Archived - Government's Response - 3rd Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on the Federal Role in Aquaculture in Canada - Response

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Preamble

The Government of Canada would like to thank the Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans (SCOFO) for its report entitled The Federal Role in Aquaculture in Canada. The Government of Canada has reviewed the recommendations found in this report and has provided responses to each recommendation. SCOFO's recommendations are pertinent and the Government is pleased to learn that the Committee supports responsible development of aquaculture in Canada. Although the Committee's stated emphasis in its report was on salmon farming, the Government will answer the recommendations with a consideration to the full scope of aquaculture and thus in the way to best represent all facets of the industry and the comprehensive federal approach to regulating the aquaculture sector in Canada.

Aquaculture brings a great deal of potential for social and economic benefit. The industry currently employs thousands of people in rural and coastal communities and accounts for over 27% of the total landed-value of seafood produced in Canada. Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative for rural and coastal communities. The Government of Canada recognizes the potential of this promising sector as an integral part of the seafood production continuum, but also realizes that concerns exist about the industry. To this end, the Government is committed to take action to ensure a vibrant and competitive aquaculture sector while preserving key environmental and socio-economic values associated with Canada's aquatic resources.

The Government of Canada's Program for Sustainable Aquaculture (PSA) announced in 2000 constitutes an investment that will enable the aquaculture industry to grow and become one of the jewels of the Canadian economy while allowing the Government to ensure that this growth is achieved while preserving our aquatic ecosystems. Furthermore, the Government of Canada recently earmarked new funds to support economic development in Aboriginal communities. As a result, Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO's) new Aboriginal Programming Framework will put the department in a position to work with interested Aboriginal communities to develop aquaculture.

Within Canada, aquaculture is a shared responsibility between the federal government (involving 17 departments), and provincial and territorial governments. Consequently, the Government of Canada must create and maintain strong working relationships to ensure the sustainable development of the industry. As lead federal agency for aquaculture, DFO works with other departments and agencies to achieve this objective. Through the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM), the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is working with his provincial and territorial colleagues to develop appropriate solutions to bring increased coherence to aquaculture-related legislation, policies and programs. The Government is committed to continue building on that constructive relationship to position Canada as a world leader in sustainable aquaculture.

Aquaculture is a sustainable industry, and it is striving to further improve its practices. As outlined in the following responses to the Committee's recommendations, the Government of Canada takes its responsibility seriously and has already implemented a number of initiatives to ensure that this promising sector develops in a sustainable and responsible manner. It is the Government's objective to support the sustainable development of aquaculture in Canada, while upholding its responsibilities to protect wild stocks-for the benefit of present and future generations of Canadians.

Recommendation 1

That the federal government enact a federal Aquaculture Act that will:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Government Response

The Government of Canada is fully dedicated to supporting the sustainable development of aquaculture to benefit Canadians, now and in the future, while upholding the ecological and socio-economic values associated with Canada's oceans and inland waters.

To this end, the Government's decisions regarding aquaculture development are based on sound science and risk management, including the precautionary approach endorsed by the Government of Canada. For example, DFO's Aquaculture Policy Framework recognizes that the application of precaution is distinctive within a science based risk management framework. The precautionary approach is characterized by three basic tenets: the need for a decision, a risk of serious or irreversible harm and the lack of full scientific certainty. DFO's use of the precautionary approach in the context of aquaculture development is informed by the legislative requirements of the Oceans Act and federal direction regarding risk management and the application of precaution.

While the Government recognizes that an Aquaculture Act could provide some benefits, it must still examine the full range of advantages and disadvantages before making a decision. Some issues that need to be reviewed include the interaction between any proposed Act and existing legislation, the recognition of the provinces' jurisdiction over some aquaculture activities and the potential impact on wild fish and fish habitat. Furthermore, the Government first wishes to review the upcoming report of the Commissioner for Aquaculture Development prior to considering the advisability of enacting new legislation which would govern aquaculture in a manner to sustain the development of the sector.

The Government acknowledges the importance of having a legislative framework that allows the federal government, in conjunction with the provinces, to regulate the sector effectively. As the lead federal agency for aquaculture in Canada, DFO is committed to explore the possibility of amending the Fisheries Act and develop aquaculture regulations with a view to better define and regulate aquaculture and fully recognize the industry as a legitimate user of aquatic resources.

The Government is committed to consulting with Canadians on any proposal to amend either legislation or regulations as set out in the Cabinet Directives on Law Making and Regulation.

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Recommendation 2

That regulations be developed pursuant to a federal Aquaculture Act that will:

Government Response

The Government of Canada acknowledges that a transparent and public process for regulating aquaculture is vital to increasing public confidence in the sustainability of this promising sector. The Government needs to first examine the full range of advantages and disadvantages of any proposed legislation on aquaculture before making a decision on the development of new regulations.

Responsibility for aquaculture in Canada is shared between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. As a result, provinces and territories will continue to develop regulations that provide a clear set of standards for operators in a wide range of areas such as siting, waste management and fish escapes.

The regulatory role is also an important part of DFO's mandate. This includes ensuring that aquaculture facilities are in compliance with the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act and that DFO conducts environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) for all projects requiring specific approvals under its legislation. In early 2001, interim guidelines were developed to bring increased clarity, consistency and efficiency to the application of DFO's regulatory responsibilities relating to the aquaculture sector. The guidelines represent a first step in developing an enabling regulatory environment for aquaculture. DFO continues to work with provinces, industry and stakeholders with a view to further clarifying the meaning of these guidelines, as well as harmonizing information and monitoring requirements with those of the provinces.

The Government of Canada has adopted a smart regulation strategy to accelerate reforms in key areas to promote health and sustainability, to contribute to innovation and economic growth, and to reduce the administrative burden on business. To this end, the Government is committed to work collaboratively with all interested parties to review a wide range of policy instruments available to further the efficiency of existing regulatory frameworks, including the implementation of a national industry code system for sustainable aquaculture. Efficient and effective regulatory frameworks are required to maintain an internationally competitive industry and increase public confidence in the sustainability of aquaculture in Canada.

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Recommendation 3

That Fisheries and Oceans Canada allocate the necessary financial and human resources to ensure compliance of marine fish farm operations with federal environmental regulations; and, where provincial and territorial regulations exist, that DFO work with the provinces and territories to ensure that their standards, monitoring and enforcement are fully consistent with federal standards. In order to help fund these activities, DFO should establish cost-sharing mechanisms with the industry on the basis that it is being granted access to a public resource.

Government Response

DFO is currently examining through the Departmental Assessment and Alignment Project (DAAP), all its programming to ensure that its activities and resources are aligned to its mandated responsibilities including those for aquaculture.

Nevertheless, aquaculture industry compliance with federal environmental regulations for both finfish and shellfish is a priority for DFO and Environment Canada (EC). Under the $15M federal Program for Sustainable Aquaculture (PSA), $4.5 M per year is being invested in an improved management and regulatory framework for aquaculture, and $4.0 M is being invested in the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) which includes addressing human health concerns related to the industry. These investments focus not only on ensuring that DFO's obligations under the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act are being met, but also provide increased funding to Environment Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for specific programs related to their mandates with respect to aquaculture. PSA funding in 2001 provided for an additional 57 FTE's across Canada, focussing on the management and regulatory framework.

With regards to monitoring of fish farm facilities, DFO, EC, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Health Canada (HC) will be participating in a technical workshop this fall that will look at the national capacity to monitor Canadian waters for the occurrence of pharmaceuticals used in all aspects of agriculture and at the feasibility of developing a parallel effort to look at their environmental effects. This Recommendation is concerned with environmental impact of aquaculture as a whole. Health Canada is committed to developing environmental assessment regulations for products currently regulated under the Food and Drugs Act. The Department will be looking at the environmental and indirect human health impacts of the use of veterinary drugs in the aquaculture industry.

In order to strengthen its regulatory role, DFO continues to work with the provinces through the Aquaculture Task Group of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM) to improve consistency in standards, facilitate shared monitoring of regulatory compliance and address enforcement issues. Under the CCFAM, ministers have agreed to support the development and implementation of processes, including harmonized monitoring and reporting, and support the implementation of an overarching national industry code system for the aquaculture industry covering all jurisdictions and all sectors of the industry.

Given that in all jurisdictions, except PEI, the province is the leasing authority for aquaculture where activities are conducted on provincial territory, it is unclear how the federal government could impose cost-sharing mechanisms on industry to support compliance and enforcement. However, within a smart regulatory framework, the Government of Canada is committed to examining the array of policy instruments that uphold the shared responsibility for aquaculture and determining the best mechanism, including cost-sharing, for compliance where private benefits are derived from a public resource.

It should be noted that, in other areas, industry has absorbed a number of costs in developing, with governments, national standards and codes of practice that relate to a number of regulatory responsibilities.

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Recommendation 4

That the federal government establish a mechanism to ensure that sanctions are imposed on aquaculture operators who are not in compliance with federal regulations. Such a mechanism should include "whistle blower" protection for industry and government employees.

Government Response

Mechanisms to impose sanctions on aquaculture operators who are not in compliance with federal regulations currently exist in Canada. DFO expects that aquaculture operators comply with federal regulations and guidelines outlined in the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). The Fisheries Act, the Oceans Act and the NWPA currently contain no provisions for "whistleblower protection"; however, the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Competition Act do contain this type of protection for employees in relation to the enforcement of these particular statutes.

The Fisheries Act does provide, through the use of section 79.2, the possibility of obtaining, following a conviction, court orders which contain prohibitions, directions or requirements. The court can, for example, prohibit the person from doing any act or engaging in any activity that may result in the continuation or repetition of the offence; direct the person to take any action to remedy or avoid any harm to any fish, fishery or fish habitat; it may direct the person to pay the Minister an amount of money as compensation for the cost of any remedial or preventative action; or require the person to comply with any other conditions that the court considers appropriate for securing the person's good conduct and for preventing the person from repeating the offence or committing other offences under the Act.

Under the Fisheries Act, subsection 35(1) provides that no person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the "harmful alteration, disruption or destruction" (HADD) of fish habitat. Subsection 36(3) prohibits, among other things, the deposit of deleterious substances in water frequented by fish. Contravening either of these provisions of the Fisheries Act is punishable by fine or imprisonment. As stated above, the Fisheries Act also provides for sentencing that directs the offender to take measures to avoid further impacts or remediate damage already done to fish or fish habitat.

The Fisheries Act also provides DFO with the ability to order project proponents to undertake corrective measures to avoid impacts to fish or fish habitat. It should be noted that the objective of the Habitat Management Program is to prevent the net loss of the productive capacity of fish habitat. This is achieved by working with project proponents to redesign and relocate projects in order to avoid impacts. In addition, where impacts cannot be entirely avoided, mitigation measures are required to minimise the impacts. After all these attempts have been made to avoid and mitigate the impacts, and DFO deems a HADD will occur as a result of a project, and that the HADD is acceptable, DFO may issue an Authorization under subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act. The Authorization exempts the proponent from prosecution under subsection 35(1), but also requires that certain mitigation measures be implemented and will require that the proponent undertake habitat compensation to replace the productive capacity of the fish habitat impacted. Where a potential HADD is deemed to be unacceptable, DFO will not issue a subsection 35(2) Authorization, and the proponent risks prosecution as described above if the project is carried out.

Under section 6 of the NWPA, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has the authority to order the alteration or removal of works that are in violation of the NWPA or the Navigable Waters Works Regulations. However, this power is usually used only when other enforcement tools and mechanisms have failed or in cases where there is documented evidence that the owner of a work is steadfastly refusing to comply with the conditions of approval, the NWPA or the regulations. There are also prescribed fines for non-compliance with the requirements of the regulations.

Under enforcement by Environment Canada, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the Species at Risk Act both offer alternatives to the court system. These laws allow negotiation of a formal alternative measures agreement that is public and which states the requirements and timeline for the offender's return to compliance. In addition, Canada's court system is the other "mechanism" that is available to ensure sentences and/or court orders are imposed on those convicted of violating the law.

Given that the provinces play an integral role in the direct operation of aquaculture facilities, they are instrumental in supplying the federal government with information on activities that could signal the existence of problems. In the spirit of smart regulation, the Government of Canada will continue to partner with provinces in this area. For example, DFO will continue to protect and conserve the fish resources and habitat while, at the same time, reducing or minimising duplication that may result from complying with provincial and federal regulations. The Government will also continue to work with the provinces towards improving the efficiency of the laws and regulations that apply to aquaculture.

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Recommendation 5

That the federal government promote a system of continual environmental improvement for aquaculture, such as the ISO 14001 standard and that Canada advocate such a system internationally to create a more "level playing field."

Government Response

The Government of Canada supports approaches for continual environmental improvement for aquaculture. The ISO 14001 environmental standard is a voluntary measure of a company's operating systems and procedures that standardizes environmental management practices, and requires a company to demonstrate ongoing improvement with respect to environmental issues. While two companies operating in British Columbia have achieved this certification on their own, it is a costly system to implement. To promote this particular system within Canada would not tend to "level the playing field" as smaller operations may not be able to afford the costs of implementation. Several industry associations currently follow voluntary codes of practice which are specific to aquaculture in order to improve the sustainability of the sector. Moreover, provincial governments are moving towards making codes of practice mandatory as a condition of licence.

Despite the existence of several provincial and regional codes of practice, there is no national set of standards. To address this gap, the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM) is encouraging the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance to develop a national industry code system (in which provincial or regional codes could be nested) to ensure that aquaculture practices in Canada are standardised and sustainable. The primary goal of the code is to promote development of a responsible, viable, competitive Canadian aquaculture sector that would be a world-class model for sustainable development. The code will contain national performance standards, which the industry is currently developing.

Internationally, Canada is represented on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Committee on Fisheries (COFI) Sub-Committee on Aquaculture. One of the main functions of this Sub-Committee is to recommend international action to address aquaculture development needs, including to advise on the strengthening of international collaboration to assist developing countries in the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Code provides principles and standards applicable to the conservation, management and development of all fisheries. It also covers the capture, processing and trade of fish and fishery products, fishing operations, aquaculture, fisheries research and the integration of fisheries into coastal area management. The Government of Canada will work with other countries to set the conditions for vibrant and responsible aquaculture development.

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Recommendation 6

That the provisions of the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act be applied to all existing and future aquaculture facilities; and

That DFO fulfill its responsibility to safeguard wild fish stocks and marine resources by acting as the public watchdog of both the aquaculture and commercial fishing industries.

Government Response

DFO and Environment Canada have been meeting their regulatory responsibilities.

All new aquaculture site applications in Canada that involve the construction of "works" are reviewed under the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). Where a proposed work could interfere substantially with navigation, before an NWPA approval may be issued, the requirement for an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) is triggered. Aquaculture sites are also reviewed against the requirements of the Fisheries Act. DFO acknowledges that some existing aquaculture works were not recognized as triggering CEAA, and that some of these sites have not, therefore, been reviewed under CEAA. Where opportunities arise to conduct assessments on sites which do not comply with the legislation, it has been, and continues to be, a priority for DFO to do so. Most recently, in 2001, 426 sites in PEI were reviewed and brought into compliance with federal legislation.

Environment Canada (EC) is fulfilling its responsibilities for aquaculture by enforcing the pollution prevention provisions of sections 36 to 42 of the Fisheries Act on behalf of DFO. In so doing, EC takes into account the definition of "deleterious substance" in section 34 and prohibition in subsection 36 (3) when examining deposits, by aquaculture facilities, of substances into water frequented by fish. Environment Canada fishery inspectors and fishery officers take action in relation to any deposit to Canadian fishery waters, if the substance being released is harmful to fish, fish habitat and human use of fish. EC grants permits for disposal at sea under Division 3 of Part 7 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), 1999 for wastes and other matter listed in Schedule 5 of the Act. To obtain a disposal at sea permit, an application must be submitted to EC for a review as set out in Schedule 6 of CEPA 1999. Each permit review evaluates if disposal at sea is the only practical or environmentally preferable option; that the waste or other matter itself is acceptable; and that the disposal activities do not conflict with other users of the sea. This process can take about 120 days and would include, before operations could begin, a mandatory consultation period for 30 days from the date that the permit is published in the Canada Gazette.

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Recommendation 7

That DFO assert federal constitutional authority over the protection of fish and fish habitat;

That the federal government negotiate with the provinces and territories over areas of shared jurisdiction to ensure that the regulatory roles, responsibilities and accountability of both levels of government be made clear; and

That in the absence of agreement with the provinces and territories within a reasonable timeframe, DFO urge the Governor in Council to seek a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada under section 53 of the Supreme Court Act.

Government Response

Jurisdictional responsibilities for development and regulation of the aquaculture industry within Canada are shared between the federal government and the provinces and territories.

The protection of fish and fish habitat is the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Department meets its obligations in this regard. DFO acknowledges the importance of meeting its responsibilities under the Fisheries Act and associated regulations, the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).

DFO, under the auspices of the existing federal/territorial/provincial Agreement on Interjurisdictional Cooperation with Respect to Fisheries and Aquaculture, has entered into a number of bilateral Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on aquaculture development with British Columbia, Quebec, the Yukon and the Atlantic provinces. Since the late 1980s, DFO has worked with these jurisdictions to identify and distinguish roles and responsibilities pertaining to aquaculture.

In accordance with its mandate, DFO's primary obligations are to manage and protect the fisheries resource, manage and protect the marine and freshwater environment, safeguard the marine environment and facilitate maritime trade, commerce and ocean development. Existing MOUs on aquaculture development have proved invaluable in clarifying issues of accountability, reducing duplication, and improving support for the industry. Consistent with DFO's mandate as lead federal agency for aquaculture in Canada, scientific research, fish health and inspection, and the protection of fish and fish habitat are enunciated in existing MOUs as the federal government's aquaculture responsibilities. The territories/provinces' responsibilities include promotion, development and regulation.

DFO has and will continue to apply the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act as asserted in the 1986 Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat. DFO is currently working collaboratively with provincial agencies across the country to streamline the review of aquaculture proposals by harmonizing application information requirements and/or harmonizing the application process. DFO is also actively engaging provincial governments in the development of federal-provincial agreements on fish habitat. These MOUs are intended to establish a context for subsequent federal-provincial protocols that would define roles and responsibilities, and processes and procedures for collaboration in jointly identified fish habitat areas. To date, fish habitat MOUs have been signed in Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, and are under development in all other provinces with the exception of Quebec.

While upholding its Fisheries Act, NWPA and CEAA obligations, DFO continues to collaborate with the provinces and territories under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM) irrespective of whether administrative agreements are in place. Discussions with a number of provincial and federal agencies are already underway to spell out roles and responsibilities with regard to aquaculture development or to review existing administrative agreements. The CCFAM continues to set an example of practical federal-provincial cooperation.

The use of the reference power as per section 53 of the Supreme Court Act would not be appropriate. Section 53 is used in vary rare circumstances. The Governor in Council can refer to the Court for hearing and consideration of important questions of law or facts on issues such as constitutionality of certain federal or provincial legislation. Whether agreements have been entered into between the federal government and the provinces on the subject of aquaculture would not likely be the kind of issues, as contemplated by section 53, to bring before the court for their opinion.

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Recommendation 8

That administrative agreements between the federal and provincial/territorial governments be reviewed with respect to effectiveness and compliance every five years or sooner if there is a concern expressed by either level of government.

Government Response

The Agreement on Interjurisdictional Cooperation with Respect to Fisheries and Aquaculture, signed in 1999 by all provincial and territorial jurisdictions and the federal government, contains a requirement to evaluate its effectiveness after 3 years and to make appropriate adjustments as required. DFO has undertaken that review and will soon be reporting on those findings at the September meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM).

While negotiating MOUs with provinces, it has become apparent that it would be appropriate to include a similar review function within the text of new agreements. Such a review could be conducted at a specific point in time as in the above-referenced agreement, or in a more general fashion allowing for either party to raise a concern with respect to an agreement's effectiveness or compliance. To this end, existing federal-provincial MOUs on aquaculture already include a reference to an amending process which, in the future, could be strengthened to include a joint review by both levels of government. For example, the Canada-Nova Scotia MOU on aquaculture development was renewed in 2002 and bilateral discussions are already in place with the Province of Quebec to review the existing federal-provincial agreement.

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Recommendation 9

That the respective roles and responsibilities of the Office of the Commissioner for Aquaculture Development (OCAD) and the Department be clearly defined in order that it is understood that the OCAD's role is to foster development of the industry while the role of the Department is to protect wild fish and their habitat through regulation monitoring and enforcement of the industry.

Government Response

The Commissioner for Aquaculture Development was appointed by Order in Council in 1999 to serve as a champion for aquaculture development within the federal government. The Commissioner's mandate was to expire in March 2002, but was extended by the Prime Minister until March 2004. Reporting to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Commissioner's mandate includes: advocating for aquaculture development within the federal government, assisting the department in fostering increased collaboration between the aquaculture and fishing sectors, and assisting with implementation of the Federal Aquaculture Development Strategy across all federal departments. As part of the extended mandate, the Commissioner will provide the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans a 15 year vision for aquaculture development in Canada, as well as provide recommendations on the appropriate federal role in aquaculture and an organizational structure to best fulfill that role.

As lead federal agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to ensuring the responsible and sustainable development of aquaculture in Canada. Within the federal government, several departments and agencies have a responsibility for, invest in, or influence aquaculture development. The federal role encompasses research, technology transfer, training and development, the regulatory framework, product safety and inspection, regional program spending, foreign market intelligence and trade services, access to financing and communications.

As a regulator of the aquaculture industry, DFO plays an important role to encourage growth in a manner that does not impair the environment upon which the industry and indeed all Canadians depend. DFO's vision for aquaculture development in Canada is to benefit Canadians through the culture of aquatic organisms while upholding the ecological and socio-economic values associated with Canada's oceans and inland waters.

This vision is consistent with the departmental mission of working toward safe, healthy, productive waters and aquatic ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations by maintaining the highest possible standards of service to Canadians, conservation and sustainable resource use, scientific excellence, and marine safety and environmental protection.

DFO is responsible for administering, monitoring and enforcing compliance with its regulations relating to conservation and protection, of fish and fish habitat (Fisheries Act), navigational safety (Navigable Waters Protection Act) and aquatic animal health (Fish Health Protection Regulations) in a clearly defined, reasonable and consistent manner. Under the Program for Sustainable Aquaculture, DFO is also responsible for: investing in aquaculture and environmental research, working in partnership with the provinces and territories to develop a proactive process for the review of site applications, and considering industry development programs consistent with DFO's mandate and objectives.

The Government of Canada will continue to work closely with the provinces and territories, the aquaculture industry and Aboriginal and other interest groups in an effort to continually improve the social and economic opportunities that aquaculture brings, while safeguarding our environment.

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Recommendation 10

That the federal government adopt an integrated, coastal zone management approach to aquaculture, as mandated by the Oceans Act that would determine the most suitable locations for aquaculture development and other oceans industries and that would help to:

Government Response

Integrated Management (IM) is an on-going process that brings together ocean interests and users to proactively plan and manage human activities affecting the marine environment. A key principle of IM is ecosystem-based management which means that ecosystems are the core planning units.

Integrated Management is a flexible and transparent planning process which is designed to be collaborative. It involves ocean management decisions based on information sharing, consultation with stakeholders and participation in the planning process. IM processes respect existing constitutional and departmental authorities and do not abrogate or derogate from any existing Aboriginal or treaty rights. In addition to ensuring that aquaculture develops on an even footing with other legitimate users of Canada's aquatic resources, active participation in IM will ensure that the use of aquatic resources take into account the health and viability of ecosystems, thus contributing to the long-term sustainability of Canada's oceans and inland waters.

The development of integrated management plans and processes is central to the delivery of Canada's Oceans Strategy (COS). Released to the public on July 12, 2002, the COS is the Government of Canada's policy framework for the management of estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems. Released simultaneously with the COS, the Policy and Operational Framework for Integrated Management of Estuarine, Coastal and Marine Environments in Canada explains how DFO is addressing its IM responsibilities under the Oceans Act and offers guidance for collaborative efforts of oceans interests. Since the Oceans Act came in to force in 1997, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has undertaken IM initiatives on all three coasts, involving a wide variety of stakeholders, including aquaculture interests. For example, in Quebec a number of committees have been formed, including aquaculture interests, to undertake integrated management plans. Talks are currently underway with the province to expand this approach. Moreover, integrated management plans are also being developed for Richibuctou and Caraquet Bays in northern New Brunswick.

While IM planning has begun in all ocean regions of Canada, it is a long-term process that will take time to build and implement. The process leading to the implementation of an IM plan may take several years, depending on the scale and complexity of the area to be managed. The aquaculture industry, like other marine-based industries and users of oceans space, may facilitate planning by contributing ecological information and knowledge which supports planning and on-going management.

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Recommendation 11

That nationwide standards and regulations to minimize escapes from net pens should be adopted. These should include:

In addition, that DFO, in cooperation with its partners, intensify research into reducing the number of fish escaping from aquaculture facilities and promote the adoption of the results of such research.

Government Response

While the federal government has a strong interest in minimising escapes from net pen operations because of concerns that have been raised about their impacts on wild stocks, the responsibility for fish farm operations within provincial territory rests with the leasing/licensing authority — the provinces. While regulations vary from province to province, the federal government is working with the provinces and industry through the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers to harmonize codes of containment. Many provinces already have strong legislation regarding escapes. British Columbia, in particular, introduced new Escape Regulations in 2002, with compliance measures and sanctions that deal with many of the issues raised in the recommendations. Reporting and recovery are covered under most regulations.

Codes of containment are not only of interest to the federal and provincial governments. The economic losses, as well as the resulting negative press that result from escapes, makes containment of fish an important issue for the aquaculture industry. Expenditures by governments and industry on research for new cage technology have significantly reduced escapes over the last few years. These investments, along with codes and on site Best Management Practices have resulted in industry working closely with provinces to reduce escapes and develop standards for the industry.

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Recommendation 12

That the number of annual surveys of rivers under the Atlantic salmon watch program be expanded on the West Coast and that a similar program be introduced on the East Coast.

Government Response

The Atlantic Salmon Watch Program (ASWP) is a cooperative research program operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada with funding from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. The purpose of the program is to study the abundance, distribution and biology of Atlantic salmon in British Columbia and its adjacent waters.

The current survey effort in the Pacific region is sufficient given the low risk (Salmon Aquaculture Review, 1997 and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service technical bulletin #49) that Atlantic salmon pose to Pacific salmonids. The Atlantic Salmon Watch program conducts approximately 100 stream surveys each year in an effort to enumerate, and where possible, remove Atlantic salmon from BC streams. In addition, hundreds of other surveys are conducted, such as those by:

Surveys are conducted by qualified individuals knowledgeable and able to identify and report Atlantic salmon to the ASWP. Even with this significant survey effort a very small number of Atlantic salmon were enumerated in 2002, only 40 adult individuals and 8 juveniles were counted, none of which appeared to be products of natural spawning. The Department will continue to monitor the presence of Atlantic salmon in British Columbia, and will devote more effort to enumeration and eradication should the risks posed by Atlantic salmon justify it.

The ASWP could not be easily transferred to the East Coast. There is a system in place, however, to monitor wild populations in a number of rivers on the East Coast. Approximately 65 rivers in eastern Canada were monitored in 2002. Only 3 were found to have farmed Atlantic salmon in them. While this activity and others underway in Atlantic Canada are limited in scope, they provide valuable data and will continue to do so. Current data does not support implementing a program such as ASWP on the East Coast of Canada at this time.

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Recommendation 13

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans give a high priority to the development and implementation of a National Aquatic Animal Health Program to provide for:

Government Response

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), is exploring the feasibility of a National Aquatic Animal Health Program (NAAHP) and the role which the federal government could play in its delivery. Discussions are on-going with other government departments, provinces and territories and industry regarding possible program elements, options for delivery and possible funding mechanisms. However, no final decision has been made regarding federal support for a NAAHP.

DFO, as the regulatory authority for fish health in Canada, has led meetings with provincial and industry stakeholders to define roles and responsibilities that will maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of existing expertise and resources. This, in turn, will optimize early detection and reporting of diseases that pose a serious threat to both farmed and wild aquatic resources in Canada. DFO currently manages and delivers the Fish Health Protection Regulations, Fisheries (General) Regulations section 56, and section 4 of the Fisheries Act, that all cover health protection for Canada's aquatic animal resources.

In addition, Environment Canada grants permits for disposal at sea under Division 3 of Part 7 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 for wastes and other matter listed in Schedule 5 of the Act. However, where dead fish from a disease related event need to be managed, no permit for disposal at sea would be granted and land-based disposal options would be required.

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Recommendation 14

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans promote lower stocking densities and continued preventive fish health practices such as effective vaccines and vaccination protocols to reduce the incidence of disease in net pens.

Government Response

Fisheries and Oceans Canada promotes disease control strategies that reduce disease incidence under all aquaculture situations (including net pens), and can be conducted in an environmentally safe manner. Such disease control strategies include the use of vaccines that are available for some salmonid diseases. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which is ultimately responsible for the regulation of any veterinary biologic sold or used in Canada, under the Health of Animals Act, and the National Research Council (NRC), which is currently researching aquaculture vaccines (e.g., sea lice vaccine), both continue to support the use of safe and effective vaccines in aquaculture as part of the industry's continued commitment to improving animal husbandry practices to minimise disease impacts.

As well, the use of appropriate stocking densities as an effective disease control strategy are encouraged by DFO through industry-led Best Management Practices (BMPs). Stocks reared using good husbandry practices are better able to withstand disease challenges and require less disease control intervention throughout the production cycle.

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Recommendation 15

That DFO and the industry promote the development and use of improved methods to control sea lice, including better husbandry techniques, fallowing farms, developing louse-resistant strains of salmon, and non-chemical treatment methods; and

That the recommended National Aquatic Animal Health Program explicitly includes a requirement for monitoring and reporting sea lice levels on farmed fish, as well as specifying maximum allowable sea lice burdens.

Government Response

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), along with other departments and agencies such as Environment Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the National Research Council (NRC), support activities designed to reduce any disease impact (including sea-lice) on wild or farmed aquatic resources. DFO is working closely with the Atlantic and Pacific provinces and sectors of the industry prone to sea-lice infections. The Department has developed the five-point Pink Salmon Action Plan in British Columbia, which is closely integrated with a BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Action Plan to control sea-lice infections. These Action Plans include farm-based sea-lice controls, the monitoring of wild salmonid populations in salmon farming areas, and research programs on various sea lice issues. Best Management Practices (BMPs) applied to stocking densities and husbandry practices for disease control also apply equally to sea-lice management. In addition, NRC is currently researching a vaccine against sea lice. It is also pursuing a large multifaceted pathogenomics project aimed at gaining a better understanding of the interaction between the host (salmon) and the pathogen during the infection process, aiming to identify candidate diseases for vaccine development. As well, the CFIA supports actions that reduce the use of therapeutants since these actions minimise any potential food safety risks associated with therapeutant use.

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Recommendation 16

That DFO develop environmental performance regulations explicitly for the finfish aquaculture industry under either a new Aquaculture Act or, in the interim, either the Fisheries Act or the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to control the output of nutrients and other wastes into marine waters from aquaculture operations.

Government Response

The current regulatory approach used by DFO has been developed as an interim step that applies section 35 of the Fisheries Act to the impacts of the accumulation of feed and feces from aquaculture operations. The approach allows the industry to continue operating while DFO collects and examines valuable data through the monitoring requirements of all new aquaculture sites reviewed under the Fisheries Act. It should also be noted that some provinces already use a performance-based standards approach to assess the potential nutrient impacts of aquaculture operations. For new sites, most provinces also incorporate federal CEAA information requirements (including monitoring and mitigation procedures) in site applications. The federal government is also providing advice to industry regarding the development of best management practices to minimise waste releases. These measures, along with the adoption of sound farm siting and mitigation practices (e.g. fallowing), are critical to ensuring impacts associated with organic loading are minimised.

Although the federal government supports the concept of environmental performance regulations, the need for specific federal aquaculture regulations at this time is not warranted until a thorough analysis of the effectiveness of existing policies, regulations and legislation is completed. Currently, Environment Canada and DFO are exploring options for managing waste deposits from aquaculture to determine what is possible under the powers of the Fisheries Act and CEPA 1999. Specific to nutrients, the Government of Canada proposes to explore the applicability of the regulation-making authority in section 118 of CEPA 1999 to aquaculture operations for monitoring nutrients released into water. Existing provincial legislation and opportunities for federal-provincial harmonization will be considered when exploring any federal option.

The development of other waste deposit regulations under the Fisheries Act (i.e. section 36 regulations) indicates that considerable research and observation is required to determine appropriate standards and parameters for quantifying the impacts of aquaculture operations. One main reason for the time-intensive nature of national regulation development is the complexity and variability of ecosystems. The detail of the data that is required is proportional to the relative risk of the operation and may, over time, provide direction in the development of environmental standards for aquaculture. The regulation development process, administration and enforcement aspects are also time-consuming and costly. Thus, a thorough analysis of existing and alternative policy instruments for dealing with waste issues is required.

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Recommendation 17

That, for marine areas with high concentrations of fish farm operations, a precautionary approach be adopted with respect to farm density and overall production limits until such time as scientific research can determine the capacity of the system to assimilate wastes, nutrients and other chemical products deposited from farms. If it is determined that an area cannot maintain its biological integrity at a given production level, then either total production must be scaled down or more stringent discharge limits implemented for fish farms.

Government Response

The federal government endorses the precautionary approach, whereby management decision-making takes account of the risk of serious or irreversible harm and the level of scientific uncertainty. The application of precaution recognizes that scientific uncertainty shall not be used as a reason to postpone cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation. In carrying out federal regulatory responsibilities, the concepts of precaution and risk management are applied to aquaculture as with any industrial sector. The application of these concepts recognizes aquaculture as a legitimate resource use while also acknowledging that ecological integrity must not be compromised by any resource use. A specific example of the application of the precautionary principle is the development of a sea lice action plan on the West Coast. While there is no conclusive evidence that salmon farming has caused declines in wild pink salmon because of sea lice associated with fish farms, DFO has worked with industry, the Province of BC and stakeholders to minimise potential sea lice infestation of pink salmon from salmon farms and monitor the effectiveness of mitigation measures put in place.

With the implementation of DFO's Interim Guide to the Application of Section 35 of the Fisheries Act to Salmonid Cage Aquaculture Developments, DFO undertook to apply a nationally consistent adaptive management approach to the review of aquaculture proposals under the Fisheries Act. Applied to all new sites, renewals, relocations and expansions (in both freshwater and marine environments), this approach dictates that where it is unclear whether fish habitat will be harmfully altered, disrupted or destroyed (HADD) by an aquaculture operation the proponent and DFO will enter into a HADD Avoidance, Mitigation and Monitoring Agreement. The Agreement sets out measures to avoid and mitigate the impact of the operation as well as a monitoring plan for the proponent to follow. The rigour of the monitoring plan is determined based on the perceived risk of the proposed operation. The monitoring plan sets out the data that must be provided by the proponent and specific actions that must be taken if data indicates that impacts have or are likely to occur. Measures required by the Agreement in the event of unsatisfactory monitoring data may include reduction of production levels, changes to feeding or stocking practices, fallowing or remediation of the site. Some form of financial security is usually required as part of the Agreement to ensure that the conditions in the Agreement will be carried out even if the proponent becomes unwilling or unable to comply. It should be noted that provincial authorities, in consultation with the federal government, are responsible for setting production limits.

With respect to research, DFO will continue its integrated scientific research program on aquaculture-environment interactions. The Department will build on recent investments in research and development, such as the Program for Sustainable Aquaculture, to coordinate and conduct research on carrying capacity and potential cumulative effects. In addition, DFO will continue to work with its industry, academic and government partners to enhance scientific knowledge and to improve the environmental performance of the industry. The scientific information will assist both regulators and industry to further enhance proactive, integrated aquaculture siting that considers carrying capacity and potential cumulative effects.

Health Canada is committed to developing environmental assessment regulations for products currently regulated under the Food and Drugs Act. The Department will be looking at the environmental and indirect human health impacts of the use of veterinary drugs in the aquaculture industry. With the coming into force of these regulations, Health Canada will be in a position to enforce appropriate risk management strategies should there be shown to be a deleterious environmental impact stemming from the use of veterinary drugs in aquaculture.

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Recommendation 18

That, as far as possible, any federal, provincial and territorial regulations allowing deposition of wastes be harmonized; and

That where provinces and territories have developed their own environmental performance regulations, DFO determine whether such regulations meet federal performance standards and, if they do not, ensure that the more stringent federal standards apply.

Government Response

The Government of Canada agrees that, if federal regulations allowing the deposit of wastes from aquaculture operations to Canadian fishery waters were to be developed, the Government would consult the provinces and territories to determine to what extent the federal and provincial regulatory provisions could be harmonized. Under section 35 of the Fisheries Act the "harmful alteration, disruption or destruction" (HADD) of fish habitat is prohibited, not the deposition of waste per se. However, the deposition of waste can be regulated where it occurs in a concentration or quantity that would result in a HADD. In situations where provincial standards do not meet DFO requirements under section 35, DFO requirements are and will continue to be applied. Environment Canada is responsible for the administration, enforcement, consultation, analysis, negotiation and verification of any harmonization efforts pertaining to subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act dealing with deleterious substances. Through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) member jurisdictions collectively establish nationally-consistent environmental standards, strategies and objectives so as to achieve a high level of environmental quality across the country. At present there are no federal standards for the deposition of wastes so it is not possible to harmonize with the provinces.

In Canada, where a subject matter is to be regulated by both federal and provincial governments, efforts are made to avoid as much as possible inconsistencies or conflicts between the regulations. However, if compliance with a provincial regulation would bring a regulatee into non-compliance with a federal regulation, it is the federal regulation that prevails. For instance, if a federal regulation requires testing of therapeutants used in aquaculture once a month and a provincial regulation required testing once every two months, the federal regulation would prevail to the extent of the inconsistency, and the regulatee would have to test every month.

On an ongoing basis, issues related to waste management are discussed between DFO and provincial agencies whenever harmonization initiatives are undertaken. Industry Best Management Practices that set out waste management practices would facilitate addressing federal and provincial concerns. DFO and Environment Canada continue to explore tools to address aquaculture waste management issues.

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Recommendation 19

That DFO conduct an exhaustive investigation into the effects of siting netcage fish farms on adult and juvenile salmon migratory routes, as well as on fish rearing grounds. In particular, safe and acceptable distances between the sites of farms and the prohibited siting areas should be determined, taking into consideration data from, and standards in place in, other countries; and

That the licensing authorities be urged, in the strongest possible terms, that the granting of additional salmon farm licences proceed with extreme caution until such a study has been completed.

Government Response

The Government of Canada promotes the use of the most effective science-based methods to ensure the best sustainable resource use practices are employed in the management of the environmental interactions of aquaculture. While the federal government does not believe the current scientific knowledge implicates the salmon farming industry as the sole contributor to impacts on wild salmon species, considerable work is being undertaken to both study and mitigate such interactions.

DFO does not license fish farm sites. Site licences for proposed operations in provincial territory are issued by the provincial authority in all provinces with the exception of PEI where, by mutual agreement, DFO licenses aquaculture sites. However, in most cases provinces consult DFO on the appropriateness of proposed sites. The separation distances between aquaculture sites and exclusion zones which exist in various provinces have been established based on the belief that sites should be separated. The variation in site-specific characteristics such as water depth, currents and flushing rates preclude the establishment of precise distance criteria. Site-specific nutrient and other environmental quality guidelines can further assist in siting sustainable aquaculture farms. Research is ongoing to evaluate the characteristics that contribute to optimal productivity and minimal impact of site activity. The results of these studies will contribute to establishing appropriate distances between sites. In parallel to research efforts mentioned above, the federal government does apply a rigorous environmental assessment process to new aquaculture site proposals in concert with provincial licensing authorities to minimise potential conflicts with natural resources (e.g. fish and wildlife). In British Columbia, for example, this may take into account both migratory routes as well as fish rearing habitat for wild salmon. Mitigation and monitoring agreements provide for an adaptive management approach to protect wild fish populations and fish habitat.

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Recommendation 20

That governments dedicate funds for research on the environmental effects of netcage systems, and the improvement of closed containment technology. These new systems should be phased in on a trial basis.

Government Response

The Government of Canada is focused on enabling the development of sustainable aquaculture. For example, over the last decade DFO has spent over $3.4 M on research into the environmental interactions of aquaculture and has conducted research on the most recent closed containment technology. Environment Canada has also undertaken research related to freshwater cage aquaculture sites including nutrient loading and carrying capacity, and is also assessing water quality effects and benthic effects.

As part of its ongoing commitment to further research on the environmental interactions of aquaculture, DFO will identify specific research needs, set priorities, and seek research funding and partnerships. DFO has undertaken a review of the state of scientific knowledge on the potential environmental effects of aquaculture. This review will identify specific research needs and priorities. The first in a series of peer-reviewed publications was recently released as a DFO technical report.

The federal and provincial governments and industry are interested in the evaluation of closed containment technologies. Industry adoption of the technology will only occur if it is both technically and economically feasible. Internationally there have been numerous attempts to utilize commercial closed containment technologies. They have not proven economically viable unless subsidized.

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Recommendation 21

That the federal government support the aquaculture industry in its efforts to diversify the species cultivated with a view to reducing the industry's reliance on imported fishmeal and fish oil; and

That the federal government promote the research and development of feeds that use a greater proportion of plant-based proteins and oils.

Government Response

Fisheries and Ocean Canada is committed to diversifying the range of species under culture. Through its base research budget and working with industry on projects under the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program DFO has research underway on a variety of candidate species for culture. These include: Atlantic cod, sablefish, halibut and haddock. In fact, more than 50 species of aquatic organisms are currently being raised in Canada either on a commercial or experimental basis. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has also been collaborating with other government departments and industry stakeholders to diversify the species cultivated by the aquaculture industry. In particular, Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) initiatives announced in 2002 will sponsor the sustainable development of cod and halibut, species that are generally less dependent on fish meal.

DFO promotes research on and development towards the increase use of plant protein and oil substitutes. DFO has a world-wide reputation for its extensive research into the substitution of plant protein and lipids for fish meal and oil in the composition of commercial fish feeds. At this point the availability of fishmeal is determined by sustainable limits of fishing, not market demand. As a result of past research, fishmeal demand by aquaculture is not dependent on aquaculture production levels. Plant proteins are available and are used by international salmon feed companies as a replacement for fishmeal protein. The choice to use fishmeal is based on the relative price of using fishmeal protein versus plant protein. For aquaculture fishmeal is a commodity on the international commodity market.

DFO and NRC have undertaken extensive work on vegetable replacements for fish oil. For some new fish species being developed for commercial production, lower lipid requirements and the ability to partially replace fish oil with plant derived oils exist. Complete replacement of the fish oil is not yet feasible for marine diets, but work towards this goal continues in DFO. Alternate sources of fish oils are also being investigated. At present, it seems technically feasible to source a significant portion of the fish oil requirements for aquaculture feeds from processed offal and bycatch in traditional fisheries and possibly poultry fats. Work in this area is ongoing.

It should be noted that much of the fish used for fishmeal and fish oil, for example menhaden (USA), anchovies (Peru), jack mackerel (South America), are not suitable for human consumption. Fish meal and fish oil used in North American aquaculture generally comes from fisheries that are sustainably managed and regulated by governments. It should be noted that, overall, fishmeal production has remained relatively stable over the years in spite of a dramatic growth of the aquaculture sector. In fact, only about one third of the fishmeal produced worldwide is used in fish feed, with the remainder used in other livestock feeds.

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Recommendation 22

That aquaculture operators be required to report drug and pesticide use for each farm site.

Government Response

Health Canada regulates pesticides under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), including those used in aquaculture. There is only one pesticide currently registered in Canada for the control of parasites in aquaculture. The registrant has voluntarily discontinued sale of the product and its use will be phased out within two years. The PCPA does not require reporting of pesticide use and neither the Minister nor the Governor in Council has the authority to impose such a requirement. It seems likely that such reporting could be required under provincial legislation.

Health Canada is leading Government of Canada work on the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) issue and is currently consulting on the proposed Government of Canada response to the AMR Advisory Committee Report through federal/ provincial/territorial and public consultations, leading an interdepartmental policy and science committee, an AMR surveillance program headed by Health Canada's Guelph Lab. The issue of reporting will be dealt with through new AMR policies in the near future which will encompass many facets of this issue, including agri-food and agriculture.

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Recommendation 23

That the Canadian Food Inspection Agency increase the effectiveness of its monitoring program to ensure the safety of aquaculture products by expanding its testing of all drug and contaminant residues, and by providing the results in a timely manner. Moreover, actions such as public advisories and removal of products from the marketplace must be taken when maximum levels are exceeded.

Government Response

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is confident that both imported and domestically produced aquaculture products sold for human consumption are safe. The statistics quoted by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans from 1997 and 1998 testing do not reflect the existing surveillance regime. Currently, there is an extensive therapeutant monitoring program in place, including the comprehensive testing of 11 farmed finfish species raised in Canada over a broad range of therapeutant residues, including florphenicol amine and emamectin benzoate.

Further, the CFIA has also taken additional steps to enhance the effectiveness of this monitoring program. In October 2001, the CFIA routinely began receiving notifications of all aquaculture Emergency Drug Releases (EDRs) issued by Health Canada. CFIA has encouraged information exchange on therapeutant use and EDRs. One such step towards this goal has been the establishment of the Interdepartmental Committee on Therapeutant Use in Aquaculture. Additionally, since January 2003, a new EDR condition requires veterinarians to notify the CFIA of EDR treatments and producers of the fish to supply the same information to fish processors. This provides for product tracing and verification abilities.

The CFIA possesses and implements powerful recall mechanisms in tandem with public advisories. The CFIA contacts Health Canada officials for a Health Risk Assessment in rare instances that samples exceed established Maximum Residue Limits during drug residue testing. Appropriate action is taken based on direction from Health Canada, and CFIA's Office of Food Safety and Recall ensures that appropriate risk management steps are taken.

