Beginning after World War II and peaking in the mid-1980's, the offshore groundfish fleet has been a significant 'driver' of the economy of coastal communities throughout Atlantic Canada. Through a combination of factors including the occurrence of severe environmental conditions, over-fishing of trans-boundary fish stocks by foreign factory ships, the inadvertent setting of domestic fishing levels that were too high, and poor fishing practices by the industry overall, most groundfish stocks in Atlantic Canada suffered a collapse that in many cases continue today.

At its peak, the offshore groundfish sector landed up to 350,000 tonnes annually, having a current market value of over $ 500 million. License holders employed over 150 vessels that supplied fish as raw material for processing at dozens of fish processing plants located across all five provinces in the region. Today, the sector's catch is approximately 10% of the levels achieved in the 1980's.


While increasing shellfish resources have replaced groundfish as the mainstay of many communities reliant on landings by the so-called 'inshore' fleet, the offshore groundfish sector continues to be critically important for hundreds of fishermen and plant workers in various coastal communities throughout Atlantic Canada.

Offshore groundfish license holders continue to invest in the future of their facilities, of their communities, and of the groundfish resources of the region. Their initiatives taken to facilitate the rebuilding of the groundfish resources include:

  • Undertaking focused scientific research with the objective of enhancing the collective understanding of the groundfish resources and their environment
  • Embracing conservationist resource management measures
  • Improving the design and selectivity of fishing gear
  • Embracing responsible fishing practices
  • Adopting a cooperative conservation and management approach with government and like-minded fishing organizations

In 1997, the Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council (GEAC) was established as a non-profit association representing offshore groundfish fishing enterprises in Atlantic Canada. Its office is located in Canada's capital - Ottawa.

GEAC's objectives include:

  • to generally promote the common interests of its members
  • to promote the wise use, development and conservation of the Atlantic Canadian groundfish resource
  • to provide an organization that permits Atlantic groundfish enterprise allocation license holders to speak with a unified voice to the general public and all levels of government on matters of broad concern to the members
  • to provide an organization that permits groundfish enterprise allocation license holders to interface with similar organizations in Canada
  • to conduct research that has the potential to produce information and data that will be helpful or useful to the members
  • to monitor regional, national and international corporate and political activities which have a bearing on the members, and
  • to provide a platform for the views of members with regard to these activities

A major role for GEAC is to represent the interests of its members in all aspects of the management of the groundfish resources and of the offshore groundfish fishery of Atlantic Canada. The following documents describe the basis by which this sector and this fishery is managed:

Offshore Groundfish Management Framework


This xx page document describes various features of the offshore groundfish fishery in Atlantic Canada, including: its history of allocation and catches, its enterprise allocation system, guidelines for management of the sector, its co-management framework, etc.

GEAC/DFO Joint Project Agreement


This xx page document describes the roles and responsibilities of GEAC and DFO with respect to various cooperative fisheries management and research activities.


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