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Canada and United States cooperate on marine aquaculture

Canada and the United States are committed to responsible aquaculture that supports jobs in coastal and rural communities on both sides of the border. Ensuring that the environmental impacts of marine net pen aquaculture on fish habitat, water quality, and wild fish populations are minimized is of significant importance to both governments.

The completion of the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Aquaculture Work Plan is a significant accomplishment for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) as part of the Government of Canada’s interest in bilateral regulatory alignment and cooperation with the U.S.

The RCC is a high-level initiative that seeks to increase regulatory coordination and transparency between Canada and the U.S., while promoting economic growth and job creation for the benefit of both countries.

Both countries recognize that their regulatory regimes for net pen aquaculture, while different in design, lead to similar outcomes. This is important for Canada and the U.S. as it demonstrates that both countries have confidence in how the other manages net pen aquaculture.

As a result of Canada-United States RCC work, a joint study report was produced on the regulatory regimes for net pen aquaculture in Canada and the United States. The report found our regulatory regimes for net pen aquaculture to be similar in design, with both regimes leading to the production of healthy and sustainable farmed salmon while protecting wild fisheries and the aquatic environment. To receive an accessible copy of this report from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, email us at AMD-DGGA.XNCR@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

A report on Regulatory Development Initiatives for Offshore Aquaculture in the United States was also completed.

DFO and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made a commitment to continue with regular bilateral discussions on aquaculture now that RCC work is complete. This will help to increase collaboration to protect North America’s aquatic environment and fish health, and facilitate the mutual exchange of knowledge and expertise on aquaculture.

Background

Building on the existing bilateral relationship and expertise in both countries, DFO and NOAA undertook greater cooperation in the environmental management of the marine net pen aquaculture sector under four specific work streams between 2015 and 2018:

  1. Comparison of regulatory environmental management objectives and outcomes for net-pen aquaculture;
  2. Cooperation on farmed and wild fish interactions;
  3. Cooperation on regulatory development initiatives for offshore aquaculture; and,
  4. Evaluation of the feasibility, as well as costs and benefits, of a joint-statement on the equivalence of Canada and United States of America regulatory programs.

DFO Aquaculture Management Directorate and NOAA Office of Aquaculture are the lead organizations for the DFO-NOAA aquaculture regulatory partnership and each worked in partnership with their relevant national and sub-national regulatory departments and agencies, as necessary, to further the collaboration.

Improved regulatory cooperation between DFO and NOAA supports continued sustainable aquaculture development in both countries, as well as ensures that aquaculture regulatory reform is aligned to the extent practicable as both countries improve overall environmental management of the sector.

Since the beginning of this arrangement, DFO and NOAA met regularly in Canada and the United States of America to review this Technical Work Plan with the aim of capturing emerging trends in the industry. With the concurrence of the co-chairs of the Aquaculture Regulatory Cooperation Committee, the Technical Work Plan aimed to foster greater cooperation in the environmental management of the marine aquaculture sector. DFO and NOAA met with Canadian aquaculture industry members in May 2016 and provided updates on progress made on the Technical Work Plan, including the draft reports under Work Streams A and B.

Canadian aquaculture industry expressed interest in the assessment of 3rd party certification standards and industry codes of practice as additional work item for consideration under the RCC. DFO managed this request outside the scope of work under the RCC.

As indicated in the Joint Forward Plan, this Technical Work Plan is not intended to create binding obligations under domestic or international law. In addition, meeting the targeted deadlines in this Technical Work Plan is subject to overall support from the executive branch of government in both countries, as well as the availability of appropriations, personnel and other resources.

Work stream A

DFO and NOAA compared regulatory environmental management objectives and outcomes for the aquaculture sector in both countries.

DFO and NOAA share similar environmental management objectives for aquaculture, namely to ensure that living marine resources and their habitats are protected using mitigation, monitoring and compliance approaches that are efficient, effective and commensurate with the potential risk to the environment.

This work was used to evaluate the feasibility, as well as costs and benefits, of developing a joint-statement on the equivalence of Canadian and American regulatory programs for net-pen aquaculture under Work Stream D.

Initiative and sub-deliverables

Dates   

Comparison of regulatory environmental management objectives and outcomes for net-pen aquaculture

2015-2017

Identify working group co-leads

Completed

Establish full membership of working group

Completed

Draft terms of reference for working group

Completed

Draft detailed work plan for working group

Completed

Comparability assessment of regulatory environmental management objectives and outcomes for net-pen aquaculture (Draft Report)

Completed

Review, ensure accuracy, and synthesize the comparability assessment report

Completed

Annual working group meeting involving DFO and NOAA aquaculture co-leads, share information on the comparability assessment, and discuss next steps including broader dissemination

Completed

Work stream B

DFO and NOAA collaborated on management approaches that address farmed to wild fish interactions as they relate to genetic interactions and pathogens.

In order to ensure effective management of the marine aquaculture sector, it is necessary to consider the potential environmental impacts of farmed and wild fish interactions and take appropriate management actions. DFO and NOAA are particularly interested in genetic and pathogen related effects of farmed to wild fish interactions.

Ultimately, cooperation on farmed to wild fish interactions will support the sustainable development of the aquaculture sector in Canada and the United States of America.

Initiatives and sub-deliverables

Dates   

Initiative 1: Cooperation on farmed and wild fish interactions

2016

Comparability assessment of escape/containment regulatory measures (Draft Report)

Completed

Comparability assessment of aquaculture siting decisions (Draft Report)

Completed

Comparability assessment of area management approaches (Draft Report)

Completed

Comparability assessment of overall regulatory risk assessment framework for potential genetic interactions and potential pathogen transfers (Draft Report)

Completed

Review, ensure accuracy, and synthesize comparability reports

Completed

At annual working group meeting, including DFO and NOAA aquaculture co-leads, share information on comparability assessments and discuss next steps including broader dissemination

Completed

Initiative 2: Identification of potential areas for regulatory alignment on management of farmed and wild fish interactions

2018

Exploration of areas for cooperation on escape management and codes of containment

Completed

Work stream C

DFO and NOAA collaborated on regulatory aspects for offshore aquaculture with the goal of advancing development of offshore aquaculture in each country. For purposes of this work, offshore aquaculture refers to open ocean aquaculture in exposed areas of federally managed waters of each country’s exclusive economic zone.

Globally, offshore aquaculture is being explored as the new paradigm in marine aquaculture. Siting aquaculture facilities in deeper waters that are farther away from the coast can potentially reduce environmental impacts and conflicts with other coastal users.

Currently, all marine aquaculture operations in Canada are located in coastal waters. In the United States of America, most marine aquaculture operations occur in coastal waters, with a limited number of offshore aquaculture sites.

The United States of America has been working on regulatory frameworks to enable offshore aquaculture in federal waters. Several new permits for offshore aquaculture in federal waters were issued in 2014 and early 2015. However, economic, scientific, regulatory, and social challenges remain for the industry to reach its full potential. Though Canada has advanced in developing regulatory measures and tools for managing environmental impacts associated with coastal aquaculture, a regulatory regime for offshore aquaculture has not yet been developed. Work Stream C will provide an opportunity for Canada to examine the American regulatory framework for offshore aquaculture and possibly enable alignment of Canada’s future offshore aquaculture development to the American framework.

Initiative and sub-deliverables

Dates   

Cooperation on regulatory development initiatives for offshore aquaculture                      

2017

Inventory of regulatory development initiatives of offshore aquaculture management

Completed

Identification of regulatory tools and challenges moving forward

Completed

Work stream D

Given the results from work done under Work Streams A and B, it can be seen that both countries share similar environmental management objectives, namely to ensure that living marine resources and their habitats are protected using mitigation, monitoring and compliance approaches that are efficient, effective and commensurate with the potential risk to the environment. Both Canada and the United States of America are concerned about the environmental impacts of potential farmed to wild fish interactions and the need to take appropriate management actions.

From this work, DFO and NOAA evaluated the feasibility of a joint statement on the equivalence of Canadian and American regulatory regimes for marine finfish net pen aquaculture based on the findings from Work Streams A and B.

Planned initiative and sub-deliverables

Targeted dates   

Evaluation of the feasibility, as well as costs and benefits, of a joint-statement on the equivalence of Canada and United States of America regulatory programs

2018

Annual working group meeting involving DFO and NOAA aquaculture co-leads, use information on comparability assessments from Work Streams A and B to discuss the feasibility of a equivalence statement.

Completed

Completed work

All joint DFO-NOAA work under the RCC Aquaculture Work Plan is complete. The completion of the RCC Aquaculture Work Plan is a significant accomplishment for DFO as part of the Government of Canada’s interest in bilateral regulatory alignment and cooperation with the U.S.

Final deliverables

Completion date

Evaluation of the feasibility, as well as costs and benefits, of a joint-statement on the equivalence of Canada and United States of America regulatory programs

December 2017

Joint Study Report on Regulatory Regimes for Net Pen Aquaculture (for an accessible copy, email AMD-DGGA.XNCR@dfo-mpo.gc.ca)

April 2018

Report on Regulatory Initiatives for Offshore Aquaculture in the United States

April 2018

Statement Regarding Ongoing Canada - United States Regulatory Cooperation on Aquaculture

April 2018

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