With its four provinces representing 40,000 kilometres of coastline, Atlantic Canada accounts for the vast majority of Canada’s rich variety of harvested and processed groundfish, shellfish, and pelagic products exported worldwide. In addition, the region’s ideal coastal environment has spawned an aquaculture industry specializing in a wide range of species with products shipped to global markets.

Did you know?

  • Canada exported a record $6.6 billion in fish and seafood products in 2016.
  • Fish and seafood are among Canada’s largest exports of food products.
  • Canada’s most valuable species exported in 2016, were, lobster, Atlantic salmon, snow (queen) crab and shrimp.
  • Lobster remains Canada’s top species exported in terms of value, with over $2 billion worth in 2016.
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production activity in the world and a growing sector in Canada. About 45 species of marine and freshwater finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants are now available.
  • In 2015, the aquaculture industry generated over $1 billion in GDP, generating close to $3 billion in total economic activity.
  • Approximately 72,000 Canadians make their living directly from fishing and fishing-related activities.

  • Healthy oceans and fisheries are essential for life and the provision of food, livelihoods and a strong marine economy. Infographic from


Sustainable fish and seafood are from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware of human impact on our environment.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) manages Canadian fish and seafood sustainably based on the most current science. DFO is responsible for developing and maintaining the regulations that:

  • support healthy and productive ecosystems
  • ensure sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

Canada’s model for the sustainable management of Canadian fisheries cover the following five key areas:

  • Planning
  • Science as a Cornerstone of Decision-Making
  • Managing Environmental Impacts
  • Enforcing the Rules
  • Monitoring Results

Aquaculture is the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants in fresh or salt water. It is an established practice in many parts of the world. In Canada, aquaculture was first used to enhance natural stocks. It is now a large-scale commercial industry across the country. It provides direct and indirect economic benefits to many local and regional economies. Click here to learn more about the aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada.

Illegal, Unreported, and Underegulated fishing

Quotas and Reports

Illegal fishing refers to: Fishing by national or foreign vessels within a country's Exclusive Economic Zone without permission, or, undertaking fishing activities that contravene that country's laws or regulations. Fishing by a vessel flying the flag of a State party to a relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) that contravenes conservation or management measures adopted by that organization or part of international law. Fishing that violates national laws or international obligations.

Unreported Fishing refers to: Fishing that has not been reported, or has been misreported, to the relevant national authority or RFMO.

Unregulated fishing refers to: Fishing within the regulatory zone of a RFMO of a vessel without a nationality, or by a vessel flying the flag of a state not party to the organization (Flag of convenience), which contravenes the conservation and management measure set out by the RFMO. Fishing outside of regulated zones, which is inconsistent with efforts under international law to conserve living marine resources.

Ecolabelling, Certification, and Traceability

Canadians care about whether fish and seafood are being caught or farmed in a way that ensures the product for the future. Part of sustainability is knowing where products come from, so unregulated fisheries don’t benefit from the industry.

  • Ecolabelling

    The goal of ecolabelling programmes is to create market-based incentives for better management of fisheries by creating consumer demand for seafood products from well-managed stocks. Ecolabels are seals of approval given to products that are deemed to have fewer impacts on the environment than functionally or competitively similar products. The goal of ecolabelling initiatives is to promote sustainably managed fisheries and highlight their products to consumers.

  • Certification

    Buyers of fish and seafood want to know if products come from legal and sustainable fisheries or aquaculture operations. Certification provides evidence that products are being grown and harvested in a sustainable manner. This is why the process is also called eco-certification. Businesses can voluntarily choose to seek certification, which may result in improved market opportunities and increased economic benefits for the industry. There are various organizations around the world that conduct certification assessments.

  • Traceability

    Tracing the source of fish and seafood is of growing importance to buyers and governments. Some countries require proof that fish and seafood imports aren’t from illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries. Eco-certification standards also include a traceability element to demonstrate that the fisheries have followed the chain of custody requirements.

    Traceability is used to identify:

    -where a product is at any given time
    -where it has been prior to its current location
    -what was done to it along the way


Several organizations, including the Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea, provide third part certification of fisheries, if the fishery applies and meets all requirements.

Seafood Fraud and Mislabelling Across Canada

According to a new report by the ocean advocacy group Oceana Canada mislabelling was found in 44 per cent of the seafood samples it tested this year and last in five Canadian cities - and in 75 per cent of cases, cheaper fish were mislabelled as something more expensive. 

The investigation focused on types of fish prone to being mislabelled because of their economic value, availability or popularity. Past studies from both Canada and the United States have shown that cod, halibut, snapper, tuna, salmon and sole have the highest rates of species substitution. Samples of other types of fish, such as yellowtail and butterfish, were also tested in lower numbers, based on menu availabilities and regional differences.



A particularly harmful form of mislabelling is species substitution: swapping cheaper, less-desirable or more readily available species for more expensive ones; farmed products for wild-caught; and black-market fish for legally caught varieties. Other types of seafood fraud include product adulteration, such as adding chemicals to preserve the appearance of the product, or practices such as shortweighting (claiming a product weighs more than it does by adding extra bread or water).Seafood fraud affects public health and food safety. It cheats consumers and hurts honest, law-abiding fishers and seafood businesses. It undermines the environmental and economic sustainability of fisheries and fish populations. It even masks global human rights abuses by creating amarket for illegally caught fish


Canada’s fish and seafood market is responsibly regulated and produced. We require that all products are inspected and controlled to ensure food safety.

The federal government develops and verifies compliance with appropriate product and process standards. These standards contribute to the acceptable quality, safety and identity of fish and seafood products that are:

  • imported into Canada
  • processed in federally registered establishments

Importing and Exporting

Fish and seafood are some of Canada’s largest food exports. Fish and seafood products are strictly regulated to ensure the sustainability of this valuable natural resource. Products must be officially certified for export.

To be eligible for export, fish and seafood intended for human consumption must:

  • meet defined standards
  • originate from a registered fish processing establishment
  • Canada is export-ready and provides export market development support for our country’s fish and seafood.

Seafood Industry Associations

Click to here to see a list of seafood associations in Atlantic Canada on the Atlantic Canada Exports website.

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