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Corporation Designation Policy and Procedures

Table of Contents


1.1 The objective of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) At-Sea Observer Program is to provide accurate, timely, and independent third-party verification of harvesting activities at sea, as well as to provide scientific catch and sampling data to the Department. The fishing industry and the Department are dependent on the accurate provision of this information for all fisheries management, monitoring, and scientific research purposes.

1.2 Corporations wishing to seek designation as an at-sea observer provider must comply with the Fisheries Act and the Fishery (General) Regulations (FGR), and make application and become qualified according to the Canadian General Standards Board Qualification Program Manual and these Fisheries and Oceans Canada Designation Policy and Procedures Manual. Parties interested in seeking designation can access the required information package upon request to DFO.

1.3 Corporations may first apply to be nationally qualified by the Canada General Standards Board (CGSB). (see information provided on the CGSB web site at

1.4 CGSB may qualify corporations based upon the criteria contained in the CGSB Qualification Manual, including (where appropriate) elements of these Designation Policy and Procedures.

1.5 Corporations may then apply to be regionally designated by the DFO Regional Director General of the Region where the head office of the corporation is to be located.

1.6 The RDG may designate corporations based upon them making a submission of a business plan, as per the requirements of the FGR and these Designation Policy and Procedures, which describes the corporation’s organization and experience, human resources, operational plan, as well as a plan for recruitment, training, examination and deployment of at-sea observers, and data management and quality control. The submission will also include certification of financial viability, security and insurance requirements, as well as certification of compliance with DFO’s arm’s-length criteria.

1.7 The RDG may designate corporations based upon consideration of the information submitted in accordance with subsection 39.1(1) of the Fisheries (General) Regulations and these Designation Policy and Procedures, including the DFO regional annex requirements specific to the region for which designation is sought (the region where the head office of the corporation is located).

1.8 DFO regional annexes will include regional specific requirements including (but not limited to) data forms, data management systems, deployment management operations, hail-out systems, and observer equipment requirements.

1.9 Designation submissions will be evaluated by a DFO evaluation team consisting of representatives from Conservation and Protection, Resource Management, and Science Branches.

1.10 DFO has contracted CGSB to develop and implement the corporation qualification (listing) program.

1.11 DFO has responsibility for conducting corporation designation audits against the designation criteria contained within these Designation Policy and Procedures as well as for monitoring the accurate and timely provision of observer coverage to the fishing industry and of fishery data and management reports to DFO.

1.12 To further ensure that services are delivered in compliance with the Fisheries Act and regulations, DFO Fishery Officers may administer routine on-site field checks of the individual at-sea observers who are employees of the corporations.

1.13 These Designation Policy and Procedures set out requirements of DFO and the corporations delivering the program in addition to the obligations of other stakeholders in the program.

1.14 These Designation Policy & Procedures apply to all DFO Regions.

1.15 The current provisions of the Fishery (General) Regulations and the Coastal Fisheries Protection Regulations relating to at-sea observation, and which establish the requirements, are set out in Annex I.

2. Fishing Industry Selection of Observer Corporation

2.1 Pursuant to the conditions specified within the licence holders respective fishing licence, the licence holder may be required to engage the services of an at-sea observer corporation designated in any DFO Region, including either (i) the region of issuance of the fishing licence, (ii) the region of port of departure of the vessel (iii) the region of vessel fishing operation, (iv) the region of head office of the observer corporation or (v) another DFO Region.

2.2 For the purposes of DFO fisheries management and scientific requirements, including data management, the fishing industry and the at sea observer corporation must follow the protocols established by the respective DFO region which issues the (species) fishing licence for the vessel being observed, as described in the appropriate regional annex to these Designation Policy and Procedures.

2.3 In addition, the licence holder and the observer corporation shall advise the appropriate DFO manager in the region of licence issuance on a deployment-by-deployment basis:

  1. of the observer deployment;
  2. the corporation from which the observer is deployed; and
  3. the name of the vessel.

This shall be done not less than 24 hours prior to the vessel departure. This will require a licence condition which will direct the licence holder to the appropriate hail time, DFO contact (regional specific) and number etc.


3.1 Overall coordination for the at-sea observer program will reside with the DFO Conservation and Protection (C&P) Branch.

3.2 DFO shall maintain an ongoing inter-regional working group (national program coordinators committee) chaired by DFO C&P in National Headquarters, including regional representation from DFO C&P, Resource Management, and Science Branches, to address/resolve issues.

3.3 Each DFO region shall establish a working group, made up of representatives from all DFO organizations involved in the ASOP , to address all related issues in the region.

3.4 Fishing industry consultations regarding the operation of the At-Sea Observer Program should be included as part of the ongoing DFO regional fishery advisory committee processes.

3.5 Regional Directors General may designate as an observer, pursuant to subsection 39(1) Fishery (General) Regulations, individuals who have met the requirements outlined in this document, and may revoke these designations pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the FGR, where required.

