Application instructions for the authorization of marine mammal disturbance

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Overview

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans may issue an authorization to disturb a marine mammal in some circumstances under section 38 of the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations for activities that will disturb a marine mammal (whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, walrus, sea otters).

The Regulations state that no person shall disturb a marine mammal except:

  1. when carrying on a work, undertaking or activity that is authorized, otherwise permitted or required under the Fisheries Act;
  2. when fishing for marine mammals under the authority of these Regulations;
  3. in the manner set out in a licence issued under the Fishery (General) Regulations authorizing them to fish for marine mammals for experimental, scientific, educational or public display purposes issued; or
  4. in the manner authorized under the Species at Risk Act.

The Regulations state that disturbing includes approaching a marine mammal to, or attempt to:

  1. feed it;
  2. swim with it or interact with it;
  3. move it or entice or cause it to move from the immediate vicinity in which it is found;
  4. separate it from members of its group or go between it and a calf;
  5. trap it or its group between a vessel and the shore or between a vessel and one or more other vessels; or
  6. tag or mark it.

What kind of activities may be permitted under an authorization to disturb marine mammals?

If your activity constitutes disturbance as defined by the Marine Mammal Regulations, you need to apply for authorization to disturb. An authorization to disturb a marine mammal will only be issued if it can be established that the activity meets one or more of the criteria identified under subsection 38(1) of the Marine Mammal Regulations. The Minister may authorize the disturbance if it is established that the activity:

  1. could benefit marine mammals without jeopardizing the survival of the species in the wild;
  2. could improve a marine mammal’s immediate chance of survival;
  3. would contribute to the conservation and protection of marine mammals;
  4. could ease the pain and suffering of a marine mammal that is in distress;
  5. would contribute to marine scientific research; or
  6. would permit the production of audiovisual records of activities of marine mammals, which could facilitate a better understanding of marine mammals and, thereby contribute to their conservation and protection.

The authorization may be subject to any condition respecting:

  1. the waters in which marine mammals may be disturbed;
  2. the marine mammals that may be disturbed;
  3. the period during which marine mammals may be disturbed;
  4. the type, size, number and identification of vehicles that are permitted to be used and the persons who are permitted to operate them;
  5. the manner in which those vehicles are to be operated, including the distance they are required to maintain from marine mammals, their speed and direction and the requirement to avoid impeding the path of marine mammals;
  6. the manner in which marine mammals may be disturbed and the measures that are required to mitigate or minimize the negative effects of disturbing them;
  7. the diagnostic assessment or any other assessments that are to be carried out in respect of marine mammals before, during and after the disturbance;
  8. the information that must be reported to the Minister, as well as the method by which, the times at which and the person for whom the report is to be made; and
  9. the records that must be maintained with respect to the activity causing the disturbance as well as the manner and form in which the records are to be maintained, the time at which and the person for whom the records are to be produced and the period for which the records are to be retained.

Practical examples of these activities include, but are not limited to: filming, rehabilitation, assisting a marine mammal that is stranded, euthanasia, disentanglement, scientific research for the benefit of marine mammals and freeing a marine mammal from entrapment.

Warning:

Interacting with Marine Mammals may be dangerous. The activities permitted pursuant to this Authorization may pose a risk of serious injury or death. The issuance of this Authorization by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not in any way constitute a warranty or assurance that the activities permitted under this Authorization, and the Applicant’s proposed manner of undertaking the activities, are safe to perform. The Applicant is proceeding at their own risk.

Activity information

Please print clearly. Please provide detailed and accurate information. All authorizations to disturb will have reporting requirements that will be specified in the permit based on the authorized activity.

  1. Personnel: Identify the lead applicant/project leader as well as assistants. State the qualifications of the lead applicant and assistants that demonstrate their ability to carry out this activity. Identify and provide copies of any previously issued authorizations to disturb marine mammals (or equivalent) from all countries. Indicate whether assistants will be working independently of lead applicant.
  2. Dates and Location: Indicate detailed start and end dates and locations (a map) where the proposed activity will occur. If an activity work plan has been developed, it must be submitted with your application.
  3. Species Identification: Identify all targeted and non-targeted marine mammal species that may occur in the area where the proposed activity will take place and indicate which ones (if any) are listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). For other information on marine mammals, and their distribution visit Marine mammals and sea turtles.
  4. Vessel, Vehicle and/or Aircraft Information: Provide with your application the vessel name and CFV/Registration #, and/or vehicle/aircraft make, model and licence # and a picture of the vessel(s)/vehicle(s)/aircraft that will be used.

Impact and Mitigation Assessment

  1. Objective and Methodology: Please provide an activity plan/proposal and ensure that the objective and methodology of the proposed activity is detailed enough to assess the impacts of disturbance. For example, indicate number, duration and distance of all approach(es).
  2. Category of Disturbance: Referring to the list of species identified in Part I, (3) above, describe in detail the nature of disturbance and include potential impacts to habitat(s) used by the species. Categorize the disturbance, in accordance to the Regulations, as follows and answer the questions related to each category of disturbance.
    1. The activity could benefit marine mammals without jeopardizing the survival of the species in the wild;
    2. The activity could improve a marine mammal’s immediate chance of survival;
    3. The activity would contribute to the conservation and protection of marine mammals;
    4. The activity could ease the pain and suffering of a marine mammal that is in distress;
    5. The activity would contribute to marine scientific research; or
    6. The activity would permit the production of audiovisual records of activities of marine mammals, which could facilitate a better understanding of marine mammals and, thereby contribute to their conservation and protection.
  3. Alternatives: Describe all the alternatives that were considered to the proposed activity that would reduce the impact on the species while achieving the desired results, and explain why they were rejected in favour of the current proposal. If any alternatives were deemed to be unreasonable, explain why they were considered so.
  4. Mitigation Measures: Describe all the measures that will be implemented to minimize the impact of the proposed activity on the species (individually and collectively). Explain how the physical condition of the marine mammal(s) will be monitored and evaluated before, during and after the disturbance. Provide references to any existing standards or best practices that will be used for mitigation. If there will be any deviation from existing standards or best practices, explain why this is considered preferable or necessary.
  5. Conservation and Protection: Please indicate how the proposed activity contributes to the conservation and protection of marine mammals.

Other required authorizations

An authorization to disturb marine mammals does not constitute an authorization to access property or supersede, the need for other applicable authorizations. However, some authorizations can be combined. Examples of additional permissions that may also be required include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Marine Mammal Transportation Licence
  • Species at Risk Act permit
  • National Wildlife Area research permit
  • Marine Protected Area Activity Approval
  • Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permit,
  • Foreign Vessel Clearance,
  • Additional licences under the Fisheries Act
  • Other permits required under a relevant provincial Act.

An Animal Care Permit or equivalent may be required for rehabilitation-related, or research activities. If you believe that you require this type of permit and you are not affiliated with an academic institution, please contact the appropriate Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Program Officer listed at the end of this document.

Species at Risk Act Permit

If a species listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) will be disturbed, authorization under SARA is necessary. Under section 74 of SARA, an authorization under the Marine Mammal Regulations can act as a SARA Permit under certain conditions. See General Questions and Answers on SARA Permits and section 74 of SARA for more information. DFO will contact you if additional information related to SARA requirements will be needed.

Submit your application

Submit applications related to the production of audio-visual records at least 30 days before the proposed start date.

Send your completed application to:

DFO Region Application Submission
Central & Arctic Licensing Officer E-mail: NT-NUPermit / PermisNU-NT (DFO/MPO)
Phone: 867-979-8005
Gulf Email: Isabelle.Elliott@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Pacific Email: Paul.Cottrell@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Phone: 604-666-9965
Quebec National Online Licencing System
Maritimes Email: licence.maritimes.permis@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Newfoundland and Labrador Email: NL-TN.Licensing@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Get help

Contact your regional Marine Mammal Coordinator if you have any questions.

DFO Region Marine Mammal Coordinator Contact information
Central & Arctic Patt Hall Email: Patricia.Hall@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Phone: 204-983-5280
Gulf Isabelle Elliott Email: Isabelle.Elliott@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Phone: 506-851-2698
Pacific Paul Cottrell Email: Paul.Cottrell@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Phone: 604-666-9965
Quebec Antoine Rivierre Email: Antoine.Rivierre@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Phone: 418-640-2636
Maritimes Stacey Bieren Email: Stacey.Bieren@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Phone: 902-221-7269
Newfoundland and Labrador Jackie Kean Email: Jackie.Kean@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Phone: 709-772-2045
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