Preparing an Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP)

Guidance Document
January 30, 2013

Table of contents


A.1 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to departmental staff in the development of Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs). This guidance document aims to clarify the required content, as well as to recommend a general process to develop an IFMP.

It is essential that all staff is aware that IFMPs are not legally binding instruments, and cannot form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time. Its development does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act. This must be clearly outlined at the beginning of each IFMP, and emphasized to those stakeholders who are participating in the development of the document.

A.2 What is an IFMP?

The IFMP is both a process and a document. Its primary goal is to provide a planning framework for the conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources and the process by which a given fishery will be managed for a period of time.

As a process, it integrates the expertise and activities of DFO sectors (i.e. Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Strategic and Program Policy and Ecosystems and Oceans Science) in fisheries management planning under the leadership of Resource Management. It also allows for enhanced input from resource users and other stakeholdersFootnote 1 into decision-making processes regarding management and conservation measures affecting a fishery (usually via an advisory committee). In areas subject to land claims agreements, it is important to take into account the provisions of the different agreements. In particular, these agreements generally provide for fish harvesting rights and most agreements establish structures with functions related to the management of the fishery and may also set out processes to be followed. Some agreements provide a role for wildlife management boards or other structures in the development of an IFMP. IFMPs should be developed in a manner consistent with those agreements and take into account fish harvesting rights under those agreements.

It is also important that considerations related to Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) harvesting are taken into account. Consultations related to the IFMP should include appropriate consultations with Aboriginal groups.

Where DFO contemplates conduct that might adversely impact established or potential section 35 rights, DFO must follow the Interim Guidelines for Federal Officials to Fulfill the Legal Duty to Consult (February 2008). Legal Services Unit should be involved to determine whether the government has a legal duty to consult, when it may be engaged and the scope or extent of that obligation. In addition, legal counsel may also be consulted in those situations where it has already been determined for policy, relationship or other reasons that DFO needs to consult with Aboriginal groups. This would enable an assessment to be done to ensure that a legal duty is not implied where it does not exist.

The established IFMP process may be enough to satisfy the requirement to consult in many situations. In those situations, the process ought to be designed to make the most efficient use of existing and proposed processes and resources while maximizing the contribution of all participants. DFO must keep records of all communications and ensure that all meetings and correspondence are on the record to enable the Crown to rely on such information, if necessary, in Court. Good record keeping also helps to ensure an orderly, economically viable, socially/culturally beneficial and sustainable fishery.

As a document, IFMPs are an important reporting tool and valuable source of information on a given fishery for fisheries managers, other DFO sectors (i.e. those having input into the fisheries management process and/or those whose planning processes are directly influenced by fisheries management), legislated co-management partners, fishery participants, other stakeholders and the general public. They provide a clear and concise summary of a fishery, which includes scientific aspects, management objectives for the fishery, management measures used to achieve those objectives and criteria by which attainment of objectives will be measured. The provisions of the plan will determine how the fishery will be managed and, where applicable, what will appear in licence conditions. IFMPs need to consider the Integrated Oceans Management (IOM) context; specifically, they should be nested within the broader (both in terms of scale and activities) IOM plans for maintaining the health of marine ecosystems and facilitating the sustainable use of the oceans.

A.3 History

IFMPs were first introduced to DFO in the mid-1990s, with the concept and general content confirmed in July 1995 through a memorandum from the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of Fisheries Management. IFMPs were seen as a means to improve program delivery, ensure greater integration of functional and technical expertise within DFO, increase linkages within DFO, and identify performance outputs for individual fisheries management plans. The expectation was to have fully integrated IFMPs completed for all major Canadian fisheries by 1996/1997. Unfortunately, during the following decade, the full integration of Canadian fisheries into the IFMP framework was incomplete, with many major and minor fisheries either having outdated plans or none at all. For those IFMPs that had been developed, the content was highly variable between plans.

In recent years there has been growing pressure to renew IFMPs and ensure their application in all major fisheries, largely as a result of marketplace demands for demonstrated sustainable fishing practices and the need for a departmental vehicle for implementing sustainable fisheries policies. Through an IFMP renewal process initiated in 2007/08, departmental representatives from all regions and relevant sectors modified the existing IFMP template based on lessons learned since the mid-1990’s and emerging issues. In 2011-12, the IFMP template and guidance document were once again updated to consider new emerging issues including safety at sea, climate change, aquatic invasive species, marine protected areas and marine protected area networks, and the further refinement of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework.  

A.4 Relationship to Departmental Activities

There are three overarching factors that IFMPs must address:

More specifically, DFO is implementing and developing a number of tools and policies to address those factors outlined above. These include:

IFMPs provide a comprehensive planning, implementation and reporting tool to further this agenda. The range of objectives and management measures as outlined in IFMPs will be developed in consideration of fisheries policies regarding benthic habitat, forage species, by-catch (retained and non-retained) and relevant policies and planning processes from other sectors (i.e. Integrated Ocean Management planning process, Marine Protected Area (MPA) network planning and the departmental Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM)). IFMPs will incorporate limit reference points developed within the framework of the precautionary approach, as well as associated decision rules. They will also utilize the Fisheries Checklist as part of the annual performance review.

Along with being instrumental in the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework, IFMP renewal supports the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review (AFPR) by outlining shared stewardship objectives and arrangements to increase stakeholder involvement in fisheries management processes, including shared decision-making.

For stocks managed under the auspices of DFO’s Fishery Decision-making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach, rebuilding plans are required for those stocks, which have declined to the Critical Zone. As outlined in the DFO document “Guidance for the Development of Rebuilding Plans under the Precautionary Approach (PA) Framework: Growing Stocks out of the Critical Zone (draft)”, rebuilding plan should be approached as an extension of the IFMP process and document. The IFMP should been seen as the primary tool to be used for those stocks whose population status is within the Cautious or Healthy Zones (this includes the rebuilding of a stock from the Cautious Zone to the Healthy Zone). However, for those stocks, which are in the Critical Zone, the IFMP would be supplemented with a rebuilding plan, which outlines the objectives, timelines and management measures that are specific to growing the stock out of the Critical Zone. In incidences where a current IFMP exists, a rebuilding plan should be presented as an annex to the IFMP and draw upon the content of the IFMP where appropriate. Where a current IFMP does not exist, a rebuilding plan should be developed as a standalone document.