3.6 Regional Directors General may designate as an observer, pursuant to subsection 39.1(1) of the Fishery (General) Regulations, any corporation who has met the requirements as outlined in this document, and may revoke these designations pursuant to subsection 39.1(2) of the FGR, where required and in consideration of these Designation Policy and Procedures.

3.7 The national DFO program coordinators committee may recommend amendments to the Designation Policy and Procedures as required, in order to ensure they remain consistent with the requirements of the Fisheries Act and regulations

3.8 The national DFO program coordinators committee shall ensure the Department’s responsibilities are implemented in a consistent manner.

3.9 DFO (C&P) shall ensure that amended Designation Policy and Procedures are communicated to and implemented by staff, observer service providers (corporations), and the fishing industry.

3.10 DFO Regional C&P Branches shall provide a report to the corporations, on an annual basis, on the current status of incident reports and field checks. However, no information shall be provided in relation to an investigation in progress.

3.11 DFO C&P shall conduct field checks of observers, have discussions with end-users of data, and have periodic meetings with corporations’ administrative personnel and fishing industry representatives to verify compliance with the program.

3.12 DFO (C&P; Resource Management; and Science) shall review and approve in writing, the training programs developed by corporations and assist in the training of observers, as required.

3.13 For the proper management and control of the fisheries and for the conservation and protection of fish resources, DFO shall draft conditions of licence, as required, to enhance compliance with the at sea observer program.

3.14 On an annual basis, DFO Regional C&P Branches shall update and distribute the list of government employees who will be available to act as contacts to all stakeholders.

3.15 DFO shall maintain a liaison with CGSB for the program through the National At-Sea Observer Program Manager.

3.16 To ensure consistency, all DFO regional offices will notify National Headquarters of any new systems or modifications to existing systems or technology used in the program.

3.17 In addition to the CGSB quality system audits, DFO will establish and maintain an audit function to verify ongoing corporation compliance with the FGR and these Designation Policy & Procedures.


4.1 Designation Requirements

4.1.1 All corporations that provide designated at-sea fisheries observer services must be designated as an observer and issued a certificate by DFO as set out in the Fishery (General) Regulations.

4.1.2 To be eligible for designation, corporations must meet the requirements set out in subsection 39.1(1) of the Fishery (General) Regulations and also meet and comply with the requirements of these Policy and Procedures, including the requirements as specified in the appropriate regional annex.

4.1.3 A corporation seeking designation must make a submission to DFO, describing how their at sea observer service is capable of recruiting, training, and deploying observers; and accurately collecting, compiling, and editing information collected by individual at sea observers. This package includes but is not limited to:

  1. Incorporation papers.
  2. A business plan which includes:
    1. A corporation organization chart listing principals, officers, and employees, including job descriptions and responsibilities;
    2. A human resources plan including resumes and experience of staff, that demonstrates the capacity and expertise to provide at sea observer services; and
    3. An operational plan setting out operational procedures and equipment requirements that demonstrates the capacity to operate at sea observer services in accordance with the FGR and these Policy & Procedures.
  3. A detailed training and supervision plan for at-sea observers that will be delivered by the corporation or an independent training organization that meets the requirements of the Canadian General Standards Board standard Training and Certification of At-Sea Fisheries Observers, CGSB 190.1-97. DFO will require amendments to the plan when changes to legislation or policy dictate new program requirements.
  4. Evidence of the corporation’s financial viability or a performance bond guaranteeing three months of operations.
    (Acceptable evidence of financial viability is an affidavit, from an individual having knowledge of the corporation’s finances, such as the corporation’s accountant or bank manager, attesting
  5. A data quality system for ensuring the integrity of the information collected and compiled that identifies a person responsible for the system and his or her duties, and that describes the operation system, the manner in which records are kept, the control points, the verification procedures and the process for correcting deficiencies in the system.
  6. An affidavit indicating compliance with all conflict of interest guidelines and arm's-length criteria as contained in these Designation Policy and Procedures. (The affidavit must clearly specify the names, of the individuals covered by it.).

4.2 Experience Requirements

4.2.1 The corporation is expected to demonstrate that it has previous experience managing a minimum of two similarly technical projects or programs, of a minimum duration of three months each, where services were provided at geographic locations other than the location of its head office.

4.2.2 The corporation is expected to demonstrate that the proposed Project Manager has a minimum of six months continuous and full-time experience in managing projects.

4.2.3 The corporation is expected to demonstrate that each person identified for briefing and debriefing functions has a minimum of three complete years of experience in either an At-Sea Observer program or in a relevant or similar regulatory or scientific-based program operation.

4.2.4 The corporation is expected to demonstrate that it has managed a project which had a training component, whereby adult training was given to groups of participants.

4.2.5 The corporation is expected to identify the individuals responsible for training and demonstrate that they have previous experience in delivering training programs to adults and that they meet the qualifications as specified, or similar to that specified, in Section 5.2(c) of the Canadian General Standards Board standard - Training and Certification of At-Sea Fisheries Observers, CGSB 190.1-97.

4.2.6 The corporation is expected to submit a Training Plan to the DFO regional program coordinator for review and approval prior to the commencement of any training, including a training course syllabus, sample lesson plans and other relevant material (such as a training schedule, quizzes, tests, assignments, etc.).

4.2.7 The corporation is expected to identify the person responsible for data quality control and demonstrate that the individual has a minimum of six months experience in a position of responsibility for data management.

4.3 Insurance Requirements

4.3.1 The corporation is expected to have Commercial General Liability insurance maintained in force throughout the duration of the designation period, in an amount for a limit of liability not less than $5,000,000 per accident or occurrence.

4.3.2 The corporation is expected to maintain the required insurance coverage for the duration of the designation period. Compliance with the insurance requirements does not release the applicant from, or reduce its liability under, the designation.

4.3.3 The corporation is responsible for deciding if additional insurance coverage is necessary to fulfill its obligation under the designation and to ensure compliance with any applicable law. Any additional insurance coverage is at the applicant’s expense, and for its own benefit and protection.

4.3.4 The corporation is expected to provide to DFO a Certificate of Insurance evidencing the insurance coverage and confirming that the insurance policy complying with the requirements is in force. Coverage must be placed with an Insurer licensed to carry out business in Canada. The corporation must, if requested by DFO, provide a qualified true copy of all applicable insurance policies.

4.4 Quality Control Requirements for Corporation Designation

4.4.1 Subsection 39.1(1) of the FGR grants DFO (Regional Directors General) the authority to designate a corporation as an observer, if that corporation has made a submission that includes a business plan, a training plan, and a quality assurance (QA) system. The QA system must ensure the integrity of the information collected and compiled, and it must identify a person responsible for the system and his or her duties. It must also describe the operating system, the manner in which the records are kept, the control points, the verification procedures, and the process for correcting deficiencies in the system. The QA system must also maintain a record of system failures detailing the event and corrective actions taken.

4.4.2 To assist corporations in meeting this requirement, DFO has engaged CGSB to develop an At-Sea Observer Program (Qualification Program) and to assess a corporation’s systems for compliance with these requirements. The qualification program is derived from selected elements of the ISO programs. Corporations must develop and implement their own quality system which complies with the qualification program

4.4.3 When a corporation’s quality system complies with the qualification program, the CGSB will issue a listing number and place the corporation on its listing program. To obtain and maintain DFO designation, a corporation must also maintain this CGSB listing. More information on acquiring a CGSB listing is outlined below.

4.4.4 The qualification program is contained in CGSB’s Listing Program for At-Sea Observer Corporations – Program Manual, and is available upon request from CGSB.

4.5 Steps Required to Obtain and Maintain CGSB Qualification Listing

4.5.1 Corporations will describe how they comply with the qualification listing requirements in a Quality System Manual (QSM), which will be submitted to CGSB for approval. This QSM will contain detailed operating procedures covering all processes that affect quality.

4.5.2 CGSB will review the QSM of each corporation to determine if the quality systems, as described in this QSM, are compliant with the qualification program. A CGSB quality auditor will conduct an on-site audit of each corporation’s operations to verify that the corporation’s employees are following the approved procedures as set out in the corporation’s QSM.

4.5.3 Once the CGSB verifies the suitability of a corporation’s QSM, and verifies compliance with the procedures therein through an on-site audit, a corporation may be issued a listing number and placed on CGSB’s program list. Such a listing means that a corporation meets DFO’s quality requirements for corporation designation.

4.5.4 Corporations are required to regularly monitor the operation of their quality systems through internal quality audits and take the necessary corrective action to rectify deficiencies in the system. Follow-up audits by CGSB may be required, at the expense of the corporation, where their performance indicates the corporation is either not adhering to the QSM or these Designation Policy and Procedures.

4.5.5 CGSB will conduct periodic quality system audits of a corporation’s quality systems to verify continued compliance. The DFO Conservation and Protection Director of Enforcement Operations at National Headquarters, in consultation with the CGSB, will determine when audits will be conducted. If continued compliance is not maintained, the corporation will be required to remedy the problem. The CGSB listing number could be suspended or revoked if a corporation fails to comply with CGSB program requirements. Losing the CGSB listing number may trigger the DFO corporation designation revocation process as deficiencies in the quality system may impact the integrity of the program.

4.5.6 The CGSB has an appeal process in place to allow corporations to appeal CGSB decisions to revoke listing numbers.

4.5.7 The quality system registration process is explained in detail in CGSB’s Listing Program for At-Sea Observer Corporations – Program Manual, and is available upon request from CGSB.

4.5.8 Potential new corporations seeking CBSB listing in order to be designated by DFO as an observer must pay for the initial CGSB audit costs to the point where they are qualified, as must corporations that have lost their designation and are seeking renewed designation. DFO will pay for periodic CGSB audits for existing corporations and newly designated corporations. If a corporation requires additional audits, due to failure to maintain compliance with the qualification requirements, the costs for the audits required for re-establishing and maintaining compliance will be paid for by the corporation.

4.6 Re-Designation of At-Sea Observer Corporations

4.6.1 Corporations will be required to maintain their at-sea observer designation during the period in which they intend to be available to provide service to licence holders.

