A new study shows Canada's fishery is in dire straits, with the industry more focused on making money than building sustainable catches for future generations.

The report, produced by Oceana Canada and titled "Here's the Catch: How to Restore Abundance to Canada's Oceans," is being called the most comprehensive public study ever conducted on the state of Canada's fish stocks.

"As Canadians, we perceive ourselves to be good stewards of the environment," wrote Dr. Julia Baum, lead author of the study. 

"But when it comes to our oceans, we have failed to live up to that ideal."

The main point of concern in the report is data showing less than a quarter of Canada's fish stocks are considered healthy and that the status of almost half is unknown. 

The research also outlines the extent to which overfishing and decades of poor management practices have severely depleted the country's fish populations.

The report calls on politicians and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to stop withholding basic information and data on fish populations, so that proper sustainability measures can be taken.

Fewer species

Another alarm bell sounded by the report is the fact that Canada's fishery is getting less and less diverse, despite being more profitable than ever.

"Canada is making more money from our seafood industry than ever before, but this is based primarily on a small number of shellfish stocks, mainly lobster, crab, shrimp and scallops," the report found. 

"The lack of diversity makes coastal communities and the Canadian seafood industry vulnerable, as communities could have little to fall back on if these stocks decline."

Oceana fish report 01

One of the main aspects of Oceana's report is the fact that Canada's fishery does not have a wide diversity of species. (Oceana)

The study reveals that Canada exported $6 billion of fish and seafood products in 2015, however Oceana warns that those numbers are deceiving and do not represent thriving fish stocks.

"While today's numbers look good on the surface — thanks to the high value that lobster and other shellfish command — they hide a troubling truth," the report states.

"Currently, our seafood industry is concentrated on just a few key species, including lobster, crab, shrimp and scallops."

Still hope beneath the waves

Oceana's study does offer some optimism, saying the federal government's commitment to transparency — as well as to ocean science — does suggest hope for the future of fishing in Canada.

cod fishing

The cod fishery was once the economic backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador, until the industry collapsed in 1992. (CBC)

The study goes on to give the example of the Atlantic cod, which is showing early signs of a comeback following the moratorium introduced in 1992 along much of Newfoundland's coastline. It says with proper management and transparency, similar fishery collapses can be avoided.

"Not only is recovery possible, it can often happen quickly," the report says.

"Canada and the rest of the world could increase the number of fish in the oceans by 40 per cent — and do it sustainably. The key is effective management."

Oceana Canada is a Toronto-based conservation group affiliated with other Oceana organizations around the world dedicated to preserving and restoring oceans and marine life.

The full Here's the Catch study can be read on Oceana's website.