Archived - Goverment Response to the Fourth Report of the Standing Committe on Fisheries and Oceans - Review of the Oceans Act
The Standard on Web Usability replaces this content. This content is archived because Common Look and Feel 2.0 Standards have been rescinded.
Archived information is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.
On January 31, 1997, Canada's Oceans Act came into force - making Canada the first country in the world to have comprehensive ocean-focused legislation. By passing and implementing the Oceans Act, Canada has shown leadership by making a legal commitment to conserve, protect and develop the nation's oceans and coastal resources in a sustainable way.
The Government of Canada believes that by implementing the Oceans Act fully and efficiently, we are providing a significant opportunity to fundamentally change the way in which Canadians view management of our ocean resources. This is an important and necessary shift in attitude. We know that 80% of Canadians want greater attention paid to good environmental marine and coastal management and, clearly, the Canadian public wishes to play an increased role. The Oceans Act, under the leadership of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in collaboration with various other federal departments and agencies, will facilitate the transformation toward an integrated approach to oceans management, a culture of increased transparency in decision-making and toward greater ocean stewardship by Canadians for Canadians.
Canada's oceans are governed by a complex web of laws and regulations managed by various government organizations across several levels of government. Over the past decade demands for oceans resources have changed dramatically, creating a need for a unified vision and an integrated approach to oceans management -- one that effectively considers the impact of individual sector activities on each other, and on the oceans as a whole.
While the traditional commercial fishing and shipping industries continue to be the prime users of Canada's oceans resources, Canada's oceans now support a more diverse network of commercial activity. This wide range of activity includes Aboriginal, commercial and sport fishing, aquaculture, high technology instrument development, submarine cables and pipelines, ship building, oil, gas and mineral exploration and extraction, defence-related production, tourism and recreation, boating, marine transportation and ports, marine navigation, sea bed mapping and communications.
With the Oceans Act has come a substantial ideological shift in the management of oceans resources. It recognizes that oceans uses cannot be managed in isolation to each other. Instead, a more holistic approach must be taken. Finding ways to manage often competing and increasingly diverse oceans resource interests (including environmental, economic and social interests) has become and continues to be a major challenge in ocean management. The Government of Canada understands that oceans can no longer be managed one constituency at a time because this method does not fully consider the multitude of impacts on other users - both human and aquatic. Planning ocean space use by taking into account the needs of all ocean users and the potential impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems, while respecting the existing regulatory jurisdictions, is the only sensible way of managing interests.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance and challenges of engaging citizens in oceans resource management through the integrated management planning processes. Without the help and ideas of local communities, industries, Aboriginal peoples, provinces and territories, environmental groups, non-government organizations and other stakeholders, oceans space cannot be realistically understood nor managed in a sustainable manner. The Oceans Act lays the foundation for the Government of Canada, with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans as champion, to collaborate with Canadians to collectively manage the nation's maritime resources. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in collaboration with other federal departments and agencies, is leading the nation in pursuing integrated management initiatives that bring various interests together to conserve and protect, while helping to derive cultural, social and economic benefits from our coastal and ocean resources.
Shifting the thinking about how to plan ocean space is one step, but practically advancing the goal of ocean sustainability within this new philosophy is a significant and on-going challenge. No longer is it viable to trade off environmental versus economic or social goals. Instead, the challenge is to advance sustainable development objectives by managing in an integrated way. The goal is twofold. The first goal is to create a situation where the environment, the economy and the community win. The second goal is to create an operating environment where resource management decisions taken today do not affect the ability of future generations to enjoy similar benefits.
There are no easy, quick-fix solutions in this process, especially given the major and often uncontrollable changes to the ocean environment and to the traditional livelihoods of coastal communities that can occur. Environmental, economic and social issues such as climate change, biodiversity, marine pollution and the reduced dependence of coastal communities on traditional oceans resource industries affect the long-term viability of the marine environment and the life of coastal communities. In addition to the domestic front there is a growing international dimension to conservation, the adoption of the precautionary approach, economic development, global ocean health and sovereignty and security in which Canadians do and must continue to play a strong leadership role.
