Towards an integrated database on Canadian ocean resources: benefits, current states, and research gaps

Towards an integrated database on Canadian ocean resources: benefits, current states, and research gaps” was recently published online at the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, authored by Nereus Fellow Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor (UBC), Director of Science William Cheung, and OceanCanada Director Rashid Sumaila (Nereus Honorary Research Associate).

The paper, a product of the OceanCanada Partnership, is an effort to compile Canadian ocean research. Canada has generally more data than other countries, but it was unclear what data existed, where it was available, and in what format. The authors looked at more than 1000 datasets; this metadata database is a publicly available integrated database to be used for further analyses. Analysis of the metadata found that historically much of the marine research data was tied to fisheries, especially important single species fisheries. The authors note a lack of data for the Arctic region, but that this might be an awareness issue as there is such knowledge bases as anthropology research and scientific research by Indigenous groups.

Image: "arct0121" by NOAA Photo Library Follow,CC BY 2.0.

The authors discuss an underrepresentation of ocean research in the Arctic region in current known datasets. Image: “arct0121” by NOAA Photo Library Follow,CC BY 2.0.


Oceanic ecosystem services support a range of human benefits and Canada has extensive research networks producing growing datasets. We present a first effort to compile, link and harmonize available information to provide new perspectives on the status of Canadian ocean ecosystems and corresponding research. The metadata database currently includes 1,094 individual assessments and datasets from government (n=716), non-government (n=320), and academic sources (n=58), comprising research on marine species, natural drivers and resources, human activities, ecosystem services, and governance, with datasets spanning from 1979-2012 on average. Overall, research shows a strong prevalence towards single-species fishery studies, with an underrepresentation of economic and social aspects, and of the Arctic region in general. Nevertheless, the number of studies that are multi-species or ecosystem-based have increased since the 1960s. We present and discuss two illustrative case studies—marine protected area establishment in Canada, and herring resource use by the Heiltsuk First Nation—highlighting the use of multi-disciplinary datasets drawn from metadata records. Identifying knowledge gaps is key to achieving the comprehensive, accessible and interdisciplinary datasets and subsequent analyses necessary for new sustainability policies that meet both ecological and socioeconomic needs.