Freshwater Fisheries in Canada: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Resources and Their Management

Chapter 2: Freshwater Fisheries Resources and Management: Canadian Contexts

Steven J. Cooke, Rowshyra A Castañada, Andrea J. Reid, Alexander Duncan, Caleb T. Hasler, Jacob Brownscombe, Andrew Howarth, Morgan L. Piczak, Steven J. Kerr, Michael L. Jones, John M. Casselman, Jack G. Imhof, and Nicholas E. Mandrak


Freshwater fishes carry immense value to people: to the individual (e.g., food security, economic security, empowerment), to society (e.g., cultural services, recreation, human health and well-being, knowledge transfer, and capacity building), and to the environments in which they live (e.g., as aquatic “canaries,” ecosystem functions and biodiversity, the “green food” movement) (Lynch et al. 2016). The importance of freshwater fishes is a global phenomenon, providing food for some 600 million people and supporting the livelihoods of fishers all around the world who participate in an enormous diversity of fisheries (Welcomme et al. 2010; Cooke et al. 2016a). In some locations, freshwater fisheries are for subsistence. Such fisheries alleviate food insecurity and are an important source of protein. In other locations, freshwater fisheries are for recreation that foster billion-dollar industries and offer a connection to land and water for fishers. Lastly, some freshwater fisheries are commercial, providing jobs and food.

In Canada, we are lucky to have enough freshwater fishes to support all three types of fisheries; in many incidences, fisheries types overlap with each other. Freshwater fishes support a vibrant CAD$8 billion recreational fishery for residents and tourists (DFO 2019b). Small-scale freshwater commercial fisheries benefit local communities, build GDP, and contribute to global trade via export markets. Indigenous fishers depend on freshwater fish for their livelihoods, food, and ceremony, supporting long-standing cultural traditions (Noble et al. 2016). Freshwater fishes are also valuable to biodiversity, which is bolstered by over 200 species (Mandrak et al. 2023, this volume).