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2024-2025 Program Guide: Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk

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1 Background

Under the Nature Legacy initiative, announced in Budget 2018, the Government of Canada is transforming its approach to species at risk conservation and recovery by shifting to ecosystem-based, multispecies initiatives. This approach includes providing funding towards the protection and recovery of aquatic and terrestrial species at risk. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for aquatic species at risk and supports recovery of these species through various programs, including the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP).

The HSP, established in 2000, provides funding for projects submitted by Canadians that contribute directly to the recovery objectives and population goals of species at risk. To ensure the HSP is able to achieve its mandate to "contribute to the recovery of endangered, threatened, and other species at risk by engaging Canadians from all walks of life in conservation actions to benefit wildlife”, DFO routinely adjusts the program’s priorities to best address emerging priorities related to aquatic species at risk across Canada.

HSP has 2 platforms for funding:

  1. Terrestrial Species at Risk Projects – Delivered by Environment and Climate Change Canada
  2. Aquatic Species at Risk Projects – Delivered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada

This document provides general program information about the Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk, and information and requirements for making an aquatic Project Application to the HSP for the 2024-2025 funding cycle.

Proposals will be evaluated in the context of the regional and national funding priorities included in this document. Please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator (see Appendix 1) to learn more about specific regional information and priorities.

For general information about the HSP for aquatic species at risk, please consult the Program website.

2 Program objectives, expected results and priorities


The objective of the HSP for Aquatic Species at Risk is to support and promote the conservation and recovery of Aquatic Species at Risk and their habitats by engaging Canadians in projects that will result in tangible and measurable conservation benefits.

Expected results

Proposed projects have to demonstrate how they align with the objective of the HSP. Further, the proposal has to describe through its own objectives, activities and anticipated outcomes, how it will achieve one or more of the following results:

National priorities

The national priorities for the HSP are projects that focus on the implementation of:

Regional priorities

Projects will continue to be evaluated against regional priority species, areas and/or threats listed in Appendix 2. The majority of aquatic funds will go to projects that address these regional priorities.

3 Eligible recipients

Eligible recipients include:

Federal departments, agencies and federal Crown corporations are not eligible to receive HSP funds.

4 Eligible species

Only proposed projects targeting aquatic species at risk listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) or assessed as Endangered, Threatened and of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) will be eligible for funding. Preference will be given to projects that target SAR listed on Schedule 1 of SARA.

For the most up-to-date list of species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, as well as their recovery strategies, action plans and management plans, please consult the Species at Risk Public Registry.

5 Eligible activities

The following are the eligible HSP activity categories, for each you will find examples of potential activities as they pertain to SAR. Activities that fall outside of these categories are subject to approval. You should consult your HSP Regional Coordinator if you would like to undertake activities other than those listed below.

Activity categories


  • For species with draft or completed federal SAR recovery strategies, action plans or management plans, or COSEWIC assessment reports, activities must be closely linked to prescribed recovery actions or to threats as identified in COSEWIC assessment reports.
  • Activities under the outreach category must clearly demonstrate that they are focused and targeted on achieving the goals of recovery for target SAR.
  • The creation of promotional merchandise (such as hats or mugs) is not eligible for HSP funding.
  • Any proposed outreach or awareness-building activity will need to be framed as a necessary component of a larger project plan, unless they are sufficiently targeted and well supported to stand alone. Project proposals will need to describe in detail how each outreach activity will lead to action in implementing on-the-ground species recovery and include a plan for measuring the implementation, either within the time frame of the project, or within a defined period afterward.
  • Scientific research activities, captive breeding, captive rearing, fish hatcheries, aquaculture activities and extirpated species reintroductions, the development of federal SAR recovery strategies or action plans, including the identification of critical habitat (as required under SARA) are NOT eligible for HSP funding.

6 Project funding and eligible expenses

Project funding

The HSP for Aquatic Species at Risk has an approximate annual national budget of $4M. Funding is variable and dependant on project activities. In an effort to promote collaboration and multi-year projects, the suggested minimum funding request to HSP is $25,000 (this amount may be spread over one or up to three years of a project). The Program does not have a maximum funding limit. However, typical HSP contributions can range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator if you have questions on the minimum funding amounts.

Eligible expenses

Eligible costs include reasonable and properly itemized costs, directly related to the eligible projects/activities, for:

Any other expenses are considered ineligible unless specifically approved in writing by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Further disbursement of funding to final recipients

Those organizations wishing to coordinate work for a specific species or threats, or within a certain geographic area may wish to consider a further disbursement of project funds to partners or other qualified organizations/companies to undertake the work. A further disbursement project is one where a recipient distributes funds to third parties by means of their own competitive contribution-type program and agreements. However, when a recipient delegates authority or further distributes contribution funding to an agency or a third party (such as an authority, board, committee, or other entity authorized to act on behalf of the recipient), the recipient remains liable to the Department for the performance of its obligations under the funding agreement. Neither the objectives of the programs and services nor the expectations of transparent, fair and equitable services shall be compromised by any delegation or redistribution of contribution funding. Please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator for further details.


  • GST/HST is an eligible project expenditure, therefore DFO may reimburse recipients for the taxes they paid while undertaking the activities of the agreement. The amount of DFO’s contribution includes the reimbursement for GST/HST. For example, if DFO’s contribution is $25,000, this $25,000 includes DFO’s reimbursement for all eligible expenditures including GST/HST. DFO will not reimburse the recipient $25,000 plus GST/HST; the $25,000 is all-inclusive.
  • Costs, other than those identified herein, are ineligible unless specifically approved in writing by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or his or her delegate at the time of project approval and are necessary for the successful completion of the project.

7 Consolidating projects and multi-year funding

If an applicant wishes to submit more than one project under the HSP, it is encouraged to consolidate multiple, small proposals on the same target species or in the same area into a single, large application that outlines the different priority activities.

Projects are administered at the regional scale. Applicants whose project crosses regional boundaries should identify a primary region based on where the majority of activities will take place.

Multi-year project proposals are encouraged because they consider the longer-term conservation outcome and, once approved, offer assurance of funding from one year to the next, provided the project remains on track.

Current recipients of HSP multi-year funding can apply to receive additional HSP funding to undertake new and additional activities as part of their current project. Contact your HSP Regional Coordinator for details.

8 Matching contributions

You must obtain contributions of non-federal support (cash and/or in-kind) to obtain HSP funds.

9 Other requirements

Non-federal lands

Funds cannot be used for activities on federal lands (e.g., National Parks, National Wildlife Areas); however, First Nation Reserve lands are considered eligible lands under the HSP .

Impact Assessment Act (S.C. 2019, c. 28, s. 1)

The Impact Assessment Act requires departments to determine whether the carrying-out of a project on federal lands (e.g., First Nation Reserve lands in the case of HSP) is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. Consult your HSP Regional Coordinator to help you evaluate whether the consideration of the environmental effects of a project may be required under the Impact Assessment Act.

Overlap with other federal funding programs

Any individual expense within a specific project can only be funded through one specific federal program. This does not preclude different federal funding program such as AFSAR, Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund, and EcoAction from supporting your initiative. However, it does mean that a project cannot have two separate funding programs funding the same expense (e.g., HSP and AFSAR funding the purchase of the same equipment).

10 For accepted applications

Once you have received confirmation of approval of your project, you will be required to submit additional information, including but not limited to the following:

Cash flow statement

You will be required to develop a detailed cash flow statement for all HSP expenditures that are part of the approved project.

Reporting obligations

The Contribution Agreement, between you or your organization and DFO, will specify project report deadlines and will include the required forms. You may be required to provide regular progress reports in addition to annual reports for multi-year projects as well as a final report at the end. These reports will describe your project revenue, expenses, and accomplishments of the project towards direct and intermediate outcomes.

Outcomes and accomplishments must be reported using the performance indicators identified in the Contribution Agreement. It is important to note that different projects may have different reporting requirements. Your HSP Regional Coordinator will advise you on specific reporting requirements.

Species at Risk survey data sharing

You will be required to provide species occurrence or habitat data collected using HSP funds to your provincial/territorial wildlife data repository centre and to DFO, if relevant to your project. Your HSP Regional Coordinator can inform you of the necessary procedures.

Intellectual property rights

Any intellectual property that you create as part of this project remains your property. However the Government of Canada retains the right to utilize the intellectual property for government, non-commercial purposes without cost.


You will be responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits associated with your project from relevant federal and/or provincial authorities (including those required under SARA, the Fisheries Act, and any other provincial wildlife acts that may apply) wherever your project triggers the need for a permit (e.g., it could impact SAR). For more information, please refer to DFO’s Permiting under SARA website.

As permits take time to arrange, you should address this need several months before the project start date to reduce delays once a funding announcement is made (consult your HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1)).

Public acknowledgement

You are responsible to provide HSP Regional Coordinators with copies of any document or material utilizing the Government of Canada (GC) identifier, Canada wordmark and/or acknowledgement statements prior to printing or distribution, for HSP Regional Coordinator approval of the use of said logos and/or acknowledgement statements. The HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1) will need to be consulted prior to making any communications products such as publications, public information releases, advertising, promotional announcements, activities, speeches, lectures, interviews, ceremonies and websites. All such communications products originating from your project must acknowledge the GC’s contribution by displaying the GC identifier with the public acknowledgement text, along with the Canada wordmark.