4.6.2 Corporations must be re‑designated within 12 months of their initial designation, and again within 12 months of their second designation and, thereafter, every two years.

4.6.3 DFO may conduct audits of corporations prior to them being re-designated as at-sea observer corporations. In the case of corporations that have been designated for the first time, DFO may audit their operations after the first 6 months (or earlier) of being designated to ensure that they are carrying out the duties of an ASOC in a satisfactory manner.

4.6.4 Re-designation will be based on fulfilling the requirements set out in the Fishery (General) Regulations, and corporations will be required to make a submission, similar to that made for the initial designation and include:

4.6.5 The corporation must have continued to maintain its quality standards for the program through ongoing listing by the Canadian General Standards Board.

4.6.6 The corporation must make its submission for re-designation at least 90 days prior to the expiration of its current designation. After assessing the corporation’s submission and taking into consideration its past performance, DFO officials may recommend to the Regional Director General that the corporation be re-designated as an At Sea Observer Corporation.

4.6.7 If a corporation is unable or unwilling to comply with the requirements for re-designation as an At-Sea Observer Corporation, it will not be eligible to continue to provide at-sea observer services.


5.1 Purpose

5.1.1 These Guidelines are to assist the Regional Director General in making decisions on revoking designations of corporations where a corporation has not addressed a problem or problems identified by DFO or CGSB, as required under these Designation Policy and Procedures and/or the Fishery (General) Regulations.

5.2 Scope

5.2.1 These guidelines apply to corporations that have failed to perform their duties as required under the FGR and further described under these Designation Policy and Procedures; that have falsified information transmitted in the course of their duties; or have failed to maintain the financial viability criteria or a performance bond as described in the FGR.

5.3. Failure to Perform Duties

5.3.1 DEFINITION: Failure to:

5.4 Authority

5.4.1 The Regional Directors General of DFO have the regulatory authority, pursuant to the FGR, to revoke the designation of a corporation if they determine that the corporation has falsified any information submitted in the course of its duties; failed to perform these duties; or failed to maintain the performance bond submitted under paragraph 39.1(1)(c) of the FGR.

5.4.2 The revocation of a corporation’s designation by a Regional Director General in one region will apply to all regions. The ASOP Coordinator in the region that initiated the corporation’s revocation will inform both the designating region’s ASOP manager as well as the ASOP manager at National Headquarters of the action taken.

5.5 Procedures

5.5.1 If an issue is identified that could potentially be reason for revocation of a designation, a representative of the Regional Director of C&P should visit the corporation to clearly outline the problem and seek an explanation and a proposed resolution to the issue.

5.5.2 If the on-site visit to the corporation has not resolved the issue, then a letter should be sent to the corporation once again clearly outlining the problem and specifying a response with a solution, satisfactory to DFO, is required within 10 days.

5.5.3 The letter should specify that if a response is not received within the specified time (10 days), or the response does not correct the problem, a recommendation will be sent to the Regional Director General, recommending that the designation of the corporation be revoked.

5.5.4 If the corporation fails to provide a satisfactory explanation to DFO, a recommendation will be sent to the Regional Director General to revoke the designation of the corporation.

5.5.5 A letter is sent to the corporation advising them of the revocation of their designation and requesting that the “Certificate of Designation” be returned to DFO.

5.5.6 Since the Regional Directors General are authorized under the Fishery (General) Regulations to revoke a designation, their decision is final.


6.1 All individuals wishing to work as observers for at-sea observer corporations must be designated and issued a certificate by DFO as set out in the Fishery (General) Regulations.

6.2 The Regional Directors General authorizes designation. To be eligible for designation as an individual at-sea observer, candidates must successfully complete the national certification training program (as per the Training and Certification of At-Sea Fisheries Observers National Standard, CAN/CGSB-190.1-97), meet the requirements set out in paragraphs 39(1)(a), (b), and (c) of the Fishery (General) Regulations, and must:

6.2.1 Have successfully completed high school.

6.2.2 Be legally eligible to work in Canada.

6.2.3 Consent to a personal screening and obtain a Government of Canada reliability security clearance.

6.2.4 Have no serious convictions (i. e., convictions that bring into question the personal integrity and honesty of the person in question, such as fraud, false pretenses or statements, perjury, public mischief, etc.) under the Criminal Code or any act or legislation administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada that may seriously affect the fitness of an applicant in providing observer services under this section.

6.2.5 Once designated, at-sea observers must notify their employer (At-Sea Observer Corporation) of any convictions, or charges that have been laid against them, under the Criminal Code or any act or legislation administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

6.2.6 Be in compliance with the Arm's Length Criteria described in this document.

6.2.7 Sign the “Code of Conduct for At-Sea Fisheries Observers” as specified in Appendix A of the CGSB Training Standard 190.1-97.

6.2.8 As a minimum requirement, successfully completed the Marine Emergency Duties (MED A1) Basic Safety training course approved by Transport Canada.

