Fisheries Patrols

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) helps Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) monitor fishing vessels and enforce fishing regulations in the Atlantic Ocean. They do so by conducting ship and aircraft patrols. These patrols are known as FISHPATS.

FISHPATS fall under an agreement between the Department of National Defence and DFO.

Attention: Update

There are currently no CAF assets on FISHPATS.

The task force

The CAF conducts FISHPATS using warships and military aircraft.  The ships may be either Halifax-class frigates or Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels.

The aircraft are CP-140 Auroras. They are normally used for long-range ocean surveillance.  

All CAF assets used on FISHPATS carry DFO fishery officers. They are the federal officials who enforce Canada’s Fisheries Act.

Mission context

The area

The CAF conducts FISHPATS mostly off the east coast of Canada. They are carried out in Canadian fishing areas.  The CAF also patrols where Canada has committed to global fisheries agreements, including:

  • Canada’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ). This includes the Arctic waters of the Labrador Sea and the Davis Strait; and
  • the areas defined by:
    • the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), and
    • the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

The threat

The worldwide fishing industry has grown larger. There are more fishing vessels and more processing plants than ever.  Global fishing is so aggressive that many wild fish populations are at risk of disappearing unless the industry is restricted.

Illegal fishing, including overfishing, is harmful. It depletes the number of adult fish capable of breeding. In this case, fish populations cannot grow and they will eventually disappear.  If this occurs, a global food source for billions of people will be gone.

In Canada, in the early 1990s, cod stocks almost disappeared from the ocean around Newfoundland.

The mission

The link between Canada’s military and its fisheries goes back more than a hundred years. The Canadian Government Ship (CGS) Canada was launched in 1904. It served as a patrol vessel for the Fisheries Protection Service of Canada. This agency enforced the law for the Department of Marine and Fisheries, which was in charge of Canada’s ocean resources before 1914.  The CGS Canada then became the first training ship for the Royal Canadian Navy. This took place after the Naval Service Act of 1910.

Today, the CAF sends warships and military aircraft to assist DFO fishery officers. These officers are the federal officials that enforce the laws and regulations related to fishing.

CP-140 long range patrol aircraft carrying fishery officers patrol and take photos to locate and gather data about illegal fishing.

HMC Ships carrying fishery officers patrol fishing areas and inspect fishing vessels in both the EEZ (Canadian territorial waters) and NAFO regulatory zones in international waters.

The CAF also uses satellites to identify where fishing fleets are active. This is done upon request from DFO. Patrolling ships and aircraft can then focus on these areas.

The results

DFO has proven that FISHPATS help deter and reduce illegal fishing. The patrols help protect fish stocks in Canadian waters.

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