For restoration projects with on-the-ground work, a sign must be placed at the Project site(s) acknowledging the funding provided by DFO.

Official languages

The Official Languages Act (Part VII) requires that the Government of Canada promote both official languages and enhance the vitality of Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC) across Canada. It is recognized that projects or organizations funded by DFO through a grants and contributions program may:

Applicants whose project may be delivered in a geographic area with OLMCs or which includes any public events, signage, promotional or other communications may need to consider official language requirements, for example:

Any cost related to official language translation is an eligible cost under the program.
Applicants should discuss any potential official language requirements and opportunities with their HSP Regional Coordinator.

11 How projects are reviewed

As the demand for funding from the HSP regularly exceeds the funds available, there is no guarantee that your project will be funded. Every effort will be made to provide you with the earliest possible notice once a decision has been made. Applicants are strongly encouraged to work with their HSP Regional Coordinators and submit an Expression of Interest (EOI), to ensure projects align with program requirements. In addition, applicants are encouraged to contact and involve Recovery Experts or to refer to Recovery Documents as early as possible in the planning stages of the project.


Regional Advisory Committees review project proposals based on a range of considerations:

Proposal evaluation criteria

Eligible applications will be evaluated and prioritized using the following criteria:


The ability of applicants to complete all reporting and administration requirements under the HSP will be considered during the evaluation. To this end project evaluators will consider past performance in meeting reporting and administration deadlines under HSP or other DFO contribution programs. Inability to complete these reporting requirements may factor into an applicant not being selected for funding.

A high-quality project is one that:

12. To apply

The entire application process, from submission of an Expression of Interest to the signing of a legal Contribution Agreement, can take 6 months or more. This includes time for the review of expressions of interest, submission and assessment of full proposals, approvals, and negotiation of legal funding agreements. This process can be longer or shorter, depending on the number and complexity of applications received, the level of completeness of the application and/or proposal, and the timeliness of your responses to our requests for additional information. Provision of funding is processed upon a Contribution Agreement being signed by your organization and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

See the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk 2024-2025 Call for Proposals for specific deadlines.

Expression of Interest

Prior to submitting a complete proposal to the HSP, applicants are encouraged to submit an Expression of interest (EOI). The EOI is not mandatory but will give you the opportunity to discuss and receive feedback on your project and to verify that it is aligned with national and regional priorities and program expected results.

This process will improve the quality of the proposal, but does NOT guarantee that the project will receive funding. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their HSP Regional Coordinator during the EOI phase. All EOIs must be submitted by the EOI deadline, November 10, 2023 (closing at 11:59 pm for your region). Early submissions are encouraged.

Application Form

To apply to the HSP, the Application Form can be downloaded from DFO’s HSP for Aquatic Species at Risk website. Should you have any difficulty downloading the application form, or wish to discuss your application please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1). Completed applications must be submitted via email to the relevant HSP Regional Coordinator.

Please note that extensions to the application deadline will NOT be granted for any reason.

Due to Government of Canada policy, communication with applicants regarding proposal status during the project review and selection phase is prohibited until the final administrative approvals have been granted. All eligible applicants will receive an official funding decision notification letter, and negotiation of Contribution Agreements will follow with successful applicants.

Additional Information

Please see the following websites for additional information that may be useful for your application:

If you have any further questions, please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1). Please note that HSP Regional Coordinators are only available to answer questions during regular business hours, local time.

Appendix 1: Regional coordinators


Kristie Pearce
Telephone: 431-334-7210


Jackie Walker
Telephone: 506-377-8263


Lisa Paon
Telephone: 902-483-5495

Newfoundland and Labrador

Andy Porter
Telephone: 709-687-2951

Ontario and Prairie

Kristie Pearce
Telephone: 431-334-7210


Athen Yuen
Telephone: 778-955-8334


Élyse Leduc
Telephone: 438-340-9834

Appendix 2: Regional priorities

Appendix 1: Regional priorities
Region Species Areas Threats
Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Wolffish Species (Northern, Spotted, Atlantic)
  • Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtle
  • Large Whale Species (Blue Whale, Fin Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale)
  • Atlantic Salmon (South Newfoundland population)
  • Banded Killifish
  • Fisheries Interactions (i.e. bycatch, entanglements)
  • Vessel Interactions (i.e. ship strikes, acoustic disturbances)
  • Pollution and Pathogens
  • Habitat Alteration
  • Migration Barriers
  • Atlantic Salmon (Inner Bay of Fundy population)
  • Atlantic Whitefish
  • Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtle
  • Whale Species (North Atlantic Right Whale, Blue Whale)
  • Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt
  • Habitat alteration and degradation, including climate change impacts
  • Invasive and introduced species
  • Fishery interactions (includes entanglement, bycatch and incidental catch)
  • Vessels and vehicles interactions
  • Acoustic disturbance
  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Brook Floater
  • Wolffish species
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Whale species (North Atlantic Right Whale, Blue Whale, Fin Whale)
  • Interactions with Vessels and Vehicles
  • Acoustic Disturbances
  • Fishery Interactions: Bycatch and Entanglement
  • Habitat Alteration and Degradation
  • Invasive and Introduced Species
  • St. Lawrence whales at risk (Beluga whale, Blue whale, North Atlantic right whale, Fin whale and Harbour porpoise)
  • All freshwater fishes of interest to the Quebec Recovery Team “l'équipe de rétablissement des cyprins et petits percidés du Québec” (Sand Darter, Northern Sunfish, Cutlip Minnow, Channel Darter, Bridle Shiner, Grass Pickerel, Northern Brook Lamprey and Silver Lamprey)
  • Copper Redhorse
  • Sharks and Skates (Atlantic White Shark, Atlantic Blue Shark, Atlantic Spiny Dogfish, Channel Darter, Atlantic Basking Shark, Thorny Skate, and Smooth Skate, Laurentian-Scotian population)
  • St. Lawrence diadromous species (Atlantic salmon and American eel)
  • Anthropogenic disturbance associated with commercial shipping, whale watching and touring, or recreational boating (e.g., approach, noise, collision, wake, spill)
  • Bycatch, entanglement in fishing gear, recreational and commercial fishing pressures on aquatic species at risk and the availability of their prey
  • Habitat destruction and degradation (e.g., destruction of seagrass beds, bank artificialization, wave action, soil compaction or erosion, alteration of shorelines and riparian buffers, water contamination)
  • Aquatic invasive species affecting aquatic species at risk and their habitat

Ontario and Prairie


  • Redside Dace
  • Pugnose Shiner
  • Pugnose Minnow
  • Black Redhorse
  • SARA-listed Freshwater Mussels
  • Lake St. Clair and contributing watersheds
  • Lake Erie and contributing watersheds
  • Lake Ontario and contributing watersheds
  • Lake Huron and contributing watersheds
  • Lakes and contributing watersheds of Upper (western) St. Lawrence River
  • Sediment/nutrient, contaminant loading
  • Habitat destruction/ alteration
  • Altered flows, water levels, or coastal process
  • Barriers to fish passage

Ontario and Prairie

(Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta)

  • Bigmouth Buffalo
  • Lake Sturgeon
  • Southern Prairie Species (Western Silvery Minnow, Rocky Mountain Sculpin, Plains Sucker)
  • Alberta Native Trout (Athabasca Rainbow, Westslope Cutthroat, Bull)
  • Mapleleaf
  • Peace/Slave River Basin
  • North and South Saskatchewan River basin
  • Southern Prairie Region (Milk River, St. Mary River, Qu'Appelle River)
  • Winnipeg/Red/Assiniboine River Basin
  • East Slopes Rocky Mountains
  • Habitat loss, destruction and degradation
  • Fish species with potential for introgression with native species
  • Disease and pathogens
  • Restrictions/barriers to movement
  • Loss of Indigenous Knowledge specifically related to aquatic species presence and utilization of important habitats (i.e., habitats used for feeding, spawning, nursery, overwintering, or as a migratory corridor)


(Northwest Territories and Nunavut)

  • Dolly Varden (Western Arctic)
  • Beluga (Cumberland Sound)
  • Bull Trout (Western Arctic)
  • Arctic Marine Fish
  • Arctic Marine Mammals
  • Foxe Basin/ Hudson Bay/Hudson Strait
  • Mackenzie River tributaries/Peel River System
  • Beaufort Sea/Amundsen Gulf
  • Queen Maud Gulf to Lancaster Sound
  • Baffin Bay/Davis Strait
  • Loss of Indigenous Knowledge specifically related to the utilization of important habitats (i.e., habitats used for feeding, spawning, nursery, overwintering, or as a migratory corridor)
  • Anthropogenic disturbance associated with shipping, small crafts, industry and other activities
  • Struck and loss of marine mammals
  • Impacts of disease, introduced and non-introduced species
  • Impacts of climate change, including habitat impacts
  • Cetaceans assessed as at risk by COSEWIC
  • White Sturgeon
  • Northern Abalone
  • Endemic freshwater species assessed as at risk by COSEWIC
  • Sharks assessed as at risk by COSEWIC
All aquatic habitat (marine and freshwater) within DFO Pacific Region
  • Fisheries interactions (including incidental/bycatch, entanglements, illegal harvest, prey availability)
  • Physical and acoustic disturbance (vessel based)
  • Habitat degradation and fragmentation (aquatic and riparian)
  • Water quality, including contaminants
  • Aquatic invasive species
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