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Gulf Region Molluscan Spat Collection Operational Policy

Table of Contents

December 2008


For the purposes of this policy:

means the rearing of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. The term “rearing” implies individual or corporate ownership of the organisms being reared and also implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, and protection from predators and disease.
Aquatic organisms
means an organism that lives in freshwater or marine habitats. It includes finfish, molluscs, crustaceans, echinoderms and other invertebrates, as defined in the Fisheries Act, at any stage in its life cycle, as well as marine and freshwater plants.
Bottom culture
means a method of culture in which a protected area of sea bed is used for the grow-out of molluscs (e.g. oysters, mussels).
means an area designated for exclusive use by the leaseholder for aquaculture purposes.
Lease species
refers to a species authorised to be reared on an aquaculture lease.
Molluscan shellfish aquaculture
means the techniques used for the culture of edible molluscs (oysters, mussels, soft-shell calms, hard-shell clams, and scallops).
Off-bottom Culture
means a method of culture that uses tables and supports which elevate the bivalves from the bottom.
Sea ranching
means a system of extensive culture of marine animals, in which juveniles are released to forage and grow in their natural environment until they are harvested.
Spat (Seed)
means bivalve molluscan larvae shortly after set until time of removal from the collectors (e.g. oyster, mussel, scallop spat). Spat size normally ranges between 5 and 25 mm depending on species and the number of months spat remained on the collector.
Spat collection
means the collection of bivalve molluscan spat (e.g. oysters, mussels, scallops) in which artificial substrates (collector or cultch) are placed in the water column for the attachment of spat as the pediveliger larvae settle on hard surfaces to become sessile juvenile molluscs. Mussel spat may also be collected by hand or with handheld tools in natural beds. Bottom-based collection is mainly used for soft shell clam. Mechanical devices that fluidize and sieve the sediment or structures such as “clam tents” or other mesh devices on the sediment surface which encourage settlement by increasing local deposition are used for soft shell clam spat collection.
Spat Collection Licence
means a licence or a written permission that authorises the licence holder to collect bivalve molluscs spat.
Suspended culture (Water Column)
means a method of culture that uses longlines, rafts or other structures which allow the grow-out of bivalves in the water column.


The Gulf Region Molluscan Spat Collection Operational Policy has been designed to complement and be consistent with the National Policy on Access to Wild Aquatic Resources as it applies to Aquaculture. Molluscan shellfish growers will have predictable, equitable and timely access to molluscan spat.


The objectives of this policy are:


This policy applies exclusively to the direct access to wild molluscan spat for aquaculture purposes. It does not cover the purchase of molluscan spat from authorized growers or fishers, access to spat, juveniles and broodstock for scientific purposes or in the pre-commercial phase of aquaculture, or commercial hatchery spat production.


Molluscan shellfish aquaculture in the Gulf Region is highly dependent on the collection of wild spat to sustain a reliable and cost-effective source of seedstock. Access to wild aquatic resources is essential to ensure the long-term stability of spat supply and the future sustainability of the molluscan shellfish aquaculture industry.

A policy is required to:

Legislative Authority

Molluscan spat collection is considered as a fishery under the Fisheries Act and requires the issuance of a spat collection licence for certain on-lease activities and for all off-lease operations.

No authorization is necessary for the collection of lease species spat on a suspended culture lease or for by catch of wild shellfish of lease species on lease.

Licences for off-lease spat collection in an approved area will be issued for suspended spat collection under section 4 and for bottom spat collection under section 7(1) of the Fisheries Act. Section 4 states that “Nothing in this Act precludes the granting by the Minister of written permission to obtain fish for purposes of stocking or artificial breeding or for scientific purposes.” while section 7 (1) states that “Subject to subsection (2), the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, wherever the exclusive right of fishing does not already exist by law, issue or authorize to be issued leases and licences for fisheries or fishing, wherever situated of carried on.”

Licences for spat collection in areas closed by prohibition orders will be issued under section 4(1) of the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations, which states: “Subject to subsection (2), on application and payment by a person of the appropriate fee set out in the table to this subsection, the Minister may issue the person a licence authorizing the person and any other person named in the licence to fish in any area in respect of which an order is issued under subsection 3(1), for any species specified in that order.”

Identification of Spat Collection Sites, Collector (Gear) Type and Numbers

In their applications, the applicants are responsible for clearly identifying the sites being proposed for spat collection, collector (gear) type and numbers, as required on the application form. DFO will work closely with the provinces, the aquaculture industry and other stakeholders as required to identify spat collection sites that will minimize potential conflicts with other users.


Individual or corporate lease holders, Aboriginal communities, fishers’ groups interested in sea ranching projects, scallop bonafide fishers and oyster, mussel and clam coastal fishers are eligible for spat collection licences. Out-of-province spat collection applications will be accepted if the applicant holds an aquaculture lease in the province where the spat collection is to occur.

Spat collection can be authorized in closed shellfish growing areas, provided the application is in compliance with Chapter 12 of the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) Manual of Operations. It is important to note that on Prince Edward Island, applications for mussel spat collection are only accepted under the following conditions: (1) closed shellfish growing areas or (2) mussel spat licences on off-bottom oyster leases approved prior to December 31, 2006.

Licence Fees

The fees for spat collection licences vary depending on whether the activity takes place in a closed area or an open area.

Licences issued under section 4 or 7(1) of the Fisheries Act, in an open area, will be at no cost to the applicant in accordance with the fee structure set in part I, section 5, column II of the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations.

Holders of licenses for spat collection in closed areas are required to pay licence fees to the Crown. As prescribed by the fee structure, the fee for spat collection licences issued under section 4(1) of the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations will be $100, plus $20 for each person named in the licence other than the licence holder.

Leasing of aquaculture on PEI is carried out under a joint DFO/Province/Industry leasing authority known as the PEI Aquaculture Leasing Management Board (ALMB). In the province, the review of the shellfish spat collection applications is carried out by the PEI Aquaculture Lease Referral Committee. An administration fee of $200 per application has been set by the PEI ALMB. In the 1980’s, an aquaculture zoning Policy for the waters of PEI was developed following extensive consultations. The zoning regime sets out which areas are open for bottom culture, surface culture and those which would be closed to aquaculture development.

Authorization Categories

Category 1 – No authorization required

A spat collection licence application is not required when the activity targets a lease species and prior authorization for suspended culture has been obtained.

Category 2 – Collection licence

Authorization for collection of lease species spat on a bottom culture lease or off lease will be subject to the spat collection licence application review process. Spat collection licences will not be authorized on aquaculture leases to persons other than the lease holder unless prior authorization has been given in writing by the lease holder.

Application Procedure

A paper copy of the spat collection application forms may be obtained by visiting one of our local offices or by downloading an electronic copy from our website:

Licence applications for spat collection in closed areas will require a decontamination plan. An example of a decontamination plan is provided in Appendix 4.

Completed spat collection licence applications should be submitted to a Licensing Service Centre in the Gulf Region. You will find the contact information for these Centres in Appendix 5.

Applications will be evaluated according to the criteria identified below and on the basis of existing spat collection practices or an aquaculture management plan, if there is one in place for the proposed area.

Application Review Process and Evaluation Considerations

Spat collection licence applications will be subject to a detailed review by DFO Area Office. In PEI, spat collection licence applications are reviewed by the PEI Aquaculture Leasing Referral Committee. Recommendations are then forwarded to the Chief, Resource Management for consideration. DFO then issues licences.

It is necessary to plan and apply a strategy in order to minimize conflicts between the aquaculture industry and other established users or traditional competitors for marine space (fishery, tourism, maritime transport, etc.). Spat collection applications will be evaluated by DFO according to the following considerations:

1.0 Site Selection

1.1 Water Depth

1.2 Water Quality

1.3 Proximity to Other Fisheries/Other Leases

1.4 Environmental Impact

2.0 User Conflicts

2.1 Shipping and Navigation

Site markings will be given special consideration in the application examination and in the establishment of licence conditions to promote better molluscan shellfish grower line identification and navigation safety.

2.2 Tourism and Recreation

2.3 Fisheries

2.4 Aboriginal Rights

2.5 Rights of Riparian Owners

Licence Renewal, Change of Licence Holder and Disposition of Licence(s) in Case of Death Of Licence Holder

1.0 Licence Renewal and Change of Licence Holder

Current legislation provides that spat collection licences are non-renewable and not transferable. However, the Minister in “his absolute discretion” may for administrative efficiency prescribe in policy those conditions or requirements under which he will issue a licence to a new licence holder as a “replacement” for an existing licence being relinquished.

In the issuance of spat collection licences for a particular area and particularly in the case of mussel culture, preference will be given to the licence holder who had been active the previous year in the area in question.

2.0 Disposition of Shellfish Spat Collection Licence (s) in Case of Death of Licence Holder

Where the holder of a spat collection licence dies, a replacement licence may be issued to the estate up to five years. During the five-year period referred to under subsection (3), the shellfish spat collection licence must be renewed annually. For the purpose of renewing a shellfish spat collection licence or issuing a replacement licence to a new shellfish spat collection licence holder, the executor or the legally appointed administrator must sign any related documents.

Validity Period of Licences

Spat collection licences will be issued for a maximum period of one year. For oyster spat collection the season would be July 1 - June 30 but restrictions to the validity period may be imposed in certain off-lease spat collection areas because of conflict with other users of the area (e.g. fishing activities). For mussel spat collection the season would be May 1 - April 30.

Introductions and Transfers of Molluscan Shellfish

Molluscan shellfish spat collection licence holders must be aware that the movement of spat between provinces must be in accordance with the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms (September 2003). Spat transfers between provinces are not authorized unless the state of health of the animal has been verified and a duly authorized license to release or transfer fish has been issued under section 56 of the Fisheries (General) Regulations. Similar requirements may also be applicable between certain bodies of water, even they are located within the same province, to minimise the risk of propagation of diseases or invasive species.

More detailed information is available from Resource Management staff at the DFO Area Office or from the DFO website.

Transport Canada - Navigable Water Protection Program (TC-NWPP)

Shellfish spat collection is considered a “work” under the terms of the Navigable Water Protection Act (NWPA). The Navigable Waters Protection Program (NWPP) is guided by the NWPA and its regulations and administered by the Minister of Transport. Proponents proposing the placement of spat collectors in the water must submit an application under the NWPA to Transport Canada for review and approval.

Licensing Decisions And Decision Reviews

Successful licence applicants will be notified and will then be able to obtain their licence. Applicants will also be notified in writing of the departmental decision where requests are denied. Persons who are not satisfied with a departmental decision may present additional information for consideration by Area Directors, Eastern New Brunswick and Gulf Nova Scotia. In PEI, persons who are not satisfied with the departmental decision would appeal to the Aquaculture Leasing Appeals Panel, who would make a recommendation to the Area Director.

Policy Amendment

The Policy will be subject to regular review. Consultations with stakeholders may be necessary, depending on the nature of the amendments to be made.

Appendix 1: Department of Fisheries & Oceans - Gulf Region - Spat Collection Licence Application

To obtain a copy of the report, please send an email to DFO Gulf Region at

Appendix 2: Molluscan Spat Collection Licence in an Approved Area

To obtain a copy of the report, please send an email to DFO Gulf Region at

Appendix 3: Molluscan Spat Collection Licence in a Closed Area

To obtain a copy of the report, please send an email to DFO Gulf Region at

To fill out a PDF form, you must:

  1. download it to your computer
  2. use PDF software to open it (such as, Adobe Reader or Foxit PDF)

For more information: How to download and open a PDF form

Appendix 4: Example of A Decontamination Plan for Molluscan Spat Collection

Mussel spat will be collected in growing area NB 04 030 001 – Miramichi River estuary between July 6 and September 1, 2006. The spat will be detached from the collectors, placed in nurseries and then placed on aquaculture lease MS-2038 (Map #2) between September 1 and 15, 2006 for purification purposes. The said lease is situated in approved area NB 03 040 007 – Baie de Bouctouche (Map #3). All the spat will be cultured for a minimum period of 3 years before being sold for human consumption.

Appendix 5: DFO Offices Contacts

Eastern New Brunswick Area Licensing Service Centres





North-East New Brunswick

3267 Principal Street, P.O. Box 3420, Tracadie-Sheila, N.B., E1X 1G5

(506) 395-7727

(506) 395-7746

South-East New Brunswick

9603 Route 134, Elzéar Thébeau Building, Aldouane, N.B., E4W 5J2

(506) 523-8237

(506) 523-8257

Prince Edward Island Area Licensing Service Centre

Location / Adress



P.O. Box 1236, 24 Stratford Road, Stratford, P.E.I., C1B 1T6

(902) 566-7814

(902) 566-7895

Gulf Nova Scotia Area Licensing Service Centre

Location / Adress



2920, Route 104, Antigonish, N.S., B2G 2K6

(902) 863-0533

(902) 863-0998

Regional Headquarter - Fisheries and Oceans - Gulf Region





Licensing Unit

343 Université Avenue, P.O. Box 5030, Moncton, N.B., E1C 9B6

(506) 851-7810

(506) 851-6705

Aquaculture Management Division

343 Université Avenue, P.O. Box 5030, Moncton, N.B., E1C 9B6

(506) 851-3407

(506) 851-2102


During the winter of 1999 - 2000 the Prince Edward Island Aquaculture Alliance in cooperation with the PEI Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Environment and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) met with water column and off-bottom leaseholders to develop a marking scheme that would ensure the navigational safety of all stakeholders. The development of the marking policy took into account the current boating activity (i.e. aquaculture, fisheries, recreational) in each of nineteen bays/tributaries around PEI. As a result the marking requirements detailed below were agreed upon and the industry has invested over a quarter of a million dollars to implement this new policy.

License and Lease Corners & Sides Abutting Navigational Corridors

Island water column and off-bottom leases & licenses abutting a navigational corridor will be marked with red and green colour-moulded 8" in diameter spar buoys.

The spar buoy is to be marked with “PRIV” and the lease/license number(s) in white.

A two inch (2") wide strip of retro-reflective material of the same colour (i.e. red, green) will be applied to the diameter of the spar buoy approximately 6 - 8 inches from the top.

The maximum distance between the spar buoys will be 450 metres.

Intermediate markers will be 16" diameter colour moulded red and green balls.

Intermediate markers will be placed a maximum of 100 metres apart between the spars.

No gear (i.e. scopes, screw-in anchors) will be allowed in the navigational corridor.

Lease and License Corners & Sides Not Abutting A Navigational Corridor

Where water depth will allow Island water column and off-bottom leases (not abutting a navigational corridor) and licenses will be marked with a minimum 16" diameter and 36" high (24" above water level) moulded cautionary yellow buoy or the 8" diameter cautionary yellow spar buoy. Anyone using a “home-made” plastic pipe or “can” type buoys must use the cautionary yellow colour CGSB Number 505-108.

The buoy is to be marked with a black “PRIV” and lease/license number.

A two inch (2") wide strip of retro-reflective material of the same colour (i.e. yellow) will be applied to the diameter of the spar buoy approximately 6 - 8 inches from the top.

The maximum distance between the spar buoys will be 450 metres.

Where water depth will not support a spar buoy the corners will be marked with a colour moulded precautionary yellow intermediate buoy with “PRIV” and the lease/license number applied in black. Intermediate markers will be 16" diameter colour moulded cautionary yellow balls.

Intermediate markers will be placed a maximum of 100 metres apart between the spars.

Local Access Corridors between Leases/

Local access corridors that are provided between leases/ for local boat traffic will use a colour moulded cautionary yellow 16" ball.

Maximum spacing of the balls will be 100 metres.

One corner at each end of the local access corridor will be marked with a yellow, red or green spar as applicable (i.e. where the local access corridor merges with a navigational corridor a red or green spar will be placed on one side of the corridor). Where water depth is not sufficient to float a spar a 16" ball of the appropriate colour will be used.

Minimum corridor width of 20 metres.

Gear (i.e. scopes, anchors) must be sufficiently sunken to allow safe navigation.

General Information

Lease or licence corners and the periphery of the lease or license abutting on the corridor must be marked with the red/green buoys. Lease and licence corners and those sides not abutting the navigational corridor will be marked with cautionary yellow buoys. If two leases or share a common corner only one buoy is required at the corner (with both lease and/or licence numbers displayed).

In those areas where lease or license perimeters abut no intermediate marking is required for the interior perimeter.

Off-bottom oyster leases using the table method of culturing will mark as per the standard but will also mark the perimeter of the gear on the lease with a cautionary yellow tear-drop or plug buoy.

Deployment Timeframe

Buoys will be in the water two weeks after ice out or no later than May 15th.

Buoys will be removed from the water at the earliest by November 15th or by such date as agreed to by industry in consultation with DFO (including the Canadian Coast Guard).

Notice will be given to mariners via the 1-800 Coast Guard line when buoys are adrift or being withdrawn.

When structures/obstructions are removed from the water, buoys can be removed regardless of date.

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