Food In Canada

Fisheries and aquaculture should look to global markets for growth: report

A new report says Canada’s fisheries and aquaculture industries should target growing markets abroad, but they should also work to revive domestic demand

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Ottawa – A new report says Canada’s commercial fisheries, aquaculture and processing industries can grow further if they target the global markets.

The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Food in Canada released the report, which is called Strengthening Canada’s Commercial Fisheries and Aquaculture: From Fin to Fork, on Dec. 5.

The report reviewed trends across the industry and came up with several recommendations the industry could use to capitalize on growing markets abroad.

“The sector needs to improve its ability to sustain the resource and the environment along the entire supply chain, from fin to fork,” says 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.”

The report says Canada is already one of the world’s leading exporters of fish and seafood products, with exports valued at more than $4.1 billion in 2012.

Canada’s largest market by value is the U.S. (at 62 per cent), followed by China (at 11 per cent), the E.U. (at eight per cent) and Japan (at six per cent).

Growing global demand

While consumption of fish and seafood is declining in Canada, rapidly growing global demand offers stronger opportunities for the sector. Many other factors are contributing to this rise in demand, for one thing there’s a growing middle class in Asia.

By 2021, the Food and Agriculture Organization forecasts demand will increase by 15 per cent over 2009-11 average levels.

Most of that growth is expected to be in aquaculture (farmed fish), but, says the report, 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, says the report.

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 and its authors recommend the fisheries sector:

• communicate the benefits of fish and seafood to domestic consumers;
• modernize regulations and legislation;
• set and enforce ecological limits and objectives; and
• improve eco-certification efforts and data about the fisheries sector.