Canada's oceans are part of the "global commons" and as such it is important to recognize that local actions can have international impacts. There are a plethora of international instruments, processes and institutions dealing with the full range of issues that affect the world's oceans. Within this context, oceans policy must be developed that not only recognizes Canadian rights and obligations, but is also in step with the broader global environmental agenda.
The Oceans Act provides a solid statutory basis from which to manage Canada's ocean resources. The Act has enabled the Government of Canada to launch various policy and program initiatives that support the spirit of collaboration and respect the fundamental operating principles of sustainable development, integrated management and the precautionary approach.
The Oceans Act sets out a commitment by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to develop a national oceans management strategy. It will enable the Government of Canada to move away from a fragmented, constituency-based approach to managing Canada's ocean resources by embracing the principles of integrated ocean management.
The strategy will encompass the principles of sustainable development, integrated management and the precautionary approach to be applied to all oceans activities. In short, this means that any type of activity taking place in and around our oceans, whether fishing, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas development, eco-tourism or laying of telecommunications cables, defense activity, etc., needs to be viewed against these three important principles.
At the heart of the strategy is the implementation of the three programs established in the Oceans Act: Integrated Management; Marine Environmental Quality requirements and standards; and, Marine Protected Areas.
Integrated Management Planning is the cornerstone of the oceans governance approach outlined in the Oceans Act. It is a marine-based process that is designed to plan the orderly use of oceans space by multiple users. Integrated Management planning considers both the conservation and protection of ecosystems, while at the same time providing opportunities for creating wealth in oceans-related economies and communities
An important component of Integrated Management is the development of Marine Environmental Quality requirements and standards. Marine Environmental Quality illustrates the health of marine ecosystems. Both natural and human activities - including climate change, natural catastrophes, man-made pollution and use of marine resources - affect the physics, water chemistry and biology of marine ecosystems. Marine Environmental Quality integrates these environmental conditions to assess the health of marine ecosystems, or their integrity.
Another component of Integrated Management is the development of Marine Protected Areas, which, under the Oceans Act, is an area of the sea forming a part of the internal waters, territorial sea, or exclusive economic zone of Canada that requires special protection.
Within these Oceans Act programs, ocean users, together with regulators, come face to face to create plans that accommodate economic and socio-cultural needs with the need to protect the environment.
Progress to Date:
In 1997, the Government started with Integrated Management and Marine Protected Area pilot projects across Canada. Today, 21 Integrated Management initiatives and 13 areas of interest for Marine Protected Areas and 5 large Ecosystem initiatives have begun and been advanced across every region in Canada. Projects span the Beaufort Sea Integrated Management Planning Initiative to the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Planning Initiative, and from the Atlantic Coastal Action Plan Ecosystem Initiative to the Fraser River Action Plan/Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative. Each of these projects is unique to its geographic region, its significance to adjacent communities and its mix of marine-related activities.
In addition, a number of federal initiatives have been completed, or are currently underway, which aim to improve oceans management. These include:
- An extensive review of federal Atlantic fisheries policies, as well as its Pacific wild salmon harvesting policies aimed at improving governance mechanisms and ensuring adequate conservation measures are in place for long-term resource sustainability, in part through integrated fisheries management planning;
- The development of a strengthened framework for aquaculture development that reflects the key principles of the Oceans Act;
- A strengthened Fish Habitat Protection Program that will apply the principles of "no net loss" of fish habitat across Canada in a nationally consistent manner;
- A geographic information system has been developed called Oceans Program Activity Tracking (OPAT), to visually illustrate the location and specific information related to Integrated Management and Marine Protected Area projects across Canada.
- Increased scientific support for improved oceans management and decision-making, including:
- ecosystem considerations and effects;
- strengthened peer review assessment and advice processes; and,
- creation of a new set of research priorities such as the development of coastal and shelf modeling based on monitoring activities to predict the impact and better manage the effects of one user of coastal resources on an array of other coastal resource users.
- The development of the National Programme of Action for the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities;
- The introduction of Bill C-5, the Species at Risk legislation, which will provide a strengthened legislative framework for the protection and recovery of marine species and their habitats;
- The introduction of legislation for National Marine Conservation Areas, Bill C-10, to protect and conserve significant national marine areas that are representative of Canada's ocean environments and the Great Lakes;
- Amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to strengthen the provisions for disposal of waste at sea, including the application of a precautionary approach; and,
- Discussions have begun on the Northern Ecosystem Initiative, which will engage a number of partners, including northern populations and communities, in setting priorities for action in the North.
The Oceans Act provides a solid foundation for creating modern oceans governance partnerships. Several have been created:
- In 2000, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans appointed Mr. Geoff Holland and Dr. Art Hansen as Ministerial Oceans Ambassadors charged with representing the Minister at domestic and international oceans events to advance the principles and approaches of oceans management called for in the Oceans Act;
- In 2000, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans created a Minister's Advisory Council on Oceans, comprised of distinguished Canadians with oceans expertise and experience to provide independent advice on oceans policy matters;
- In 2001, the Oceans Management Research Network, jointly with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) was launched to create a network of over 200 academic researchers and 70 partners working in the social science and humanities in oceans disciplines across Canada;
- In 2001, a federal-provincial-territorial Oceans Task Group was struck under the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM) to provide an intergovernmental forum for discussing oceans issues of national significance; and,
- During 2000-2001, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans partnered with the International Oceans Institute to create the "Oceans Explorations"- a National Discussion series held in venues across Canada, and in cooperation with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), an 8-hour radio special on oceans for its flagship program "Ideas".
The Oceans Act sets out a new philosophy for managing Canada's oceans resources. At the core of the Oceans Act is the spirit of collaboration and cooperation - one that seeks to reduce the regulatory burden on existing and future users of Canada's ocean resources, and even more importantly, bring them face to face in order to plan future use in a collaborative manner.
The Oceans Act continues to provide a model for other countries seeking to implement modern oceans governance. Since 1997, opportunities have been taken by the Government of Canada to raise the principles embodied by the Oceans Act in various international bodies and fora events and to share our vision of modern ocean management. These include:
- The United Nations Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), which provided the framework for Canada's National Programme of Action (NPA). Canada's NPA, a collective effort of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, responds to international calls to protect the marine environment through co-ordinated actions at local, regional, national and global levels.
- In November, 2001, Canada hosted the first 5-year intergovernmental review of the GPA, which produced the Montreal Declaration. The Montreal Declaration represents the political commitment to action to improve the state of the world's oceans. Under this Declaration Canada and over 100 other countries committed to the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities through commitments to integrate land, coastal and marine management authorities, institutions and mechanisms and improve state of the oceans reporting, among other things.
- The United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans which pursues continued high level discussions on international coordination and collaboration related to oceans governance. To date, Canada has used this forum to discuss responsible fisheries, economic and social aspects of marine pollution, marine science, and piracy.
There are also a number of important international aspects on the immediate horizon where Canada will again need to show leadership on the modern approach to oceans management established in the Oceans Act, such as:
- The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Oceans Conference in April 2002, the purpose of which is to provide a focus on sustainable oceans management issues in the APEC region
- The preparatory meetings for the August 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), and the WSSD itself in order to advance a sustainable ocean message in the context of sustainable development; and
- The October 2002 Arctic Council meeting, in Finland, to address common sustainable development concerns and endorse a forward-looking work program building upon the results of WSSD.
Canada's oceans resources are an integral component of the Canadian economy, providing numerous opportunities and benefits, including direct and indirect employment, recreational enjoyment, and a safe and efficient marine transportation system. Protecting and pursuing the sustainable use of Canada's oceans is central to the Government's regulatory commitments to environmental and habitat protection, navigational safety, fisheries conservation and protection, and aquatic animal health.
Canada's Oceans Act creates a regulatory framework for the development of an oceans economy in a sustainable manner. It will clarify information and reporting requirements; increase transparency and effectiveness in decision-making and increase the consistency of application of oceans-management related activities across Canada. The goal is to encourage innovation in Canada's oceans economy so that it is consistent with the key principles of the Ocean Act - sustainable development, integrated management, and the precautionary approach.
The Government of Canada has carefully reviewed the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' Report on the Oceans Act. The Government is pleased with the Committee's conclusion that the Oceans Act is fundamentally sound. The following provides a detailed response to each recommendation.
