With a coastline of nearly 29,000 km (18,000 mi) and a lake-and-river system containing more than half the world's fresh water, Canada ranked 20th among the world's major fish producers and in 1999 and is the world's third-leading exporter of fresh, chilled, and frozen fish by value (after the United States and Norway).
Two of the world's great fishing grounds are located off Canada. One lies along the Atlantic coast of the Maritime provinces, and in this region the Grand Banks of Newfoundland constitute the largest area. More than one billion pounds of cod, haddock, halibut, pollock, and other fish are caught every year along the Atlantic in deep-sea and shore operations. Most of the cod and about a third of the total catch is dried and salted for export to Mediterranean and Latin American countries; another third is sold fresh; the rest is canned. Vast numbers of lobsters and herring are caught in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy. The other great fishing region includes the bays, inlets, river mouths, and fjords of British Columbia. Salmon, the specialty of the Pacific fisheries, is canned for export and constitutes the most valuable item of Canadian fish production. Also exported are fresh halibut and canned and processed herring. Other important export items are whitefish, lake trout, pickerel, and other freshwater fish caught in the Great Lakes and some of the larger inland lakes. Feed and fertilizer are important by-products.
Canada's total fish and seafood landings were estimated at 933,605 tons in 2000, of which all but 40,667 tons were from marine fishing. Pelagic species and other finfish (primarily salmon and herring) accounted for 31% of the 2000 marine catch; shellfish (mostly shrimp, oysters, and crabs), 40%; and groundfish (mostly hake and redfish), 24%. The United States imports about 60% of Canada's fish product exports by volume and 50% by value. Japan is the second most important market for fish exports.
Canadian aquacultural production in 2000 consisted of 91,195 tons of finfish (86% salmon) and 32,729 tons of shellfish (66% mussels). Canada's aquaculture industry faces many federal and provincial regulatory impediments that restrict its growth, such as regulations on the introduction and transfer policy of new species and salmon tagging. However, in 2002, the British Columbia government announced that new environmental standards would allow for a managed expansion of salmon aquaculture, ending a moratorium on fish farms in effect since 1995.
The government protects and develops the resources of both ocean and inland waters and helps expand the domestic market for fish. It extends loans to fishermen for the purchase of fishing craft. Canadian-US action has helped restore Pacific salmon runs and halibut stocks and the Great Lakes fisheries, but pollution represents a threat to freshwater sport fishing, especially in Ontario.