery .
- phasing out internationally recognized destructive fishing technologies such as bottom trawling
which destroy commercial and non-commercial fish species, marine plants, cold water corals, and other
forms of ocean life. Such phase-outs should include buy-back programs for affected fishers;
- identifying protecting and restoring the abundance and bio-diversity of vulnerable marine
ecosystems in Canada’s oceans. Meeting Canada’s international commitments of establishing networks
of large Marine Protected Areas by 2012 to avoid further destruction of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems
and undermining of the Ocean Food Web from destructive fishing technologies.
- basing aquaculture policy on the best internationally recognized scientific research to ensure
that local ecosystems and species are not decimated;
- ensuring fisheries management meets the goals of ecosystem based management under
Canada’s Oceans Act.
The Sierra Club sees the aforementioned points combined with formal recognition of a broader range of ocean science as key components in fostering healthy ocean recovery strategies. The celebration of Oceans Day provides a forum where these points can be articulated and understood by the general public and offers opportunities for individuals to express their support.
Note: The points mentioned above are taken mainly from the Oceans Section of the Tomorrow Today Report prepared in 2008 by eleven of Canada’s major Environmental Non Governmental Organizations(ENGO’s).
Phasing out destructive fishing technologies
Many countries around the world including the United States recognize the capacity of certain fishing technologies to disrupt, degrade, and ultimately destroy ocean habitats and seriously decimate commercial and non-commercial fish species. Fishing gears such as otter trawls, scallop drags and clam dredges plow the ocean floor covering hundreds of thousands of kilometres annually. Such fishing gears tear through underwater areas of marine plants, cold water corals, and productive abundant diverse ocean habitats. The direct and collateral damage resulting from these highly intrusive and powerful fishing gears is the single main reason for the decimation of long standing commercial fish stocks such as cod and the undermining of the renewable capacities of Canada’s Oceans. The Canadian position on fishing technologies is that “no fishing gear is inherently destructive.” There has never been an independent environmental assessment of the effects of fishing technologies in Canada. Fishing technologies are exempt from the scrutiny of the “fish habitat protection of the Fisheries Act” Section 35 (1). Under that section of the Act, commercial fishing is not considered work. (See Federal Court of Canada decision August 2004).
Identifying, Protecting and Restoring the Abundance and Bio-diversity of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems in Canada’s Oceans
The past several decades has seen the arrival of a more global awareness of the presence of abundant and biologically diverse ocean ecosystems and the significant contributions they make to aquatic animal and plant life. Several of the smaller of these areas have been identified and closed to commercial activity. However many of the larger areas which contain cold water corals and other biologically diverse abundant sea life remain unprotected. These are being
constantly degraded because of destructive fishing technologies operating in these areas. The United Nations General Assembly, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization have all recognized the importance of protecting such areas and have taken steps in this area. Canada has been very slow to act here.
Recognizing and Incorporating the ocean food web and ocean habitat protection in Canadian fisheries management.
At present Canadian fisheries management excludes considerations of the ocean food web and ocean habitat protection when determining commercial fish quotas and fishing plans. Quotas for individual commercial fish species are decided separately with no consideration for the interconnectedness of species be they commercial or non-commercial. The hierarchy of the food chain is ignored in this process resulting in greater penetration down through the chain while
ignoring species whose numbers have been severely decimated. Similarly few if any baseline studies have been conducted on Canada’s large ocean habitats. Many of these have been seriously damaged yet the extent of the damage has rarely been measured, studied or understood. Under Canadian fisheries management the practice has been to move fishing operations to deeper water when commercial fish stocks have been overfished and decimated,and ocean habitats seriously
degraded or destroyed. Including ocean food web and ocean habitat protection would provide a broader, more informed context for determining the health of Canada’s oceans and with it the sustainability of Canada’s commercial fisheries.
Creating Networks of Large Marine Protected Areas to Encourage the Recovery of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems and the regeneration of diverse ocean
For centuries commercial fisheries relied on the physical strength of individuals to handle and haul fishing gear in the ocean. Consequently most commercial fishing was conducted near the coast in relatively shallow water (less than 70 metres). As a result many deep water areas were not possible to fish and
thus de facto functioned as Large Marine Protected Areas providing abundant and bio-diverse ecosystems fostering renewable healthy ocean environments.
The unprecedented technological advancements of the past several decades has turned the ocean into a virtual aquarium and made it possible to fish almost everywhere. The result is there is no place for ocean habitats and ocean life to grow without significant human intrusion. To address those technological changes large networked areas of ocean need to be set aside to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems and Fish Migration Patterns. This will offer protection from destructive human intrusion and encourage the recovery of the natural heritage of Canada’s Oceans.
Place Fisheries Management under the Oceans Act
There have been several attempts to revise Canada’s Fisheries Act, the last, in 2006 ,faced widespread opposition from ordinary citizens, community groups, and environmental nongovernmental organizations. The Oceans Act was designed, written, and enacted to protect and foster recovery of Canada’s Oceans. It is an Act which most represents the kinds of practices and procedures needed to foster recovery of the marine environment and restore stability and natural order to the ocean food web. Presently management of Canada’s fisheries remains outside the jurisdiction of the Oceans Act. Inclusion of fisheries management under the Oceans Act would permit effects on ocean habitats to be considered.
Chair, Atlantic Canada Chapter
Sierra Club of Canada
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Director, Atlantic Canada Chapter
Sierra Club of Canada
Halifax, Nova Scotia