Archived - Government Response to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' Interim Report on Canada's New and Evolving Policy Framework for Managing Fisheries and Oceans

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The Government of Canada would like to thank the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for its May 2005 report entitled Interim Report on Canada’s New and Evolving Policy Framework for Managing Fisheries and Oceans. The Government of Canada has thoroughly reviewed the Report and given careful consideration to the recommendations that the Committee made in the conclusion of the Report. Many of the fisheries issues of concern to the Committee have been reviewed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in recent years through extensive engagement processes, and DFO is pleased to be able to report to the Senate that progress is being made in these areas through Fisheries Management Renewal (FMR).

Fisheries Management Renewal (FMR)

Over the past decade, fisheries managers have been dealing with numerous changes at an exceptionally fast pace in addition to the challenges they usually face when managing multiple competing demands on the public fisheries resource. These changes have included, among others, new technologies, new species, new values on existing species, and new markets; emergence and expansion of other industries that interact with commercial, Aboriginal and recreational fisheries; addressing court decisions respecting Aboriginal and treaty rights; and, increased resource user expectations regarding participation in decision-making and resource management.

Adapting to multiple and unpredictable changes is difficult for a regulating body such as DFO. The need to generate broad-based support, as well as the need for regulatory and legislative change, makes changing fisheries management processes slow and challenging. In order to develop a cohesive plan to modernize fisheries management practices to reflect the new characteristics of the industry, DFO has engaged resource users, Aboriginal groups, Provinces and Territories, and others with an interest in the fisheries resource in extensive policy and program reviews. These reviews have included the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review, Pacific New Directions and Pacific Fisheries Reform, and the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy Review.

Through these reviews, DFO has developed and confirmed a clear direction for the future of fisheries management which it is implementing through Fisheries Management Renewal (FMR). FMR is a package of program renewal undertakings that promote predictability, stability and transparency, and a strong and healthy fisheries resource. DFO seeks to implement FMR objectives in a manner consistent with the constitutional protection provided to Aboriginal and treaty rights and consistent with international fisheries treaties. They will also be implemented with the understanding that the fisheries resource is important to Canadians in many different ways, such as in commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries, for aquaculturists, in the tourist industry, to environmentalists and, of course, to Canadians in fishery-dependent communities.

The overarching goal for FMR is to develop a new fisheries management governance model that will enable DFO and resource users to meet conservation objectives of the fishery, and that will also enable resource users to respond to the economic forces that impact their industry. The FMR agenda therefore sets out to achieve three objectives.

The first FMR objective is Strong Conservation Outcomes, to be achieved by working with resource users to develop risk management frameworks based on precautionary and ecosystemic approaches, by modernizing the fisheries compliance regime and by improving fish habitat management. Achieving strong conservation outcomes depends upon a commitment to conservation from those whose activities impact upon the resource.

The second objective is Shared Stewardship, to be achieved by promoting collaboration, participatory decision-making and shared responsibility and accountability with resource users and others. Shared stewardship means those involved in fisheries management work cooperatively – in inclusive, transparent and stable processes – to achieve conservation and management goals. DFO believes that enabling resource users to play a greater role in decision-making, and enabling them to take greater responsibility for resource management decisions and their outcomes, will increase their commitment to conservation and their ability to control their economic and social well-being. Furthermore, because fisheries management oversees a public natural resource on behalf of Canadians, shared stewardship also seeks to include others with an interest in the resource in decision-making processes.

The third objective is Stable Access and Allocation. This will be achieved through greater security of access, stable sharing arrangements and transparent and predictable decision-making processes. Stable access and allocation will allow resource users to focus on conservation and economic viability issues, rather than focussing on securing their share of the resource. DFO is also working to address the controversial issue of "trust agreements" (contractual agreements that direct the use of the licence – the beneficial interest – by a party other than the assigned licence holder) in the Atlantic commercial fishery and their impact upon Atlantic commercial fisheries licensing policies, specifically the Owner-Operator and Fleet Separation policies.

The FMR objectives will be pursued in an inclusive manner that reflects the need to adapt to very different circumstances across regions and fisheries. The agenda is being pursued in four ways. Renewal principles of predictability, stability and transparency are being incorporated into current processes. New policy will be developed in areas where renewal is necessary. DFO continues to update programs through incremental change. Finally, DFO is examining possible changes to the Fisheries Act to facilitate modernization.

The FMR agenda is being implemented in concert with Science Renewal, especially with regard to achieving the objective of strong conservation outcomes. Through Science Renewal, DFO is implementing changes within its Science program to better support DFO and Government of Canada decisions and policy-making and to better serve Canadians. This includes an increasing focus on the scientific study and evaluation of Canada’s aquatic ecosystems.

Substantial progress on the FMR agenda has been made in 2005. In March, sharing arrangements in the majority of Atlantic commercial fisheries were stabilized for up to five years to allow resource users to plan their business operations with greater stability and certainty. The Department also worked with resource users to address outstanding issues related to sharing arrangements where they continued to be in dispute to put them on a more stable and durable footing as well. Also in Atlantic Canada, the Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet initiative proposes a path to deal with licensing policy and the related issues of "trust agreements," intergenerational transfers and capital gains.

On the west coast, the Pacific Fisheries Reform announcement in April and the Wild Salmon Policy release in June provide a framework for advancing fisheries management reform on the west coast, particularly in the salmon fishery. The Department began consultations with resource users on elements of renewal in a series of regional meetings this fall. Finally, the Department has also engaged resource users and others across Canada in discussions about what changes could be included in a modernized Fisheries Act.

FMR is setting the stage for a progressive future for fisheries management in Canada. New policy directions backed up by extensive public consultation, significant advancements in resource user engagement and widespread recognition that the Fisheries Act could be modernized to better meet fisheries management challenges, have established a strong foundation for renewal. This national approach will consolidate the progress that has been made in fisheries management over the past decade, remove barriers that have prevented reform and develop a modern fisheries management system based on a clear direction that reflects the values of Canadians.

DFO Responses to the SSCFO Recommendations

1. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada provide the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with adequate funding in order for it to fulfil its fisheries mandate. 

The government recognizes that public expectations often exceed government resources, and that a continuous process of prioritization is necessary to ensure that available resources go to high priority activities that are in the public interest.

DFO has designed a practical roadmap for achieving a renewed vision for the future. Important goals of this plan are to meet short-term fiscal and program needs, set the stage for medium-term change and accommodate long-term direction. DFO programs will be delivered through modern legislative, regulatory and administrative structures that can be sustained now and into the future. DFO will work in partnership with resource users and Provinces and Territories to streamline and modernize service delivery, make more effective use of new technology and shed unnecessary infrastructure so that effort and resources can be focused on high priority elements of DFO’s core mandate. While pursuing the objectives of strong conservation outcomes, shared stewardship and stable access and allocation under FMR, the fisheries management program will become more strategic, flexible and responsive to the needs of departmental clients.

2. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans take into consideration the socio-economic impacts of its major decisions.

Under the Oceans Action Plan (OAP) announced in May 2005, DFO is implementing Integrated Management planning in five key areas within the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.  This central component of the OAP is intended to meet the Oceans Act requirement for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to lead Integrated Management for all of Canada’s oceans. Economic and social objectives are explicitly incorporated as the basis for the integrated plans in each area.

Integrated Management processes are collaborative and inclusive and will be based on three sets of objectives, developed for each area: ecosystem, social and economic. With the exception of the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated management plan, which is further advanced, the development of ecosystem objectives is underway as is the implementation of regional governance structures for integrated oceans management with Provinces and Territories, other federal departments and First Nations and stakeholders.

The results of Integrated Oceans Management will be that fishing, as well as other activities in the oceans, will be managed with explicit ecosystem, economic and social objectives as well as an understanding of the synergies and conflicts between activities.

