Is Canada fulfilling its obligations to sustain marine biodiversity? A summary review, conclusions, and recommendations

Jeffrey A. Hutchings, Isabelle M. Côté, Julian J. Dodson, Ian A. Fleming, Simon Jennings, Nathan J. Mantua, Randall M. Peterman, Brian E. Riddell, Andrew J. Weaver, David L. VanderZwaag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Canada has made numerous national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity. Given current and potential threats to biodiversity from climate change, fisheries, and aquaculture, we provide a summary review of Canada's progress in fulfilling its obligations to protect, conserve, recover, and responsibly exploit marine biodiversity. We conclude that Canada has made little substantive progress, when compared to most developed nations, in meeting its biodiversity commitments. Much of Canada's policy and rhetoric has not been operationalised, leaving many of the country's national and international obligations unfulfilled in some key areas, such as the establishment of marine protected areas and incorporation of the precautionary approach to fisheries management. We conclude that regulatory conflict within Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the absolute discretion exercised by the national Minister of Fisheries and Oceans contribute significantly to an unduly slow rate of policy and statute implementation. We recommend new approaches and measures to sustain Canadian marine biodiversity and new research initiatives to support scientific advice to decision-makers. Many recommendations focus on management actions required to meet existing commitments to biodiversity conservation. Overall, we conclude that the most effective strategy is to protect existing biological diversity and to rebuild depleted populations and species to restore natural diversity. By improving and protecting the biodiversity in Canada's oceans, such a strategy will restore the natural resilience of Canada's ocean ecosystems to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change and other anthropogenic activities with consequent long-term benefits for food security and social and economic well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-361
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • policy
  • statute
  • fisheries
  • marine protected area
  • precautionary approach

Cite this