Canada announces widespread commercial fishing closures

Published on
July 1, 2021

Canada’s government announced this week it would drastically cut back on commercial fishing pressure for the 2021 season, shutting down 79 of the country’s 138 fisheries in an effort to save dwindling Pacific salmon runs.

The new reduction plan is part of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI), a USD 520 million (EUR 440 million) investment announced earlier this month to help preserve salmon runs in Canada.The PSSI plan represents the largest investment in salmon restoration in Canada’s history, and stems from an alarming drop in salmon runs in the country. Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said in a press release dwindling stocks have led to tough decisions for those who manage Canada’s fisheries.

"What cannot be debated is that most wild Pacific salmon stocks continue to decline at unprecedented rates. We are pulling the emergency break to give these salmon populations the best chance at survival. The decisions to implement new long-term closures and permanently remove effort from the commercial salmon fishery were not easy, as they impact people, communities, and livelihoods. But with fewer and fewer returning every year – disappearing before our eyes – we have to act now. We will continue working closely with industry, Indigenous communities, and partners as we move forward with these initiatives and do everything in our collective power to save pacific salmon and ensure a sustainable future. Together, we will turn the corner,” Jordan said.

The commercial closures come with a fishing license buyback program, which is expected to launch in the fall of 2021. The buyback initiative is a response to many years of requests for assistance from fishermen, according to the government. Fisheries officials hope a smaller nationwide fishery will make it more sustainable long term.

The government will also be working with First Nations in British Columbia and Yukon to address economic and cultural impacts on coastal communities from declining salmon runs.

According to data from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), last year was Canada’s worst salmon season since 1982. A recent report from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) found that many Pacific salmon stocks have dropped to historic lows, with around 50 runs under consideration to be designated as at-risk. A news release from the Canadian government said “decades-long declines are due to a complex combination of climate change, habitat degradation, and harvesting impacts, and bold action is needed now to stabilize and rebuild the stocks before it is too late.”

Photo courtesy of Tomas Nevesely/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Seattle, USA

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