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Inshore regulations

Summary of April 1st Inshore regulatory changes

Video: New inshore regulations – Protecting independent harvesters

Amendments made to the Fisheries Act in 2019 helped us put the suite of DFO policies for inshore and coastal fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec into law. These changes have allowed us to keep the benefits of an inshore fishing licence in the hands of independent core harvesters and maintain a separation between the fishing sector and other sectors.

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What are inshore regulations?

When we strengthened authorities in the Fisheries Act in 2019, we also made regulatory amendments to our inshore regulations: the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, 1985 and the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations. These amendments clarified the rules governing inshore licences and created new enforceable requirements to help us ensure that licences remain in the hands of local, independent fish harvesters.

Part of the regulations came into force on December 9, 2020 when elements of the Owner-operator and Fleet Separation policies were added to these regulatory requirements:

These rules are the same as they were before the regulations came into force, but now they are law, rather than policy.

The regulatory changes in December 2020 also enabled DFO to be able to issue coastal licences to wholly owned companies, as long as the eligible individual owns and controls 100% of the company’s shares.

The second part of the regulations came into force on April 1, 2021, when an eligibility criteria was added to the inshore regulations precluding a licence holder from transferring the use of the licence or the control that the licence holder has over the decisions related to that licence.

When an inshore licence is issued, the licence holder can:

The licence holder may also:

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans maintains absolute discretion over licensing.

Do the eligibility criteria to hold a inshore licence apply to me?

The inshore regulations eligibility criteria apply to inshore Independent Core licence holders across Atlantic Canada and Quebec, except holders of:

In addition, the regulations do not apply to any licence issued under the authority of the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licence Regulations.

Will harvesters currently exempted/excepted from the inshore policies continue to be exempted under these regulations?

Yes. however, new exemptions or exceptions will not be allowed under the regulations.

Guidance and other implementation information

Implementation of these inshore regulations amendments affects many aspects of fishing an inshore licence, such as crew registry, fishing enterprise corporate structure, compliance declaration and allowable transfers

For more information, see the below documents which outline the implementation process and that provide guidance on the regulations:

Operations and Enforcement

For the almost 10,000 inshore licence holders that are subject to the inshore regulations, eligibility and compliance is monitored through an administrative process and enforcement.

Licensing operations is responsible for the administrative process in implementing the inshore regulations, while enforcement action is the responsibility of Conservation and Protection (C&P).

It is important to note that although DFO can suspend or cancel licences that are determined to be ineligible, the administrative measures are designed to help the licence holder become compliant.  When discussions with licence holders, industry engagement and other DFO provided guidance do not lead to compliance, the Department has the tools to suspend or cancel licences or to take enforcement actions to keep the benefits of inshore fishing licences in the hands of independent core harvesters.

Licence eligibility

Eligibility for an inshore licence is confirmed at the time it is issued. Current licence holders must request to have a licence issued each year in the National Online Licensing System (NOLS). Before being allowed to pay associated fees, all licence holders must also declare that they meet all statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements applicable to the licence they are renewing.

Review Process and Benchmarks

When a licence is issued to another fisher, eligibility reviews are done for both the current licence holder and the proposed new licence holder. The Department may also initiate reviews at random or as a result of indicators of possible ineligibility. These three steps are used to track compliance with the new inshore regulations:

  1. Inshore questionnaires: Fish harvesters are asked to provide answers to a series of questions on inshore regulations compliance, and to provide supporting documents.
  2. Request for additional information: When more information is needed to confirm compliance, additional information is requested from the licence holder.
  3. Revised Arrangements: If concerns are identified by the Department, licence holders are given the opportunity to make adjustments to their arrangements prior to DFO’s final eligibility determination.

To date, all inshore licence holders that were required to undergo additional review were either determined eligible, or adjusted and/or clarified their circumstances to become eligible. Data on inshore regulations compliance will be updated every six months.

Reporting period Inshore questionnaires (1) Request for additional information (2) Revised Arrangements (3)
April 2021 - March 2022 1,174 342 N/A
April 2022 - September 2022 550 281 37
October 2022 - March 2023 507 238 55
April 2023 - September 2023 458 198 43
Oct 2023 - Mar 2024 526 264 52
Totals 3,215 1,323 187


Conservation and Protection (C&P) is responsible for DFO’s inspection and investigation function. In the case of the inshore regulations, fishery officers have the authority to take enforcement action, including recommending prosecution of both licence holders and third parties/controllers (e.g. processors, lenders, other licence holders).

Any contravention of the regulations is a prosecutable offence under the Fisheries Act and may result in court-imposed penalties, or a suspension/cancellation of the licence, depending on the violation. Section 78 of the Fisheries Act outlines penalties for offences.

C&P receives information on possible violations of the inshore regulations through fishery officer patrols, inspections, industry/public engagement, communication with the licensing group, and via existing tip lines.

Industry and the public continue to have an important role in promoting compliance of these regulations via submission of information to Licensing Operations and C&P.

Please report suspicious fishing activities by: contacting your nearest DFO office; anonymously calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477); or by submitting a tip online.

You can also contact us:

Gulf Region

Newfoundland and Labrador Region

Maritimes Region

Quebec Region

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