SAINT ANDREWS (GNB) – The Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers wrapped up meetings in Saint Andrews following discussions on managing aquaculture development and expanding market access for fish and seafood products.

The meeting was co-chaired by Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet and the federal Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

“Fisheries and aquaculture are vital components of the New Brunswick economy,” said Doucet. “Collaboration with other jurisdictions helps us access the best science and most effective practices to help grow our sectors in a sustainable manner and keep them globally competitive. I thank all of the delegates for their diligence and hard work over the last two days and I hope they enjoyed their visit to Saint Andrews.”

The council members shared their priorities and discussed ways they could work in partnership to advance their goals of economic growth, strengthening global market access for Canadian fish and seafood products, including seal, and protecting Canada’s oceans, coasts, waterways and fisheries.

“My provincial and territorial colleagues and I are working together to ensure our oceans and waters are healthy and our fisheries and aquaculture industries are strong and sustainable,” said LeBlanc. “It is through this spirit of trust and collaboration that we will make progress on key environmental and fisheries issues that will benefit all Canadians.”

The ministers reiterated their commitment to increase collaboration on marine protection and to work together to support federal, provincial and territorial marine conservation targets. They also discussed the damaging impact of aquatic invasive species on infrastructure and on the environment and renewed their commitment to work together to combat aquatic invasive species.

Aquatic invasive species have significantly reduced certain fish stocks native to Canada. In addition to the environmental damage, invasive species cost billions of dollars every year due to lost income and tourism revenue, infrastructure damage, and the implementation of control measures.

The economic value and potential of Canada’s aquaculture sector was also discussed. Recognizing aquaculture’s potential to create jobs, economic growth and prosperity in remote, rural, coastal and aboriginal communities, the ministers reviewed and provided further direction on a three-year aquaculture development strategy. The strategy promotes strong and environmentally sustainable aquaculture development, responsible growth and the engagement of stakeholders.

The ministers discussed the process to review changes to the Fisheries Act as announced on June 20 by the federal government, which will restore lost protections to fish and its habitat and incorporate modern safeguards. They were assured that consultation will be at the core of this review and that views will be sought from the provinces and territories, the public, First Nations and a range of stakeholders including industry and environmental groups. They agreed that the full range of opinions would be considered and there will be future opportunities to discuss the way forward.

Market access and continued emphasis on high quality Canadian fish and seafood products was also discussed. The ministers supported the compilation of an inventory of federal, provincial and territorial financing programs that specifically support the fish and seafood sector. The dialogue touched on fish and seafood trade opportunities, as well as recent international efforts by the federal and provincial governments to promote Canada’s fish and seafood industry, for example at key trade shows. They also discussed the Certification and Market Access Program for Seals, which supports the commercial seal harvest and will ensure seal products harvested by aboriginal communities are certified to be sold internationally, including in the European Union.

They were briefed on the federal government’s Clean Energy Initiative and discussed innovation opportunities. They agreed that innovation and the adoption of clean technology can improve the efficiency and reputation of any sector.

As the meeting concluded, they agreed to work together to identify approaches to advance common goals and priorities in the coming months.

The federal government is committed to protecting five per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10 per cent by 2020. In addition, it recently announced the start of the 30-day public consultation period for the proposed Anguniaqvia niqiqyam Marine Protection Area Regulations. The regulations will be pre-published in Canada Gazette Part I on June 25, launching the consultation period that will extend until July 25.

Canadian fish and seafood exports continue to grow with total sales of $6 billion in 2015. This represents a record high growth rate of 21 per cent and a $1 billion increase since 2014. Aquaculture accounts for nearly 50 per cent of seafood consumed worldwide. By 2030, it is estimated that demand will exceed supply by 40 million tonnes.

Recreational fishing contributes significantly to the Canadian economy, especially in rural areas. For example, based on the 2010 Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada, angling generated $8.3 billion for local economies.