DFO Policy on Access to Wild Aquatic Resources as it Applies to Aquaculture

May 2004

National Policy On Access to Wild Aquatic Resources As it Applies to Aquaculture

Table of Contents

Introduction

On May 1, 2004, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) introduced a new national policy entitled, "Access to Wild Aquatic Resources as it Applies to Aquaculture".

Aquaculturists require access to the wild resource to conduct their aquaculture operations.  This policy is consistent with the commitment taken by DFO in its "Aquaculture Policy Framework" introduced in 2002 to provide aquaculturists with predictable, equitable, and timely access to the aquatic resource base. 

This policy provides the aquaculture industry with access to wild stocks in a manner that is consistent with the department's sustainable management of those stocks.  Access requests for wild aquatic resources will be considered by the regional aquaculture offices in collaboration with the ongoing fisheries management planning process.

A national DFO committee has been established to coordinate an 18-month review of the implemented policy that will identify and address the operational issues with respect to the policy implementation, and developing specific directives as required.  

Definitions

For the purpose of this policy:

Objectives

This policy provides a framework and criteria to facilitate access to wild fish and aquatic plant resources for aquaculture purposes, supporting DFO's policy direction on the development of an environmentally sustainable and economically viable aquaculture industry in Canada.

Scope

This policy deals exclusively with direct access to wild aquatic resources for aquaculture purposes where DFO manages that accessFootnote 1.  The purchase of fish or shellfish by aquaculturists from licensed fishers during an open season, the retention of legally caught fish by licenced fishers, or the purchase of fish or shellfish from a licensed aquaculturist, are not encompassed by this policy. 

This policy is consistent with the principles set out in the Aquaculture Policy Framework (APF) and national Fisheries Management policies.  It recognizes DFO as the lead federal agency for aquaculture and aquaculturists as legitimate users of land, water and aquatic resources; and it outlines how DFO will provide aquaculturists with predictable, equitable and timely access to the aquatic resource base. 

Not withstanding this policy, other policies such as; the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the National Code on Introductions and Transfers, and the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP), the Fish Health Protection Regulations and the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations (MCFR) apply in the capture and movement of aquatic organisms, consistent with application to others users under similar circumstances.

In addition, this policy does not cover marine mammals. 

Context

While the long-term goal of the aquaculture industry is generally to minimize the requirement for access to wild stock for culture purposes by becoming self-sufficient, for species where the technology does not exist for hatchery production or the cost of hatchery production is prohibitive, there continue to be situations where access to wild stocks is essential to the development and expansion of the Canadian aquaculture industry.  As well, aquaculturists may collect wild fish or plants, on lease, in the ongoing operation of their farms, for example to control predation or as a "by-catch" to the harvest of their crop.

Aquaculture

DFO and the APF use the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) definition of aquaculture as the cultivation of aquatic organisms, including finfish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. 

Aquaculture implies private or corporate ownership of the organisms and some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding and protection from predators and disease. Aquaculture operations are based on property rights, such as a lease on the site of the culturing operation, and an exclusive use of that site for the harvesting and development of the species being cultured. The policy acknowledges the private property rights confirmed by the lease.

In 2002, DFO adopted the Aquaculture Policy Framework (APF), which states that DFO's vision of sustainable aquaculture development is "to benefit Canadians, now and in the future, through the culture of aquatic organisms, while upholding the ecological and socio-economic values associated with Canada's oceans and inland waters."

The APF orients DFO around a common vision for aquaculture and shapes the development of future departmental regulations, policies and programs with the goal of improving DFO's ability to support competitiveness of the aquaculture industry in Canada and to increase public confidence in the sustainability of aquaculture. 

Specifically, the APF:

Three of the APF's nine principles specifically provide direction and support to aquaculturists' requests for access to wild fish resources:

Fisheries Management

Access to the wild resource for aquaculturists under this policy is not intended to reduce the access to the resource of existing fishers.  Almost all commercial fisheries have been placed under limited entry regimes, which restrict the number of fishing licenses.  Many fisheries are fully subscribed, with harvestable biomass allocated to user groups through a planning process.  In fact, in some fisheries, DFO and industry face the challenge of rationalizing the capacity represented by existing users.

Most fisheries are now managed through Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs).  While some of the requirements of the aquaculture industry can be satisfied through the purchase of fish from commercial fishers, there is a need to ensure that the aquaculture requirements, when access to stocks is an issue, are routinely factored into IFMPs.  When the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is fully subscribed (both in competitive and Individual Quota fisheries), then aquaculturalists' request should be accommodated within the fisheries management plans for the species.  As the numbers of fish required for aquaculture purposes will generally be very low relative to the stocks and, therefore, not expected to impact on existing users, aquaculturalists' allocations may be in addition to existing allocations.

Access Requirements for Aquaculturists

The following section outlines the reasons why aquaculturalists may request access to wild aquatic resources.  The types of access requested are summarized in the tables in Annex 1, categorized as they relate to access for developmental purposes and for on-going operations.

  1. Access to Shellfish "Spat" and Seedstock On- and Off-Lease

    While some species of shellfish "spat" and seedstock can be obtained through commercial hatcheries in various locations, gathering locally, from the wild, by the grower may be more cost effective and for certain species, the only source of supply.  Aquaculturalists may wish to collect spat on or off their lease.

  2. Access to Plants for Feed for "On-Growing" Operations

    Under some circumstances aquaculturists need direct access to wild aquatic plant resources to use as feed and these requests will be considered in the context of traditional fisheries and ecological impacts.

  3. Access for Broodstock Development

    The development and maintenance of broodstock may require the periodic collection of finfish or shellfish from the wild.  The quantities of animals should be minimal, but sufficient to ensure genetic diversity.   Access can be for a number of reasons:

    • In the research and development (R&D) phase where adults are collected for the development of appropriate techniques to condition and spawn the fish, and to obtain eggs and larvae for studies on early life stages;
       
    • To establish a commercial broodline once culture techniques have been developed; and
       
    • To revitalize or expand existing broodstocks.
       
    • To replace broodstock lost through catastrophic or natural events.
     
  4. Access for "On-Growing" and "Relaying"

    The harvesting of wild juveniles for on-growing for aquaculture development may be appropriate: 

    • For R&D studies conducted during the pre-commercial phase of development in order to evaluate the potential of a new species.  If conducted in tandem with broodstock development, the time frame to commercialization can be reduced.  Examples of suitable topics for study could include, but not be limited to, stocking density, growth rates, diets, fish health, etc.;
       
    • Where hatchery technology does not exist or is cost prohibitive and the animals can be harvested without detriment to the stock;  
       
    • Where the harvest for "on-growing" is biologically sound, economically viable and consistent with conservation objectives; and
       
    • For stocks from discrete areas where winter scouring may regularly kill animals, or where water quality issues prevent a fishery from taking place.  
     
  5. Collection of animals not deliberately placed on the lease

    As part of ongoing operations, aquaculturists may collect wild animals:

    • They may need to remove non-mammalian predators.  Generally these species are invasive and do not have commercial value, although there are exceptions (e.g., manila clam in Pacific).
        
    • While harvesting their crop, particularly bottom-reared species such as oysters and clams, aquaculturists may have a "by-catch" of wild individuals of the same species as the one being harvested. This could be the result of wild stock on the lease when it was occupied or the settlement of spat during the lease operation.  It is impossible to avoid harvesting these wild animals, or to distinguish wild individuals from ones placed deliberately on the lease.
       
    • In order to facilitate access to a new lease and reduce conflict in communities when there is significant stock of high value on a lease area, and where a number of commercial fishers may be displaced, as a condition to recommending its approval of a lease site, DFO or the province may require that a specified species be harvested from the lease prior to its occupation.Footnote 2

    • Also while harvesting their crop, particularly finfish in some locations, aquaculturists may have wild animals that have entered their nets at a small size and matured in the cage alongside the farmed species.  While it is easy to distinguish the wild from the farmed species as they are different, it is difficult or impossible to avoid harvesting the wild species along with the farmed species. Catch and live release of the wild animals may be possible in some circumstances.

GENERAL POLICY AND APPROACH

Consideration of access

  1. In considering access requests, the first priority in managing fish stocks is conservation, followed by First Nations obligations. Beyond that, the needs of aquaculturalists will be given equitable consideration to those of other users in the commercial and recreational sectors. 
     
  2. DFO will aim to facilitate access for relatively low numbers of wild juvenile or adult fish for limited time periods (e.g., for broodstock development), where populations would face insignificant to low risk from the additional harvest pressure: 
     
    • Where potential risk to stocks are found to be acceptable, aquaculturists may be issued a fishing licence or permit, even when there are policies otherwise prohibiting access (e.g., out of season), with appropriate restrictions.
       
    • Aquaculturists will be considered for access where there are limits to new entries to a fishery. The holding of a fishing licence or permit will not qualify the aquaculturist for consideration as a core fisher and will have appropriate restrictions.
       
    • Where IFMPs exist, aquaculturalists will be considered for limited access to stocks (numbers, duration) as part of the management plan, with allocations in addition to existing fisher allocations.