A.5 Duration of the Plan

IFMPs should be written as an evergreen document; and as such the IFMP template (Appendix A) has been developed to accommodate this approach. The development of evergreen documents is encouraged, as they reduce the annual workload for departmental staff, reduce the problem of plans being released late (after the initial year) and can provide operational stability for both DFO and fish harvesters. Multi-year plans are recommended by the AFPR as a means of moving towards long-term sharing arrangements. For certain fisheries, an annual IFMP may be necessary.

Single year documents will contain the most recent information regarding stock assessment, management measures and compliance plan directly within the main body of the document. For evergreen documents, such information will be presented within the IFMP appendices, which will be updated on an annual basis.

A.6 Approvals Process

The approval of an IFMP should be delegated down to the lowest possible management level, particularly for non-controversial fisheries and/or where there is consensus between all stakeholders. However, IFMPs should be approved by a manager who is at a level above the person leading the development of an IFMP. As a default, Fisheries Management (FM) Regional Director (or in some cases Regional Director General (RDG)) approval should be considered the minimal requirement. The rationale for this would be to limit the Minister’s involvement to controversial situations or to issues, which have policy implications. However, the Minister would still remain accountable to Parliament for all IFMPs. Delegating approval authority to lower levels would bring decisions closer to stakeholders, and support the Department’s goal of increasing stakeholder participation in the decision-making process in the spirit of shared stewardship and co-management. Even when a plan is approved by an RDG, it should always be sent to National Headquarters for information before being released publicly (including posting on the internet).

For those IFMPs involving multiple regions (i.e. an Atlantic-wide stock), approval by the Senior ADM-Ecosystems and Fisheries Management would be a suitable course of action. Where IFMPs are developed in association with co-management boards or other structures established under land claims agreements and the agreement provides for an approval process, plans must be approved in accordance with the agreements where the agreements contain applicable processes.

The goal with all IFMPs will be to approve and release the plan at least one month before the start of the fishery.

A.7 Annual Review

An annual performance review (or post-season review) of the effectiveness of the IFMP is a crucial part of the IFMP process. Such a review helps to determine the effectiveness of the year’s management measures and identify areas for improvement. It is also part of the Auditor-General’s government-wide requirements to establish performance measures for the effectiveness of programs.

There are four main elements that should be considered in the IFMP review:

Performance reviews also provide an opportunity to examine harvest decision rules, and test whether they have been working and are compliant with the precautionary approach. However, reviews of harvest decision rules may not be required on an annual basis.

The review process should involve all members of the associated advisory committee and relevant DFO sectors.

As well, the review should be completed in a timely fashion so that suggestions for improvement can be adopted for the upcoming season (i.e. complete review immediately after the close of the season).

A.8 Legal Context

IFMPs are not legally binding instruments; this must be clearly stated at the beginning of every IFMP using the following text:

This IFMP is not a legally binding instrument, which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

An IFMP may be altered at any time by the Minister for conservation or any other reason under the discretionary powers conferred to him or her by the Fisheries Act. This discretionary power applies whether the IFMP is single-year or multi-year in scope. To avoid any confusion, care must be taken to ensure that the IFMP wording does not resemble that of a binding agreement; the IFMP should describe the fishery rather than set out what could be considered a series of obligations. For example, it would be appropriate to state in the IFMP that “lobster traps are equipped with x to prevent the capture of undersized lobster”. The licence conditions linked to the IFMP could be more prescriptive. For example, a condition of licence could be: “lobster traps shall be equipped with x.”

At the operational level, activities described in the plan are not optional and should form part of the annual work plan of DFO managers. For licence holders, activities in the plan will be reflected in licence conditions. With this in mind, care should be taken to ensure that the measures included in the IFMP are realistic and achievable.

Legally binding agreements between DFO and fish harvesters (or other stakeholders), otherwise called Joint Project Agreements (JPAs), may be developed under the co-management approach or as a result of other negotiations. In an IFMP document, a JPA must not be mentioned in any substantive way that makes the IFMP subject to it. It is important to keep the IFMP independent of the JPA so that the IFMP remains valid and does not adversely affect Ministerial discretion with respect to the management of the resource should the JPA fail.

A.9 Communications

IFMPs are ultimately public documents. Their purpose is not only to outline the specific objectives and management measures of a fishery, but also to communicate the basic information on a fishery and its management both within DFO and to outside parties. As such, the language of IFMPs must be easily understandable by a range of readers since the intended audience is broad (i.e. DFO personnel, fish harvesters and the general public). A glossary of fisheries management terms used in the IFMP should also be included, as this will be beneficial in making the document understandable to a wider audience.

Communications officers should be engaged early in the IFMP process to ensure that there is time to prepare a communications plan for the IFMP announcement and implementation, when needed.

Upon completion, IFMPs should be posted on either the DFO regional or headquarters internet sites one month before the opening of the fishery. For many fisheries, distribution of hardcopies of IFMPs to DFO staff, other jurisdictions, stakeholders and the general public will not be required, as the document will be available on the internet.


It is understood that no single IFMP development process can meet the needs of all fisheries. The nature of specific fisheries, existing stakeholder advisory processes, land-claims agreements, and regional and departmental priorities will affect the manner in which an IFMP is developed. However, despite the range of factors that surround any particular fishery, there is a strong case for a standardized approach to IFMP development both from the perspective of an IFMP being a process and a document. As a process, the IFMP ensures that both DFO sectors and stakeholders are integrated in a consistent manner. As a document, the IFMP provides a window to the world (i.e. stakeholders, Aboriginal groups, (Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), governments and international multi-lateral institutions) outlining DFO’s management practices, including our application of sustainable fisheries practices.

B.1 Process

In order to provide a generic IFMP development process, which provides for both a core of key activities, and which can be modified to suit the needs of each fishery, the following is proposed:

For evergreen IFMPs, details regarding stock status (IFMP Section 2), management measures (IFMP Section 7) and compliance plans (IFMP Section 9) need to be reviewed and/or updated annually using the same process as outlined above. Changes will generally be incorporated into the appendices rather than to the main text of the IFMP, and posted on the DFO national and regional websites. Further information is presented in section 3.2.

Aspects of the IFMP development process may be tailored to suit the specifics of each fishery. As IFMPs are joint DFO-stakeholder documents, major external stakeholders should always be engaged in developing the IFMP. Such engagement further promotes the shared-stewardship approach to fisheries management. In areas subject to land claims agreements, IFMPs should be developed in a manner consistent with those agreements and take into account fish harvesting rights under those agreements.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding with Transport Canada, DFO will invite Transport Canada and Canadian Coast Guard representatives to participate in all regional fisheries management plan development process, including participation at regional fisheries advisory committee meetings. Appendix 6 within the guidance document provides further details.

B.2 Role of the “Lead” Sector

For each section of the IFMP template, a DFO “lead” sector has been identified. It is anticipated that the lead sector will be responsible for gathering and consolidating information for the section in question, and ultimately write the associated text. However, it is understood that the lead sector may not hold all relevant information and will be required to consult with other sectors, jurisdictions and stakeholders for completion of the text. IOM processes are particularly helpful in this case, as they offer opportunities for easily accessing integrated data, information and knowledge from stakeholders and government partners.  This will further promote the integrated nature of the IFMP process. Ultimately, Resource Management is responsible for initiating and coordinating the overall IFMP development process. In areas subject to land claims agreements, DFO and the co-management board(s) or other structures will collaborate and establish leads for various sections of the IFMP, on a fishery-by-fishery basis.


IFMPs serve two key functions:

Once the IFMP has been finalized, it should constitute an explanation and document of record of how the fishery is managed for readers both within and outside DFO.

A template to guide the development of IFMPs is provided in Appendix A of this document. It is anticipated that IFMPs will be developed in a manner, which is consistent in both format and content with the template provided. However, it is also acknowledged that specific circumstances (e.g. plans developed in accordance with co-management processes under land claims agreements) may necessitate the use of a modified template to be developed cooperatively with the relative jurisdictions. Such modification, however, should remain as consistent as possible to the principles and guidelines set out in this document.

Cover Page

Indicate species (including scientific name(s)), fishing area(s) and year(s) covered by the plan. Use standard DFO and Government of Canada word-marks, and (where available) an illustration(s) of the species.


A nationally consistent Foreword has been provided in the IFMP Template. Its purpose is to introduce the IFMP in the context of fisheries management processes in Canadian waters. The foreword page may also include a sign-off portion to indicate who has approved the IFMP. This may be particularly relevant when IFMPs are signed off by multiple stakeholders (e.g. co-management boards established under land claims agreements).

1. Overview of the Fishery (Lead – Resource Management)

The purpose of this section is to provide a general overview of the fishery and provide context for the IFMP details that follow.

History: Providing a brief history of the fishery will assist the reader in understanding the fishery, how it developed over time, and the basis of its management regime.
Type(s) of Fishery: Commercial, FSC, recreational, etc.
Participants: Include relevant information such as number of licence holders, number of vessels, number of communities (in case of subsistence fisheries) and distribution of participants.
Location of the Fishery: Describe the management areas/zones where fishing occurs (i.e. regulatory zones and specific areas of vessel operation) and distribution and intensity (where available) of fishing effort. Best presented through maps.
Fishery Characteristics: Describe the gear types utilized in the fishery (i.e. fixed gear, mobile gear, etc), including numbers for each if possible, and type of method used to manage the fishery (i.e. seasons, competitive vs. Individual Quota (IQ), input vs. output control, etc.), as well as the general timeframe (i.e. season) of when the fishery occurs.
Governance: Briefly describe key legislation and regulations, as well as types of committees and/or legislative land claims, which are part of the decision making process (based on zones, areas, regions, international considerations). Discussions of governance should include an overview of relevant co-management arrangements required under existing land claims agreements. Legal Services Unit should be asked to review the overview. Other co-management and shared stewardship arrangements will be discussed in IFMP Section 8.
Approval Process: Describe the general management decision-making process (i.e. decisions made by Area Director, RDG or Minister). Information regarding decision-making and approval processes for the IFMP and associated management actions should be general in nature, and indicate who is ultimately responsible for final decisions. Relevant provisions of land claims agreements should be outlined.

Specific information on openings/closures for specific management units should be avoided, as these are outlined in IFMP Section 7.

2. Stock Assessment, Science and Traditional Knowledge (Lead – Science)

The purpose of this section is to provide the reader with an overview of the general biological characteristics of those species targeted by the fishery, their role in the ecosystem and the population status.

Biological Synopsis: Provide a brief overview outlining the main biological characteristics of the species with emphasis on the aspects, which impact on management of the species. Factors to be covered include range (both globally and Canadian), populations/stock structure, habitat requirements (including key location where applicable), migration routes and reproductive characteristics (i.e. season, behaviour, fecundity, growth rates, spawning grounds).
Ecosystem Interactions: Briefly describe interactions with other species and the physical environment. Where the information is available, briefly describe the effect of climate regime changes on stock status, particularly recruitment and stock productivity. The Large Basin Assessments being developed under the Department's new Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program will be available in 2013, and may be of use in considering the impacts on stock status. The lead of each Large Basin Assessment is Denis Gilbert (Atlantic), Robin Brown (Pacific) and Robert Young (Arctic).
Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge/Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Where available and applicable, provide a brief overview of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) for the species biology and population status. The Department has acknowledged the value of incorporating both ATK and TEK into the management of aquatic species. Potential sources include Science Advisory Reports (SARS), information collected for Species at Risk Act (SARA) purposes (i.e. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) status reports), community-based inventories and conservation plans as well as information collected from fisheries advisory committees.
Stock Assessment: Provide a summary of the stock assessment process, including types of data sources utilized (i.e. research vessel trawl surveys, tagging, index fisheries, Catch Per Unit of Effort (CPUE), landing statistics, sentinel fisheries, etc.) and frequency of assessment. For single year plans, provide a summary of the most recent assessment results. For multi-year plans, assessment results are to be provided in the appendices (Appendix 1) and updated whenever new assessments are completed. Such information should be brief in nature, with references (including web addresses) provided to the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) documents (i.e. science advisory report, research document) for those readers wanting further detailed information.  Where applicable, scientific studies on by-catch species intercepted by the fishery – such as benchmarks for sustainability of the species, population dynamics, discard mortality rates, effectiveness of by-catch mitigation measures – should be referenced.
Stock Scenarios: Briefly describe stocks prospects (i.e. trends) for the period of the plan, and beyond, if available. Such information on projected trends will be vital in developing IFMP objectives and management measures that ensure the stock(s) are managed in a sustainable manner. Such information will also be required for assessing future economic trends and fishery viability discussed in Section 3.
Precautionary Approach (PA): Where established, a brief summary of PA reference points (i.e. removal reference, limit reference point and upper stock reference point) and population levels corresponding to stock status zones (i.e. healthy, cautious and critical) established under the auspices of the precautionary approach should be provided. Such information is best presented as a table or graph setting out the zones, reference points delineating the zones and the current status of the stock. References (including web addresses) to supporting documentation (i.e. SARs and Research Documents) should be provided for those readers wanting further detailed information. Harvest decision rules associated with the reference points and stock status zones should not be discussed here, as these are addressed in Section 7.
Research: Provide a brief overview of research projects being conducted during the period of the plan and their purpose. Also include any research needs not currently being addressed. Consider not just the target species, but also research on associated by-catch and habitat.

Possible data sources include reports on Depleted and Rare Species, Degraded Areas, Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs), and Ecologically and Biologically Significant Species and Community Properties (ESS/CPs); Ecological Overview and Assessment Reports (EOARs); and baseline information and status/trends data from MPA monitoring. A summary of research projects may include DFO activities, as well those conducted by other federal departments, provincial/territorial governments, academia, the fishing industry and other organizations. However, if this summary includes research being conducted outside of DFO, care must be taken to ensure the summary is accurate and the researcher(s) are in agreement with having this information presented in a public document.

The lead for this section should remember that the purpose of this information is to provide a brief summary of “key” research. An exhaustive list of all potentially related activities is not required. Where critical information gaps exist, a summary of key future research needs is also beneficial. The summary of research activities should consider the target species, by-catch species, habitat and other ecosystem considerations related to the fishery.  

3. Economic, Social and Cultural Considerations (Lead –Economics)

The purpose of the economic content in the IFMP is to provide a brief overview of economic conditions and social, cultural and economic issues. Use charts and figures where applicable. When extensive analysis is undertaken, summarize and provide reference to a separate analytical document. This section should describe and assess:

To the extent that these socio-economic aspects of the fishery carry important implications for stock conservation and sustainable use, they are also important for fully informing decision makers, managers, industry and the general public.

Where possible, information should also be provided with respect to other economic or socio-cultural uses within the IFMP boundaries, including the location and intensity of other human activities that may impact or be impacted by the fishery, in order to be able to address cumulative impacts and avoid potential conflicts among ocean users.

A separate frameworkFootnote 2 has been developed by the Economics Branch to standardize the socio-economic analysis associated with IFMPs and harvest decisions. The socio-economic framework guides production of a specific report corresponding to a stand-alone paper on the economics of the fishery, which can undergo appropriate review procedures, and from which highlights can be taken for the IFMP.

The extent of the analysis will depend upon the specific fishery in question. The regional economic analyst will provide a summary of the recommended information for inclusion in this section, based upon the socio-economic framework developed by Policy sector. Any additional analysis undertaken by Policy-Economics staff can be referenced by citation of the separate analytical document that will also be provided to the responsible Fisheries staff officer.

For some fisheries, there will be a lack of economic information, and the production of a full analytical document may not be practical. The socio-economic framework allows for flexibility in the scope of the analysis that will be carried out, in order to accommodate a wide variety of situations. Social, Economic and Cultural Overview and Assessment (SECOA) reports for Large Ocean Management Areas, developed and used in the context of IOM, may constitute a useful starting point for analyzing the economic, social and cultural importance of the fishery, and to gather information about the other human activities, which are present within IFMP boundaries.

4. Management Issues (Lead – Resource Management)

The purpose of this section is to provide the reader with an overview of key management issues and problems facing the fishery, including those related to the target species, as well as by-catch and ecosystem concerns. Potential examples of management issues include:

Information outlined in Management Issues provides a foundation for the development of the remainder of the IFMP. Objectives (IFMP Section 5), access and allocations (IFMP Section 6), management measures (IFMP Section 7), shared stewardship arrangements (IFMP Section 8) and compliance plans (IFMP Section 9) should always be developed in consideration of those management issues outlined in the IFMP.  

The identification of key management issues will require the involvement of all relevant sectors within DFO, as well as co-management structures (e.g. co-management boards) and resource users where possible, to ensure all aspects of the fishery and its impacts are considered. Additional sources of information that may prove useful in the identification of management issues include science advisory reports/stock assessments, COSEWIC status reports, Recovery Potential Assessments SARA Recovery Strategies/Action Plans/Management Plans and IOM plans and other pertinent documents (i.e., Ecosystem Overview and Assessment Reports). IOM processes allow for early identification and discussion of conflicts between resource users and among stakeholders, and set the stage for resolution of such issues at an integrated governance table on the basis of agreed-upon goals and objectives in IOM plans.

5. Objectives (Lead – Resource Management)

IFMP objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) and developed to address (and potentially resolve) those management issues outlined in IFMP Section 4, as well as the stock scenarios outlined in IFMP Section 2 (where applicable).

Long-term objectives (i.e. those not limited to the duration of the plan) should be developed as a first step. Long-term objectives may address issues related to stock conservation, ecosystems, stewardship, social, cultural and economic (i.e. commercial, recreational, Aboriginal), compliance and other relevant considerations. Each long-term objective should be supported by one or more short-term objective(s), which are specific for the duration of the plan. It is these short-term objectives that drive the development of the IFMP management measures (IFMP Section 7), shared stewardship arrangements (IFMP Section 8) and compliance plan (IFMP Section 9).

In developing IFMP objectives, consideration should be given to existing DFO policies and processes, which may have already developed objectives specific to the fishery, species and habitats addressed in the plan. These would include objectives outlined in the Sustainable Fisheries Framework policies and associated guidelines and tools, SARA Recovery Potential Assessments, Recovery Strategies/Action Plans/Management Plans, MPA Management Plans and the MPA network planning processes, as well as Ecosystem Objectives developed under IOM plans (including Conservation Objectives for EBSAs) and under the DFO departmental Ecosystem Approach to Management. Where appropriate, such objectives should be incorporated into the IFMP and the IFMP objectives should be reflected in broader IOM plans. There are opportunities for synergies and mutual benefits between integrated fisheries management and IOM initiatives such as MPA network planning. For example, some fisheries closures have the potential to contribute to MPA network objectives. Likewise, the MPA network can contribute to achieving certain IFMP objectives. Open dialogue is necessary to realize these synergies, and recognizing shared objectives in this section of the IFMP is a first step.

6. Access and Allocation (Lead – Resource Management)

As noted by the AFPR, uncertainty in access and allocations creates instability that undermines the integrity of fisheries management and jeopardizes efforts to achieve sustainable use and a conservation ethic among user groups. The inclusion of access and allocation information within an IFMP promotes a sense of stability and transparency. Such information is best provided in a table format, where possible. Provide the access and allocation of the fisheries resource (including commercial, aquaculture, recreational, FSC, subsistence) under the following headings:

Where appropriate (i.e., relatively stable resource), long-term sharing arrangements should also be presented within the IFMP. Temporary allocations should also be discussed where relevant. Any “use of fish” allocation that exists in the fishery should be noted; that is, allocations of fish and / or fishing gear made under section 10 of the Fisheries Act, “Fish allocation for financing purposes”.

It is essential that every IFMP includes a statement noting that the Minister can, for the proper management and control of fisheries, and the conservation and protection of fish, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements as outlined in the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act (required text is in the Template). In circumstances where changes to access, allocations and sharing arrangements are required during the life of the IFMP (i.e., new legal obligations, revised conservation objectives), the updated information should be presented in the appendices.

7. Management Measures (Lead – Resource Management)

Management Measures outline the controls or “rules” adopted for the fishery for the period of the plan, including the stock conservation and ecosystem management measures. These would include such measures as Total Allowable Catch (TAC), seasons, gear restrictions, monitoring tools, conservation harvesting techniques (including those related to by-catch and depleted species), selective fishing requirements, habitat protection requirements and financial arrangements with industry. Management measures should be developed in the context of addressing the IFMP’s short-term objectives (as outlined in IFMP Section 5).

In order to implement the risk-based management decision making framework using the precautionary approach in a fishery, harvest decision rules are a critical component of an IFMP. These rules should be precise and provide details on the harvest rates and other management procedures required in each of the stock status zones (i.e. critical, cautious and healthy) or steps within a zone, as described in IFMP Section 2. While informal harvest rules (e.g. those developed outside the precautionary approach) are encouraged within the IFMP, caution is required to ensure that these are not presented as harvest decision rules compliant with the fishery decision-making framework incorporating the precautionary approach adopted by DFO.

7.1 Species at Risk Act

Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), species listed as either Threatened or Endangered are subject to prohibitions, which apply to harm to the species itself, as well as to its residence and/or critical habitat (if applicable). These prohibitions may also be extended to species listed as extirpated if re-introduction is deemed feasible. The key prohibition is against undertaking activities that harm, harass or kill species at risk, unless a permit has been issued to do so, or an exemption for that activity has been made in a Recovery Strategy or an Action Plan.  A number of conditions have to be met in advance of issuing such a permit, which are outlined in section 73 of SARA. A SARA permit may be combined with a fishing licence, in accordance with section 74 of SARA

IFMPs should include a list of all SARA listed species incidentally impacted by the fishery, and the extent and manner in which they are impacted (e.g. estimated numbers killed, caught and returned, entangled and freed, etc.) and how these are expected to affect the recovery of the species (references to documents such as a Recovery Potential Assessments or Recovery Strategy should be made).

If by-catch of a SARA listed species is exempted through a SARA Section 83 (4) exemption, as stated in a Recovery Strategy or Action Plan, all mitigation measures that must be implemented to minimize impacts on the species must be identified (i.e. gear restrictions, live release, reporting requirements, etc.).

If harm to a SARA listed species is to be authorized through a SARA-compliant fishing licence as per Section 74 of SARA, the following must also be included: a statement outlining any reasonable alternatives that were considered to reduce the impact on the species but rejected, and the reason they were rejected, with reference to supporting documents (for example, the Regulatory Impact Assessment Statement that accompanied the decision to list the species); and identification of the mitigation measures that must be implemented to minimize impacts on the species.

While prohibitions do not apply to species listed as Special Concern, any such species impacted by the fishery should also be described, along with any mitigation requirements found in an associated SARA Management Plan.

