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The Pacific region breakout group discussing post-CFRN initiatives at a workshop in Cornwall, Ontario (photo by: Susan Thompson).

Fisheries are important to Canada’s economy, and are integral to coastal and Indigenous communities. Fisheries and dependent communities face challenges associated with ecosystem change and resulting needs for enhanced monitoring, governance response and adaptation.

The following subset of proposed case studies and topics illustrates the diverse nature of the research required: Discussions within the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) regarding the need for future collaborative research have identified the overarching strategic theme of ‘Research in support of management in a context of rapid change’ as being of high priority and widespread interest. There is an obvious need for consideration of the ecological, social/cultural, economic and institutional impacts of climate change, management response and community adaptation. This implies a wide spectrum of research related to the changing productivity and distribution of fish stocks, approaches for improved ecosystem monitoring, conservation thresholds and strategies, risk assessment, decision-making and tradeoffs in the face of change and more collaborative approaches to management. This is consistent with governmental priorities
(http://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-fisheries-oceans-and-canadian-coast-guard-mandate-letter).

  • Holistic management of anticipated transition from invertebrate to groundfish fisheries in Newfoundland and Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Ecological and socio-economic indictors of sustainability for the Canadian lobster fishery
  • Fisheries in relation to emerging MPA’s, ecosystem-based management, and integrated management with other activities
  • Management advice in relation to species shifts and ecosystem change on Georges Bank and/or Scotian Shelf
  • Interdisciplinary evaluation of options for Lake Huron salmonid management
  • Ecology and collaborative management of Arctic Char populations in the Canadian Arctic
  • Science for alternative management scenarios of Pacific salmon, crab and groundfish fisheries
  • Changing ecological, socio-economic, and governance aspects of herring fisheries
  • Methods for improved scenario comparison and decision-making in fisheries
  • Enhanced collaborative management, co-management and First Nations capacity
  • Capacity development and training in relation to fisheries research and management


These suggest at least three theme areas: 1) Improved information and monitoring related to ecosystem change, 2) Improved methods for assessment and management of change, and 3) Improved governance and decision-making processes to deal with change. These thematic areas are linked but distinct.  They indicate the need for collaboration among diverse participants and disciplines.

Collaboration among industry, academics and government over the past 6 years in the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) has demonstrated the benefits of co-constructed research, and of national networking. CFRN spearheaded important strategic research including development of integrated assessment approaches, enhanced monitoring and research on important species, study of the impact of marine mammals, gear modification to reduce impact (see list of CFRN advancements and achievements under General Network Products: http://www.cfrn-rcrp.ca/Public-Products-EN). Collaboration allowed research that could not have been done by any one or two of the parties, and multiplied research contributions several fold. The Network allowed identification of priorities and a strategic, national approach to fisheries issues. The experience and established relationships of the CFRN can be used as a springboard for future fisheries research.

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Gulf of St. Lawrence breakout group (photo by: Susan Thompson)

The future research need to support management in the context of rapid change is large and multidisciplinary.  Both the mandate and capacity to address this issue are spread among institutions and groups.  There is a need to combine the capacities of DFO, the fishing industry, First Nations, the Provinces, academia (natural and social sciences), NGOs and funding agencies (both NSERC and SSHRC) in a collaborative and strategic approach to address a large research gap. The issue is critical to the sustainability of fisheries and to the health and wellbeing of coastal and First Nations communities across Canada. There is urgency with respect to several of the case studies identified above to undertake research that will improve decisions in short order. 

The success of the CFRN has demonstrated the benefits to Canada of a cohesive fisheries research program around strategic issues that combines or links the capacities of industry, governments, academics, and related funding agencies. A consensus exists among the CFRN partners that the challenges posed to Canada’s fisheries management by climate change provide the strategic issue for future collaboration. The proposed research program is large - several times the size of the CFRN. The funding programs for such an initiative are less obvious as it exceeds the scope of strategic networks and requires academic support by both SSHRC and NSERC. The scope required is perhaps best found in Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program (http://www.nce-rce.gc.ca/index_eng.asp).

Such an initiative would, if implemented properly, galvanize Canadian fisheries-related research and management in a long-term, strategic common enterprise of research for sustainable, prosperous, adaptable, well-managed fisheries. It would improve the prospects for resilient communities and adaptation to ecosystem change. It would provide a platform for fishery-related training and professional development. It would develop synergies among the partners and with other networks (e.g. MEOPAR, CHONe, OceanCanada Partnership). Importantly, it would contribute to a new tone for Canadian fisheries as progressive, strategic and responsible.

Please send feedback to Susan Thompson, CFRN Manager (susant@unb.ca).