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Frequently Asked Questions

General Information | Employment | Regulations | Licensing | Marine Safety
Environment | Aboriginal Issues
Scientific and Statistical Information | Small Craft Harbours

1.   General Information

  1. What does Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) do?
  2. Who is the Minister responsible for Fisheries and Oceans Canada?
  3. How can I contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada?

2.   Employment

  1. How many people are employed at Fisheries and Oceans Canada?
  2. What job opportunities are available at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and where can I find information on applying for these jobs?

3.   Regulations

  1. Who is responsible for recreational boating regulations in Canada?
  2. Who is responsible for regulating importing and exporting fish products?
  3. Who is responsible for inspecting vessels travelling in Canadian waters?
  4. How can I ensure the quality and safety of fish and seafood purchases?
  5. Which organization is responsible for regulating the production and distribution of genetically engineered foods?
  6. Who is responsible for regulating the impacts of development projects in and around marine and freshwater ecosystems across Canada?

4.   Licensing

  1. Where can I find information on fishing licences and fisheries openings and closures?
  2. Where can I obtain a licence to buy and process fish or to engage in commercial aquaculture?
  3. Whom can I contact for information on licensing a vessel for commercial purposes such as fishing, ferrying or pleasure cruising?

5.   Marine Safety

  1. Who is responsible for marine search and rescue operations in Canada?
  2. How many vessels are in the Canadian Coast Guard fleet?
  3. Where can I obtain nautical charts and other important information such as tide and current tables?
  4. How can I become an authorized chart dealer for the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS)?

6.   Environment

  1. If I have concerns or questions regarding water and/or air pollution, whom should I contact?
  2. Is Fisheries and Oceans Canada responsible for issues concerning endangered fish and marine species?

7.   Aboriginal Issues

  1. Where can I find information on the Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision?

8.   Scientific and Statistical Information

  1. What kind of scientific research does Fisheries and Oceans Canada conduct?
  2. Where can I find information on opportunities for science and technology (S&T) collaboration with DFO’s Science Sector?
  3. Where can I find information on fish and other marine species?
  4. Where can I find information on commercial fisheries landings?
  5. How can I access the Fisheries and Oceans Canada library?

9. Small Craft Harbours

  1. What is a Harbour Authority?
  2. What tasks does a Harbour Authority carry out?
  3. What role does DFO play?
  4. What kind of support does DFO provide?
  5. Who can join a Harbour Authority?
  6. Why join a Harbour Authority?
  7. How can I join a Harbour Authority?

1. General Information

1. What does Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) do?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the lead federal government department responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada's economic, ecological and scientific interests in oceans and inland waters. This mandate includes responsibility for conservation and sustainable use of Canada's fisheries resources while continuing to provide safe, effective and environmentally sound marine services that are responsive to the needs of Canadians in a global economy.

For information on the department's mandate and various activities, go to: Our Organization.

2. Who is the Minister responsible for Fisheries and Oceans Canada?

Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is the Honourable Keith Ashfield.

3. How can I contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada?

For information on contacting the department, go to: Contact Us.

2. Employment

1. How many people are employed at Fisheries and Oceans Canada?

Including those who serve in our fleet, at each of the six regional offices and at headquarters in Ottawa, Fisheries and Oceans Canada employs approximately 10 000 people across the country.

2. What job opportunities are available at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and where can I find information on applying for these jobs?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada offers a variety of employment and career opportunities, from clerical, scientific and administrative positions at any of our regional offices and laboratories to field positions with the Canadian Coast Guard or Fisheries Management Branch.

All job opportunities within the department are announced on the Public Service Commission of Canada’s career website.

Individuals interested in a career in the Canadian Coast Guard should visit the Canadian Coast Guard College website for recruitment information.

Individuals interested in becoming a Fishery Officer should visit the Fishery Officer Career Information website.

3. Regulations

1. Who is responsible for recreational boating regulations in Canada?

Recreational boating regulations are the responsibility of Transport Canada. For information on the latest recreational boating regulations, including how to obtain proof of operator competency for motorized recreational vessels, go to: Office of Boating Safety

2. Who is responsible for regulating importing and exporting fish products?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for imported and exported food, except live products. The Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for the regulation of imported and exported live products.

3. Who is responsible for inspecting vessels travelling in Canadian waters?

Transport Canada is the federal government department responsible for inspecting both foreign and domestic vessels travelling in Canadian territorial waters. However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada routinely provides support to enforcement agencies for small vessel inspections.