Where by-catch has been identified as a management issue for a fishery, management measures should be developed in accordance to DFO’s Policy on Managing By-catch (under development). Because a species might be the target of one fishery and be intercepted as by-catch in others, there may be a need for IFMPs to reference one another, to acknowledge cumulative fishing mortality and ensure management measures are complimentary and comprehensive

For single-year plans, provide stock conservation and ecosystem management measures to meet Section 5 objectives, including the following, where applicable:

For multi-year plans, this information should be provided in Appendix 2 and updated annually.   

8. Shared Stewardship Arrangements (Lead – Resource Management)

Stewardship refers to the care, supervision or management of something, especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. In the context of fisheries management, stewardship is often referenced in regards to “shared stewardship”, whereby participants will be effectively involved in fisheries management decision-making processes at appropriate levels, will contribute specialized knowledge and experience, and share in accountability for outcomes.

The IFMP should include a discussion of any co-management and other initiatives (e.g. IOM activities and MPA network planning through the Oceans Program) that support Section 5 Objectives, including increased shared-decision making, and foster a sense of shared stewardship amongst stakeholders. Such initiatives should aim to meet those shared stewardship objectives specified in IFMP Section 5. If Joint Project Agreements (JPAs) are involved in shared stewardship initiatives, these must not be mentioned in any substantive way that makes the IFMP subject to it. JPAs are discussed further in this guidance document (6.0 Legal Context).  

It should be noted that shared stewardship does not include co-management arrangements established under land claims agreements. These arrangements are outlined in IFMP Section 1.

9. Compliance Plan (Lead – Conservation and Protection)

The purpose of this section is to provide the reader with a general overview of the compliance program and a summary of issues and strategies designed to help secure good levels of compliance with legislation, regulations and management measures. For single-year plans, describe priorities as set out in enforcement plans to meet Section 5 objectives. For multi-year plans, this information is to be provided in the Appendix 3 and updated annually. The Compliance Management Plan will be composed of the sections described below.

Conservation and Protection (C&P) Program Description

The following nationally consistent description of the C&P program should be included with each IFMP.

The Conservation and Protection program promotes and maintains compliance with legislation, regulations and management measures implemented to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of Canada’s aquatic resources, and the protection of species at risk, fish habitat and oceans.

The program is delivered through a balanced regulatory management and enforcement approach including:

All Compliance Management Plans should be consistent with the National Compliance Framework and the DFO Compliance Model. More information can be found on both of these documents at the following intranet site:

Regional Compliance Program Delivery

This section should provide a general description of compliance activities carried out by C&P for this fishery. Include the activities conducted by third parties like the at-sea observers and dockside monitors. Describe the use of technology to help with the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) activities (e.g. VMS, air surveillance, video monitoring, etc.).

A statement should also be included to let the reader know that the Conservation and Protection Program is responsible for compliance and enforcement work related to all the regional fisheries, as well as habitat, Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP), and other activities. Consequently, the allocation of time towards any given fishery will be based to a large extent on an assessment of risk to the resource.  The main message here is that C&P cannot do everything and must focus on priorities.


The purpose of this section is to provide a general description of the processes in place to ensure integration of compliance issues into the internal IFMP structure and to provide enhanced communication and cooperation between the Conservation and Protection Program and the fishing industry, Aboriginal organizations and other government organizations. Examples of specific consultations that are occurring with the industry on matters relating to compliance and enforcement are the Enforcement Advisory Committees and Round Tables. It is important not to duplicate any of the information related to consultations that is already provided in the other sections of the IFMP.

Compliance Performance

The Conservation and Protection Program shares the overall objective of sustainable fisheries with other DFO programs, but also has its own compliance related targets and performance indicators that it measures to determine its success. Its major sources of information to measure performance are the Fisheries Enforcement Activity Tracking System (FEATS) and the Departmental Violation System (DVS).

Outputs and results for this specific fishery from the previous year should be included in this section. This is also the appropriate place to include any trend data that might be available. For example, it would be good to document where compliance rates for certain management measures, deemed important for the sustainability of the resource, have improved over the years. It might also be important to include trends in the amount of compliance effort dedicated to the fishery, as an indicator of its priority status and commitment of appropriate resources. The main purpose of including the trend data is to show improvements in the goal of securing target compliance levels or to demonstrate that important compliance related problems still exist and may need additional attention. Use the C&P performance management framework to extract the relevant information. FEATS and DVS will be the main source of information for measuring compliance activities and results.

Current Compliance Issues

This section should provide the reader with a basic understanding of what the current compliance related problems are. The issues that are identified should be those that represent the most significant risk to the resource. An operational risk assessment process is currently being developed for C&P and this will help identify the important compliance risks. It will be made available once it is mature enough for implementation.

It is important to make the link between the compliance issues and the broader goals of the IFMP. For example, if it is determined that there may be inaccurate records of the weight of fish landed, then the source of this problem should be clearly identified and defined so that an appropriate compliance strategy to fix the problem can be developed.

Compliance Strategy

Finally, activities planned to deal with the compliance issues identified above should be briefly described here. Discretion should be used to determine if there are elements of the compliance strategy that should not be shared with the reader (e.g. covert enforcement operations). It would be good to include the involvement of others in the overall compliance strategy (e.g. the engagement of third-parties in monitoring activities or the use of restorative justice as an alternative to prosecution).

10. Performance Review (Lead – Resource Management)

Management Objectives Evaluation Criteria: This section should outline measurable indicators to determine whether or not those objectives outlined in IFMP Section 5 are being achieved and those management issues outlined in IFMP Section 4 are being addressed. These indicators may include those specifically developed for the IFMP, as well as existing evaluation processes such as the Fisheries Checklist. Potential performance indicators include:

Consideration must also be given as to whether modifications are required for any individual management measures (e.g., fisheries closures), given the closure-specific objectives identified in IFMP Section 7, and any changes to distribution or intensity of other fishing gear sectors in the area since the establishment of the closure.   

