The International Science Role of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Science is essential to sound decision-making in fisheries management and oceans governance. Scientific inquiry is often borderless; for example, the study of the effects of sound on aquatic species, or assessing the status and trends of marine populations. For fish stocks that straddle international boundaries and highly migratory stocks such as cod, salmon and Bluefin tuna, science provides advice on catch limits and other management measures to ensure fisheries are sustainable.

Science informs Canada’s participation in six regional management fisheries organizations, including the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), and the North Pacific Anadromous Commission (NPAFC). In addition, Science informs the work of Departmental policy and management sectors as they endeavor to meet Canada’s commitments under the 1982 United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the United Nations Fish Stock Agreement (UNFSA), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as well as other significant global conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Science advisory reports and summaries of research projects related to international governance issues are summarized online, and fisheries data is increasingly available via Canada’s Open Data Portal.

At the international level, key areas of concern include:

  • Identification and protection of sensitive marine ecosystems, communities, species, and habitat;
  • The sustainable management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the surrounding ocean ecosystems;
  • Ocean variability and climate change; and
  • Sustainable fisheries practices and harvesting strategies that consider a precautionary approach.

Ocean data collected for Canadian ocean monitoring is shared internationally and goes into products and services for weather, emergency management and safe navigation. DFO supports the Argo floating buoy program that provides insight into the ocean’s role in climate. DFO scientists also undertake research to understand and adapt to climate change and have influenced, and continue to contribute to, the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. DFO also plays a key role in international science organizations notably the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). Canada is also a member of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), and the advancement of hydrographic science to international standards is essential for Canadian transportation safety, while bi-lateral science with the United States and Denmark has been undertaken in support of Canadian sovereignty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Canada, the European Commission and the United States signed The 'Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation' in 2015, to better align research and ocean observation efforts of the three partners. The goals are to better understand the Atlantic Ocean and the bordering Arctic region to inform the sustainable management of this shared resource.

Key areas of co-operation are:

  1. Ocean observation and prediction;
  2. Interoperability and coordination of observing infrastructures, such as measurement buoys and research vessels;
  3. Oceans health and stressors
  4. Data management and dissemination, including oceans literacy;
  5. Characterization of the seafloor and the sub-surface;
  6. Aquaculture; and
  7. Promoting researcher mobility.
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