New Access Framework

This New Access Framework will guide all decisions on new or additional access to Atlantic commercial fisheries which have undergone substantial increases in resource abundance or landed value. The New Access Framework will be applied in the following manner:

The Principles

The access issue in question will first be considered against each of three principles, listed in order of priority:


Sustainable use that safeguards ecological processes and genetic diversity for the present and future generations. If the principle of conservation will be compromised, access will not be granted.

Recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights:

Access to the resource will be managed in a manner consistent with the Constitutional protection provided to Aboriginal and treaty rights.


Equity has both a procedural and a substantive component:

The Criteria

The primary criterion, the conservation criterion, is to be considered first and independently of the other access criteria:

Following the analysis of the access issue against the conservation criterion, the access issue will be further considered against the three traditional criteria. The order of priority of these criteria will depend on the specific characteristics of the fishery in question, as outlined below:

Criteria Definition Application
Adjacency: Priority of access should be granted to those who are closest to the fishery resource in question. The adjacency criterion is based on the explicit premise that those coastal fishing communities and fishers in closest proximity to a given fishery should gain the greatest benefit from it, and on the implicit assumption that access based on adjacency will promote values of local stewardship and local economic development. In the case of near-shore and inshore fisheries, and sedentary species, the application of adjacency as the sole criterion is most compelling. However, as the fishery moves to the mid-shore and offshore, and as the species fished become more highly migratory and mobile, adjacency as the only criterion for decisions regarding access becomes harder to justify. In such cases, adjacency cannot serve as the exclusive criterion for granting access, but must be weighed along with other criteria, including historic dependence, in particular.
Historic Dependence: Priority of access should be granted to fishers who have historically participated in and relied upon a particular fishery, including those who developed the fishery. Depending on the nature and history of the fishery, the requisite period of dependence can vary from a few years to many decades. The historic dependence criterion is based on the premise that fishers who have historically fished a particular stock should enjoy privileged access to that resource, to ensure their continued economic stability and viability, as well as that of the coastal communities from which they come. The historic dependence criterion is most compelling when applied to a particular species that has been fished over a significant period. When the reliance on a stock is relatively recent, or generally rather than to a particular species, other criteria such as adjacency may be more applicable.
Economic Viability: Decisions regarding access promote, rather than compromise, the economic viability of existing participants in a particular fishery, as well as that of potential new entrants to that fishery. The economic viability criterion is based on the premise that decisions regarding access should contribute to the economic resiliency and stability of individual fishers and of the fishing industry as a whole. At the level of the fishing enterprise, economic viability focuses on factors such as capacity to fish, ability to comply with last-in-first-out rules and sound business planning. At a broader level, economic viability looks to factors such as relative economic return and value-added to the fishery, as well as at stability of employment in the processing sector and economic benefits to dependent coastal communities. Properly applied, economic viability should complement other access criteria in ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable fishery.

November 2002