Aquatic Ecosystem Science

Ecosystem science supports the integrated management of diverse human activities that are undertaken in the same areas — such as fishing, aquaculture, transportation, and oil and gas exploration.

Ecosystem-based research and scientific advice assists decision-makers who manage fisheries, aquaculture, fish habitat, ocean resources, and the recovery of species-at-risk, providing scientific evidence and tools to better manage and understand how these activities interact with one another and affect aquatic ecosystems.  

Like other nations, for many years Canada attempted to manage activities in its fisheries and oceans on an activity-by-activity basis and the science undertaken focused mostly on the intended targets of human activities (e.g., a specific commercial fishery).  In keeping with international advancements in integrated aquatic management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is moving towards an ecosystem approach to management.  The Science Framework for the Future outlines the Department’s approach to aquatic science with an ecosystem framework.  

To provide input to decision-making, staff engage in environmental science work to understand how marine and freshwater ecosystems function and how they are affected by human activities.  Multidisciplinary Centres of Expertise (COEs) were also created to address a number of priority areas of ecosystem and regulatory science.

The Department’s objectives for science required for an ecosystem approach to management are as follows:

  1. Research should improve our knowledge of key ecosystem relationships and linkages to human activities and be broadly applicable to all departmental responsibilities.
  2. Monitoring and data and information management should produce ecosystem-focused products and services of value to all parts of the department.
  3. Scientific advice should be provided from an ecosystem perspective and be integrated across client sectors.

Strategic Program for Ecosystem-Based Research and Advice (SPERA)

The Strategic Program for Ecosystem-Based Research and Advice (SPERA) supports those objectives with research projects and scientific tool development which support national priorities for managing ecosystems in our domestic waters.  Projects address key issues, such as scientific guidance on the avoidance of benthic impacts; science support for mitigating by-catch and tools to help manage biological diversity in Canadian waters.

View all projects by title, by investigator or by location