A summary of the post-season performance review process is also encouraged. See section 5.0 of this document for further information on the annual review process.

The results of the previous year’s review (including landings, values, etc. where appropriate) are to be provided in the appendices (Appendix 4). In instances where a post-season review results in a detailed report, a summary of that report is suitable for inclusion into the IFMP.


A glossary should be included at the end of each IFMP to assist those stakeholders who may not be familiar with the terminology frequently used within DFO and a fisheries management environment. A glossary of sample terms is presented in the IFMP template.


The IFMP appendices serve several functions. For evergreen plans, appendices allow DFO to append annual updates (Appendix 1, 2 and 3) rather than changing text within the IFMP.

Appendix 1: Stock Assessment Results (evergreen plans)
This is to be updated whenever a new assessment is completed. See Section 2.

Appendix 2: Management Measures (evergreen plans)
This is to be updated annually for the duration of the plan. See Section 7.

Appendix 3: Enforcement Measures (evergreen plans)
This is to be updated annually for the duration of the plan. See Section 9.

Appendix 4: Post-Season Review
Provide the results of the previous year’s annual review (i.e. progress on meeting plan objectives), information on previous year’s landings, values, etc. where appropriate, as well as any required updates of access, allocations and sharing arrangements. Where available, include the Fisheries Checklist. See Section 10.

Appendix 5: Departmental contact(s)
IFMPs should always include Department contact information for those departmental staff and stakeholders requiring additional information.

Appendix 6: Safety at Sea
Through a Memorandum of Understanding with Transport Canada, DFO has committed to invite Transport Canada and Canadian Coast Guard representatives to participate in the regional fisheries management plan development processes, including participation at regional fisheries advisory committee meetings. DFO has also committed to ensuring that safety considerations are outlined in every fisheries management plan. As such, conservation and management measures outlined in an IFMP must be developed in full consideration of safety-at-sea issues.

Regulation may put constraints on fishing that can create pressures on fish harvesters to fish under conditions that they would otherwise avoid. Managers should identify and avoid those situations, if they can do so, consistent with the legal and practical requirements of conservation and management of the resource.

The safety of a vessel and the people aboard is ultimately the responsibility of the master of that vessel. The IFMP does not replace the judgment or relieve the responsibility of the vessel master related to any aspect of vessel safety.

The following is a non-inclusive list of factors that should be considered when developing management measures:

(1) Operating environment.
Where and when a fishing vessel operates is partly a function of the general climate and weather patterns of an area. Typically, larger vessels can fish farther offshore and in more adverse weather conditions than smaller vessels. An IFMP should try to avoid creating situations that result in vessels going out farther, fishing longer, or fishing in weather worse than they generally would have in the absence of management measures. Where these conditions are unavoidable, management measures should mitigate these effects, consistent with the overall management goals of the fishery.

(2) Gear and vessel loading requirements
A fishing vessel operates in a very dynamic environment that can be an extremely dangerous place to work. Moving heavy gear in a seaway creates a dangerous situation on a vessel. Carrying extra gear can also significantly reduce the stability of a fishing vessel, making it prone to capsizing. An IFMP should consider the safety and stability of fishing vessels when requiring specific gear or requiring the removal of gear from the water. Management measures should reflect sensitivity to these issues and provide methods of mitigation of these situations wherever possible.

(3) Limited season and area fisheries.
Fisheries where time constraints for harvesting are a significant factor and with no accommodation for unfavourable weather, (‘‘derby’’ fisheries), can create serious safety concerns. To participate fully in such a fishery, fish harvesters may fish in poor weather and/or overload their vessel with catch and/or gear, etc. Where these conditions exist, IFMPs should attempt to mitigate these effects and avoid them wherever possible.

(4) Consultation.
During preparation of any IFMP, IFMP amendment, or regulation that might affect safety of human life at sea, managers should consult with Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and the fishing industry as to the nature and extent of any adverse impacts. There are many ways in which an IFMP may avoid or provide alternative measures to reduce potential impacts on safety of human life at sea.

(5) Mitigation Measures
The following is a non-inclusive list of possible mitigation measures that could be considered:

Appendix 7: Map of Fishing Area
Other miscellaneous documents associated with the IFMP, including press releases, terms of references (TOR) for associated advisory groups and sign-off page, may also be presented in the appendices.

Appendix A - Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Template


Cover Page
Indicate species (including scientific name(s)), fishing area(s) and year(s) covered by the plan. Use standard DFO and Government of Canada word-marks, and (where available) an illustration(s) of the species.

IFMP Foreword
(Standard text which will be included in every IFMP)

The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) is to identify the main objectives and requirements for the (name of fishery here) fishery in (identify area(s) covered by the plan), as well as the management measures that will be used to achieve these objectives. This document also serves to communicate the basic information on the fishery and its management to DFO staff, legislated co-management boards and other stakeholders. This IFMP provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for the sustainable management of the fisheries resource.

This IFMP is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claims agreements, the provisions of the land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

Signature and title of DFO approval authority

Optional - Signature and title of other approval authority (i.e. authority established under land claims agreement)

Table of contents

Overview of the Fishery


Specific information on openings/closures for specific management units should be avoided, as these are outlined in IFMP Section 7.


<insert text>

Type(s) of Fishery:

<insert text>


<insert text>

Location of the Fishery:

<insert text>

Fishery Characteristics:

<insert text>  


<insert text>  

Approval Process:

 <insert text>  

Stock Assessment, Science and Traditional Knowledge

Biological Synopsis:

<insert text>  

Ecosystem Interactions:

<insert text>  

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge/Traditional Ecological Knowledge:

 <insert text>  

Stock Assessment:

 <insert text>  

Stock Scenarios:

<insert text>  

Such information will also be required for assessing future economic trends and fishery viability discussed in Section 3.

