Op-ed: Focus on blue economy needed in 2022 for COVID-19 recovery
Paul Lansbergen is the president the Fisheries Council of Canada.
We’ve come to the end of another year filled with uncertainty, with no sign of predictability on the horizon. No one is really sure what the new year will bring. Stability has been hard for Canadians to come by, and it’s something that decision-makers and leaders in both government and industry need to prioritize immediately to incite recovery.
In 2022, Canadian decision-makers are going to have to start implementing serious COVID-19 recovery measures as the pandemic continues to stretch on. The Blue Economy Strategy is an initiative that offers significant recovery opportunities to grow the Canadian economy. While the Blue Economy mandate was put forth by the federal government prior to the pandemic, it has been reinforced in the new mandate letter given to new Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Joyce Murray.
“Working in close collaboration with provinces and territories, Indigenous communities and industry,” the mandate letter states, “[Murray] will also continue to prioritize the growth of Canada’s blue economy to create opportunities for freshwater and ocean sectors and coastal communities.” The letter also states that the government will “work to support sustainable, stable prosperous fisheries” and “support the long-term sustainable growth of Canada’s fish and seafood sector.”
The Canadian seafood industry has a created a vision and action plan, Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy 2040, to lead the national development of an ocean-based economy while balancing sustainability. The Fisheries Council of Canada and the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, the national associations representing wild and farmed seafood respectively, have come together to provide a solution that captures the untapped potential of Canadian waters. The creation of a seafood-driven ocean economy will strengthen an industry that has been supporting Canadians for centuries.
The seafood industry already provides stability for 90,000 Canadians in rural, coastal, and Indigenous communities where the industry creates employment opportunities where jobs can be scarce. It also generates CAD 9 billion (USD 7.2 billion, EUR 6.3 billion) toward Canada’s GDP every year. It is important to note the sector has been remarkably resilient thus far in the pandemic. Companies adapted and pivoted to keep people working, and healthy while doing so, and served Canadians and global markets. We can leverage that resiliency.
With support from the government to grow the industry as part of a federal Blue Economy Strategy, the seafood industry has capacity to sustainably double the production value, economic benefits and consumption of Canadian seafood, creating even more jobs, stability, and economic capacity for Canadians.
But don’t just take our word for it. The seafood industry is one of Canada’s oldest, and the people it supports – including youth and Indigenous communities – have high hopes for the Blue Economy Strategy. You can hear what 10 Canadians had to say by visiting seafoodopportunity.ca and watching our video series.
Science- and evidence-based decisions are necessary to determine a path forward for creating sustainable growth for the Canadian seafood industry. We are encouraged to see a government commitment to building a brighter future “through continued collaboration, engagement, and the use of science and evidence-based decision-making,” and that all environmental initiatives are to be achieved “…while strengthening marine research and science.”
Canada has the capacity to be a world leader in the production of sustainable seafood. We have the longest coastline in the world and operate under some of the best fisheries management. In fact, Fisheries and Oceans Canada reports that 94 percent of Canadian fisheries are harvested at sustainable levels, and the majority of fish caught in Canada is certified by a third-party sustainability standard. And it’s only getting better: in 2021, Oceana Canada’s Fishery Audit showed that the number of healthy stocks in Canada has risen significantly in the past year, while the number of critical, cautious, and uncertain stocks have decreased.
Combine improving sustainability practices with increased demand for seafood over the COVID-19 pandemic, and all signs point towards now being the perfect time to seize Canada’s seafood opportunity. We’ve got the plan ready to go, all we need is a commitment from the federal government to support the seafood industry – and in turn, Canadians – with an actionable Blue Economy Strategy.
2022 is the year to make it happen. Canadians need all the stability they can get.