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The Sustainable Fisheries Framework uses shifting baselines to determine if a species stock is healthy, failing to account for historical declines.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) made notable mistakes during the latter part of the 20th century. It allowed commercial fisheries to overexploit several stocks, ranging from Atlantic cod to Pacific herring. Most stocks were not monitored until they had already been depleted. Laudably, over the last two decades DFO has aimed to learn from these mistakes, implementing policies that strive to sustain fisheries. Chief among them is the Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF) and its supporting document: A Fishery Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach. These are worthy improvements, but there is a catch.
The SFF entrenches a phenomenon known as the shifting baseline syndrome: the failure of successive generations to witness and understand the former abundance of ecosystems. This syndrome is dangerous. It tricks us into accepting today’s degraded ecosystems as a new normal. The SFF must be revised to restore fish populations and protect the ecosystems on which human societies depend.