Role of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is the federal lead in ensuring that aquaculture is managed sustainably across the country under the Fisheries Act, including where the provincial government has a lead leasing or licensing role. The Department has a regulatory role in protecting the environment and supporting the sector’s economic prosperity. To do so, DFO creates the necessary conditions for sustainable aquaculture to occur in a way that is informed by science, guided by a vision and mandate, respects the environment, and benefits Canadians.

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Aquaculture makes a significant contribution to Canada’s economic prosperity by providing jobs, revitalizing communities, and increasing production and exports. DFO supports aquaculture’s sustainable development by ensuring that an efficient regulatory framework under the Fisheries Act is in place to govern and protect public interest while streamlining the number of regulatory authorizations required from industry.

The Department’s involvement in aquaculture is carried out by a team of regional aquaculture management offices, which are located across the country.

Regulatory role across Canada

DFO manages the sustainability of both aquaculture and wild capture fisheries under the Fisheries Act:

  • Aquaculture Activities Regulations: the Regulations clarify conditions under which aquaculture operators may treat their fish for disease and parasites, as well as deposit organic matter, and manage their facilities under sections 35 and 36 of the Fisheries Act. The Regulations also impose public reporting on the environmental performance of the sector as well as specific environmental monitoring and sampling requirements.
  • In collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, provinces and Yukon, DFO follows the National Code for Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms to assess risks associated with proposed introductions and transfers of aquatic organisms. Movements are authorized federally under Section 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations, where applicable, as well as through diverse corresponding federal, provincial, and territorial authorities.
  • Delivering the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program for both capture and aquaculture fisheries under the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations in partnership with Environment Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. DFO specifically:
    • regulates and supervises the relaying, transplanting and replanting of bivalve shellfish;
    • regulates licences, harvesting locations and times and minimum harvest sizes for stock management purposes;
    • opens and closes areas, and bans the harvesting of bivalve shellfish whenever bacteria or toxin levels exceed safety standards; and
    • conducts patrols, apprehends and prosecutes persons violating restrictions.
  • At the request of provinces or territories, DFO provides advice under section 35 of the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.

Regulatory role in British Columbia

DFO manages and licences aquaculture operations in British Columbia (BC) under the Fisheries Act, the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, and the Fishery (General) Regulations. The Department implements these regulations through the British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program, applying them to finfish, shellfish, and freshwater aquaculture in the province. This program is designed to ensure that aquaculture in BC is sustainable, and that it is conducted in a manner that minimizes risks to wild fish stocks.

Regulatory role in Prince Edward Island

The management of shellfish aquaculture in Prince Edward Island (PEI) is unique when compared to other coastal jurisdictions in Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the Canada-Prince Edward Island Memorandum of Understanding for Commercial Aquaculture Development (MoU), issues and manages leaseholds on provincial seabed where shellfish aquaculture takes place.  The province participates in the program through various committees under the MOU and industry is engaged on policy and other issues through the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Management Advisory Committee.

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