Sustainable Capture Fisheries & their Ecosystems

Lay Summary 

Determining the size and productivity of fish stocks is a major governance and research challenge, particularly for good fisheries management. Increasing our understanding of fish populations and their ecosystems — and how they respond to a changing climate — can improve both sustainable fisheries and effective fisheries management, now and in the future.


This research will help Canada meet fisheries sustainability goals by providing novel, computer-model based assessments of specific cold-water fish stocks and their ecosystems. It will also develop innovative technologies and strategies for fishing in the rapidly changing ecosystems of the Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway. This research will significantly improve scientific advice to support successful and sustainable fisheries management in Canada and abroad.


Canada strives for sustainable fisheries, but ensuring and demonstrating sustainability is a challenge, particularly for north Atlantic fish stocks and ecosystems where observed and forecasted climate change exhibits important spatial and temporal variation. This research encompasses three components:


1. Develop and improve state-of-the-art computer models for assessing fish stocks. Results will be used to advise government on sustainable fish harvesting.


2. Assess the health and productivity of ocean ecosystems under climate change. Changes to the Canadian Northwest Atlantic and Arctic gateway waters will be quantified, predicted, and used to assess fish stocks for the effective management of established and emerging fisheries.


3. Develop innovative harvesting technologies. New harvesting approaches that reduce bycatch and are tailored to the rapidly changing ecosystems of the Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway will be developed.


Sustainability and Canadian Fisheries

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canada exported $6.6 billion in fish and seafood products in 2016 and 72,000 Canadians made their living directly from fishing and fishing-related activities. In order for the Canadian fishing industry to maintain and gain access to premium international fish markets, it must demonstrate the sustainability of its fisheries. Sustainable fishing standards also form the basis for independent eco-labeling programs, which may increase the market value of capture fisheries products.


According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, fisheries sustainability means “harvesting and farming fish stocks in a way that meets our present needs without compromising the ability to meet our future needs.”


Standards for sustainability are identified in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization code of conduct for responsible fisheries, and require sustainable fisheries to:

  • Establish harvest rates that are sustainable in the long term,
  • Maintain ecosystem structure and function, and
  • Establish a management system that can adapt to changing circumstances.


More information about this project can be found here.


Adapted from

Marine Institute Campus
Newfoundland and Labrador
Climate Change
Cold Ocean and Arctic, Science, Technology and Society
Start date 
1 Jan 2020
Lead Organization 
Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI)
Partner Organization 
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Université du Québec à Rimouski
Université Laval
National Institute of Aquatic Resources, DTU AQUA, Denmark
National Marine Fisheries Service NOAA, USA
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Ireland
University of the Arctic, Norway
Marine Research Institute, Iceland
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, USA
Institute of Marine Research, Norway