4. How can I ensure the quality and safety of fish and seafood purchases?

Caution and common sense should be exercised when purchasing fish and seafood. Fish products should only be purchased from reputable retail and wholesale outlets. Ensure that these sources take adequate precautions to guarantee the quality and safety of seafood products. Organizations at every level of government (i.e. municipal, provincial and federal) co-operate in regulating the production, processing and sale of all food products.

For information on food safety issues, go to: Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

5. Which organization is responsible for regulating the production and distribution of genetically engineered foods?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for the regulation of products derived through biotechnology, including plants, animal feeds and animal feed ingredients, fertilizers and veterinary biologics. For more information, go to: Regulating Agricultural Biotechnology.

Health Canada (HC) conducts a thorough safety assessment of each new product before it can be sold in Canada. HC is responsible for assessing the effect on human health and safety of products derived through biotechnology, including foods, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and pest control products. For more information, go to: Novel Foods.

6. Who is responsible for regulating the impacts of development projects in and around marine and freshwater ecosystems across Canada?

The habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act enable the federal government to make decisions about the impacts of development projects in and around marine and freshwater ecosystems across Canada (from docks and water crossings to aquaculture, mining, hydro, and oil and gas development projects). For information on meeting the requirements of the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act, go to: Fish Habitat Management.

4. Licensing

1. Where can I find information on fishing licences and fisheries openings and closures?

All licensing information, including fisheries openings and closures, can be obtained by contacting Fisheries and Oceans Canada regional offices.

2. Where can I obtain a licence to buy and process fish or to engage in commercial aquaculture?

Licences to buy and process fish and seafood products, as well as to engage in commercial aquaculture, are the responsibility of each province/territory. Aquaculture leasing in Prince Edward Island is the sole exception. Contact your provincial/territorial government for detailed licensing requirements and procedures.

3. Whom can I contact for information on licensing a vessel for commercial purposes such as fishing, ferrying or pleasure cruising?

Owners of commercial fishing vessels must meet the licensing/registration requirements of both Fisheries and Oceans Canada (contact the regional office nearest you) and Transport Canada (Vessel Registration Office).

For information on licensing other commercial vessels, including passenger vessels, tugboats or other non-pleasure craft, go to: Vessel Registration Office (Transport Canada).

For information on licensing pleasure craft, go to: Service Canada

5. Marine Safety

1. Who is responsible for marine search and rescue operations in Canada?

Through the Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for all marine search and rescue operations in Canadian waters. For more information on this important marine service, go to: Search and Rescue.

2. How many vessels are in the Canadian Coast Guard fleet?

The Canadian Coast Guard has 114 vessels and numerous small craft in its fleet. For more information, go to: Fleet.

3. Where can I obtain nautical charts and other important information such as tide and current tables?

The Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), part of the Science Branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is responsible for the preparation and distribution of navigational charts, tide and current tables, water level information, sailing directions and related data. For a list of publications available from CHS, go to CHS Nautical Charts and Services or contact:

Canadian Hydrographic Service Client Services
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
615 Booth St., Room 322
Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A 0E6

Tel.: (613) 998-4931
Email: CHSInfo@dfo-mpo.gc.ca 

The Canadian Hydrographic Service also provides TIDEAPHONE, a toll-free telephone service that permits the public to access local tide predictions for the next seven days. The telephone number for TIDEAPHONE is 1-877-775-0790.

4. How can I become an authorized chart dealer for the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS)?

For information on becoming an authorized chart dealer, contact CHS Client Services at:

Tel.: (613) 998-4931
Email: CHSInfo@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

6. Environment

1. If I have concerns or questions regarding water and/or air pollution, whom should I contact?

Any concerns regarding pollution of our environment should be directed to Environment Canada.

2. Is Fisheries and Oceans Canada responsible for issues concerning endangered fish and marine species?

Although Environment Canada is the lead federal government department responsible for issues concerning species at risk, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for the protection of aquatic species at risk. For more information, go to: Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

7. Aboriginal Issues

1. Where can I find information on the Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision?

For information on the Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision regarding Aboriginal fishing, go to: The Marshall Response Initiative.

8. Scientific and Statistical Information

1. What kind of scientific research does Fisheries and Oceans Canada conduct?

Scientific research provides the basis for sound decision making and management of fisheries and oceans resources. Researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada develop and implement a variety of scientific tools for assisting fisheries and oceans management, including scientific surveys, new data-collection techniques, basic and applied forecasting methods, and publication of ongoing research in leading academic journals. Research activities fall under a wide range of topics, including aquaculture science, environmental science, hydrography, fisheries research and ocean science. In addition, DFO Science has created Centres of Expertise that focus on specific high-priority research areas. These centres focus on areas where it is more effective to partner, both internally and externally, with academia, other departments and other governments to achieve results. Some centres use regionally-based infrastructure and others are virtual, focusing experts from many locations on specific projects. For more information, go to: DFO Science.

2. Where can I find information on opportunities for science and technology (S&T) collaboration with DFO’s Science Sector?

The Science Sector within Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a long history of successful S&T partnerships with both governmental and non-governmental organizations. A New Ecosystem Science Framework in Support of Integrated Management and the Five-Year Research Agenda (2007–2012) outline priority areas where DFO Science seeks collaborative arrangements. For more information on these documents and collaborative opportunities, go to: Collaboration in Science and Technology.

3. Where can I find information on fish and other marine species?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a wealth of information on various fish and other marine species found throughout Canadian waters. For general information, go to: Reports and Publications. For specific information on fish, invertebrate and marine mammal stocks, environmental overviews and other research documents, go to: Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat.  

4. Where can I find information on commercial fisheries landings?

Some information on commercial fisheries landings is collected and compiled by Fisheries and Oceans Canada regional offices. For national statistics, go to: Statistical Services.

5. How can I access the Fisheries and Oceans Canada library?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada offers public access to its online library catalogue WAVES. Although anyone may access the database, only departmental employees may borrow materials directly. You can borrow material indirectly, however, by arranging an interlibrary loan through your local library.

9. Small Craft Harbours

1. What is a Harbour Authority?

The Harbour Authority concept was introduced in 1987, when responsibility for the day-to-day management and operation of core commercial fishing harbours was given to representative local Harbour Authorities. Harbour Authorities are incorporated, not-for-profit organizations that are managed by a board of directors and members, who are representative of local interest groups and harbour users. They are responsible for managing, operating and maintaining one or more public fishing harbours through a lease agreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Small Craft Harbours Program.

DFO recognizes and views each Harbour Authority as a separate legal entity, with the freedom and independence of a private business to make its own decisions, and be responsible for its actions concerning day-to-day operational and management matters.

2. What tasks does a Harbour Authority carry out?

Harbour Authorities keep vital harbour facilities in good repair, provide essential services to harbour users, establish and enforce rules, and represent the needs of users at the community level. Harbour Authorities help keep harbours safe by overseeing the management and operation of the facility, including maintaining lighting systems, launch ramps, fuelling stations and breakwaters.

Harbour Authorities are also responsible for charging and collecting fees from users to cover costs of operating harbours. Fees collected from users are reinvested in harbour maintenance, operations and repairs.

3. What role does DFO play?

The Harbour Authority program, which is managed by DFO’s Small Craft Harbours Program, is designed to give more control to local communities in handling the day-to-day operations of their fishing harbours.

The Small Craft Harbours Program offers volunteer training, guidance and advice; monitors harbours’ overall physical condition; and provides funding through contracts and contributions for major and minor repairs as budgets permit.

The Small Craft Harbours Program assesses proposed construction, dredging and repair projects identified by Harbour Authorities in all regions and determines funding priorities.

4. What kind of support does DFO provide?

While harbours may be locally-operated and managed, DFO offers guidance and advice, monitors the physical condition of harbours and provides funding through contracts for major and minor repairs when budgets permit. DFO continues to assist Harbour Authorities by providing reference materials, including the Harbour Authority Manual, Harbour Authorities' Forum newsletter and Harbour Authority Corner, an online discussion forum.

5. Who can join a Harbour Authority?

Generally, a Harbour Authority is made up of volunteers, although some Harbour Authorities may also have paid staff. Volunteers usually have strong ties to the community and the local fishing industry. Anyone who wants to offer their knowledge and their time is encouraged to join their local Harbour Authority and have a say in managing the facilities it operates.

6. Why join a Harbour Authority?

By joining your local Harbour Authority, you will be investing in your community and taking steps to ensure that decisions concerning the planning, operation and maintenance of harbour facilities best reflect local needs. You will be helping to provide efficient services through local management and be working to keep your harbour open and safe.

7. How can I join a Harbour Authority?

For information on joining, contact your Harbour Authority.

List of Harbour Authorities and harbours across Canada.

For more information on the Harbour Authority program, go to: Small Craft Harbours’ regional offices.