Fishing in Canada
Commercial fishing in Canada occurs in three areas:
- East Coast, West Coast, and Fresh Water Inland Lakes.
- In the mid 1990's about 70,000 Canadians had commercial fishing licences, and 20,000 workers were in fish processing
- In 1996 the total value of the fish caught in Canada was $1.526 billion
- Fish caught by Canadian fisher folk can be broken into three categories:
a) Groundfish (bottom feeders) eg. Cod, pollock, haddock
b) Pelagic fish (open water feeders) eg. Salmon, herring, mackerel
c) Shellfish eg. Shrimp, lobster, oyster
- Of the three regions, the East Coast fishery is the largest followed by the West Coast. The fresh water fisheries are much smaller then the other two.
- Canada is one of the leading exporter of fish in the world, this is because we do not eat much fish. We export more then 50% of the fish we catch.
- The majority of our fish are sent to the USA, Western Europe, and countries along the Pacific Rim (particularly Japan).
Fisheries Continued: East Coast Fisheries
- The two main fisheries are East and West Coast Fisheries
- East Coast Fisheries:
- this historically has been an excellent region for fishing. There are three major reasons for this:
1 - Wide Continental shelf: is a piece of the continent that is under water (no more then 200m in depth).
2 - Shallow depth allows for lush growth of plankton thus attracting large fish.
3 - Meeting of the cold Labrador current and warm Gulf Stream. The cold Labrador current brings with it a lot of nutrients.
In the late 1980's scientist started realizing there were fewer fish and the ones that were being caught were much smaller then people were use to.
In 1992, as a result of the change in the number of fish, Canadian government halted all fishing for cod and other types of ground fish.
Reasons for collapse of fisheries on East coast:
1) Over Fishing: the catch allowed by the government was too high. Scientist may
have overestimated the number of fish becoming adults each year.
2) Improved Fishing Technology: big powerful fishing trawlers. As well as sonar and satellite navigation systems allow fisher folk to locate large schools of fish faster and with more accuracy.
3) Uncontrolled Foreign Fishing: foreign fishing fleets caught more fish than sustainable yield allowed for.
4) Destructive Fishing Practices: people trying to catch a specific type of fish would often catch other types. These unwanted fish were already dead and were just thrown away. Only the remaining fish were reported to authorities.
(This played a major part in overestimates by scientists).
5) Changes in Natural Conditions: some believe that changes in the environment have changed the oceans conditions and caused a decline in the fish stock.
2 specific changes have been identified;
i) water temperatures have dropped
ii) changes in the salt level of the water
It is also thought that the high number of seals, due to the decline of the seal hunt, is another reason for the collapse. Seals eat fish that are a staple to cod, thus taking away their food.
West Coast Fisheries
- Salmon are found on both the East and West coast, but the West coast catch of salmon, historically, has been 400 times larger then the East coast.
- The most important fish is the Salmon of which there are five different kinds: i) coho, ii) chum, iii) pink, iv) spring (chinook), and v) sockeye
- Pacific salmon hatch and live for a couple of years in rivers and then swim out to the ocean where they grow up. When they become fully mature they return to the exact spot of birth, lay their eggs, and die.
- It is the return to the spawning grounds at the mouth of these rivers that fishing fleets have traditionally waited for the salmon.
- In 1994 scientists realized that there was an issue when 1 million fewer salmon returned to the spawning grounds then where expected.
- Three reasons are given for the collapse of the Salmon stalk:
1) Overfishing: during the 1990's Canadian and US salmon boats were catching over 800,000 tonnes of salmon per year.
2) Changes in the Environment: Global warming is increasing the temperature of the Pacific Ocean. Salmon do not like water over 70 C, and as the Pacific temperature is increasing they are going north where the water is cooler.
3) Lack of Salmon Fishing Treaty: Dispute between Canada and US about where and amount of salmon can be caught. Canada says fewer fish can be caught, US disagrees.
There are three main groups fighting over the Salmon stock in B.C.:
1) Commercial fisher folk; 2) Sport fisher folk; and 3) First Nations.
- Commercial Fishing:
- complain about the loss of jobs due to the cut back in number of fish allowed to be caught.
- Sport Fishing:
- huge revenue for the province
(salmon caught commercially $25, through sport over $600 per fish)
- takes very small numbers of fish
- not very damaging ecologically
- First Nations:
- demand for salmon by Aboriginals is growing for 2 reasons:
1) Have the right to fish for food as well as social and ceremonial purposes.
2) The right to fish commercially is the a focus of many First Nation land claims.
Aquaculture or Fish Farms:
- salmon are raised in pens in the water
- more salmon are produced then are caught in the wild
- the value of wild salmon is $97 million, fish farms is $175 million
- it is cheaper to raise salmon on farms then to catch them in the wild
- large amount of pollution created from fish waste and decaying food which has created dead zones.
- fish Farmers are adding antibiotics to the water to keep these fish healthy; the consequences of this are unknown (effects on humans, other fish, ecology, etc.)
- these fish can escape and tend to be more aggressive and eat more then regular salmon
- majority of salmon fish farms raise are East Coast salmon. This is even the case on the west coast, therefore a foreign species has been introduced into the ecosystem