Status of Major Fish Stocks

Of 155 major fish stocks assessed in 2012, 75 stocks (48%) were classified as "healthy". Fifteen stocks (10%) were classified as "critical", i.e., the productivity of the stock is considered to be at a level that may cause serious harm to the resource. This represents an improvement since 2011, when 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 7 fewer stocks in the "unknown" category. Most of the stocks that were previously of unknown status have been placed in the "cautious" or "healthy" zone. Of the 120 stocks with a known status in 2011, 8 stocks improved their status in 2012.

Status of major fish stocks, Canada, 2012

Status of major fish stocks, Canada, 2012

Long Description

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

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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.
Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2013) 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 status 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 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 recovery, among other factors. For example, while 74% of crustacean stocks were in the healthy zone in 2012, this is a decline from 2011, when 83% were in healthy condition. The change is likely due in part to a shift in environmental conditions.

Groundfish stocks are the most likely to be in the critical zone, in part due to historical harvest patterns and environmental factors, but they are showing improvement. In 2012, one groundfish stock had an improved status, likely due to favourable environmental factors during a time when consistent management measures kept harvest levels low. The status of small pelagic species also improved, again likely due to favourable environmental conditions and effective management measures.

Status of major fish stocks, by stock group, Canada, 2012

Status of major fish stocks, by stock group, Canada, 2012

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).

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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 (2013) Fishery Checklist version 4.

Differences among groups in the proportion of populations classified as "unknown" status 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 as yet 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, three of the five marine mammals with an "unknown" status in 2011 were assigned a new status in 2012.

Related indicators

Other information

Theme III: Protecting Nature of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
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 points, limit reference points and removal reference points) for each of the three zones (critical, cautious and healthy) and developed, implemented and reviewed harvest decision rules.

Return to footnote 1 referrer