"That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in consultation with the provinces, territories and stakeholders, immediately draft regulations in accordance with the intent of the Oceans Act."
The Government of Canada agrees that further implementation of the Oceans Act is required, but does not agree that there is an immediate need to draft regulations under the Oceans Act. The Government of Canada's Regulatory Policy requires that prior to regulating authorities demonstrate that a problem or risk exists, federal intervention is justified, and that regulations are the best alternative, before regulating.
Consequently, regulations are drafted with a specific intent to address an issue, and are not drafted simply because the Act is absent of regulations currently.
The objective of the Government of Canada's regulatory policy is to ensure that use of the Government's regulatory powers result in the greatest net benefit to Canadians. When regulating, federal departments must ensure no unnecessary regulatory burden is imposed. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is working collaboratively with industry and interested Canadians to reduce the Government's dependence on regulations through alternative arrangements. Regulations are but one of the instruments available in the oceans management toolkit.
Should it be necessary, Canada's Oceans Act does provide the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans with the authority to draft regulations related to specific management actions associated with the development and implementation of Marine Protected Areas and Marine Environmental Quality requirements and standards. Where necessary, regulations associated with these management actions can and will be drafted as necessary as the geographically focused management actions are developed. There are currently a number of Marine Protected Area initiatives working their way through the regulatory approval process.
Canada's Oceans Act was created to give statutory effect to a comprehensive Oceans Management Strategy. The Act mandates the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to develop the strategy based upon the three guiding principles of sustainable development, the precautionary approach and integrated management.
Since the passage of the Oceans Act, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), in collaboration with key federal departments and agencies, and others, has been actively engaged in developing the federal policy framework to support Canada's Oceans Strategy. This policy framework gives expression to the Oceans Act by providing a federal action plan for modern integrated oceans management. The Government of Canada, under the leadership of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, will work collaboratively with Canadians and consult with governments and stakeholders in the future in order to move toward a national strategy.
"That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans prepare an annual state of the oceans report to document progress on the implementation of the Oceans Act."
The Government of Canada agrees that it is important to document progress on the implementation of the Oceans Act. Implementation of the Oceans Act will be measured through a results-based accountability and measurement framework. This performance will be reported through DFO's annual Departmental Performance Report and Sustainable Development Strategy, both of which are tabled in Parliament.
The Government of Canada also agrees with the intent to prepare a state of the oceans report to document the health of Canada's oceans resources. Oceans reporting is seen as an integral part of achieving sustainable development of the oceans. The need to report on oceans health was requested during the June 2001 Canadian Oceans Stewardship conference, and identified in the December 2001 Montreal Declaration on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities.
Therefore, the Government intends to develop a periodic report to highlight the state of the oceans. It would include information related to the health of our oceans ecosystems, oceans communities, and related oceans industries. The report would be prepared every 3-5 years, as appropriate.
Reporting on certain marine activities is also captured elsewhere. For example, Canada was the first country to develop a National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. In 2001, Canada produced a national report describing the current framework for managing the marine environment and highlighting ongoing programs and activities. The Government of Canada intends to provide periodic national progress reports (3-5 years) to the international community dealing with the implementation of Canada's National Programme of Action.
State of the oceans reporting will be supportive of the federal government's State of the Environment (SOE) Reporting initiative. The two main purposes of SOE reporting are to report to Canadians on the condition of their environment and to foster the use of science in policy-making and decision-making.
State of the Oceans reporting will be assisted by improved data management. The Government of Canada also supports the implementation of the Canadian Information System on the Environment (CISE). CISE's primary function will be data management. The increased access to data that is expected as a result of CISE will be utilized in state of the oceans reporting. As well, the resulting data gaps that CISE will identify may help identify future ocean research needs.
State of the oceans reporting will be undertaken in a collaborative manner domestically and internationally, taking advantage of existing data sets, and identifying data gaps, with the overall aim to increase efficiencies. Links will be made through existing international arrangements such as the Global Oceans Observation System.
"That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans amend the Oceans Act to include references to fishermen and fishermen's organizations in the sections of the Act that require the Minister to consult."
The Government of Canada understands it has an obligation to consult with fishermen and fishermen's organizations for matters related to Oceans Act implementation. The Government also recognizes that numerous stakeholder groups are concerned, and would like to be involved in the consultation/decision-making processes involving the management of Canada's oceans resources. We also understand that an even greater number of diverse interests may be impacted by oceans management practices in the future. It is for these reasons that we believe public engagement is a cornerstone of the Oceans Act.
The Oceans Act provides a new way of doing business. At the core of the Oceans Act is the spirit of collaboration and cooperation. This way of doing business is preferred because it makes transparent the regulatory framework that affects existing and future users of Canada's ocean resources. Importantly, it brings such users face to face in order to plan future activities in a collaborative manner.
Canada's Oceans Act, provides general, inclusive wording to apply to all stakeholders that could be consulted by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. It was determined that by referencing that the Minister could "collaborate with other ministers, boards and agencies of the government of Canada, with provincial and territorial governments, and with affected aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other persons and bodies" fishermen and fishermen's organizations, along with various other interests would see themselves as being included in the process, rather than being excluded.
If one or more key stakeholders were referenced by name, it would require that the full range of current and potential interests be identified for purposes of legal clarity. Consequently, these sections of the Act were drafted in such a way as to enable the Minister to consult with the broadest range of Canadians. This approach avoids limiting the consultations to groups only listed specifically in the Act.
"That an interdepartmental committee be struck to ensure that the stewardship and sustainable management of marine areas be done under the authority of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans."
The Government of Canada believes that that the stewardship and sustainable management of Canada's marine resources at the federal level should be undertaken in a coordinated, collaborative and integrated manner.
Canada's Oceans Act provides the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans with the mandate to lead and facilitate the development of a national oceans management strategy, in consultation with his federal colleagues, other governments, Aboriginal communities and other stakeholders. Once completed, Canada's Oceans Strategy will serve as the guiding national policy framework within which oceans resource management decisions will be made across Canada.
While the Oceans Act identifies the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans as the lead facilitator for the development of a national oceans management strategy, the Government of Canada realizes that responsible oceans management goes beyond the purview of any single federal agency. Other federal authorities clearly have a legitimate place and in many cases legislated role to play in the future of oceans management. For example, Environment Canada and Parks Canada have mandates to establish marine protected areas that are distinct from but complement those that may be created under the Oceans Act.
Also, provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal organizations, and numerous other interested organizations and individuals have an important role to play in the sustainable use of Canada's oceans resources.
There are currently several interdepartmental committees and working groups in place to coordinate federal activities in the oceans environment. These committees are engaged in sector issues related to oil and gas exploration and development, submarine cables and pipelines and marine protected areas.
The Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Marine Protected Areas predates the Oceans Act but continues to operate today in the context of the Oceans Act. Members include officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada and Parks Canada with Natural Resources Canada acting as an observer. Furthermore, an Interdepartmental Working Group on Marine Protected Areas, which includes representation from the Steering Committee member departments as well as the Department of National Defence and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, also reports to this committee. Both groups are actively working towards developing a national system of marine protected areas as called for in the Oceans Act.
"That DFO take the means to publish in a proactive manner, to the public, information on suggested MPA sites through its Oceans Program Activity Tracking System Web site as well as other media."
The Government of Canada fully agrees with the recommendation that DFO publish information to the public through its Oceans Program Activity Tracking (OPAT) system. OPAT represents an efficient, user-friendly approach to information sharing by providing geographic information and facts on activities under the oceans programs of DFO and is an important tool in the implementation of Oceans Act programs and policies, including Marine Protected Areas.
The OPAT System currently provides "one-stop shopping" for information on over 50 Integrated Management projects, Marine Protected Areas and Marine Environmental Quality activities taking place across Canada. In the future, it will serve as a medium for transmitting information on related oceans management and potential program activities.
Work is also under way to develop an information base highlighting the progress of the Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Marine Protected Areas as it advances its work related to a national system of Marine Protected Areas.
"That such terms be clearly defined in the Act itself or reference made to other Acts which define them."
The Committee heard comments from witnesses that "the Oceans Act uses terminology that sounds good in theory but that needs clarifying to be clearly defined and applied in practice to be effective." It was further recommended that terms used in subsection 35(1) be defined, including: "endangered or threatened marine species and their habitats", "unique habitats," and "high biodiversity" or "biological productivity". It was also recommended that the terms "precautionary approach" and "ecosystem approach" be more clearly defined.
The Government of Canada agrees that there is a need to clarify the technical terminology present in the Oceans Act; however, it is not the intention of the Government to specifically define these and other terms within the Oceans Act itself, or referencing the definition of such terms in other federal statutes within which they are defined.
It is the Government's intention to clarify how it will interpret, implement or apply all technical terms and references within the supporting policy and management frameworks as they are developed, and through which the Oceans Act will be applied in practice. By clarifying such terms in various policy and management frameworks, the Government will clearly identify how they will be applied in the sustainable management of Canada's oceans resources.
With specific reference to the request for a clearer indication of how the government applies the term "precautionary approach", a federal initiative is currently underway to discuss the application of the precautionary approach/principle in science-based regulatory programs. This initiative is in line with the Government's objective of strengthening risk management practices across the federal public service.
The Government of Canada is currently consulting on a proposed set of "guiding principles" of the Precautionary Approach/Principle in order to inform Canadians and to seek their views on the guidance contained in the following consultation documents. These guidelines, found in A Canadian Perspective on the Precautionary Approach/Principle, support consistency in applying the precautionary approach to science-based risk decision-making within the federal government, but will not direct decision-makers to act in a way inconsistent with their legal authorities. The feedback received will serve to further inform the government's interpretation and application of the precautionary approach.
"That subsection 33(2) be amended to read "In exercising the powers and performing the duties and functions mentioned in this Part, the Minister shall consult."
It is the view of the Government of Canada that subsection 33 (2) should maintain its existing wording. As the practice has clearly been, and will continue to be, the Minister will consult with other ministers, boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, with provincial and territorial governments and affected Aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other persons and bodies, including those bodies established under land claim agreements in meeting the obligations and agreements set out in Part II of the Act.
Section 33(2) of the Oceans Act identifies that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans "may consult", giving the Minister the discretionary power to consult with the various parties listed to meet the obligations and commitments listed in Part II of the Act. The Government of Canada believes it is necessary to maintain this ministerial discretion should the ability to make decisions unilaterally be required as in the case of the declaration of an emergency Marine Protected Area to protect marine mammals stressed by unusual environmental conditions from further stress. To require the Minister to consult under such extraordinary circumstances might prevent action being taken in a timely, decisive manner.
"That the federal government give consideration to conducting a full environmental assessment under CEAA on potential oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, particularly in the area designated by Exploration Licence 2368."
The Government is working to establish a consistent federal environmental assessment regime under CEAA for all oil and gas activities in the Canadian offshore.
Oil and gas exploration and development within the Gulf of St. Lawrence is managed by the National Energy Board, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CSNOPB), and the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNOPB). Each Board has a specific geographic area of application within the Gulf.
In January 2001, regulatory amendments enacted by the Government of Canada made CEAA applicable to oil and gas development projects in the area managed by the CNSOPB. As a result, all oil and gas development projects within the Gulf of St Lawrence are now subject to environmental assessments under CEAA.
In addition, the Government of Canada is currently developing regulatory amendments to bring oil and gas exploration activities within the CNSOPB and the CNOPB management areas under CEAA, as they are elsewhere in the Canadian offshore. These regulations are expected to take effect in the Summer 2002.
With respect to the area designated by Exploration licence 2368, the CSNOPB in 1999 conducted a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) which addressed the broad environmental (including fisheries) concerns associated with typical oil and gas activities over the 5 to 9 year life of this exploration licence.
The SEA concluded that the potential adverse environmental effects from exploration activities could be mitigated through judicious consultation with the fishing industry, and through the avoidance of peak fishing seasons and ecologically sensitive areas. The report recommended that the Board issue an exploration licence but make clear to the prospective licence holder that there are fishery, migratory bird and tourism concerns in the area that could result in limitations being placed on future activities. On this basis the Board issued exploration licence 2368.
In October 2000, in response to growing public interest in oil and gas exploration offshore Cape Breton, the Federal Minister of Natural Resources and the Nova Scotia Minister Responsible for the Petroleum Directorate issued a joint directive to the CNSOPB. This directive required the Board to conduct a Public Review on the effects of potential oil and gas exploration and drilling within Exploration Licences 2364, 2365 and 2368. Conducted pursuant to Section 44 of the Accord Acts, the Commissioner is required to prepare and submit a report on the results of the Review to the CNSOPB and both energy Ministers by March 29, 2002. Upon receiving the Report, the Board and the Federal and Provincial Energy Ministers will assess it and determine the appropriate action.
Therefore the Government believes the Committee's recommendation is being addressed as a result of amendments to CEAA, which will make all oil and gas exploration and development activities in the Gulf subject to CEAA.
"That the federal government establish broadly based guidelines for oil and gas exploration and extraction based on the key principles of the Oceans Act and the interests of other stakeholders in order that the oil and gas industry is aware of what the limitations are prior to applying for a licence."
Some progress has already been made on the Committee's recommendation. For example, DFO and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board are working together to ensure that oil and gas activities are managed in accordance with the Oceans Act principles of precaution, integrated management and sustainable development.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DFO and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board establishes a formal process and a joint workplan to promote sound management of activities related to the exploration, development, production and abandonment of offshore petroleum resources.
A similar MOU also exists between DFO and the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board. DFO is currently reviewing this MOU to ensure it is consistent with the key principles of the Oceans Act as it was established prior to the passage of the Act.
In addition, the implementation of an integrated approach to oceans management and the development of integrated management plans are key to addressing the Standing Committee's recommendation that the interests of other stakeholders are taken into consideration and that environmental limitations are made clear to industry prior to applying for a license.
Identification of the sensitive areas within a planning area, and of specific characteristics of the marine ecosystem which must be protected, is one of the first steps in the development of integrated management plans. The information obtained through the IM process also serves to inform the CEAA environmental assessment processes to which proposed oil and gas activities and other development activities will be subject.
"That the federal government, in cooperation with the Province of Nova Scotia, appoint a qualified person representing the fishing community to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to represent the interests of fishing communities and the fisheries resources on which they depend."
The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board is the independent joint agency of the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia. It was established pursuant to the federal Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and the provincial Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act. The Board is responsible for regulation of petroleum affairs and safe practices offshore Nova Scotia.
The Board consists of five members who are appointed for fixed terms of office. The Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia each appoint two members, while the Chairman is jointly appointed by both governments. Federal members of the CNSOPB are appointed based upon their broad technical and professional experience.
The views and opinions of fishermen and their organizations are expressed to the CNSOPB through the Fisheries and Environmental Advisory Committee. The membership of the Committee includes fishermen and fishing industry representation, government agencies and departments, as well as representation from non-government organizations.
"That the government affirm that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the primary responsibility for all matters relating to the management of Canada's oceans."
Under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Act, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for coordination of the policies and programs of the Government of Canada respecting oceans. Further, under the Oceans Act, the Minister is responsible to lead the development of a national oceans management strategy in collaboration with his federal colleagues and other stakeholders. Additionally, under Section 40 of the Oceans Act the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is provided with the responsibility for all matters with respect to oceans that are not assigned to any other minister.Both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Act and the Oceans Act fully respect the existing mandates, responsibilities and authorities of other federal departments and agencies. This is important because nearly every federal department or agency has some level of responsibility related to Canada's oceans, and therefore has a legitimate and necessary role to play in the future of oceans management.
"That the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans exercise his role as the minister with overall responsibility for the management of Canada's oceans more proactively."
Canada's Oceans Act mandates the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to lead and facilitate the development of a national strategy for the management of estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems based upon the principles of sustainable development, integrated management and the precautionary approach.
Since the passage of the Oceans Act, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has exercised responsibilities both domestically and internationally. In the role of national facilitator, the Minister is in an excellent position to highlight, encourage and facilitate Canadian achievements in oceans management, from the federal to the local level.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in consultation with other federal departments and agencies has been working to develop a national oceans strategy as outlined in Part II of the Oceans Act. There is a need to develop additional and ongoing governance mechanisms to promote and strengthen federal collaboration and integration, particularly with those departments with significant responsibilities in the oceans sector. Over the coming months, development of a national strategy will include consultations with provincial and territorial governments, affected Aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other persons and bodies, including those bodies established under land claims agreements.
As noted in the introduction of this Government Response, significant progress had been made on a wide variety of fronts. For example, on the program side, 21 Integrated Management Plan Pilot Projects have been developed, as have 13 areas of interest for Marine Protected Areas. A national policy framework for protecting coastal areas and the marine environment in Canada from pollution as a result of land-based activities under Canada's National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (NPA) has been launched. As well, an Oceans Task Group under the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers has been created. As well, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has taken the step of appointing oceans experts to a Ministerial Advisory Council on Oceans.
Similarly, since 1997, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has been actively advancing responsible oceans management at various international events. In June 2001 a Canadian Oceans Stewardship Conference was held in Vancouver bringing together experts from federal, provincial and territorial governments, the academic community and non-governmental organizations, from within Canada as well as from around the world. The Minister also hosted, on behalf of the Government of Canada, the "First Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities", held in Montreal in late November 2001.
"That the Coast Guard not make any revisions to the Marine Services Fee or Icebreaking Fees until the Treasury Board study has been completed and until such time as all interested parties have had a reasonable opportunity to evaluate the study."
The Government of Canada, through the Coast Guard, is currently reviewing the Marine Services Fees. This review is being conducted in cooperation with the Marine Advisory Board. The review of the marine service fees will include analysis from the economic impact study being conducted by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS). Entitled The Cumulative Impact of Federal Fees on the Commercial Marine Transportation Industry in Canada, this study is being conducted in cooperation with industry.
In an effort to seek external advice on the study, the Secretariat established an Impact Study Advisory Committee comprised of industry and government representatives to guide, advise and review progress, analysis and findings during the course of the study.
Once completed, results obtained from the study will be considered by the Government of Canada and industry during the review of Marine Services Fees.
"That the Minister evaluate whether classifying ferries as government ships for the purpose of exempting them from the Marine Services Fee and the Icebreaking Services Fee would result in fairer treatment of ferry operators and whether it would serve the broader public interest."
As part of the review of marine service fees, all fee applications will be considered. Accordingly, the Government of Canada will consider the Committee's recommendation during the current review of fees.
Currently, all vessels operating in Canadian waters are subject to the marine service fees with the exception of fishing vessels, government ships and pleasure craft as defined by the Marine Services Fees fee schedules. In the case of ferries, those ferries that operate where the Coast Guard provides aids to navigation, Vessel Traffic Services, or within an ice zone where icebreaking services are provided, and which receive remuneration for services, pay marine service fees. Cable ferries do not pay Marine Services Fees. Ferries that are fully subsidized by a government authority and do not charge a fee for services are exempted from the fees. The Marine Services Fees do not apply to ferries operated by, or on behalf of, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"That the Minister provide the results of the evaluation to the Standing Committee and Fisheries and Oceans and to the stakeholders."
The Government of Canada supports this recommendation and will comply with it when the review of the marine service fees is complete.
"That subsection 41(2) be amended to read "(2) The Minister shall ensure that the services referred to in subparagraphs (1)(a)(i) to (iv) are provided in a cost effective manner and that the level of services will be established only after consultation with users of the service.""
The Government of Canada currently adheres to the intent and spirit of the amendment proposed in this recommendation. Accordingly, Government does not believe the amendment, as recommended by the Standing Committee, is required to the Oceans Act.
All levels of service decisions by the Coast Guard are taken in consultation with industry. In all cases, maritime safety is a predominant factor.
With regard to icebreaking, current levels of service are based on the 1994 ice season operations. Ice operations that year were particularly severe and are used as a benchmark against which current operations are planned and conducted. Industry supports the current level of icebreaking services.
With respect to aids to navigation, all DFO regions have established Levels of Service targets. These targets are revisited with industry on a regular basis. In a recent exercise, DFO updated the client profiles for each aid to navigation in Canada. These profiles list which maritime interests use a particular aid. Industry was part of that review and the results are endorsed by industry.
- Date modified: