Status of Major Fish Stocks

Access PDF (553 KB)

Of 155 major fish stocks assessed in 2014, 75 stocks (48%) were classified as healthy, 40 stocks (26%) were classified as cautious, and 16 stocks (10%) were classified as critical.Footnote [1] The status of 24 stocks (15%) was unknown.

It may take many years for biological systems to respond to changes in management. If considering the group of stocks that had a known status in 2011, the net change by 2014 was that two more stocks were in the cautious zone and two fewer were in the critical zone. The number of stocks in the healthy zone remained the same.

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

Status of major fish stocks, Canada, 2011 to 2014

Column chart

Long description

The column chart shows the number of major stocks of wild fish in each stock status zone, grouped by year from 2011 to 2014.

Data for this chart
Status of major fish stocks, Canada, 2011 to 2014
YearCritical zone
(number of stocks)
Cautious zone
(number of stocks)
Healthy zone
(number of stocks)
Status unknown
(number of stocks)
201117317235
201215377528
201316417424
201416407524

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 845 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 (2015) Fishery Checklist version 4.

Assessing the state of fish stocks is essential for conservation and to maintain prosperous commercial fisheries. Fisheries and Oceans Canada 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 [2] is used 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 peer-reviewed and published on-line.Footnote [3] The status of the fish stocks is 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 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.

Crustacean stocks are the most likely to be in the healthy zone, due to factors such as favourable environmental conditions in the 2000's and low predation rates, as well as effective stock management. 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 in groundfish stocks are likely due to environmental conditions that are favourable for them, such as increasing ocean temperatures, while harvest levels have been kept low. While warmer conditions are favourable for groundfish production, they can negatively affect other species like crustaceans such as shrimp and crab.

Status of major fish stocks, by stock group, Canada, 2014

Stacked column chart

Long description

The stacked column chart is organized by stock group (marine mammals; groundfish; small pelagics; large pelagics; salmonids; crustaceans; molluscs and others). Each column is a stacked graph of number of stocks in each stock status zone (Critical zone; Cautious zone; Healthy zone and Unknown).

Data for this chart
Status of major fish stocks, by stock group, Canada, 2014
Stock groupSpecies includedCritical zone
(number of stocks)
Cautious zone
(number of stocks)
Healthy zone
(number of stocks)
Status unknown
(number of stocks)
Marine mammalsWhales, walrus0371
GroundfishHalibut, rockfish, cod, flounder, hake, redfish, dogfish, haddock, lingcod, perch, plaice, pollock, sablefish, skate, thornyhead,1312156
Small pelagicsHerring, mackerel, whitefish, capelin, sardine, striped bass, gaspereau, eulachon1768
Large pelagicsTuna, shark, swordfish1120
SalmonidsSalmon, char, trout1952
CrustaceansCrab, lobster, shrimp, prawn, krill04274
MolluscsClam, scallop, whelk, geoduck03103
OthersSea cucumber, sea urchin, eels0130
Total 16407524

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.39 KB)

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 (2015) 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. Fisheries and Oceans Canada 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 one still had unknown status in 2014.

Related indicators

Other information

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.

Access PDF (553 KB)

Date modified: