Off-Lease Maintenance Activities for Farmed Oysters

DFO Gulf Region Management Guidelines

All persons making use of this document are reminded that it has no official sanction and its content may change without prior notice. Fisheries Oceans Canada should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting and applying these quidelines.

November 2011

Definitions:

Authorization:
by means of the letter of approval issued by DFO to conduct off-lease maintenence activities for farmed oysters.
Closed status oyster lease:
located in any classified area where shellfish harvest is not authorized.
Coastal area/facilities:
shore, port facility, shed, boat, platform
Land facilities:
shed, garage, plant, vehicle
Licence:
refers to a licence for Introduction and Transfer of fish and/or a licence to fish for shellfish in a contaminated area.
Open status oyster lease:
located in any classified area where shellfish harvest is authorized.
Status:
describes whether shellfish harvest is permitted and is independent of the classification of the area. (Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program)

1. Purpose of Guidelines

The purpose of these guidelines is to review the proposed activities by an oyster grower and determine that the proposed activities are not fishing activities but rather maintenance activities off-lease for closed or open status areas. Moreover, these guidelines will also clearly identify the application procedures, assessment criteria and applicable conditions required to make such a determination.

2. Background

Regulations legally restrict oyster growers from conducting harvesting activities. Regulatory measures under the Fisheries Act allow the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to properly control the fishery and manage populations of wild stocks, applying the same measures to oyster aquaculture activities is more difficult given the private ownership of farmed oysters. Amendments were made to the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations (MPFR) over a decade ago to exempt all farm species from the regulations, with the exception of Part VIII - Oysters. The oyster fishing regulations still apply to both the fishery and aquaculture sectors. In addition, the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations (MCFR) do not contain any provisions authorizing activities other than fish for food purposes, fish for the purpose of scientific investigation or fish for the purpose of obtaining bait during a closure due to contamination. These regulations need to be amended to include a maintenance category.

In the interim, the Management Guidelines for Off-lease Maintenance Activities for Farmed Oysters were developed and implemented as a pilot project in the PEI Area only since July 2006. The guidelines allow for routine maintenance activities to be carried out by an aquaculturist while ensuring appropriate control measures are in place for the proper management and control of both the commercial fishery and the aquaculture activity.

In 2009, several requests have been received from the oyster culture industry in eastern New Brunswick to put the necessary measures in place to allow the conduct of off-lease maintenance activities during shellfish biotoxin and sanitary closures. In response to these requests, it was decided to extend the scope of the PEI guidelines to the entire Gulf Region.

The list of activities that the DFO considers to be aquaculture maintenance rather than fishing activities can be found in Annex 1. The list of management measures related to other oyster aquaculture activities such as harvesting, relay fishing and spat collection can be found in Annex 2.

3. Authorization

On-lease Maintenance

  1. Open status or closed status oyster lease – no authorization required.

Off-lease Maintenance

Oyster Grower under the Cocktail Oyster Policy

  1. Open status oyster lease – no authorization required
  2. Closed status oyster lease – the leaseholder must submit a maintenance activity plan with appropriate control measures acceptable to DFO and the regional shellfish safety control authority. Please consult sections 6d) ii and 6 d) iii for more details.

Oyster Grower not under the Cocktail Oyster Policy

  1. Open status or closed status oyster lease – the leaseholder must submit a maintenance activity plan with appropriate control measures acceptable to DFO and the regional shellfish safety control authority. Please consult sections 6d) ii and 6 d) iii for more details.

4. Application Procedures

  1. Oyster growers wishing to conduct off-lease maintenance activities must obtain prior authorization from DFO and submit an application form (Annex 3).
  2. All applications will be subject to a case-by-case review and approval by a DFO area team consisting of Conservation & Protection, Resource Management and Aquaculture Management.
  3. A letter of approval (Annex 4) will be sent to the grower to be carried out at all times by the working team members.

5. Assessment Criteria

DFO’s area office will assess each application taking into consideration the following criteria:

Proposed activities: Every application must contain a detailed list of proposed activities. The application is assessed to verify compliance with the current guidelines, policies and regulations and to establish necessary regulatory enforcement and monitoring requirements. The application must include the following information:

6. Control Measures for Off-Lease Maintenance Activities for Farmed Oysters

a) Mandatory advance notification of all maintenance activities

Conservation & Protection field supervisors are to be notified of all oyster maintenance activities before they occur. The lease holder is required to submit by fax to the DFO Conservation and Protection Office (Annex 5), a weekly operational plan (Annex 6) specifying on a daily basis the schedule of maintenance activities. DFO should receive the plan no later than the previous Friday of any given week in which the leaseholder plans off-lease activities. Growers are also required to keep a copy of all weekly operational plans as a record of maintenance activities and confirm to DFO any changes to each plan. The plan must contain the following information on the targeted activity:

  1. date and lease identification number from which the oysters are to be removed.
  2. date on which oysters were removed and quantity by size;
  3. date, lease identification number and quantity of oysters returned by size.

b) No simultaneous activities

Individuals participating in this program may not conduct maintenance activities off-lease and:

  1. fish oysters commercially on the same day;
  2. have oyster product in a land or coastal facility from an open status and a closed status oyster lease at the same time.

c) Transportation and storage of oysters in a land or coastal facility

All oysters removed from the lease must be transported to the specified landing site by the aquaculturist using the most direct route, or as otherwise approved. When the operation has been completed, all oysters must be returned to the grower’s lease. Again, the most direct route should be taken. Generally, all oysters must be returned to the growers lease on the same day it was moved in a land or coastal facility.

Overnight storage may be necessary because of tides, weather constraints or due to late arrival of the oysters to the land or coastal facility resulting in insufficient time to carry out the maintenance work. It is recognized that in the case of biofouling control or oyster gluing activities, oysters may have to remain off-lease for a longer period. However, no oysters should remain off-lease more than 48 hours without notification and prior approval from the local Fishery Officer.

d) DFO personnel and observers

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans personnel or an observer may request to accompany the vessel and/or the vehicle and be present for the purpose of monitoring the operation. Observers other than certified at-sea observers such as Pèse-Pêche Inc. could be approved by the Area Office to monitor oyster maintenance activities off-lease. With the objective of protecting public health, the regional shellfish safety control authorities have decided to require the following mandatory control measure:

Open Status Oyster Lease

Maintenance on Lease:

Maintenance off-lease:

Closed Status Oyster Lease: When an oyster lease is located in a shellfish growing area that is closed due to shellfish sanitary contamination under a Prohibition Order the following requirement applies:

Maintenance on Lease:

Maintenance off-lease:

Closed Status Oyster Lease: When an oyster lease is located in a shellfish growing area that is closed due to toxin contamination under a Prohibition Order the following requirement applies:

Maintenance on Lease:

Maintenance off-lease:

e) Compliance

Annex 1 - List of Aquaculture Maintenance Activities

1. On-Lease (No licence or prior authorization required):

  1. Add or remove buoys
  2. Add or remove lines
  3. Add or remove anchors
  4. Retrieve oysters on the deck of boat or platform to:
    1. clean cultured oysters (sorting);
    2. sort the cultured oysters into size groups (grading);
    3. modify the density of cultured oysters.
  5. Add or remove culture apparatus such as floating bags or shell bags
  6. Return cultured oysters to lease, in culture apparatus or on bottom
  7. Rake the bottom to remove plants before seeding young cultured oysters
  8. De-silt bottom or culture apparatus
  9. Rotate position of culture gear
  10. Glue oysters to strings
  11. Nuisance Species Treatments for oysters and equipment

2. Off-Lease (authorization, licence and/or observer required):

  1. Remove (and return) cultured oysters from lease to:
    1. clean cultured oysters (de-clumping, cleaning, spat removal);
    2. sort the cultured oysters into size groups (grading);
    3. modify density of cultured oysters;
    4. glue oysters to strings.
    5. nuisance species treatments for oysters and equipment

3. DFO Introduction and Transfer requirements for maintenance activities may also apply.

Annex 2 - Management Measures Related to Oyster Aquaculture Activities Such as Harvesting, Relay Fishing and Spat Collection

Subject to Variation Orders and Prohibition Orders that may be issued when required.

1. Open Status Oyster Lease

a) Harvesting for Direct Human Consumption – Prince Edward Island Area

  1. August 1st to April 30th, oysters >76mm – no license required.
  2. May 1st to July 31st, oysters >76mm – Summer Marketing license (concurrent relaying and marketing of oysters).
  3. Subject to the dates in a) and b) above, oysters of all sizes under the Cocktail Oyster Policy – no licenses required (growers must forfeit their commercial oyster license).

b) Harvesting for Direct Human Consumption – Eastern New Brunswick and Gulf Nova Scotia Areas

  1. January 1st to December 30th, oysters of all sizes under the Cocktail Oyster Policy – no licenses required (growers must apply to adhere to the Cocktail Oyster Policy and must forfeit their commercial oyster license).
  2. September 1st to March 31st, oysters >76mm – no license required in New Brunswick
  3. January 1st to December 30th, oysters >76mm – no license required in Nova Scotia

c) Spat Collection – Prince Edward Island, Eastern New Brunswick and Gulf Nova Scotia Areas

2. Closed Status Oyster Lease

a) Harvesting for Direct Human Consumption – Not Authorized

b) Relay Fishery – Prince Edward Island Area

  1. May 1st to July 15th or as per conditions of license: relay fishery for oysters >76mm - license issued under the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations (MCFR).
  2. Dec. 1st to April 30th and July 16th to Sept 14th or as per conditions of license: relay: from lease to lease – lease to lease permit.
  3. Dec. 1st to April 30th and July 16th to Sept 14th or as per conditions of license: unculled relay (winter kill) – unculled relay permit

c) Relay Fishery - Eastern New Brunswick and Gulf Nova Scotia Areas

  1. May 1st to July 31st or as per conditions of license: relay fishery for oysters >76mm by means of a rake– license issue under the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations (MCFR).
  2. May 1st to May 20th and from June 22nd to July 15th or as per conditions of license: relay fishery for oysters >76mm by means of a drag– license issue under the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations (MCFR).

d) Spat Collection – Prince Edward Island, Eastern New Brunswick and Gulf Nova Scotia Areas

Annex 3

Off-Lease Maintenance Activities Application. Form To obtain a copy of the report, please send an email to DFO Gulf Region at gulfinfogolfe@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Annex 4

Template Letter of Approval for Off Lease Oyster Maintenance Activities. To obtain a copy of the report, please send an email to DFO Gulf Region at gulfinfogolfe@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Annex 5

DFO Conservation and Protection Offices

Annex 6

Weekly Operational Plan. To obtain a copy of the report, please send an email to DFO Gulf Region at gulfinfogolfe@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.