Health Canada conducted an audit on the CFIA activities with respect to the safety of aquaculture products, releasing its report in June 2001. The CFIA has addressed the recommendations from that report and continues to review and implement changes with respect to food safety and aquaculture products. For example, new laboratory screening methods have been adopted and a technical coordinating committee between Health Canada and the CFIA has been established. The laboratory turn-around is quite acceptable, and the rare rejections are immediately reported to Health Canada for a Health Hazard Evaluation for recall purposes. Depending on the categorization of the risk, and if necessary, any recall would publicly target consumers who purchased the product. This recall capacity is reinforced by the requirement for registered fish processors to maintain records of all production.

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Recommendation 24

That Health Canada brings its PCB and dioxin guidelines into line with the recommended international standards.

Government Response

The Food Directorate in the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada has established a science team to review the current scientific information relating to human health impacts of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, including dioxin-like PCBs. The science team will review all of the available scientific information relating to potential health risks associated with human exposure to these substances, including reports recently produced by the World Health Organization, the European Community's Scientific Committee on Food, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, etc. The tolerable intake level for these substances will be revised, as appropriate, based on the conclusions of this scientific review. This science team, which is expecting to make progress on this initiative in the current fiscal year, has representation from various branches in Health Canada as well as other federal government departments.

Concurrent with the work of the science team, an interdepartmental policy team on dioxins has also been established. This team will utilize the findings of the science team to develop a risk management strategy with respect to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, the focus being food safety.

Work is also underway to assess the safety of non-dioxin-like PCBs in conjunction with other international health agencies. In the meantime, monitoring efforts are continuing to identify and, where possible, eliminate point sources of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds from the food supply. Recently estimated dietary dioxin exposure in Canada is not considered to pose a health risk to consumers.

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Recommendation 25

That the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conduct a more extensive survey of the comparative levels of environmental toxins in farmed fish and fish feeds.

Government Response

Results of analyses carried out over the last ten years by the CFIA (and DFO prior to the creation of the Agency) on a variety of Canadian fish and fish products, including aquaculture finfish, indicate that environmental contaminant levels (PCBs, DDTs etc.) are well within the guidelines set by Health Canada.

The CFIA is in the process of expanding its monitoring program for environmental contaminants (such as PCBs, dioxins, furans, heavy metals, mercury and organochlorinated pesticides) in various fish and fish products, such as freshwater fish from the Great Lakes, large carnivorous fish and aquaculture fish. The CFIA is also conducting work, comparing environmental contaminant levels in wild and farmed salmon, as well as trying to correlate levels in farmed salmon with those in their feeds.

The CFIA also monitors feeds for many livestock species, including feeds for fish, every year as part of its National Feed Inspection Program. There has been no indication from the results of monitoring programs to date that fish feeds need to be targeted for more extensive monitoring than is applied at the present time.

In response to a number of international incidents where the level of contaminants in other products was traced back to high levels in feed, the CFIA conducted a preliminary survey of contaminants in fish feed, fish meal and fish oil in 1998/1999. The purpose of the survey was two-fold: to determine the levels of dioxins, furans and PCBs in fish meals, fish feeds and fish oils, and to determine future regulatory approaches. The survey results have also been used to assess the potential for the introduction of contaminants into livestock feed.

The results from this preliminary survey indicated that at the levels of environmental contaminants (dioxins, furans, DDT, PCBs, mercury) found in fish feed, fish meal and fish oil, products consumed by aquacultured fish in Canada, would not be expected to have levels of these contaminants above the Canadian Guidelines set by Health Canada.

The CFIA has used these results to develop a continuing monitoring program for dioxin, furans and PCBs in livestock feeds and feed ingredients. The ultimate goal of this program is to identify and quantify sources of these contaminants in feeds as part of an overall goal to minimise the amounts of dioxins, furans and PCBs in the entire food chain.

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Recommendation 26

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans focus its ongoing aquaculture research programs on improving understanding in the following areas:

Government Response

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as lead federal agency for aquaculture, will continue to co-ordinate and conduct aquaculture research. DFO will work with industry, academic and government partners and stakeholders to identify gaps in scientific knowledge and to develop cost-effective approaches to filling these gaps. DFO will also make strategic investments in aquaculture R&D and technology transfer initiatives aimed at maximizing the socio-economic benefits and addressing the environmental challenges associated with the aquaculture sector.

Other federally sponsored organizations, such as AquaNet, also contribute to the federal government's mandate to support research in aquaculture. AquaNet is the Network of Centres of Excellence for Aquaculture in Canada and is funded by the Natural Sciences Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through Industry Canada. AquaNet is composed of three themes: animal production; environmental integrity; and social and economic aspects. AquaNet currently funds forty-one research projects and will support aquaculture research initiatives across Canada in conjunction with university and industry partners to produce highly qualified personnel, provide educational training and to increase the knowledge base in aquaculture. All research projects bring together teams of experts, many with active international collaborations to address specific research areas determined to be relevant to the sustainable development of the Canadian aquaculture industry. Knowledge transfer, from researchers to the aquaculture sector, will play an important role in the continued sustainable development of this industry.

Furthermore, DFO is dedicating environmental science and aquaculture science expertise (including aquatic animal health) to an accurate evaluation of wild-cultured interactions. This evaluation is being undertaken in a way to address both aquaculture impacts on the environment as well as environmental impacts on sustainable aquaculture. Both questions must be addressed to ensure aquaculture can be sustained by, as well as within, Canada's aquatic environments. Departmental science expertise is working closely with industry, provincial and federal regulatory authorities to ensure that feedback to policy and governance issues of the department spans science, socio-economic and regulatory conditions.

DFO recently concluded a lengthy assessment of the policy and governance issues related to aquaculture. This review culminated in the release in April 2002 of DFO's Aquaculture Policy Framework and a strengthened management structure for aquaculture both within DFO and in its capacity as lead federal agency for aquaculture. DFO will continue to work with its provincial and federal partners and stakeholders to identify and address emerging needs that require policy responses or that may benefit from changes to governance.

DFO is committed to improving the understanding of linkages between resource management decisions (including fish farming) and social and economic outcomes. The Department has adopted integrated decision-making, as reflected in its 2001-03 Sustainable Development Strategy, which requires that the department implement a long term focus that seeks to preserve and enhance economic, social, and natural capital.

The socio-economic impacts of fish farming and other aquatic resources are partly determined by actions of other federal departments and provincial/territorial governments. DFO will continue to work with its federal and provincial/territorial partners, through such fora as the CCFAM, and industry and community representatives to strengthen the information base and collaborative mechanisms necessary for effective decision-making in this area.