How we review projects

The Fisheries Protection Program (FPP) seeks to maintain the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries and is the Departmental lead for the administration of the fisheries protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.

The FPP is responsible for the review of proposed works, undertakings and activities that may affect fish and fish habitat, and ensure compliance with the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.

a) Proponent self-assessment

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) encourages all project proponents to avoid and mitigate the impacts of their projects to fish. Proponents are directed through a self-assessment process on the Projects Near Water page, which provides common measures and best practices to avoid and reduce impacts to fish and fish habitat. Proponents who can avoid or mitigate impacts do not require further review from DFO.

b) Regulatory review

Proponents who determine through the self-assessment process that they cannot avoid or mitigate impacts to fish and fish habitat, are to submit a Request for Review to their region's Fisheries Protection Program office. DFO considers the project plans to determine the project's likely impacts on fish and fish habitat. DFO works with the proponent to find any additional ways to reduce those impacts. If the proponent can design and plan their project so that serious harm to fish is unlikely to occur, a Fisheries Act authorization is not required.

c) Authorization

If serious harm to fish will likely result from a project, proponents are required to submit an Application for Authorization, including detailed information about their project and potential impacts on fish and fish habitat.

The Authorization includes terms and conditions the proponent must follow to avoid, mitigate, offset (i.e. counterbalance impacts), and monitor the serious harm to fish resulting from the project. As part of the 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act, failure to abide by these terms and conditions became a contravention of the Act. The Fisheries Act now outlines minimum and maximum financial penalties for contraventions, depending on the circumstances, and fines collected are directed to the Environmental Damages Fund for use to enhance the conservation and protection of Canada's fisheries resources.

If Fisheries Act or Species at Risk Act regulatory decisions have the potential to adversely affect Aboriginal or Treaty rights, DFO consults with potentially affected Indigenous peoples and applies measures to minimize adverse impacts on Aboriginal or Treaty Rights, as appropriate.

The role of proponents

Proponents of proposed development activities taking place in or near water which may adversely affect fish or fish habitat should:

  • understand the types of impacts their projects are likely to cause;
  • take measures to avoid and mitigate impacts to the extent possible; and
  • request Authorization from the Minister and abide by the conditions of any such Authorization, when it is not possible to avoid and mitigate impacts of projects that are likely to cause serious harm to fish.

Furthermore, proponents are required to ensure that their proposed projects conform to all other statutory requirements (e.g. other federal and provincial legislation, as applicable).

The role of enforcement

Enforcement of the fisheries protection provisions is carried out by the Conservation and Protection Directorate.  Fishery Officers across Canada conduct regular patrols on the land, on the sea and in the air to monitor compliance with legislation and regulations regarding the conservation of fisheries resources and fisheries habitat. Enforcement decisions are taken in situations of non-compliance.

The role of science

Robust science forms the basis of the Fisheries Protection Program's evidence-based decision making. DFO's science sector is a key partner of the Fisheries Protection Program, providing scientific advice to support the development of policy and guidance, as well as regulatory decisions about proposed development projects.