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Using and interpreting aquaculture data: 2. Regulatory framework

2. Regulatory framework

Fisheries and Oceans is the federal lead in ensuring sustainable aquaculture management across the country under the Fisheries Act. This includes jurisdictions where provincial governments have responsibilities in leasing or licensing for aquaculture facilities. For more information on federal and provincial/territorial responsibilities as they relate to aquaculture visit our Laws, regulations and policies page.

The main regulatory tools employed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in collecting aquaculture data include the:

  1. Aquaculture Activities Regulations, which apply nationally to aquaculture facilities that deposit harmful substances into fish-bearing waters
  2. Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, which apply solely to aquaculture activities in British Columbia

The Aquaculture Activities Regulations were developed to clarify what’s legal when operating an aquaculture facility, such as the installation, operation, maintenance or removal of an aquaculture facility.

The Regulations also cover use of products regulated by Health Canada under the Pest Control Products Act or the Food and Drugs Act. They call for facilities to choose safe products, manage the risks of using certain substances and consider alternatives.

The Aquaculture Activities Regulations apply to marine and freshwater finfish (including hatcheries), and shellfish facilities in Canada that have:

  • a provincial or federal licence
  • the potential to:
    • deposit harmful substances into fish-bearing waters
    • cause serious harm to fish that are part of:
      • a commercial, recreational or Indigenous fishery or fish that support those fisheries

The regulations:

  • impose specific environmental monitoring and reporting requirements
  • give specific restrictions for avoiding, minimizing and managing potential risks to fish and fish habitat
  • measure the impact of organic and inorganic matter on fish and fish habitat
  • require aquaculture owners or operators to submit:
    • annual reports to the DFO minister on their activities
    • different notifications to comply with conditions of the regulation

In addition to the annual report, aquaculture facility owners or operators must submit notifications:

  • at least 72 hours before a deposit of a pest control product
  • 14 days after sampling if they go over environmental thresholds
    • in this case you can’t restock until sampling results return to accepted levels
  • within 96 hours after the deposit of any drug or pest control treatment if you observe offsite (wild fish) morbidity or mortality

The Pacific Aquaculture Regulations provide a regulatory regime for aquaculture management in British Columbia and particular waters off the coast of British Columbia. As noted above, in other jurisdictions where there are MOUs between the province and DFO, the aquaculture facility operators provide notices as indicated above to provincial regulators as well as report other required information as per their licence conditions.

The Pacific Aquaculture Regulations:

  • require fisheries to obtain a licence to engage in aquaculture
  • outline a range of conditions that may be imposed as part of this process

These conditions include:

  • measures to manage:
    • escapes
    • impacts to:
      • sea lice
      • fish health
      • fish and fish habitat
    • incidental catch
    • predator control
    • introductions and transfers
  • monitoring requirements
  • record keeping, notification and reporting requirements

In British Columbia, details on reporting requirements and frequency under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations are contained within conditions of licence specific to each licence class. Example:

  • the licence holder must notify the Department of any marine mammal drowning mortality or entanglement (live or dead) within 24 hours of discovery, and submit a complete follow-up report within seven calendar days of the initial notification.

Taken together, the regulations provide detailed information from the aquaculture industry on a range of activities that have the potential to impact the aquatic environment.

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