Permitting under the Species at Risk Act

Determine if you need to obtain a permit for your project in areas where aquatic species at risk are present and learn how to apply.

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Determine if you need approval

You’ll need approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada if you want to undertake an activity that affects a Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibited aquatic species, such as:

  • fish
  • shellfish
  • crustaceans
  • marine animals
  • marine plants

See our aquatic species at risk maps to determine where SARA-listed aquatic species or critical habitat occurs.

Contact Environment and Climate Change Canada if your activity affects other species at risk, including:

  • frogs
  • seabirds
  • freshwater turtles, reptiles and plants

SARA prohibitions

The SARA contains several prohibitions to protect species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA. Under Sections 32 and 33 of SARA, it is an offence to:

  • kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under SARA
  • possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual (or any part or derivative of such an individual) of a species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under SARA
  • damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of a listed endangered, threatened or extirpated species if a recovery strategy has recommended its reintroduction into the wild in Canada

SARA also contains provisions that prohibit the destruction of any part of the critical habitat of listed aquatic species (section 58(1)). Critical habitat is:

  • the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of the species
  • identified and described in the recovery strategy or action plan for that species

The SARA prohibitions don’t apply to species listed as special concern.

SARA permitting conditions

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans may authorize an activity that would otherwise be prohibited under SARA if your activity is at least 1 of the following:

  • scientific research relating to the conservation of the species and being conducted by qualified persons
  • benefiting the species or required to enhance the species’ chance of survival in the wild
  • incidentally affecting the species (its purpose is not to affect the species)

As well, the Minister must be of the opinion that all 3 of the following conditions are met:

  1. all reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered and the best solution has been adopted
  2. all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals
  3. the activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species

Projects near water program

You’ll require approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada if:

  • you’re planning activities that are prohibited under Sections 32, 33, and 58(1) of SARA
  • you meet the SARA permitting conditions

Approval can take the form of a:

  • SARA permit
  • Fisheries Act Authorization
  • fishing licence that contains conditions for the protection of aquatic species at risk

Construction or development projects near water

If you’re undertaking a construction or development project in or near fish habitat that may contain aquatic species at risk, review our information for projects near water.

These projects include:

  • construction, repairs and maintenance of:
    • bridges
    • causeways
    • culverts
  • activities related to cottage, boating and recreation, such as docks and beaches
  • harbours and marine commercial activities
  • drainage, flooding and erosion control, stormwater and wastewater management
  • water level and flow management

We can review your project to determine whether it will impact an aquatic species at risk.

We can also review your project to determine if your activity can result in the death of fish and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. If it will, your project will also need authorization under the Fisheries Act.

Follow the steps under the projects near water review to determine if you need to request a project review.

Scientific research or other projects affecting species at risk

You’ll need to apply for a SARA permit if your project is:

  • scientific research on or affecting aquatic species at risk
  • response, rescue or salvage of threatened or endangered marine animals
  • another project that is not a construction or development project, such as fish survey or monitoring activities
  • environmental/habitat restoration or enhancement activities, other than offsetting projects associated with authorizations under paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act

How to apply for a SARA permit

To apply for a SARA permit, download the application form and instructions:

You should submit your application form at least 90 days before you plan to begin work. The permitting process is governed by the Permits Authorizing an Activity Affecting Listed Wildlife Species Regulations. Under these regulations, we’re normally required to make a decision on your permit application within 90 days of notifying you that your application has been received.

To avoid delays, provide as much information as possible to demonstrate how your proposed activity meets the SARA conditions. We’ll notify you if additional information is required.

We’ll consider permits on a case-by-case basis. The decision whether or not to authorize the activity will take into account, among other things, the impacts of the activity on the survival and recovery of the species.

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