Proper aquaculture facility siting is an important tool to minimize environmental impacts. It can help ensure that the aquatic ecosystems in which aquaculture is undertaken remain productive, not just for the cultured species, but also for other aquatic species that use those areas. Scientific research and advice related to aquaculture interactions provides the basis to support siting decisions. Proper siting can minimize negative environmental interactions, including disease and parasite transfer between farm sites as well as reducing the amount of organic waste that accumulates beneath cage sites.
In all provinces except for Prince Edward Island, provinces are responsible for issuing leases for fish and shellfish farms. In Prince Edward Island, leases are issued by a management board which includes representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Province, and industry. When requested by any province, DFO will provide information and advice on siting decisions; in BC, siting of farms is both a provincial and federal decision.
Appropriate siting is particularly important for marine finfish facilities. As part of the Aquaculture Activities Regulations applicants for new or expanded marine finfish sites with annual production of more than five tonnes are required to conduct a baseline survey that identifies the fish and fish habitat both on the seabed that is leased for the operations of the facility and in the water column above. This information is used by regulators to evaluate what footprint the new or expanded site will likely have and to assess possible interactions with fish species. Aquaculture operators are required to submit the results of the survey to DFO at least 300 days before stocking a new site or within 30 days after submitting a provincial application for expansion.
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