ish need healthy places to live, feed and reproduce. The places that supply fish with their requirements for food, shelter, water, reproduction and growth over their life cycle are called fish habitat. For most fish species, these activities usually occur in nearshore areas. Lakes, reservoirs, rivers, streams, marshes, wetlands, canals, drains, and even hay meadows under water can sustain fish life. If you own or lease waterfront property, or are working on a project in or near water, the area along your shoreline is important for fish habitat.
This introductory fact sheet in the Working Around Water? series describes the different authorities to contact and the legislation that may apply in your province for works occuring in and around water.
The Working Around Water? series of fact sheets provide information on fish habitat to assist you in the planning and approvals processes necessary for different types of work projects and more detailed general information that may affect fish habitat. The fact sheets also outline best practices for common waterfront projects, such as boat house and dock construction, building beaches, controlling aquatic plants, dredging, shoreline construction, erosion control and shoreline restoration.
Whatever your project, our fact sheets can help by explaining who to contact and how to undertake it in a way that is environmentally sound. You can help safeguard the fish in your lake or river and protect fish habitat along your waterfront by carefully planning work projects.
To ensure that fish habitat is protected, your local provincial regulatory authority(ies), Parks Canada Agency (PCA) sites and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) all have legal requirements you should be aware of before you start your work project. These requirements may affect how you should proceed with any planned projects in and around water.
For most work projects, you must obtain work permits as required under provincial and federal legislation. Additionally, the federal Fisheries Act provides for the protection of fish habitat. Under the Fisheries Act, no one may carry out any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat (HADD), unless this HADD has been authorized by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Fisheries Act authorizations may also be required if your project involves blasting in or near water, killing fish by means other than fishing, or creating a barrier to fish migration. Only the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada can authorize these activities. The Act also states that no one is permitted to deposit a deleterious (harmful) substance into water containing fish.
For more details on Fisheries Act authorizations, please see the brochures: What the Law Requires, and Guidelines for Attaining No Net Loss, prepared by DFO. These brochures provide information about the kinds of activities that could adversely affect fish and fish habitat, and explain your responsibilities under the Fisheries Act.
In some instances, additional approvals may be required. For example, some docks may need to be approved by the DFO - Canadian Coast Guard due to navigation concerns under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
The process can take a while so you should apply for approvals early!
Whether applying for provincial or federal work permits or approvals, you will be asked for specific information about your proposed work project. The project can be assessed and approved more efficiently when accurate and detailed information is provided. Therefore, always be sure to include the following basic information with your application:
For larger or more complex projects, additional information may be
required to properly assess the project, such as:
A site visit by agency staff will often be necessary to assess your application.
You may require a work permit from the provincial regulatory authority(ies). This (these) permit(s) must be obtained before you start any work. Depending on where the project will be undertaken, your application will be reviewed by the provincial regulatory authority(ies) in that area or you will be advised of the appropriate agency to contact. The provincial legislations that apply in Ontario are described on the last page.
Work permits may include conditions, such as the time of year when your work can be done. Read your permit carefully. If you cannot comply with all the conditions, you should not begin the work. Contact your provincial regulatory authority(ies) staff immediately for assistance.
In those situations where a work permit is not necessary, we suggest you carefully follow the best management practices provided in our fact sheets to ensure that fish habitat will be protected.
Federally, several pieces of legislation exist to safeguard fish habitat and protect public rights. These include:
The Fisheries Act
A number of sections of the Fisheries Act may apply when planning a work project in and around water. Among these, section 35 of the Act states that no one may carry out work that may cause a HADD unless authorized by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Also, no one may deposit a deleterious (harmful) substance in water frequented by fish (section 36).
Violations to the Act can result in substantial fines and/or risk of imprisonment. If found guilty, then the violator may also be required to cover the costs of restoring the habitat at the site and/or be required to fulfill other court ordered remedies. An authorization is required before undertaking any work that may cause a HADD.
The Historic Canals Regulations and the National Parks Act
The protection of natural and cultural resources is an important objective of the Historic Canals, while protection of ecological integrity takes precedence in managing the natural and cultural resources of Canada's National Parks.
The beds of the lakes, rivers, streams and other water bodies within these sites are owned and administered by Parks Canada on behalf of Canadians. Therefore, projects or works in or directly adjacent to waters on these federal lands are to be referred to Parks Canada for their review and approval.
The Navigable Waters Protection Act
If your project may create an impediment to boat navigation, it may have to be reviewed by DFO - Canadian Coast Guard.
Burlington District Office|
304-3027 Harvester Road
P.O. Box 85060
Burlington, ON L7R 4K3
E-mail: referrals.burlington@ dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Parry Sound District Office|
28 Waubeek Street
Parry Sound, ON P2A 1B9
E-mail: referrals.parrysound@ dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Peterborough District Office|
501 Towerhill Road, Unit 102
Peterborough, ON K9H 7S3
E-mail: referrals.peterborough@ dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Prescott District Office|
401 King Street West
Prescott, ON K0E 1T0
Tel: 613-925-2865, ext. 120
E-mail: referrals.prescott@ dfo-mpo.gc.ca
London District Office|
73 Meg Drive
Sault Ste. Marie District Office|
1219 Queen Street East
Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 2E5
E-mail: referrals.saultstemarie@ dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Sudbury District Office|
1500 Paris Street, Unit 1
Sudbury, ON P3E 3B8
E-mail: referrals.sudbury@ dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Thunder Bay & Kenora District
Thunder Bay Office
This series of fact sheets has been developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), together with its partners in Ontario, the Conservation Authorities, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Parks Canada, as a tool to provide necessary information on environmentally sound practices for common waterfront projects.
To view the complete list of Working Around Water? Fact Sheets and other Fisheries and Oceans Canada publications available, visit our web site at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/habitat/habitat-eng.htm and choose the "nfocentre" option followed by "Guidelines & Factsheets".
The Public Lands Act
The beds of most lakes, rivers and streams are legally public land in Ontario. A work permit is usually needed before proceeding with any work project involving these areas. Even activities such as dredging and filling, that will occur in nearshore areas on private land, may require a work permit.
The Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act
Changing the water flow on your property can affect Ontario's fish and wildlife. A work permit is required for any activity that increases the flow, holds back or diverts water.
The Conservation Authorities Act
Individual watershed-based conservation authorities are empowered to administer resource conservation programs in partnership with municipalities and the province of Ontario. Work permits may be required for activities related to filling, construction and alteration to waterways in flood plain areas.
Start by contacting one of the following agencies in your area:
Whatever agency you contact first, whether it is your local CA, OMNR or PCA office, they can help you determine which requirements apply to your specific project. The provincial regulatory authority(ies) in your area will guide you through the process of obtaining all necessary approvals required under provincial and federal legislation. They can also help you select the best methods to undertake your project in a way that is safe for the environment.
For an electronic copy of the Drain, Dock or Shore Primer, visit the Fisheries and Oceans Canada web site below and choose the "Infocentre" option followed by "Guidelines & Factsheets".
A goal of fisheries management programs is to achieve a net gain in fish habitat. You can help accomplish this goal by working with agency staff to ensure that fish populations in our lakes, rivers and streams are sustained for future generations.
What you should know about Fish Habitat
C-1 Fish Habitat & Docks, Boathouses and Boat Launches
C-2 Fish Habitat & Building a Beach
C-3 Fish Habitat & Building Materials
C-4 Fish Habitat & Shoreline Stabilization
C-5 Fish Habitat & Constructing Ponds
I-1 Fish Habitat & Dredging
I-2 Fish Habitat & Controlling Aquatic Plants
I-3 Fish Habitat & Sunken Log Retrieval
I-4 Fish Habitat & Stream Cleanup
L-1 Obtaining a Fisheries Act Authorization
L-2 Municipal Drains in the Southern Ontario Region
T-1 Fish Habitat and the Effects of Silt and Sediment
T-2 Fish Habitat & Fluctuating Water Levels on the Great Lakes