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Small Craft Harbours program

Small Craft Harbours is a nationwide program run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). The program operates and maintains a national system of harbours to provide commercial fish harvesters, and other harbour users, with safe and accessible facilities.

About the program

Small craft harbours are crucial to the fishing industry, and by extension, Canadian culture and the economy. The program is responsible close to 950 harbours, including fishing and recreational harbours. Together, these harbours represent over 10,000 structures valued at approximately $7.1 billion.

More than 5,000 volunteers assist the program annually by managing and operating approximately 700 harbours across the country. These volunteers play an essential role in ensuring the harbours that are critical to the fishing industry remain open and in good repair.

Small Craft Harbours is a decentralized program. Since 2018, the headquarters has been located in Moncton, New Brunswick.


The program's goal is to develop and maintain a sustainable national network of safe and accessible harbours that are:


To fulfill its mandate, the program:

Harbour maintenance

The program's primary responsibility is to ensure core fishing harbours are kept open and in good repair. Core harbours references those owned by the DFO that are:

Roughly 690 of the close to 950 Small Craft Harbours are considered to be core harbours, with approximately 260 classified as non-core harbours.


One of the main objectives of the Small Craft Harbours program is to transfer ownership of designated harbours to a third party. This includes, but is not limited to, harbours that fall into these categories:

These transfers allow us to focus our efforts and investments on harbours that are critical to the commercial fishing industry.


Prior to initiating a harbour transfer, DFO provides the necessary harbour repairs and environmental cleanup. In some cases, a comparable grant may be provided to the recipient. To allow public access to the transferred facility, harbours are usually transferred to:

In recent years, municipalities have generally shown the most interest in assuming responsibility for harbour facilities. If no interested party is identified as an appropriate candidate for transfer of ownership, then the property can be sold.

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