Habitat Loss Under the Invisible Collapse of Recreational Freshwater Fisheries

Tuesday, August 19, 2014: 9:40 AM
205B (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Derrick T. de Kerckhove , Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Charles K Minns , Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Cindy Chu , Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
In 2012, the Canadian government dropped the provisions for fish habitat protection under the 1985 Fisheries Act with little justification on how altering the rates of aquatic habitat degradation might influence the country’s recreational fishery valued at CDN$8.8 billion in 2010. Further, the current state of Canada’s freshwater fish stocks is largely unknown, and suspected to be vulnerable to an “invisible collapse”. In this study we provide context to the change in legislation as well as a novel method of evaluating the status of diffuse fish populations in Ontario’s recreational freshwater fisheries. We found that 1) fish stocks are highly exploited and in apparent danger of collapse in management zones close to large population centres, and 2) cumulative rates of habitat protection from federal legislation are substantial and likely benefit the fishery. The policy of the 1985 Fisheries Act is estimated to have cumulatively protected between 5000 and 8000 tonnes of fishable production since 1985 in Ontario alone, and would have cumulatively protected the size of the 2005 recreational fisheries harvest by 2021 at the latest.