Status of Major Fish Stocks

Of 155 major fish stocks assessed in 2013, 74 stocks (48%) were classified as "healthy" and 16 stocks (10%) were classified as "critical". Stocks in the critical zone have a level of productivity that may result in serious harm to the resource.

It may take many years for biological systems to respond to changes in management. Of the 120 stocks with a known status in 2011, 72 stocks were in the healthy category and 17 stocks were in the critical zone.

In addition, our knowledge about the state of the stocks has improved, with 11 fewer stocks in the unknown category since 2011.

Status of major fish stocks, Canada, 2011 to 2013

Bar chart

Long Description

The bar chart shows the proportion of major fish stocks in each stock status zone in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2011, 46% were classified as "healthy”, 20% as "cautious", 11% as "critical", and 23% as "unknown". In 2012, 48% were classified as "healthy", 24% as "cautious", 10% as "critical", and 18% as "unknown". In 2013, 48% were classified as "healthy", 26% as "cautious", 10% as "critical", and 15% as "unknown".

Data for this chart
Data for Status of major fish stocks, Canada, 2011 to 2013
YearCritical zone
(number of stocks)
Cautious zone
(number of stocks)
Healthy zone
(number of stocks)
Status unknown
(number of stocks)
201117317235
201215377528
201316417424

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 255 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Fish stocks are classified by comparing the size of stocks to reference points, which are established based on the productivity of the stock. See the Data Sources and Methods document for details. Stocks include a variety of harvested marine animal species, not only finfish.
Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2014) Fishery Checklist version 4.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) uses a variety of scientific methods to assess fish stock levels, and assigns one of three stock status zones (healthy, cautious or critical) based on these scientific assessments. The precautionary approachFootnote [1] is used by DFO to manage these fish stocks in such a way that the amount of allowed fish harvesting or approved removal rates are adjusted to keep stocks in the healthy zone, progressively lowered if the stock is in the cautious zone, and kept to the lowest possible level if the stock is in the critical zone. The adjustment of removal rates when stocks are below the heathy zone allows stocks to rebuild. The results of the stock assessments for major stocks are reported as part of the Fishery Checklist, which is a key planning and monitoring tool.

Fish stocks are classified as "major" based on a set of criteria that considers economic, social and ecological values. All stocks with a landed value of more than $1 million or landed weight of more than 2000 tonnes are included, as are other important stocks (see the Data Sources and Methods document for details).

Status of major fish stocks, by stock group

The status of different stock groups varies due to differences in population productivity, historical exploitation, and resilience, among other factors. Environmental conditions also affect different groups in different ways.

Groundfish stocks are the most likely to be in the critical zone, in part due to historical harvest patterns and unfavourable environmental conditions in the 1990's, but they are showing improvement. Recent improvements are likely due to favourable environmental conditions during a time when consistent management measures kept harvest levels low.

Status of major fish stocks, by stock group, Canada, 2013

Bar chart

Long Description

The bar chart is organized by stock group (Marine mammals; Groundfish; Small pelagics; Large pelagics; Salmonids; Crustaceans; Molluscs and Others). Each bar is a stacked graph of number of stocks in each stock status zone (Healthy zone; Cautious zone; Critical zone and Unknown).

Data for this chart
Data for Status of major fish stocks, by stock group, Canada, 2013
Stock groupSpecies includedCritical zone
(number of stocks)
Cautious zone
(number of stocks)
Healthy zone
(number of stocks)
Status unknown
(number of stocks)
Marine mammalsWhales, walrus0362
GroundfishHalibut, rockfish, cod, flounder, hake, redfish, dogfish, haddock, lingcod, perch, plaice, pollock, sablefish, skate, thornyhead,1311157
Small pelagicsHerring, mackerel, whitefish, capelin, sardine, striped bass, gaspereau, eulachon11065
Large pelagicsTuna, shark, swordfish1120
SalmonidsSalmon, char, trout1853
CrustaceansCrab, lobster, shrimp, prawn, krill04274
MolluscsClam, scallop, whelk, geoduck03103
OthersSea cucumber, sea urchin, eels0130
Total 16417424

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 809 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The species in each stock group are listed with the chart data. Pelagic fish live in midwater or close to the surface, in contrast to groundfish, which are usually caught near the ocean bottom. Crustaceans are shelled animals with joints, such as lobster, crab and shrimp. Molluscs include bivalve shellfish species, such as clams, oysters and mussels, which we commonly think of as shellfish.
Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2014) Fishery Checklist version 4.

Differences among groups in the proportion of populations classified as "unknown" reflect differences in the information available for their assessment. For example, many of the marine mammal populations are found in the Arctic, where information is limited. DFO and its partners have many programs in place to increase the knowledge base for assessing the status of such stocks. As a result, of the five marine mammals with an unknown status in 2011, only two still had unknown status in 2013. Also, three of the six stocks in the mollusc group with an unknown status in 2012 had their status determined in 2013.

Related indicators

Other information

Theme III icon
This indicator is used to measure progress toward Goal 5: Biological Resources – Efficient economic and ecological use of resources – Production and consumption of biological resources are sustainable of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2016.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

The Precautionary Approach Framework provides guidance for the management of fish stocks. The components of the precautionary approach are: reference points (upper stock reference, limit reference and removal reference) and harvest decision rules for each of the three zones (critical, cautious and healthy).

Return to footnote 1 referrer