6.2.9 Hold a valid first-aid certificate from a recognized training agency.

6.2.10 Hold a maritime radio-telephone operators restricted certificate or equivalent.

6.2.11 For deployments to vessels travelling in foreign waters, possess a valid passport.


7.1 Observer Safety

7.1.1 The safety of the observer is the responsibility of the observer and the at-sea observer corporation, as the employer, under federal regulatory authorities of Transport Canada for fishing vessel safety and with respect to the Canada Labour Code as applicable, and also pursuant to other provincial legislation which may be in effect in the jurisdiction where service is provided.

7.1.2 For the purposes of DFO designation as a corporation providing at-sea observer services, the corporation is required to have in place, and ensure individual observers complete the appropriate regional Observer Safety Checklist prior to deployment to fishing vessels.

7.1.3 If an observer determines that the vessel is unsafe for deployment, as documented in the safety checklist, this should be immediately reported to the corporation and in turn to DFO for follow up as required.

7.1.4 Provision of safety equipment such as survival suits and other safety equipment is the responsibility of the corporation and arrangements are to made between the corporations and the designated observers.

7.2 Project Management and Organization

7.2.1 The corporation must establish a Project Management Team to include one project manager (as applicable), a training team, a data quality control team, and a project team (consisting of briefers and de-briefers, deployment coordinators, and other support staff as required).

7.2.2 The corporation must also establish a main operational location and assign an individual project manager on a full time basis for the duration of operations.

7.2.3 The corporation must enter into written arrangements (e.g., service agreements, contracts, etc.), on its own behalf, with fishermen or their representative associations for the provision of the required observer coverage.

7.2.4 The corporation must also issue a summary of these written arrangements (i.e., a listing of the names of the fishermen or their representative associations and date of entering into the arrangement) to DFO.

7.3 Recruitment, Training, and Certification/Designation

7.3.1 A corporation must recruit observer candidates for training that have obtained, or undertake to obtain, the qualifications as specified in this document. A list of potential candidates with their qualifications must be submitted to the DFO program coordinator (for approval) prior to the start of the training course.

7.3.2 The primary function of the training program is to ensure observers have sufficient knowledge to meet the operational requirements of the program. DFO staff may act as “training resource” personnel. A candidate for designation as an observer must successfully complete a training program approved by the Department. Corporations are responsible for training observers in their employ, including all the costs associated with the training. A corporation must also design a training program, which incorporates the following:

7.3.3 A corporation must conduct training, as per the: Canadian General Standards Board National Standard of Canada, CGSB 190.1-97 (Training and Certification of At-Sea Fisheries Observers); the DFO Course Training Standard (1997); and the requirements of the regional annex of the DFO Region where the designation is provided.

A corporation must also conduct any special supplemental training to update or expand observer knowledge, at the request of DFO.

7.4 Certification/Designation of Individuals as At-Sea Observers

7.4.1 A corporation must prepare national certification examinations and re-certification examinations of all observers and any other written re-examinations which may be required as a result of any on-going or continual, remedial or special training required. These examinations must be submitted to the DFO program coordinator for approval.

7.4.2 A corporation must arrange for an independent examiner to administer and grade the referenced examinations specified in the previous paragraph. The name and qualifications of the proposed independent examiner must be submitted to the DFO program coordinator for approval.

7.4.3 A corporation must submit to DFO the names of those candidates who have passed the national certification examinations for approval and designation as At-Sea Observers by the Department.

7.4.4 Subsequent to the corporation submitting the names of candidates who have passed the national certification examination, DFO will review and ensure that the named candidates meet all other eligibility requirements before designating those candidates as observers pursuant to the Fishery (General) Regulations.

7.4.5 To be eligible for DFO designation, a candidate must meet all of the requirements set out in paragraphs 39(1) (a), (b) and (c) of the Fishery (General) Regulations and the requirements set out in this document.

7.4.6 Initial designation as an at-sea observer is valid for six months for the first designation and 36 months for any subsequent designation.

7.4.7 The DFO-designation of individuals as observers shall not constitute an acceptance by the Crown of the competency of the corporation’s workforce, in as much as the corporation shall not thereby be relieved from any of its obligations to produce a quality product.

7.4.8 DFO Regional Directors General shall provide observers with identification cards that shall be the certificate that certifies their observer designation as per the Fisheries (General) Regulations. The identification cards are the property of Canada and shall be returned upon expiry or upon revocation of the observer's designation by the Regional Director General. In the event that an observer identification card is lost or stolen, it shall be reported to DFO within 48 hours. Observers shall not use the identification cards for purposes other than the performance of their duties as observers.

7.5 Revocation of Certification

7.5.1 The Regional Directors General of DFO have the regulatory authority pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the FGR to revoke the designation of an at-sea observer, if the observer no longer complies with the criteria set out at paragraphs 39(1)(a), (b) or (c) of the FGR; performs his or her duties in respect of a fisher with whom the observer is not dealing at arm’s length; falsifies any information transmitted in the course of his or her duties; or fails to perform those duties or fails to perform his or her duties in a competent and professional manner.

7.5.2 If at a later date, a person who has had his/her designation revoked, and who subsequently meets all of the requirements for designation as an observer and who reapplies, may be re-designated as an at-sea observer, at the discretion of the Regional Director General.

8. At-Sea Observer Deployment Responsibilities

8.1 A corporation must manage the deployments of observers to meet DFO’s requirements, including being able to respond to shifting priorities and short-notice deployment situations.

8.2 A corporation must also implement the deployment strategy specified by DFO, which will include the level of observer coverage to be applied to all fisheries.

8.3 In the event of new or unanticipated coverage requirements exceeding the standard requirement, the corporation may be provided consideration for additional training or alternative deployment scheduling to meet the requirement.

8.4 The overall monitoring of deployments to target coverage levels will be the responsibility of DFO, in cooperation with the corporations and the fishing industry, particularly where fishing industry associations are dealing as a group with at-sea observer service-providing corporations.

8.5 Corporations will be required to provide regular and ongoing reporting to DFO, regarding the deployments carried out by them.

Deployments may be achieved in a number of ways, including:

8.6 Corporations will be required to ensure that their at-sea observers record and report on all aspects of vessel activity and that observers adhere to the following responsibilities:

8.6.1 Record and report data and other relevant information, including (where directed by DFO) Global Positioning System (GPS) data recording and accuracy and, on vessels with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), verification that the VMS unit is operational. Other relevant information may also include reporting on the activities of vessels and on possible infractions of Canadian fisheries legislation, particularly with regard to season, closed area and buffer zone management, catch and gear restriction, landing of prohibited species, discard and dumping information, logbook recordings, and reporting requirements of catch and effort limitations.

8.6.2 Record and report accurate catch information, set by set, catch weight by species, and fishing effort, including (but not limited to) rare species and species at risk.

8.6.3 Collect biological and fisheries data, including (but not limited to) length, size composition of catches, morphological measurements, examination of gonads and other body structures to determine sex and maturity, collection of body parts (including aging material, such as ear bones, scales, and spines).

8.6.4 Prepare an orderly documentation of information related to suspected infractions of Canadian fisheries legislation and present oral and documentary evidence as a witness in a Court of Law.

8.6.5 Record and report on the technological characteristics of the fishing gear being used, including all components. Gear likely to be encountered include: bottom, mid-water, off bottom, and pair trawls; longlines; purse seines; dredges and rakes; trolls; gillnets; and traps.

8.6.6 Determine the accuracy of data being collected through the observation of navigational and fishing aids onboard the vessel.

8.6.7 Collect data relating to the processing of the fish, including characteristics of the processing area, equipment, form of product, product weight analysis, conversion factors, market data, rates of processing and freezing by product form and species.

8.6.8 Collect data relating to and report upon fishing patterns and what relation they have to catch, catch rate, feeding habits and diurnal behavior of the fish being caught.

8.6.9 Collect hydrological data (as required) and data related to biological observations of fish stocks found in Canadian and adjacent fisheries waters of interest to Canada, as well as to the fishing trends of foreign and domestic fleets in such waters.

8.6.10 Collect data related to research into fish habitat and, as required, record and report data and other relevant information on possible infractions of the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act and Regulations.

8.6.11 At the request of DFO, observers may be required to monitor the offloading of vessels, including the monitoring of the landing of fish and the verification of the weight and species of fish caught and retained.

8.6.12 Collect, label, and preserve all specimens required by DFO.

8.6.13 Monitor and report on the dumping of harmful and polluting material into the ocean.

8.6.14 Report suspected infractions of vessel-safety regulations made pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act.

8.6.15 Develop a plan for the deployment of observers in specific areas near the areas of greatest activity. The assigned observers must have adequate access to appropriate communication services.

8.6.16 Maintain a roster to ensure: adequate numbers of observers are available to ensure responsive and cost-effective deployments from the key ports within each deployment location; responsiveness to short notice deployments; and minimal observer travel and living costs.

8.6.17 Brief observers prior to deployment according to the specifications required for the fishery.

8.6.18 Convene a debrief with the observer within three working days of the completion of each deployment to ensure that the tasks assigned to each observer have been completed, including: all portions of the data package are verified as complete and accurate, arranged in the proper order (refer to the appropriate Regional data collection forms), submitted to the observer corporation, and submitted for review by DFO, and that photocopies or scanned copies of data forms and trip reports are made and properly collated; all biological specimens are delivered to DFO in good condition and properly labeled; and all photographs, drawings and video recordings are delivered to DFO.

8.6.19 A trip refers to a single vessel sailing (leave port – return to port). A deployment may consist of a single observer trip or a series of trips within the deployment.

8.6.20 As requested by DFO, a member of the corporation’s management team must attend any management meetings (at the corporation’s expense) during the period in which service is being provided to the fishing industry.

8.6.21 Provide a duty officer available for contact during the time(s) when the corporation’s offices are closed.

8.6.22 Utilize the respective hail-out system in those DFO Regions where hail-out systems are operational.

8.6.23 Monitor and report on the overall general performance of its observers and ensure that all requirements as specified by DFO are fulfilled accurately and consistently on each trip.

8.6.24 As requested by DFO, prepare observer summary data reports for individuals fisheries.

9. Data Quality Management

9.1 The regional annex for each DFO Region will specify the detailed data forms and processes to be followed for each region. In general, the requirements are as follows:

9.1.1 Deliver a fully completed data package including all handwritten (hard-copy forms) and electronic data package (key-entered data) for each deployment to DFO.

9.1.2 All diaries and materials previously issued to the observer, as well as a detailed written report of the vessel’s activities and all data collected as related to the assigned tasks, must be submitted to DFO by the corporation.

9.1.3 The complete data package consists of two major data sets as follows: a) the OTIS (Observer Trip Information System) trip report summary forms used primarily for ongoing fisheries management purposes; and b) the (Science) Data Package which is a more detailed data set summarizing the fishing activities within a trip used primarily used for scientific analysis, including stock assessments.

9.1.4 Provide a hard copy summary of trip report data for the vessel to which the observer has been deployed at the request of the licence holder (or designated representative) and upon the approval of DFO to the requesting party.

9.1.5 Ensure that the person responsible for data quality control be readily available to address any issues which may arise concerning data management and quality, on an on-going basis.

9.1.6 Respond in writing within three working days to any written questions raised during the evaluation of the trip package by DFO.

9.1.7 Transmit to DFO situation reports from observers. There could be a number of situation reports depending on the fisheries observed, e.g., the general situation report, the northern shrimp report, and the crab situation report. The situation report forms must be entered into a database by the corporation, or otherwise forwarded to DFO as specified in the respective regional annex, in a secure manner, within 24 hours of the date of landing of a deployment. For deployments in excess of a seven calendar day duration, this information is required to be forwarded to DFO on a weekly basis. Both manual and electronic reports must be submitted to DFO.

9.1.8 Report on a daily basis to DFO fishery-specific issue reports (e.g., small fish capture and by-catch of sensitive species) when identified threshold levels are reached by the vessel at sea.

9.1.9 Monitor the status code portion of the situation reports and alert DFO where there are indications of problems aboard a vessel, such as suspected violations or for life threatening circumstances on board the vessel. The corporation shall immediately relay such information to DFO.

9.1.10 As requested by DFO , the corporation must compile video, photographic or other electronic information materials during a deployment. All materials gathered (including photographs, videos, and other electronic data collections, such as from GPS recordings) must be submitted to DFO as part of the trip data package. The corporation must not retain any videos, photographs or other electronic information taken by observers in the performance of their duties.

10. Protection of Information

10.1 All information collected by an observer is confidential and subject to the provisions of the respective federal and provincial legislation regarding information collected from individuals by the commercial sector. Observers and at-sea observer corporations must protect this information/data from unauthorized release to any party other than DFO or the fishing licence holder from whom it was collected. Sharing or release of information/data collected from fishers with any other party requires written approval from the fisher and DFO.

11. Observer Equipment and Material

11.1 The corporation must provide all observer equipment and material to each designated observer and ensure that all equipment and material is in good condition for use by the observer. Regional equipment lists are detailed in each regional annex to these Designation Policy and Procedures.

11.2 In cases where specialized equipment may be required by DFO, beyond that which is contained in the regional annex equipment list, the Department will be responsible for providing such equipment.



12.1.1 Upon submitting an application for designation, pursuant to paragraph 39.1(1) (b) of the FGR, a corporation must disclose all conflicts of interest that the corporation or any of its directors, officers or employees, or any shareholder having a significant interest in the corporation, may have with the fishing industry and explain how those conflicts are to be resolved.

NOTE: Being in a situation of conflict of interest is not prohibited. However, such situations must be disclosed and resolved to the satisfaction of DFO.


12.2.1 At-Sea Observer Corporation

A corporation which has been designated by DFO, pursuant to section 39.1 of the FGR for the purpose of the monitoring of fishing activities, the examination and measurement of fishing gear, the recording of scientific data and observations and the taking of samples and transmitting in a timely manner, the information collected and compiled in the course of these duties.

12.2.2 Commercial Relationship

A commercial relationship is considered to exist when independent individuals or organizations enter into arrangements (contracts) for goods and services, loan arrangements, leases or mortgages.

12.2.3 Fishing Enterprise

A fishing licence holder, quota holder, a vessel owner, a vessel operator or a processing company engaged directly or indirectly in any aspect of fishing industry operations including fish harvesting, processing, buying, selling, shipping and handling fish.

12.2.4 Fishing Organization

An entity established by law with a legal personality distinct from the persons who belong to the organization and involved in fishing activities.

12.2.5 Interest

An individual is considered to have an interest in a fishing enterprise if he or she has a financial or employment interest as an owner, shareholder, partner, creditor, employee or some other capacity in that fishing enterprise.

An individual is considered to have an interest in a fishing organization if he or she is a member or employee of that organization.

12.2.6 Officer

Officer means the chairman or vice-chairman of the board of directors, the president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, comptroller, general manager, managing director or any other individual who performs functions for the company similar to those normally performed by an individual occupying any such office.



A corporation or its shareholders must not have any interest in a fishing enterprise or fishing organization in circumstances that could compromise (or be perceived as compromising) the integrity of the data collected through the At-Sea Observer Program.

A corporation must disclose to DFO any situations where at-sea observer services are provided to a fishing enterprise or fishing organizations, in which the corporation or any of its shareholders (including family members) have an interest. The corporation must also explain (to DFO’s satisfaction) how these situations are being resolved (managed).


A corporation must have an independent board of directors whose members have no interest in a fishing enterprise or fishing organization.


The officers and/or employees of a corporation must not have any interest in a fishing enterprise or a fishing organization that could compromise (or be perceived as compromising) the integrity of the data collected through the At-Sea Observer Program.

The corporation must disclose to DFO any situations where officers and/or individuals employed by the corporation have immediate family members (i.e. spouse, parent, child, or siblings) involved in fisheries observed by the corporation. The corporation must demonstrate to DFO that controls are in place to manage these conflicts.


  1. A corporation or its shareholders, directors, officers or employees, shall not make loans to, or accept loans from any fishing enterprises or fishing organization to which it provides at-sea observer services.
  2. A corporation or its shareholders, directors, officers or employees, and fishing enterprises or fishing organizations shall not hold mortgages on each other’s’ properties, if the corporation provide at-sea observer services to them.
  3. A corporation or its shareholders, directors, officers or employees shall not participate in joint ventures, or as partners, in commercial activities with fishing enterprises or fishing organizations for which it provides at-sea observer services.
  4. A corporation, its shareholders, directors, officers and employees shall disclose the nature of all commercial transaction, that they enter into with any Fishing Enterprises or Fishing Organizations and demonstrate the steps being taken to manage any potential conflicts of interest.


12.4.1 The onus is on the corporation to disclose and explain how any conflict that may exist will be resolved to DFO’s satisfaction. Conflicts and their resolution of conflicts are to be disclosed in writing by the corporation seeking designation as an at-sea observer corporation.

12.4.2 Submitting false information for the purpose of obtaining a designation is an offence pursuant to subsection 39.3(1) FGR. Moreover, it is also an offence pursuant to subsection 39.3(2) FGR to provide false information in the course of an observer’s duties. These duties in accordance with paragraph 39.1(2) (c) FGR include the disclosure of all conflicts of interest that may arise after the observer receives a designation and an explanation as to how they are to be resolved. In addition to these offences, providing false information or failing to perform the duties set out at subsection 39.1(2) FGR (which includes the aforementioned disclosure requirements), would constitute grounds either to revoke a designation or to refuse a renewal.

12.4.3 Disclosing conflicts of interest and explaining how they are to be resolved is an ongoing obligation imposed on an observer under the regulatory regime. Failure to abide with this obligation exposes an observer to the consequences explained in the previous paragraph.


13.1 DFO may amend this Policy and Procedures document as circumstances require


This Designation Policy and Procedures document comes into effect as per the date indicated below. All previous versions of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada At-Sea Observer Program Corporation Designation Policy and Procedures are hereby terminated.

Allan MacLean
Director General
Conservation and Protection
Fisheries and Oceans Canada



Regulations Governing the At-Sea Monitoring Program - Fishery (General) Regulations


Certificate of Designation


39.2 The designation of an observer is valid for



Coastal Fisheries Protection Regulations


2. In these Regulations, “observer” means

12.(1) The master of a foreign fishing vessel operating under the authority of a licence shall

  1. permit, when requested by the Regional Director-General, observers to go on board and remain on board the vessel at a time and for a period specified in the request for the purposes of recording scientific data, making observations and taking samples;
  2. embark or disembark the observers at a time and place specified in a request made under paragraph (e);
  3. take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of any protection officer or observer boarding or leaving the vessel at sea including the observance of practices of good seamanship and, where necessary, the placing of a pilot ladder over the side of the vessel;
  4. where a protection officer or an observer is on board the vessel and remains on board the vessel for a period of more than four consecutive hours, provide the protection officer or observer with food and accommodation equivalent to that received by officers of the vessel;
  5. provide all reasonable assistance in his power to enable a protection officer or an observer on board the vessel to carry out his duties and in particular, but without restricting the generality of the foregoing, shall
    • provide him with a suitable work area including a table and sufficient lighting to carry out his work,
    • provide him with access to the vessel records and logs pertaining to its fishing activities,
    • provide him, on request, with the position of the vessel in latitude and longitude,
    • send and receive messages on his behalf by means of the communications equipment on board the vessel,
    • provide him with access to all areas of the vessel involved in the fishing, processing and storage operations,
    • permit him to take samples and provide him with all reasonable assistance in his doing so,
    • provide him with suitable storage facilities for his samples,
    • permit him to examine and measure any fishing gear on board the vessel and provide him with all reasonable assistance in his doing so,
    • permit him to take photographs of the fisheries operations, including fishing gear and equipment, and
    • permit him to remove from the vessel samples, information, photographs or film taken or made during his time on board the vessel.
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