Sustainable aquaculture in Canada: Lost in translation

Canada is a signatory to United Nations conventions on sustainable development and has entrenched sustainability goals in legislation and policies relating to natural resource sectors including aquaculture. Monitoring and measuring progress towards sustainable development requires the development of sustainability indicators (SI) that, when measured, indicate movement towards or away from a stated policy objective, as well as providing the public with a measure of government accountability. This paper examined the SI used by the Canadian government to assess the social, economic and environmental sustainability of aquaculture production in Canada, whether they adequately measure policy outcomes, and whether national-level SI indicators are appropriate to assessing sustainability at the community-level. The analysis reveals that the Canadian government has made virtually no progress towards translating sustainable aquaculture policy aspirations into measurable SI that evaluate policy outcomes. The mismatch between national policy goals and on-the-ground consequences are highlighted in a community case study of finfish aquaculture in Port Mouton Bay (Nova Scotia). Aquaculture SI and sustainability narratives are discussed in relation to emergent governance arrangements (certification programs) and an international development initiative, Blue Growth, for the world’s oceans.