DFO recognizes that fisheries management decisions can have broad impacts on the socio-economic status of coastal communities. In order to assess the possible impacts, the Department consults with resource users through fisheries advisory committees before decisions are made. The Department also encourages the use of co-management agreements between resource users and the Department. These agreements provide resource users with a greater role in resource management, thus increasing the ability of individual fishers and fleets to influence the decisions that impact their lives. Strong resource management relationships with resource users are fundamental in order to hold resource users accountable for their actions, which have a direct impact upon conservation objectives, the status of the resource and the socio-economic status of fisheries-dependent communities. Recent engagement processes across Canada have indicated that resource users support the Department’s move to increase the role of resource users in resource management through co-management and that they would like to be even more involved in resource management.

DFO is also reducing the focus required by resource users on the access and allocation decision-making process by stabilizing sharing arrangements. Stable access and allocation promotes an environment in which resource users can focus on conservation issues, economic viability and increasing the value that can be realized from harvesting the fishery resource, rather than on ensuring their share of the resource. By reducing access and allocation conflict, increasing the focus on conservation and economic viability, and improving resource user participation in resource management through improved co-management tools and processes, resource users will be better able to maximize the benefits that accrue from the resource to fishers, crew, fleets and fishing communities.

In addition, DFO will promote shared stewardship which will include more inclusive and transparent decision-making processes that will be open, where appropriate, to those other than resource users who have an interest in the resource (for example, residents of coastal communities). Further details on possible mechanisms to incorporate others with an interest in fisheries management are found in the response to Recommendation 5.

Outside of the processes described above, DFO intends to increase its socio-economic research and analysis capacity in support of FMR and other departmental priorities. DFO is also currently undertaking extensive socio-economic research on the impacts on coastal communities of potential listings under the Species at Risk Act.

3. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans put on hold any plans it may have with respect to the introduction of individual quotas for Pacific salmon until an open and transparent, province-wide consultation has taken place with all stakeholders, including representatives of coastal communities, both Aboriginal and other. 

DFO recognizes that the salmon fishery is exceptionally complex, and is committed to managing this fishery under the guidance of the key principles that were developed through the broad consultations held across the Pacific region on the Wild Salmon Policy and the Action Plan for Pacific Fisheries. The principles in the Wild Salmon Policy and the Action Plan include conservation, sustainable use and open and transparent decision-making. Some principles apply directly to the management regimes for commercial fisheries (e.g., fleets will be enabled to self-adjust; resource management practices will be designed to optimize economic performance while meeting conservation objectives; fleets will have the capacity to assume a larger share of the cost of management of their fishery, and catch monitoring and independent validation will be implemented.) No single management option is being prescribed for this complex fishery. Rather, a variety of fisheries management options is under consideration, including licence pooling, individual quotas and pocket fisheries. Before any particular option is chosen for a fishery, it must be shown to comport with the key principles. DFO will continue to seek out and develop solutions to fisheries management challenges that are consistent with these principles and with the fishery goals that have been identified through engagement processes.

Limited quota fisheries were permitted in 2005 on a demonstration basis, where there was support from industry groups, as means of testing new approaches.  Further consultations on Pacific Fisheries Reform are being conducted in communities throughout British Columbia. Details on Pacific Fisheries Reform are found within the response to Recommendation 4.

4. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans respond to recommendations made by the Joint Task Group on Post-Treaty Fisheries in Treaties and Transition:  Towards A Sustainable Fishery on Canada’s Pacific Coast.

On April 15, 2005, DFO released a blueprint to move forward with fundamental changes to the Pacific fishery, particularly the salmon fisheries, as a response to two reports submitted in the spring of 2004: the report of the Joint Federal Provincial Task Group on Post Treaty Fisheries commissioned by the federal and British Columbia governments, and the report of the First Nations Panel on Fisheries, commissioned by the British Columbia Aboriginal Fisheries Commission and the First Nations Summit. A key element of the blueprint is the introduction of a vision and principles that will guide discussions intended to build a foundation of trust and agreement.

DFO initiated extensive discussions with the fishing industry after the two reports were received. A lack of consensus on the specific reforms proposed in the reports was evident during consultations, as was clear dissatisfaction with the status quo. However, the blueprint was developed through these consultations, and initial steps and further discussion in 2005 will set the stage for the introduction of more permanent changes for the fishery in 2006 and onwards.

The blueprint to reform Pacific fisheries focuses on four main themes:

The Action Plan is a key element of the agenda for reform for Pacific fisheries and will build the foundation for permanent reforms in 2006, particularly in the Pacific salmon fishery. Elements of the Action Plan include Commercial Fishery Demonstration Projects, where DFO will work with interested commercial fleets on more controlled fisheries management approaches to access harvestable Pacific salmon stocks in a manner that addresses conservation risk and improves economic returns to the fishery. These projects will include improved catch monitoring and greater stakeholder responsibility for decision-making.

DFO will also continue to work with First Nations to develop a mutually agreeable framework for negotiating appropriate levels of fisheries resources for food, social and ceremonial purposes and to increase First Nations’ access to economic fisheries. DFO will continue to support broad-based integrated management processes like the Salmon Integrated Harvest Planning Committee that bring together First Nations, fishery stakeholders and environmental interests to coordinate fishery planning.

5. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans explain and elaborate on the procedures mentioned in A Policy Framework for the Management of Fisheries on Canada’s Atlantic Coast which will "ensure that communities, citizens and other groups are informed of new initiatives or proposed changes to existing policies that may affect their interests" and "ensure that they have an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process."

The Atlantic Fisheries Policy Framework (AFPF) promotes shared stewardship. Stewardship refers to the act of taking responsibility. In the fisheries management context, stewardship has typically applied to volunteer or community-based activities focused on fish habitat. However, public consultations have confirmed that conservation is dependent upon a broader concept of stewardship, one that sees such responsibility shared amongst all whose activities impact upon the resource. Anyone who is given the privilege to fish the public resource should also have responsibility for the proper use of that privilege.

Shared stewardship in fisheries management is therefore defined as shared responsibility for the management of the resource, a more active role in the decision-making process, and being accountable for the decisions taken. It describes the intended overall outcome for the relationship between DFO and resource users. Furthermore, it moves beyond that to include a relationship with, and role for, individuals and groups that fall outside of the traditional resource user category of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fishers.

The AFPF promotes a more inclusive approach to policy planning to ensure that resource users and others with an interest in the outcomes of decision-making in the management of fisheries have appropriate opportunities to participate in shaping fisheries management policy. The mechanism proposed in the framework is a "policy forum" which would be a new advisory process that allows those interested to contribute to the policy dialogue on "best use" decisions ("best use" decisions concern access and allocation of fisheries resources among different uses, or the determination of the particular uses of a fisheries resource that will generate the greatest possible public good or best serve the interests of all Canadians), objectives and strategies for conservation and sustainable use, and broad social and economic objectives. The fora would produce public recommendations and due consideration would be given to advice provided. Decisions taken by the Department and their rationale would also be made public.

DFO envisages integrating interested groups and individuals into the decision-making process through policy fora and/or other mechanisms. DFO’s current focus is to continue to improve relationships with resource users through stabilizing access and allocation and improving co-management. Once sufficient progress has been made on these fronts, DFO will focus on developing – in consultation with resource users and others with an interest, and building on existing initiatives if possible – the appropriate fora or other mechanisms. It will be important to solidify DFO’s relationship with resource users in this new direction in order that the structured incorporation of others into the decision-making process is perceived as a positive move and not one that will detract from the stability and sustainability of the industry.

6. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans commission an arm’s length socio-economic impact study wherever and whenever individual quota fisheries are in future instituted in Canada. 

Ideally, a fisheries management system should be adapted to the unique characteristics of a fishery. Individual quotas (IQs) are regarded by DFO as only one of many management tools that can be used to meet the objectives of the fishery. A decision whether or not to implement IQs in a fishery will be guided by principles, as outlined in the responses to Recommendations 3 and 4. Although there are no current plans to commission arm’s-length socio-economic impact studies where IQ fisheries are instituted, DFO intends to increase its socio-economic policy analysis capacity, and, as outlined in the response to Recommendation 3, the socio-economic impacts of resource management decisions will be increasingly taken into account as the Department moves forward with plans to increase shared stewardship under FMR.

