OSC Current Blog – February 2021 – Paul Lansbergen and Timothy Kennedy

The federal government has just recently launched public consultations on a Blue Economy Strategy. This has been much anticipated since it was first mentioned in Ministerial mandate letters of December 2019. We are pleased to share some thoughts for readers to consider.

Our vision is for Canada’s seafood sector to be nothing less than the best quality and sustainable producers in the world. Our nation depends on it. Our vision sees the future of the seafood sector – wild and farmed together – resulting in:

  • Coastal and Indigenous communities thriving: new schools, new community centres and hospitals being built, young people returning, with women employed as much as men, with a sense of purpose and excitement in their work, of pride in their jobs, of a sense of a future of great hope and opportunity.
  • Canadian innovation and technology based on our sector being sent around the world, and collaboration with other nations in a dynamic enterprise of sustainable value creation.

Seafood production is at the core of the Blue Economy for Canada. Our sector is the largest of the ocean economy, representing 90,000 jobs and $9 billion in GDP. There are no other sectors that promise as much renewal and stability for coastal communities.

We tick so many boxes: sustainable production, food security, low-carbon food, coastal community development, Indigenous reconciliation, aquaculture with the youngest workforce in all of Canadian agri-food, science and innovation.

The future of seafood is both sustainably wild harvested and farmed. The work of Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) together with the Fisheries Council of Canada (FCC) on our joint vision and action plan for the Blue Economy Strategy is the result of this shared belief.
Science and innovation – for example, the development and application of Artificial Intelligence – is driven by primary industry, like seafood. You must have a strong and stable primary industry such as ours to build everything around it.

The world, led by the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Oceans Economy, has clearly identified seafood as the leading solution to global sustainable food production. The Panel concluded the following:

  • Food from the sea provides essential vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients not found in plant-source foods or other proteins. This is important for global nutrition.
  • The world can produce six times more sustainable seafood by 2050 than today. This is critical to global food security.
  • Increasing the fraction of ocean-based food in the global diet and reducing the share of animal-based foods would contribute significantly to climate change mitigation.
  • Investing in sustainably sourced ocean-based protein yields strong environmental, economic and health benefits – a ratio of 10:1. Canada’s coastal communities would surely welcome such investments.

Unfortunately, Canada continues to fall behind. We have gone from the largest seafood exporter to eighth in the world and falling. Our aquaculture production has flatlined for 20 years.

But there is a clear path forward. We have a vision – to seize the podium of global best sustainable producers. When we achieve that, we will have doubled the value of Canadian fish and seafood, doubled the economic benefits, and doubled domestic consumption.

These are bold aspirations without a doubt. It will take extraordinary effort and collaboration. It will require us to think outside the box. It will mean challenging the status quo in some respects.

One area where industry has to take the lead is innovation. Yes, government can certainly facilitate, and must keep pace in allowing new innovations to take hold and further strengthen our sustainable production practices. But industry must determine what innovations will simultaneously advance performance and meet market demands.

While companies continue to innovate in their usual methods, the Ocean Supercluster (OSC) is the most significant ocean economy collaboration in our lifetime. Members and partners of the OSC are developing new technologies that will transform sectors. We encourage all supply chain participants to climb aboard and contribute to the future successes that the OSC is creating today.

By doing so, we will get away from a mentality in Canada that says “We can’t do this” to one that says “We can do this.” The OSC and now the Blue Economy Strategy can be the sparks that lit the change to revitalize coastal communities across Canada. Working together we can achieve the High-Level Panel’s triple-win vision – for people, nature, and the economy, and most importantly, make Canadian seafood production the very best in the world and the pride of Canada.

Paul Lansbergen is President, Fisheries Council of Canada
Timothy Kennedy is President and CEO, Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance