Canada: The world needs more fish and Canadian aquaculture could have the answer. Around the world, fish stocks are dropping. Government quotas are down.
Meanwhile, the world’s population continues to grow steadily. According to the United Nations, by 2030, an additional 27 million tonnes of fish would be needed to maintain per capita consumption at its current level.
On top of that, hundreds of Canadian communities rely on fishing for their livelihoods and traditions. As a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian, I’ve seen this up close my whole life.
Unless we adapt now, we’re looking at a crisis that will only go from bad to worse.
But aquaculture — the cultivation and harvesting of aquatic organisms — presents a unique opportunity to fill this growing gap between the supply of fish and worldwide demand.
Aquaculture is already responsible for roughly 50 per cent of the fish and seafood consumed worldwide.
But despite Canada having the world’s longest marine coastline and the largest number of freshwater lakes, we lag behind the rest of the world in this booming industry — only 20 per cent of Canada’s fish and seafood is currently produced through aquaculture.
As chair of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, I had the chance to study the potential for, and barriers to, increasing aquaculture in Canada. The findings were published in our report, An Ocean of Opportunities: Aquaculture in Canada.
Aquaculture is both socially responsible and ecologically sustainable.
And the industry already contributes approximately 6,000 full time jobs in coastal and indigenous communities that often have limited sources of other economic activity.
Last year alone our farmed fish exports totalled $770 million.
But by doubling production, we could net more than 20,000 new jobs and add $1.5 billion to our gross domestic product.
Unfortunately, getting into aquaculture can be a nightmare due to the whopping 70 different pieces of legislation governing the industry in Canada.
What Canada needs is a concise Aquaculture Act to make it easier to start up, to resolve jurisdictional issues and to provide regulatory certainty.
Publishing a database of licence and compliance information, boosting research initiatives and increasing the range of permitted food additives would also help the industry catch up to international competitors.
It is important that government hear our voices on this important issue. Time is of the essence.
Canada is a rich fishing nation. But now’s the time to catch up in the industry of tomorrow. If we don’t, someday soon we may be stuck buying someone else’s catch.
Fabian Manning, Newfoundland and Labrador senator and
Chair, Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans