Policy respecting the harvesting and marketing of farmed oysters by licensed aquaculturists in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

INTRODUCTION

This policy was developed as a result of requests from aquaculturistsFootnote 1 in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to be permitted to harvest and market undersized "cocktail"Footnote 2 oysters from licensed shellfish leases. This policy was developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in consultation with the provinces involved. This policy takes into consideration health and safety concerns, enforcement requirements to ensure protection of commercial oyster fisheries and the need to harmonize implementation among the three provinces and the various areas within DFO's Maritimes Region. In New Brunswick, DFO and the province conducted a pilot project that permitted the harvest and marketing of cocktail oysters from selected oyster leases under strict guidelines during 1993 and 1994. This policy draws heavily on the experience gained in this pilot project.

POLICY

The policy applies in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island unless otherwise indicated.

  1. The harvest and marketing of cocktail oysters will be permitted from selected, licensed shellfish leases under variation orders issued by DFO. A variation order will permit the harvest and subsequent marketing of oysters of any size from a specific site during the periods specified in the order. All rules governing the program will be articulated in both an attachment to the variation order and the provincial (or federal) Aquaculture Lease Agreement of the proponent.
  2. The marketing of cocktail oysters will be subject to the health and safety requirements of the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations.
  3. All cocktail oysters must be processed in provincially licensed and registered plants when marketed in the province of origin. If being exported outside the province of origin, cocktail oysters must be processed in federally registered plants that have valid Quality Management Programs (QMP).
  4. Licensees for the "Cocktail" Oyster Program will be selected based on the following criteria:
    1. Only those aquaculturists not holding commercial oyster licences or licences issued under the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations (e.g., public bed relay or harvesting permits) will be eligible. Submission of a written application to the program will signify a proponent's desire to terminate any commercial licences if and when they are accepted into the program.

      Note:

      This criterion also applies to any helpers who will be engaged in the program; they will not be permitted to participate in commercial licensed oyster fisheries while deriving economic benefit (or sweat equity) from this program.

    2. Aquaculturists engaged in this program will be permitted to hold oyster replanting licences under Section 29 of the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations only under strict guidelines administered by the DFO Area Office. These licences cannot be valid during the period that the harvesting and marketing of cocktail oysters is permitted.
    3. Only those aquaculturists who comply with the terms and conditions set out in federal and provincial fisheries legislation and policy will be eligible.

      Note:

      If there are any inconsistencies between federal and provincial legislation or policy relating to this program, federal legislation or policy will prevail.

    4. Only those aquaculturists who can establish that they are the holders of licensed and surveyed shellfish leases that conform to the criteria of the leasing authorities in each province will be eligible. The leases must also be registered for cocktail oysters with the provincial leasing authority.

      Note:

      This is necessary to ensure that the fishing of cocktail oysters is conducted on private leases and not on public oyster beds. Developmental leases recognized by provincial leasing authorities are eligible for this program. The local variation order requires that geographic coordinates (grid references or latitude and longitude) be available for all points of the lease to properly describe the site. These must be available from the leasing authority.

IMPLEMENTATION PROCEDURES

    1. Cocktail oysters being shipped to market must be contained in appropriately sized containers and tagged so they will be tamper-proof while en route to buyers. A record of product and amount must accompany all shipments and be maintained by the processor in a format that can be audited by the authorities. The units or volume of all transactions (sales and purchases) must be in a uniform measure and recorded so that they can be audited against growers' sales records to the processors.
    2. Under the program, the same uniform measure (units or volume) records of all shipments and sales to processors must be maintained by the aquaculturist in a format that can be audited by the authorities.
  1. Any aquaculturist who fails to abide by the conditions of this policy or the terms and conditions of any federal or provincial licence or lease respecting the harvest and marketing of cocktail oysters will have their variation orders immediately revoked. This will result in the termination of the harvesting and marketing of cocktail oysters under this policy.
  2. Any aquaculturist who accepts oysters less than 76 mm long onto their site, except in accordance with this policy, will have their variation orders immediately revoked.
  3. Any aquaculturist who violates any provision of this policy or the conditions of any federal or provincial licence or lease may be subject to the loss or suspension of their provincial or federal shellfish licence or lease.
  4. Any processor who fails to abide by the conditions of this policy or the terms and conditions of any federal or provincial licence or lease respecting the harvest and marketing of cocktail oysters will have their variation orders immediately revoked. This will result in the termination of the harvesting and marketing of cocktail oysters under this policy.
  5. The licensing authorities will carry out an immediate review if a processor is suspected of violating any provision of this policy or the conditions of any federal or provincial licence. If it is determined that a violation has been committed, offenders may be subject to the loss or suspension of their provincial or federal shellfish licence or their participation in the Quality Management Program.
  6. Processors who must "hold" oysters outside of their physical processing facility on open water shellfish leases must, as part of the program, identify the licensed and surveyed leases that will be used only for holding cocktail oyster product. Other species may be held on the same lease, but must be identified in the application for the program.

    Note:

    No other oysters originating from the public or leasehold commercial fishery can be placed or held on the leases identified as part of the program.

GENERAL PROCEDURES

  1. Any oyster aquaculturists desiring to become involved in the "Cocktail" Oyster Program must request permission to harvest and market cocktail oysters from the DFO Regional Aquaculture Coordination Office in Halifax or Moncton by submitting a completed and signed application. In their applications, aquaculturists must be prepared to identify all the information requested as part of the application, including the federally or provincially registered plant that will be processing or exporting the oysters.
  2. DFO will investigate, review and vet the request through the provincial authorities to determine whether applicants meet the criteria for inclusion in the program and are in good standing with the authorities.
  3. After a thorough review of the application with the provinces, the DFO Regional Aquaculture Coordination Office will inform applicants, in writing, whether they meet the criteria established in this policy.
  4. The provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) must recommend approval of applications for DFO to issue a variation order permitting cocktail oysters to be harvested from the specific lease and processed through the appropriate facility.
  5. The information required as part of the official application will be identified in a form and include, but not be limited to, the following:
    1. the name of the aquaculturist;
    2. the location of the properly surveyed lease as approved by leasing authorities (must include either grid references or latitude and longitude for all points of the lease);
    3. the period requested to harvest cocktail oysters;
    4. the source of the seed that will be used by the aquaculturist as part of the program;
    5. the name of the processing facility that will be shipping the product to the buyers/market;
    6. a list of all staff (helpers) who will be engaged or employed by the applicant;
    7. a copy of all harvesting and shipping labels and tamper-proof packaging that will be used by the aquaculturist and processor; and
    8. an example of the record-keeping method and accounting procedure that will be used by both the aquaculturist and the processor to document the product from harvest site to market.
  6. Current lists of participants will be maintained by DFO and made available to those fishery officers and inspection officers involved with the enforcement of this policy and program.
  7. Oyster aquaculturists participating in the "Cocktail" Oyster Program must grow their own oysters from spatFootnote 3 or seedFootnote 3 that is either collected on site or at off site areas which are defined for spat collection in order to avoid user-group conflicts, if required. They can also be purchased from an identified seed and spat supplierFootnote 4. Aquaculturists must be prepared to identify and keep an accurate record and inventory of seed and spat and from which sources they will be procured for grow-out.

DEFINITIONS

September 1996