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Federal Fisheries Department doing a poor job of monitoring fishing industry: report

OTTAWA — A new report slams the federal Fisheries Department for failing to properly monitor Canada’s commercial fishing industry.

The report from the federal environment commissioner, Jerry DeMarco, says Fisheries and Oceans Canada lacks the ability to collect timely and dependable data about what is being caught.

DeMarco says the dearth of reliable data means the department can’t protect Canada’s fish stocks from overfishing.

The commissioner says the problem is that the department has failed to deliver on most of the corrective measures it committed to seven years ago, when the federal auditor general called for changes to ensure sustainable management of the industry.

DeMarco’s audit says the department responded to the auditor general by creating a new fishery monitoring policy, but he says that policy has yet to be implemented.

As well, the audit found the department has been slow to modernize its information systems, even though it has spent about $31 million on integrating information across regions to provide access to catch data.

The implementation of this new system is now 10 years behind schedule and won’t be available to all regions until 2030, DeMarco’s report says.

“Without dependable and timely data … Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not know whether commercial stocks are being overfished,” DeMarco said in a statement.

“The collapse of the Atlantic cod population in the 1990s — with its far-reaching economic and social impacts — has shown that it is far more expensive and difficult to recover depleted stocks than it is to keep them healthy in the first place.”

Department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2023.

The Canadian Press