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Fisheries vessels. (Photo Credit: archer10 Dennis CC BY-SA 2.0)

Expanding global markets is a must for fisheries and aquaculture sector

Click on the flag for more information about Canada CANADA
Monday, December 09, 2013, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

Canada's commercial fisheries, aquaculture and processing industries could build on what is already a CAD 7-billion (USD 6.6 billion) a year sector by targeting the rising global demand for fish and seafood. But to capitalize on growing markets abroad, the industry needs to overcome its own fragmentation and uncertainty, according to a new Conference Board report from the Centre for Food in Canada.

The report, Strengthening Canada's Commercial Fisheries and Aquaculture: From Fin to Fork, assesses trends and provides recommendations to make the Canadian industry more economically-viable—and ensure that it is done sustainably.

The Conference Board highlights that Canadian commercial fisheries, aquaculture, and processing sectors provide nearly 83,000 jobs, with CAD 7 billion in output annually, of which commercial sea fisheries represents about 70 per cent.

The independent, not-for-profit applied research organization also states that efforts are underway to manage ecological challenges -- 88 per cent of major Canadian fish stocks were harvested below approved levels in 2011 and many retailers and distributors have sustainable sourcing commitments.

"The sector needs to improve its ability to sustain the resource and the environment along the entire supply chain, from fin to fork," said Jean-Charles Le Vallée, Senior Research Associate. "Success will depend on shifting the focus and pressure away from maximizing volumes caught or produced—and toward maximizing value of the product."

Canada is already one of the world's leading exporters of fish and seafood products, with exports valued at over CAD 4.1 billion (USD 3.8 billion) in 2012. The country's largest market by value is the United States (62 per cent), followed by China (11 per cent), the European Union (8 per cent) and Japan (6 per cent).

On the other hand, consumption is declining in Canada and reversing the decline will require renewed marketing of the health benefits of fish and seafood. Rapidly growing global demand —due to the rise of the middle class in Asia, among other factors—offers stronger opportunities for the sector.

The Food and Agriculture Organization forecasts that by 2021 demand will increase by 15 per cent over 2009-11 average levels. While most of that growth is expected to be in aquaculture, Canada has lost 40 per cent of its global market share in this industry since 2002. Financial restraints, rising costs of fish food, ecological concerns, regulatory requirements, and limited marketing are among the challenges the Canadian industry faces to become a more notable player in this market.

Although Canadian production is abundant, commercial sea harvests are declining. The number of Canadian fishing vessels has dropped by 15 per cent in the last decade, yet the harvesting fleet is still over-capacity—particularly in the Atlantic region. Furthermore, climate change is expected to shift future catches toward lower value stocks of fish in the Atlantic region.

The report's recommendations for the fisheries sector include: communicating the benefits of fish and seafood to domestic consumers; modernizing regulations and legislation; setting and enforcing ecological limits and objectives; and improving eco-certification efforts, and data about the fisheries sector.

This report is one of 20 being produced by the Centre for Food in Canada. Since 2010, the Centre has been engaging stakeholders from business, government, academia, associations, and communities in creating a Canadian Food Strategy —one that will meet the country's need for a coordinated, long-term strategy on industry prosperity, healthy and safe food, household food security, and environmental sustainability.

The strategy will be launched at the 3rd Canadian Food Summit 2014: From Strategy to Action, 18-19 March at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

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