Precautionary Approach (PA):

<insert text>  

Harvest decision rules associated with the reference points and stock status zones should not be discussed here, as these are addressed in Section 7.


<insert text>  

Economic, Social and Cultural Importance of the Fishery

<insert text>  

Management Issues

<insert text>


<insert text>  

Access and Allocation

<insert text>  

Sharing Arrangements

<insert text>

Quotas and Allocations

<insert text>

All IFMPs must include a statement in this section noting that the Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements as outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act. In circumstances where changes to access, allocations and sharing arrangements are required during the life of the IFMP (i.e., new legal obligations, revised conservation objectives), the updated information should be presented in the appendices.

Management Measures for the Duration of the Plan

<insert text>

Shared Stewardship Arrangements

<insert text>

Compliance Plan

<insert text>

The Compliance Management Plan will be composed of the sections described below.

Conservation and Protection Program Description

(required text)

The Conservation and Protection program promotes and maintains compliance with legislation, regulations and management measures implemented to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of Canada’s aquatic resources, and the protection of species at risk, fish habitat and oceans.

The program is delivered through a balanced regulatory management and enforcement approach including:

Regional Compliance Program Delivery

<insert text>


<insert text>

Compliance Performance

<insert text>

Current Compliance Issues

<insert text>

Compliance Strategy

<insert text>

Performance Review

<insert text>


A sample Glossary is provided below, but additional terms can be added as needed.

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK): Knowledge that is held by, and unique to Aboriginal peoples. It is a living body of knowledge that is cumulative and dynamic and adapted over time to reflect changes in the social, economic, environmental, spiritual and political spheres of the Aboriginal knowledge holders. It often includes knowledge about the land and its resources, spiritual beliefs, language, mythology, culture, laws, customs and medicines.

Abundance: Number of individuals in a stock or a population.

Age Composition: Proportion of individuals of different ages in a stock or in the catches.

Biomass: total weight of all individuals in a stock or a population.

By-catch: The unintentional catch of one species when the target is another.

Communal Commercial Licence: Licence issued to Aboriginal organizations pursuant to the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations for participation in the general commercial fishery.

Conservation Harvesting Plan (CHP): Fishing plans submitted by all gear sectors which identify harvesting methods aimed at minimizing the harvest of small fish and by-catch of groundfish.

Dockside Monitoring Program (DMP): A monitoring program that is conducted by a company that has been designated by the Department, which verifies the species composition and landed weight of all fish landed from a commercial fishing vessel.

Ecosystem-Based Management: Taking into account of species interactions and the interdependencies between species and their habitats when making resource management decisions.

Fishing Effort: Quantity of effort using a given fishing gear over a given period of time.

Fishing Mortality: Death caused by fishing, often symbolized by the Mathematical symbol F.

Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC): A fishery conducted by Aboriginal groups for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

Groundfish: Species of fish living near the bottom such as cod, haddock, halibut and flatfish.

Landings: Quantity of a species caught and landed.

Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY): Largest average catch that can continuously be taken from a stock.

Natural Mortality: Mortality due to natural causes, symbolized by the mathematical symbol M.

Observer Coverage: When a licence holder is required to carry an officially recognized observer onboard their vessel for a specific period of time to verify the amount of fish caught, the area in which it was caught and the method by which it was caught.

Pelagic: A pelagic species, such as herring, lives in midwater or close to the surface.

Population: Group of individuals of the same species, forming a breeding unit, and sharing a habitat.

Precautionary Approach: Set of agreed cost-effective measures and actions, including future courses of action, which ensures prudent foresight, reduces or avoids risk to the resource, the environment, and the people, to the extent possible, taking explicitly into account existing uncertainties and the potential consequences of being wrong.

Quota: Portion of the total allowable catch that a unit such as vessel class, country, etc. is permitted to take from a stock in a given period of time.

Recruitment: Amount of individuals becoming part of the exploitable stock e.g. that can be caught in a fishery.

Research Survey: Survey at sea, on a research vessel, allowing scientists to obtain information on the abundance and distribution of various species and/or collect oceanographic data. Ex: bottom trawl survey, plankton survey, hydroacoustic survey, etc.

Species at Risk Act (SARA): The Act is a federal government commitment to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct and secure the necessary actions for their recovery. It provides the legal protection of wildlife species and the conservation of their biological diversity.

Stock: Describes a population of individuals of one species found in a particular area, and is used as a unit for fisheries management. Ex: NAFO area 4R herring.

Stock Assessment: Scientific evaluation of the status of a species belonging to a same stock within a particular area in a given time period.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC): The amount of catch that may be taken from a stock.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK): A cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment.

Tonne: Metric tonne, which is 1000kg or 2204.6lbs.

Validation: The verification, by an observer, of the weight of fish landed.

Vessel Size: Length overall

Appendix 1: Stock Assessment Results (multi-year only)

Appendix 2: Management Measures for the Duration of the Plan (multi-year only)

Appendix 3: Enforcement Measures for Duration of the Plan (multi-year only)

Appendix 4: Post-Season Review

Appendix 5: Departmental contact(s)

Appendix 6: Safety at Sea

Appendix 7: Map of Fishing Area


Footnote 1

In most fisheries managed by DFO, there is an advisory committee comprised of representatives from the various sectors of the fishery. The role of this group is to provide input on management strategies proposed by DFO and to serve as a consultative body for fishers. Under the IFMP process, transparency and openness are paramount. Therefore, the committee structure may need to be redefined to ensure that the committee adequately represents the various interests in the fishery. Provisions to consult with other concerned stakeholders (i.e. provinces, non-profit organizations) may also have to be made. Integrated Ocean Management fora (e.g., stakeholder advisory bodies and regional coordinating committees) provide a potential governance structure for this.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

A Framework for Socio-Economic Analysis to Inform Integrated Fisheries Management Plans and Fish Harvest Decisions.   Policy Sector, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, DRAFT, April 2008.

Return to footnote 2 referrer