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Frequently Asked Questions
SECTION ONE - BACKGROUND
1. What is the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review and why has DFO undertaken it?
The Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review (AFPR) was initiated in May 1999 to develop a vision and direction to guide fisheries management on Canada’s Atlantic coast. The AFPR is being completed in two phases: Phase I delivers a blueprint for change in fisheries management through a comprehensive policy framework, and Phase II establishes priorities and implements elements from the policy framework.
The last comprehensive review of management policies for the Atlantic fisheries was completed 20 years ago and there was a growing awareness that fisheries policies were not keeping pace with an evolving industry. Having a clear direction and a strong set of principles in crucial to enabling DFO to deliver on making sound changes to the fisheries management system.
2. What does the policy framework do?
A Policy Framework for the Management of Fisheries on Canada’s Atlantic Coast is the first comprehensive policy framework created to guide fisheries management on Canada’s Atlantic coast. It provides the foundation needed to make the necessary changes to address the long-term needs of the Atlantic fisheries. It provides a clear vision, direction and guiding principles to guide decision-making in the Atlantic fisheries. The goal is to build an ecologically and economically sustainable Atlantic fishery.
3. What changes now that we have a policy framework?
With this framework we have a sound foundation for fisheries management – one that is conservation-based, fosters the economic viability of the fishing industry, promotes open and transparent rules-based processes, and invites a greater role in decision making for those who use the resource. We now have clear and consistent objectives and fisheries management decisions will reflect these objectives.
4. How will the framework be implemented? What are the priorities and how have they been determined?
Implementing the new policy framework will continue to require a significant amount of work and its successful implementation needs the continued cooperation and collaboration of fishery stakeholders, Aboriginal groups, the provinces, Nunavut and other government departments and agencies. DFO will continue to consult with these and other interested parties on new initiatives developed through the framework. DFO recognizes that setting an acceptable pace of change that reflects the state of readiness of industry, DFO and others will ensure implementation is successful.
As part of the AFPR process, DFO has already moved to implement some of the framework’s key strategies, including a commitment to an independent and viable inshore fleet and the creation of multi-year fisheries management plans focused on conservation and risk management.
Creating incentives and administrative sanctions for violations of the Fisheries Act could be explored as a way to build shared stewardship of the resource. Stabilizing sharing arrangements in established commercial fisheries and establishing more transparent and rules-based decision-making processes are additional priorities.
5. How quickly will you move on implementation of the framework? When should fishers start seeing a difference?
The policy framework’s vision, direction and principles take effect immediately. They are, however, the result of the comprehensive citizen engagement and consultative process that produced the framework and reflect a direction that has already taken hold in many parts of the Atlantic fishery in the past decade. With a diverse industry, different fishers will experience implementation at different paces and in different ways.
6. Why did it take four years to develop the policy framework?
When we conducted the initial round of information sessions in 1999, we were advised to take the time to “get it right”. An extensive round of public consultations in the spring of 2001 confirmed that the pace of the review was appropriate considering the magnitude and complexity of the task.
7. What are the cost implications? Are we saving money or cutting back staff?
It is premature to speculate about cost savings or staff cutbacks. Phase I of the AFPR has been about creating the best possible vision and objectives for the management of fisheries on Canada’s Atlantic coast.
8. Who did you consult with on the framework?
The AFPR is a collaborative process with a broad citizen-engagement approach through which advice and feedback are continually sought from fish harvesters, processors and industry representatives; the governments of the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Nunavut; Aboriginal groups; community representatives; environmental groups; academics and other interested individuals.
9. What is the External Advisory Board and what role did it play in this process?
The External Advisory Board represents diverse interests in the Atlantic fisheries. It was created to act as an advisory body to the AFPR working group. As proposed during the public information sessions in 1999, the EAB is not a decision-making body, but has acted as a sounding board both for this document and the policy review process.
SECTION 2 – POLICY FRAMEWORK SPECIFICS
10. What are the fisheries management challenges this policy framework addresses?
The framework addresses a broad range of fisheries management challenges including:
11. How does the framework seek to address these challenges?
These challenges are addressed through policy strategies designed to achieve the four objectives laid out in the policy framework. The policy framework has two core objectives – Conservation and Sustainable Use and Self-reliance – and two supporting objectives – A Stable and Transparent Access and Allocation Approach and Shared Stewardship. Nine principles serve to guide fisheries decision-making and act as a guide to evaluate the consistency of future fisheries management decisions against the framework’s objectives.
12. What is the vision?
The Atlantic fisheries will become a biologically sustainable resource supporting fisheries that are robust, diverse and self-reliant; effectively involve all interests in appropriate fisheries management processes; are sustainable and economically viable, contributing to the economic base of coastal communities; and provide for the constitutional protection afforded Aboriginal and treaty rights, where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal resource users work collaboratively.
13. How does the framework change DFO’s role?
The long term vision for fisheries management centres around the need to share responsibility for maintaining a biologically sustainable resource base. Over time, DFO’s role will shift from one focused on day-to-day management of fishing activity to one more focused on conservation, setting policy direction, establishing incentives for conservation and evaluating performance.
14. How does the framework enhance conservation?
The policy framework promotes conservation and sustainable use of resources and habitat as the overarching, fundamental objective for fisheries management on Canada’s Atlantic coast.
Conservation is essential if fisheries are to be self-reliant, viable and capable of contributing to the economic and social base of coastal communities over the long term.
Conservation is more easily achieved if resource users, coastal communities and other participants take greater responsibility for stewardship of the resource. Promoting a conservation ethic is one of the most important prerequisites for sustainable management of fisheries.
The greatest hope for the Atlantic fisheries is that the push for sustainable
use will increasingly come from wharves, boats and local meeting rooms, with the
department working hand in hand with all participants to achieve shared
SECTION 3 – MOVING FORWARD
15. What kinds of responsibilities do you see resource users taking on? Will they be expected to fund these themselves or will funding and other support be provided? What if they don’t want or are unable to assume the additional responsibilities?
To achieve shared stewardship as outlined in the framework, it is necessary to enable resource users to assume more of a role in operational decisions. This is made possible by building the capacity of resource users to effectively function in this role. Initially, for specific fisheries, participation at the operational level will continue through the fisheries management planning processes. In the longer term, additional operational-level processes may be developed.
In the medium to long term, as resource users increase their ability to assume management responsibilities and as they demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, DFO plans to delegate authority over specific decision-making areas to them.
Resource users will take on additional responsibility where the capacity to do so exists. Supporting capacity building is one of the framework’s policy strategies.
16. Will the Fisheries Act be changed?
While much of the policy framework can be implemented within the current legislative framework, many of the proposals talked about in the framework would involve legislative or regulatory changes. Changes to the Fisheries Act, however, will take some time to implement.
17. Does the fact that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans retains his authority in access and allocation decision-making compromise movement toward co-management?
The Minister currently retains authority for making final decisions on access and allocation, consistent with his responsibility under the Fisheries Act. However, this policy framework envisions the exercise of this authority will gradually shift away from day-to-day fisheries management issues.
This shift will be achieved by moving toward effective co-management, or shared stewardship, regimes in which resource users take on more responsibility for fisheries management where the capacity exists or can be developed, and by ensuring that decisions related to access and allocation are made through transparent and rules-based processes.
18. How will non-resource users who have an interest in the health of the resource (for example, environmental or community groups) influence the fisheries management decision-making process?
The policy framework proposes expanded opportunities for non-resource users to provide input on policy directions through a more inclusive approach to policy planning. It proposes establishing new advisory processes, such as policy forums, to allow anyone interested in the Atlantic fisheries to contribute.
These forums might examine policy issues such as “best use” (the allocation of fisheries resources between such uses as aquaculture, recreational fishing, marine tourism and commercial fisheries, to name a few), gear use or, more generally, the objectives and strategies for conservation.
19. What happens if a conflict arises among commercial groups?
The framework indicates that DFO will encourage licence holders to solve problems or resolve conflicts arising within or between fleets at the local level, wherever possible. The policy framework also supports the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation, by the affected parties.
20. Does the policy framework call for arm’s-length allocation boards?
The policy framework notes that achieving the objective of a stable access and allocation approach may involve establishing new governance arrangements to improve access and allocation decision-making processes. The shape any new governance arrangements take will only be determined through the implementation process.
21. Given some of the strong positions in favour of an arm’s-length access and allocation board, why hasn’t one been tabled?
There is no consensus that an arm’s-length board is an appropriate access and allocation mechanism for the Atlantic fisheries. An arm’s-length system, though conceptually sound, will not in itself resolve the underlying problems in the Atlantic fisheries. This framework gets to these underlying problems and deals with the concerns raised by those in favour of a board by making access and allocation decisions more stable, predictable and rules-based. It also sets the policy foundation needed to guide consultations to develop and implement alternative access and allocation models that are appropriate for this highly diverse industry. This will, however, take time.
22. What progress are you making in responding to your discussion document Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada’s Atlantic Fishery?
Consultations on the discussion document are complete. Officials will analyze the results and develop an approach to preserving the independence of the inshore fleet for the Minister’s consideration. In the meantime, a summary of the public sessions will be posted on the AFPR web site: www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/afpr-rppa in the near future.
23. Does the policy framework advocate abandoning owner-operator rules?
No. The policy framework is clear that the owner-operator policy is an integral element of the Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada, 1996 which remains in effect. The document also recognizes that while many commercial licence holders would like to strengthen this policy, others are seeking adjustments to respond to local circumstances.
The framework indicates that DFO will consider proposed modifications to the policy, subject to constraints, such as taking into account the effects of proposed changes on others. Furthermore, the document underlines the need to respect the underlying objective of the owner-operator policy to preserve and foster a diversified sector.
24. Many inshore organizations have expressed concern about the erosion of the fleet separation policy. Does the framework address this?
The framework references the work of the consultation exercise on Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada’s Atlantic Fishery. A specific commitment is also made in the text of the policy framework to review the Fishery General Regulations to consider disallowing the transfer, by way of contract or “trust agreements”, of the beneficial interests in a licence to another party.
25. The document refers to stabilizing sharing arrangements. How will this be done and how will current perceived inequities be addressed?
As a first step, DFO could extend, where possible, the duration of fisheries management plans and require that current sharing arrangements be documented in those plans. The Minister would then renew, as appropriate, these sharing arrangements. In exceptional cases, DFO may reconsider and revise current arrangements before establishing them for a longer period.
Reasons for changing arrangements could include the need to meet conservation objectives, the need to revise existing fisheries management plans to conform with legal requirements and the need to settle issues that have historically generated considerable differences.
26. The document links conservation threats largely to over-participation in the fishery. What steps are being taken to address this?
One of the goals of the Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada is to achieve a balance between harvesting capacity and resource availability. Although we have had some success in achieving this balance, several fleets are still too large.
Self-reliant fishers should be able to adjust to fluctuations in resource abundance as well as in markets. The policy framework proposes that participants in the commercial fisheries develop mechanisms to deal with situations in which their overall capacity is too large or in which market conditions cannot assure the economic viability of their operations.
Within fisheries management plans, fleets could propose mechanisms, such as transferable quotas or allowing enterprises to combine/partner by pooling their quota share (or licences or gear). In cases where fleets use these voluntary self-adjustment mechanisms, DFO would generally respect the fleet's share so as not to undo the benefits sought through self-adjustment.
27. Will this policy framework impinge on Aboriginal and treaty rights and access to fisheries by Aboriginal groups?
No, the Atlantic fisheries will continue to be managed in a way that is consistent with the constitutional protection provided to Aboriginal and treaty rights by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
28. What impact will the framework have on Nunavut?
This policy framework does not override any obligations the Government of Canada has under the Nunavut Comprehensive Claim Agreement. The aspirations of the government and people of the new territory of Nunavut to increase and diversify their fisheries sector are, and will continue to be, supported by DFO.
DFO has committed that no additional access will be granted to non-Nunavut interests in waters adjacent to Nunavut until the territory has achieved access to the major share of these resources, subject to Aboriginal and treaty rights. The fulfillment of this commitment will not affect the current status of other participants in these fisheries.
29. Will the framework impose any changes to the Employment Insurance program for fishers?
Simply put, no. This policy framework is about modernizing the way we manage
the Atlantic fisheries to make the industry more ecologically sustainable and
economically viable. While a reduced need for Fishers Employment Insurance is
consistent with the objective of self-reliance, the framework in no way imposes
any changes to the current system.