Permitting under the Species at Risk Act

Determine if you need to obtain a permit for your project in areas where aquatic species at risk are present and learn how to apply.

On this page

Determine if you need approval

You’ll need approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada if you want to undertake an activity that affects a Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibited aquatic species, such as:

See our aquatic species at risk maps to determine where SARA-listed aquatic species or critical habitat occurs.

Contact Environment and Climate Change Canada if your activity affects other species at risk, including:

SARA prohibitions

The SARA contains several prohibitions to protect species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA. Under Sections 32 and 33 of SARA, it is an offence to:

SARA also contains provisions that prohibit the destruction of any part of the critical habitat of listed aquatic species (section 58(1)). Critical habitat is:

The SARA prohibitions don’t apply to species listed as special concern.

SARA permitting conditions

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans may authorize an activity that would otherwise be prohibited under SARA if your activity is at least 1 of the following:

As well, the Minister must be of the opinion that all 3 of the following conditions are met:

  1. all reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered and the best solution has been adopted
  2. all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals
  3. the activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species

Projects near water program

You’ll require approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada if:

Approval can take the form of a:

Construction or development projects near water

If you’re undertaking a construction or development project in or near fish habitat that may contain aquatic species at risk, review our information for projects near water.

These projects include:

We can review your project to determine whether it will impact an aquatic species at risk.

We can also review your project to determine if your activity can result in the death of fish and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. If it will, your project will also need authorization under the Fisheries Act.

Follow the steps under the projects near water review to determine if you need to request a project review.

Scientific research or other projects affecting species at risk

You’ll need to apply for a SARA permit if your project is:

How to apply for a SARA permit

To apply for a SARA permit, download the application form and instructions:

You should submit your application form at least 90 days before you plan to begin work. The permitting process is governed by the Permits Authorizing an Activity Affecting Listed Wildlife Species Regulations. Under these regulations, we’re normally required to make a decision on your permit application within 90 days of notifying you that your application has been received.

To avoid delays, provide as much information as possible to demonstrate how your proposed activity meets the SARA conditions. We’ll notify you if additional information is required.

We’ll consider permits on a case-by-case basis. The decision whether or not to authorize the activity will take into account, among other things, the impacts of the activity on the survival and recovery of the species.

Please note that the deadline for receipt of applications is April 15th of the current year for research activities affecting three whale species at risk listed below:

  1. North Atlantic Right Whale
  2. Blue whale, Atlantic population
  3. Beluga whale, St. Lawrence Estuary population.

With this new directive, DFO aims to take into consideration the potential cumulative effect of research projects on these whales. Any applications submitted after this date will be evaluated taking into account the impacts of the projects already approved.

Date modified: