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A Proposed Regulatory Regime to Manage the Release of Aquaculture Substances – Frequently Asked Questions

February 2012

Q1:      Why are these new regulations needed?

A1:      DFO is considering the development of fish pathogen and pest treatment regulations that would ensure the protection of fish and fish habitat when fish pathogen and pest treatment products are deposited in aquaculture facilities and under the Health of Animals Act; and when other treatment methods are used. The proposed regulatory regime will also manage materials, such as settleable solids and biological oxygen demand matter related to aquaculture activities; and the mechanical destruction of fish.

The federal government is committed to avoiding duplicative administrative requirements, while ensuring that legislative environmental protection objectives are met.

Q2:      How are pest control or drug products to treat fish pathogens, such as sea lice, being regulated today?

A2:    All pesticides and veterinary drugs require a pre-market authorization by Health Canada, either through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency or the Veterinary Drugs Directorate.

Pesticides are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act.  Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency conducts rigorous, science-based, pre-market assessments to ensure that products are not anticipated to cause any unacceptable risks to human health or the environment.  These assessments are based on all available scientifically valid data, including information from DFO and EC’s research and monitoring programs.  Health Canada includes environmental requirements such as restrictions on use on its pesticide product labels as appropriate to ensure any environmental risks are mitigated. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, and Environment Canada have an interdepartmental agreement in place to work together to regulate and ensure the safe use of pest control products in aquaculture today.

Veterinary Drugs are regulated under the Food and Drugs Act Regulations and are subject to pre-market assessment to establish their safety, quality and efficacy. In addition, substances approved for use in products regulated by the Food and Drugs Act are subject to the New Substances Notification Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to assess potential environmental impacts.

Q3:      How are materials, such as settleable solids and biological oxygen demand matter related to aquaculture activities, and the mechanical destruction of pests (for instance, the power washing of mussel lines to remove invasive tunicates), being managed today, and how will it change with this proposed regime?

A3:       The goal is to protect fish and fish habitat by ensuring there are appropriate mitigation measures in place.

Today, aquaculture regulators, which are provincial authorities (and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in British Columbia), have different policy, regulatory, and legislative frameworks to manage settleable solids, biological oxygen demand matter, or other related substances (e.g. sulfide levels in sediment).

To better demonstrate that the goal of protecting fish and fish habitat is being met, provincial and federal partners will work together  to establish, through this proposed new regulatory regime, national standards for protection.

Q4:   Who is responsible for developing and implementing this new regulatory regime?

A4:       The proposed new regulations will be Fisheries Act regulations. While DFO is the lead for the development and administration of these proposed regulations, other federal departments and provincial aquaculture regulators play a role in supporting the objectives of this proposed new regime.

Q5:   Why is the government allowing the use of pesticides and drugs in our waters? How can this be good for fish, for people or for the environment?

A5:    These regulations are intended to complement current federal legislation related to the treatment of fish pests and pathogens through the use of pest control and drug products or other means. Fish pests and infectious pathogens can occur in both wild and farmed fish and can affect the health of Canada’s aquatic ecosystems. The use of pest control and drug products to treat fish with pathogens needs to be guided and monitored by federal authorities through regulations.

Overall, these regulations are expected to benefit all public interests by ensuring the safe use of pest control and drug products that help prevent the spread and introduction of aquatic animal diseases of concern into Canadian waterways. Proposed regulations for fish pathogen and pest treatment are intended to benefit aquaculture industries by providing an efficient mechanism to authorize the use of pest control and drug products to treat fish pathogens under the Fisheries Act. They are also intended to benefit wild fishery and environmental interests by ensuring environmental management measures are in place with respect to the application of these treatments in aquatic ecosystems to ensure the health of non-target fish, fish habitat, and other aquatic life is maintained.

Q6:      Where may I find a list of the approved drugs and pest control products that can be used today to treat diseases and pathogens on farmed fish?

A6:      The Canadian Food Inspection Agency website includes information on the authorized use of drugs and pest control products in the aquaculture of fish and crustaceans on their website. Health Canada’s website site includes a list of approved Veterinary Drug products for use by aquaculturists, as well as, a public registry of pesticides registered for use in Canada and a searchable database of product labels which indicate under what conditions these products may be used.

Q7:      What information does the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency consider when conducting environmental assessments for pesticides?

A7:     The Pest Management Regulatory Agency evaluates data on the environmental chemistry and toxicology of products, as well as their environmental fate i.e., what happens to the pesticide once it enters the environment. To address environmental concerns that may arise from the intended use of a product, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency also makes recommendations for restrictions on use that would mitigate any risks identified. This could include label statements outlining buffer zones, timing and frequency of applications, rate at which the product can be applied, etc.

Q8:      How does Health Canada enforce pesticide use requirements?

A8:      Health Canada’s regional offices promote and verify compliance with the Pest Control Products Act through investigations, inspections and consultations. They have the mandate to investigate the use, sale and importation of products; perform on-site inspection of usage and storage of products; sample products and relevant media (e.g. sediment, water, fish); and to educate individuals, local officials and grower groups as to regulatory requirements. Where contraventions of the Act or regulations occur, appropriate enforcement measures may be taken.

Q9:    What are the next steps in this process?

A9:     The proposed regulations, once approved in draft form, will be published in Canada Gazette Part I, for a review period of 30 days to solicit public comments.  These comments are taken into account during revisions. There will be a further publication in Canada Gazette Part II before the regulations enter into force. This process can take a year or more to complete.