Chapter One - Presentation

1. Introduction

The Licensing Policy is an integral part of a number of federal government initiatives to restructure the commercial fisheries and lay the foundation for a fishery that is environmentally sustainable and economically viable. The objectives of the Licensing Policy adopted December 20, 1995 are to reduce capacity, improve the economic viability of participants in commercial fishing operations and prevent future growth of capacity in the commercial fishery. The Licensing Policy reform along with other fisheries renewal initiatives brings about fundamental changes to the way we do business in fisheries, and in the Department's relationship with the fishing industry. The industry will be given more responsibility in the decisions regarding the fisheries and will become a partner and true steward of the resource.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans' approach to licensing favours limiting access to the fishery as much as is necessary to provide for an orderly harvesting of the fishery resource, to promote viable and profitable operations for the average participant and, finally, to adopt policies which are consistent where consistency is desirable and practical, while at the same time recognizing that specific measures may be necessary for certain fisheries and geographical locations of Eastern Canada.

2. Purpose of Policy Document

This policy document has been prepared to provide fishers, corporations, Aboriginal organizations, and other interested Canadians with a clear and consistent statement of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' policy respecting the registration of commercial fishing enterprises and vessels, and the issuance of fishing licences in Eastern Canada. This document also provides objectives against which the appropriateness and effectiveness of policies are to be evaluated.

3. Legislative Background

By virtue of the Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly the British North America Act, 1867), the Parliament of Canada on behalf of the Canadian public has legislative responsibility for Canada's seacoast and inland fisheries. As a result, the federal government has constitutional authority for all fisheries in Canada. Canada manages directly fisheries in the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; the marine and anadromous salmon fisheries of British Columbia; the marine fisheries of Quebec; and the fisheries of the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

Following references to the Privy Council and a number of court decisions, formal agreements were negotiated during the period from 1899 to 1930 between the federal government and some of the provinces. As a result of these agreements, the federal government made special arrangements concerning day-to-day management for all fisheries in the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and for some fisheries in the provinces of Quebec (where the province manages freshwater and anadromous and catadromous fisheries), and British Columbia (where the province manages freshwater species, except salmon). In these six provinces, or areas thereof, federal fisheries legislation is administered by the provincial governments, although the fisheries regulations made under the federal Fisheries Act and administered by those provinces must be promulgated by the federal government.

4. Aboriginal Access

Special consideration is given to Aboriginal individuals or organizations for access to commercial fisheries for economic development purposes. In this context, the policy provides for exemption from eligibility criteria respecting the issuance of replacement licences as discussed in section 16. This policy is to be interpreted in conjunction with DFO's Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy.

5. What is a Licence?

(a) General

A "licence" grants permission to do something which, without such permission, would be prohibited. As such, a licence confers no property or other rights which can be legally sold, bartered or bequeathed. Essentially, it is a privilege to do something, subject to the terms and conditions of the licence.

(b) Fishing Licence

A "fishing licence" is an instrument by which the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, pursuant to his discretionary authority under the Fisheries Act, grants permission to a person including an Aboriginal organization to harvest certain species of fish or marine plants subject to the conditions attached to the licence. This is in no sense a permanent permission; it terminates upon expiry of the licence. The licensee is essentially given a limited fishing privilege rather than any kind of absolute or permanent "right or property".

(c) Future Commitment

As provided under the Fishery (General) Regulations, the issuance of a document of any type to any person does not imply or confer any future right or privilege for that person to be issued a document of the same type or any other type upon expiry of the document.

6. Licensing Principles

The "Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada" is built on the following principles:

7. Licensing Parameters

The licensing parameters which have guided the development of the "Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada" are: