Looking across from the Ottawa River from Parliament

Recommendations from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans

Originally published on by the Parliament of Canada

As a result of their deliberations committees may make recommendations which they include in their reports for the consideration of the House of Commons or the Government. Recommendations related to this study are listed below.

Recommendation 1

That the Ocean science activities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) prioritize a comprehensive research strategy to determine the current and estimated future impacts of climate change on marine life and provide regular public updates on findings.

Recommendation 2

That the Government of Canada request that the Chief Science Advisor examine how and to what degree DFO has deployed an ecosystem-based approach for stock management and recovery, and, if necessary, make recommendations on how DFO may better implement ecosystem-based fisheries management.

Recommendation 3

That DFO speed up the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management in Canada given the impact of climate change.

Recommendation 4

That Canada increase collaboration with our international allies and neighbors for stock assessments and scientific research for all transboundary species.

Recommendation 5

That the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard direct departmental officials to immediately initiate a review of DFO allocations for science to ensure departmental resources are available for the scientific work in both fisheries and ocean science that is required to inform decisions of DFO and Minister and likewise ensure that DFO scientists are not dependant on external funding streams to complete their work.

Recommendation 6

That DFO conduct an internal audit on the performance of new research vessels to ensure the suitability of new vessels to maintain and improve the DFO’s ability to conduct stock assessments, and that the results of this audit be communicated to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Recommendation 7

That DFO allocate sufficient resources, including sufficient at-sea capabilities, to conduct timely and comprehensive stock assessments and acoustic surveys for all commercial fish species.

Recommendation 8

Considering that DFO’s scientific models used for stock assessments rely on data from surveys, the Committee recommends that greater emphasis be placed on completing surveys and robust data acquisition, even when vessels break down or are unavailable. That DFO do this by fostering relationships with the fishing industry to utilize commercial fishing license holders and vessels to supplement DFO scientific data collection.

Recommendation 9

That, in order to ensure stock assessment surveys are completed, DFO identify and use opportunities that exist for harvester data to be included in stock assessment activities, thereby contributing to collaborative and citizen science.

Recommendation 10

That DFO immediately implement, in partnership with academic and industry scientists, a review of the criteria for the selection of survey areas to consider variability in stock distributions as well as harvester observations in order to have a more realistic view of the status of fish stocks and fishing pressure. These stock surveys should take place twice a year.

Recommendation 11

Given the importance of a sustainable fishery on the economic and social health of small, coastal communities and our obligations toward Indigenous reconciliation, that DFO prioritize completing regular and thorough stock assessments on all three coasts and commit to timely and fulsome community and stakeholder engagement on proposed fishing restrictions to protect fish stocks and marine species threatened or at risk.

Recommendation 12

That DFO commit to more timely decision‑making to provide certainty to fish harvesters and industries impacted by fisheries decisions. This would ensure that those impacted, whether positively or negatively by these decisions have enough time to prepare and react to the changes and will ensure that government can provide support for those industries negatively impacted by fishery closures.

Recommendation 13

That DFO review the allocation of its resources, financial and otherwise, between ocean science and fisheries science to

  • ensure sufficient funding for the stock assessments required for sound management, eco certifications and rebuilding plans required to restore depleted stocks; and
  • reflect the commercial, social, and cultural importance of fisheries in coastal communities.

Recommendation 14

That DFO introduce an annual Report to Parliament on the status of fish stocks, staffing levels and expenditures by program area, and fisheries management performance in a publicly available report to enable transparency of evidence used for ministerial decision-making, including any pertinent decision notes.

Recommendation 15

That the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard immediately direct departmental officials to provide the Committee on an annual and ongoing basis with documentation containing tables reflecting how many fishery stocks DFO manages, how many stocks have and have not been assessed in the current year, and what actions the Minister will commit to ensure resources and direction are provided to increase stock assessments starting in 2023 as an annual exercise.

Recommendation 16

That the current DFO modelling used for stock assessments be changed to allow for fisher data input and that the DFO modelling should be reviewed in the European stock assessment modelling concept.

Recommendation 17

That DFO conduct robust peer reviewed, non-biased science with academic organizations and include both harvesters’ knowledge and Indigenous traditional knowledge.

Recommendation 18

That the Government of Canada initiate an independent audit of how and to what degree DFO has implemented their science integrity policy and that the resulting audit report be tabled in the House of Commons in 2023.

Recommendation 19

That DFO improve the transparency of data and research by developing a portal to publish the detailed studies, including the scientific and socio-economic impact documentation, that are the inputs into the CSAS and COSEWIC processes. This portal should be easy to navigate and include both raw data and summaries free of scientific or bureaucratic jargon so that all Canadians, and fishers in particular, can understand the findings.

Recommendation 20

Make all scientific data produced by DFO publicly available for peer review from researchers outside of the Department.

Recommendation 21

That the government expand the CSAS process beyond scientists and individuals with a scientific background to be more inclusive of traditional Indigenous knowledge and harvesters’ knowledge.

Recommendation 22

That DFO work to incorporate traditional Indigenous knowledge and fisher knowledge into its scientific activities and to give it greater consideration.

Recommendation 23

That DFO increase the collaborations with Indigenous peoples and fishers in the development of field and lab work, as well as in the development of scientific conclusions.

Recommendation 24

DFO should work with First Nations to develop a culturally appropriate way to use traditional Indigenous knowledge and fisher knowledge in management, such as to trigger early warning signs about the health of marine species and ecosystems.

Recommendation 25

Honour and respect existing fisheries and oceans management cogovernance agreements and implement those processes that are inclusive of Indigenous knowledge, ecosystem and precautionary thresholds.

Recommendation 26

That the government build scientific and technical capacity with First Nations and their organizations in recognition of their inherent Indigenous title and rights.

Recommendation 27

That DFO should work with fish harvesters to communicate, in a more open and transparent manner their work and scientific conclusions, especially in cases where the evidence seems at odds with the observations of fish harvesters.

Recommendation 28

That DFO make greater efforts to improve the flow of information from fish harvesters to the DFO Science branch about what they are seeing out on the water.

Recommendation 29

That DFO include knowledge and data collected by commercial fishers, including independent inshore fishers, in the peer review process, including their knowledge and observations regarding changes in distribution and abundance. That DFO formalize a system for fishers to participate and provide input in all aspects of fisheries management, including stock assessment protocols and management plans.

Recommendation 30

That DFO apply the same management measures to all fishers of a given species in a given fishing zone based primarily on science and stock conservation for a sustainable fishery.

Recommendation 31

That DFO revitalize relationships with the recreational and commercial fishing industries and demonstrate fair process in decision‑making.

Recommendation 32

That DFO consult those who could be most socio-economically impacted by its decisions and ensure that the socio-economic impacts on communities and the fishing industry are factored in its decision-making processes. The assessment of economic and social impacts resulting from decisions should be provided when requested by Canadians.

Recommendation 33

That the Government of Canada request that the Chief Science Advisor

  • undertake an examination of how DFO fisheries management officials influence the work and findings of DFO scientists; and
  • produce a report to government including
  • an assessment of such influence,
  • whether this influence is appropriate and ethical; and
  • recommendations, if necessary, of how to reform fisheries management influence on science in DFO in order to increase independence of DFO science and ensure there is an established conduit for science to be directly channeled from scientists to decision‑makers for them to consider when making decisions.

Recommendation 34

That the Government of Canada request that the Chief Science Advisor

  • assess the viability of restructuring existing DFO systems and processes in a manner that would ensure that science advice is independently collated, assessed and delivered to managers and decision-makers by DFO scientists; and
  • produce a report with recommendations from this assessment and that that report be tabled by the government in the House of Commons by 2024.

Recommendation 35

That the Government of Canada request that the Chief Science Advisor

  • examine to what degree science advice from scientists is implemented in DFO management and decision-making processes; and
  • produce a report with advice and recommendations for establishing protocols to measure to what degree science advice from scientists is implemented in DFO management and decision-making processes and that this report be tabled in the House of Commons by 2024.

Recommendation 36

That the Government of Canada develop and table legislation that establishes a science-based fisheries management framework and a requirement for the government, through DFO, to ensure that DFO decisions align with the science-based management framework and demonstrate alignment of decisions with the framework by publicly releasing scientific reasons and other factors for decisions.

Recommendation 37

That the Government of Canada initiate an independent audit of how and to what degree DFO has implemented the Sustainable Fisheries Framework and that the resulting audit report be tabled in the House of Commons by December 15, 2023.

Recommendation 38

That the Government of Canada request that the Chief Science Advisor

  • assess the viability of establishing an independent science advice body to directly advise DFO decision-makers, assess health and performances of fisheries, make recommendations on scientific research priorities, and oversee the implementation of science-based activities; and
  • provide this assessment in a report with recommendations to the government to be tabled by 2024.

Recommendation 39

That scientists conduct pinniped diet analysis for all species of pinnipeds over longer periods of the year in more diverse regions than in the past and make their data publicly available by posting it on the DFO website.

Recommendation 40

That, in order to accurately assess the effects of pinniped predation when estimating mortality levels in fish stock biomass, scientists compare data from countries with similar species of pinnipeds.

Recommendation 41

Given the conflict of interest between DFO’s mandate relating to aquaculture versus the application of the precautionary principle and the ongoing crisis for the health of wild Pacific salmon stocks, that the government implement, on the West Coast only, Recommendation #3 in the Cohen Commission report on the state of wild salmon:

“The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.”.

Recommendation 42

That the Government of Canada initiate an independent audit of what recommendations of the December 2018 report titled “Report of the Independent Expert Panel on Aquaculture Science” have been implemented by DFO, how many have been fully implemented and timelines for full implementation for recommendations that are not yet fully implemented and that the resulting audit report be tabled in the House of Commons by June 9, 2023.

Recommendation 43

That, in light of the established aquaculture management division within the department and that DFO favours the interest of the salmon-farming industry over the health of wild fish stocks, DFO establish a wild salmon position independent from this division as recommended in Recommendation 4 of the Cohen Commission report to maintain impartiality.

Recommendation 44

That DFO place appropriate and adequate value to perspectives provided by the External Advisory Committee on Aquaculture Science, and reflect such perspectives in policy recommendations and advice to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and that the work of the External Advisory Committee on Aquaculture Science be reported to Parliament on an annual basis.

Recommendation 45

Given the perceived issues with the DFO’s risk assessment of the impact of aquaculture operations in the Discovery Islands on wild fish stocks including:

  • the failure to assess the cumulative impacts of the viruses and bacteria detected; and
  • the suppression of additional research that could have had a material impact on the overall risk assessment,

that DFO submit to an independent review of the risk assessment, including but not limited to decisions on the assessment’s terms of reference and factors that resulted in the suppression of research findings on the impact of sea lice and possibly other issues with a material impact on the health of wild fish stocks. That there be an independent audit and analysis to determine the accuracy and decision-informing value of the Science Advisory Report presented to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard on DFO’s risk assessment of aquaculture operations in the Discovery Islands.

Recommendation 46

That the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard provide in writing to the Committee a statement as to whether or not DFO omitted, canceled or in any other way did not complete or make unavailable a 10th CSAS risk assessment examining potential risks to Fraser sockeye.

Recommendation 47

That in light of new scientific revelations of potential impacts of Tenacibaculum maritimum and Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) on wild Pacific salmon, the Government of Canada request that the Chief Science Advisor assess and make recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard on the potential necessity for a CSAS assessment of risks posed by Tenacibaculum maritimum and PRV on all species of wild Pacific salmon, including Fraser sockeye.

Recommendation 48

That, within 60 days after of this report being presented to the House of Commons, DFO make publicly available on their website all documents, including working papers, the Science Advisory Report and the Recovery Potential Assessment, associated with the CSAS assessment of interior Fraser steelhead in British Columbia.

Top image credit: The view from Parliament – Photo by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash