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Archived - Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada's Atlantic Fisheries

The new inshore regulations replaces this content starting April 1, 2021.

The Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada is being updated to reflect these new regulations.

This policy on Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada’s Atlantic Fisheries (PIIFCAF) is the Minister's response to industry's request to strengthen the owner-operator and fleet separation policies.

The fleet separation policy, established in 1979 and the owner-operator policy, established in 1989 are part of a suite of policy initiatives designed to support an independent inshore fleet in Atlantic Canada – with the wealth and value flowing from the licences held and controlled by individual fishermen remaining in their communities across Atlantic Canada.

Over the years, the effectiveness of these policies has been eroded by the use of Controlling Agreements, which have transferred the effective control of licences to a third party, while the name on the licence remains the same.

During the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review (AFPR) process, many inshore fishermen expressed concerns that the independence of the inshore fleet was being compromised by the proliferation of these types of agreements.

A controlling agreement is an agreement between a licence holder (fisherman) and an individual or entity that permits someone other than the licence holder to control or influence the licence holder’s decision to submit a request to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the issuance of a replacement licence (licence transfer).

Controlling Agreements undermine the independence of inshore fleets because they compromise the ability of fishermen to make independent decisions in their own best interests and place the control of licences in fewer hands.

The Department recognizes that the inshore fleet is the backbone of our coastal communities. The purpose of PIIFCAF is to strengthen the owner-operator and fleet separation polices to ensure that inshore harvesters remain independent, and that the benefits of fishing licences flow to the harvester and the coastal community.


Q1. What happens if I am still in a controlling agreement after April 12th?

A1. If you are still in a controlling agreement, your licence application will be denied when you attempt to renew your licence.

As with all licensing-related decisions made by the Department, you will have the opportunity to appeal this decision. To participate in this appeal, you will need to submit relevant information such as your controlling agreement, to the Department within 30 days from the date you were denied your application for a licence.

The Atlantic Fisheries Licence Appeal board will then review this information and provide advice to the Minister as to whether the Controlling Agreement is in violation of the PIIFCAF policy as well as the owner-operator and fleet separation policies.

Q2. How long will the appeal process take? 

A2. The length of the appeal process will depend on the number of appeals being considered. The Department and the Atlantic Fisheries Licence Appeal Board will work as quickly as possible to process all appeals.

Q3. I entered into a controlling agreement because there was no other financing available to me. In this case, will the Department still enforce PIIFCAF? If so, what will happen to my licence?

A3. At the time PIIFCAF was adopted in 2007, the Department recognized the need for greater access to capital by harvesters and introduced the Notice and Acknowledgement System. This system was developed in collaboration with the Canadian Bankers Association and responded to concerns expressed by the fishing industry over the need to access capital.

Over the years, the Department has introduced additional measures aimed at improving the economic viability of harvesters, such as allowing harvesters to re-issue their licence in the name of their wholly-owned company.

Harvesters have had seven years to terminate or adjust their controlling agreements to ensure they are in line with the PIIFCAF policy. Those harvesters still in a controlling agreement after April 12th will not be allowed to renew their licence. The Department has notified these fishermen directly to ensure they understand the policy requirements and what is required to comply with them.

Q4. How does the Department know which licence holders have controlling agreements?

A4. When the PIIFCAF policy was introduced in 2007, harvesters were asked to file a declaration with the Department as to whether or not they were party to a controlling agreement with respect to the inshore fishing licence issued in his/her name. In addition, any licence holder requesting a licence transfer (replacement licence) is required to declare that they are not subject to a controlling agreement.

Subsection 63(2) of the Fisheries Act prohibits the making of a false or misleading statement, whether orally or in writing, in an application for a lease or licence issued under the authority of the Fisheries Act; doing so could lead to prosecution.

Q5. How does this policy fit into the Department’s mandate?

A5. The PIIFCAF policy is part of the Department’s comprehensive approach to enhance the economic prosperity of fisheries. It was introduced to promote conditions and develop mechanisms to support and foster a robust and diverse fisheries sector.

The Department remains committed to programs and policies which aim to support an economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries. The PIIFCAF policy contributes to this objective by ensuring that inshore harvesters remain in control of their fishing enterprise and that benefits from it continue to flow to coastal communities where they live.

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