  3. Where specific capture techniques, seasons or size of animals are required, DFO will facilitate the use of alternative gear (i.e., not included under fishery regulations), out-of-season capture and undersize individuals, based on criteria to be established by a National Working Group (Terms of Reference in Annex II). 

Fees and management costs

  1. Aquaculturists will be required to pay licence and other fees to the Crown, consistent with policies for other participants in the fishery and proportionate to the anticipated utilization of the resource. 
     
  2. Where fisher groups are contributing financially to stock management, research, etc., aquaculturists may be required to contribute financially to the management group for access to stocks, consistent with policies for other new entrants to the fishery.

Implementation

Management of Access

Levels of access under this policy will always involve small numbers that will not affect existing allocations; if requests exceed thresholds, they will be managed through other fisheries management processes.

The regional aquaculture coordination (RAC) office will be the focal point for implementation of this policy. All inquiries regarding access should be directed there.

The approach that will be taken to authorizing access for aquaculturists can be grouped into three categories:

Category 1: Access allowed with no authorization required

     Authorization will not be required for the following activities; however, aquaculturists will be required to notify DFO annually if they expect to, or do, access wild stocks.

Category 1 applies to:

Category 2: Access authorized through fishing licence or permit on a routine basis

Where harvest levels are insignificant to the wild stock and there are no SARA implications, fishing licences or collection permits will be issued on a routine basis to aquaculturists, on request and with appropriate conditions, within 30 days of the fully documented request. These licences may have more specific seasonal, TAC, or area requirements than a regular licence.

Category 2 applies to:

Category 3:  Non-routine access authorizations

For all other types of access requests by aquaculturists, issuance of fishing licences or experimental permits under section 4 of the Fisheries Act will be considered under the Review Process outlined below. Where there are, or are expected to be, several applications for similar access, access will be looked at on a strategic basis, with individual requests then considered based on access criteria that are developed.  The total allocation will be limited by conservation objectives.

Category 3 applies to:

Review Process for Consideration of Category 3 Requests

Requests will be submitted in writing to the Regional Aquaculture Coordination Office (RACO), either directly or via the model used for delivery of services in the area outlining:

The RACO will circulate to Fisheries Management for their advice, within 10 days, on completeness of information needed for the evaluation of the request, and on the process that will be followed in reviewing the request (e.g., species is part of an IFMP process; SARA species, levels requested are relatively high compared to stock size).  The RACO will then advise the applicants of receipt of their proposal and any deficiencies in information within 15 days.  They will also provide the process and time frame to be followed in reaching a decision on their request.

Once an application has been accepted as complete, the RAC will then circulate the final application to Fisheries Management, Science Branches and Environment Canada (when involves Species At Risk) for advice on in the potential impact of the request on stocks. 

The RACO will then make a recommendation on access to the Regional Director of Fisheries Management.  Unless there is an IFMP, the applicant will be notified of the decision in writing by the Regional Director General, generally within 45 days of receipt of an approved application.   If the request is authorized, the notification will include conditions of approval in accordance with the objectives of this Policy.

It is expected that DFO will issue licences and conditions pursuant to the Fishery (General) Regulations as a means to authorize and control fishing activities and resource access requests for aquaculture purposes (most often Sections 22(1), 52, and 56). 

In situations in which seasons are set out in regulations, Section 7(1) of the Fisheries Act can be used to provide access outside of the normal fishing season.

Where appropriate, the federal-provincial Introductions and Transfers Committee should be involved at an early stage.

National Working Group on Access to Wild Resources

A National Working Group on Access to Wild Resources will be established.  The Terms of Reference for this Working Group can be found in Annex II.

Implementation Date for Policy

Within 30 days of approval by the DMC Sub-committee on Aquaculture

ANNEX I: SUMMARY OF AQUACULTURE REQUIREMENTS, IMPACTS AND PROPOSED APPROACHES

This table outlines the summary information related to Annex One regarding access for culture and development purposes. The first column describes the situation, the second column indicates the expected impact on fish stock, the third column indicates wild fishery interactions, the fourth column indicates proposed policy, and the fifth column indicates regulatory issues.

ACCESS FOR CULTURE / DEVELOPMENT PURPOSES
Situation Expected impact on fish stock Wild Fishery Interactions Proposed Policy Regulatory Issues
1.    Collection of spat of a "lease species" for grow-out or for sale

a) on-lease

b) off-lease

Insignificant No traditional wild fisheries  

No authorization required.

Routine authorization.

Gear, size, and season outside fishery regulations for some species.
2.    Collection of wild aquatic plants for feed

a)  relatively low level of harvest (less than .1% of TAC)

b) relatively high level of harvest  (more than .1% of TAC)

 

Insignificant

Insignificant to low

May be wild fishery  

Category 2; Routine authorization based on criteria1.

Category 3 authorization.

 
3.    "Relaying" juvenile shellfish from winter scour areas or areas closed due to contamination Insignificant May be traditional fishers accessing for "fishery" leases (oysters) Category 2: Routine authorization based on criteria1. I&T concerns

CSSP concerns

4.    Collection of wild fish for broodstock development

a) less than .1% of TAC

b) more than .1% of TAC

c) collection from stocks at risk or where closed fishery

 

Insignificant

Insignificant

Insignificant to significant depending on numbers requested

 

May be wild fishery

May be wild fishery

Fishery may be closed

Access must be managed as part of IFMPs where they exist.

Category 2: Routine authorization based on criteria1.

Category 3 authorization.

Category 3 authorization based on criteria1.

Gear, season and size limits under fishery regulations or practice may or may not be appropriate.

Traceability

SARA implications

5. Collection of wild finfish for “on-growing” / long-term development initiatives Insignificant to low   May be a wild fishery, or fishery may be closed Category 3 authorization based on criteria1. Traceability

SARA implications
6.   Collection of nuisance non-mammalian species on-lease, for removal

a) for disposal, no sale

b) for sale

Insignificant

Frequently invasive species

Generally no existing wild fishery; particular animals not be accessible to anyone other than leaseholder. For species not specified below, authorization may be considered through Category 3.

Category 2: Routine authorization required for specified speciesFootnote 3.

Category 2: Routine authorization for specified species1.

 
7.  "By-catch" of wild shellfish of "lease species" on-lease Insignificant May be a wild fishery  Prior to recommending lease approval, DFO may wish to specify that some species be purged from lease area before commencing operation on the lease.Footnote 4

Once a lease is issued, natural sets as a result of new recruitment become part of aquaculturist's production. No further authorization required.Footnote 5

 
8.  "By-catch" of species that have entered nets and are harvested along with the target species

a) for disposal or release, no sale

b) for sale

Insignificant May be a traditionally fished species but particular animals not accessible to anyone but the aquaculturist. For species not specified below, authorization may be considered through Category 3.

Routine authorization required for specified species1.

Routine authorization for specified species1.

 

ANNEX II:     TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR NATIONAL WORKING GROUP ON ACCESS TO WILD RESOURCES (NCAWR)

Preamble

The long-term goal of the aquaculture industry is generally to minimize the requirement for access to wild stock for culture purposes by becoming self-sufficient.  For species where the technology does not exist for hatchery production or the cost of hatchery production is prohibitive, there continue to be situations where access to wild stocks is essential to the development and expansion of the Canadian aquaculture industry.

Pursuant to the Policy on Access to Wild Aquatic Resources, a National Working group (NWGAWR) is being established to develop national criteria to support the application of the policy in key areas, and to review the policy after one year.  The following clarifies membership, responsibilities and secretariat functions of the NWGAWR.

Membership

Representation on the NWGAWR consists of:

Responsibilities

The NWGAWR is responsible for:

Working Group Administration and Operations

Chair will rotate annually between the NCR and regions. The Working Group will appoint the Chair.  AMD will provide secretariat and support services.

The Working Group will:

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q1. What is the objective of this Policy?

This Policy sets out a framework and criteria to assist departmental staff tasked with addressing requests for access to wild aquatic resources by aquaculturists.  It recognises the need for aquaculturists to have timely access to wild resources for the purposes of their operations.  It provides guidelines on how to address such requests in a manner that is consistent with DFO's objectives to properly manage the fisheries resource.  This Policy also is consistent with the department's objective to support an environmentally sustainable and economically viable aquaculture industry in Canada.  The applicable legislative and regulatory provisions must still be complied with.

Q2: What is the scope of the Policy?

This Policy exclusively deals with direct access to wild aquatic resources for aquaculture purposes. The Policy provides a framework and sets criteria to be considered when requests for access are submitted.  The objective is to apply the Policy in a consistent manner across Canada, and does not alter any existing arrangements or agreements entered into with First Nations or the provinces.

Q3:  What is the context of the Policy?

While the long-term goal of the aquaculture industry generally is to minimise the requirement for access to wild stock for culture purposes by becoming self-sufficient, there are several situations where the access to wild aquatic resources may be necessary.  Below is a list of situations this Policy is designed to address:

  • Access to shellfish "spat" and seed-stock on and off the aquaculture lease
    While some species of shellfish "spat" and seedstock can be obtained through commercial hatcheries in various locations, gathering local spat from the wild may be more cost effective for the grower, and for certain species, the only source of supply.
     
  • Access to plants for feed for "on-growing" operations
    Under some circumstances, aquaculturists need access to wild aquatic plant resources to use as feed.
     
  • Access for broodstock development.
    The development and maintenance of broodstock may require the periodic collection of finfish or shellfish from the wild.  The quantities of animals should be minimal, but sufficient to ensure genetic diversity.
     
  • Access for "on-growing" and "relaying"
    On-growing (the culturing  of fish captured from the wild, on or off lease) or relaying (the harvesting of juvenile shellfish off-lease for culturing on lease or from one lease to another) may be appropriate: a) for research and development studies; b) where hatchery technology does not exist or is cost prohibitive; c) where the collection for "on-growing" is biologically sound, economically viable and consistent with conservation objectives; d) for stocks from discrete areas where ice dredging the bottom during the winter months may regularly kill animals; or, e) where water quality issues prevent a fishery from taking place.
     
  • Collection of animals not deliberately placed on the lease
    This may be necessary to: a) remove non-mammalian predators (e.g., invasive species with no commercial value); b) to account for "by-catch" (e.g. incidental harvest) of wild individuals of the same species as the one being harvested; or c) to account for "by-catch" of wild individuals of different species from the one being harvested (e.g., wild fish that have entered their nets at a small size and matured in the cage alongside the farmed species, and are difficult or impossible to avoid during harvesting).

Q4: How will allocations to a wild stock for aquaculture purposes be addressed when there is an existing wild fishery for that stock?

Aquaculturists' needs for access to wild resources will be given equal consideration to those of recreational and commercial fishers, and will be undertaken in a fair and transparent manner.  DFO's aim is to facilitate access for relatively low numbers of wild juvenile or adult fish (usually less than 0.1 % relative to the size of the total allowable catch or less than 0.1 % of harvest volumes where no TAC exists) for limited time periods, where populations would face insignificant to low risk from the harvest pressure.  For example, where a TAC exists, aquaculture allocations will be considered along with other allocations to the other sectors (e.g., commercial, Aboriginal, and recreational) within the TAC limits.  Since the aquaculture allocations will usually be negligible compared to the total TAC, the access requests for aquaculture purposes are not expected to impact on existing users of the wild resource. 

Aquaculturists will be considered for access where there are limits to new entries to a fishery; but due to appropriate restrictions of such access, the holding of a fishing licence or permit will not qualify the aquaculturist for consideration as a core fisher.  As well, where Integrated Fisheries Management Plans exist, allocations to aquaculturists will be included within the plan. 

The aquaculturists will have to comply with the applicable legislative and regulatory requirements with respect to licences and fees. 

Q5: How will aquaculturists be required to deal with incidental harvest of wild species on their lease?

Subject to the terms of the licence or lease, during the harvesting of shellfish, particularly bottom-reared species such as oysters and clams, aquaculturists could be permitted to have a "by-catch" of wild individuals of the same species as the one being harvested. This could be the result of wild stock on the lease when it was occupied or the settlement of spat during the lease operation.  It is impossible to avoid harvesting these wild animals, or to distinguish wild individuals from ones placed deliberately on the lease.

Similarly for some finfish operations, aquaculturists may have wild fish (e.g. Pacific salmon) that have entered their nets at a small size and matured in the cage alongside the farmed species (e.g. Atlantic salmon).  While it is easy to distinguish between the wild and farmed finfish species, it is difficult or impossible to avoid the wild species during harvesting of the farmed species.  Subject to regulatory requirements, live release of the wild animals is preferred, where possible.

There is no intent in the Policy to create an incentive for aquaculturists to allow by-catch.  However, the Policy does allow DFO to consider authorising aquaculturists, on a case-by-case basis, to retain and sell small numbers of "by-catch".  It should be noted that the incidental harvest of non-target species occurs in all most every capture fishery.  Any management measures that are in place to control such by-catch will be applicable for aquaculture operations.

In limited cases, where a valuable commercial species is resident on a potential lease area, DFO and the province may allow a limited opportunity for commercial fishers to harvest the lease-area prior to the lease being granted.  This harvest is intended to allow a significant portion of the economic value of the wild species to be accrued to the public fishery.  Removal would occur prior to the aquaculturist taking occupation of the lease area, and actions related to removal will be subject to the applicable provisions of the Fisheries Act and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.