NAIROBI – Ending hunger and developing sustainable and resilient food systems in relation to fishers is a global challenge, which requires global solutions, said Catherine Blewett, the Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.

Blewett was speaking at the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference being held in Nairobi, Kenya. Canada and Japan are co-hosting the event with Kenya.

In a discussion at the conference titled ‘Ending Hunger, Securing Food Supplies and Promoting Good Health and Sustainable Fisheries’, Blewett outlined Canada’s commitment to addressing the issue of sustainability of the oceans.

“Canada is also very focused on the lifecycle of plastics to address marine litter, particularly through the implementation and adaptation of the Oceans Plastic Charter.

“The charter lays out a groundwork to ensure that plastics are designated for reuse and recycling and to protect the environment to keep valuable plastics in the economy. The risks of plastics to our aquatic food systems is actually quite concerning,” Blewett said.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans itself has committed to reduce the use of single use plastics. And the Canadian Federal Government operations will be reducing and recycling 75 percent of all its plastic by 2030.

She explained that Canada also adopted an international commitment to addressing global litter by becoming a signatory to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI). According to GGGI, ghost gear refers to “any fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded, and is the most harmful form of marine debris.” 

“As a signatory to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, Canada’s committed to promoting the objectives, which are to improve the health of marine ecosystems, to safeguard human health and to protect marine animals from harm.

“Canada will also promote these goals in international and national fora, take dedicated national action and provide initiatives that further intent the reduction, reduce and recycling of fishing gear,” Blewett said.

She explained that studies in Canada show that in 107 water samples taken from the country’s great lake tributaries, 98 percent of the plastic particles sampled measured less than 4.5mm in diameter.

“Marine organisms ingest these particles with consequences to their health. When these marine organisms make it into human food systems the potential threat to health becomes quite concerning.”

Blewett said that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was advancing research to assess the uptake and effects of micro- and nano-sized plastics on aquatic life in marine and freshwater marine systems in Canada.

“With this in mind the Oceans Plastics Charter creates a strong basis for further global mobilisation to make concrete progress on the issue particularly among businesses which have a corporate responsibility to our oceans and communities. This responsibility also extends to our public institutions.

“The important work in terms of reducing contaminants and pollution will be critical to protect marine life, improve the abundance of fish stocks and contribute to better food security.”

Blewett also pointed out that fundamental to food systems and food security were women and girls.

“The prosperity from incorporating them in governance, business, skills development is not just theirs, but belongs to everyone. From the perspective of Canada, this is part of what a sustainable blue economy looks like.”