7. On the matter of "trust agreements" in the Atlantic inshore sector, the Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans work closely and collaboratively with fish harvester organizations and the provincial governments, and announce publicly how it intends to follow through on the Department’s stated commitment to prevent the use of such agreements, and what measures are being contemplated by the Department to facilitate the financing of licence transfers to a new generation of small-vessel fishers.

DFO endorses the importance of maintaining an independent and economically viable inshore fleet. Given the concerns expressed by inshore fleets that the owner-operator and fleet separation policies are being undermined by "trust agreements" (contractual agreements that direct the use of the licence – the beneficial interest – by a party other than the assigned licence holder), DFO released a discussion document in December 2003 to form the basis of public consultations on this issue. Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada's Atlantic Fisheries invited resource users and others to participate in an examination of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies with respect to their underlying objectives. The underlying objectives of these policies are to avoid undue concentration of licences and to preserve and foster a diversified sector of viable multi-licenses/multi-species independent inshore enterprises headed by professional fish harvesters.Views were also sought on other approaches to foster the independence and economic viability of inshore fleets.

Consultations on the discussion document were held across Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Nunavut in early 2004. A proposed Action Plan has been developed based on analysis of the outcomes and issues raised during the public consultations. The proposals aim to address the "trust agreement" issue, enable inshore fishers to operate in a more business-like manner and facilitate the intergenerational transfer of licences. The Action Plan has been discussed with groups who, since the January 2004 consultations on Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet, have continued to express a particular interest in these issues. Feedback from these discussions will be considered in the development of the final Action Plan to be completed later this year.

8. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans commission an independent study on the feasibility of instituting an owner-operator policy in the Pacific commercial fishing industry.

One of the biggest challenges in fisheries management is adapting to the incredible diversity and complexity of commercial fisheries. Not only do fisheries vary considerably on an individual basis (for example, by species caught and fishing gear employed), they also vary considerably by region based on socio-economic factors. In Atlantic Canada, there is a clearly defined inshore fleet that, in many cases, is linked to isolated and fishery-dependent coastal communities where few, if any, alternative economic opportunities exist. In Pacific region, the fisheries have developed along different lines, and while there are many dependent coastal communities, other industries, such as forestry, play a strong role in many local economies. An inshore fleet does not exist in the Pacific region in the same way it exists in the Atlantic region. Licensing policy tends to be fishery-specific in the Pacific region, while the Atlantic region is governed by an overarching licensing policy that responds to the particular socio-economic characteristics of that region.

The Atlantic Owner-Operator policy was developed to respond to Atlantic fishery issues. This policy has weathered its own challenges, and DFO is currently developing a proposed Action Plan to address these challenges, as outlined in the response to Recommendation 7.

DFO has developed, in conjunction with resource users and others with an interest in the fisheries in the Pacific region, the Wild Salmon Policy and Pacific Fisheries Reform to address issues specific to Pacific fisheries. Many Pacific fisheries are performing well. The current focus is on improving the salmon fishery, which will be guided by the Plan of Action for Pacific Fishery Reform. DFO is not currently contemplating studying the feasibility of instituting owner-operator policy in Pacific commercial fisheries.

9. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans make a firm commitment to fund the West Coast Vancouver Island Aquatic Management Board (AMB) over the next five years.

The West Coast Vancouver Island Aquatic Management Board (AMB) is a collaboration of government and non-government interests working together to develop and implement strategies to address aquatic issues while moving towards a longer term vision and objectives. The AMB management area is based on ecological and cultural characteristics. The Board endorses an approach to managing aquatic resources that is based on transparency, coordination, accountability and a broader ecosystem perspective. The Board's strategies are guided by a set of principles and are developed with the participation of affected parties. The principles include applying an ecosystem approach to management, precedence of conservation, application of a precautionary approach, adaptive management, sustainability, shared responsibility, inclusivity, consideration of social, ecological and economic benefits, and flexibility.

Funding for the AMB continues for 2005-06 while the Terms of Reference for the AMB are reviewed to ensure their consistency with DFO’s mandate and goals. Alternative funding mechanisms to support key functions of the AMB in the longer term will also be examined. Discussions are underway this fall with the AMB on these two issues.