Mandate letter and other issues related to DFO/CCG
DFO Parliamentary Affairs, February 2022
Table of contents
- Opening remarks
- Top issues
- Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples
- Blue Economy Strategy, including Oceans Act changes
- Pacific Salmon Strategy
- Atlantic salmon conservation plan
- Implementation of the modernized Fisheries Act
- Marine conservation
- The Coastal Restoration Fund
- Ghost gear program
- Oceans Protection Plan
- Indigenous traditional knowledge in decision making
- Collaborative fisheries arrangements with Indigenous and non-Indigenous fish harvesters
- Investments in coastal and ocean areas for carbon sequestration
- CCG Fleet Renewal
- BC open net pen transition and the federal Aquaculture Act
- Investing in small craft harbours
- Emergency response readiness
- Issues raised by members this session
- B.C. flood response - DFO federal role in mitigation
- Scientific Processes and Excellence at Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Pacific herring
- Prawn tubbing / West coast prawn fishery
- Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
- Striped Bass, Gulf of St. Lawrence and Miramichi population
- Seafood traceability
- Fish Harvesters Benefit and Grant Program
- Great Lakes Fishery Commission
- Foreign ownership
- Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples
- Aquaculture- other issues
- Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) - other issues
- Environmental responses- MSC Altair, Bligh Island Shipwreck and M/V Kingston
- Pacheedaht First Nation Marine Safety Centre
- Polar icebreakers
- Covid-19 testing of crew members
- Shoreline infrastructure
- CCGS Hudson decommissioning
- Implications of North Atlantic Right Whales (NARW) Protection Measures on the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Operations
- Sentry Barge Grounding in English Bay
- Fisheries - other issues
- Arctic surf clam
- Atlantic mackerel
- Atlantic herring
- Elvers: Anticipated Unlicensed Fishing in Spring 2022
- Fraser river steelhead trout
- Northern cod management plan
- Unit 1 Redfish
- Gulf shrimp
- Access to B.C. recreational fisheries
- Hatcheries and Salmonid Program
- Category B licences
- 2022 Canada-France 3Ps Cod Fishery
- Forage Fish
- BC Salmon Closures (PSSI)
- Area E crab
- Fish Stock Rebuilding
- Oceans and aquatic ecosystems - other issues
- Aquatic invasive species
- Northern Shelf Bioregion MPA Network Action Plan
- Énergie Saguenay Project
- Baffinland: Mary River project
- Roberts Bank Terminal 2, British Columbia
- Highway 101 Twinning / Avon River Tidal Gate, Nova Scotia
- Kudz Ze Kayah Mining Project
- Northwest Arm, NS – Infilling of Private Water Lot
- Trans Mountain Expansion Project
- Ocean mining
- Bay du Nord development project
- Salmon Habitat in the Fraser River
Good morning, Mr. Chair. It’s a pleasure to join you today in Ottawa, in the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples.
Having served on this committee in a previous Parliament, I would like to thank you for the invitation to speak with you today as the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
I’m joined by senior officials from DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard, including:
- Timothy Sargent, Deputy Minister;
- Mario Pelletier, Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard;
After my remarks, we will be happy to take your questions.
As you know, Canadians are feeling the impacts of climate-related extremes first-hand, from devastating wildfires and flooding to heatwaves and droughts.
Our oceans play a critical role in climate change, and they are a source of sustainable rural economic opportunity, provided we pursue a transformational agenda.
This means prioritizing long-term success over short-term expediency.
In the years to come, and in alignment with my mandate letter, my focus and that of my department is on four key priorities.
- Defend, protect and restore coastal and marine habitat;
- Enhance species protection, including effective actions that rebuild and regenerate fish stocks;
- Make sure Canada’s ocean plant and fish biomass grow in diversity and abundance and thus contribute to the fight against climate change;
- And finally as a result of this work together to build a stronger and more sustainable blue economy.
Our Government is making generational investments to protect and restore Pacific salmon and their ecosystems, by working in partnership with Indigenous nations and other governments.
And, at DFO, we are creating a roadmap to transition away from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal BC waters, while introducing Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.
On the East Coast, I fully support fishing opportunities for communities, aligned with the precautionary principle that serves to protect and regenerate marine environments and the lifeforms they sustain.
And our continued investment in Small Craft Harbours will support the commercial fishing industry.
Since the modernization of the Fisheries Act in 2019, millions have been invested to implement provisions of the renewed Act; this includes new funding for data collection and science for priority fish stocks and fish habitat Canada - wide.
Underpinning this necessary work are the learning, respect and partnerships DFO is developing as our Government delivers on our commitment to reconciliation through nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous peoples.
This is why my department for example, created a standalone Arctic division to fundamentally reset the way the department coordinates and conducts business and to better serve Indigenous peoples and Northerners.
Mr. Chair, the blue future I envision is one where our prosperity is the net result of our efforts to achieve a healthier environment and a stable climate.
This means seizing emerging ecosystem-friendly economic opportunities that protect the long-term prosperity of coastal communities—new industries that make them more resilient and less dependent on vulnerable resources.
Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy for Canada must prioritize ocean health to drive ocean wealth.
In pursuit of this ambitious agenda we will:
- Work to halt and reverse nature loss by meeting our goals to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s lands and waters by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.
- Modernize the Oceans Act to better understand and mitigate climate-change impacts on ocean ecosystems.
- Explore ways to renew and expand the scope of the Coastal Restoration Fund to waterways beyond coastal areas; and
- Build on the Ghost Gear Program successes to get more lost and abandoned fishing gear, plastics and debris out of marine eco-systems.
This year we’re celebrating the Canadian Coast Guard’s sixtieth anniversary, as our government continues to renew the fleet.
The significant long-term investments in new ships for both the Canadian Coast Guard and the Navy will create good paying jobs for Canadians.
Across government we have the partnerships, science, political will, and financial resources to reimagine our future and solidify Canada’s reputation as a supplier of top quality seafood and a leading ocean nation determined to rebuild, regenerate, and restore that which has been lost.
Thank you, and I’m happy to take your questions now.
Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples
All Canadians have a stake in advancing reconciliation across Canada. My department is dedicated to advancing reconciliation and we will stay this course.
We know that fisheries, oceans, aquatic habitat, and marine waterways are economically, socially, and culturally vital for Indigenous peoples, which is why Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard play a key role in the transformation of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.
As I move forward my mandate commitments, be it through the implementation of the modernized Fisheries Act, our Pacific Salmon Strategy, Canada’s first Aquaculture Act, or Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy, I am committed to doing so in a way that creates stronger partnerships with Indigenous peoples.
I am fully committed to implementing the Treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood as it is critical to the work of reconciliation and is a key priority of mine, my department and the Government of Canada.
We will continue to move forward partnerships with Indigenous peoples not only to advance these shared priorities, but to advance reconciliation through: strengthening Indigenous-Crown relationships; recognizing and respecting Indigenous rights and self-determination; improving service delivery; and reducing unacceptable socio-economic gaps.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
We all need to work together to implement and breathe life into the United Nations Declaration in Canada.
Fisheries, oceans, aquatic habitat, and marine waterways are economically, socially, and culturally vital for Indigenous peoples.
First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples have unique rights that are recognized and protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. I am committed to supporting the exercise of those rights in fisheries, oceans, aquatic habitat, and marine waterways.
My department continues to work with Indigenous peoples to advance relationships, agreements and arrangements that are based on the recognition of rights and that foster collaborative approaches to governance, decision-making, and operations.
Implementing the Declaration means building off our current processes, partnerships, and collaborative arrangements with Indigenous peoples to look for new ways in which we can work together on key fisheries and aquatic resource issues in a manner that gives a voice to the Declaration.
Through programs that support capacity building, treaty tools, and reconciliation agreements, DFO continues to build strong relationships and strives to advance reconciliation, including upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
- The Prime Minister has clearly mandated that the Government will continue to move forward on reconciliation and that many key commitments require partnership with Indigenous governments, communities, and partners.
- The 2021 Speech from the Throne opened with an Indigenous territorial acknowledgment, recognition of the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools, a challenge to continue to expose truths and turn guilt into action, and reinforced the importance of the federal government’s commitment toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
- All Ministers have been directed to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to advance their rights.
- Your mandate letter includes several commitments (e.g., blue economy strategy, marine conservation targets, new aquaculture legislation, advancing consistent, sustainable and collaborative fisheries arrangements with Indigenous and non-Indigenous fish harvesters) that reference the inclusion of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous Knowledge in the management of fisheries, oceans, and freshwater resources.
- DFO has longstanding and complex relationships with Indigenous peoples and has a key role in advancing the reconciliation agenda. Like the rest of the Government of Canada, DFO is working to transform the colonial relationship with Indigenous peoples to one that recognizes and respects Indigenous rights and interests.
- Through policies, programs, treaty tools, and reconciliation agreements, DFO strives to maintain strong relationships by managing fisheries, oceans, aquatic habitat, and marine waterways in a manner that respects Indigenous rights and interests, meets legal obligations, and reconciles Indigenous rights and interests with the interests of all harvesters.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- The Government of Canada upheld its commitment to introduce legislation co-developed with Indigenous peoples to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of 2020.
- On June 21, 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act received Royal Assent. Legislation to advance full implementation of Declaration is a key step in renewing the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.
- The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act came into force on June 21, 2021.
- As the next step, we will work in consultation and cooperation with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation to:
- Take all measures necessary to ensure the consistency of federal laws with the Declaration
- Develop an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration
- Develop annual reports on progress and submit them to Parliament
- The Act requires that the action plan be developed as soon as possible and no later than two years after the coming into force of the Act, which means it needs to be completed by June 2023.
- As a first step, the Government of Canada will be working closely with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation to better understand their priorities to help shape the initial draft of an action plan and begin to identify potential measures for aligning federal laws with the Declaration. This important dialogue will continue over the winter and spring of 2022.
- This first phase will focus on consultation, cooperation and engagement with Indigenous partners, including:
- First Nations, Inuit and Métis rights holders, including modern treaty signatories, self-governing nations and historic treaty partners, as well as with national and regional Indigenous representative organizations
- Indigenous women, Elders, youth, persons with disabilities, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, urban Indigenous people and other Indigenous organizations and groups
- This is the first step toward the development of an action plan with Indigenous partners. There will be a further process for Indigenous peoples and the Government of Canada to work in cooperation on measures to implement the Declaration, informed by the priorities identified in the initial draft of the action plan.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)-Canadian Coast Guard’s Reconciliation Strategy, published on the DFO website on September 6, 2019, commits the Department to recognizing and implementing Indigenous and treaty rights in fisheries, oceans, aquatic habitat, and marine waterways in a manner consistent with, among other things, the Declaration. The Strategy is a description of the Department’s approach to advancing reconciliation and serves as a long-term roadmap for advancing meaningful reconciliation across the Department’s business lines. It will also serve as a tool for measuring and demonstrating progress on implementing the Declaration.
Blue Economy Strategy, including Oceans Act changes
Canada has a unique opportunity to restore and safeguard the health of our oceans, build opportunities for our coastal communities and sectors, and contribute to the fight against climate change.
With the ocean economy rapidly expanding globally, Canada must adopt a clear strategic direction to seize these opportunities for environmental and social benefits and inclusive growth.
That is why the Government will bring forward an integrated, whole-of-government Blue Economy Strategy for Canada.
A healthy ocean is critical to sustainably grow our ocean economy. Canada is well-positioned to demonstrate to the world that this can be done responsibly, with the longest coastline in the world, direct access to three oceans, cutting-edge ocean science, and a strong track record on oceans protection and conservation.
Importantly, this work will build greater resilience in coastal regions and communities that rely on and contribute to our blue economy.
Release of the Engagement Report
Canadians engaged actively in the Government’s extensive consultations to offer their ideas and advice on what should be included in the Strategy.
It is expected that the “What We Heard Report” will be released in the next few weeks.
Release of the Strategy
I expect that the Blue Economy Strategy will be released in the first half of the year.
Integrating climate change in the Oceans Act (If pressed):
Our government recognizes the important role that our oceans play in addressing the global biodiversity crisis and in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
We know that protecting ocean areas can mitigate or slow the loss and degradation of biodiversity and, at the same time, help maintain important carbon sinks or stimulate new carbon sequestration through the restoration of degraded coastal habitats.
This is why we have committed to amend the Oceans Act to meaningfully address climate change considerations.
Modernizing the Oceans Act will provide an opportunity to showcase global leadership at the unique cross-roads of marine conservation and climate change policy.
- Developing a comprehensive Blue Economy Strategy (BES) is a key mandate commitment for the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
- On December 16, 2022 the Prime Minister mandated the Minister to “Continue working with business, academic institutions, non-profits, provincial and territorial governments, and Indigenous partners to grow Canada’s ocean and freshwater economy and support the long-term sustainable growth of Canada’s fish and seafood sector, ensuring Canada is positioned to succeed in the fast-growing global ocean sectors of the blue economy and advancing reconciliation, conservation and climate objectives.”
- The BES public engagement process was officially launched on February 8, 2021 and ended on June 15, 2021. Over a span of 158 days, engagement occurred with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners and a wide range of Canadians involved in ocean industries, environmental and social justice initiatives, academia, science, and research and development through a series of virtual roundtables and meetings with the previous Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Parliamentary Secretary, and senior departmental officials. All Canadians were also encouraged to share their feedback by answering online survey questions or by submitting written input.
- The response to the blue economy engagement activities was extensive. A ‘What We Heard’ report summarizing the input received is currently being developed and is expected to be released during the week of February 7, 2022.
- The World Bank defines the blue economy as, “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.”
- The blue economy includes a diverse range of oceans-based sectors (e.g., commercial fisheries, aquaculture, marine transportation, offshore-oil and gas, shipbuilding, port and harbour infrastructure, and tourism) that generate economic and social benefits for individuals, communities, and coastal nations around the world.
- The global blue economy prior to COVID-19 was rapidly expanding and creating significant opportunities for growth. As per a 2016 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), global economic activities tied to the oceans was projected to double to over CAD $4 trillion by 2030. The blue economy has the potential to outperform the global economy as a whole, both in terms of value added and employment.
- Canada’s ocean-based sectors contributed approximately CAD $36.1B annually (1.6 per cent of national GDP in 2018) and is a source of nearly 300,000 jobs (1.6 per cent of national employment in 2018).
- With key assets such as: the longest coastline in the world; access to three oceans; diverse and highly-valued oceans resources; leading oceans research; and, marine conservation efforts, Canada is well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by the growing blue economy.
- As the Government refocuses its agenda post-COVID-19, a forward-looking BES will set a vision for our ocean-related sectors and help guide future actions and investments to enable long-term sustainable growth, especially for coastal communities. The strategy will also advance our ocean conservation objectives, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and climate objectives.
- In addition, the strategy will consider how to restore and safeguard our ocean health and how climate change is impacting oceans.
- A key tenet of the blue economy is that long-term value creation is directly linked to our ability to restore and rejuvenate ocean health, and that better stewardship of our oceans is essential to sustainable growth, and resilient and thriving coastal communities.
- A healthy ocean is critical for sustainable growth in the ocean economy and requires strong commitments to ocean preservation; improvements to the environmental performance of ocean sectors through innovation, technological development, and enhanced resource management; and, recognition that climate change and the health of the world’s oceans are inextricably linked.
- Internationally – in 2018, Canada, Kenya, and Japan co-hosted the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi. In December 2020, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, of which the Prime Minister is a member, released their centerpiece report which committed countries to develop Sustainable Ocean Plans. The BES will achieve this international commitment for Canada.
Oceans Act amendments
- The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard was mandated to “modernize the Oceans Act to explicitly consider climate change impacts on marine ecosystems and species in regional ocean management, ensuring the Act provides for measurable progress indicators and objectives, and create a national, interdisciplinary working group focused on climate-resilient ocean conservation planning.”
- At this time, international guidance to improve how marine protected areas (MPAs) provide nature-based solutions to address climate change impacts on marine biodiversity, as well as climate change considerations in conservation network development, and MSP is minimal; however, these topics are actively being explored in Canada and will support meeting the mandate commitment.
- A number of Oceans Act MPAs in Canada do support the resilience of marine species, habitats, and ecosystems to the negative impacts caused by climate change in our oceans. DFO scientists have also conducted research on the interrelationship between oceans protection and climate change to build resilience at the conservation network scale. However, the connection between oceans conservation and climate change is not explicit in the Oceans Act. This gap is what the mandate commitment seeks to address.
- The Department is currently conducting policy work to amend the Oceans Act to respond to this commitment.
Pacific Salmon Strategy
The protection of wild Pacific salmon populations is a priority for our government, especially given complex challenges facing the species, including climate change and human induced impacts such as pollutants and changes in land and water use.
Supported by the $647.1 million investment in Pacific salmon, we are focused on delivering the comprehensive, long-term approach that is required.
Engagement and Collaboration
Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative early implementation is now underway, and involves engagement on many key initiatives with First Nations, followed by stakeholders and our partners. The Initiative provides a new framework to guide DFO’s Pacific salmon work now, and in the years ahead
DFO is interested in collaborating with BC and Yukon First Nations in a strategic and targeted approach to address the challenges facing Pacific salmon, while focusing on priority areas of interest.
Further engagement will support the Initiative’s implementation and identify where and how we can best work collaboratively with others across BC and Yukon to respond to Pacific salmon declines.
Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted.
The Department’s immediate focus is to continue to work with Emergency Management B.C., and other federal departments, to respond to the immediate emergency situation.
Assessment of impacts to DFO sites will occur as access restrictions are lifted. Once the impacts have been fully assessed, short and long term planning will be undertaken to address both damage to key salmon program infrastructure, and to determine key salmon restoration needs for damaged salmon watershed systems.
Big Bar Landslide
Sustained efforts have been undertaken to reduce the impact of the landslide on future salmon stocks.
While a permanent fishway was proposed as the best solution to restore fish passage, and a contract had been awarded in 2020 for design and construction, the contractor was unable to complete the project due to safety issues at the site.
Work is currently underway to complete the first phase of an analysis to determine a long-term solution for restoring a fish passage at Big Bar.
In the short term, planning for “trap and transport” operations is progressing to help fish move past the slide site during the 2022 salmon migration.
The emergency enhancement of at-risk upper Fraser salmon stocks and a comprehensive monitoring program remains as an integral part of the remediation efforts.
The challenges facing at risk Fraser River Chinook salmon stocks are multifaceted. The road to recovery requires a long-term view and the collaboration of all interested parties.
Chinook salmon management measures enacted in recent years have been difficult for harvesters, but will be necessary for many years to support conservation and rebuilding of these stocks.
The measures for Fraser River Chinook were developed following consultation with Indigenous communities, recreational and commercial fishing organizations, and environmental organizations.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognizes that recreational fisheries represent a significant economic value to British Columbia, especially the Chinook salmon fishery.
As part of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative, the Department plans to modernize and stabilize salmon fisheries.
Further consultation with the recreational sector is planned regarding the sector’s views and interests in the implementation of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative
Impacts of Covid 19
We understand the economic hardship that the fishing and ecotourism industries have experienced in regards to the conservation measures placed on recreational fishing and the potential impacts due to Covid-19.
Those economically impacted by Covid-19 should explore the numerous support programs that have been announced for small to medium businesses.
Mark Selective Fisheries
Some hatchery fish are marked before they are released.
While under the PSSI, MSF will be explored, we need to carefully consider the possibility of increased impacts on the wild stocks we are trying to protect, the additional costs to mark fish, and the importance of maintaining the integrity of scientific stock assessments.
Compensation for Recreational Stakeholders
We acknowledge that conservation measures have had negative economic impacts on harvesters, including the recreational sector.
We have worked with our partners and stakeholders to consider actions that help minimize these impacts while also achieving our conservation objectives.
In 2022, as always, our measures will take into account the feedback we receive from our partners and stakeholders.
Petition to the Government of Canada to Ban Gill Nets
Our government is committed to the implementation of sustainable fisheries management practices that protect our aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity, including the conservation of salmon populations.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada takes into consideration any impacts on conservation objectives when prescribing the type of gear that can be used by harvesters participating in a fishery.
Fisheries management decisions are based on the best available science, and are taken in consultation with all stakeholders and Indigenous peoples.
Pinniped predation on salmon
Fisheries and Oceans Canada takes an ecosystem-based approach to oceans management.
Our priority is to ensure that the best science is reflected, in consideration of the role seals and other marine species play in sustaining a healthy and productive aquatic ecosystem.
While seals and sea lions do eat salmon, salmon represent a small proportion on average of their diet.
- There were limited salmon returns in many fisheries in 2019. Commercial fishing opportunities were particularly poor, causing many in the province’s fishing industry to ask for emergency relief. In 2020, Fraser River sockeye returns were the lowest ever recorded (less than 300 thousand) and no directed fisheries were provided for First Nations, recreational or commercial fisheries. The Fraser River forecast for 2020 is also poor at less than a million fish (less than the full FSC allocation amount of ~1.1 million).
- In 2019, poor chum returns and new fishery management measures to protect interior Fraser river steelhead, designated as endangered by Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), also resulted in virtually no commercial chum fisheries in Southern British Columbia (B.C.).
- The Department does have programs that provide some opportunity for harvesters to exit the industry, should they choose to do so; these are the licence and quota relinquishment processes through the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative and the Allocation Transfer Program.
- The province of BC declared a state of emergency on November 17, 2021, in response to significant flooding throughout the province. The purpose is to mitigate impacts on transportation networks and movement of essential goods and supplies, and to support the province wide response and recovery effort. While the situation is improving, community impacts remain widespread and severe. DFO is working to determine the extent of damage to DFO sites if and as access restrictions are lifted, and will continue to work on assessing the impacts to salmon populations and salmon habitat.
- Damage assessments of DFO infrastructure in areas hardest hit remain an ongoing challenge due to logistical and safety concerns; most areas are closed to all but emergency services personnel. Impacted DFO facilities remain stable and are improving, although access and supply chain issues continue to be an immediate area of significant concern. DFO staff are still unable to access a number of sites to conduct assessments due to access restrictions.
- The Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) continues to complete emergency erosion protection works and work to maintain water flows into hatcheries. Impacts to First Nations and other community-managed salmon hatchery, enhancement and stock assessment infrastructure still also need to be assessed. Significant impacts are expected to juvenile salmon and salmon eggs laid in gravel of impacted rivers and streams across the Squamish watershed, Lower Fraser River watershed and tributaries and the Thompson and Nicola rivers near Merritt. Further assessments will be conducted.
- The full extent of impacts will not be known until after spring freshet has passed. (Spring freshet is the result of snow and ice melt into rivers when water levels rise and flows increase over a period of several weeks, sometimes resulting in significant inundation or even flooding, as the snowpack melts in the river's watershed).
- DFO was notified of a landslide near Big Bar Creek, B.C. on June 23, 2019, and investigated this remote area of the Fraser River on June 25. The Big Bar incident command post was established on June 29 in Lillooet, B.C. with experts and response specialists from the Government of Canada, the Province of B.C. and First Nations.
- Big bar landslide investments have included a $188.8M contract to Peter Kiewit & Sons ULC, for the design and construction of a permanent fishway; however, construction was halted due to safety issues.
- Winter 2021: Multiple unforeseen rock fall incidents and extreme weather events impacted worker safety, disrupting projected timelines.
- Slope stability assessments concluded that the conditions are unpredictable and the installation of a permanent fishway would only be possible by 2023 or 2024 at double the cost.
- Summer 2021: DFO suspended further construction on the permanent fishway; implemented alternative fish passage systems; and partnered with First Nations on emergency enhancement programs.
- Alternative fish passage systems included an improved temporary “nature-like” fishway and a “truck and transport” program.
- Due to favourable river conditions and improvements made to the “nature-like” fishway, nearly 2 million salmon have volitionally moved passed the slide site in 2021; initial analysis indicates increased passage thresholds for Chinook and sockeye compared to 2020.
- Despite this success, focus remains on developing a long-term solution promptly to help vulnerable, early-migrating stocks reach their spawning grounds; planning for alternative fish passage systems and enhancement efforts are underway for the 2022 migration season in the short-term.
- DFO, in collaboration with First Nations and Provincial partners, are pursuing a structured decision making (SDM) process to review options for a long-term solution through an analysis of gathered data.
- This process involves: in-depth review of the problem using 2021 data, redefining objectives, and a comprehensive analysis of options.
- The SDM process will take 1-2 years to complete. While preliminary options are expected to be developed by 2022, it is unclear when there will be concrete options to bring before Cabinet.
- At this time, a Terms of Reference has been developed in partnership with the Joint Executive Steering Committee.
- All but one of 16 southern B.C. Chinook runs have been designated as endangered, threatened, or of special concern by the COSEWIC in Canada.
- Management measures for 2020 Chinook were developed following consultation with Indigenous groups, recreational and commercial fishing organizations and environmental organizations. These measures are one component of a larger strategy for sustainability of at risk Pacific salmon populations. The measures include the following:
- Commercial fishing: commercial troll fisheries for Chinook was closed until August 20 in Northern B.C., and August 1 on the west coast of Vancouver Island to avoid impacting Fraser Chinook stocks and to support conservation priorities;
- Recreational fishing: the 2020 management measures for recreational fisheries where at risk Chinook stocks may be encountered were designed to avoid impacts on Fraser Chinook stocks of concern. The measures for recreational fishing ranged from no retention during certain periods, no fishing for salmon near the Fraser River, reduced daily limits, and maximum size limits (i.e. to protect large female spawners). For the Fraser River, recreational fisheries are closed to salmon fishing.
- First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial fisheries: in-river fisheries, which have a constitutionally protected priority, were managed with very limited opportunities when at risk Chinook were present. To ensure the maximum possible number of Chinook salmon that manage to pass through the Big Bar landslide barrier successfully reach their spawning grounds, DFO is working with First Nations in these areas to minimize Chinook harvests above the slide site.
- Mass Marking/Mark Selective Fisheries: Many hatchery fish have been marked by the removal of the adipose fin that has been clipped off before fish are released from the hatchery. U.S. and Canadian hatchery marked Chinook are indistinguishable and, in most areas, there are much larger numbers of U.S. hatchery marked Chinook given mass marking programs in U.S. hatchery facilities. Some hatchery marked Chinook also contain coded-wire tags (CWT) that are extracted from Chinook heads turned in from the fishery or collected on spawning grounds to provide stock assessment information used to manage the fishery. Fishery opportunities where hatchery origin Chinook are retained and wild Chinook are released are known as mark selective fisheries (MSF).
- The Department has not authorized widespread MSF in 2020 due to several concerns, but some local opportunities were considered where Fraser River Chinook could be avoided.
- MSF are expected to increase fishing effort and increase release mortalities (approximately 20 per cent) for unmarked, wild Chinook, including endangered Fraser River Chinook for which there are significant conservation concerns.
- During the spring months Canadian hatchery marked fish returning to the Fraser (including Nicola and Chilcotin) may be required to help sustain some endangered Fraser Chinook populations where few wild fish return. For example, hatchery origin, marked Chinook made a high contribution to Nicola spawners in 2018 and helped to sustain the population given very weak wild Chinook returns. Hatchery origin Chinook also return to the Chilcotin.
- In times and areas where the encounter rates of marked Chinook in the fishery are not well above 20 per cent, this can mean additional mortality of wild fish can be expected due to release mortality if anglers must handle more fish to keep a hatchery fish. The department has recreational catch data, including encounters of marked and unmarked Chinook rates by month and statistical area, that is used to assess this.
- Gill nets are the most widely used and implemented salmon harvesting tool on the Fraser River by First Nations and commercial harvesters.
- Salmon stocks of concern and sturgeon are frequently and negatively impacted by the non-selective nature of gill nets, succumbing to significant physical damage and regular mortality.
- Fully attended nets can provide effective and expeditious release, and in general, species are unharmed.
Recent Salmon related investments
- The 2018 Fall Economic Statement also reiterated the Government’s commitment to the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon, and made two key announcements: 1) to support stock assessment and rebuilding efforts for priority Pacific salmon stocks, including $107.4 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, and $17.6 million per year ongoing, to support the implementation of stock assessment and rebuilding provisions in a renewed Fisheries Act for priority fish stocks across Canada, including priority Pacific salmon stocks; and, 2) $105 million over six years, starting in 2018–19, to create a British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF), which includes a contribution to the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund of $5 million in 2018–19.
- The federal-provincial joint BCSRIF was officially launched on March 15, 2019. The total fund amounts to $142.85 million over five years: $100 million from Canada and $42.85 million from B.C. The fund is now open to proposals from Indigenous groups, conservation groups, commercial organizations in the wild fisheries and industry sectors, recreational fisheries, as well as non-commercial organizations such as universities and academia, industry associations and research institutions.
- Impacts of Aquaculture: Petition e-2367 was posted on January 9, 2020 and closed for signature on March 9, 2020. The Member of Parliament sponsoring e-2367 is Gord Johns, Courtenay-Alberni, New Democratic Party. The petition focuses primarily on aquaculture operations but states that wild Pacific salmon are under serious threat from pathogens, pollutants, and sea lice originating from open net-cage fish farms. The Government response was tabled on May 25, 2020.
- Budget 2021 provides an additional investment of $647.1 million over five years, starting immediately in 2021-22, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to stabilize and conserve wild Pacific salmon populations. This investment is to implement initiatives over the next five years (2021/22 – 2025/26) organized under four pillars: Conservation and Stewardship (habitat-related work); Salmon Enhancement (hatcheries-related work); Harvest Transformation (harvest-related work); and, Integration and Coordination (internal and external integration of planning and collaboration with others).
- Predation: There has been increasing interest on the Pacific coast about the impacts of seals and sea lions on salmon populations, including a call for a cull and a commercial fishery.
- Along with academics, Indigenous groups, and US partners, DFO participated in two expert workshops in May and November 2019 to summarize what is known about potential impacts of pinniped predation on salmon. There was a high degree of uncertainty about the role pinnipeds have on salmon abundance trends. DFO is continuing research into this topic.
- While there is currently no commercial access or plans for a cull, DFO does work with First Nations to secure access to seals and sea lions for Food, Social and Ceremonial purposes.
Atlantic salmon conservation plan
Our government is committed to making new investments and working with Indigenous people, provinces and stakeholders to restore and rebuild wild Atlantic salmon populations and their habitats.
To this end, we will work with all interested parties to develop a new conservation strategy which will advance objectives outlined in the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy, and support its overall goal.
The progress report on the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Implementation Plan for 2019 to 2021 will be publicly released early this year. It too will inform the development of the new Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Strategy.
If Pressed on need to take action
I know that Atlantic salmon populations have declined significantly across their Canadian range, and am keenly aware of their social, cultural, and economic significance to Indigenous people and communities across Eastern Canada.
We have committed to investing in this species and to developing the conservation strategy, considering input received through ongoing engagement with Indigenous people and stakeholders, as well as recommendations made through the 2017 Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans ‘Wild Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada’, and the 2015 Ministerial Advisory Committee on Atlantic salmon ‘Special report on Wild Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada’.
If Pressed on Listing under the Species at Risk Act
My department is developing advice on whether or not to list several Atlantic salmon populations under the Species at Risk Act. We checked in with Indigenous groups, provinces and key stakeholders in November 2020 and provided an update on the decision-making process. Feedback received during this check-in process is under consideration and will inform the final listing decisions.
If pressed on timing of decision whether to list Atlantic salmon
There are many considerations that go into the decision on what recommendation should be made to the Governor in Council. We are conducting the analysis as quickly as we can.
- The 2021 mandate letter calls for the Minister to work in close collaboration with provincial and territorial authorities, Indigenous partners, fishing and stewardship organizations and implicated communities to make new investments and develop a conservation strategy to restore and rebuild wild Atlantic salmon populations and their habitats.
- Engagement has been initiated to discuss the conclusion of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Implementation Plan 2019-2021 and the path forward. Stakeholders are seeking improved coordination and communication by the Department, further opportunities for partnership and collaboration, a strategic plan for Atlantic salmon to address science, management, and policy gaps, and increased funding to support conservation work on-the-ground. These priority areas are consistent with recommendations made in the 2017 Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans ‘Wild Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada’, and the 2015 Ministerial Advisory Committee on Atlantic salmon ‘Special report on Wild Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada’.
- On June 25, 2020, the Atlantic Salmon Federation released its State of the State of Wild Atlantic Salmon Report, which indicates that Atlantic salmon returns to North America in 2019 were among the lowest in a 49-year data series, and called for more inter-governmental coordination and collaboration with stakeholders.
- Wild Atlantic salmon are a highly migratory species that spends one to three years in freshwater, followed by one or two (or more) years at sea before returning to spawn in the freshwater rivers in which they were born. Unlike Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon can return to sea after spawning to repeat the migration and spawning pattern several times.
- Once abundant in rivers northward from New York state to outer Ungava Bay, Atlantic salmon populations have been extirpated from the southern extent of their range; Canada has jurisdiction over 16 of 17 remaining salmon populations in North America, many of which are in decline.
- The causes of the widespread decline of Atlantic salmon are not well understood. A number of threats are generally recognized, including: legal and illegal fisheries domestically (freshwater) and internationally (marine), commercial and industrial developments that impact habitat quantity and quality (e.g. farming, hydroelectric dams, forestry, aquaculture); poor marine survival (we don’t know why); and, climate change (e.g., warming freshwater and marine environments, shifts in food webs).
- Not only are there multiple threats, but the conservation landscape of salmon is complex, which impedes recovery success. DFO shares the responsibility for the management of Atlantic salmon in freshwater with the provinces, and the management approach differs depending on the respective federal-provincial arrangement. Globally, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) sets and allocates harvestable surplus (i.e. Greenland subsistence fisheries subject to Canada-Greenland bilateral agreement on mixed stocks).
- There is currently one Species at Risk Act (SARA) listed population, the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon designatable unit (DU), which was listed on Schedule one in 2003. Nine additional DUs of Atlantic salmon across Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been assessed by the arm’s-length scientific body, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), as at-risk (four as Endangered, one as Threatened, and four as Special Concern) and are under consideration for listing under SARA.
- In November 2020, an update on this decision-making process was sent to Indigenous groups, key stakeholders, and the provinces. The update invited recipients to advise of any change of position or new information, by March 15, 2021. These check-ins have yielded mixed responses similar to those heard during consultations, with a few exceptions where positions have changed. These responses, as well as feedback received during consultations, will inform the listing decision. Listing under SARA would trigger protections through prohibitions and identification and protection of critical habitat.
- In 2016, the Atlantic Salmon Research Joint Venture was announced to improve the coordination of salmon scientific research, such as at-sea-survival. Investments through DFO’s Science Partnership Fund have been matched 1:1 by Joint Venture partners. Since its inception, the Joint Venture has leveraged over $2.3M to support Atlantic salmon research in priority areas. Now, the Joint Venture is implementing a large-scale, multi-stakeholder collaborative research effort directed at some of the most urgent and pressing research questions relating to survival of salmon at sea.
- Currently, the value of the recreational fishery (2010) is $150M in GDP, 3,873 full-time jobs and $128M worth of income; there are also active food, social and ceremonial fisheries for Atlantic salmon by more than 40 First Nations and many Indigenous communities across Eastern Canada. In Central and Coastal Labrador, the fishery is also a key source for local community food fisheries.
- In June 2016, DFO released its Forward Plan for Atlantic Salmon, in response to the 2015 report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Atlantic Salmon; and, announced the revised Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy and Implementation Plan, in March 2017 and May 2019, respectively. The resulting 2019-21 Implementation Plan outlines the actions DFO and partners will take to help restore and maintain healthy wild Atlantic salmon populations. Now in its final year, the Department has committed to reporting on the results of the Implementation Plan and is also engaging stakeholders on the path forward beyond 2021.
Implementation of the modernized Fisheries Act
The Government of Canada believes in the importance of protecting and conserving Canada’s fish and fish habitat for future generations.
To that end, we continue to deliver on our promise to implement a modernized Fisheries Act which supports sustainable, stable, and prosperous fisheries.
That is why our Government committed $284 million over five years to support modernization efforts, including protection for all fish and fish habitat, evidence-based decision making, improved enforcement and transparency, and collaboration with Indigenous groups, partners and stakeholders.
Indigenous funding program
We have also committed $50 million over five years for the Indigenous Habitat Participation Program, which supports the participation of Indigenous peoples in project reviews, monitoring, and policy, furthering our Government’s commitment to reconciliation.
- The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard’s mandate letter was published December 16, 2021. It included a commitment to work to support sustainable, stable, prosperous fisheries through the continued implementation of the modernized Fisheries Act, which restores lost protections, rebuilds fish populations, and incorporates modern safeguards so that fish and fish habitats are protected for future generations and Canada’s fisheries can continue to grow the economy and sustain coastal communities.
- To support ongoing implementation of the modernized Fisheries Act, important engagement activities continue into their second year with Indigenous groups, partners, stakeholders and the public on development of policies, frameworks, instruments and guidance. These include:
- a proposed regulation, which would streamline the approval process for prescribed classes of works and waters to enhance regulatory efficiency while improving protection of fish and fish habitat;
- a framework for the establishment of Ecologically Significant Areas which, if implemented through regulation, would provide long-term protection and conservation for key areas of fish and fish habitat that are sensitive, highly productive, rare or unique;
- an update of the position statement explaining how the Department would interpret the prohibition in the Act against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing; and
- a position statement explaining how the Department would interpret the fish and fish habitat protection provisions with respect to existing facilities and structures.
- Additional future rounds of engagement will be undertaken on implementation of the fish and fish habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act, including: the Department’s approach to engagement, consideration of cumulative effects in decision making, and additional codes of practice aimed at avoiding impacts to fish and fish habitat.
- Amendments to modernize the Fisheries Act entered into effect in two phases. On June 21, 2019, Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence received royal assent and most of the changes to the Fisheries Act became law. On August 28, 2019, the fish and fish habitat protection provisions entered into effect. The amended Fisheries Act:
- strengthens the role of Indigenous peoples in project reviews, monitoring and policy development as part of early steps to advance reconciliation;
- recognizes that decisions can be guided by principles of sustainability, precaution and ecosystem management;
- promotes restoration of degraded habitat and rebuilding of depleted fish stocks;
- allows for the better management of large and small projects impacting fish and fish habitat through a new policy and regulatory framework, including codes of practice;
- creates new fisheries management tools to enhance the protection of fish and ecosystems;
- strengthens marine refuges to ensure the long-term protection of biodiversity; and
- helps ensure that the economic benefits of fishing remain with the licence holders and their community by providing clear ability to enshrine current inshore fisheries policies into regulations.
- On February 6, 2018, the Government tabled Bill C-68. The Bill proposed a series of changes to strengthen and modernize the Fisheries Act. Key among these were the protection of all fish and fish habitat, and the restoration of the prohibitions against the death of fish by means other than fishing, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.
- Also, in 2018, the Government allocated $284.2 million over five years (2018-19 to 2022-23) to implement the changes to the Fisheries Act. New resources included additional full-time equivalents (FTE) to support faster review of development projects and renewed science capacity to support decision making, as well as additional fisheries officers for compliance and enforcement.
- Part of this allocation includes a new $50 million grants and contributions program also covering the period 2018-19 to 2022-23 that will provide for increased participation of Indigenous peoples in the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat. The Indigenous Habitat Participation Program will support Indigenous participation in consultation on project authorization decisions under the Fisheries Act, participation in the development of policy and regulatory initiatives, and collaborative projects and capacity building for communities.
Our government recognizes the important role that our ocean plays in addressing the global biodiversity crisis and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
It is why we exceeded our 10 per cent marine conservation target in 2019, proudly protecting almost 14 per cent of Canada’s ocean.
This past summer we announced a historic investment in marine conservation, providing almost a billion dollars in funding over five years to reach our new ambitious target of conserving 25 per cent of Canada’s ocean by 2025.
We will continue to work with provinces and territories, Indigenous communities, and Canadians to increase marine protection to 25 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.
Marine Protection Standards
In 2019, our government announced two new protection standards, following recommendations from the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards.
Under the protection standard for future federal marine protected areas, oil and gas exploration and exploitation, mining, dumping and bottom trawling will be prohibited.
Under the protection standard for other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges, all activities will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that risks they may pose are effectively avoided or mitigated.
These new protection standards safeguard our ocean while providing greater certainty and clarity on how these conservation tools are designed.
Eastern Shore Islands area of interest
Our government recognizes the importance of protecting Canada’s marine and coastal areas, such as the Eastern Shore Islands area, and working together with communities while supporting a healthy oceans economy.
Next steps for this area include determining a path forward for the future conservation of this area of interest, such as through working with the local fishing industry to address issues of common interest.
Marine Conservation Targets
- On July 22, 2021, the Government of Canada announced a historic investment in marine conservation, providing $976.8 million in funding over five years to protect 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025.
- To reach the 2025 target, progress will be advanced on:
- New site establishment: Advance work to establish new marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) to meet the 25 per cent target by 2025.
- Effective site management: Manage existing MPAs and OECMs to ensure they are effective in achieving their conservation objectives.
- Collaboration: Building upon and sustaining meaningful partnerships with provincial, territorial, and Inuit and Indigenous governments, industry and local communities, to advance effective ocean planning and conservation activities.
- Advance marine spatial planning (MSP): Advance marine conservation within the broader context of MSP and Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy, to help enable ambitious marine conservation objectives while also allowing for sustainable growth in our ocean sectors as part of the development of a resilient blue economy.
- International advocacy: Continue to take a leadership role along with like-minded countries to advocate for conserving 30 per cent of the world’s ocean by 2030.
- On December 16, 2021, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard was directed in her mandate letter to continue to work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and partners to ensure Canada meets its goals to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s ocean by 2025 (25 by 25), and 30 per cent by 2030 (30 by 30), working to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 in Canada, achieve a full recovery for nature by 2050, and champion this goal internationally. This work will remain grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives.
- Canada currently conserves 13.81 per cent of marine and coastal areas, including 14 MPAs established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) under the Oceans Act and 59 marine refuges. Additional Areas of Interest have been announced as being pursued for Oceans Act MPA designation (e.g., Offshore Pacific, Eastern Shore Islands, Fundian Channel-Browns Bank, and Southampton Island).
- About 283,394 km2 or 4.93 per cent of conserved marine territory in Canada is protected under OECMs. International voluntary criteria for OECMs were adopted at the CBD’s Conference of the Parties in November 2018 (COP14). DFO is currently adjusting its marine OECM guidance to align with CBD guidance, as well as to implement Canada’s 2019 protection standard for OECMs.
Marine Spatial Planning
- MSP is a process that brings together relevant authorities to better coordinate how we use and manage marine spaces to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives in a balanced way. Its outcome is roughly equivalent of a zoning plan for the ocean space.
- The Department has launched MSP across Canada, including initiatives in five major coastal areas (Pacific North Coast; Pacific South Coast; Bay of Fundy/Scotian Shelf; Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence; and, Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves), to improve the management and coordination of economic and conservation activities.
- The MSP approach, in collaboration with provinces, territories, and Indigenous peoples, will be used to co-develop marine spatial plans by 2024.
- Conservation network development is a strategic approach to reaching our biodiversity conservation goals. It will be integrated into Canada’s MSP efforts to ensure that our marine ecosystems are sustainably managed and are able to support economic, social, and cultural objectives in addition to conservation objectives. Engagement for the Blue Economy Strategy highlighted areas where the MSP process may benefit from being modernized. This input is under consideration by the Department.
Post-2020 targets and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
- Since 1992, the CBD has provided Canada with a framework to protect its own biodiversity, supporting Canadian livelihoods and wellbeing, as well as the opportunity to influence global biodiversity policy.
- With 196 States Parties, the CBD is one of the most influential international mechanisms to address biodiversity loss, including marine and coastal biodiversity, through global policy change and action. Canada’s targets of 25 by 25 and 30 by 30 for marine conservation are aligned with new global marine conservation targets that are an expected outcome of post-2020 target negotiations at the CBD in the coming months.
- At the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the CBD, States Parties will adopt a new post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, including new biodiversity targets to replace the current 20 Aichi targets (2011-2020) that will guide global biodiversity conservation and sustainable use efforts towards 2030 and beyond to 2050. COP15 is being held in two parts. The first took place virtually from October 11 to 15, 2021. The second part will be a face-to-face meeting in Kunming, China from April 25 to May 8, 2022.
- COP15 will provide Canada with the opportunity to influence new international policy on the sustainable use and harvest of marine resources and new ambitious targets for marine conservation.
The Coastal Restoration Fund
Aquatic ecosystems are critical components of the global environment, as essential contributors to biodiversity and ecological productivity, and their protection is core to my department’s mandate.
Through the Coastal Restoration Fund, a $75 million contribution program under Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, my department contributes to the: development and implementation of coastal restoration plans; identification of restoration priorities; implementation of projects; and addressing threats to marine species located on all three of Canada’s coasts.
Given the success of the Fund, in December 2021, I was mandated to continue to protect and restore our oceans and coasts by renewing and expanding this program.
The Fund is currently slated to sunset March 31, 2022; however, the Department is considering options for the renewal and expansion of this program in order to support restoration efforts across Canada.
- The Coastal Restoration Fund (CRF) is a $75 million contribution program launched in 2017 as part of the Government of Canada’s broader Oceans Protection Plan (OPP). The program facilitates collaborations that contribute to the development and implementation of coastal restoration plans, identification of restoration priorities, implementation of projects, and addresses threats to marine species located on Canada’s coasts.
- The CRF focuses on investments in coastal as well as upstream inland communities to support restoration efforts that protect and restore Canada’s coastal areas and address threats to marine species, including marine mammals (e.g., Southern Resident Killer Whales). The CRF is one of the OPP’s foremost success stories; all available OPP funding allocated to the CRF was expended in the first 2.5 years of its five-year mandate in support of more than 60 projects on all coasts (including in the area of the Salish Sea and other locations near the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion).
- It is anticipated that once the program has sunsetted (March 2022), CRF will have supported local economic investment through the creation of over 900 jobs (full and part-time, as well as seasonal positions), facilitated over 1300 partnerships (including approximately 415 Indigenous partnerships), provided training for over 1000 people, and leveraged over $19 million in additional support from other sources. The program also places a priority on supporting Indigenous led projects, as is evidenced by 37 per cent of all CRF projects being led by Indigenous organizations, and almost 100 per cent of projects involving Indigenous groups in the planning, development, and implementation of its projects.
- The CRF also underwent an evaluation in FY 2019-20 in accordance with the Treasury Board’s Policy on Results (2016) and requirements of the Financial Administration Act (Summary of the Evaluation of the Coastal Restoration Fund). The result of the evaluation noted the success of the program as well as identified lessons learned for future consideration.
- The 2021 Speech from the Throne and recent ministerial mandate letter provided Fisheries and Oceans Canada with a clear directive to renew and expand the CRF, to invest in efforts to create blue carbon (e.g., tidal wetlands, eelgrass beds, and riparian habitats that can absorb and store carbon), and to create opportunities for freshwater and oceans sectors and coastal communities through a Blue Economy Strategy.
- The Department will consider the recommendations from the FY 2019-20 evaluation, as well as the outcomes of the program’s 2020 national workshop, when developing options for the renewal and expansion of the CRF.
Ghost gear program
Canada continues to demonstrate leadership to address ghost fishing gear in our oceans, both within Canada and internationally.
Ghost gear is estimated to make up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the world’s ocean by weight and has a direct impact on harvestable fish stocks and marine ecosystems.
We continue to invest in the Ghost Gear Fund—including a $10 million increase through Budget 2021—which helps fish harvesters acquire new gear technologies to reduce gear loss and supports the delivery of ghost gear retrieval and responsible disposal projects.
An important part of the program is a review of current regulations to examine the feasibility of in-season retrieval. This has been a challenge for harvesters, who have made it clear that season retrieval by harvesters must be part of the solution. It would add an efficient, cost-effective and industry led approach to ghost gear retrieval.
Lost gear reporting is now mandatory in all commercial fisheries in Canada. To support this requirement, the Department has launched a new Fishing Gear Reporting System that makes the process of reporting lost gear easier. This tool is expected to increase compliance for reporting and will provide Canada with valuable data on areas of potential high gear loss and gear types most frequently lost. It will be used to inform future gear retrieval efforts and fisheries management decisions.
Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program (Ghost Gear Fund)
Through Budget 2021, the Ghost Gear Fund received an additional $10 million towards the expansion of several existing projects and supported new efforts to address abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear. In total, 23 new projects were supported for fiscal the year 2021-2022.
Since the initiation of the Ghost Gear Fund in July 2020, $16.7 million has been distributed to support 49 ghost gear projects, and increased capacity at more than 27 harbour authorities.
All successful projects fall into at least one of four eligible categories:
- third-party gear retrieval;
- responsible disposal;
- acquisition and piloting of available gear technology; and,
- international leadership.
Ghost Gear Fund Results
To date, over 1257 tonnes of lost or discarded fishing gear has been retrieved from Canadian waters since the initiation of the Ghost Gear Fund in July 2020, including over 125 km of rope.
Some Ghost Gear Fund highlights include establishing an end-of-life fishing gear recycling depot in Ucluelet, British Columbia; testing smart buoy technology in multiple locations in Nova Scotia; and, hosting several workshops using end-of-life fishing gear in Nigeria, creating economic opportunities for coastal communities.
New innovations in gear technology contribute to our blue economy, and are essential to the prevention and mitigation of ghost gear. The program supports fish harvesters looking to acquire market ready gear technologies to reduce gear loss.
Impacts of ghost gear
- The term 'ghost gear' refers to any fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded (for example nets, line, rope, traps, pots, and floats). Other common terms include abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear or ‘ALDFG’ and derelict fishing gear or ‘DFG’. It is a form of marine pollution that can be fatal to fish, marine mammals and other marine life, poses a navigation hazard, and may break down into other forms of pollution such as microplastics.
- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that ghost gear make up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the world’s ocean by weight, and represents approximately 10 per cent of marine debris by volume. There is growing international attention on the problem of ghost gear, as well as other forms of marine litter. For example, the FAO has recognized ghost gear as a major global problem since the 1980s. The 1995 FAO code of conduct for responsible fisheries and related technical guidelines include advice to minimize ghost gear and the responsibility to recover lost gear.
- Ghost fishing gear can cause large-scale damage to marine ecosystems through habitat disturbance and causes direct harm to the welfare and conservation of marine animals via entanglement and/or ingestion.
- The Canadian code of conduct for responsible fishing operations includes an expectation (guideline 2.8) for fish harvesters to ‘make every effort to retrieve lost fishing gear, reporting all lost gear’. The Department collaborates with conservation groups and partners to rescue sea life that has been entangled by sea-based marine debris, and with the fishing industry to retrieve gear on an ad hoc basis. The 2-year Ghost Gear Program has allowed for a dedicated program to tackle the issue of ghost gear domestically and abroad.
- The current regulatory/licencing regime is prescriptive in terms of types, quantities and identification of fishing gear that a harvester can have on board their vessel and/or fish. Additionally, the location where a harvester can fish is very prescriptive. While these measures were intended to ensure compliance with quotas and allocations, they impede the ability of a harvester to retrieve gear which they are not permitted to use and/or is located in areas they are not authorized to fish. An assessment of DFO legislation is currently underway to ensure that any potential impediments to addressing and reducing ghost gear domestically are identified and addressed.
- Canada has been pushing to strengthen measures in internationally managed fisheries. There is support for this but also recognition that for small island developing states and other developing states that the measures need to also come with increased capacity domestically – both policy, social, and operational (e.g. reception centres, reporting, etc).
Oceans Protection Plan
At $1.5-billion over five years, the Oceans Protection Plan (OPP) represents the largest investment in marine safety ever made by the Government of Canada, and is an important step toward the realization of Canada’s blue economy potential.
We partner with Indigenous and coastal communities to develop a world-leading marine safety system that meets the unique needs of Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Among the many initiatives, we are investing in increasing our capacity in search and rescue, improving our environmental response capability and restoring our coasts by addressing ecosystem threats and biodiversity loss.
Increased congestion and new activity in our waterways, including the expansion of marine traffic into new areas, larger ships, and an increase in the volume of dangerous goods being shipped (such as liquefied natural gas), are just a few of the issues affecting the marine environment and ocean health across the country.
These factors, along with recent events such as the ZIM Kingston spill near Victoria, British Columbia underscore the need for continued investments in ocean protection to ensure Canada’s marine safety system can withstand disruption and adapt to evolving changes to the sector.
Although the current OPP sunsets on March 31st, 2022, there is no expiry on the Government’s commitment to protecting our coasts, to supporting Canada’s Blue Economy, and to advancing Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through meaningful partnerships in marine safety. To that end, my department is working closely with Transport Canada and OPP partners to develop the next phase of the Plan.
We know to accomplish this work we’ll need the support of Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, coastal communities and others across the country.
(a): OPP General
- The Oceans Protection Plan (OPP), announced on November 7, 2016, is a $1.5billion investment in the protection of Canada’s maritime environment along four main priority areas:
- creating a world-leading marine safety system;
- preserving and restoring marine ecosystems;
- strengthening partnerships with Indigenous communities; and,
- investing in oil spill response methods.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard are responsible for $1.14 billion of the total investment in OPP.
- OPP is developing skills and creating enduring partnerships with Indigenous and coastal communities; investing to procure important equipment for marine safety and clean-up; and, applying scientific evidence, innovative technologies, and reflecting Indigenous knowledge to make our oceans safer, cleaner, and healthier.
(b): OPP Renewal
- The OPP launched in 2017, and follows a five-year implementation cycle which sunsets on March 31, 2022. As we are currently nearing the conclusion of this period, close consideration is being paid to results achieved, lessons learned, and to new programming opportunities to inform our path forward. Specifically:
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- Some key OPP accomplishments to date are:
- Coastal Restoration Fund allocated funding to 64 projects on all three coasts worth over $70 million supporting redevelopment of aquatic habitats and engaging Indigenous and community groups.
- Modernized 134 remote Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) sites – by providing better information on marine traffic to Coast Guard and partners, including Indigenous and Coastal communities.
- Announced $26.6 million in funding to help better understand noise pressures on marine mammals (such as the Southern Resident killer whale; the North Atlantic right whale, and the St. Lawrence estuary beluga).
- The Nairobi Convention has been implemented under the Vessels of Concern Initiative.
- The Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection in BC with 14 First Nations is already improving the governance, management, and protection of oceans in the Pacific North Coast, including marine ecosystems, marine resources and marine use activities.
- Enhanced emergency response capacity for improved marine safety:
- Two leased Emergency Offshore Towing Vessels in BC.
- A new search and rescue station in Victoria, BC has opened in May 2021, and in Tahsis and Hartley Bay, BC in 2020.
- Modern Hydrography and Charting in critical areas, such as the Arctic Northwest Passage, for improved navigation.
- The first Inshore Rescue Boat Station in the Arctic, in Rankin Inlet, NU – Crewed entirely by Inuit University students.
- Announced close to $1 million in funding for four Arctic Indigenous communities (Gjoa Haven, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet, NU, and Ulukhaktok, NT) to buy Search And Rescue capable boats and related equipment.
- By increasing the presence of Coast Guard icebreakers in the North during the Arctic season, the OPP is expanding CCG’s capacity to facilitate, and safeguard, community resupply; to provide navigational assistance; and to provide communications/emergency support services in the region as needed.
- Strengthening our search & rescue coordination and response capacity, and providing economic benefits in the region.
- Re-opened the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s.
- Opened a new Lifeboat station in St. Anthony operational 24/7 from May to December, NL.
- Interim Search and Rescue stations are now open in Old Perlican and Twillingate, NL.
Indigenous traditional knowledge in decision making
DFO remains committed to working with Indigenous partners to better consider Indigenous traditional knowledge in planning and policy decisions.
Across the Department, we can point to examples of Indigenous traditional knowledge being considered. Be it as an accompaniment to scientific research, applied as part of a marine protected area management plan, or employed in habitat or certain fisheries decisions.
The modernized Fisheries Act includes new provisions requiring the consideration of Indigenous knowledge when making certain decisions related to protecting our environment, fish and fish habitat and waterways, when it is provided.
The Act also enables the consideration of Indigenous knowledge for decisions primarily related to fisheries management, aquaculture management and certain decisions related to marine refuges.
We will continue to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to develop a common understanding of how to consider Indigenous traditional knowledge in planning, policy and regulatory decisions, while recognizing the need for regional, cultural and distinctions-based approaches to Indigenous knowledge.
- There are several overarching Government of Canada commitments that support reconciliation and, in turn, support the respectful consideration of Indigenous knowledge in decision making processes. They include:
- The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – which includes reference to maintaining, controlling, protecting and developing traditional knowledge.
- The Government’s commitment to renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationships.
- Ministerial Mandate letters.
- Indigenous knowledge is not new to DFO. Across the Department there are examples of Indigenous knowledge in action, be it as an accompaniment to scientific research, or applied as part of a marine protected area management plan, or employed in certain fisheries decisions.
- The Fisheries Act was updated in 2019 to include explicit parameters for the consideration of Indigenous knowledge in decision making:
- s 2.5 - Provides that the Minister may consider Indigenous Knowledge that has been provided (among other considerations enumerated under that section) for any decisions other than those enumerated under section 34.1(g).
- s 34.1 - Provides that the Minister shall consider Indigenous Knowledge that has been provided (among other factors enumerated under that section) for certain decisions under the Act related to fish and fish habitat protection and pollution prevention.
- s. 61.2 - Establishes a scheme that provides for the legal protection against the disclosure of Indigenous Knowledge that has been provided to the Minister in confidence.
- DFO is developing interim guidance for the implementation of the Indigenous knowledge provisions in the amended Fisheries Act.
- The Impact Assessment Agency, Transport Canada, Canada Energy Regulator and DFO are working in collaboration with Indigenous peoples to develop an Indigenous Knowledge policy framework. This framework will help guide how to implement the Indigenous knowledge provisions of the following Acts:
- The Impact Assessment Act
- The Canadian Navigable Waters Act
- The Canadian Energy Regulator Act
- The fish and fish habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act
- Furthering relationships with Indigenous communities will be the key to success. Through sound relationships, the Department will be able to understand the where, how and with whom to engage on Indigenous knowledge in order to arrive at better decisions.
Collaborative fisheries arrangements with Indigenous and non-Indigenous fish harvesters
Fisheries are culturally and economically important to both Indigenous peoples and many rural and coastal communities throughout Canada.
My department consistently engages with Indigenous communities and the commercial and recreational fisheries sectors to collaborate on fisheries management.
My department also brings together Indigenous partners and industry in important fisheries management-based processes, such as when we develop Integrated Fisheries Management Plans that outline management objectives of certain fisheries.
For the past 30 years, DFO has supported collaborative management capacity for Indigenous partners through programs like the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy.
In the context of nation-to-nation processes, the Department is also negotiating agreements with Indigenous groups that recognize their rights and articulate the collaborative role they play in fisheries management.
For example, we recently signed a Fisheries Resources Reconciliation Agreement with the Coastal First Nations; a good example of a collaborative governance and fisheries management agreement. The governance model between DFO and the Coastal First Nations includes a collaborative engagement process with a wide range of stakeholders in British Columbia and consultation with other First Nations.
Through effective collaboration, we can respond to fisheries pressures driven by climate change, while also delivering on key priorities for my department, like the Blue Economy and Pacific Salmon Strategies, Marine Conservation Targets, and Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
My department tracks progress toward meeting mandate commitments such as this one through its senior executive strategic priorities exercise, and reports publicly on how collaborative arrangements seek to enhance relationships and improve outcomes for Indigenous peoples in the Departmental Results Framework.
DFO and CCG Arctic Region Reconciliation mandate
The creation of DFO and CCG’s Arctic Regions in 2018 was a significant step toward advancing the Government of Canada’s efforts on Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Extensive and distinctions-based engagement with Inuit, First Nations, Métis and Northern governments and organizations occurred regarding programs and services, boundaries of the new regions and alignment of priorities. These actions demonstrate commitment to the implementation of the Departmental Reconciliation Strategy.
Arctic Region Reconciliation Activities
Governance frameworks are being developed to advance collaborative decision-making, engagement, and governance with Inuit, First Nations and Métis governments and organizations. A Terms of Reference has been co-developed with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami for governance within Inuit Nunangat, and discussion are on-going with regional Inuit Land Claims organizations and other Metis and First Nations governments organizations.
CCG and DFO Arctic Regions have increased recruitment and engagement of Inuit, First Nations, and Métis. This includes the hiring of six Inuit Community Engagement Coordinators, who liaise with communities and support the use of Inuit traditional knowledgein the Department; the creation of the Oceans Council of Arctic Indigenous Youth that provides a platform for youth to share priorities in the Arctic; and the development of a Northern Recruitment and Retention strategy that seeks to increase the representation of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic Regions and reduce systemic barriers in recruitment processes.
DFO and CCG have identified three National Reconciliation Co-Champions: Arctic Region Assistant Commissioner Neil O’Rourke; Arctic Regional Director General Gabriel Nirlungnayuq; and Jean-Guy Forgeron, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Harbour Management. The Champions have established an Indigenous Team to assist in implementing their work plan. This Team was recruited by an Indigenous Assessment Board. The work of this Team includes the development of Departmental competencies in Indigenous Relations and development of an enhanced curriculum on Reconciliation, and creation of department-wide Indigenous Employee Networks and, eventually, a department-wide Cultural Safety and Humility strategy.
Local capacity for emergency response preparedness is supported and developed by the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Program, the Inshore Rescue Boat – North Station, and the hiring of Environmental Response (ER) officers in Iqaluit and Hay River. Funded by the Oceans Protection Plan, the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Program provides Inuit, First Nations, and Métis communities with funding to purchase vessels and other equipment. The Inshore-Rescue Boat – North station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut is operated by Indigenous post-secondary students trained by CCG and improves marine safety in Arctic Waters in collaboration with Indigenous communities. The hiring of ER officers for Iqaluit and Hay River supports local capacity development and creates economic opportunity.
Collaborative fisheries arrangements:
- The Minister’s mandate letter of December 16, 2021 includes a commitment to “advance consistent, sustainable and collaborative fisheries arrangements with Indigenous and non-Indigenous fish harvesters”.
- DFO employs collaborative arrangements with Indigenous peoples across all program areas, employing a variety of collaborative tools that range across a spectrum of collaboration – from participation in decision making to treaty-based defined roles in the fisheries management process.
- In the fisheries sector, there has been an increasing call from Indigenous peoples for greater roles in fisheries, underpinned by Canada’s support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
- The Fisheries Resources Reconciliation Agreement (FRRA) was originally signed by the parties in 2019, with a commitment to negotiate and finalize detailed schedules for collaborative fisheries governance and community-based fisheries arrangements. These schedules and other amendments to the FRRA were negotiated between 2019 and 2021, and the Minister and the CFN signatories signed the amended FRRA, including the schedules, in July 2021, fully executing the FRRA on July 26, 2021.
- The FRRA is the first of its kind in BC to establish a collaborative fisheries management process by Canada and First Nations in the BC North and Central Coast, and Haida Gwaii. The governance model between DFO and the CFN member nations includes a collaborative engagement process with a wide range of stakeholders in British Columbia and consultation with other First Nations.
- The Departmental Results Framework is a public reporting tool that includes an expected result in the area of “Fisheries” for “enhanced relationships with, involvement of, and outcomes for Indigenous people”. The department measures progress by the number of agreements or arrangements signed with Indigenous groups, and the number of Indigenous people trained and/or employed through agreements.
- Progress and actions toward meeting ministerial mandate commitments are tracked through a senior executive strategic priorities exercise on a quarterly or as-needed basis, which supports the mandate tracking exercise led by the Privy Council Office.
- If pressed for examples of collaboration:
- Rights Reconciliation Agreements may provide defined roles for Indigenous communities in the management of fisheries, in collaboration with DFO. For example, additional flexibilities can be a means for Indigenous communities to meet fisheries management objectives that also align with departmental conservation goals.
- The Lobster Science Partnership Roundtable (summer of 2021) brought together DFO scientists, Indigenous partners, academic and research institutions, industry organizations and provincial government representatives from the Maritimes and Quebec in a collaborative forum to discuss important science research questions and priorities related to lobster.
- Efforts to advance DFO’s Pacific Salmon Strategy and to guide a strategic and coordinated long-term response to issues of climate change, habitat loss and fishing pressures, are rooted in collaborative action in partnership with Indigenous peoples, provincial and territorial governments, harvesters, stewardship partners, academia, environmentalists, and other stakeholders working toward a common goal of stemming historic Pacific salmon declines.
DFO and CCG Arctic Region Reconciliation mandate
- On October 24, 2018, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard announced the creation of stand-alone Arctic Regions to be built in partnership with Inuit, First Nations and Métis, and Northern governments, organizations and partners.
- The creation of the Arctic Regions was a deliverable under the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee (ICPC, established in 2017). The Arctic Regions’ boundaries include Inuit Nunangat. The ICPC is co-chaired by the Prime Minister and the President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The ICPC is a Permanent Bilateral Mechanism which advances shared priorities between Inuit and the Government of Canada.
- DFO and CCG work with other federal departments to advance implementation of the Government of Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.
- The new Arctic Regions seek to better align programs and services with Inuit, First Nations, Métis and Northern priorities and advance reconciliation.
- DFO and Coast Guard conducted extensive engagements with Inuit, First Nations and Métis governments and organizations, Northern partners, industry and provincial and territorial governments on the priorities, programs and boundaries of the new regions.
- From this engagement, a “What We Heard” report was generated and included the following priorities: increase capacity, service delivery and the presence of DFO and Coast Guard programs and services in the North; include Indigenous knowledge in decision-making; policy-making needs to be led from the North by Northerners; remove employment barriers and create job opportunities in Northern communities; co-develop climate change adaptation strategies; and the need to develop infrastructure.
- Regional governance frameworks are being developed with Land Claim Organizations and other Inuit, First Nations and Métis governments and organizations. These regional governance frameworks will guide engagement and decision-making of CCG and DFO regarding the program and service delivery priorities. To date, a Terms of Reference has been co-developed with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami for governance within Inuit Nunangat, discussions to establish Terms of Reference with regional Inuit Land Claims Organizations are on-going. A Memorandum of Understanding was also drafted for Dene Nation.
- In June 2019, DFO-Coast Guard released its Reconciliation Strategy, which includes a departmental commitment to recognize and implement the rights of Indigenous peoples within its mandate areas, support a transformative culture change and enhance employment opportunities for Inuit, First Nations and Métis in the department.
- As a part of the Reconciliation Strategy, the Department appointed three Reconciliation Co-Champions: Jean-Guy Forgeron, Assistant Deputy Minister, Assistant Commissioner Neil O’Rourke and Regional Director General Gabriel Nirlungnayuq. In 2021, an Indigenous Reconciliation Champion Advisory Group was established to support the creation of a diverse and culturally aware, culturally safe, positive work culture.
- In addition to creating a culturally safe workplace, the Northern Recruitment and Retention Strategy is focused on increasing awareness of DFO and CCG as an employer of choice; supporting Indigenous applicants through the federal government hiring process; reducing systemic barriers; supporting Northern and Indigenous employees throughout their careers with DFO and CCG; and ensuring opportunities for career advancement.
- Hiring underway for CCG Arctic Region includes hiring new Environmental Response (ER) staff in Hay River and Iqaluit. Two ER officers in Hay River have already been hired; four more are expected to be hired in Iqaluit.
- Hiring is also underway for DFO Arctic, with two Regional Directors staffed in the Arctic: the Director, Arctic Operations in Inuvik, NT is a Gwich’in beneficiary; and the Director, Aquatic Ecosystems in Nunavut. Staffing is underway for a Regional Director of Science.
- The Oceans Council of Arctic Indigenous Youth and the Inuit Community Engagement Coordinators strengthen our relationships, communications and engagement with Indigenous communities in the Arctic Region and increases the involvement of Indigenous youth and Inuit employees in identifying interests and priorities, guiding recruitment and retention, increasing the use of Indigenous knowledge, increasing cultural learning and informing policy and program and service priorities in the Department.
- An Inuit youth was hired as the OCAIY coordinator in Iqaluit, and the Council consists of 11 Inuit and First Nations youth (aged 18-30 years) from across the Arctic Region.
- Local capacity is also enhanced through the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot program which was introduced under the Oceans Protection Plan. It provides Indigenous communities with funding to purchase vessels and other equipment required to establish or enhance their on-water search and rescue capabilities and to become active members of well-established Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary units.
- The Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) North completed its fourth season in providing maritime search and rescue services at the beginning of September 2021. The IRB program is operated by Indigenous post-secondary students, trained by the Canadian Coast Guard. The Rankin Inlet station opened in June 2018 to improve marine safety in Arctic waters in collaboration with Indigenous communities.
Investments in coastal and ocean areas for carbon sequestration
The global climate crisis demands bold and innovative action to help reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and my department is committed to demonstrating leadership on this front.
Ocean carbon is a vital piece of this puzzle; one that represents a potential opportunity to help us better understand climate change and further grow Canada’s blue economy.
The North Atlantic Ocean is particularly important as it is the most intense carbon sink on the planet, accounting for about 30 per cent of the global ocean CO2 uptake.
My department is exploring the opportunity for foundational research to characterize the potential of Canada’s coastal and ocean areas for absorbing and storing carbon.
- The Minister’s Mandate Letter that was issued on December 16, 2021 asks that the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) “make new investments in coastal and ocean areas that have a high potential to absorb and store carbon, like tidal wetlands, seagrass meadows and riparian habitats” as part of its commitment to protecting and restoring our oceans and coasts, while continuing to prioritize the growth of Canada’s blue economy.
- Ocean carbon is an emerging topic of interest in Canada and internationally which may yield previously untapped potential in the role of oceans and coastal zones in carbon capture and storage.
- As an important global carbon sink, oceans store about 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide that humans have emitted into the atmosphere and have absorbed 90 per cent of the excess heat trapped by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases since the beginning of the Industrial Era. However, the ocean’s ability to absorb excess heat and carbon dioxide is not infinite and we are already seeing the impacts of climate change such as increased temperatures, rising sea levels, melting sea ice, increased storm intensity, changes in ocean chemistry (such as ocean acidification), and changes in diversity and abundance of species.
- A lack of data and funded programs to understand the ocean carbon cycle impedes our ability to document, predict changes, and quantify the potential of carbon uptake and storage in Canada. Research is required to quantify potential reductions, and better understand the carbon fluxes in temperate and arctic regions.
- Led by DFO, Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy (BES) is currently under development and the issue of ocean carbon is a key consideration in this context.
- The North Atlantic Ocean is particularly important as it is the most intense carbon sink on the planet, accounting for about 30 per cent of the global ocean CO2 uptake. This critical carbon absorption function occurs through a process known as the “Biogeochemical Carbon Pump” or BCP. Understanding this process is critical because carbon sinks can also become future sources of emissions if environmental conditions change.
- Consequently, at the May 2021 G7 Climate and Environment Ministers' Meeting, the previous Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECCC) committed that Canada would host a scientific and technical workshop on the North Atlantic BCP.
- DFO hosted a virtual scientific workshop on the North Atlantic BCP on December 15-16, 2021. 69 international scientific experts from 16 countries, representing federal governments, national and international ocean observation organizations and academic institutions participated. The workshop focused on scaling up knowledge and monitoring of the North Atlantic BCP, as a pilot, to advance an approach for an integrated regional ocean carbon program, including research, modelling, observing, and monitoring.
- Leveraging the ocean’s carbon sequestration potential would support actions outlined in the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy’s Transformations document, which the Prime Minster endorsed in 2020.
- There is also a potential future opportunity for Canada’s coastal and ocean areas to be accounted for in ocean accounting which may inform future Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. While ocean carbon is currently outside of the scope of Canada’s NDC submission, with the development of a foundational knowledge base, future submissions could consider the interaction of the ocean with the atmosphere in the context of greenhouse gas emission mitigation.
- In addition to the potential for carbon sequestration, recent investments in restoration such as the Coastal Restoration Fund will potentially have benefits by restoring and creating of natural infrastructure that is vital for coastal adaptation of coastal zones of Canada in the face of a changing climate (e.g. combat storm surges and sea level changes).
CCG Fleet Renewal
Coast Guard continues to make progress on renewing its fleet through the National Shipbuilding Strategy. Since 2019, the Government has announced significant investments into fleet renewal, including up to 16 Multi-Purpose Vessels, two Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships, up to six Program Icebreakers, and two Polar Icebreakers.
Additionally, in 2019, Canada announced the expansion of the National Shipbuilding Strategy with the addition of a third large Canadian shipyard. The Request for Proposal process to qualify a third shipyard is being led by Public Services and Procurement Canada and is expected to conclude in 2022.
At the same time, interim measures, which include the acquisition of three medium icebreakers, and most recently one light icebreaker, have also been put in place to ensure that we can continue to deliver essential services for Canadians, while the new ships are being built.
In October 2020, the third and final Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel was delivered, representing the first class of large vessels delivered through the National Shipbuilding Strategy. Work continues to progress at both Vancouver Shipyards and Irving Shipbuilding on the next generation of ships for Coast Guard’s large vessel fleet.
Coast Guard is also renewing its small vessel fleet with ten Search and Rescue Lifeboats and two Channel Survey and Sounding Vessels delivered in recent years.
- Renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet is underway. Funded replacement plans are currently in place for the large vessel fleet, including:
- Three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels, which have all been delivered;
- One Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV);
- Two Polar Icebreakers;
- Up to 16 Multi-Purpose Vessels (MPV);
- Two Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (Coast Guard variants of ships currently in construction for the Department of National Defence); and
- Up to six Program Icebreakers.
- The National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) is delivering ships for the Canadian Coast Guard. The first Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel, CCGS Sir John Franklin, was delivered by Vancouver Shipyards on June 27, 2019. The second ship, CCGS Capt. Jacques Cartier, was delivered on November 29th 2019 and the third and final ship, CCGS John Cabot, was delivered on October 9, 2020.
- Construction work is currently underway on the OOSV following cut steel in March 2021. Ancillary contract work is ongoing on the MPV project at Vancouver Shipyards (VSY) following the August 2020 contract award. Additionally, Ancillary contract work has commenced on Polar-VSY to finalize the design and prepare for construction engineering.
- Coast Guard is also renewing its small fleet. Twenty-one new small vessels have already been delivered, including two new Channel Survey and Sounding Vessels and ten new Search and Rescue Lifeboats that have joined the fleet in the past few years. An additional ten Search and Rescue Lifeboats will be constructed at Hike Metal Products, in Wheatley, Ontario and Chantier Naval Forillon, in Gaspé, Quebec and design work is ongoing on a new Near-Shore Fishery Research Vessel.
- Coast Guard has also completed the renewal of its helicopter fleet with delivery of sixteen new light-lift helicopters and seven new medium-lift helicopters. Coast Guard acquired the 16th light helicopter in September 2021.
- The Coast Guard is putting in place interim measures and investing in vessel life extension work to ensure continued delivery of critical services and minimize impact on our programs until new ships are delivered. This includes:
- A comprehensive Vessel Life Extension program to maintain the current fleet operational as new ships are being built;
- Acquisition of three medium icebreakers- the first, CCGS Captain Molly Kool, came into service December 2018. The second, CCGS Jean Goodwill, joined the Coast Guard fleet in late 2020. Delivery of the third ship, CCGS Vincent Massey, is expected in 2022; and,
- The contract for the light icebreaker was awarded to Atlantic Towing Ltd. on September 22, 2021. The icebreaker began transit in October and arrived in Canada on January 3, 2022; final acceptance occurred January 27, 2022.
- On May 22nd, 2019, the Prime Minister announced a renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet with up to 18 new large ships built in Canadian shipyards, helping the Coast Guard continue to deliver its important services, and creating good, middle class jobs across the country.
- Total funding for the 18 large ships is $15.7 billion, which represents early estimates of project budgets including construction, logistics and support, contingency, project management and infrastructure costs. The costs of each ship class will be announced following contract negotiations.
- Irving Shipbuilding will build two non-combat Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships, which will be adapted for the Coast Guard to perform a range of critical mission, including Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organizational patrols.
- Vancouver Shipyards will build up to 16 Multi-Purpose Vessels to support a variety of missions, including light icebreaking, aids to navigation, environmental response, and offshore search and rescue.
- At the time, 16 Multi-Purpose Vessels were expected to replace the Polar Icebreaker in Vancouver Shipyards’ program of work, as the Government explored options to ensure the efficient delivery of the Polar Icebreaker.
- On August 2, 2019, the Government of Canada announced that six new Program Icebreakers would be constructed for the Canadian Coast Guard.
- The total value of the investment was not announced to ensure value for money is achieved in the contracting process.
- The Government intends to add a third strategic partner for large ship construction under the NSS to build the six Program Icebreakers. This additional shipbuilding capacity is needed to meet Coast Guard’s urgent requirements for replacements for its aging Medium and Heavy Icebreakers.
- The Government of Canada issued an Invitation to Qualify (ITQ), to establish a short list of shipyards that demonstrate they meet the initial, defined requirement to build six program icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard. In December 2019, it was announced that Chantier Davie had pre-qualified to become the third shipyard.
- The Request for Proposal (RFP) was released to Chantier Davie in late July 2020 and concluded in July 2021. The RFP is expected to close in 2022.
- The Government of Canada will also proceed through a competitive process with the design of a new class of smaller ships, the new Mid-Shore Multi-Mission ship, which would complement the work of the large fleet in shallow areas and deliver mid-shore science activities.
- On May 6, 2021, Canada announced the procurement of two Polar Icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard. One will be built at Vancouver Shipyards and the other is expected to be constructed at Chantier Davie, if the selection process to qualify the third NSS shipyard is successful.
BC open net pen transition and the federal Aquaculture Act
I am committed to transitioning away from net-pen salmon farming in British Columbia by 2025.
We will move forward using the best available science, evidence, and input to promptly develop a plan for aquaculture in British Columbia that is environmentally responsible, economically feasible, and takes into account social considerations.
Former Parliamentary Secretary Beech held engagements in early 2021 and his report was published in July 2021. This will form the foundation of a responsible transition plan, which my department is working on. Broader engagement concerning the transition plan will occur in the very near future.
Federal Aquaculture Act
Our Government is moving forward in developing Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.
The proposed Act would provide more clarity and certainty for the sector, while respecting existing jurisdictions. It would also foster a nationally-consistent legislative framework, taking into account regional differences, and enable the sustainable management of aquaculture.
We are committed to ongoing partnership and dialogue with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, and stakeholders; this will be essential to the successful development and implementation of the Act.
We will keep Canadians, and our stakeholders, informed as work on the Act progresses. Tabling in Parliament will follow the completion of engagement, Cabinet consideration and drafting of legislation.
BC open net pen transition:
- The Department continues to support technologies that raise the standards on environmental performance.
- The Department’s position has been to be technologically neutral regarding how the aquaculture industry meets Canada’s legislative and regulatory standards that are in place to ensure that aquaculture is sustainable and conducted in a manner that minimizes environmental impacts.
- Commercial-scale alternative production technologies, including offshore and closed containment systems (land and marine-based), remain at the R&D stage and carry high capital costs and significant financial risks.
- While land-based closed containment is the most technologically developed among alternative technologies, annual production of market-sized salmon in these systems is estimated to be less than 3,000 tonnes (or ~0.1 per cent of global production).
- On June 4, 2019, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard announced the creation of an Indigenous and multi-stakeholder advisory body and three technical working groups to develop recommendations related to aquaculture management, including alternative production technologies.
- The salmonid alternative production technologies technical working group was created to investigate and support the development and adoption of technologies that enhance the sustainability of aquaculture to support the protection and conservation of wild fish in the Pacific Region. The working group provided its recommendations to the Department in the summer of 2020.
- Close collaboration with Indigenous partners and the Province of British Columbia (BC) will be key to the successful development and implementation of a responsible plan to transition net-pen salmon farming in coastal BC.
- In the summer of 2020, Departmental officials created a federal/provincial/Indigenous advisory body to oversee and lead the development of the plan. The advisory body began meeting virtually in the fall of 2020; however, provincial representatives continue to participate as observers only.
- On December 14, 2020, Parliamentary Secretary Beech commenced a series of engagements on the transition of net-pen aquaculture in BC. This engagement is now complete and the as-was-heard report was published in July 2021.
- Departmental officials will build upon the Parliamentary Secretary’s report and the analysis and recommendations of the Indigenous and multi-stakeholder advisory body’s three technical working groups to inform development of the plan.
- Engagement with Indigenous groups and stakeholders will begin in the spring of 2022 on a proposed framework, including key areas of focus or pillars of the transition plan.
Federal Aquaculture Act:
- The Minister’s mandate letter included a commitment to continue work to introduce Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.
- This builds upon the December 2018 announcement from the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers who provided their support for federal aquaculture legislation of “limited scope that respects federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions, and provides greater clarity to the sector.”
- The Department led two rounds of preliminary engagement to identify priority issues for an Aquaculture Act in 2017-18, and in 2019, 23 engagement sessions as well as online consultation took place.
- Officials had previously proposed to build on this work with an additional round of targeted in-person engagement in the spring of 2020; however, in light of COVID-19 this engagement was delayed until August 2020.
- The latest round of engagement was launched on August 17, 2020, anchored by a discussion paper and a “What We Heard” report summarizing engagement to date. In addition, the Department organized targeted, virtual engagement sessions with key partners in the fall and winter of 2020, including provinces/territories, stakeholders, and environmental non-governmental organizations.
- Indigenous engagement is at early stages and the Department has held preliminary virtual sessions with Indigenous partners across the country. The Department is also working with the First Nations Fisheries Council to co-develop an approach and tools to engage First Nations communities in British Columbia, and co-lead policy discussions to inform the development of the Aquaculture Act so it can reflect First Nations views and interests. Similar work is under way with the Assembly of First Nations to develop an approach for the rest of Canada.
Investing in small craft harbours
In Budget 2021, our government announced it would provide $300 million over the next two years to repair, renew, and replace small craft harbours.
This would support Canadians in the fishing, aquaculture, tourism, environmental, recreational, marine engineering, and construction industries, and strengthen the resilience of rural and coastal communities.
With this new funding, our government has now announced $784 million in new funding for the Small Craft Harbours Program since 2016.
If pressed on financial pressures put on the SCH program
SCH officials estimate that approximately $250 million would be needed annually to properly maintain the program’s existing harbours.
Also, based on current technical analysis, an additional estimated amount of $20 million would be required to address the program’s dredging needs across the country.
These estimates do not include the additional pressures such as harbour overcrowding, aquaculture, Indigenous reconciliation efforts and the impacts of climate change on existing infrastructure. SCH continues to monitor and analyze the financial impact these may have on the program.
If pressed on potential user fees
The day-to-day operations of Small Craft Harbours are managed by approximately 5,000 volunteers that are part harbour authorities around the country.
Currently, harbour authorities raise $31 million in user fees and use these funds for minor maintenance and repairs. The amount each harbour authority raises depends on the reality and size of the harbours they are managing.
The department is reflecting on various options regarding the future of user fees at harbours but no decisions have been made.
Over the coming months, work will continue to analyze what impact changing user fees could have on the program. Decisions will be made once this analysis is complete
Benefits of small craft harbours to the fishing industry
From coast to coast to coast, Fisheries and Oceans Canada owns, operates, and maintains a national system of harbours to provide commercial fish harvesters and other small craft harbour users with safe and accessible facilities.
90 per cent of Canadian seafood goes through small craft harbours and Canada’s fish harvesters depend on these facilities to support their livelihoods.
Dredging / climate change
I know that expenditures related to dredging are increasing due to external drivers such as climate change, regulatory changes and increased vessel size.
While dredging operations represent a significant and ongoing pressure on the Small Craft Harbours Program, I understand that officials are doing their best to adapt to these new realities.
I also understand that Small Craft Harbours officials are keeping an eye on changes to sedimentation, ecosystems and fishing patterns that may result from climate change, as well as their impact to the Program’s plans and priorities.
I understand that a number of harbours, particularly in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, are facing overcrowding issues due to an increase in vessel sizes and larger vessel fleets.
I know that Small Craft Harbours officials are working hard to address the overcrowding and deterioration impacts on harbours and to recommend long-term solutions.
If pressed on projects at the three unique projects in PEI and NB
I’m told that the Small Craft Harbours program has undertaken advanced planning to address challenges and identify potential longer-term-solutions at New Brunswick’s Woodward’s Cove (Grand Manan) and Burnt Church harbours and at Malpeque harbour in Prince Edward Island. This work is being carried out in close collaboration with stakeholders with keen interest at the three harbours.
Harbour authority officials are on the ground, managing day-to-day operations of core harbours throughout the country. The input they provide to us through their knowledge and experience make them invaluable partners.
The Department will continue building its already strong relationship with harbour authorities.
- As of January 2022, the Small Craft Harbours (SCH) program was responsible for 973 harbours:
- 672 core fishing harbours; and,
- 301 non-core fishing harbours.
- Small craft harbours provide key support to the commercial fishing industry. The SCH program keeps the harbours that are critical to the fishing industry open and in good repair.
- SCH’s ongoing regular budget is approximately $90 million, of which $20 million covers administrative costs.
- In Budget 2021, the Government announced it would provide $300 million over the next two years to repair, renew, and replace small craft harbours.
- SCH’s ongoing regular budget is approximately $90 million, of which $20 million covers administrative costs.
- Approximately 90 per cent of the Canadian fish harvest is landed at harbours operated through the SCH program. The value of landings in Canada in 2019 was estimated at approximately $3.7 billion.
- Another key objective of the SCH program is to transfer ownership of designated harbours to third parties, particularly those that are not widely used by fishers or that are focused primarily on recreational boating.
- The SCH Program is delivered in cooperation with Harbour Authorities, local not-for-profit organizations representing the interests of local commercial fishers and the broader community.
- Each year, more than 5,000 volunteers assist the program.
- The SCH Program's annual regular budget has been stable at about $90 million (includes salaries and administrative costs) since 2007-08. Since 2008-09, the Government of Canada has provided the SCH Program with more than $1 billion in temporary funding.
Emergency response readiness
The Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) is committed to ensuring the Government of Canada is prepared to proactively mitigate and respond to emerging marine incidents and hazards.
In delivering its mandate to ensure the safety of mariners and to protect our marine environment, the Coast Guard makes a significant contribution to emergency management, for example, providing search and rescue, responding to marine disasters such as oil spills, or by providing support for the safe and rapid movement of Canada’s maritime trade.
In addition, the Coast Guard is working to broaden its network of partners in emergency response, including Indigenous and coastal communities, by building their capacity to respond to marine incidents, increasing emergency preparedness and response readiness as a result.
The Coast Guard is also engaged with other federal departments to ensure Canada is ready for, and resilient to, the increasing frequency and severity of disaster events. This includes working to strengthen coordination and integration across all-hazards, as well as identifying and bolstering key capabilities and partnerships.
- The Minister’s mandate letter directs the Minister to: “Work with the Minister of Public Safety, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard (DFO/CCG), Minister of Transport Canada (TC) and Minister of Health, among other colleagues, to ensure the Government of Canada (GoC) continues to be prepared to proactively mitigate and respond to emerging incidents and hazards.”
- The Covid-19 pandemic, as well as recent devastating wildfire and flood events, have highlighted the need to address gaps in the current emergency management system, as well as the importance of adopting an all-hazards approach, so Canada is prepared to address increasing and emerging risks, including those resulting from climate change. (‘All-hazards’ refers to both natural hazards like extreme weather events, as well as human induced threats such as terrorist or cyber-attacks, hazardous material incidents, or human or animal diseases).
- In fulfilling its mandate, CCG contributes heavily to emergency management, for example, from providing maritime SAR, to responding to oils spills or hazardous and noxious substances in the marine environment, among other activities.
- To advance the GoC’s preparedness to face future emergencies and incidents, CCG is working to augment marine environmental response (ER) capacity by further developing a network of emergency responders, including coastal communities, indigenous communities, governments, and organizations, enabling them to play a larger role in protecting our coastlines and contributing to marine safety.
- CCG is also engaged in Public Safety–led, interdepartmental efforts to transform the emergency management system. This work seeks to enhance federal leadership in emergency management, to bolster national readiness for future emergencies, and to identify and invest in disaster risk reduction measures.
- For example, CCG is contributing to the development of the National Risk Profile, which adopts an all-hazards integrated approach to examine national risks and capabilities, as well as the development/update of the Federal Emergency Response Plan.
- Within the agency, CCG has well-established incident command system (ICS) capacity that allows for more effective organization, communication and coordination with partners during an incident response. CCG continues to train employees across the country in ICS to advance preparedness and ensure effective and coordinated responses to incidents.
- Through CCG’s continued delivery of critical and essential services during the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency has been able to leverage and apply many lessons learned for future preparedness, planning, and response to emerging incidents and hazards.
Issues raised by members this session
B.C. flood response - DFO federal role in mitigation
The protection of Pacific salmon populations is a priority for our government, given the historic declines due to complex challenges facing the species, including climate change impacts and related environmental events, such as the recent BC flooding.
The recent profound climatic events experienced in British Columbia has had a significant impact, and will continue to have on communities.
With respect to the recent flooding events in BC, the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) is responsible for the dam safety, flood safety and river forecast management programs in BC, including flooding streams and rivers.
- DFO has supported and worked with BC throughout the response, alongside other federal departments. Some of the infrastructure impacted by the flooding has included DFO sites and salmon enhancement and monitoring infrastructure maintained by First Nations and community partners. The Department has begun to assess the damage and will continue to work alongside partners in local communities to evaluate the long-term impacts to marine life and habitat, including Pacific salmon, as a result of these floods.
- DFO’s primary role in relation to flood response has been to: 1) provide timely regulatory support and advice for urgent infrastructure works in and near water in order to mitigate impacts to fish and fish habitat in support of emergency public infrastructure repair works (e.g. to roads, rail lines, dikes); 2) assess and restore infrastructure impacts and access to DFO enhancement facilities including hatcheries, spawning channels and off-channel rearing developments; and 3) assess, and prioritize activities to remediate and restore impacts to fish and fish habitat.
- DFO will continue to work collaboratively with the Province of BC, Indigenous groups, local governments, industry and other stakeholders to assess fish and fish habitat impacts and determine what actions are required both short term and longer term to assess impacts and promote recovery and restoration opportunities for impacted fish habitat.
- DFO recognizes that food security is a critical issue for Indigenous communities, exacerbated by natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic and low salmon returns. DFO works with our partners, like Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), to address overall food security concerns. After conservation, DFO is committed to providing priority access for First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC) and treaty fisheries.
- It is likely that the full extent of impacts to fish and fish habitat, both negative and positive, will not be known until after the 2022 spring freshet (when snow and ice melt into rivers raise water levels and flows). It may also take several years to understand the total impact of the flooding to some of the Pacific salmon stocks given their 2-5 year life cycle.
Scientific Processes and Excellence at Fisheries and Oceans Canada
My department is proud to have implemented a policy on science integrity which is fundamental to making the right decisions for Canada’s fisheries and oceans.
The Department ensures high standards of scientific excellence, impartiality, and transparency in its scientific activities.
I have every confidence in the integrity of Fisheries and Oceans Canada science and the rigourous peer review process that is used to generate science advice.
More than 2400 DFO Science employees research and monitor our oceans and aquatic ecosystems across the country. Over 90 per cent of DFO Science employees work outside Ottawa.
In keeping with promoting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions, more than 50 per cent of DFO Science employees are women.
DFO Science is a hub for ocean and freshwater science collaboration in Canada, with approximately 30 million dollars invested annually in external research projects led by Canadian universities, non-governmental and indigenous organizations, provinces and territories, and the private sector.
Between 2016 and 2021, this government will have invested over 500 million dollars in marine and freshwater science.
- The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada wrote on November 25 2021 to the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada regarding actions that were perceived to undermine scientific excellence in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region.
- CBC Newfoundland and Labrador published an article “DFO scientists' union says members' work in N.L. undermined by industry and political interference” on January 24, 2022, summarizing the November 2021 letter.
- When employees have concerns, they may bring those forward through the established internal processes to be addressed. With respect to the letter regarding Newfoundland and Labrador Region science, the department is following internal processes by engaging directly with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.
- As a science-based department, scientific integrity is essential to the work of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and its employees. Scientific integrity is critical to the decision-making process, from the planning and conduct of research to the production of advice and the application of advice to the departmental decision-making processes.
- This Scientific Integrity Policy was developed in conjunction with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), based on a model developed jointly with the Office of the Chief Science Advisor and Treasury Board Secretariat. The policy recognizes the importance of high quality science, free from political, commercial and client interference and the importance of this in the decision-making processes utilized by the Department. The policy applies to all who plan, produce, support or utilize science to make well-informed decisions.
- The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) coordinates the production of peer-reviewed science advice for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Science advice is prepared both nationally and through DFO’s regional offices.
- The CSAS provides a formal, transparent process for the delivery of science advice to the department’s decision makers. Advice might relate to the state of an ecosystem, the impacts of a human activity, the effectiveness of a mitigation strategy or another subject related to DFO’s mandate.
- The national Ecosystems and Oceans Science (EOS) Sector employs expert scientists, biologists, technicians, hydrographers and individuals in other science-related fields. Over 90% of the workforce is located in DFO’s six operational regions.
- The EOS Sector has five main functions that support and enable DFO’s mandate: Research; Monitoring; Scientific advice; Data and information management; and, Products and services (e.g., maps, nautical charts).
- Since 2016, DFO Science has benefited form new investments in areas such as oceans and freshwater research; science to support the Oceans Protection Plan; science support for a renewed Fisheries Act; marine conservation targets, and programs that build external scientific capacity in these and other areas of relevance to the Department.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is firmly committed to the conservation, protection, and regeneration of our marine environment and the lifeforms they sustain.
It is vital that we manage Pacific herring with the objectives of stock growth and cautious management of this important species, while supporting fishing opportunities where possible.
To support this approach, DFO is taking a more precautionary approach to this year’s Pacific herring management to protect future stock health. For the 2021–22 Pacific herring season, most commercial fisheries for Pacific herring will be closed.
This decision was made with the goal to provide renewable fishing opportunities and increase stock abundance, to benefit the entire ecosystem.
- Pacific herring are managed as five major stock areas along the coast: Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert district, Central coast, Strait of Georgia, and West Coast of Vancouver Island. There are also four smaller stock areas where Spawn on Kelp fisheries can occur.
- The Pacific herring fishery is composed primarily of Food, Social and Ceremonial and commercial fisheries, in four categories: Roe Herring (egg sacs), Food & Bait (whole herring for commercial use or human consumption), Special Use (whole herring for personal bait use and zoological feed), and Spawn on Kelp (herring eggs on kelp).
- The proposed management approach for herring fisheries in 2022 includes commercial closures in all areas outside of the Strait of Georgia. Within the Strait of Georgia area, a 10% harvest rate (reduced this year from 20%) will be applied to support fisheries for food and bait, Special use and roe herring
- The Draft Pacific Herring Integrated Fishing Plan released for a 30 day comment period on December 21, 2021.
- Commercial fisheries for special use and food and bait herring have begun under reduced quotas within the 10% harvest rate in the Strait of Georgia. Commercial roe herring fisheries are anticipated to occur in March. Under the management approach proposed in the Draft IFMP, all areas where commercial Spawn on Kelp fisheries could occur are closed and there will be no commercial harvest in BC of Spawn on Kelp for 2022.
- First Nation fisheries for Food, Social and Ceremonial purposes (FSC) remain open in all areas.
Prawn tubbing / West coast prawn fishery
The west coast commercial prawn fishery uses size limits to help manage the commercial prawn fishery and conserve prawn stocks.
Feedback from prawn harvesters over the course of the 2020-21 season helped inform DFO’s efforts to clarify existing regulations that apply to the practice of on-board freezing of prawns (known as prawn tubbing) in the commercial prawn fishery.
For the 2022-23 Prawn and Shrimp by Trap season, harvesters may continue using existing containers to package frozen prawn tails in liquid, such as seawater, on-board their vessels.
This decision gives harvesters adequate time to prepare for a transition to new standards for packaging frozen prawn tails in seawater on-board vessels in 2023.
The 2023-24 Pacific Prawn and Shrimp by Trap commercial fishery Conditions of Licence will specify standards for packaging frozen prawn tails in sea water on-board vessels, including a requirement for transparent containers and a maximum container volume of 710 milliliters.
The Department will continue to work collaboratively with industry to prepare for the updated packaging standards in 2023-24.
- Some commercial prawn harvesters freeze prawn tails onboard in containers, or “tubs”, filled with sea water. This practice has occurred for many years, but has grown in recent years.
- Whole prawns and tailed prawns (those with their heads removed) have a size limit, as specified in the Conditions of Licence. The limits are an important component of managing the sustainability of the prawn fishery.
- Recent discussions with DFO Conservation and Protection have determined that the practice can contravene the Fishery (General) Regulations, in that the size limit of the prawn tails frozen in the tubs cannot be readily determined by a Fishery Officer.
- The commercial prawn industry has expressed serious concern about the prospect that tubbing contravenes the regulations. They have stated that losing the ability to tub prawns will be a hardship to accessing local and domestic prawn markets, especially during the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced demand for other product forms in international markets.
- Tubs can contain prawns that are closer to the size limit, as larger prawns are typically diverted to other product forms aimed at export markets. For example, in a recent conviction, 51 per cent of prawn tails in the inspected tubs were below the size limit.
- DFO Fisheries Management and Conservation and Protection met with industry to discuss options to address FOPO recommendations. After requesting input from harvesters about a packaging proposal, DFO outlined a path forward in the draft 2022-23 Prawn and Shrimp by Trap Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP). The draft IFMP was released for a 30-day consultation period on January 17, 2022, with final distribution for April 1, 2022.
- The IFMP indicates the direction on prawn tubbing requirements for 2022-23 as well as the Department’s intentions for 2023-24:
- For 2022-23, DFO will allow existing containers on hand to be used.
- For 2023-24, the Department will introduce a requirement for transparent containers up to a maximum volume of 710 milliliters.
- In the upcoming year, DFO will continue discussions with industry and collaborate on the following measures to ensure the sustainability of the commercial prawn fishery:
- Implementing a third-party monitoring program for prawns that are frozen in sea water
- Advancing work on the traceability of products through the development of labelling requirements for frozen products and the implementation of a tag requirement for live prawns.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
Our government recognizes that illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing – or IUU fishing - is devastating to fish stocks, ecosystems, and economies around the world.
As a member of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, the Prime Minister has endorsed priority actions to combat this harmful activity.
We have committed nearly $12 million to develop new surveillance technologies and improve information and intelligence sharing efforts to support vulnerable developing states, such as our cutting edge Dark Vessel Detection project.
Canada is active in multilateral operations to combat IUU fishing and protect migratory fish stocks in the Atlantic and Pacific, including the deployment of aircraft and inspection personnel to international waters.
Canada is a leader at multilateral international bodies mandated to manage fisheries in the high seas, where we actively contribute to strong efforts to curb IUU fishing.
Canada’s domestic licensing regime and management measures ensure that harvesting and trade in responsibly harvested Canadian fisheries resources accords with international requirements, while its implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement confirms that fisheries products entering the Canadian market are legitimately sourced.
- IUU fishing is estimated to account for up to 30 per cent of fish landings worldwide and removes as much as $30 B from the world’s economy annually. It is increasingly linked to crimes of convergence such as drug trafficking and human slavery, and therefore poses a serious risk to global security, in addition to contributing to the decline of marine habitat
- Much of the high seas, beyond national jurisdiction, are under- or un-monitored. These areas are particularly susceptible to activities of IUU fishing.
- Canada’s economy (75,000 jobs in the primary fishing and aquaculture sector) and natural resources (especially straddling and highly migratory fish stocks) are put at serious risk by IUU fishing.
- Canada is a member of seven regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), where Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is the government’s engagement lead. Beyond securing Canada’s access to fish stocks managed by these organizations, DFO officials also work to ensure strong and effective management measures, based on the best available science, are adopted. Overall Canada’s objective is to prevent overfishing and activities that could undermine the sustainability of those internationally managed species (including those caught incidentally). A fundamental component of RFMOs’ work to improve compliance with adopted management measures is the implementation of a robust monitoring, control and surveillance scheme, including high seas boarding and inspection regime
- The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy has agreed to a headline commitment of 100 per cent sustainable management of ocean under national jurisdiction, by 2025. For Canada, this will be pursued through the development of a national blue economy strategy. A key pillar of a sustainable ocean economy revolves around Ocean Wealth, of which sustainable ocean food to support global food security, is a key component. From a fisheries perspective, the goal of eliminating IUU fishing is integral to achieving the overall objectives of sustainable ocean food, and therefore a sustainable ocean economy. Canada is actively involved in ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6) of eliminating subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing and prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, while recognizing the need for appropriate and effective special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing and least developed countries. Although the 2020 deadline under SDG 14.6 was not met, negotiations among the 164 members of the WTO continue to intensify with a view to concluding as soon as possible.
- Fisheries and Oceans is continuing to implement the commitments outlined in the G7 Charlevoix Blueprint for Health Oceans, which included $11.6M in funding for developing new satellite-based technologies to track illegal fishing, funding to develop an intelligence sharing network, and work with NGO’s to combat IUU fishing around the world
- Canada’s surveillance and inspection presence is robust and IUU fishing is mitigated through international cooperation and joint enforcement missions.
- Canada ratified the Port State Measures Agreement in 2019, which has as its objective, preventing IUU fishing vessels from landing their catches in the ports of member states.
Striped Bass, Gulf of St. Lawrence and Miramichi population
We are committed to ensuring our recreational fisheries, including the Striped bass fishery, are viable and sustainable for future generations and that management decisions are based on science.
The Striped bass population in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence has demonstrated a remarkable rebound in recent years and become a very popular recreational fishery as well as a pilot indigenous fishery.
Population numbers continue to fluctuate and we must make decisions to prevent a return to historic lows.
A number of questions remain unresolved about Striped Bass interactions with Atlantic Salmon.
Although striped bass coevolved with salmon and are known predators of Atlantic salmon smolts, recent research shows there are other more important factors contributing to the current declining trend in wild Atlantic salmon populations, namely marine survival.
DFO is continuing to conduct research and monitoring activities on Striped Bass.
- The abundance of the Striped bass population in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence experiences high degrees of fluctuations, from a low of 4,000-5,000 spawners in the late 1990s to over 900,000 in 2017.
- The spawner abundance estimate decreased to over 300,000 in both 2018 and 2019, and DFO Science is currently conducting analysis to provide the spawner estimates for 2019. Covid-19 restrictions precluded assessment activities in 2020.
- As the numbers improved, a small number of Indigenous Food, Social, and Ceremonial (FSC) fisheries were reinstated in 2012; the recreational fishery reopened in 2013; and a pilot Indigenous commercial fishery has been conducted annually since 2018.
- Striped bass is a native species to the Miramichi river system and has co-existed and co-evolved alongside wild Atlantic salmon since the last ice age: however, the two species prefer different habitats and generally overlap only during limited time-periods.
- Regardless, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and other interest groups continue to express concerns that Striped bass predation on Atlantic salmon smolts is hindering the recovery of Atlantic salmon, and are interested in ways to increase the allocation of Striped bass fisheries.
- The complex predator-prey relationship between Striped bass and Atlantic salmon is not fully understood: however, trends suggest that Striped bass predation is not the determining factor in the abundance of Atlantic salmon.
Striped Bass and Atlantic Salmon Science
- A large portion of the Striped Bass population aggregate in the Miramichi New Brunswick estuary to overwinter and spawn in the Spring before dispersing throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence as far as into Quebec and southern Labrador.
- This aggregation of results in a large number of Striped Bass present in the Miramichi system as Atlantic Salmon smolts make their way from upper stretches of the river out to the ocean, resulting in an opportunity for predation.
- Quantifying the impact is challenging and has been the subject of several studies. Notably, a three-year (2013-2015) DFO study showed that only 2% of 1,800 sampled striped bass stomachs contained Atlantic salmon smolt. A 2018 study by the Atlantic Salmon Federation in cooperation with DFO, estimated that 1.9 to 17.5% of smolts leaving the Miramichi River may have been consumed by striped bass. A 2019 study using smolts with acoustic tags reported a 59% predation rate; while the predator could not be identified, the high rate of predation was inferred to be linked to the record high abundance of Striped Bass in the river during the study.
- While these numbers illustrate the effect of predation on juvenile salmon, a 2021 DFO study looking at smolt survival rates and bass abundance was inconclusive.
- Overall, Striped Bass and Atlantic Salmon interactions would be considered localized and would have occurred historically when both species were abundant. It does not explain the declines in adult salmon returns being observed in Gulf Region rivers or elsewhere.
- In fact, with only 1-4% of smolts returning as adults, at-sea mortality is a more significant factor and requires more research.
Seafood traceability is an important part of ensuring Canada’s leadership in promoting sustainable fishing, and in the continued prosperity of the fish and seafood sector.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working hand in hand with leads at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada on the boat-to-plate traceability program.
The public consultation that closed in December 2021 resulted in submissions from a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The Government is reviewing these submissions.
- The 2019 mandate letter for the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard includes a commitment to support the Minister of Health, in “developing a boat-to-plate traceability program to help Canadian fishers to better market their high-quality products”.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the lead on the boat-to-plate traceability (BTP) program initiative and reports to the Minister of Health.
- This commitment was not included in the 2021 ministerial mandate letter (for neither the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard nor the Minister of Health), but CFIA officials leading this work have advised that work is proceeding as planned.
- Implementation of the BTP program has the potential to support continued prosperity of the fish and seafood sector and ensure that Canadian fish and seafood exports continue to meet export requirements and avoid potential trade disruptions.
- A BTP traceability program could also assist Canadian authorities to ensure that the products of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing are not entering the Canadian market, and that Canada remains a leader in promoting sustainable fishing practices at home and abroad.
- The BTP public consultation closed on December 11, 2021.
- DFO officials are currently working with CFIA and AAFC in drafting a What-we-heard report summarizing comments and input on the BTP public consultation.
Fish Harvesters Benefit and Grant Program
The Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant (FHBG) Program launched its second phase in August 2021, and closed for applications October 31st.
The Program continues to process appeals and issue the second part of the benefit payment. The Program’s grant stream was completed in phase one, as was the first part of the benefit payment.
To date, the Program has paid out about $162 million in support of its target recipients in Canada’s fishing sector.
The sector shows encouraging signs of rebound. Export levels, prices, and quantities are starting to return to -- and in some cases exceed -- their pre-pandemic levels.
Overpayment letters to wage-earning crew
The Program provides assistance to self-employed fish harvesters and self-employed crew.
To issue phase-one payments quickly, applicants attested to: their income, employment status, and estimated COVID losses. They received monies based on this information.
Their information was subsequently reviewed against tax data they filed when it became available in summer 2021.
Some individuals who attested to being self-employed had filed tax information indicating that they were wage-earning employees, and therefore not eligible.
Those individuals received overpayment letters, for which they had a right of appeal. The appeal deadline was October 15, 2021.
Benefit Eligibility/Unclear Eligibility Criteria
The Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program fills a gap in the Government of Canada’s overall COVID-19 strategy.
The Program is aimed at supporting self-employed harvesters and self-employed shareperson crew who would not otherwise have received COVID relief.
Importantly, explicitly excluded from the scope of Program eligibility are wage-earning employees.
Individuals whose Canada Revenue Agency data indicated that they were wage-earning crew were not eligible.
These details regarding the Program’s scope have always been clear, and publicly posted on the Program’s website.
Applicants turned down
Based on the Program’s limited scope, a sizeable number of applicants were turned down during the Program’s first and second phases.
While applicants could be turned down for a number of reasons, the group most affected in each phase were crew members.
Crew members that filed tax information indicating that they were wage-earning employees were not eligible for the Program.
In making its decisions, the Program deferred to applicants’ Canada Revenue Agency data, with the exception of applicants who were tax exempt (see “Indigenous Applicants” below).
Indigenous applicants/alternate sources income information
While the Program was able to defer to applicants’ data as filed with the Canada Revenue Agency, obviously this option was not available for Indigenous applicants who were tax exempt.
In these cases, the Program worked with individual applicants, their community representatives, and Indigenous fishing companies to secure alternate sources of income information for tax-exempt applicants.
The use of alternate income data was restricted to tax-exempt applicants, and when Canada Revenue Agency information was available, the Program relied on it.
Appellants claiming their CRA information was incorrect
Some individuals said that their Canada Revenue Agency tax information did not accurately reflect the nature of their employment.
In response, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency developed a process to allow those who were appealing overpayment letters to request a change to their T4 information and advance their FHBG file at the same time.
The process involved the appellant and the employer sending the Program letters or emails with additional information about the individual’s employment status, and their intention to seek a T4 adjustment from CRA.
The FHBG Program could then take this additional information provided into account when adjudicating the appeal, while CRA could start its review in response to the request for T4 adjustment.
Program tax expertise
The Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program is a partnership led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and supported by Employment and Social Development Canada, and the Canada Revenue Agency.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has, through the course of the Program, drawn on the taxation expertise resident in the Canada Revenue Agency.
As well, since phase one of the Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has contracted expertise through Price Waterhouse Coopers, which has provided advice and guidance to the Program on taxation-related matters.
The Program was initially approved for $439.4 million in grants and contributions over two years. To date, it has spent about $162 million in grants and contributions.
The Program’s initial budget was based on a worst-case scenario where the ultimate depth and duration of the loss of demand in the Canada fisheries sector was unknown, and unknowable.
In many cases, applicants did not ultimately lose the 25 per cent minimum amount of their annual income required to be eligible for the program.
This is not to say that harvesters did not suffer losses, but that often losses were below the Program’s threshold level.
These lower-than-expected losses, necessarily reduced Program payments. And the sector does show encouraging signs of rebound.
A requirement of the Program was a second application. That application window opened in August and closed at the end of October, 2021.
Applicants were reminded about filing second applications through a number of means:
- The 2020 T4 tax slip, which went to everyone who received phase-one monies, included a reminder about the phase-two application;
- Employment and Social Development Canada issued “Nudge Letters” in late August 2021. These letters were sent to everyone who received a phase-one benefit, and reminded of the phase-two applications;
- A Notices to Harvesters sent in August, September, and October 2021; and
- Announcements via social media about the launch of phase two.
- On May 14, 2020, the Prime Minister announced the creation of the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant (FHBG) Program, which launched its first phase in August 2020. The Program is currently working to complete phase-two processing. The deadline for phase-two applications was October 31, 2021. The FHBG Program is presently completing the processing of applications and appeals.
- The Program supports self-employed fish harvesters and self-employed crew affected by COVID-19. It fills a programmatic gap in the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 strategy by providing COVID relief benefits to self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for COVID support. It is delivered in partnership by DFO, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), and with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
- Payments from the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program are taxable and must be declared on harvesters’ income tax returns.
- The FHBG Program is delivered in two-phases:
- Phase One (2020) involved the issuance of: 1) one-time grant payments to provide emergency business expense support to address the non-deferrable business costs of self-employed fish harvesters; and 2) the first part of the benefit payment (60 per cent) to provide income assistance to eligible self-employed fish harvesters and self-employed crew.
- Phase Two (2021) involves confirming that the applicant-attested information provided in phase one aligns with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) data. A phase-two application was required by all applicants who received payment in phase one. If eligible, and with the successful submission of the phase two application, the Program issues the second part of the benefit payment (the remaining 40 per cent).
- The benefit payment covers up to 75 per cent of income losses beyond a 25 per cent threshold for the 2020 tax year when compared to 2018 or 2019. The maximum benefit is $10,164.
- In the opening weeks of round two in August 2021, applicants experienced lengthy telephone wait times in trying to connect with a Service Canada call centre agent. Service Canada responded quickly to provide additional call centre support, and wait times were reduced dramatically.
- The first installment of the benefit payment was promptly issued to applicants based on their attestations to the program respecting their status, income, and expected COVID-related losses. That information was subsequently reviewed against CRA data filed by the applicants when that information became available prior to the launch of phase two.
- Some recipients of the first benefit payment had initially indicated that they were self-employed crew. However, CRA tax data indicated that some of those recipients were wage-earning employees, and therefore not eligible for the program. Individuals in this situation were issued overpayment letters. Recipients of those phase-one overpayment letters had a right of appeal. The deadline for those appeals was October 15, 2021.
Great Lakes Fishery Commission
The Government is committed to preserving our freshwater resources and protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species.
The Great Lakes are important to the environment, economy, health, and well-being of both Canada and the United States.
The Commission’s efforts are vital to controlling sea lampreys, conducting scientific research, and maintaining cooperation among Canadian and American agencies in the management of the Great Lakes and its fisheries.
For over 60 years, Canada, in close partnership with the United States, has directly supported the work of the GLFC to preserve our freshwater resources and protect the Great Lakes from invasive species.
In this regard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada plays a critical role across the Great Lakes through its responsibilities in managing impacts to fish and fish habitat under the Habitat Protection Provisions of the Fisheries Act; implementing the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulation; implementing the Sea Lamprey Control Program, administering the Species at Risk Act; and managing an Asian Carp Program. Nearly 60 DFO science experts and aquatic invasive species specialists are directly involved in the sea lamprey control program alone.
I know that the Commission and its secretariat staff is advocating for a governance change, and that a related motion was introduced during the previous session of the House. This is a more complex matter than it likely appears on the surface.
I assure you that we are assessing the implications and funding needs of the Commission and are in regular communication with the GLFC’s secretariat on the matter.
As officials conduct their analysis, we will ensure that the work of the Commission and DFO’s ongoing delivery of critical sea lamprey control measures are not adversely impacted or needlessly disrupted.
Our goal is to ensure that the Commission is best positioned to fulfill its mandate and receive the necessary support from our government to that end.
If pressed on the funding shortfall
I am fully aware of Canada’s funding obligations.
That is why departmental officials work closely with the Commission’s secretariat to establish an annual workplan and associated budget to guide sea lamprey control efforts and support related research and administrative costs.
While last year’s budget did not include new incremental funding for the Commission, this in no way diminishes the importance we place on our partnership with the United States and the value of the Great Lakes and the fisheries it supports. My officials are working with colleagues at Finance Canada to address our funding shortfall in the near term.
- The Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) was established by the 1954 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries between Canada and the United States of America, with the objective of protecting and sustaining the Great Lakes fishery.
- The 1954 Convention charges the commission with five major duties:
- develop a binational research program aimed at sustaining Great Lakes fish stocks;
- coordinate or conduct research consistent with that program;
- recommend measures to governments that protect and improve the fishery;
- formulate and implement a comprehensive sea lamprey control program; and
- publish or authorize publication of scientific and other information critical to sustaining the fishery.
- The GLFC is made up of eight Commissioners (four each from Canada and the United States [US]) and one US Alternate Commissioner. The GLFC operates under the direction of the Commissioners, and functionally operates independently from government.
- Canada and the US government support the Commission through a cost-sharing arrangement that reflects the distribution of territorial waters and the value of each nation’s fishery. Canada agreed at the inaugural meeting under the 1954 Convention to contribute 31 per cent of funding for the transboundary sea lamprey control work, and 50 per cent of other research and administrative costs (e.g. secretariat/salaries). The US provides the remaining funding.
- In recent years the US government has decided to increase its contributions to the Commission; however, Canadian contributions have remained static. The Canadian contribution is presently $10.6M per year.
- In recent years, the GLFC has been lobbying key stakeholders in the US and Canada, including Members of Parliament (MPs), and US Senators and Representatives, with their request for a portfolio change. Subsequently in April 2021, eighteen MPs wrote to Minister Garneau requesting a change in Canadian leadership for the GLFC from DFO to Global Affairs Canada (GAC).
- A motion was also introduced in June, during the previous session of the House of Commons, requesting an immediate transfer of responsibility for the GLFC to GAC. With the dissolution of the 43rd Parliament on August 15, 2021, all associated Parliamentary business and activity, including motions before the House, lapsed. As a result, Motion-91 is no longer being considered.
- In September, the GLFC followed this up with a letter from one of Canada’s Commissioners to the Prime Minister, Minister Garneau, and Minister Jordan, requesting that the shift in federal responsibility be reflected in the forthcoming ministerial mandate letters. DFO and GAC, with support from the Privy Council Office and the Department of Justice, are assessing the implications of a possible change in federal leadership and fiscal responsibility for the GLFC. The deployment of the sea lamprey control program would presumably remain with DFO, though how it would receive its funding, now and into the future, is less clear. There is complexity to what the GLFC is proposing, splitting functions and authorities related to the GLFC between two portfolios, and also a lack of clarity on what it would accomplish.
My department is aware of the concerns previously expressed by the Committee and some stakeholders about the degree of foreign ownership of Canadian fishing enterprises and concentration of fisheries access.
My department has launched an information-gathering exercise that will identify who is benefitting from commercial fishing licences. This information will be used to develop a baseline understanding of the extent of foreign control and concentration of access in Canada’s commercial fisheries.
Careful consideration of the potential impacts on existing licence holders across all commercial fisheries, as well as Canada’s international trade obligations, are required before any policy changes can be considered or introduced.
If pressed on foreign ownership restrictions in Atlantic Canada
On the East coast, DFO has long-standing policy that requires all Atlantic midshore and offshore licence holders be at least 51 per cent Canadian-owned.
In early 2021, DFO enhanced the application of this policy to ensure that prospective licence holders meet the 51 per cent requirement at all levels of their corporate structure.
If pressed on the West Coast Licensing Review
Our government is committed to supporting the economic viability and sustainability of Pacific fisheries and is committed to continued improvements in managing fisheries on the West Coast.
My department continues to engage with First Nations and key stakeholders in British Columbia to identify priority fisheries management and licensing concerns to further inform options to address the issue raised by the Standing Committee’s report and beyond.
If pressed on the 2020 Government Response to the FOPO report, “West Coast Fisheries: Sharing Risks and Benefits”
The Response to the Committee’s 2020 report highlighted how the Government’s priorities are aligned with several of the Committee’s recommendations. This includes strengthening the middle class, improving transparency in government, and sustainable and inclusive economic development.
DFO continues to advance work to support the Government Response to the FOPO report, primarily through the ongoing review of foreign ownership and the West Coast Licensing Review.
If pressed on the Beneficial Ownership Survey
The Beneficial Ownership Survey is a mandatory information-gathering exercise. The Survey was developed in partnership with federal forensic accountants and received support from key stakeholders during its development. Approximately 3000 unique licence holders and vessel owners across Canada’s commercial fisheries are expected to complete it.
Following the conclusion of the Survey on March 31, 2022, DFO will analyze the information and begin to prepare a report of its findings.
- On May 7, 2019, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans released its 21st report, entitled “West Coast Fisheries: Sharing Risks and Benefits”. The report included 20 recommendations that called for significant changes to the current fisheries management and licensing regime, including: increased transparency and accessibility, development of profit-sharing arrangements, a transition to an independent owner-operator model similar to Atlantic inshore fisheries, and preventing foreign beneficial owners from holding fishing licences or quota in the future.
- A Government Response could not be tabled in the House of Commons due to the 2019 Federal Election; the same report was re-tabled in the House of Commons on March 11, 2020. The Government Response was tabled on July 9, 2020. It highlighted how the Government’s priorities are aligned with several of the Committee’s recommendations, including strengthening the middle class, improving transparency in government, and sustainable and inclusive economic development. The Government Response committed DFO to produce a comparative analysis of the East and West Coast licensing policies, and to analyse existing data gaps in Pacific region’s licensing management system. The Government Response committed DFO to further consult key stakeholders on the issues raised in the report.
- Since the FOPO report’s initial release, some stakeholder groups have continued to express support for the Committee’s recommendations, while other organizations are opposed and have raised concerns about the potential economic consequences of significant changes to industry operations.
- In the spring of 2020, DFO launched a review of its existing foreign ownership policies and the impacts of any potential changes. During the preliminary stages of this analysis, the Department concluded that it lacks recent and comprehensive information required to validate or invalidate the concerns put forth by the Standing Committee and some stakeholders. In February 2021, the Department contracted the Forensic Accounting Management Group (FAMG), under Public Services and Procurement Canada, to develop a survey (the Beneficial Ownership Survey) that would identify who is benefitting from commercial fishing licences and quota, and to validate the concerns identified by some Parliamentarians.
- Since the summer of 2021, the Department has been engaging key stakeholders from all regions to introduce them to the Beneficial Ownership Survey’s intent, objectives, and timelines. Widespread notification of the Survey’s expectations is underway. Feedback from key industry stakeholders has been supportive of the Department’s desire to better understand its licence holders and industry participants.
- The “Beneficial Ownership Survey” (the “Survey”) is designed to gather information on the corporate structure of commercial licence holders. The information, once analyzed, will give DFO a baseline understanding of the extent of foreign control and concentration of access across Canada’s commercial fisheries. The Survey will be administered to all commercial licence holders and vessel owners in Pacific party- and vessel-based fisheries, as well as all Atlantic, Quebec, and Arctic midshore, offshore, and exempted fleet fisheries. Roughly 3000 unique vessel owners and licence holders will be surveyed across Canada. Communal commercial licence holders fishing under the authority of the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations and Atlantic inshore licence holders will be exempt from the Survey. Atlantic inshore licence holders’ corporate structure is already regulated under Part III of the Atlantic Fishery Regulations (i.e., the inshore regulations).
- The Beneficial Ownership Survey is intended to be an information-gathering exercise only with no planned policy changes at this time. The Survey’s findings may demonstrate that the current division of access is acceptable and supports the Minister's socio-economic, cultural and conservation objectives; the findings may also identify behaviours or arrangements that the Department may want to address.
- In February 2021, DFO strengthened the current application of its foreign ownership restrictions in Atlantic Canada. Under the “Enhanced Application of Foreign Ownership Restrictions”, the 49 per cent foreign ownership limit is applied to the full corporate structure of prospective licence holders for all future licence re-issuances in the mid-shore, offshore, and exempted fleet fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, where this policy applies.
- In March of 2021, the comparative analysis of East and West coast fisheries policies, drafted by Gardner-Pinfold was made publicly available. The report found that implementing Atlantic-style policies on the Pacific coast would present a variety of challenges. The report is critical of certain elements of both east and west coast policy regimes, citing impacts of quota leasing on the Pacific coast, as well as the difficulties associated with maintaining the owner-operator, fleet separation, and the Policy for Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada’s Atlantic Fisheries (PIIFCAF) in the Atlantic Inshore fishery. The report is being used to inform engagement with Indigenous groups and commercial fishery stakeholders on the issues raised in FOPO’s report.
- In Summer of 2021, Pacific region staff initiated discussions with key industry stakeholders on the recommendations of the Committee’s report. Discussion topics include DFO’s collection of socio-economic data and the existing data gaps, advisory board structures and representation, and industry-led owner-operator proposals.
Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples
Food, Social, Ceremonial (FSC) fisheries
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) issues food, social and ceremonial (FSC) fishing licences to Indigenous communities to implement the communal right.
FSC fishing varies by community at various times of the year, and is not always aligned with commercial seasons or areas.
FSC licences reflect regulations and management measures to promote conservation and a safe and orderly fishery.
Fish harvested under an FSC licence cannot be sold. DFO takes enforcement action when required to address illegal fishing and the selling of FSC catches.
- Several court decisions have found that certain Indigenous groups have the right to fish for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) purposes – essentially, the right to fish to meet the internal needs of their communities.
- Following those decisions, DFO established a policy to provide FSC access to Indigenous groups across the country, this includes both Section 35 rights holders as well as other Indigenous organizations, such as native councils.
- FSC licences are developed following consultations with affected Indigenous groups and conditions of the licence are based on specific considerations present within each Indigenous community.
- Once a communal licence is issued to a community, individual Indigenous harvesters are designated by their communities to access the FSC fishery, as specified under the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations.
- The Department’s position has been that FSC catches cannot be sold, but they can take place outside the established commercial fishing seasons.
- DFO will continue to conduct monitoring, control and surveillance activities, with the objective of ensuring access to orderly, safe, and sustainable fisheries in support of the Department’s management objectives.
Indigenous moderate livelihood fisheries
As Minister, conservation is paramount to me and we must work together to ensure the protection and sustainability of our fisheries.
The Government is committed to advancing reconciliation and renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.
The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. My department has been working with communities to implement the right.
I believe it is possible to have a fishery that is peaceful, productive, and prosperous, and that also upholds the Marshall decisions and overarching conservation objectives.
Implementation of the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood
Over the past 21 years, DFO has invested over $550 million in fishing licences, vessels, gear, and training to advance the implementation of the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, for 35 rights-holding Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey, and Peskotomuhkati communities in the Maritimes and Gaspé region of Quebec (Treaty Nations).
These investments have resulted in meaningful economic benefits which continue to increase year over year. For example, annual landed value among these Treaty Nations has increased from $3 million in 1999 to over $140 million in 2018, an increase of 4,600 per cent.
Currently we are using two approaches to further implement the Treaty right depending on Treaty Nations’ preferences: firstly, Rights Reconciliation or Rights Implementation Agreements; and more recently understandings with Treaty Nations on an interim short-term approach through community plans.
The interim approach is flexible and enables communities to implement moderate livelihood fishing plans, within established commercial fishing seasons.
To date, three Rights Reconciliation Agreements have been concluded, and two understandings have been reached in Nova Scotia to recognize harvesters designated under Community based Moderate Livelihood Fishing plans.
Work does not stop there; DFO remains committed to continuing discussions with Treaty Nations to increase their access to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. As we continue with these approaches, the Department will consider all the tools in its toolbox to further implement the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. This could include instruments such as voluntary licence relinquishment and other access acquisition mechanisms. Industry will be consulted on these measures should there be impacts.
DFO’s approach follows the Marshall decision and is based on three key principles: the implementation of treaty rights; conservation and sustainability of fish stocks; and, transparent and stable management of the fishery.
Moving forward we will consider how the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will help shape future mandates on the implementation of rights.
We are committed to continuing discussions with Treaty Nations to increase their access to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood and provide for safe, orderly, and sustainable fishing for all harvesters.
As we continue these nation-to-nation negotiations, DFO will continue its ongoing dialogue with the Atlantic fishing industry on implementing Treaty rights and reconciliation, and provide fora to hear industry’s views.
A very positive example of DFO’s dialogue with industry is DFO’s collaboration with the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters’ Federation to deliver reconciliation workshops for the Federation’s membership since October 2020. DFO continues to meet with the Federation regularly to maintain dialogue, develop information for rank-and-file harvesters on Aboriginal and treaty rights and the Government of Canada’s reconciliation agenda, and consider initial steps in establishing tripartite fora for regular Indigenous-industry dialogue.
In addition to DFO’s ongoing dialogue with industry, DFO is encouraging collaboration between industry and Indigenous groups, including through the Lobster Science Partnership Roundtable, a collaborative table to explore potential science activities around lobster. This is consistent with some of the recommendations in the Federal Special Representative’s March 2021 report.
Communal commerical licences
A communal commercial licence is the instrument used to authorize fishing activity, including moderate livelihood. Although there are certain management rules and conditions of licence that Indigenous harvesters must adhere to, fishing under communal licences is not subject to the same policies as fishing under commercial licences such as Fleet Separation, Owner-Operator or Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada’s Atlantic Fisheries.
The Department’s priority while conducting enforcement is to consider the safety of all participants.
Fishery officers verify compliance with the Department’s regulations and legislation to support orderly and sustainable management of fisheries and support other agencies in delivering on their safety mandates.
The Department takes unauthorized fishing seriously and actively uses a number of means to deter unauthorized fishing, including education, voluntary compliance and enforcement efforts. In addition to the fishery officers from the implicated regions, additional fishery officers were brought in from all across the country to verify and monitor compliance to support sustainable moderate livelihood fisheries.
Fishery officers will continue to work closely with Indigenous communities to support the implementation of moderate livelihood fishing plans that authorize fishing within the commercial season.
Any unauthorized fishing may be subject to enforcement action.
Enforcement by fishery officers will be, as it has always been, measured and proportionate.
This could include a variety of activities such as education, warnings, inspections, investigations, seizures, and prosecutions.
- Over the past 21 years, DFO has invested over $550 million in fishing licences, vessels, gear and training to help increase and diversify participation in commercial fisheries, and to advance the implementation of the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, for the 35 rights-holding Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey, and Peskotomuhkati communities (Treaty Nations). These investments have resulted in meaningful economic benefits which continue to increase year over year. For example, annual landed value among these Treaty Nations has increased from $3 million in 1999 to over $140 million in 2018, an increase of 4,600 per cent. Additionally, over $50 million of yearly revenue is now generated through fisheries-related businesses (e.g., processing, aquaculture) owned and operated by Treaty First Nations.
- DFO is currently negotiating Rights Reconciliation Agreements/Rights Implementation Agreements (RRA/RIA) with some Treaty Nations, with the objective of addressing and recognizing their historic treaty right (affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada’s Marshall decisions of 1999) and to ensure a stable and predictable fishery for the benefit of all Canadians.
- These agreements are time-limited (five to 25 years) with an option for renewal; provide for signatory First Nations to develop approaches to fishing to meet their particular objectives and importance to their communities, such as an emphasis on jobs or income; and put in place fisheries governance structures and processes to enhance the collaboration between First Nations and DFO.
- Three RRAs have been signed with four Treaty Nations: the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk First Nation (Quebec), Elsipogtog and Esgenoôpetitj First Nations (New Brunswick), and the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government (Quebec). These communities represent about 25 per cent of the population of the 35 First Nations that hold the treaty right.
- DFO continues to have discussions with Treaty Nations on the recognition of rights and encourages that this dialogue take place at the negotiation table.
- Some Treaty Nations have grown frustrated with the slow progress of RRA negotiations or are uninterested in negotiating RRAs. Some have recently been fishing outside the commercial fishing seasons, citing their right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.
- In an effort to make progress on this issue, in the fall of 2020 DFO obtained approval for additional flexibilities in negotiating RRAs, as well the ability to negotiate small scale Moderate Livelihood Fishing Plans (MLFPs).
- On March 3, 2021, the DFO Minister at the time announced a new path forward, putting in place an interim approach for interested Treaty Nations to undertake moderate livelihood fishing that would take place during the regular commercial seasons through MLFPs. The Minister also reiterated DFO’s commitment to acquiring fishing access through already available licences and a willing buyer-willing seller approach. The Treaty Nations’ reaction was largely negative, whereas comments from industry were generally positive.
- However, since then, discussions on the interim approach to implement MLFPs have continued, mainly between DFO and the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn (Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq). In June 2021, an understanding was reached between DFO and Potlotek First Nation in Nova Scotia to recognize harvesters designated under the Potlotek Moderate Livelihood Fishing Plan to be authorized to fish lobster, under a DFO-issued licence, during the established commercial season. A similar understanding was reached with Annapolis Valley, Bear River, and Acadia First Nations in Nova Scotia in the fall of 2021.
- Supporting Indigenous-industry relationships around the issue of moderate livelihood fishing is a priority as negotiations advance on RRAs/RIAs or through Moderate Livelihood Fishing Plans. To that effect, in October 2020, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations appointed Allister Surette as Federal Special Representative, as a neutral third party to: gather the different perspectives on the issues contributing to the conflict; seek to build understanding and find common ground in order to reduce tensions between Treaty Nations and industry; and identify opportunities to improve relationships. Mr. Surette submitted his final report and recommendations in March 2021, and DFO has made progress in implementing some of the recommendations.
- The Department continues to have regular and frequent meetings at various levels with non-Indigenous fishing industry stakeholders to answer questions about moderate livelihood fishing and provide industry an opportunity to share its views.
- In the last Parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans undertook a study on the “implementation of Mi’kmaq treaty fishing rights to support a moderate livelihood.” A report with 40 recommendations was presented to the House in May 2021 before the Committee was dissolved ahead of the September 2021 federal election. Following the election, the Committee was reconstituted and a notice of motion has been entered to adopt the moderate livelihood report from the previous Parliament. A Government Response has been requested by the Committee.
Ahousaht (Five Nuu-Chah-Nulth) First Nations
The Government of Canada is working collaboratively with the five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to advance reconciliation through negotiation of a Reconciliation Agreement for Fisheries Resources.
My department has reviewed and revised the 2021 Five Nations Multi-Species Fishery Management Plan (FMP) in light of the Court of Appeal’s decision. DFO’s review continues and any additional changes will be reflected in the 2022 FMP.
Neither party has sought leave to appeal the decision of the BC Court of Appeal in Ahousaht First Nation v. Canada to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Canada looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Five Nations in implementing their right-based sale fishery.
- In its decision dated November 3, 2009, the Supreme Court of British Columbia (BCSC) found that the Plaintiffs, five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island, have an Aboriginal right to fish for any species of fish (excluding geoduck) within their court-defined fishing territories [which extend offshore nine miles] and to sell that fish but declined to rule on whether the infringement is justified.
- Following the establishment of the right, the parties have been in negotiations and at the request of the Five Nations, a new negotiation process was launched in March 2017. The Five Nations and federal officials completed a Framework Agreement on December 21, 2017, in order to initiate and guide the negotiation of a reconciliation agreement. The Five Nations and Canada concluded an Incremental Reconciliation Agreement for Fisheries Resources on September 10, 2019.
- In 2014, the Five Nations initiated a return to court on Canada’s justification of infringements on their rights. The BCSC decision on infringement, released on April 19, 2018, provides clarity regarding the scope and scale of the Aboriginal right of the Five Nations and their preferred means of fishing.
- The BCSC issued an order on November 1, 2018 that sets out the remedy ordered by the court and allows DFO to determine what must be done to implement the decision.
- Consistent with the November 1, 2018 court order, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) released an initial multi-species fishing plan for salmon, groundfish, crab, and prawn on November 30, 2018 and consulted the Five Nations, other potentially impacted First Nations, and relevant stakeholders on this initial plan for the 2019-20 season.
- The Five Nations appealed the April 2018 BCSC decision. The appeal was heard in February 2019. The decision was rendered on April 19, 2021, and neither party sought leave to appeal.
- The Five Nations have also brought a civil claim in the British Columbia Supreme Court (and a separate judicial review application before the Federal Court of Canada, which was in abeyance until the end of April, 2021) to challenge various aspects of the 2019-20 Fish Management Plan.
- An additional legal action was launched by the Five Nations to seek an injunction through the Federal Court. In their filing with the court, the five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations challenged DFO’s in-season Chinook salmon total allowable catch (TAC) adjustment, which increased the Area G commercial TAC for chinook. On August 16, 2019, the injunction motion was dismissed by the court. In light of this decision, DFO managed that year’s salmon fishery respecting both the Fisheries Management Plan for the Five Nations’ rights-based fishery and the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan that guides management of the broader salmon fisheries on the Pacific coast. At the end of the season, DFO conducted a year-end review and consulted with the Five Nations on any adjustments that may be required to the Five Nations’ multi-species Fisheries Management Plan in 2020.
- The 2021/22 Fisheries Management Plan is in place and right-based sale fisheries are ongoing or complete for salmon, groundfish, crab, prawn and gooseneck barnacles and Sea Cucumber. The opportunity to harvest Sea Cucumber has been added into the plan for the first time in 2021/22.
- DFO revised the 2021/22 Fisheries Management Plan in light of the April 19, 2021 BCCA decision and released it publicly on December 2, 2021. DFO’s review is not complete. Any additional changes will be reflected in the 2022 FMP.
- A protest fishery was declared by the Five Nations hereditary leadership on August 04, 2021, authorizing Five Nations’ fishers to exceed DFO’s Offshore Chinook and Halibut allocations. In addition, Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation announced a protest fishery on September 02, 2021 declaring that fishers could exceed DFO’s Muchalaht Chinook allocation for the Burman and Gold Rivers. Both protests have now ended.
- A Reconciliation Funding Agreement (RA) was in place for 2019-20,2020-21 and 2021-22. The purpose of the RA is to support the Five Nations in the formation of the Ha’oom Fisheries Society, to support the development of the RAFR and pre-implementation support towards aspects of the RAFR including: i) collaborative governance (including monitoring costs); ii) increased fisheries access; iii) community fishery (including foregone fishery opportunities; and iv) capacity building. A subsequent Agreement is under development for 2022/23.
- Canada and the Five Nations will continue to meet on a regular basis to negotiate a comprehensive reconciliation agreement for fisheries resources that includes, but is not limited to, increasing fishery access, a community based fishery and collaborative governance.
Sale of Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated
Following the sale of Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated, and subsequently its request for the reissuance of fishing licences and associated quota to a Coalition of seven Atlantic Mi’kmaq First Nations, the Department engaged with stakeholders to ensure their views and all relevant treaty and land claims agreement obligations were considered.
The Government of Canada supports collaboration amongst First Nations and non-Indigenous harvesters, as well as efforts to create partnerships.
DFO will continue to facilitate the acquisition of fisheries access by Indigenous groups through various means which could result in licence redistribution in support of reconciliation.
Application for Judicial Review
As a result of the ministerial decision to approve Clearwater’s request for the reissuance of the fishing licences to the Coalition of Mi’kmaq First Nations, the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) have initiated a judicial review application in the Federal Court.
Therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this question while the matter is before the Court.
- On November 9, 2020, Clearwater announced the sale of the company to seven Atlantic Mi’kmaq First Nations and Premium Brands Holdings Corporation, with each owning 50 per cent of Clearwater. The sale was completed on January 25, 2021, after additional independent reviews by the Competition Bureau of Canada as well as the Nova Scotia courts.
- On January 26, 2021, a formal request was sent to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) by Clearwater to reissue Clearwater’s midshore and offshore Canadian fishing licences in the name of the new owners, the Mi’kmaq coalition. The Mi’kmaq coalition formed the First Nations Coalition Quota Limited Partnership (FNC Quota) for the purpose of holding the acquired licences.
- The Clearwater sale is the result of a willing buyer/willing seller transaction, and represents, as expressed by Chief Terry Paul, “the single largest investment in the seafood industry by any Indigenous group in Canada.”
- The Mi’kmaq First Nations have borrowed from the First Nations Finance Authority (FNFA) in order to finance the purchase of the company. Clearwater and FNC Quota have indicated that the inclusion of all Clearwater licences and associated allocations was a key factor in the deal and fundamental to the ability for FNC Quota to have access to capital through FNFA.
- The Clearwater sale was also seen by Nunavut interests, including the Government of Nunavut, as a major opportunity to increase their access to fisheries in waters adjacent to Nunavut. To that effect, Nunavut interests have written to the Minister on several occasions, requesting that Clearwater licences and allocations for fisheries in the north be provided to them. Some licences held by Clearwater have associated quota that is fishable in areas directly outside the Nunavut Settlement Area or partly within Zone I of the Nunavut Agreement.
- As any licence re-issuance request that entails a transfer of commercial fisheries access in Zone I (and Zone II) triggers section 15.3.7 of the Agreement, a detailed review of this matter has been conducted by the Department to take into account all relevant considerations, including a special consideration to the principles of adjacency and the economic dependence of Nunavut communities and residents on marine resources, and the views expressed by stakeholders.
- Following a six months in-depth analysis of this re-issuance request against all criteria set out in licensing policy, Integrated Fisheries Management Plans, and the administrative guidelines that govern the affected fisheries, as well as the review of all relevant land claims agreements, the request was approved by the Minister on July 16, 2021, and Clearwater, FNC Quota and Nunavut interests notified in writing on July 30, 2021 of the decision.
- Following the receipt of the notification, the NTI and the QIA have applied for judicial review in the Federal Court seeking an order setting aside the Minister’s July 16, 2021, decision to approve the re-issuance of offshore and midshore licences and associated allocations from Clearwater to FNC Quota.
Aquaculture- other issues
Discovery Islands area announcement
My department is committed to the conservation and protection of our wild Pacific salmon.
The decision on the intention to phase out fish farms by June 2022 in the Discovery Islands was not an easy one. It was made based on the outcome of consultations, including those with seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands.
The farms in the Discovery Islands are a specific case; through consultations it was clear that many First Nations in this area do not support the continued operation of these farms.
We will continue to work with partners and key stakeholders to advance sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia.
If pressed on transfer applications made to date:
All requests to transfer fish to sites in the Discovery Islands were reviewed with an open mind, considering all relevant information, including input from First Nations, environmental and socio-economic considerations, and representations made by the applicant.
Each decision made is specific to the particular application put forward by a company. It does not affect other operators or farms in British Columbia.
I recognize that these decisions have implications for the companies, workers and communities in the region. We are engaging with partners to develop a transition plan for net-pen aquaculture in BC.
If pressed on the Judicial Reviews:
As this matter is before the court, I cannot comment on the matter.
If pressed on fish being culled:
Any decision to cull farmed fish is a business decision for companies to make, and is not an ordered destruction of fish by DFO, as DFO does not have this authority.
Licences in the Discovery Islands have been renewed on an annual basis for 10 years, always with the understanding that a decision on the future of net-pen aquaculture in that area would be made by the end of 2020.
If pressed on the matter of the economic impact of the decision
I acknowledge that this decision is affecting the local economy.
We offer a strong suite of supports for workers and communities. There is already a strong partnership with BC in place, including through the Canada-BC Workforce and Labour Market Development Agreements.
Our Government is committed to supporting the economic development of BC’s regions. As announced in Budget 2021, a new regional development agency for BC is being established to support economic development in more communities and to help develop businesses to create good jobs that people can rely on.
- On November 5, 2009, Canada established the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River (“Cohen Commission”) to investigate the decline of Sockeye salmon stocks and to provide recommendations.
- The final report of the Cohen Commission, The Uncertain Future of Fraser River Sockeye, was released in October 2012. The report did not find any single factor leading to decreased Sockeye salmon stocks.
- The report made 75 recommendations, the majority of which focused on Pacific salmon fisheries management, fisheries science, salmon habitat protection, and the implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy. Thirteen of the 75 recommendations related specifically to aquaculture.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), along with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Province of British Columbia (BC), have taken actions to address all 75 of these recommendations.
- In response to the Cohen Commission’s Recommendation 19, DFO considered the risk to Fraser River Sockeye salmon from diseases that occur in Atlantic salmon farms. The scientific risk assessments focused on farms located in the Discovery Islands area.
- The nine peer-reviewed, scientific risk assessments concluded that the transfer of these pathogens pose, at most, a minimal risk to migrating Fraser River Sockeye salmon in the area. A summary of the findings and science advice has been posted on the DFO website. The timing of this publication was linked to the expiration date of the annual licences in the Discovery Islands.
- Following consultations with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands area, as announced on December 17, 2020, a decision was made to phase out existing salmon farming facilities in the area over an 18-month period (by June 30, 2022). No new fish of any size may be introduced into Discovery Islands facilities during this time and all farms must be free of fish by June 30, 2022.
- Consultations with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands area heavily informed the decision. This approach aligns with the provincial land tenure commitment that, effective June 2022, the Province will grant Land Act tenures only to fish farm operators who have negotiated agreements with the First Nation(s) in whose territory they propose to operate.
- DFO consulted with the Holmalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwiakah, Tla'amin, We Wai Kai, and Wei Wai Kum First Nations.
- On January 18, 2021, Mowi Canada West Inc., Cermaq Canada Ltd., Grieg Seafood B.C. Ltd., and 622335 British Columbia Ltd. filed applications for Judicial Review of the Minister’s decision on the intent to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands.
- Mowi has stated numerous times that a significant number of juvenile fish would be culled in relation to the Discovery Islands decision. For example, on February 24, 2021, Mowi signalled that it would begin to cull the 925,000 juvenile salmon at its Big Tree Creek Hatchery originally destined for Discovery Island facilities and in a May 7, 2021, press release, Mowi indicated that they were planning to cull an additional three million fish. They have also noted they have been laying off employees associated with its Discovery Islands operation. These were business decisions on the part of the company, and not an ordered destruction of fish by DFO, as DFO does not have this authority.
- Mowi currently holds 13 sites in the area, and has a total of 44 tenures in BC.
- The February 2021 report “Consequences of the decision to shut down salmon farming in the Discovery Islands” published by RIAS Inc., an independent economics consulting firm, examines the financial, economic and social consequences of the Discovery Islands announcement. The report indicates that more than 24 per cent of BC’s farmed salmon production is being shut down, and that potentially more than 1,500 people could lose their jobs in the near term. It also notes that potential losses to BC salmon farmers from having to euthanize 10.7 million young fish amount to over $170 million, and that salmon farming companies will lose almost $200 million in annual revenue.
- The report also highlights the ongoing ripple effects of the announcement across North Island communities and the impacts on future investment and BC’s recovery. For example, it indicates that planned investments of over $1.4 billion in the province in new technology and equipment, which would have generated an estimated $2.7 billion in annual economic output and 10,950 additional jobs by 2050, are now in jeopardy.
- The Government of Canada has a number of programs that support economic development, skills training, and employment assistance. Through its Workforce Development and Labour Market Development Agreements, the federal government provides provinces and territories with approximately $3 billion annually in funding to support skills training and employment assistance.
- On December 14, 2020, Parliamentary Secretary Beech commenced a series of engagements on the transition of net-pen aquaculture in BC. This engagement is now complete and his report to the Minister was published in July 2021.
- On April 5, 2021, the Federal Court granted an interlocutory injunction in favour of Mowi Canada West and 622335 British Columbia that prevents the Department from taking into account the December 16, 2020, policy that prohibits the transfer of fish to aquaculture facilities in the Discovery Islands. The injunction does not mean that the Department must allow the transfer of fish; however, all decisions on fish transfers must be made with an open mind, be based on relevant considerations, and cannot take into consideration the December 16, 2020, policy on fish transfers.
- Budget 2021 includes $101.4 billion over three years in proposed investments as part of the Government of Canada's growth plan that will create good jobs, and support a resilient and inclusive recovery. Key measures include supporting small and medium-sized businesses through several transformative programs, such as:
- Funding a new BC-focused agency with $553.1 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and with $110.6 million ongoing.
- On June 14, 2021, the Minister denied a request by Cermaq Canada to transfer fish into the Venture Point and Brent Island Discovery Islands sites and extend the marine finfish licences at these two sites.
- On May 3, 2021, Saltstream Engineering Ltd. applied to move Chinook salmon to their Doctor Bay facility. This application was denied by the Minister on June 30, 2021.
- On May 31, 2021, Mowi Canada West applied to move Atlantic salmon to their Phillips Arm site. This application was denied by the Minister on July 15, 2021.
- On June 18, 2021, Cermaq filed an injunction on the June 14, 2021, decision to deny a transfer application. It was heard on June 28, 2021, and dismissed by the Federal Court on July 2, 2021.
- On July 22, 2021, Saltstream Engineering Ltd. filed an application in the Federal Court with respect to the Minister’s denial of its May 3, 2021, transfer licence application – asking for an order quashing the decision and an order for the Minister to issue the licence or, in the alternative, render a new decision.
Aquaculture 2022 Marine Finfish Licence Reissuance
Sustainable and responsible management of our aquatic ecosystems, informed by sound science, is a priority for my department.
In June 2022, licences issued under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations to produce marine finfish in British Columbia (BC) will expire.
The Department has begun the process to engage the Province of BC, First Nations, industry, and environmental groups to inform updates to the conditions of licence and licence reissuance.
We will continue to work with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners on several initiatives to advance the sustainable management of aquaculture in Canada.
- In 2015, the Government introduced multi-year licensing for British Columbia (BC) aquaculture, and the majority of marine finfish (MFF) licences and associated conditions of licence were issued in 2016 for six-year terms, with expiry dates of June 30, 2022.
- The exceptions were 19 farms located in the Discovery Islands, which have been issued annual licences since 2010, during the time research was conducted on the risk of pathogen transfer from farms to migrating Fraser River sockeye. This research demonstrated no more than minimal risk to wild stocks.
- On December 17, 2020, those Discovery Island licences were renewed to align with the other licence expiries in BC. Following consultations with First Nations, the Minister indicated her intention not to renew those (in the Discovery Islands) after the June 2022 date.
- In 2018 the BC Government, First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago, and the aquaculture industry concluded a Letter of Understanding which will see the decommissioning of up to 17 sites by 2023.
- In 2019, the Province committed to a policy requiring that by June 30, 2022, for the purpose of future tenure renewals and new tenure approvals, MFF aquaculture applicants must have negotiated agreements with the First Nation(s) in whose territory the proposed tenure is located and that the applicant must satisfy Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that operations will not adversely impact wild salmon stocks (satisfied by having a valid DFO licence).
- DFO was not involved in the Broughton process, nor the BC provincial policy for future tenure renewals.
- The combination of decommissioning sites in the Broughton Archipelago and the Discovery Islands could result in a near 50 per cent reduction in salmon production in BC.
- Staff have begun engagement on the reissuance of conditions of licence for MFF licences and it is expected that there will be interest in this, particularly those conditions related to sea lice management.
- Departmental staff have also begun engagement on MFF licence reissuance. Officials are targeting completion of these consultations by March 2022. Decisions on the reissuance of MFF licences, with updated conditions of licence, will be required ahead of the June 30, 2022, expiry date.
- Of the 112 tenures currently leased for MFF aquaculture in BC, approximately 30 per cent have or will expire before June 30, 2022, with the remainder expiring afterwards.
Salmon Diseases and Parasites (sea lice, infectious salmon anemia)
Sea Lice in Canada
My department is committed to the conservation and protection of our wild salmon.
In BC the Department continues to put in place measures to ensure that sea lice from salmon farms present no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon.
On the east coast, my department will continue to work collaboratively with provincial partners in the management of aquaculture and sea lice issues.
The extensive body of literature on sea lice is constantly evolving. As new scientific information becomes available, DFO reviews and acts on the information as part of its adaptive management process.
Infectious Salmon Anaemia
Infectious salmon anaemia is a viral finfish disease which can cause high mortality in affected fish populations. The virus is not a risk to human health.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as the federal lead for the National Aquatic Animal Health Program, is responsible for management of federally regulated animal diseases like infectious salmon anaemia. This program is co-delivered with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
In December 2021, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s National Reference Laboratory for infectious salmon anaemia virus published a Short Communication about a new moderately contagious infectious salmon anaemia virus variant that was detected on the east coast.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires all strains of infectious salmon anaemia virus to be controlled in order to prevent the spread of the virus and maintain Canada’s trade position, so the discovery of this new variant will have minimal impact on this disease’s control program and will not change Canada’s international status.
- Sea lice are naturally occurring parasites that have lived in Canada’s coastal waters for thousands of years. While sea lice generally do not harm adult fish, they can harm small juvenile salmon as these can emerge from river systems when they are quite small and without complete scale development for protection.
- Farmed fish are free of sea lice when they enter the ocean but can pick them up in the marine environment. If not properly managed, sea lice levels will become elevated and wild juvenile salmon can be exposed to higher than natural levels during the spring out-migration period.
- Over the last couple of decades, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) scientists have worked to build understanding and knowledge about sea lice, their relationship to the marine environment and fish, along with improved understanding of treatments and methods used to reduce their abundance on farmed fish, to inform improvements in management measures.
- The extensive body of literature on sea lice is constantly evolving. The Department’s overall management of sea lice and fish health on farms is adaptive and revised as new evidence emerges.
- The Department requires sea lice management, treatment, and mitigation measures at farms when sea lice levels are high. In BC, these measures have been very effective; most years, more than 90 per cent of sites are below the regulatory thresholds for sea lice during the outmigration period (March 1 to June 30). Any evidence of population-level harm resulting from salmon farms would prompt the immediate revision, and potential suspension, of aquaculture licences to ensure the conservation of wild salmon stocks.
- On the east coast, where the provinces are the lead regulators, information on sea lice management practices is not readily available to DFO as sea lice monitoring is provincially mandated. Each province regulates the industry differently and relies on individual companies to submit management plans, which are not made public.
- DFO continues to fund research on alternative methods for the treatment of sea lice and on natural genetic resistance to sea lice infections.
Infectious salmon anaemia
- Infectious salmon anaemia is a reportable disease listed under the federal Health of Animals Act, promulgated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Infection with the virus can result in death rates of up to 90 per cent in the affected finfish populations. However, only some strains of the virus cause disease and potentially kill finfish. Most of the virus strains identified in the Atlantic region do not lead to disease or death.
- Outbreaks of this disease have been reported in Atlantic Canada on salmon fish farms since 1996. There have been concerns expressed in the past on the potential impact of these outbreaks on wild salmon stocks. To date, there have been no reports of any wild species of fish in Atlantic Canada being diseased.
- Although outbreaks of infectious salmon anemia occur in farmed Atlantic salmon, other fish species have been experimentally infected without showing clinical signs of the disease. Most Pacific salmon and rainbow trout are resistant to the disease.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) works in collaboration with the CFIA to deliver the National Aquatic Animal Health Program to protect Canada’s aquatic animal’s resources and productivity by reducing the potential for the introduction and spread of aquatic animal diseases. DFO provides the diagnostic testing, research and science advice in support of CFIA’s regulatory role.
- In December 2021, DFO’s National Reference Laboratory for infectious salmon anaemia virus published a Short Communication in the Journal of Fish Disease about a new moderately contagious infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV) variant that was grown in cell culture for the first time ever. The virus sample was obtained from a marine Atlantic salmon aquaculture site in Atlantic Canada through routine surveillance.
- The CFIA requires all strains of infectious salmon anaemia virus to be controlled in order to prevent the spread of the virus and to maintain Canada’s trade position, so the discovery of this new variant will have minimal impact on this disease’s control program and will not change Canada’s international aquatic animal health status, which declares it ISAV positive for the east coast.
- DFO and the CFIA are continuing to evaluate the variant.
Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) - other issues
Environmental responses- MSC Altair, Bligh Island Shipwreck and M/V Kingston
Grounding of MSC Altair
The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Canada’s Port Authorities, and the Maritime Industry work collaboratively to ensure safe and efficient navigation through Canadian waters. During an unprecedented wind event in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, the container ship MSC Altair broke free from the dock. These organizations responded immediately to ensure the crew’s safety, that there was no damage due to pollution, and to minimize any delay in port and transportation operations.
Sub Issue: National Strategy on Emergency Towing
Canadians expect a high level of prevention, preparedness and response to marine emergencies. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting mariners and the marine environment on the West Coast, including Indigenous coastal communities and surrounding waters. To continue to meet this commitment, Transport Canada and CCG are developing a long-term national approach for marine emergency towing known as the National Strategy on Emergency Towing, including recommendations on how to best meet emergency towing requirements on all coasts. The strategy will consider regional needs, the perspectives of Indigenous peoples, partners and stakeholders, and lessons learned from the Atlantic Eagle and Atlantic Raven, which are the two emergency towing vessels leased by the government and currently stationed off the coast of British Columbia.
Bligh Island Shipwreck
The safety of mariners and the protection of the marine environment are the top priorities for the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG).
The Bligh Island Shipwreck was assessed as a source of pollution, and the CCG took action to mitigate the impacts on the marine environment.
The CCG worked expeditiously to address the threat of pollution from this vessel and ensured an appropriate response to this incident, including on-water containment and collection of fuel, shoreline assessments, environmental monitoring, and operational planning.
Operations to mitigate the environmental impacts of the spill concluded in July 2021, and cost the CCG $31.6 million to complete.
During the eight-month environmental response operation, costs included: the mobilization of response resources; contracts awarded; containment, collection and disposal of pollutants; technical assessment of the wreck; bulk fuel removal; and demobilization.
The Government funded these pollution response operations because the shipwreck occurred in 1968, which exceeds the time limitation to claim response expenses against the vessel owner under Canada’s Marine Liability Act.
Motor Vessel (M/V) Zim Kingston
In this large-scale international response, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) worked closely with several partners, including other federal departments, the province, and indigenous communities among others.
The CCG and its partners responded quickly and efficiently to ensure the safety of the crew, responders, and the public while addressing potential impacts to the environment. This included working with the vessel owner to track, locate, and complete the clean-up of all containers and debris that washed ashore.
On December 3, the M/V Zim Kingston transited to the Port of Nanaimo to offload its cargo and underwent rigorous inspections.
Subsequently, the vessel owner contracted a firm to undertake an environmental risk assessment of the lost containers. CCG continues to monitor the situation and actively work with the vessel owner’s representative and partners to mitigate further damage to the environment.
- On November 24, 2021, the container vessel MSC Altair, while anchored in Prince Rupert Harbour, broke its lines due to an unprecedented wind event, then drifted across the harbour and ran aground;
- The ship requested a local pilot and tugs to assist.
- Less than two hours later, the Coast Guard Motor Life Boat “McIntyre Bay” reported that the vessel was refloated.
- The Coast Guard’s Emergency Towing Vessel Atlantic Eagle was tasked to assist the vessel from its position. The vessel reported to Coast Guard its intention to proceed to anchorage with the assistance of tugs, and therefore that the assistance of the Atlantic Eagle was not required.
- No pollution or mechanical issues were reported;
- With pilots onboard, and with the assistance of tug Saam Mississippi, the vessel waited the weather out and proceeded to anchorage hours later.
- Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is committed to increasing emergency tow capacity to aid vessels in distress and prevent potential marine incidents. Currently through the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is:
- Installing towing equipment on all major Canadian Coast Guard vessels.
- Leasing two offshore vessels capable of towing large ships in distress on the West Coast
- Engaging partners to develop a national strategy on emergency towing.
- The National Strategy on Emergency Towing (NSET) will be developed with Indigenous communities and local and national stakeholders on the West Coast and across Canada. It will include comprehensive analysis, both qualitative and quantitative, that will help inform the development of sustainable recommendations on the future of towing in Canada. The NSET has a target completion date of 2024-25.
Bligh Island Shipwreck
- In September 2020, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCCG) received reports of extensive sheening throughout the Zuciarte Channel on the West Coast of Bligh Island. With no known or reported source of pollution it was believed to be a bilge discharge originating from transiting vessels.
- Calls of oil pollution in the area continued to be reported, which led the CCG to investigate other possible sources of pollution. Several overflights were conducted, observing oil pollution on the water near the West Coast of Bligh Island.
- Further investigation identified the source of the pollution as the wreck of the Motor Vessel (M/V) Schiedyk, which sank on January 3, 1968. The vessel had just left Hay River, British Columbia and was carrying approximately 1000 tons of grain and pulp when it ran aground near Bligh Island. The vessel is believed to have been carrying up to 700 tonnes of Heavy Fuel Oil.
- Between December 4 - 6, 2020, there was an increase in the volume of pollution observed on the water near Bligh Island, leading the CCG to take immediate action to address the continuing threat of pollution from this sunken vessel.
- On December 9, 2020, a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) confirmed that the M/V Schiedyk was the source of the pollution. The ROV operations reported that the product was seeping from more than one location and that the vessel was resting in 350–400 feet of water.
- The sunken vessel is adjacent to a Marine Protected Area and Marine Provincial Park, and there are several fish farms nearby.
- The CCG response team and equipment were deployed to the site. Coast Guard contracted the Response Organization “West Coast Marine Response Corporation” (WCMRC) to deploy to the area, contain, and recover the pollutants leaking from the vessel.
- Recovery operations on site removed contaminants from the water’s surface to address the upwelling of Heavy Fuel Oil from the wreck.
- The CCG established a virtual Incident Command Structure to affect the response. This structure included a Unified Command comprised of the CCG, British Columbia, Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change Strategy and the Mowachat Muchalaht First Nation.
- On January 5, 2021, the bidding process was complete, and a contract was awarded for tug and barge services. Requests for Proposals (RFP) were posted for spill response support and an underwater technical assessment.
- The CCG required several contracts to support the response operation and technical expertise needed to do the complex bulk oil removal and remediation work on site.
- Given the age of the vessel, its degraded structural condition, and its recent shift in position, it was leaking Heavy Fuel Oil, creating a risk of a sudden and catastrophic release of pollutants and other onboard fuels.
- During the eight-month environmental response operations, CCG led on-water containment and collection of fuel, shoreline assessments, environmental monitoring, and operational planning activities.
- The CCG concluded its response operations in July 2021 and successfully removed 147 tonnes of pollutants from the vessel. Due to its deteriorated condition, the vessel was not removed from the marine environment; however, CCG is confident that response operations removed all pollution onboard the wreck.
- [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.]
- [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.]
- The Government paid for these pollution response costs because the vessel sank in 1968 and exceeded the time limit to claim expenses against the vessel owner under Canada’s Marine Liability Act.
- On October 22 - container ship M/V ZIM KINGSTON experienced a cargo shift and loss of containers overboard due to weather. The number of lost containers was initially estimated at 40 containers overboard. Coast Guard Marine Communication and Traffic Services (MCTS) took initial information from the ship. To ensure safety to other mariners, and Navigation Warning (NAVWARN) was broadcasted immediately to advise other vessels transiting the area of the floating hazard (containers lost). The ship was then provided direction to a safe anchorage at Constance Bank, British Columbia, and directed to create a passage plan.
- On October 23 - the M/V ZIM KINGSTON, at anchor on Constance Bank, BC with 21 people on board, reported a fire onboard within their cargo of containers. Coast Guard vessels Cape Calvert and Cape Naden responded. Coast Guard evacuated 16 crew off the ship. Remaining crew stayed to fight the fires.
- On October 23 - communication to local partners, Indigenous communities and stakeholders was done in accordance with Coast Guard’s Area Response Plans. A pre-determined distribution list, which includes Indigenous, Provincial and local governments, was used to communicate the original container loss, and the resulting fire onboard the ship.
- On October 23 - an Incident Command Post was stood up by Coast Guard to manage both the fire on the ship as well as the lost containers. Coast Guard initiated regular communication with the ship owner, who provided details on response intentions, contractors hired, and confirmed a request for coordinated support.
- On October 24 - two contracted offshore supply vessels with firefighting capability were hired by the ship owner to stabilize fires on the ship by watering vessel.
- On October 24 and 25 –Coast Guard and US Coast Guard attempted to track the containers but a storm made tracking challenging.
- On October 25 - salvage contractors were on scene but unable to board the ship due to weather and continued smoldering containers. The nature of the chemical in the containers that was on fire would have resulted in great fire / explosion with direct application of water. A strategy to allow containers to burn down proved effective.
- On October 26 - salvage contractors boarded the ship and began firefighting operations, working from container to container. This took several days. Air quality monitoring on shore continued to show results that did not elicit concerns.
- On October 27 - the crew returned to the ship and was able to safely access container bays to count containers. It was determined that 109 containers fell overboard versus the original 40 that was first reported.
- On October 27 - Coast Guard helicopter spotted four containers and debris on the beaches around Cape Scott, northern Vancouver Island.
- On October 28 – firefighting efforts continued; the contractor hired by the ship owner to clean up the containers and debris began to mobilize. Coast Guard continued to communicate and coordinate response efforts with ship owner and contractors.
- On October 29 – shore clean-up began. Coast Guard and Transport Canada National Arial Surveillance Plane overflights continued to look for more containers. The vessel owner’s Classification Society completed the vessel inspection required to allow for the ship to move once a berth was established.
- On October 30 – The marine salvage contractor, hired by the ship owner, transitioned from firefighting to container stabilization operations.
- On November 1 – Transport Canada inspectors boarded the M/V Zim Kingston. The Emergency Zone around Constance Bank anchorage was modified from 1 nautical mile to 0.5 nautical miles in order decrease impact on shipping activities.
- On November 3 – Transportation Safety Board inspectors boarded the ship. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), as well as local and municipal responders, reviewed air quality reports ashore, and reported their findings with no concerns. Further plume modelling did not indicate any chance of particulate matter reaching the shore, therefore, shore based air monitoring ceased.
- On November 4 – beach cleanup continued with identification of further areas of coastline impacted by debris.
- Between November 5 and 9, plans were being developed and finalized by the vessel owner to prepare to move the M/V Zim Kingston to a nearby Port (as yet undetermined) to unload its cargo and take on repairs. Discussions remained ongoing between Coast Guard, Transport Canada and the vessel owner on the timing and location of the M/V Zim Kingston’s port of call.
- Indigenous leaders were monitoring their territories and reporting on any potential debris or containers that come ashore from the M/V Zim Kingston. They actively patrolled beaches and participated in coordination calls with the Coast Guard to share information in a coordinated response.
- Multiple First Nations also contributed local knowledge by identifying their sensitive resources at risk. This helped the response efforts by enabling responders to prioritize their efforts to mitigate impacts to the environment.
- Under the Canadian Shipping Act, the owner is responsible for response and cleanup of the cargo spill, and under the Marine Liability Act and the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act the owner of the vessel is liable for costs, losses and damage resulting from the incident.
- The vessel owner contracted private industry, nonprofit organizations and First Nations communities for container and beach cleanup operations. Cleanup plans and environmental assessments were developed by the owner representative and approved by Unified Command. Coast Guard monitored and supported cleanup operations.
- Throughout November and December 2021, cleanup debris/garbage was removed from the area and transported for appropriate disposal/recycling.
- By December 15, 2021, containers and debris-impacted areas were fully remediated. 105 containers remain missing.
- On December 3, 2021, the M/V Zim Kingston transited to and was secured at anchorage in the Port of Nanaimo. The vessel was berthed at Delta Port World / Duke Point, at the Port of Nanaimo to begin offloading of its cargo on December 11, 2021.
- A sonar scan was completed by vessel owner on the Constance Bank Anchorage site on December 7, 2021. Results from the scan identified a structure that appeared to be human-made but they were unable to confirm if it is a container. The vessel owner retained a contractor to conduct a dive and/or Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) examination of the Constance Bank area. Results indicated that there are no containers in this area.
- On December 21, 2021 a fire broke out on the M/V ZIM KINGSTON during offloading operations, which was quickly extinguished by local authorities.
- The vessel is currently at anchorage in the Port of Nanaimo having completed offloading operations.
- In December 2021, the owner contracted a company to conduct an environmental risk assessment based on the containers that went overboard near Cape Flattery. Coast Guard Western Region has recently received the risk assessment report and is conducting a review and analysis with DFO Science and ECCC.
- Coast Guard continues to work with Incident Command Post Environmental Unit partners (DFO Science/ECCC) to develop Resources at Risk document and Mitigation Strategies.
- During the week of January 10, 2022, Coast Guard met with the owner representative regarding a sonar scan, to be conducted by the owner, around the Cape Flattery area.
- Planning assumptions regarding determining exact scan area, logistics, contingencies are being examined. Finding the appropriate weather window opportunity will play a prominent role in the planning.
- Coast Guard continues to monitor the situation, actively work with the vessel owner representative and partners to mitigate further damage to the environment.
Coast Guard response practices for the M/V Zim Kingston:
- A total of four Area Response Plans (ARP) were enacted in response to the incident. The plans cover the Georgia Strait, Juan de Fuca Strait, the Greater Vancouver Area and West Coast Vancouver Island. Plans were developed in collaboration with Transport Canada, ECCC, DFO Science and Ecosystems management, the province, industry (Response Organizations) and the communities who live within those geographic areas. Indigenous Communities make up the greatest part of that community representation and collaboration in the development of ARPs (see attachment for contact list).
- ARP serve to alert all response partners and communities in a geographic area that an incident has taken place and to set in motion all response partners activities during the initial phases of an incident response, essentially gathering partners into the Incident Command Post to bring their resources and knowledge to bare on the response.
- The response to the M/V Zim Kingston was led by a Unified Command, a joint decision body, which was comprised of representatives from the Coast Guard, the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, representatives of the owner of the M/V Zim Kingston, Beecher Bay First Nation and the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council.
- A large number of experts from First Nations, the Province BC, municipalities on Vancouver Island, the Government of Canada, the ship’s company, private industry and others worked within the Incident Command Post, in Unified Command, the Environmental Unit or in coordination positions.
- To reach as wide an audience as possible, Coast Guard used social media to alert the public of the unfolding incident, all on-going developments and to issue precautionary direction on what to do should a member of the public become aware of coast line debris.
Snuneymuxw First Nation engagement:
- Representatives of Snuneymuxw First Nation including the Chief Mike Wyse were consulted by Coast Guard officials at the outset of plans being developed to have the M/V Zim Kingston transit to the Port of Nanaimo. Given that the Port of Nanaimo and the lands and waters surrounding the port rest within the traditional waters and territory of Snuneymuxw First Nation, it was critical for Coast Guard to consult early and seek input from Snuneymuxw First Nation into the planning process to seek their support to enable the processing and unloading of cargo from the vessel.
- On November 17, 2021, having been engaged on the plan to offload the vessel at the Port of Nanaimo, the Snuneymuxw First Nation communicated to Coast Guard that they did not support the plans associated with transiting, offloading cargo and environmental monitoring the M/V Zim Kingston in their core marine territory, reiterating their traditional territorial and marine rights in the Nanaimo area. In respect of the Snuneymuxw stated concerns, Coast Guard and Transport Canada representatives felt it was important to wait until all risks were mitigated before supporting the move of the vessel
- Representatives of Duke Point Shipping Terminal (who operate within the Port of Nanaimo) supported by the Port of Nanaimo agreed to receive the M/V Zim Kingston and offload its cargo.
Under an existing protocol that is in place between Snuneymuxw First Nation and the Port of Nanaimo, the Port communicated its intentions to Snuneymuxw First Nation with respect to receiving the M/V Zim Kingston to offload cargo. An agreement was reached between both parties on December 2, 2021.
Container and Debris locations
- Palmerston Beach – one container and debris
- Shuttleworth and North Coast Shoreline - one container and debris
- Sea Otter Cove - San Josef Bay – one container and debris
- Raft Cove – one container and debris
- Guise Bay – debris
Pacheedaht First Nation Marine Safety Centre
The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and the Pacheedaht First Nation (PFN) are working together to advance the co-development of a multi-purpose marine response facility (Marine Safety Centre, or MSC) in Port Renfrew, located in PFN’s territory on western Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
The MSC will provide marine search and rescue and environmental response services, strengthening marine safety and response capacity in the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Collaborative discussions are ongoing to advance the establishment of the MSC. The Government of Canada remains committed to enhancing response capacity in the Port Renfrew region to keep mariners safe and protect the PFN’s territory and the coast of British Columbia.
- The Port Renfrew multi-purpose marine response facility (Marine Safety Centre, or MSC) began as a search and rescue (SAR) station in Port Renfrew approved under the 2016 Oceans Protection Plan.
- It evolved to become a Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) accommodation measure under the 2019 reconsideration of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project, envisioned to include environmental response services to address Pacheedaht First Nation’s (PFN) concerns over oil spills.
- Further to receiving approval to proceed with this project, and upon engaging PFN, PFN has been very clear that in addition to the TMX accommodation, the MSC must enable the much-needed economic development opportunities for the Nation that are needed to achieve reconciliation (e.g., tourism, employment, lease revenues). PFN is also seeking to regain control of and protect sacred burial caves that are historically and culturally significant to the Nation.
- In a letter to PFN dated August 12, 2019, the former Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the CCG confirmed the Department’s commitment to work with PFN to realize the shared vision for the MSC.
- A joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between PFN and CCG was signed on June 29, 2020, capturing the shared vision for the MSC and highlighting the relationship and partnership between the two organizations. The MOU also outlines a governance structure, roles, and responsibilities, and facilitates a consensus-based decision-making process as development of the MSC advances.
- The recent fire aboard the M/V Zim Kingston and subsequent loss of 109 cargo containers approximately 38 nautical miles west of the Juan de Fuca Strait entrance have caused PFN to press for a renewed focus to expedite the establishment the MSC.
- As the objectives of PFN may not be achievable through authorities received by CCG, CCG is working closely with other departments such as Natural Resources Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and with PFN to find ways to enable CCG to deliver on its commitments.
In May 2021, Canada announced it would be procuring two Polar Icebreakers – one to be built at Vancouver Shipyards, and the other at the to be determined third shipyard, pending completion of the selection process. The Request for Proposal process to qualify a third shipyard is being led by Public Services and Procurement Canada and is expected to conclude in 2022.
Progress has been made with regards to the Polar Icebreaker at Vancouver Shipyards. The ancillary contract was awarded in July 2021 and work to finalize the design and prepare for comprehensive construction engineering is well underway. Work on the other Polar Icebreaker will begin pending successful completion of the third yard selection process.
Once delivered, the Polar Icebreakers will help strengthen Coast Guard’s presence in the Arctic. Their enhanced capabilities will help to ensure safe marine shipping, promote economic growth and year-round high Arctic presence to support sovereignty and science.
- Engagement with the third yard to progress the second Polar Icebreaker project cannot begin until the qualification process is successful and an Umbrella Agreement is established with the shipyard. Given ongoing delays in the process, certain milestones within the project timeline are now at risk.
- The Umbrella Agreement with Vancouver Shipyards was amended to include the Polar Icebreaker on May 18, 2021, and was followed by the award of the Ancillary Contract on July 7, 2021. Definition work is progressing.
- A design refresh was completed by VARD Marine Inc. March 31, 2021.
- On May 6, 2021, it was announced that Canada would be procuring two Polar Icebreakers, one at Vancouver Shipyards and the other at the to be determined third NSS large shipyard.
- On May 22, 2019, it was announced that a long production run of up to 16 Multi-Purpose Vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard would replace the Polar Icebreaker in Vancouver Shipyards’ program of work.
- Budget 2009 allocated initial funding for the acquisition of a Polar Icebreaker to replace CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. The vessel design was completed in 2014-15 by VARD Marine Inc., but the project was put on hiatus following the decision to sequence the Joint Support Ship Project ahead of the Polar Icebreaker.
- Continuing progress on Coast Guard fleet renewal is a key mandate commitment; mandate letter includes direction to “continue working with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, with the support of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, to renew the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, advance the shipbuilding industry, including the process to add a third Canadian shipyard as a strategic partner to the National Shipbuilding Strategy, create middle class jobs and ensure Canada has the modern ships needed.” The procurement of the Polar Icebreakers is part of the Canadian Coast Guard Fleet Renewal Plan.
- The Polar Icebreakers will be modern, multi-purpose icebreakers capable of year-round operations in the Canadian Arctic. They will serve as the primary platform to provide science, community re-supply, maritime safety, security, and environmental response services in the area.
Covid-19 testing of crew members
Keeping our employees safe is an integral part of the organizational culture at the Canadian Coast Guard. This is especially true now in the midst of the COVID pandemic, as we continue to deliver the agency’s programs and support partners, while keeping our economy running through open and safe waterways.
This winter with the onset of Omicron, Coast Guard initiated mandatory rapid testing as part of its screening procedures, in consultation with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. This has allowed Coast Guard to balance crew safety and operational needs, and has enabled us to continue to deliver our programs.
Regular rapid test screening allows us to be alerted as soon as possible if an employee tests positive. This gives our staff more time to find a replacement crew member and reassign seagoing personnel, as necessary, to meet our critical Program priorities such as Search and Rescue and Icebreaking.
Regional implementation plans contain specific details regarding distribution of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE), testing coordination, as well as return to work conditions. These plans align with the various provincial, territorial, local and federal health and safety requirements.
- COVID-19 testing of crew members is one of several measures implemented to keep employees safe and mitigate impacts on Coast Guard program delivery. Other measures include masking, physical distancing to the extent possible, and ongoing screening and temperature checks at Coast Guard installations and on Coast Guard vessels.
- With the onset of Omicron before the holiday season, Coast Guard initiated mandatory rapid testing of Pandemic Critical Personnel as part of its screening procedures.
- Pandemic Critical Employees are personnel, shore-based or seagoing, who are required to work on-site as opposed to at home to execute their assigned duties.
- Employees able to execute their daily tasks from home are directed to do so and do not require rapid tests.
- The implementation of rapid testing of crew members was initiated through the Commissioner’s National Order published on 24 Dec 2021.
- Detailed COVID-19 screening procedures are published in Circular 21-2021 COVID-19 - Health Screening Questionnaire and COVID-19 Testing Protocol for Canadian Coast Guard.
- National Standard Operating Procedure 505 outlines the direction for seagoing personnel relating to COVID-19, and National Standard Operating Procedure 506 outlines the equivalent direction for shore-based personnel.
- Over 4000 employees have been identified as Pandemic Critical; approximately 3000 are seagoing crew members.
- Over 65,000 rapid tests are used each month for crew members. Coast Guard is currently using three types of rapid tests: the self-administered rapid antigen tests Abbott Panbio and Quidel Quickvue, and the technician-administered Abbott ID NOW molecular test used for pre-boarding screening.
- Coast Guard reports weekly on test statistics to Health Canada.
- The National Emergency Coordination Centre (NECC) coordinates COVID-19 measures for the Coast Guard, and works in collaboration with Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada and Public Service Procurement Canada to procure required rapid tests and Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE).
My department is aware of the concerns brought forward by property owners in Varennes, Vercheres and Contrecoeur along the St. Lawrence River.
While protecting structures against shore erosion does not fall under the purview of my department’s mandate, the Government of Canada (GoC) supports initiatives aimed at preventing shoreline erosion. For example, the GoC is working closely with the commercial shipping industry on the St. Lawrence River to monitor and promote voluntary speed reductions for vessels operating in erosion-sensitive zones.
The Attorney General of Canada was served with a notice of application to certify a class action on January 29, 2020. The Superior Court of Quebec authorized the class action on August 17, 2021. The Canadian Coast Guard has received the judgment from the Superior Court of Quebec and will take the necessary time to review this decision.
- Shoreline protection structures were built under a former Government of Canada (GoC) program that aimed to protect the shoreline from erosion. The program was initially administered by Public Works, Transport Canada (TC) and finally the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) until it was abolished in 1997 under Program Review. It was determined that erosion was not a core safety mandate for CCG.
- There were approximately 2,700 structures built under the program with 2,450 structures built along the St. Lawrence River.
- The structures were built for the sole benefit of the landowners and property owners, who are responsible for the associated upkeep and ongoing maintenance.
- The GoC has received numerous public inquiries and increasing media attention, including formal petitions, requests for information from the Library of Parliament and written letters from politicians, municipalities and members of the public.
- The GoC supports initiatives that prevent shoreline erosion. For example, the St. Lawrence Action Plan (SLAP), a joint initiative between the GoC and Quebec, monitors voluntary speed reduction measures in four erosion-sensitive zones between Sorel and Montréal. SLAP works with the commercial shipping industry to promote voluntary speed reductions and monitor compliance through TC’s monthly reports.
- Shoreline erosion is not uniquely caused by passing ships. It is a complex phenomenon caused by many natural factors including ice, waves caused by wind, currents and tides.
CCGS Hudson decommissioning
CCGS Hudson suffered a significant equipment failure in November 2021, and is no longer economical to repair and operate. The ship will be decommissioned.
CCGS Hudson was a key platform for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s oceanographic science program.
My officials are seeking to leverage vessel charters and leases to cover as much of CCGS Hudson’s planned science missions as possible until the new Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel is delivered in 2025.
Other important science missions will be covered to the greatest extent possible by existing Canadian Coast Guard vessels, including the employment of the recently constructed Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels.
Replacement Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel
The National Shipbuilding Strategy is delivering new vessels to Coast Guard so that they can keep our waters safe and secure. However, despite progress being made and new ships delivered, there have nonetheless been challenges over the first decade of the Strategy.
Initial schedules for National Shipbuilding Strategy projects were generally overly optimistic. The replacement Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel project has suffered from a number of delays. Most recently, delivery of the ship has been pushed back from 2024 to 2025.
The Canadian Coast Guard continues to work closely with all National Shipbuilding Strategy partners to find ways to minimize delays in the delivery of new ships wherever possible.
As the current fleet continues to age, the potential for service capability gaps increases. To mitigate this risk, Coast Guard has implemented a suite of interim measures, such as the comprehensive Vessel Life Extension program and the purchase of four commercial icebreakers, to maintain service levels until the new ships are delivered.
- CCGS Hudson, the oldest vessel in Coast Guard’s fleet, suffered a failure to her starboard propulsion motor on November 5, 2021. Repairs to the motor were attempted, but it required removal from the vessel to enact a feasible repair. Due to the time and cost involved, in conjunction with upcoming regulatory maintenance, it was determined that the ship is beyond economical repair and further investment would not allow it to return to reliable service.
- CCGS Hudson is expected to be replaced by the Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV), which is currently under construction at Vancouver Shipyards as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy. Delivery is currently expected in 2025. Once delivered, the ship is planned to deliver the bulk of the oceanographic science program in Atlantic Canada.
- The OOSV project has suffered from delays throughout design, engineering and construction. Most recently, the planned delivery date of 2024 was pushed back several months into 2025. Covid-19 related pandemic impacts have contributed to the schedule delay. Coast Guard continues to closely monitor progress at the shipyard.
- The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is working to address the capability gap. Options are being considered, such as chartering or leasing other research science vessels to cover as much of CCGS Hudson’s planned programming as possible, while remaining essential services will be covered by the existing fleet and other technologies.
- CCGS Hudson has been in service for 59 years. It was a key platform for Fisheries and Oceans Canada oceanographic science in Atlantic Canada. The science program typically runs from April through December, and is comprised of key missions such as oceanographic monitoring and research, seabed geoscience, marine mammal research, and research activities related to oil spill response and micro-plastics.
Implications of North Atlantic Right Whales (NARW) Protection Measures on the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Operations
CCG vessels have been directed to not exceed a sailing speed of nine knots within the NARW dynamic shipping zones, lower than the ten knots requirement to ensure compliance and lead by example.
The CCG will only exceed speed restrictions when responding to an emergency call, such as a search and rescue incident.
The safety of mariners is the CCG’s top priority. The CCG provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week maritime search and rescue (SAR) services within Canadian waters.
The CCG uses electronic aids to navigation to delineate the boundaries of Transport Canada’s Dynamic Shipping Zones and NARW protection measures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
CCG uses navigational warnings to inform mariners of the status of speed restriction zones and monitors vessel traffic in specific seasonal and mandatory speed restriction zones in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Vessels greater than 13 meters in length found travelling at a speed greater than ten knots will be contacted by the CCG, informing them of a speed contravention.
- The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) leads the maritime component of the search and rescue (SAR) system, as well as monitors distress communications through the marine communications and traffic services (MCTS) centers and relays information to rescue centers for action.
- Speed restriction zones are outlined in monthly Notices to Mariners (NOTMARs), which are published by the CCG. The status of these zones is broadcasted through Navigational Warnings (NAVWARNs), which are published by the CCG's MCTS Centers.
- The CCG operates three Joint Rescue Coordination Centers with the Canadian Armed Forces in Halifax (Nova Scotia), Trenton (Ontario), and Victoria (British Columbia), which are manned 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
- Certain CGG SAR stations are located in zones with North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW) measures requiring reduced vessel speeds. Although reduced speed measures are important, there is an impact on the CCG’s ability to ensure the readiness of its assets in these areas.
- CCG’s MCTS communicates proactively and regularly with mariners about measures to reduce the risk of vessel strikes with NARW and monitors’ mariners’ compliance with voluntary measures, as directed by Transport Canada.
Sentry Barge Grounding in English Bay
On November 15, 2020, due to an atmospheric river incident, the Canadian Coast Guard was notified and responded, along with other emergency response partners, to a barge that had drifted across English Bay and ran aground at Sunset Beach, Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Canadian Coast Guard conducted a pollution assessment of the barge and determined that it did not threaten pollution.
To date, the barge remains aground despite numerous attempts by the owner to repair and salvage it.
Given the extensive damage to the barge, working with Transport Canada, the owner took measures to deconstruct the barge on-site to ensure it's safely removed from the environment.
Salvage operations are anticipated to take 10-12 weeks and are estimated to be completed by spring 2022. The project is currently in the permitting and planning phase. Once approvals have been received, a date will be confirmed to begin dismantling the barge.
- On November 15, at 14:59 PST, Victoria Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) was notified of a chip barge aground at Sunset Beach, Vancouver, British Columbia. The barge was anchored in English Bay, and it is assumed to have broken free during stormy weather and strong winds. The Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) Environmental Response (ER) conducted a pollution assessment of the barge and determined that the barge was empty and had no hydrocarbons on board. The barge did not pose a threat to pollute. As such, the federal lead agency for the incident is Transport Canada (TC).
- The barge owners, Sentry Marine, reported sustained damage to the hull with water ingress located in one of 12 compartments. Numerous attempts to repair and de-water the barge were unsuccessful. The owner has decided to deconstruct the vessel, an operation that is anticipated to take 10-12 weeks and to be completed this spring.
- Coast Guard, TC, the City of Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver, and First Nations worked collaboratively with the owner to ensure appropriate measures were in place to protect the safety of the public and the surrounding environment.
- If required, the Coast Guard stands at the ready to support our partners by providing on-water emergency zone safety during barge recovery operations.
Fisheries - other issues
Arctic surf clam
Issuance of a Fourth Arctic Surf Clam Licence
No decision has yet been made on the issuance of an additional licence in the Arctic surf clam fishery, as the Department continues to assess the need to broaden the access in this fishery.
It is important to note that the recent sale of Clearwater Seafoods Partnership Ltd. has resulted, amongst others, in the reissuance of the three existing offshore Arctic surf clam licences to FNC Quota, a company wholly owned by First Nations communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
2022 Arctic Surf Clam Quota Allocation
In the meanwhile, to support a predictable fishery, the employees, and the communities, the entire 2022 total allowable catch (TAC) for Arctic surf clam was made available to the three licences held by FNC Quota Limited Partnership at the start of the fishing season. This is in line with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) objective to allow for the economic benefits to remain in coastal communities.
- The offshore Arctic surf clam fishery is worth approximately $100 million annually. It is estimated that the fishery employs 452 individuals in clam operations across Atlantic Canada, with 187 employees on land and 265 vessel-based.
- In 2017, notably as part of its efforts to advance Indigenous reconciliation, the Department sought to reconfigure access within the existing total allowable catch (TAC) by creating a fourth licence that would be issued to an Indigenous entity in Atlantic Canada and/or Quebec. The three existing licences were held directly or indirectly by one company, Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated.
- In 2018, the Department launched an Expression of Interest process to identify a holder for the fourth Arctic surf clam licence. The process was cancelled later and no further process was undertaken.
- Starting in 2018, 25 per cent of the TAC has been set aside at the beginning of each fishing season to provide for this potential new entrant. However, in the absence of a fourth licence, the Department has continued to allocate the full TAC across the three existing licences annually.
- In March 2019, Clearwater Seafoods announced that it had entered into an agreement with 14 Mi’kmaq communities (13 in Nova Scotia and one in Newfoundland and Labrador), regarding the possible fourth licence.
- The agreement provides for revenue sharing, employment and training, and development for the Indigenous participants. The agreement provides that the Indigenous communities would retain control of the rights and privileges conferred under the licence, and contemplates the use of Clearwater’s sale and distribution system for the fish caught under the fourth licence.
- In 2021, following the sale of Clearwater Seafoods, the three existing Arctic surf clam licences were reissued to FNC Quota Limited Partnership (FNC Quota), wholly-owned and controlled by seven Atlantic Mi’kmaq First Nations. The new ownership of Clearwater has committed to preserve the agreement with the 14 Mi’kmaq communities regarding the possible fourth licence.
- To support a predictable fishery for the new licence holders (FNC Quota), the employees, and the communities, the full 2022 TAC has been released and attributed to the three existing licences at the start of the fishing season.
The February 2021 stock assessment determined that the Atlantic mackerel stock biomass is at a new, historic low and fishing mortality has a significant influence on stock status.
We recognize the economic importance of the mackerel fishery to harvesters in Atlantic Canada and Quebec and I am committed to managing this fishery to ensure the long term sustainability of the stock for future generations.
Fishery management decisions are informed by scientific evidence and made in full consultation with stakeholders.
2022 Total Allowable Catch
The significant reduction in 2021 total allowable catch was a necessary step towards rebuilding the stock where the biomass is at a new historical low.
We are committed to a precautionary approach to manage this stock.
We will consult with Indigenous partners and stakeholders through the Atlantic Mackerel Advisory Committee process before any decisions are made for the 2022 fishery.
- Atlantic mackerel is an important forage species and plays a critical role in the marine ecosystem. It occupies central positions in aquatic food webs and variations in abundance can affect both predators and prey.
- Atlantic mackerel is a popular and an important commercial, recreational, and bait fishery, used to provide bait for other fisheries such as lobster, snow crab, various groundfish, and tuna throughout the Atlantic regions.
- The most recent Atlantic mackerel stock assessment took place in winter 2021. The spawning stock biomass is the lowest ever observed and has been in or near the Critical Zone for the past decade
- The exploitation rate is above the reference level and the fishery is now mostly targeting young fish aged 2-5 years old, whereas mackerel can live up to 20 years old. There have been no signs of any notable recruitment events in recent years.
- In recent years, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has initiated a number of management measures to support Atlantic mackerel stock rebuilding including a 50 per cent reduction in total allowable catch in 2021 relative to 2020; enhanced measures to protect spawners; improvements in catch monitoring and reporting; and, introduced new regulatory amendments that set close times and catch limits for the recreational fishery, as well as size limits for both commercial and recreational fishing to help protect juvenile fish.
- DFO also published the Atlantic Mackerel Rebuilding Plan in 2020 with a short-term objective of maintaining a positive growth in spawning stock biomass. Based on recent science, this objective for rebuilding the stock is not being met.
- On May 21, 2021, the Minister set commercial TAC at 4,000 tonnes. In order to allow all regions to have access to the resource and to take into account the temporal migration of mackerel through Canadian waters, the TAC was divided into two equal parts. The first 2,000 tonnes was available at the opening of the fishery. The fishery closed on July 24 when Atlantic mackerel landings reached 2,000 tonnes. The second portion was released on August 15 to allow regions that have access to the resource later in the season a potential opportunity to fish. Based on preliminary data, total landings of Atlantic mackerel were 4,380 tonnes in 2021.
- A TAC of 4,000 tonnes in 2021 provided a -64 per cent chance of stock growth, while also supporting the many harvesters and communities in Atlantic Canada and Quebec who rely on mackerel. The significant reduction in TAC was a necessary step towards rebuilding the stock.
- The Atlantic Mackerel Advisory Committee, comprised of Indigenous groups, harvesters, processors, environmental non-government organizations, scientists, and provinces, met on February 2, 2022, to discuss management measures for the 2022 season.
Herring is a forage species that serves as a source of food for many species and plays a critical role in our ecosystems. The Department will continue to make decisions based on the best available science.
Based on the latest science assessment, the Spring herring stock has been in the Critical Zone of the precautionary approach since 2002 with no sign for improvement, while the Fall herring stock has decreased and remains in the cautious zone since 2017.
The Department recognizes the importance of the Atlantic herring fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. I am committed to managing this fishery to promote the long-term sustainability of the stock for future generations.
2022 Total Allowable Catch
Consultations on Spring herring took place in November 2021 via the Gulf Small Pelagics Advisory Committee. Input from stakeholders was provided following this meeting and I am considering recommendations while being mindful of the critical state of this stock.
Indigenous partners and stakeholders will be consulted on the Fall herring stock through the same advisory committee at the end of March 2022, with a decision planned for the spring/summer of 2022.
- Atlantic herring in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (SGSL) is comprised of two distinct stocks: spring spawning and fall spawning components. These two components are managed independently with separate total allowable catch (TAC) and management measures for their respective fisheries.
- In 2020, herring landings in the 4T Gulf fishery were valued at $11,079,936. Within the Gulf Region, herring is the third most landed species after Snow crab and lobster, accounting for an average of approximately 30 per cent of total landed volume within the region over the past five years. The Gulf Region’s spring fishery is mainly sold commercially or kept as bait while its fall fishery is used to produce roe, smoked products, filets, and sardines.
- Since 2002, the spring herring stock component has been in the critical zone of the Precautionary Approach (PA) Framework, and TAC was 2,000 tonnes annually from 2010 to 2017 with catches being in the range of 1,000 tonnes each year. In 2018, the interim TAC decreased to 500 tonnes (no final TAC announced) and 2019 TAC was set at 1,250 tonnes with catches of 1,047 tonnes. The TAC was reduced to 500 tonnes in 2020 with catches of 713 tonnes, including 264 tonnes landed as bycatch during the seiner fall fishery.
- The spring commercial TAC was set at 500 tonnes for 2021 (status quo) and approximately 327 tonnes were landed. This includes six tonnes of spring spawner bycatch caught during the fall seiner fishery. New management measures were implemented in 2021 to keep the level of spring bycatch caught by this fleet within their spring spawner allocation. An additional 95 tonnes were landed in the bait fishery.
- A spring herring rebuilding plan working group was created in 2018. Meetings occurred in December 2018 and in February 2019. The plan is still being developed.
- The latest stock assessment, completed in March 2020, showed that the fall herring stock component in the SGSL has decreased and remained in the cautious zone of the PA framework since 2017. Catch levels must be set in order to encourage stock recovery back to the healthy zone of the PA. The TAC was reduced to 22,500 tonnes in 2019 and landings reached 15,544 tonnes.
- A fall TAC of 12,000 tonnes was announced in 2020, which represents a decline of 47 per cent over 2019 (22,500 tonnes). An over-allocation was established by using 18,000 tonnes as a catch reference based on current fleet shares in order to provide the opportunity for fish harvesters to land the full TAC. The fishery closed on November 4, 2020 when the quota was reached (12,044 tonnes). The seiners’ fleet (>65 feet), who normally start fishing later in the season, managed to only catch 17 per cent of their allocation before the fishery was closed.
- The 2021 TAC was maintained at the 2020 level of 12,000 tonnes and by using the same over-allocation approach (18,000 tonnes used as a catch reference based on fleet shares). Landings for the inshore fleet reached 10,964 tonnes (79 per cent of the TAC). The purse seine fleet only landed nine tones (one trip).
- The stock suffers from low recruitment, high natural mortality, declining weight-at-age, and continued environmental change. Reducing fishing mortality will slightly reduce the probabilities of declines in the short and long term projections.
Elvers: Anticipated Unlicensed Fishing in Spring 2022
The management of all fisheries is undertaken with conservation as the primary objective. Given the conservation concerns associated with American eel, an increase to the Total Allowable Catch in the elver fishery is not being considered at this time.
My department will continue to carefully monitor the elver fishery and take measures necessary to ensure the conservation of the American eel, and a sustainable and orderly fishery.
Strengthened management measures were introduced for the 2021 season, following consultations with Indigenous communities and engagement with the commercial industry.
If pressed on the Fisheries Management Order that prohibited fishing for elvers in 2020
The commercial elver fishery is a directed fishery for juvenile eels and must be managed in a manner focused on conservation.
In 2020, fisheries management orders were implemented to support the proper management and control of the elver fishery. These orders resulted in closure of the fishery for the season, effective April 27, 2020.
Efforts to support the sustainability of this species are ongoing, which includes a review of the Department’s current management of the American eel fishery.
Listing under the Species at Risk Act
Following the recommendation made by COSEWIC in 2012 that American eel be listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act, the Government of Canada is analyzing the possible listing of American eel.
This is a very complex decision, with many social, cultural, and economic implications.
Reconfiguring access to further implement treaty rights
The Department is currently assessing all options, including voluntary relinquishment, to build on progress made to date in support of rights-based fishery access for First Nations.
- American eel is currently being considered for listing as a threatened species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). If listed, under SARA automatic prohibitions would come into play: 1) against killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking an individual; and, 2) against possessing, collecting, buying, selling or trading them. In addition, recovery planning requirements would apply, and (once critical habitat is identified) a ministerial order would be required to trigger a further prohibition against critical habitat destruction.
- The Department conducted extensive consultations on potential impacts of a possible listing, and has been conducting socio-economic, recovery potential, and other analyses to inform listing advice to the Minister, which would then inform a recommendation to the Governor in Council.
- If American eel were to be listed, exemptions to SARA prohibitions could only be considered if information was available that indicated that the activity would not jeopardize survival and recovery of the species. However, it is important to note that commercial fisheries could not, in effect, be exempted from application of the prohibitions in this way because exemptions can only be applied to federally-permitted activities, which do not include sale of caught fish. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) authorizes a commercial elver (eel under 10 cm) fishery in portions of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
- All food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) licences in the Maritimes Region include a minimum size for American eel. Therefore elver fishing is not permitted under an FSC license, nor is sale of fish permitted under an FSC license.
- The elver fishery is managed by the Maritimes Region with a total allowable catch (TAC) for the fishery and at a site-specific level with river catch limits set for each fishing location (rivers, streams, brooks) found in a commercial licence.
- From 2016 to 2020, increasing levels of unauthorized fishing for elvers was reported and observed by Fishery Officers in the Maritimes Region. The fishery is very lucrative, with recent prices exceeding $5000 per kg in some recent years, and can be undertaken at the riverside with minimal equipment.
- In April 2020, the Department became aware of significant fishing activity that was not associated with the regulated commercial fishery. The number of fishers outside the commercial fishery neared the number of participants authorized in the commercial fishery.
- Fishing disputes and threats of violence were reported to DFO Conservation and Protection and local police.
- In 2020, DFO took action through the issuance of a Fisheries Management Orders were signed by the Minister closing the elver fishery due to threats to conservation and the proper management and control of the fishery. The Minister renewed the Fisheries Management Order, effective June 11 for an additional 45 days, due to the continued belief that threats to conservation of eel and the proper management of the elver fishery were still present at the end of the initial 45 day period.
- DFO staff are currently reviewing the management of the American eel fishery, including elver harvesting activities. In 2021, the Department has implemented a minimum size limit (>10cm) for American eel in FSC licences in DFO’s Maritimes Region, which prohibits FSC fishing for elvers.
- Assertions of rights-based fishing were reported in the Maritimes Region in 2021 and were subject to enforcement response in some cases. A total of 47 people were arrested or investigated for unauthorized elver fishing in 2021, and a total of 127 kg of unauthorized elver were seized along with vehicles and other equipment. These files were turned over to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) for their review and decision as to whether to proceed to court.
- Unauthorized elver fishing is anticipated to occur at similar or greater levels again during 2022 fishing season (mid-March to July) if there is no meaningful progress made to secure access to this resource for First Nations with active interests in fishing elver in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.
- DFO has initiated a process to consider voluntary relinquishment of commercial access to facilitate moderate livelihood access.
- This process is being lead by Indigenous Fisheries Management (Maritimes Region).
- DFO has received a request to consult on Moderate Livelihood Fishing Plans for elver from the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office, on behalf of three Nova Scotia First Nations.
- The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick has submitted a proposal that includes commercial access to elver, and aquaculture with the intention to reintroduce access to support FSC fisheries for adult eel.
- On Tuesday, April 13, 2021, the then Minister communicated with media that negotiations go beyond just lobster and includes all species. Further, she stated that DFO will continue to work with communities via negotiations to see if there is a way to exercise that right.
Fraser river steelhead trout
The Government of Canada values working with the Province of British Columbia (BC), First Nations, and stakeholders on the complex issues concerning Interior Fraser River Steelhead trout, including the Thompson and Chilcotin populations.
In August 2021, the 2019-2021 Provincial Action Plan and Activities Report was released by the Province of BC which encompasses the 2019 BC-DFO Action Plan and provides an update on the activities taken to reverse the decline of Interior Fraser Steelhead.
As part of the Action Plan implementation and in coordination with the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative, DFO has continued to implement significant restrictions in commercial salmon fisheries where Steelhead trout could be intercepted as bycatch.
- In January 2018, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed Steelhead Trout (Thompson River population and Chilcotin River population) as endangered on an emergency basis. Government of Canada (GoC) decided against listing these populations under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in July 2019. In lieu of listing under SARA, GoC developed a joint Steelhead Action Plan with the Province of British Columbia to protect the populations.
- The action plan is undergoing implementation.
- In November 2020, COSEWIC reassessed the Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead populations and confirmed their status as endangered. This assessment has initiated a new process that is being undertaken by DFO to provide advice to the Governor in Council on whether or not to list these populations under SARA.
- DFO is working with the Province of British Columbia on how to jointly approach the new listing process. Listing of Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead would necessitate very broad restrictions and fishery closures along the Fraser River Steelhead migratory route that would have highly significant impacts on Indigenous communities and on recreational and commercial salmon fisheries.
- Steelhead populations are managed jointed by the Province of British Columbia and the Department; the Province is responsible for freshwater non-salmon recreational fisheries while DFO maintains responsibility for all salmon fisheries (First Nations, commercial and recreational).
- The Government of Canada is working jointly with the Province of British Columbia and Fraser River First Nations to address key issues affecting Steelhead productivity that fall within provincial jurisdiction (land management, forestry, agricultural practices and water usage).
Northern cod management plan
Our government recognizes the cultural and economic importance of the 2J3KL (Northern) cod stock to fishers and communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Northern cod management plan is informed by annual stock assessments and engagement with stakeholders through a groundfish advisory process. The stock is currently under moratorium, and access is limited to inshore harvesters through a stewardship fishery. After extensive engagement with stakeholders a rebuilding plan for Northern cod was implemented in December 2020. The Rebuilding Plan includes a Harvest Decision Rule (HDR) that calculates the Maximum Authorized Harvest (MAH) for the stewardship fishery.
Timing of decision
I will take a decision on the 2022 Management Plan by the end of May. This decision will be informed by the latest available science advice and will consider input received from stakeholders.
- A 2J3KL Northern Cod Rebuilding Plan, including Harvest Decision Rule, was implemented in December 2020.
- In 2021, a full assessment on the Northern cod stock determined that the stock remains in the critical zone with Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) estimated at 411,000t and 52 per cent of the Limit Reference Point (LRP). SSB has been at about the same level since 2017.
- Applying the HDR in 2021 resulted in a Maximum Authorized Harvest for the Inshore Stewardship Fishery at 12,999t.
- A decision on the 2022 Management Plan will be required by the end of May and will be informed by the latest available science advice and stakeholder views sought through the Department’s consultative advisory process (i.e. 2+3KLMNO Groundfish Advisory Committee).
- Industry has raised concerns regarding the validity of the LRP; however, it was reviewed in 2019, was determined to be valid and remains unchanged. In addition, they cite seal predation as negatively impacting the recovery of cod. The Department is currently engaged in ongoing work to study the impacts of predation on cod.
- In April 2021, the Department committed that the first 115,000 t of Northern (2J3KL) cod will be allocated to the inshore sector and Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador when a total allowable catch (TAC) is established (i.e. re-opening of a full commercial fishery). This commitment is being reflected in the 2+3KLMNO Groundfish Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP). The offshore sector has expressed concerns and assert that the commitment is for priority access, not exclusive access, and continue to cite its historical offshore access.
Unit 1 Redfish
The Unit 1 Redfish fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence has been under moratorium since 1995. In recent years, the stock shows signs of recovery and a commercial fishery can be considered.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is currently undertaking consultations with Indigenous groups and other stakeholders on an access and allocation regime for this fishery.
No decision has been made on access and allocations and I will consider all relevant information with conservation being my top priority.
Consultations - Access to Redfish
Our government understands the importance of the fishing industry to the Atlantic provinces and Quebec.
Given changes that have occurred since the moratorium in 1995, the Department is currently consulting with Indigenous groups and other stakeholders on whether the access and allocation key at the time of the moratorium requires any modifications.
We are committed to taking the time necessary to collect views before moving ahead with a commercial fishery in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence for Redfish.
The biomass of Redfish in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence has increased in recent years, and a commercial fishery can now be considered.
DFO has been working with the Redfish Advisory Committee, Indigenous peoples, scientists, stakeholders, provinces and non-governmental stakeholders to consider an appropriate access and allocation key for a post-moratorium commercial fishery in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
While conservation of the stock and its continued recovery are paramount, some other challenges to a potential post-moratorium fishery include current market conditions, redfish size, and conservation concerns of bycatch species.
- There are two species of redfish, Sebastes mentella and Sebastes fasciatus, managed as one biological stock.
- The one stock is managed in two management units, Unit 1 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Unit 2 in the Laurentian Channel.
- Unit 1 has been under a commercial moratorium since 1995. An annual 2,000t index fishery has been in place since 1999. The index fishery allows for the continued collection of fishing and biological data.
- Redfish species in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been experiencing significant growth in biomass as a result of three strong recruitment year classes, born in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
- The 2018 Management Strategy Evaluation and the 2020 Stock Assessment put Sebastes mentella in the healthy zone, and Sebastes fasciatus in the cautious zone, up from previous designations of critical zone in Unit 1 where it had been for approximately two decades.
- In 2018 the Minister approved a two year experimental fishery for the purpose of testing gear to minimize capture of undersized redfish (<22cm) and bycatch, and to collect data on redfish species identification and reproduction.
- The experimental fishery was continued in 2020 and 2021. Catches have remained below 650t each year of the experimental fishery.
- For the 2021 experimental season, 13 proposals were accepted from across Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
- The results from the experimental projects aims to inform management strategies for a future commercial redfish fishery.
- A new redfish stock assessment is planned for February 2022. The Department anticipates both stocks will be in the healthy zone.
- The Department launched pre-consultations in January 2021 to receive input on how consultations for determining access and allocation for a post-moratorium redfish fishery should be conducted.
- The Department met with the Redfish Advisory Committee (RAC), which includes Indigenous groups, non-Indigenous fish harvesters, processors, provincial governments, and non-governmental organizations.
- The views received following the January meeting formed the basis of the consultation questionnaire that was shared at the September 2021 RAC meetings.
- The deadline for submitting the consultation questionnaires was originally November 15th, but was extended to November 29th, 2021 in response to requests made by participants of the RAC.
- A second RAC meeting was held November 3rd for Indigenous participants, and November 4th for all RAC participants in order to provide an opportunity for interested parties to submit their views orally in addition to submitting the consultation questionnaire.
- All views received at the November RAC meetings and the electronic submissions will be shared once compiled and organized.
Departmental scientists have indicated that the biomass observed since 2017 in the Estuary, Sept-Îles, Anticosti and Esquiman areas is very low and compared to the values of the early 1990s. Warming of deep waters and predation by redfish appear to be important factors in the decline of Northern shrimp.
The Department is committed to work with industry and Indigenous groups on challenges and ongoing adaptation that fishery sector is facing due to climate and ecosystem changes, including a review of the precautionary approach for this fishery.
- The shrimp fishery in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence takes place in four areas: the Estuary (zone 12), Sept-Îles (zone 10), Anticosti (zone 9) and Esquiman (zone 8). Fishers from New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec are participating. Indigenous communities in New Brunswick and Quebec are also participating.
- Since 2012, a Precautionary Approach (PA), with reference points and decision rules for setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs), is in effect. TACs are set for a period of two years.
- The biomass observed since 2017 in the Estuary, Sept-Îles, Anticosti and Esquiman is very low and compared to the values of the early 1990s. In March 2019, DFO set up a special mandate of the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence Shrimp Advisory Committee subcommittee with the objective of identifying the major conservation, fishery management and economic issues of this fishery as well as actions and possible solutions to be analyzed in a short, medium and long-term perspective.
- Following the work of the special mandate of the subcommittee, DFO has committed to review the PA. According to the established schedule, the review of the PA should be finalized and implemented for the 2024 fishing season.
- The overall TAC for 2020 and 2021 was 17,999 tonnes. The TAC levels for 2022 and 2023 will be established based on information from the last available stock assessment that took place in January 2022 and after consultation with the Advisory Committee that will take place on February 3 and 4, 2022.
- Until the PA is reviewed, DFO Science is recommending greater caution than what the PA indicates to take into account the higher conservation risk posed by the current adverse environmental conditions, while industry requests to follow the PA in its entirety until it is reviewed.
- The Department will continue to work with First Nations and the shrimp fishing industry in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence to address the current needs and challenges of the fishery. The short-term objectives are to review the Precautionary Approach framework for the fishery and to develop fishery responses to environmental changes such as warming waters and the impacts of predation by the rapidly increasing redfish stock.
Access to B.C. recreational fisheries
We acknowledge the challenges being faced by all Pacific Salmon fishery participants, including recreational anglers, to protect at-risk Southern British Columbia salmon stocks, including Fraser River Chinook stocks.
Conservation is our highest priority and requires a precautionary approach to managing these stocks given the risk of extinction.
The Department provides recreational harvest in areas where fishery impacts on species and stocks of concern can be avoided.
Mark Selective Fisheries (MSF)
Consistent with Harvest Transformation Pillar of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative, DFO will work together recreational with harvesters to modernize how salmon fisheries are managed.
The PSSI will support further development of tools such as mass marking (MM) and mark-selective fisheries (MSF) that provides for conservation of stocks of concern and supports sustainable harvesting opportunities.
Further consultations are planned in 2022 to seek input on benefits and challenges of these mass marking and mark-selective fishery approaches to inform further decisions.
- Recreational anglers have raised a number of concerns about the management of the Pacific Salmon fishery, particularly Chinook salmon. These concerns include:
- A petition to end recreational fishery closures as a management tool for protecting Pacific salmon stocks of concern.
- Requests to implement mark selective fishery opportunities and mass marking of hatchery origin Chinook to support fishing opportunities that target hatchery origin salmon that have been marked by removal of an adipose fin when they are released from hatchery facilities.
- The need to develop a recovery strategy for Fraser River salmon and a commitment to implementation.
- Requests for an independent review and rebuilding of the Department.
- Management of the Northern BC Chinook fishery and harvest sharing between First Nation, recreational and commercial harvesters.
- Fraser River Chinook are a serious conservation concern. Twelve of the 13 Fraser River Chinook populations assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) are at-risk with 7 endangered; 4 threatened; 1 special concern and only 1 is not at risk. These at-risk stocks are experiencing low productivity and further fishery mortalities will contribute to further declines. Given the current low productivity and low numbers of at-risk Chinook, highly precautionary management measures are designed to achieve very low fishery mortalities to limit further declines of these populations and allow most fish to reach spawning areas.
- These populations will be considered for potential listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). In the event, that one or more of these population is listed under SARA, there will be formal requirements to develop recovery strategies for listed populations.
- These Chinook populations have been impacted by climate driven changes to habitats and ecosystems (including marine heat waves, record air temperature records, forest fires and drought) and the Big Bar landslide. The road to recovery requires a long-term view and close collaboration with First Nations, the Province, and stakeholders to implement solutions.
- Fishery management measures for Chinook were developed following consultation with Indigenous groups, recreational and commercial fishing organizations; and environmental organizations. These measures are one component of a larger strategy for the sustainability of at risk Pacific salmon populations.
- Fishery management measures in 2019,2020, and 2021 included delaying commercial troll fisheries; closures and Chinook non-retention for recreational fisheries; and restricted opportunities for First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial fisheries.
- In addition to measures that were developed specifically to protect weak chinook stocks, further measures were required in 2021 in the Fraser River in order to protect sockeye migrating up the river, resulting in constraints on recreational chinook fisheries in the river even when abundant chinook stocks were present. Recreational opportunities for Fraser River sockeye are possible given that 2022 will be a dominant late-run Fraser sockeye return year and moderate to high abundance is expected.
- After conservation, the next priority is harvest opportunities for Indigenous fisheries for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) purposes. This is a legal obligation, consistent with Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, and case law which followed. DFO is permitting only very limited FSC opportunities to harvest Chinook in the Fraser River during the migration of at-risk Fraser Chinook. This is consistent with our objective to achieve very low fishery mortalities levels for these stocks. In the Fraser River, when at risk Fraser Chinook are migrating through fishing areas, the Department is permitting only very limited FSC fishery opportunities to harvest Chinook consistent with the objective of achieving very low fishery mortalities levels for these stocks.
- Where conservation goals cannot be met, recreational fisheries for all salmon will be closed. Where abundance is sufficient to meet conservation goals but insufficient to address First Nations’ needs, recreational access will be restricted to selective fishing only with non-retention of Chinook and/or Coho salmon as appropriate. Where abundance is greater, directed recreational fisheries will be permitted, however, the recreational limits for these fisheries will be determined by relative abundance.
- Though fisheries management measures are an important tool, they will not be sufficient on their own to restore these important stocks. DFO is also working on projects to support habitat protection and restoration, climate adaptation, improved stock assessment, and enhanced science collaboration.
- Consistent with the Harvest Transformation Pillar of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative, DFO will work together with harvesters to modernize how salmon fisheries are managed, and work to provide sustainable harvesting opportunities through marked selective fisheries (MSF), where feasible. To help determine where and when the implementation of MSF and/or mass marking (MM) is most appropriate, the Department is working on a discussion paper to support further decision making around MM and MSF. DFO will be seeking input from First Nations and stakeholders in 2022 through this discussion paper and other consultations.
- These issues include:
- Conservation: MSF fisheries will still encounter wild Chinook and release mortalities of stocks of concern need to be accounted for to ensure MSF fisheries do not adversely impact wild unmarked stocks of conservation concern. MSFs are typically considered in areas where there are high proportions of hatchery fish. In many times and areas around Vancouver Island, the proportion of marked fish encounters would likely remain too low to support MSF without incurring substantial release mortality on unmarked wild fish. Although there may be times and areas where the proportion of marked fish encountered is high enough to support MSF. Recreational fisheries particularly in the river) may also encounter other weak stocks of concern (e.g. sockeye in 2019 and 2020); conservation needs of these other species/stocks must also be considered in informing fisheries management decisions pertaining to chinook salmon.
- Ensuring stock assessment information is not compromised: Currently, Canadian hatcheries only mark hatchery Chinook that carry coded-wire tags (CWTs) to support stock assessment of both hatchery and wild fish from the same geographic area (see Conuma pilot project exception below).
- The coast-wide Chinook fishery evaluation and stock assessment program in Canada and the US is based on CWT data collected from adipose fin clipped Chinook. MSFs potentially result in different exploitation rates for adipose fin clipped and unclipped Chinook, and suitable alternative stock assessment techniques are not available. Several have been applied and evaluated, and all of them have limitations which have not been resolved yet. Many of the issues are complex and the Pacific Salmon Commission is examining alternative methods over the next year.
- Additional MSFs and/or additional clipping of hatchery fish that don’t carry CWTs will require Canada to significantly adapt the fishery monitoring and stock assessment programs necessary to maintain information on wild Chinook and to meet Canada’s Pacific Salmon Treaty obligations. This will require additional resources to ensure we meet our commitments under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
- Cost: Even without increasing current hatchery Chinook production, additional marking/clipping of significant additional numbers of hatchery-origin Chinook would incur substantial costs and, in some areas, may be logistically challenging given the large volumes of hatchery origin Chinook being released within short time frames each year.
- Effects on ecosystems: Consideration for increasing production of hatchery-origin Chinook to support fisheries must be carefully planned in order to manage ecosystem effects (e.g., carrying capacity of natural systems to support salmon rearing); control potential competitive interactions between hatchery and wild salmon; ensure that the genetic diversity of wild origin salmon is maintained.
- The Department is also conducting a pilot project to mark Conuma Hatchery Chinook in conjunction with a project exploring the application of genetic tools (parentage-based tagging (PBT)) of all hatchery-origin Chinook broodstock for the next 3 years. The goal is to determine whether PBT, combined with enhanced catch monitoring and genetic stock identification sampling, will provide the assessment information currently derived from the Coded Wire Tag (CWT) Indicator stock program with equal or greater accuracy and precision, and determine whether this approach mitigates the potential impacts of MSF on the CWT Indicator stock program.
- The Department will continue to work with the Province of BC, First Nations, recreational and commercial harvesters and others to support conservation and rebuilding of this important resource.
Hatcheries and Salmonid Program
The Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) plays a critical role in conserving, managing, and rebuilding Pacific salmon stocks and supporting sustainable fisheries across British Columbia (BC) and the Yukon.
The SEP employs a unique combination of Indigenous public engagement and education, habitat restoration activities, and a variety of hatchery and spawning channel facilities to support this critical role.
The Pacific Salmon Strategic Initiative (PSSI) supports new investments in hatchery facilities and science to increase support for the conservation and rebuilding of Pacific Salmon stocks.
- The Salmon Enhancement Program (SEP) plays a key role to conserve and manage Pacific salmon stocks. The key objectives of the SEP are to conserve and rebuild vulnerable salmon stocks through fish culture; provide Indigenous, commercial, and recreational harvest opportunities through direct production of salmon, produce assessment information to support management of stocks and fisheries, and work in partnership with coastal communities and First Nations to provide education and build capacity by supporting their participation in enhancement activities.
- SEP delivers these functions through 23 DFO operated hatchery and spawning channel facilities; 17 partner facilities funded through contribution agreements; and, 66 volunteer run Public Involvement Program facilities spread across the region.
- In support of harvest, stock assessment, conservation and rebuilding, stewardship activities, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) hatcheries and spawning channels release, on average, over 310 million juvenile salmon every year.
- Pacific salmon are a transboundary species managed bilaterally through the Canada/United States (US) Pacific Salmon Treaty. SEP plays a key role in maintaining stock assessment indicator programs and fish production that are obligations under the Treaty and a requirement for domestic salmon management.
- The SEP is uniquely positioned to influence all the main levers DFO can apply to the challenges facing Pacific salmon - adjustments to harvest, habitat or hatcheries, and improved science-based information for decisions making.
Category B licences
The categorization of licences in the lobster fishery began in 1976.
Category B licences allow for modest levels of harvesting and are held by harvesters who have a historical attachment to the fishery.
Category B licences cannot be reissued and extinguish upon the death or retirement of the licence holder.
There are no plans to revisit the existing policies for category B licences at this time.
Federal Court Decision
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is aware of the Federal Court decision on Publicover v. Canada. Given this is active litigation, I have no comment to make at this time.
Category B Lobster Licences
- Management measures were first introduced in the lobster fishery in the 1960’s and early 1970’s to limit overall participation in the fishery. After receiving a recommendation from the Lobster Task Force in April 1975, and following a decline in lobster landings, then DFO Minister, Romeo Leblanc, announced the implementation of the “Moonlighter Policy” in 1975.
- The Moonlighter Policy was implemented to prevent the issuance of licences to people not fully dependent on the fishery which would allow a smaller fleet to catch more lobster per fisher and to support conservation by reducing the fishing effort. It was announced that licences issued to those persons with full time employment in year-round occupations, or in occupations that coincided with the lobster season, would not be renewed in 1976. In addition, a freeze on the re-issuance of licences was also announced, and that the number of licences on the Atlantic Coast would not exceed the present total and would be reduced each year until there was a better balance between the fishing effort and the resource.
- In November 1976, the Moonlighter Policy was modified to include three categories of licences. Category A licences were issued to persons who had previously been referred to as “bonafide” fishermen, which meant they were licence holders who were not fully employed outside of the fishing industry or who did not have “full time seasonal employment”. Category B licences were issued to persons with regular employment but who were licensed as the main operator in the lobster fishery in 1968 and earlier. Category B licences were not re-issuable. Category C licences were issued to persons who were licensed as an operator in the lobster fishery since 1968 but who did not meet the requirements set out for category A or B licences. They were not re-issuable and expired two years after their issuance.
- To the Department’s knowledge, there were 398 category B licences in the early 1980’s. Through the retirement of category B licences, this number had decreased to 81 licences by 2022.
- Through a series of letters sent by counsel for Mr. Donald Publicover to Minister Jordan in 2020, Mr. Publicover asked the Minister to exercise her discretion to allow him to have the category B licence that is issued to him re-issued to an eligible third party.
- On August 5, 2020 Minister Jordan denied this request and Mr. Publicover filed an application for a judicial review.
- On December 22, 2021 the Federal Court of Canada allowed the application, set aside the Minister’s refusal, and send the matter back to the Minister for re-determination.
- The matter is with Fisheries and Oceans Canada for re-determination.
2022 Canada-France 3Ps Cod Fishery
The Government of Canada recognizes the cultural, economic, and historical importance of cod to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
The Government also has a duty to manage resources and ecosystems responsibly for future generations. This includes ensuring the long-term sustainability of the oceans and restoration of fish stocks.
As Minister, I am committed to making decisions based on the best available science, being precautionary when science is uncertain, while taking into consideration the views of all stakeholders.
The latest stock assessment shows that 3Ps cod remains in a critical state. My department’s policy in this situation is clear: when a stock is in a critical state, growth is to be promoted and removals from all human sources are to be kept to the lowest possible level.
My officials and I are engaged with our counterparts in France on the path forward for this jointly managed fishery.
Efforts are also well underway, including engagement with stakeholders, to develop a rebuilding plan for this stock.
- The spawning stock biomass estimate has been placing 3Ps cod in the critical zone for a number of years, including this year when biomass is at 48 per cent of the limit reference point.
- Every year, Canada and France (in respect of Saint Pierre and Miquelon) hold a Canada-France Advisory Committee (CFAC) meeting to negotiate the management regime for co-managed stocks for the upcoming fishing season, including the total allowable catch (TAC) for 3Ps cod.
- The absence of improvement in 3Ps cod stock, and consistent with DFO’s Precautionary Approach Framework, led Canada to seek to negotiate a no directed fishery for the 2021-22 fishing season, at the 27th CFAC meeting in March 2021.
- Faced with strong opposition from France, and unanimous support from Canadian industry stakeholder groups for a TAC rollover from 2020-21, Canada instead agreed to a 50 per cent TAC reduction.
- In addition, Canada and France agreed to begin the development of a joint rebuilding plan for 3Ps cod in 2021. In spring 2021, the Department put in place a working group. Work is ongoing to determine the rebuilding target and objectives.
- In May 2021, then Minister Jordan agreed to convene a small group of external scientists to review the scientific model used to assess 3Ps cod stock, which had been criticized by a number of stakeholders. The model was found to be of a high standard and appropriate for assessing the stock given the available data.
- Therefore, the Department proceeded in November 2021 with the assessment of the 3Ps cod stock without any changes to the model. Results show that increased natural mortality and low recruitment are limiting the growth of this stock, and that it is highly likely (>99 per cent probability) it will remain in the critical zone until the beginning of 2024.
- The results of this stock assessment set the table for Canada’s 2022 negotiating position, which will be further informed through regular discussions of the CFAC heads of delegation (HoDs), and stakeholder engagement, which began in early January 2022.
- A bilateral meeting between Minister Murray and her French counterpart, Annick Girardin, is expected to take place in February 2022 to discuss priorities for 3Ps cod for the 2022-23 fishing season.
- The 28th annual CFAC meeting is scheduled to occur in Paris March 31 – April 1, 2022.
Forage fish play an essential role in ocean ecosystems. Some small pelagic forage fish stocks are seriously depleted and have fallen into the critical zone, a designation meaning that there is a high probability that productivity may be impaired such that serious harm to the stock occurs.
DFO’s Precautionary Approach (PA) Framework states that for fish stocks in the critical zone, fishing must be kept to the lowest possible level to promote stock growth and that there should be no tolerance for preventable decline.
The Government of Canada is committed to conserving and rebuilding fish stocks, so they can support stable and prosperous fisheries in the long-term.
Rebuilding is our clear priority and, should the scientific outlook remain the same, it is not my intention to contribute to further declines by authorizing directed commercial, bait, or recreational fishing on small pelagic forage species in the critical zone.
The Government of Canada is aware that these species are important commercial stocks to Atlantic Canadians, particularly as a source of bait. The early indication of our intentions on these stocks provides time for harvesters to make arrangements and we will support processes to identify and develop alternative sources of bait.
- Forage fish are species that are an important source of food for dependent predators, and other fish, marine mammals, and birds. They play a critical role in the ecosystem but are sensitive to environmental change and undergo large natural fluctuations. Because forage fish are highly aggregated, they are quite vulnerable to depletion which can also have significant consequences for species that depend on them. Furthermore, their dense aggregations lend to sometimes false perceptions of high abundance in localized areas.
- There is a general declining trend in stock status for a number of populations of small pelagic forage fish. In particular, the Department is concerned about the outlook for stock rebuilding for the following stocks in Eastern Canada which remain in the critical zone or where abundance and productivity remains very low: Atlantic mackerel; Southern Gulf Spring herring; and, Southwest Nova Scotia/Bay of Fundy herring.
- The Atlantic mackerel stock has been in or near the critical zone for over ten years. The 2021 Canadian stock assessment found that Atlantic mackerel declined further in the critical zone, with spawning stock biomass (SSB) at its lowest-observed value.
- The Southern Gulf Spring herring stock component has been in the critical zone of the PA framework since 2002. The outlook for the stock has deteriorated to a fraction of its historical levels while there continues to be a directed commercial fishery (gillnet and seiner) as well as bait fishery.
- The Southwest Nova Scotia/Bay of Fundy herring stock was assessed in 2021 as remaining in the critical zone, with little or no signs of improvement. The stock has been a concern since 2010 when it was previously determined to be in the critical zone. The consensus of the science advice was that further management measures that reduce exploitation and increase recruitment success are required to support the stock rebuilding.
- On (date), you issued a statement indicating that stronger conservation measures may be adopted for pelagic forage fish stocks that are in the critical zone. You specifically stated that your intention is to not authorize directed fishing on any pelagic forage species in the critical zone. Due to insignificant catch levels and Government of Canada commitments, it is not anticipated that this approach would be applied to Indigenous Food, Social, and Ceremonial fisheries.
- The 2019 amendments to the Fisheries Act include the “Fish Stocks” provisions, which will introduce legally-binding obligations on DFO to manage major fish stocks at levels necessary to promote sustainability and develop and implement rebuilding plans for major fish stocks that have declined to or below their limit reference point. These provisions only apply to stocks that are prescribed in regulation, and since the regulatory process is still underway, the provisions are not yet in effect for any stock. Both Atlantic mackerel and Southern Gulf Spring herring are proposed to be prescribed in the first batch of major stocks, and the Department is working towards having this regulation and thus the Fish Stocks provisions come into effect in 2022.
BC Salmon Closures (PSSI)
In June 2021, the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative was announced as a $647 million investment in the future of Pacific salmon populations. Harvest Transformation was identified as one of 4 pillars of this key initiative.
As part of Harvest Transformation, an initial step was taken towards longer-term reductions in fishing pressure on stocks of conservation concern, with significant commercial salmon closures for the 2021 season.
Consultations with First Nations, the commercial industry, and others are currently underway regarding potential closures for the 2022 season and beyond.
- On June 8, 2021, the Minister announced a $647.1 million investment in the future of Pacific salmon, known as the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI). The Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) aims to curb historic declines in key Pacific salmon stocks and rebuild the species to a sustainable level. The Strategy will be a comprehensive undertaking that will steer investments, policies, and actions, and inform relationships with all levels of government and local organizations on salmon issues for years to come.
- On June 29, 2021, the Minister announced extensive new closures to commercial salmon fisheries in areas with significant stocks of conservation concern for the 2021 fishing season.
- DFO committed to beginning a comprehensive consultation process in fall 2021 prior to determining longer-term conservation measures in advance of the 2022 fishing season.
- The Minister also announced that DFO will meaningfully consult with First Nations on options to shift to more selective fishing gear or, where available, to other non-salmon species.
- The consultations that DFO committed to in June 2021 are currently still underway, guided by the following objectives:
- Provide an overview of the commercial salmon fishery closures and describe linkages to the broader PSSI;
- Discuss and collect feedback on the vision for the future of the BC commercial salmon fishery;
- Review and collect feedback on the 2021 commercial salmon fishing closures with the intent of informing an approach to longer-term closures, and;
- Discuss next steps.
- In parallel, consultations are also ongoing with respect to the design of a salmon licence retirement program which was also announced in June 2021 as part of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative. The objective of the licence retirement program is to better align the size of the fishing fleet with available fishing opportunities.
- Input received from these consultations will inform recommendations for how the Department moves forward with commercial salmon fisheries for 2022 and beyond, and for the design of the licence retirement program.
Area E crab
In April 2021, the BC Court of Appeal decision directed DFO to increase the crab allocation for the Five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations within the Court Defined Area. The Department is continuing to consult with the Five Nations and engage with industry to implement the court decision.
The Department is working to mitigate the additional crab access provided to the Five Nations through voluntary licence relinquishment; however, this will take time and full mitigation for the overall crab amount is not likely to be in place for April 2022. The Department remains committed to the policy of using voluntary licence relinquishment to mitigate allocation increases for First Nations participation in commercial fisheries wherever possible.
Without full mitigation in place, commercial trap allocations for commercial licence holders will need to be reduced for the 2022 fishing season to ensure the total trap limit for the management area is not breached. Increasing the overall number of traps in the area is not an option as it will increase fishing pressure on the stock, and will not meet our sustainability objectives.
In April 2022, the final 2022/23 Crab Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and the Five Nations’ Fisheries Management Plan will be implemented and will reflect the final allocation for the 2022/23 fishing season.
- As a result of the BC Court of Appeal decision, the Department will be increasing the Five Nations’ crab allocation, which will have a commensurate impact on commercial crab fishers in Crab Management Area E-Tofino starting on April 1, 2022. Discussions with the Five Nations on the allocation is ongoing.
- The Department understands the socioeconomic impacts that this represents for the regular commercial sector, and is working as quickly as possible to fully mitigate the increase through voluntary licence relinquishments. However, this will take time and full mitigation for the overall crab amount is not likely to be in place before the commercial crab season.
- Without mitigation in place, commercial trap totals for each licence will need to be reduced to meet our sustainability objectives.
- On December 2, 2021, the Department reached out to the commercial crab sector about impacts in Crab Management Area E-Tofino starting on April 1, 2022 as a result of implementing the result of the BC Court of Appeal decision, which will see an increase to the Five Nations’ crab allocation within the Court Defined Area.
- Reaction has been strong as the Department does not have the resources to mitigate the impact of this increase in time for April 2022; however, the Courts stated an inability to mitigate access is not a justifiable reason to delay providing access needed to accommodate the right.
- In response to meetings held with the commercial sector on December 15 and 23, 2021, the commercial sector sent a letter to the Department recommending: 1) licence relinquishment prior to providing increase access to the Five Nations (letter suggests there are up to eight licence holders who would be willing to sell for $2M/licence; however, current valuation is $1.1M), 2) an increased trap limit in Area E-Tofino (which would impact fisheries management tools related to trap caps), 3) a reconsideration of allocation percentages (which would be difficult given the process with the Five Nations), and 4) compensation for affected licence holders in Area E.
- Unfortunately, none of the options presented by the commercial sector are possible: increasing crab traps would comprise the fishery management regime; percentages being offered to the Five Nations are reasonable based on analysis of the court decision, and the Department does not compensate for losses, but is looking to mitigate the allocation as soon as funding is available.
- Regarding crab trap caps, increasing the limit will increase fishing pressure on the stock and will not meet sustainability objectives.
- Although haul restrictions are in place, the increased number of traps detailed in the BC Crab Fishermen’s Association proposal would increase catch and release rates, subsequently increasing injury and handling mortality, of female and undersized crab.
- Increasing the number of traps will also escalate impacts on navigation, and increase the risk of gear fouling, lost gear, and whale entanglement. DFO continues to receive concerns about floats and lines as navigational hazards in small craft harbours, and outside coastal First Nation and non-Indigenous communities.
- The current Area trap limits were established in 2017 due to an increase in vessels selecting E-Tofino, which resulted in an increase in vessel traffic, crab trap congestion, gear conflict, and increased handling of crab. Redistributing the trap cap to the outside will not support smaller vessels that typically fish in more sheltered, inside waters.
Fish Stock Rebuilding
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is committed to rebuilding and restoring fish stocks that have declined, as it is important both ecologically and economically. Healthy fish stocks support more resilient ecosystems while improving the potential for economic returns in the long-term. While fishing restrictions aimed at rebuilding fish stocks can have economic impacts during the rebuilding period, more significant impacts can result from delaying action or not taking sufficient action to promote the rebuilding of stocks.
Since 2009, DFO has required the development of formal rebuilding plans for depleted stocks on a priority basis. In recent years, the Government of Canada has made key investments to support the development of rebuilding plans to promote the recovery of fish stocks.
If Pressed, Stocks in Critical Zone
Currently, 23 of 180 of Canada’s key harvested stocks are in need of rebuilding. Nine of these stocks have rebuilding plans in place, and another eight plans are in development. While rebuilding plans are being developed, DFO uses the best available science to ensure that strict fishery management measures are applied and any fishing does not compromise rebuilding.
In addition, we are working towards fully implementing the Fish Stocks provisions of the Fisheries Act, which will strengthen Canada’s fisheries management framework by providing new legislation to ensure the conservation of fish stocks, promote their rebuilding when necessary, and manage fisheries sustainably.
Status of Rebuilding Plans and Critical Zone Stocks
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) annually surveys 180 key harvested stocks in its Sustainability Survey for Fisheries.
- Currently, 23 stocks of the 180 are in the Critical Zone, which means these stocks are below their limit reference point (LRP), which is the point at which serious harm is occurring to the stock. Stocks in the Critical Zone are considered depleted.
- Under DFO’s 2009 Precautionary Approach Policy, stocks in the Critical Zone require rebuilding plans.
- DFO is working to ensure there are complete rebuilding plans for all priority stocks, in accordance with the Sustainable Fisheries Framework Work Plan that DFO publishes on its website annually. Some of this work was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Despite those delays, DFO has completed rebuilding plans for nine of the 23 stocks, and a further eight plans are under development. One of the stocks (Northern shrimp SFA 7) in the Critical Zone is managed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) and is subject to moratorium and thus DFO will not be developing a rebuilding plan.
- Next year, one of the stocks (Yelloweye Rockfish – Inside population) with a rebuilding plan will likely not be listed as in the Critical Zone on the Survey and will no longer require its rebuilding plan.
- For those stocks without completed rebuilding plans, DFO has specific fishery management measures in place, informed by the best available science to limit fishing and not compromise their rebuilding.
Fish Stocks Provisions
- Recent amendments to the Fisheries Act include new Fish Stocks provisions that require the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to implement management measures to maintain major stocks listed in regulation at levels necessary to promote sustainability and to develop and implement rebuilding plans for depleted major fish stocks.
- These provisions will come into effect when a regulation is finalized that prescribes the first batch of major fish stocks to be subject to the provisions. This regulation is well along in development.
- This regulation sets out the first batch of 30 major stocks to be made subject to the Fish Stocks provisions, of which 16 stocks are in the Critical Zone and will require rebuilding plans. In addition, the proposed regulation sets out the required sections and timelines to develop rebuilding plans for stocks subject to the Fish Stocks provisions.
Investments for Rebuilding Plans
- To support the development of rebuilding plans, the Government of Canada invested $940,000 over four years, starting in 2017-18. This funding was provided in response to the 2016 report “Sustaining Canada’s Major Fish Stocks—Fisheries and Oceans Canada” by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
- The Government of Canada also invested an additional $107.4 million over five years, starting in 2019 and $17.6 million ongoing to support the implementation of the Fish Stocks provisions of the amended Fisheries Act. A large portion these resources are being used to increase scientific capacity for stock assessment of Canada’s fish stocks, including the development of reference points (like the limit reference point) to identify stock status and to inform the development of rebuilding plans.
Oceans and aquatic ecosystems - other issues
Aquatic invasive species
Our government understands the importance of protecting the biodiversity and quality of Canadian waters. As such, we are focused on coordinating our efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in Canada.
Aquatic invasive species pose a serious threat to Canada’s freshwater and marine ecosystems, and preventing negative impacts to our biodiversity, economy and society is a priority for this Government.
The management of aquatic invasive species is a responsibility that the federal government shares with provincial and territorial governments, and we continue to work closely with them and our U.S. counterparts to support prevention and response activities to protect our mutual resources.
Zebra and Quagga Mussels
Zebra mussels are established in the Lake Manitoba watershed, which is the current western invasion front in Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is collaborating with provincial governments in the Prairies and has developed a framework for response plans with them.
In Quebec, Zebra mussels are established in the St-Lawrence river, have been observed in Lake Memphremagog since 2017, and were newly detected in Lake Massawippi in the Estrie in 2021. DFO has partnered with the Quebec government and local stakeholders to prevent the spread of the species to other water bodies and to respond to new detections.
In British Columbia, the provincial government leads the management of aquatic invasive species. DFO supports British Columbia’s invasive mussel management by providing scientific advice and conducting risk assessments.
DFO is working closely with the Canada Border Services Agency to improve enforcement of the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations at international borders, with a focus on preventing prohibited species from entering Canada, including invasive mussels.
In March 2021, DFO conducted emergency response activities in partnership with the Canada Border Services Agency and provincial and territorial governments to stop the importation and distribution of invasive mussel infested aquarium products across Canada. DFO continues to work with the Canada Border Services Agency to prevent illegal imports of these infested products into Canada.
Invasive Smallmouth Bass in the Miramichi System
DFO recognizes the seriousness of the threat that the Smallmouth Bass represents since it is considered an invasive species in the Miramichi River watershed.
In September 2021, DFO issued a new authorization under the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations, authorizing the North Shore Micmac District Council, an Indigenous organization, to use a pesticide to eradicate Smallmouth Bass in the Miramichi River Watershed in the Summer 2022.
During its review of the project proposal, DFO consulted extensively with stakeholders, including First Nations groups, through virtual or physical community consultation sessions, and the Department will continue to collaborate with all partners involved on this project.
European Green Crab
DFO is concerned by the significant impacts that European Green Crab, found on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada, can have on estuarine and marine ecosystems, and fisheries and aquaculture industries, by consuming and / or out competing indigenous species such as shellfish, crabs and lobsters and disrupting estuarine habitats such as eelgrass and saltmarsh in their quest for prey.
DFO is collaborating with partners including Indigenous governments and communities, provincial governments, environmental non-governmental organizations, fisheries unions, stakeholders and U.S. state and federal governments to try to address the threats that this species poses to Canadian ecosystems and fisheries.
DFO continues to generate scientific research or advice, and leads or supports prevention, early detection and control activities on both Atlantic and Pacific coasts, to manage the spread and the impacts of this invasive species in Canada; however, the species continues to spread and impacts on marine resources are anticipated to continue and increase.
In 2017, our government invested $16 million over five years and $4 million ongoing in the Asian Carp Program to ensure Canada’s Great Lakes are protected from the harmful impacts of Asian carps.
Our government takes a comprehensive preventative approach to addressing the threat of these species, especially Grass Carp, and works collaboratively with American, Ontario and Quebec partners. DFO is available to assist in lab analysis should a fish be caught there.
To date, Asian carps have not established in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes thanks to structured, organized surveillance and response efforts.
Goldfish, a non-indigenous species, have been released into Canadian waters where they have been reported to reproduce and could therefore impact ecosystems and native fish species.
Introducing fish in areas where they are not native is not only harmful to ecosystems, but also illegal under the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations, and DFO continues to promote education and outreach materials with the public to prevent introductions of aquatic invasive species.
The presence of Goldfish in freshwater systems in Canada is an issue that the Department is continuing to monitor. A study in Hamilton harbour is tracking how goldfish move and feed and whether their presence is affecting other fish species.
Vase tunicate is an invasive species present on the Atlantic coast. Once established, it has important repercussions on aquaculture (mussels and oysters).
In Québec, it is only established at one port of the Magdalen Islands since 2006. In 2021, the DFO monitoring program detected its presence for the first time in two of the islands’ lagoon marinas.
The Department is working with local partners to prevent the spread of the species through the archipelago.
Aquatic Invasive Species
- Aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose a serious threat to fish, fish habitat, use of aquatic resources (e.g., fisheries, aquaculture, and recreational industries), and species at risk across Canada.
- AIS of public concern across Canada include:
- Zebra and quagga mussels
- Asian carps (four species)
- Sea Lamprey (Great Lakes only)
- European Green Crab
- Invasive tunicates (e.g., Vase, Clubbed, and Violet)
- Invasive aquatic plants (e.g., Eurasian water milfoil)
- The Sea Lamprey Control Program (SLCP) was established in Canada through the Department in 1954, following ratification of the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, as part of a binational commitment to control Sea Lamprey for the protection of Great Lakes fish and fisheries.
- Budget 2017/18 increased Canada’s commitment to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC), the coordinating body for the SLCP, from $8.1 million to $10.6 million ongoing.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is aware of the shortfall between the funding formula established by the Convention and contribution amounts to the GLFC. A number of sporting and outdoors groups, and several MPs, have raised the issue with the Minister via a letter-writing campaign.
- The AIS Regulations came into force in 2015 under the Fisheries Act to provide tools for federal action and partnerships with provincial and territorial governments, setting significant expectations regarding Canada’s collective ability to manage AIS. The AIS Regulations list over 164 aquatic species as invasive, subject to prohibitions and/or controls.
- Budget 2017/18 provided $43.8 million in funding over five years and $10.6 million ongoing for national AIS management.
- DFO’s AIS National Core Program was established to implement the AIS Regulations in Canadian waters, to act on sound scientific and other advice, and to report nationally on AIS activities.
- Implementation of the AIS Regulations is a shared priority and responsibility across jurisdictions and levels of government. Some provinces and territories take the lead for freshwater AIS, while DFO leads for marine AIS.
- Provinces also dedicate significant amounts of resources to prevent and manage AIS. For example, Quebec invests $8 million a year and is investing an additional $8 million over five years announced in 2018 to combat aquatic invasive plants. The Invasive Mussel Defense Program in British Columbia (BC) has an annual budget of nearly $4 million. Alberta also has a significant budget targeted at invasive mussels.
- The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development conducted an audit of DFO’s AIS efforts to date and released its findings on April 2, 2019. DFO accepted the recommendations of the Auditor and is implementing a management action plan to address them.
- The Auditor recommended that DFO work with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to address risks associated with watercraft and prohibited imports. The Auditor also recommended that DFO and the CBSA develop and implement the procedures, tools, and training that border services officers and fishery officers need to assist in enforcing the AIS Regulations. In response, DFO, CBSA, and other partners have developed new protocols, tools, and procedures to improve enforcement of the AIS Regulations at international borders. It is planned to test these tools in 2022, or as soon as practicable pending Covid-19 travel restrictions, with a pilot project at Emmerson MB focused on preventing invasive mussels from entering Canada.
- DFO is currently working with partners to explore projects to address AIS that also benefit aquatic species at risk through the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk. Potential projects notably include the implementation of the education and outreach “Don’t Let It Loose” campaign in the Ontario and Prairie Region to prevent the illegal introduction of AIS, and the implementation of a watercraft washing station in Manitoba.
- Although it may appear desirable to use AIS for bait, food or other purposes, there are several important legal, ecological, and economic factors that must first be considered. Increased use of AIS means increased risks of introduction into new areas, and risks propagating the species, leading to unintended, negative consequences on native fish and fish habitat.
Zebra and Quagga Mussels
- Zebra and Quagga mussels can have significant economic impacts on recreational boaters, municipal and industrial water supplies, and power generation infrastructure.
- Zebra and Quagga mussels are subject to import prohibitions under the AIS Regulations.
- Zebra Mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas region in southeastern Europe.
- Zebra Mussels entered the Great Lakes in the late 1980s through ballast water discharged from ships. Since then, they have spread through parts of eastern Canada and the United States.
- Quagga mussels are found to be limited to the southern Great Lakes: Lake Ontario, Michigan, Huron and Erie. They have also been found in the St. Lawrence River and north of Quebec City.
- Zebra mussels were newly detected in Lake Massawippi in the Estrie in the Province of Quebec in 2021.
- Zebra mussels have been detected in Lake Memphremagog, and also in the Estrie, in Quebec. While zebra mussels are established in the St-Lawrence River, the species is not present in St-Lawrence tributaries and adjacent lakes.
- DFO has partnered with the Government of Quebec and local stakeholders to prevent the spread of this species to other bodies of water nearby.
- To date, zebra and quagga mussels have not been detected in BC, but DFO recognizes the threat that these invasive mussels pose to western Canada’s freshwater ecosystems and economy, and continues to collaborate with CBSA to enforce the AIS Regulations at the international border.
- The BC provincial government has the authority to implement the AIS Regulations within its jurisdiction and has assumed the role of lead authority for freshwater AIS management in BC with support from DFO.
- DFO meets regularly with representatives of the BC provincial government to discuss emerging AIS threats, potential collaboration, and support for AIS-focused initiatives.
- In 2018, DFO contributed $500,000 over four years to invasive mussel prevention through research, education, and outreach in BC. This funding complemented the BC government’s efforts and recognized their formal authority for management of freshwater fisheries.
- Since 2019, DFO had committed to contribute $525,000 over four years to a project focusing on increasing awareness and identifying best practices to reduce AIS-related threats on species at risk through the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk.
- In December 2021, DFO completed a scientific report on the effectiveness of “Clean, Drain, Dry and Decontaminate” treatments and protocols for watercraft to help prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species, including zebra and quagga mussels.
- In March 2021, prohibited invasive zebra mussels were found in moss ball products, a type of aquarium plant product made of green algae, sold in Canada and in the United States.
- DFO led national emergency response activities with the CBSA and provincial and territorial partners to stop the import and distribution of infested moss ball products across Canada.
- DFO collaborated with large e-commerce platforms to block the sale of moss balls by third party sellers on their platforms.
- DFO updated or created social media and website messaging in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments.
- DFO continues to address the illegal import of AIS into Canada through the implementation of a sustained action plan focused on four components: enforcement; response preparedness; education and outreach; and engagement with partners.
Miramichi Lake and River
- Smallmouth Bass was discovered in Miramichi Lake in 2008, a headwater lake in the southwest Miramichi River watershed. This watershed, along with other river systems in New Brunswick, is recognized as some of the most productive Atlantic Salmon rivers in the world. Smallmouth Bass is a predator and competitor of other fish, including Atlantic Salmon.
- In August 2019, Smallmouth Bass was reported in the southwest Miramichi River, downstream from Miramichi Lake.
- Due to the spread of Smallmouth Bass into the river, a project to eradicate it by the application of Rotenone in the Miramichi Lake was proposed to include part of the river.
- DFO, as the regulator, worked with the Province of New Brunswick to review an application submitted by the North Shore Micmac District Council for an authorization pursuant to subsection 19(3) of the AIS Regulations under the Fisheries Act to use Rotenone to eradicate Smallmouth Bass from Miramichi Lake.
- In May 2021, the Province completed its Environmental Impact Assessment and determined that the undertaking may proceed.
- DFO authorized the project on June 7, 2021, subject to the Emergency Use Registration process being completed by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
- The week of the project’s implementation in August 2021, members of the Wolastoquey nation, citing concerns with a lack of consultations, occupied the lake by kayaks and canoes in protest of the project, forcing the proponent to halt the deposit of deleterious substances and to pause the project as a whole.
- A new authorization was issued on September 18, 2021, and the project was deferred to the summer 2022.
- The project will be monitored by the proponent and by federal and provincial authorities.
- In evaluating the use of deleterious substances, the Department has to consider implications not only for native Atlantic Salmon, but also impacts on species at risk, other fish species, wildlife, and public safety.
- The Atlantic Salmon Federation advocates for chemical eradication; however, according to a 2018 DFO technical report, the control and monitoring activities for Smallmouth Bass in Miramichi Lake have successfully kept the population of this invasive fish at levels close to depletion.
- In addition to the application for chemical control, the Department is collaborating with the provincial government, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Miramichi Salmon Association, and First Nations to capture and remove Smallmouth Bass from the river.
- Response activities that have taken place in the Miramichi River and certain tributaries in the summer-fall 2019 and 2020 include line fishing (angling), electrofishing (using backpacks or boats equipped with an electrofishing device), netting, collection of environmental DNA samples to determine the spread of the invasion, and collaborating with the University of New Brunswick to use radio-isotopes to determine the source of the Smallmouth Bass captured in the river.
- DFO continues to maintain barriers to prevent Smallmouth Bass from escaping Miramichi Lake and annually invests approximately $50 thousand on different physical methods for capturing individuals of all ages and sizes in Miramichi Lake (e.g., electrofishing, trapping, netting, and seining).
- The Department is also developing a long-term plan for the management of this AIS in the Miramichi River watershed using an integrated management approach based on prevention, detection, response, and control, as well as sustained collaboration with partners.
European Green Crab
- European Green Crab (EGC) are a known invasive species on both coasts of Canada, with the potential to result in significant impacts to important habitat, such as eelgrass, and fisheries.
- In the Newfoundland (NL) Region, the spread of EGC has been confirmed in St Marys Bay, with established populations of large adult crab confirmed in October 2020. The Fish, Food and Allied Workers' Union partnership continued in the summer of 2021 to trap EGC in Fortune Bay. In 2020, licenced trappers from this project removed over 335,000 EGC from Fortune Bay. Marine Institute’s work in Placentia Bay to restore eelgrass and remove EGC in the area continued with funding from the Coastal Restoration Fund in 2021. Three Rivers Mi‘kmaq Band were contracted to evaluate EGC population on the South West coast of insular NL through destructive sampling in October 2020.
- From May 2020 to September 2021, 54 AIS Control Licences for EGC were issued in the NL region.
- In September 2021, the Mi’kmaq Alsumk Mowimsikik Koqoey Association received Nature Legacy Funding to trap and mitigate the EGC population in western Fortune Bay.
- External requests to provide guidance as to a national decision on the permissible use of AIS are increasing. This has occurred in many regions, but NL region is being contacted by media and interested parties requesting decisions and guidance for the use of EGC for commercial purposes.
- In British Columbia, populations of EGC are established on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. They were first discovered in the Salish Sea in 2012 in Sooke Basin, with further discoveries in other locations of the Salish Sea in U.S. and Canadian waters in 2017. Other incursions have been documented along the Central Coast of the mainland, as well as limited number of individuals in Haida Gwaii in 2020.
- Since discovery of EGC in the Salish Sea and Haida Gwaii, DFO has partnered with Indigenous and stewardship groups and others to determine the extent of the invasion, seek evidence of establishment, and develop and implement management and response plans. In 2021 DFO also partnered with Coastal Restoration Society and Council of the Haida Nation with funding from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund for EGC management projects on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, respectively.
- In 2021 DFO continued early monitoring and detection activities in the Salish Sea once COVID-related travel restrictions were lifted, providing training and conducting sampling with partners (i.e., stewardship and Indigenous groups). In addition, DFO’s response to a public report of EGC resulted in the capture of 19 individuals within Ladysmith Harbour, the most significant incursion documented within the Salish Sea – monitoring and response activities are ongoing.
- DFO and the National Aquatic Invasive Species Committee under the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers have developed a nationally consistent education and outreach campaign named “Don’t Let It Loose” to manage the risk of introduction posed by several pathways including “pets and plants from aquariums, ponds, or water gardens”, “live food and live baits”, and “sport fish and recreational fishing”.
- Newfoundland and Labrador Region with Memorial University of Newfoundland has commenced utilizing the “Don’t Let it Loose” campaign materials to assist in the prevention of release of aquarium pets (e.g. goldfish) into a campus pond.
- Vase tunicate is an invasive species established in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and certain bays south of Newfoundland. In Québec it is only present at the Magdalen Islands.
- Vase tunicate has important repercussions on the aquaculture industry. It invades mussel socks and incurs additional costs to aquaculture.
- A local organization is collaborating with Small Craft Harbours to attempt to control the single population of Vase tunicate in the Magdalen Islands. Their goal is to make the floating docks less prone for the species to establish itself. This compensation project to control vase tunicate is currently under review by DFO.
Northern Shelf Bioregion MPA Network Action Plan
Sustainability of the world’s oceans is a critical concern. Canada supports marine protected areas (MPAs) to address multiple ocean stressors and threats, as well as the development of MPA networks to enhance the effectiveness of existing and future MPAs to achieve multiple goals and objectives that no one single MPA could achieve.
An area where MPA network development is underway is in the Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB). We support and are committed to the NSB MPA network planning process and the overall conservation objectives.
Network Action Plan
The Department supports and is committed to the NSB MPA Network planning process and the overall conservation objectives.
The Department is supportive of the Network Action Plan vision and goals, as well as the collaborative process that has been put in place with British Columbia and Indigenous partners.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is ready to continue to work collaboratively to make required revisions to ensure that the MPA Network Action Plan can be implemented in a manner that supports marine conservation, reconciliation, and economic opportunities for coastal communities.
Marine Spatial Planning
- Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a process that brings together relevant authorities to better coordinate how we use and manage marine spaces to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives in a balanced way. Its outcome is roughly equivalent of a zoning plan for the ocean space.
- The Department has launched MSP across Canada, including initiatives in five major coastal areas (Pacific North Coast; Pacific South Coast; Bay of Fundy/Scotian Shelf; Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence; and, Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves), to improve the management and coordination of economic and conservation activities.
- The MSP approach, in collaboration with provinces, territories, and Indigenous peoples, will be used to co-develop marine spatial plans by 2024.
- Conservation network development is a strategic approach to reaching our biodiversity conservation goals. It will be integrated into Canada’s MSP efforts to ensure that our marine ecosystems are sustainably managed and are able to support economic, social, and cultural objectives in addition to conservation objectives. Engagement for the Blue Economy Strategy highlighted areas where the MSP process may benefit from being modernized. This input is under consideration by the Department.
Marine Conservation Targets
- On December 16, 2021, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard was directed in her mandate letter to continue to work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and partners to ensure Canada meets its goals to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s ocean by 2025 (25 by 25), and 30 per cent by 2030 (30 by 30), working to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 in Canada, achieve a full recovery for nature by 2050, and champion this goal internationally. This work will remain grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives.
Northern Shelf Bioregion Network Action Plan
- The Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and 18 First Nations are working to develop an MPA Network in the Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB), which extends from the top of Vancouver Island (Quadra Island/Bute Inlet) and reaches north to the Canada-Alaska border. The Network Action Plan (NAP) is a collaboration between these parties.
- Implementing the draft Network as currently proposed will result in a disruption of fisheries and fisheries management practices, increased uncertainty for stock assessments, pose enforcement challenges, and increase Departmental resource needs.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has made a concerted and repeated effort to communicate to partners that components of the action plan would be extremely challenging for DFO to implement within its current legislative and regulatory jurisdiction, without significant restructuring, and to work with partners to resolve those components.
Northern Shelf Bioregion Network Action Plan – next steps
- The Department is supportive of the NAP vision and goals. However, the complexity of the draft plan as proposed presents significant challenges for the Department to implement and for fisheries overall. The draft plan proposes an approach that is not aligned with the Department’s current methods to sustainably manage fisheries including the science necessary to support them, and for effective conservation and enforcement.
- The proposed approach reflects a management scale and approach important to some First Nations partners, who are unsatisfied with current management of marine resources in their territory and desire greater agency and control through local, area-based management and governance.
- The Department remains committed to the network process and to the Department’s priorities of Marine Conservation Targets, Reconciliation, and MSP, and seeks to work with partners to develop a forward approach for the network process.
- The Department will seek to engage through the network planning process to identify an approach to revise the draft NAP such that it provides information and recommended approaches for conservation in the NSB in a manner that can be integrated into existing management approaches.
Énergie Saguenay Project
Protecting our aquatic ecosystems while considering economic interests of communities who rely on these industries for their livelihoods is a priority for our government.
My department actively participated in the federal environmental assessment for the Énergie Saguenay project and I support the decision announced yesterday.
While impacts of terminal construction on fish and fish habitat could have been mitigated, DFO is of the opinion that noise associated with project shipping could have had negative impacts on the survival and recovery of the beluga, an endangered species protected under the Species at Risk Act.
- On February 7, 2022, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced that the project will result in significant adverse environmental effects that are not justified in the circumstances. The announcement concludes the environmental assessment (EA) process.
- The Minister of Environment and Climate Change agreed with the conclusions of the EA report [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.]
- On September 22, 2021, The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the Agency) published the draft EA Report and potential EA conditions on the Agency’s public Registry. The Report concluded that the project is likely to cause significant direct and cumulative adverse environmental effects on marine mammals, including endangered Beluga whales and related significant effects on the cultural heritage of Innu First Nations, which cannot be appropriately mitigated.
- On June 11, 2021, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) submitted its final expert advice to the Agency in the context of the EA, which was published on the public registry.
- DFO's advice concluded that impacts to fish and fish habitat associated with the construction phase of the terminal would be limited, and could be addressed by mitigation measures and offsetting.
- However, with respect to impacts resulting from marine shipping, DFO is of the opinion that the noise associated with ships could have significant negative impacts on marine mammals, particularly the beluga, which is listed as Endangered on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act.
- Mitigation measures proposed by the proponent did not demonstrate effectiveness in avoiding or reducing these risks on beluga and/or other marine mammals in the project area.
- Marine traffic associated with the new terminal (300-400 transits annually) planned to go through the Critical Habitat of the beluga, which is located in the Upper Estuary and in the southern portion of the Lower Estuary.
- On July 21, 2021, following the publication of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) report on March 23, 2021, the Quebec Minister responsible for the Ministère de l’environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques announced the project would not be granted provincial approval. A decree to this effect was published on August 11, 2021. However, since the proponent did not withdraw its application to the federal process, the federal EA continued to its formal conclusion.
- On May 12, 2021, the three First Nation councils of Essipit, Mashteuiatsh and Pessamit submitted a joint brief to the BAPE outlining their concerns with regard to environmental, social and economic acceptability and the impacts on future generations. The groups are also insisting analysis of the project be done in close coordination with that of the Gazoduq pipeline project.
- A Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Report (2018/025) on the potential effects of construction of the Énergie Saguenay project and Saint-Rose-du-Nord marine terminal indicates that additional traffic on the Saguenay Fjord will affect a portion of the beluga critical habitat already subject to noise (Sainte-Marguerite Bay) and regularly frequented by females and juveniles, a particularly vulnerable segment of the population.
- The Critical Habitat Order protecting the critical habitat of the beluga, St. Lawrence Estuary population was published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, in December 2017.
- In November 2016, DFO received a request for review for the project, in regards to a potential authorization under the Fisheries Act, a process currently paused until the EA has been completed.
- In January 2016, a federal EA under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, led by the Agency, was initiated.
- The proponent proposed the construction and operation of a liquefied natural gas facility and export terminal located in the District of La Baie, Saguenay City, Quebec.
Baffinland: Mary River project
Protecting the marine environment and marine mammals is a top priority, which is why we are ensuring projects are thoroughly assessed.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada ensured that conditions are in place to protect the environment and marine mammals in Phase 1 of the project, and participated in the review of the potential impacts of the Phase 2 development proposal.
The Department will review the Nunavut Impact Review Board report and recommendation when it is issued and will work with the other implicated departments in making a timely decision on Phase 2 of the project thereafter.
- The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) provided notice to the Minister of Northern Affairs that the review panel for the file has concluded that due to multiple challenges, it will be unable to complete its decision-making responsibilities and issue the final report within the legislated 45-day timeline. The panel requires additional time to consider the extensive record associated with the file and engage in decision making. The panel’s decision will now be conveyed to the responsible ministers on or before May 13, 2022. The decision by responsible ministers to accept, reject, or vary the NIRB’s recommendation must subsequently be communicated to the NIRB in writing within 90 days of receiving the EA report.
- The final closing statement by the proponent was posted on the NIRB registry on January 28, 2022, and the NIRB formally closed the public record the same day.
- Final closing statements for the registered intervenors were filled on January 10, 2022.
- Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), the Hunters and Trappers Associations, and the Hamlet of Clyde River all have recommended against the approval of the project in their final submissions. They have stated that the project as proposed will cause impacts that are not adequately monitored and mitigated to the standards required by Inuit. However, the Hamlet of Pond Inlet, Grise Fiord, Igloolik and Sanirajak support the project.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) final closing statement, submitted after the public hearings, reiterated the need for measures to manage and monitor the potential impacts but noted that even with these commitments there remains uncertainty in the extent of potential marine impacts, the effectiveness of existing and proposed mitigation measures, and the ability to adaptively manage these impacts. Therefore, DFO noted that it would be essential that Baffinland develops and implements an adaptive management plan in advance of potential Phase 2 operations, if the project is approved.
- The NIRB’s extended public hearings concluded on November 6, 2021.
- On April 14, 2021, the extended public hearing, which started on April 12, 2021, was suspended due to a positive COVID-19 case in Iqaluit.
- On March 16, 2021, NTI announced it was not prepared to support the Phase 2 Development Proposal. The decision was based on technical and procedural concerns with the EA.
- On March 5, 2021, the QIA announced it will not support the Phase 2 development proposal. The announcement came after the QIA’s board discussed limited incorporation of Inuit traditional knowledge, the expansion’s impacts on wildlife, including caribou, seal, and narwhal, as well as dust produced by mining activities.
- The public hearing for the Phase 2 development proposal resumed on January 26, 2021, and was scheduled to continue for two weeks. On February 1, 2021, the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization proposed to extend the hearing after it fell multiple days behind schedule.
- DFO’s Final Written Submission prior to the public hearings, dated January 15, 2021, states that impacts on freshwater can be mitigated. DFO remains concerned that the impacts to marine mammals from project-related shipping activities may not be fully mitigated or avoided. However, the extent of these impacts cannot be defined. Thus, robust monitoring and the commitment to adaptive management is crucial to the protection of the marine mammals should the project proceed.
- DFO remains concerned that impacts from ballast water are still possible, thus proposed mitigation and monitoring is crucial to the prevention of an introduction of non-indigenous species and aquatic invasive species. DFO has made recommendations for the NIRB to consider as it drafts the project Terms and Conditions, should Phase 2 be approved.
- The Phase 2 development proposal includes the construction and operation of a second ore dock capable of berthing Cape-size ore carriers, construction of the North Railway consisting of four bridges and 417 culverts, additional crossings along the Milne Inlet Tote Road, an increase up to 12 Mt/year of iron ore from the project site and transportation of this ore via the North Railway to Milne Port, and increased shipping activities through Milne Inlet to facilitate the transport of the increased ore.
Roberts Bank Terminal 2, British Columbia
My department is actively participating in the environmental assessment for the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project.
Protecting our aquatic ecosystems while considering economic interests of communities who rely on these industries for their livelihoods is a priority for our government.
My department will continue to undertake meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples and stakeholders as well as continue our work to ensure that fish, marine mammals, and their habitats are protected.
Southern Resident Killer Whale
Our government is committed to the protection of Canada’s resident killer whales and to the recovery of these populations.
We will continue to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples, key stakeholders, international partners and the Province of British Columbia on immediate actions to reduce the impact of marine shipping and assist in the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
Our Government has advanced initiatives to address the three key threats to the Southern Resident Killer Whale through the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, the $167.4 million Whales Initiative and $61.5 million in additional measures specific to the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
- On December 15, 2021, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) began a 60-day public comment period on the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s (VFPA) response to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s information request and draft project conditions. On February 9, 2022, the IAAC extended the public comment period until March 15, 2022.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is preparing a written submission on the technical merit of the VFPA’s new information on fish and fish habitat offsetting, including salmon, as well as on avoidance and mitigation measures for project construction, operation, and marine shipping related effects to Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW). This submission will be provided to the IAAC as part of their public comment period.
- On September 24, 2021, the VFPA submitted its final response to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s information request.
- On August 25, 2020, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change requested that the VFPA provide additional information in order to inform his decisions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. The information request was posted on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry and has paused the federal timelines until the information provided by the proponent satisfies the information request.
- Some of the key issues related to the project fall within areas of DFO’s mandate, including impacts to SRKW and salmon, as well as Indigenous access to crab fishing within the navigational closure area.
- A Species at Risk Act (SARA) compliant Fisheries Act authorization would be required for construction of the terminal associated with the project in Southern Resident Killer Whale Critical Habitat, should the proponent receive a favourable environmental assessment decision under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012.
- Prior to considering issuance of a SARA s. 73 permit, the Minister must be of the opinion that s. 73(3) pre-conditions are met, including that the activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale. There is uncertainty over whether these pre-conditions can be met.
- As this is not the only project in the same area that would introduce new underwater acoustic and physical disturbances, consideration of cumulative effects will be important when decisions on this project are contemplated.
- On March 27, 2020, the Review Panel submitted its report on the project. It concluded that the project is likely to cause numerous significant adverse environmental effects taking into account the implementation of mitigation measures.
- VFPA proposes to construct and operate a new three-berth container terminal at Roberts Bank in the Fraser River Estuary in British Columbia. The project would be adjacent to the existing terminals. The proponent has stated that the new terminal would handle up to 260 container ships per year (520 ship movements) by 2030.
Highway 101 Twinning / Avon River Tidal Gate, Nova Scotia
Protecting the environment and biodiversity is a priority for our government, and we remain committed to ensuring adequate passage for fish at the existing Avon River tidal gate.
My department is currently reviewing a Fisheries Act authorization application from the Government of Nova Scotia for a replacement to the existing tidal gates. The project will be evaluated for fish passage for all fish species likely to use the Avon River.
My department is committed to working with the province, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders to find solutions that protect fish and fish habitat in the Avon River.
To address concerns about fish passage, my department has issued a Ministerial Order to the province on the operation of the tidal gates.
The Order will be reviewed every two weeks and adjusted in the event that additional information demonstrates potential impacts to safety or property.
Existing structure (Ministerial Order):
- Since the issuance of the Ministerial Order (MO), the Department has heard from stakeholders and the local Member of Parliament that the MO is impacting or will impact competitive paddling, agriculture operations, residential drinking water, emergency water for firefighting, snow making operations and property use/value.
- The MO requires that the gates be left open during the falling tide which results in lower than normal water levels in Lake Pisiquid and allows at least 10 minutes of saltwater to enter above the tidal gates on the incoming tide before closing the gates to ensure flood control from tidal waters.
- As with any structure regulated under the Fisheries Act, the responsibility to communicate changes in operations that may impact stakeholders rests with the owner or operator of the structure.
- On June 1, 2021, it was decided that the Department would continue with issuance of the MO every two weeks, until such a time that issues considered relevant by the Minister would require a change in the MO, or that the new structure is put into operation.
- DFO is reviewing the application for a Fisheries Act authorization for Phase 2. Among other things, DFO Maritimes Region will evaluate the effectiveness of fish passage for migratory species likely to use the Avon River, such as Atlantic Salmon, Gaspereau, and American Eel.
- On November 5, 2020, Nova Scotia Department of Public Works (NSDPW), formerly Transportation and Infrastructure and Renewal, submitted an application for a Fisheries Act authorization for installation of a new aboiteau and fish passage structure to replace the current tidal gate (this is referred to as the Phase 2 of the highway twinning project).
- NSDPW is proceeding with the twinning and upgrading of the existing section of Highway 101 from Three Mile Plains to Falmouth. The work includes upgrading the existing Avon tidal gate structure (aboiteau) in partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. DFO issued an authorization for Phase 1 of the project (causeway construction in the Windsor saltmarsh of Avon River) in January 2020.
Kudz Ze Kayah Mining Project
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to continuing its work to support the review of this project.
Federal Decision Bodies required an extension to evaluate all potential decision pathways.
We will continue to work closely and in partnership with the Yukon Government, as well as through continued engagement with affected First Nations.
- An initial meeting was held with First Nations to discuss the revised terms and conditions on January 13, 2022. More discussions are needed and Canada has invited First Nations to have further technical discussions to respond to the revised terms and conditions in the coming weeks.
- Last summer, the Decision Bodies (DB) provided an update to the Executive Committee (EC) indicating that the DBs will continue work on the project, in consultation with the Kaska First Nations, with the goal of making a decision in approximately three months. For various reasons this did not materialize and Canada is now aiming for a decision in February 2022. It is focusing its efforts to meet the duty to consult obligation appropriately and will remain flexible to the needs of First Nations and consultation requirements which could result in more time being needed.
- Yukon Government (YG) and federal DBs have worked together to revise the Terms and Conditions for a decision and shared them last fall with affected First Nations for discussion. First Nations agreed last November to meet and discuss the revised Terms and Conditions in the subsequent weeks and Canada and YG have been waiting for availability of First Nations to meet since that time.
- On April 13, 2021, the Northern Project Management Office, on behalf of the federal DBs, sent a notification letter to the EC to inform them that the federal DBs will be reserving a decision under s. 59 of the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Act (YESAA) as additional time is required to evaluate all potential decision pathways.
- The extension will be for an indeterminate amount of time to ensure meaningful collaboration and consultation with the Yukon Government and affected First Nations.
- DBs had until April 13, 2021, (15 days) to decide whether to refer the project to a Panel of the Board, or until May 5, 2021, (37 days) to decide whether to accept the recommendations, vary the recommendations, or reject the project.
- On March 29, 2021, the EC published its Referral Conclusion and determined that on the basis of the information generated during the referral process, the EC agreed the project will cause significant adverse effects but was at a stalemate regarding whether mitigation measures will adequately reduce the effects.
- The deadlock meant the EC was unable to issue a new recommendation within the allotted timeframe. This resulted in the reissuance of the original screening report and recommendation from October 21, 2020.
- DBs under YESAA—the Government of Yukon, Natural Resources Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada—had to decide whether to refer the project back to the YESAA EC for further assessment by January 22, 2021, or accept their recommendation that the project proceed to the regulatory permitting phase.
- In referring the project back, federal DBs identified gaps in the EC’s report including the consideration of Aboriginal rights and interests, traditional knowledge and traditional land use, fish and fish habitat, and caribou. These gaps made it difficult for federal decision-makers to understand how the EC reached its conclusions and limits the extent that federal DBs can rely on the report to aid in the fulfillment of federal consultation obligations.
- On October 21, 2020, the EC provided its screening report and recommendations identifying likely significant adverse effects to water resources, wildlife, traditional land use, economy, and human health and safety. The EC concluded that these effects can be eliminated, controlled or reduced through the application of recommended mitigation measures.
- On January 9, 2018, a Project Screening by the EC commenced under YESAA.
- BMC Minerals (No.1) Ltd. is proposing the Kudz Ze Kayah Mine, a combined open pit and underground mine with an estimated production rate of approximately two million tonnes per year over a ten year mine life; producing up to 180,000 tonnes (t) zinc, 35,000 t copper and 25,000 t lead concentrates annually. The proposed project is in southeastern Yukon, approximately 115 km southeast of the community of Ross River, Yukon.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada are DBs under the YESAA because of requirements for project approvals during the regulatory phase under the Fisheries Act and the Explosives Act, respectively.
- The territorial government is also a DB under YESAA. The Northern Projects Management Office is coordinating consultation with Indigenous groups as well as coordinating the review and decision making of federal and territorial DBs.
Northwest Arm, NS – Infilling of Private Water Lot
Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducts regulatory reviews under the Fisheries Act of projects that could result in death of fish, or a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. This includes projects like infilling of coastal fish habitat.
If an application for authorization under the Fisheries Act is received, my department will consult with potentially impacted Indigenous groups.
My department remains committed to working with provincial officials and local stakeholders to protect fish and fish habitat.
- On November 30, 2021, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change decided that a regional assessment of the Halifax Harbour area is not warranted under the Impact Assessment Act.
- On July 16, 2021, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) received a letter from the Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Climate Change, stating that the provincial Coastal Protection Act, which received Royal Assent in 2019 but has not yet entered into force, is intended to limit new infillings on submerged provincial Crown Land.
- The Province requested the federal government align with this approach for areas of federal jurisdiction (i.e., federal ports and private water lots). Currently, the proposed project is not consistent with how the Province plans to manage coastal development.
- On July 6, 2021, following a risk assessment of the project, DFO notified the proponent that a Fisheries Act authorization would be required for the destruction of fish habitat. An application for authorization has not yet been received.
- The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia have an Indigenous right to fish within the Northwest Arm.
- The project has been met with strong opposition from community groups led by neighbours and the Ecology Action Center (EAC). Additionally, Transport Canada indicated they received over 400 comments during their department’s 30-day public comment period, which ended on July 22, 2021. The local Liberal Member of Parliament, Andy Fillmore, has publicly stated his opposition to the project.
- Local community members are concerned the proponent’s request may set a precedent for other landowners to propose the same type of project, which could cause cumulative impacts to fish and fish habitat.
- This is an uncommon situation in that most water lots today are not privately owned. Pre-confederate, privately owned water lots were originally deeded to preserve a landowner’s access to the water adjacent to their property and allow for the construction of wharves and moorings.
- Infilling proposals in the Northwest Arm are subject to regulatory review under the Fisheries Act and Canadian Navigable Waters Act. In accordance with subsection 34(1) of the Fisheries Act, DFO must consider cumulative effects and other relevant factors.
- On June 1, 2021, DFO received a request for review from a private citizen (the proponent) to infill an area of 1,668 m2 within a privately owned water lot on the Northwest Arm of the Halifax Harbour.
- On May 27, 2021, a request for a Regional Assessment (RA) was submitted to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada on behalf of community members and the EAC for the infilling of private water lots within the Northwest Arm of Halifax Harbour. The request for an RA was supported by local Members of Parliament and Senators. The Agency has received many letters of support for an RA in this area.
Trans Mountain Expansion Project
Through application of the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act, we are working with Trans Mountain Corporation, the Canada Energy Regulator, Indigenous groups, and other partners to ensure that fish, marine mammals and their habitats are protected.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has issued seven Fisheries Act authorizations for watercourse crossings and an authorization for the Westridge Marine Terminal.
We continue to engage with Indigenous groups to advance accommodation measures that focus on building capacity and long-term relationships, spill prevention, response capacity and cumulative effects to fish and fish habitat.
Southern Resident Killer Whale
Our government is committed to the protection of Canada’s resident killer whales and to the recovery of these populations.
The Government has advanced initiatives to address the three key threats to the Southern Resident Killer Whale through some elements of three separate investments: the $1.59‑billion Oceans Protection Plan, the $167.4‑million Whales Initiative, and the $61.5 million in additional measures specific to the Southern Resident Killer Whale population.
We are addressing the recommendations of the Canada Energy Regulator, including implementing multiple initiatives intended to offset the impacts of project-related shipping to the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
- The Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) would expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton, Alberta, and Burnaby, British Columbia. It includes approximately 987 km of new pipeline, new and modified facilities, such as pump stations and tanks, and the reactivation of 193 km of existing pipeline. The project includes an expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal to accommodate 34 tankers per month, up from the 5 that are currently loaded at the existing terminal.
- In 2019, the Government of Canada approved TMX for a second time following the initial approval being overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal in 2018. Subsequent applications for leave to appeal were dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada in March 2020.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has regulatory responsibilities under the Fisheries Act and Species at Risk Act for the protection of fish and fish habitat, including marine mammals. In collaboration with the proponent and Canada Energy Regulator (CER), we are delivering regulatory review services for pipeline watercourse crossings. This will continue throughout the construction of the project.
- Fish mortality events occurred on November 28 and December 11, 2019, resulting in the death of approximately 16 Pacific herring in the first event and approximately 200-300 Pacific herring during the second event. These fish likely died from exposure to elevated sound pressure levels during impact pile driving at the Westridge Marine Terminal. The proponent has maintained that they were in compliance with the conditions of the authorization. These events were investigated by DFO’s Conservation and Protection Branch and no action was taken.
- DFO issued a Fisheries Act authorization for the expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal on September 12, 2019. On January 20, 2020, DFO issued an amended Fisheries Act authorization for a minor change of work that would not further impact fish and fish habitat.
- In the Order in Council approving the project, the Government committed to implement a series of Indigenous accommodation measures and responses to recommendations from the CER to address the effects of marine shipping. These measures are funded for either three or five years with funding for some measures sunsetting in March 2022.
- DFO manages three accommodation measures, the Salish Sea Initiative, Aquatic Habitat Restoration Fund and Terrestrial Cumulative Effects Initiative (co-managed with ECCC and NRCan). These programs are currently funded to March 2024. CCG manages the Co-Developing Community Response which is currently funded to March 2022.
- In its review of the project, the CER found that there would be significant adverse effects related to increases in marine shipping assessed under the National Energy Board Act with respect to the Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW), Indigenous cultural use associated with the SRKW, and direct greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels.
- The CER made 16 recommendations to the GiC to avoid, mitigate or lessen effects of project-related marine shipping; the Board made these Recommendations to the GIC citing that the CER does not have regulatory authority over marine shipping and the proponent does not have control of the vessels calling at the Westridge Marine Terminal.
- In Recommendation 5, the Board recommends that an Offset Program be implemented to offset the additional underwater noise and strike risk created by project-related marine vessels. The Board concludes that the offset approach could bring the significant adverse effects finding on SRKW to a finding of non-significant if and when project-related shipping effects have been effectively reduced to net-zero in each section of the shipping route.
- To meet this recommendation, an underwater noise baseline along the marine shipping route has been developed using data collected from hydrophone monitoring stations. A Noise Model for the Salish Sea out to Swiftsure Bank and La Perouse Bank has been developed and tested to allow for the modelling of management scenarios to assess the effectiveness of measures against an offset target.
- On August 30, 2018, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the GiC decision to approve the TMX project. The Court found that Canada failed to fulfil the legal duty to consult Indigenous peoples but also that the NEB unjustifiably excluded project-related marine shipping in its review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
- On May 29, 2018, the Government of Canada announced that it would buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and infrastructure related to the expansion project for $4.5 billion. The sale did not change the role of DFO in relation to the project.
- The CER is responsible for reviewing proposed works, undertakings and activities at TMX watercourse crossings pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between DFO and the CER on the cooperation and administration of the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act. Under the terms of our Memorandum of Understanding, DFO remains responsible for issuing any authorizations under the Fisheries Act.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is not aware of any requests to pursue seabed/ocean mining in Canada.
Seabed mining would be assessed based on best available scientific knowledge to ensure that any activity related to it can be done in a way that is ecologically sustainable.
Approving applications for seabed mining projects in Canada would involve a number of departments, each overseeing various Acts that protect Canada’s marine environment.
A key DFO role in assessing seabed mining would be to review applications in line with the Fisheries Act, which contains prohibitions against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing and causing the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.
In April 2019, the Government of Canada announced a new protection standard for all future federal marine protected areas (MPAs). This standard prohibits mining in such MPAs, in addition to oil and gas exploration and exploitation, dumping, and bottom trawling.
- Ocean mining is the process of retrieving mineral deposits from the seabed.
- To date, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has not been asked to review any seabed mining applications.
- Approving applications for seabed mining projects in Canada would involve a number of departments, each overseeing various Acts that protect Canada’s marine environment. One of the key DFO roles in assessing seabed mining would be to review applications in line with the Fisheries Act, which contains prohibitions against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing and causing the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.
- In terms of understanding impacts on ocean biodiversity, DFO researchers and other Canadian scientists participated in workshops organized by the International Seabed Authority on the development of regional environmental management plans for the North Pacific and the Northern mid-Atlantic Ridge held in 2020.
- These workshops reviewed scientific information available to inform the development of regional environmental management plans, such as information on the species and habitats in these areas and potential impacts to them from seabed mining.
- On April 25, 2019, the Government of Canada adopted a new approach to marine conservation, including a new marine protected areas (MPAs) protection standard. The MPA protection standard prohibits oil and gas exploration and exploitation, mining, dumping, and bottom trawling in all future federal MPAs. The standard follows recommendations provided to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard from the independent National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards in 2018. Mary Simon (now Governor General) was a Panel Co-Chair.
Bay du Nord development project
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) was an active participant during the entire environmental assessment process, which still awaits final decision.
Should the project receive environmental assessment approval, my department will work with the proponent to assess whether or not a Fisheries Act authorization would be required.
In addition, we will continue to collaborate with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, the proponent, and other stakeholders in the follow-up program that the proponent would be responsible for implementing if the project receives a positive environmental assessment decision.
While the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat report on the project was published in January 2022, it reflects information available in 2019 and does not provide comments on subsequent information provided during the environmental assessment process.
The findings of the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat report formed part of DFO’s initial advice provided to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada in the spring of 2019, and were taken into account throughout the environmental assessment.
- Equinor (the proponent), in partnership with Cenovus group of companies, is proposing to install and operate a floating offshore oil and gas production facility in the Flemish Pass, approximately 500 kilometres east of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, in the Atlantic Ocean. As proposed, the Bay du Nord Development Project would be in operation for approximately 30 years, with the potential for additional wells and tie-backs to the production facility.
- The environmental assessment (EA) of the project commenced in 2018 under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012), and then continued as a “hybrid” EA that considers elements under both CEAA 2012 and the Impact Assessment Act, when the latter came into force in 2019. The EA, led by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, was integrated with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board’s (C-NLOPB) Development Application process with the objective of promoting cooperation and coordinated action between federal and Board processes.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) was an active participant during the entire EA process from January 2019 through November 2021. This included the review of EA-related documents and participation at several meetings with the Agency and the proponent related to potential impacts of the project on the aquatic environment.
- A Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) peer review process was conducted in the spring of 2019 to support DFO’s review of the proponent’s draft Environmental Impact Statement. The CSAS report, detailing the 2019 findings, was published in January 2022, following internal delays.
- The CSAS report responds to specific questions and informs DFO’s overall advice to the Agency. CSAS reports are made public following an established publication process.
- On February 2, 2022, DFO sent a letter to the Agency to clarify the CSAS process that was undertaken in relation to the project. The letter also re-iterated that all of DFO’s outstanding project concerns have been addressed.
- The draft EA report was made public in August 2021, and concluded that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, taking into account the implementation of the identified mitigation measures.
- A number of fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles, including some listed under the Species at Risk Act, may be impacted by the project; however, after taking into account the implementation of the identified mitigation measures, the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on those species. The draft EA report also indicates that additional site-specific information and follow-up monitoring would be necessary to verify predicted effects on specific species.
- The Agency finalized its EA report and conditions in November 2021. The EA decision by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the publication of the final EA report were expected by December 6, 2021; however, the Minister extended the time limit for his decision by 90 days (until March 6, 2022) to allow further time for review of the final EA report.
- If the project receives a positive EA decision, DFO will work with the lead regulatory authority, the C-NLOPB, to ensure that conditions of the EA are met prior to the C-NLOPB issuing any operational authorization or permit.
- As part of the process, the proponent would subsequently be required to provide detailed habitat surveys at the location of the project and DFO would assess whether or not a Fisheries Act authorization would be required (i.e. if that habitat is to be destroyed or altered).
Salmon Habitat in the Fraser River
Sustainable and healthy ecosystems are both economically and culturally integral to the people of British Columbia and Canada.
The Heart of the Fraser is an area of importance to both salmon and white sturgeon, and am committed to protecting fish and fish habitat in this area.
To that end, we continue to deliver on our promise to implement a modernized Fisheries Act which supports sustainable, stable, and prosperous fisheries, while we also work with our partners to explore additional avenues to protect this important area.
Ecologically Significant Areas
My department is considering how certain species and habitats that could be sensitive, highly productive, rare, or unique, like those found in the Heart of the Fraser, could benefit from designation as an Ecologically Significant Area under the Fisheries Act.
We are engaging Canadians on concepts for a national framework to govern the identification, establishment, and management of Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
While this work advances, fish and fish habitat within the Heart of the Fraser continue to be protected under the Fisheries Act.
- The Heart of the Fraser is used to describe an area of the river between Mission and Hope, British Columbia.
- In recent years there have been numerous calls to protect this area from development owing to its importance a productive stretch of the river that provides important aquatic habitat for numerous fish species, including all five Pacific salmon species and Lower Fraser river white sturgeon which have been assessed as ‘Threatened’ by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and are under consideration for listing under the Species at Risk Act.
- The Heart of the Fraser is jurisdictionally complex, with many First Nations, multiple intersecting government jurisdictions, rapidly increasing urban population and development, multiple linear transportation corridors, and multiple highly valued freshwater fisheries.
- Given the significant interest in protecting the Heart of the Fraser, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program is working closely with the Province of British Columbia, First Nations, and environmental non-governmental organizations to initiate a planning table to explore opportunities and avenues for better protecting the Heart of the Fraser.
- Fish and fish habitat within this section of the river is protected under the general prohibitions against causing the harmful alteration, disruption and destruction of fish habitat and/or the death of fish by means other than fishing contained in the Fisheries Act.
- The Fisheries Act also contains provisions which allow for the designation of Ecologically Significant Areas which could potentially afford additional protections to specific species and habitats that could be sensitive, highly productive, rare, or unique, such as those found in the Heart of the Fraser.
- No Ecologically Significant Areas have been designated under the Fisheries Act as of yet. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is engaging with Indigenous peoples, partners, and stakeholders on initial concepts of a ‘National Framework for Identifying, Establishing, and Managing Ecologically Significant Areas’. This Framework is a first step in examining how this new regulatory tool could be used to protect fish and fish habitat.
North Atlantic right whale
The protection and recovery of the Endangered North Atlantic right whale is a priority of mine.
In 2022, our fisheries management measures will continue to focus on preventing right whale entanglements by getting fishing gear out of the water where and when these whales are detected. We will also continue to take action to address lost or derelict gear (ghost gear) and support our national network of marine mammal responders.
Our world-class adaptive management measures, which incorporate the best available science, were developed through close collaboration between our department, the fishing industry, Indigenous communities and leading right whale scientists to achieve the goal of right whale protection while upholding our reputation for sustainably-sourced seafood.
These measures include gear marking requirements, reduction of floating rope at the surface, lost gear reporting requirements and retrieval efforts, and near-real time removal of gear from fisheries like crab and lobster where and when right whales are detected. These locations remain closed as long as right whales are detected in the area.
Our fisheries measures are supported by a robust monitoring regime to detect the presence of whales, including flights, vessels, and acoustic monitoring. This monitoring regime lets us both protect whales while also helping to ensure that we aren’t closing areas where whales are not present.
Fixed gear fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec will be required to incorporate low breaking strength elements into their fishing gear by 2023. This will help reduce entanglement harm to North Atlantic right whales and other whale species, and will complement our efforts to prevent entanglements.
It will also help Canadian fisheries meet the import provisions of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, and thus maintain access to an important market for Canadian seafood products.
Adapting fishing gear technology to reduce entanglement risk is a growing field in which Canadian fish harvesters and researchers have taken a leading role. Our harvesters and experts have been developing and testing “whale friendly” technology. This includes gear with low breaking strength to release entangled whales, and “rope on demand” systems that remove rope from the water.
Some harvester groups have expressed concerns about their readiness to adopt whalesafe gear. We have heard concerns about the cost of new fishing gear, and about potential safety issues. Our department continues to work with fishery groups throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec to identify the most suitable options for each fishery.
Fisheries and Oceans launched a new funding program in August 2021, the ‘Whalesafe Gear Adoption Fund’, providing up to $10 million a year for two years. This Fund will support the purchase, development, and testing of innovative gear technology to reduce whale entanglements. This funding is open to fishery groups, Indigenous groups and First Nations, researchers, and gear manufacturers.
MMPA and US engagement
The Department continues to collaborate with US counterparts to establish a gear investigation process to deal with high-profile, cross-boundary cases to ensure the analysis is accurate for determining entanglement origin and does not impact access to markets.
On November 26, 2021, Canada submitted final applications for comparability findings for its 323 fisheries and aquaculture operations that export their products to the US, an important milestone on the way to meeting new import requirements under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
Deaths and entanglements for the 2021 season
The Department continues to prioritize the recovery of NARW population numbers and is thrilled there were no deaths reported in Canadian waters for the 2021 season.
For the 2021 season there was one new entanglement reported in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on July 13, 2021. This incident involved NARW #4615 and was monitored closely by the Department. NARW #4615 was last seen in Canadian waters on July 14, 2021 entangled in rope. The Department continues to work with US counterparts to locate this individual and continue disentanglement efforts when safe to do so.
Additionally, previously entangled NARW #3560 (Snowcone) was detected in Canadian waters May 10, 2021. The entanglement was first observed in U. S waters in March 2021. Throughout the summer the Department attempted numerous disentanglement operations, allowing for the removal of some of the rope. NARW #3560 is currently detected in Florida as recent as January 19, 2022, where she appears in good health with her newborn calf. It is expected #3560 and her calf will return to Canadian waters in the 2022 season. As such, the Department is prepared to monitor the entanglement situation closely, and attempt further disentanglement operations when safe to do so.
Scientific support of measures for NARW
The 2021 NARW population estimate indicates that approximately 336 whales remain. This is a decrease from the 2020 estimate that identified a population of 356 whales. Since 2018, Canada has implemented mandatory measures with the objective of protecting NARWs when and where they are found in our waters. The Department’s protection and recovery strategy is founded on peer-reviewed Fisheries and Oceans Canada science advice, as well as advice from external NARW experts and research publications.
Impacts to harvesters
Canada’s NARW protection measures are based on extensive engagement with partners and stakeholders. On November 30 and December 2, 2021, the Department held the annual NARW Advisory Committee meeting to engage the Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishing industry representatives, provincial government, non-government organizations, and other right whale experts on Canada’s right whale measures.
Cost of protecting Right Whales
Our strategy to protect right whales is supported by the $167.4m Whale Initiative, announced in Canada’s 2018 Federal Budget. This includes funding for science activities to help better understand factors affecting the health of whale populations, as well as support for targeted and immediate actions to help address the threats arising from human activities. An additional $20M for the Whalesafe Gear Adoption Fund was announced in August 2021 to support harvesters and partners to reduce harm and risk of harm to whales from commercial fishing activities. The Program consists of contribution funding over two years (2021-2023) to support projects that advance the adoption of methods to prevent and alleviate whale entanglement.
Will the whalesafe gear modification requirements for crab, lobster and other fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec lead to more ghost gear?
DFO has heard harvesters’ concerns that whalesafe gear may lead to more ghost gear. In response the Department has been holding discussions with harvesters in all regions to identify the best gear modifications to suit the specific conditions of their fisheries. Departmental officials are also seeking technical input on meeting the challenge of developing whalesafe gear that fishes effectively under normal conditions.
United States NARW protection measures
United States NARW protection measures focus largely on reducing vertical lines in the water for lobster and crab fisheries, implementing whalesafe gear modification requirements and some seasonal closure provisions.
Transport Canada vessel management measures
Transport Canada vessel management measures will continue to be the same for the 2022 season. This includes mandatory static and dynamic speed restriction zones in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a seasonal restricted area in the Shediac Valley and a voluntary speed restriction in the Cabot Strait for the beginning and end of the season. Fishing and shipping activities have been put under public scrutiny since the unusual mortality event of 2017, leading to the implementation of NARW related measures on an annual basis to address these threats.
- In February 2022, (TBC) the Minister announced jointly with the Minister of Transport Canada the management measures for North Atlantic right whales (NARW). The fisheries closure protocols will continue to apply in the same manner as in 2021 except for the end of the pilot project in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 38, this area will now fall under the same conditions of licence and closure protocols as the rest of the Bay of Fundy. Gear modification work will continue as announced in prior years.
- On December 17, 2021 the Department met with the US Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Deputy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator and her colleagues to discuss matters of common interest in relation to NARW protection measures and reporting under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). As a result of discussions agreements were reached on the following:
- End speculation on the origin of fishing gear removed from a whale when respective gear investigations are inconclusive.
- Develop a gear investigation information sharing protocol.
- NOAA will review and update their historical records of NARW incidents that were unjustifiably assigned to Canada.
- The first right whale Advisory Committee meeting (previously the roundtable) was held on November 30 and December 2, 2021.
- Closure statistics from 2021:
- 524 total closures (382 full grids, 142 portion of grids, total coverage for closures– 74,926.92 km2
- 124 seasonal closures (23 portion of grids), seasonal closures covered 26,763.74 km2
- As of November 15, 2021, there were 1476 recorded detections of right whales (does not represent individual whales).
- In October 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an updated estimate of the NARW population: 336 right whales, which is significantly lower than previously thought.
- In 2021, targeted right whale surveillance efforts resumed on April 12. The first right whale was detected on April 25, 2021 by the DFO Science Cessna. Acoustic monitoring devices became operational as of May 15, 2021.
- As of 2021, a technical working group of harvesters, right whale experts, and departmental officials meet regularly throughout the year to discuss ongoing right whale fisheries management issues in Canadian waters.
- In 2021, the Department is continuing with adaptive measures to aid in preventing fishing gear entanglements, such as:
- Changes to the open and closure dates of fisheries;
- Season-long closure protocol (Nov 15) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
- Dynamic closure protocol in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bay of Fundy, and critical habitat areas (Grand Manan Basin and Roseway Basin);
- Case by case measures to address sightings of three (3) whale or more aggregations or a mother and calf anywhere in Atlantic Canada and Quebec that is not subject to temporary closure areas and critical habitat;
- Maintaining targeted provisions for waters shallower than 20 fathoms (36.5 metres or 120 feet); and
- Focused surveillance using acoustic underwater technology (hydrophones), aircraft and vessels to confirm the presence of whales.
- The 2021 Action Plan for the NARW was finalized and published on the Public Registry in the spring of 2021. The Action Plan addresses all threats identified in the species’ Recovery Strategy, including vessel collisions, entanglement in fishing gear, disturbance from vessel presence, noise, contaminants, habitat degradation, and changes in food supply.
- As announced in February 2020, the Department will continue working with partners and industry in Atlantic Canada and Quebec to identify gear solutions for preventing injury to right whales. The specific gear modifications are expected to vary by region and fishery, but the requirements will be the same for all non-tended, fixed-gear fisheries: low breaking strength rope or links must be incorporated by the end of 2022.
- Harvester have expressed concern about the timeline for this rule, though the original deadline was extended by one year. Concerns reflect safety issues that need to be explored, and costs of adopting the new gear including the potential loss of fishing gear because of the low breaking strength elements.
- Technological innovations are intended to minimize accidental gear loss by only triggering release in the event of a whale entanglement, and not during normal fishing operations. Nonetheless, the potential loss of gear has been seen by some industry groups as linked to the ghost gear reduction initiative.
- Since 2018, DFO has invested over $5.7 million to further enhance the Marine Mammal Response Program, which responds to marine mammals in distress, including disentanglement of NARWs. This funding is part of the $167.4 million Whales Initiative in Budget 2018.
- The NARW was listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as Endangered in 2005. It is predicted the species could become extinct in 30 years if the morality rate is not significantly reduced.
Marine Mammal Protection Act and US Engagement
- Workshops on necropsy protocols for sample collection and reporting are being organized.
- The Department is seeking collaboration from the US for the establishment of a gear investigation process to deal with high-profile, cross-boundary cases to ensure the analysis of origin is fair. There are MMPA implications when gear origin is assigned as mentioned in the above section. The Department submitted the MMPA Comparability Finding Applications on November 26, 2021.
Deaths and entanglements for the 2021 Season
- In 2021 there were no reported NARW deaths in Canadian waters, with two reported deaths in US Waters. These deaths included a newborn calf of #3230 and Cottontail #3920. While the newborn calf death was linked to vessel strike, the cause of death for Cottontail is chronic entanglement with gear present.
- In 2021 there was a resighting of the previously entangled Snowcone (#3560) on May 10 by DFO. The entanglement was first observed in US waters, off Cape Cod Massachusetts, in March 2021. On May 11, DFO and the Campobello Whale Rescue team were able to remove some of the rope attached to the animal. It was reported she was in good health. The whale was not sighted in Canadian waters after August 4, but has been seen as recent as January 19, 2022 with her newborn calf in Florida. It was reported #3560 and calf’s body condition are similar to the other cow/calf pairings being observed in Florida. Entanglement efforts have not been conducted due to the importance of cow/calf bonding in the first few months of life and the heightened risk to approaching a cow/calf pair. The situation remains to be monitored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and partners.
NARW #4615 Entanglement
- In 2021 there was one reported NARW entanglement, NARW #4615 (male, 5 years old), on July 13 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On July 14, DFO surveillance aircraft located the whale due to the tag attached the previous day. Some of the rope configuration had been altered by #4615 movements, however the whale remained entangled.
- July 14, 2021 was the last visual sighting of #4615, the tag did start transmitting again on September 13 however it is believed the tag is no longer attached to #4615 and is not functioning properly. DFO surveillance aircraft attempted a search on September 16 but did not find the buoy or #4615.
Southern resident killer whale
Our government is committed to the protection and recovery of the iconic Southern Resident killer whales, and has taken significant steps to address key threats to the population, that is currently a total of 72.
The Government has implemented enhanced measures since 2018 to stop the decline of this species through management measures to protect Chinook salmon and minimize disturbance from vessels.
We are now consulting with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public on potential measures for 2022 which build on work in collaboration with Indigenous and stakeholder experts, past efforts, and new scientific information.
SRKW births and deaths
Over this past summer, K21 and L47 were reported as missing and presumed dead. A third individual, L89, has been missing since November 5, 2021. His absence is worrying as his pod has been sighted without his presence.
My department is aware of the recent photogrammetry studies indicating that J19 and J36 appear to have suffered miscarriages. J37 is still pregnant. This is unfortunate, though not unexpected, as the failure rate of pregnancies in Southern Resident killer whales is high.
The Government of Canada remains focused on our long term plan to help support the protection and recovery of the Southern Resident killer whales.
- Two distinct populations of resident killer whales, known as the Northern and Southern Residents, occupy the waters off the west coast of British Columbia.
- In 2001, COSEWIC designated SRKW’s as ‘Endangered’, and Northern Resident killer whales as ‘Threatened’. Both populations are listed in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. These two populations are acoustically, genetically and culturally distinct. SRKW’s are also listed under the US Endangered Species Act as Endangered.
- There are also three SRKWs that have been reported as missing by the Center for Whale Research (a US organization that conducts the annual census for SRKWs) and are presumed to be dead, K21, L47 and L89. This brings the SRKW population to 72 individuals.
- J19, J36 and J37 from J pod have been reported as pregnant by US research organization SR3.
- SRKW’s have approximately a 30 per cent live birth rate and neonate mortality is approximately 43 per cent, so the Department is cautiously optimistic regarding the pregnancies.
- The approach to the 2022 management measures will be informed by a number of new peer-reviewed research papers, along with lessons learned from previous years, and engagement and consultation with Indigenous groups, stakeholders, and technical experts. A number of peer-reviewed research papers have been published this year that will inform the management measures and recovery efforts.
- The SRKW is considered to be at risk because of its small population size, low reproductive rate, and the existence of a variety of anthropogenic threats that have the potential to prevent recovery or to cause further declines.
- Principal among these anthropogenic threats are reductions in the availability of prey (Chinook salmon is the main prey item), both physical and acoustic disturbance, and environmental contamination.
- Actions on many of the recovery measures identified in the Resident killer whale recovery strategy are underway.
- In May 2018, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change determined that SRKWs are facing imminent threats to their survival and recovery.
- In April 2021, the Government announced a suite of management measures for the third year in a row.
- Fishery management measures include closures to help increase the availability of Chinook salmon and decrease vessel disturbance in key SRKW foraging (feeding) areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Gulf Islands within SRKW critical habitat.
- Area based fishing closures for commercial and recreational salmon will be in place in a portion of Swiftsure Bank from July 16, to October 31, 2021, and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from August 1, to October 31, 2021.
- New for 2021, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) piloted a new fishing closure protocol for the southern Gulf Islands recreational and commercial salmon fisheries, where fishery closures are triggered by the first confirmed presence of SRKWs in the area. SRKW presence was confirmed during the monitoring phased by the Port of Vancouver Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program, which initiated the closures from July 4, 2021, to October 31, 2021.
- To further reduce noise and physical disturbance from vessels in portions of SRKW foraging areas, Interim Sanctuary Zones will be in effect from June 1, to November 30, 2021.
- Vessel traffic will be prohibited in a portion of Swiftsure Bank and off North Pender and Saturna Islands as per the Interim Order enacted under the Canada Shipping Act. Some exceptions will apply for, for example, vessels involved in Indigenous fishing for food, social or ceremonial purposes, and vessels involved in emergency response.
- To address vessel disturbance in the presence of whales, a mandatory 400-metre vessel approach distance for all killer whales is in effect until May 31, 2022, in southern BC coastal waters between Campbell River, and just north of Ucluelet.
- The Marine Mammal Regulations remain in effect year-round, and require maintaining a minimum 200 metre approach distance from all killer whales in Canadian Pacific waters other than those described above, and 100 metres for other whales, porpoises and dolphins or 200 metres when the animal is in resting position or with a calf.
- The Government is addressing the threat of contaminants by strengthening regulations and developing guidelines, increasing research and monitoring, encouraging data sharing, and expanding outreach and education initiatives.
- Canada continues to work collaboratively with the US federal government and the Washington state government to share research and align management actions where possible.
U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act import provisions
Our government, working with Canadian industry, is committed to protecting marine mammals from entanglement in fishing gear and maintaining access to the Unites States (US) market.
We continue to work closely with Canadian harvesters, and other stakeholders to meet the new US import requirements coming into force in 2023.
When it comes to the protection of North Atlantic right whales (NARW), we are proud of the robustness of our measures and are confident that they meet or exceed the US standards.
Prohibiting the lethal removal of nuisance seals
The US Marine Mammal Protection Act(MMPA) import requirements include a prohibition on the intentional killing of marine mammals during commercial fishing activities.
Canada prohibits this type of activity through the Marine Mammal Regulations (Section 7). Moreover, my department has ceased issuing Nuisance Seal Licences since 2020.
The US has advised that these measures meet their import requirements under the MMPA.
- The US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) import provisions were finalized at the end of 2016, but entry into force was originally stayed for five years while the US works with exporting countries – like Canada – through the implementation and compliance process.
- Recently, the US extended the implementation of the MMPA import provisions by another year – until January 1, 2023.
- The new rules establish conditions for evaluating a harvesting nation's regulatory program for reducing marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury during the course of commercial fishing and aquaculture operations.
- In order to maintain US market access in 2023, fish and seafood-harvesting nations must meet or exceed US standards in terms of mitigating marine mammal bycatch.
- The US is Canada’s major export market for fish and seafood, valued at $4.1 billion in 2020.
- On September 10, 2019, Canada submitted data via the US secure data portal on progress in implementing the MMPA, an important milestone on the way to meeting new import requirements.
- On May 14, 2020, DFO, in collaboration with industry, submitted Canada’s revised list of fisheries that export their fish and seafood products to the US, another important milestone of the compliance process.
- On November 26, 2021, Canada submitted final applications for comparability findings for its 323 fisheries and aquaculture operations that export their products to the US.
- Among the new US requirements for nations harvesting fish and seafood products for export to the US, is the need to prohibit the lethal removal of nuisance seals during the course of commercial fishing and aquaculture operations.
- The Department prohibits the intentional killing of marine mammals through section 7 of the Marine Mammal Regulations (MMR). However, the intentional killing of nuisance seals is authorized via Nuisance Seal Licences (NSL) issued under the MMR and conditions of licence issued under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations (PAR).
- Given the problems that NSL issuance pose with respect to a central objective of the MMPA and the associated risk of jeopardizing US market access in fisheries that use Nuisance Seal Licences, in December 2019 the Department ceased issuing them. This action followed a March 2019 decision by the Department to no longer permit the lethal removal of nuisance seals at aquaculture operations.
- The Department has received confirmation from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that a Ministerial Statement confirming that Canada would not issue Nuisance Seal Licences to protect fishing equipment, and that Canada would inform the US if this changed, would be considered a comparable approach to US measures to protect marine mammals for the purpose of the US MMPA Import Provisions.
The conservation and protection of marine mammals is a top priority.
The Whale Sanctuary Project is a US organization that is working to establish a facility along the coast of Nova Scotia, with the intent to provide an ocean environment for previously captive cetaceans to live out the rest of their lives.
Our government believes whales and dolphins should not be kept in captivity, this is why we introduced provisions to support this in the modernization of the Fisheries Act, which became law in the summer of 2019.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working with the proponent and other orders of government as appropriate to assess the project as it continues through the planning phases.
- The Whale Sanctuary Project is a U.S. organization that is working to establish a model for coastal cetacean (whale, dolphin, and porpoise) sanctuaries for previously captive whales to live out the rest of their lives. Although based in the U.S., the organization has many Canadian contributors.
- Nova Scotia was identified early in the process as an ideal location for a sanctuary of 40 hectares along the Atlantic shore. Public information meetings were held in coastal communities throughout Nova Scotia by the Whale Sanctuary Project, including Dartmouth, Liverpool, Port Hawkesbury, Sherbrooke, and Sheet Harbour.
- In April 2021, the organization submitted a formal development proposal to the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry for a whale sanctuary with Port Hilford, Nova Scotia as the potential location.
- The Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry will lead Indigenous consultation at the provincial level and coordinate the process with any potentially implicated departments (provincial or federal).
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has met with members of the Whale Sanctuary Project and the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry for an overview of the preliminary details for this project. At this time, no formal proposal has been submitted federally.
- On October 29, 2021 the whale sanctuary project had a ribbon cutting ceremony with high ranking provincial and Indigenous presence for the Operations Centre in the town of Sherbrooke, which will act as the home base for directing the design, engineering, and construction of the sanctuary as well as acting as an Information Centre.
- From a DFO perspective, work to assess the project would include considerations of the habitat provisions under the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act (SARA), if the whale is a SARA-listed species, and the Marine Mammal Regulations and Fishery (General) Regulations as they would apply to licensingthe release or transfer of whales into the sanctuary.
- Should the sanctuary be established and the proponents wish to introduce cetaceans that are imported from another country; transferred from an aquarium within Canada; or injured wild cetaceans that require rehabilitation, the proponents would need to seek a permit from DFO or the Province of Nova Scotia, depending on the specific circumstances of the request.
- In June 2019, stipulations aimed at ending the captivity of cetaceans were added to the Fisheries Act and the Criminal Code; this legislation prohibits the capture of cetaceans to be kept in captivity, except where the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is of the opinion that it is required (e.g., because the animal is in distress or in need of care). It also establishes restrictions on keeping and breeding cetaceans in captivity and on importing and exporting living cetaceans, or sperm, egg, or embryo of a cetacean, into or from Canada. Additionally, while the cetaceans that were in captivity in Canada at the coming into force of the new legislation can remain in captivity, the Criminal Code prohibits using captive cetaceans in performances for entertainment purposes, unless the facility obtains a licence from the province in which it is located.
- Animal rights groups have been vocal in their wish to see both federal and provincial governments support and expedite the creation of sanctuaries.
Pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)
There are 11 species of pinniped in Canada. These include healthy populations, like grey, harp and harbour seals as well as others species that are considered at risk, such as Steller sea lions and northern fur seals.
DFO scientists are actively involved in research to better understand the role of pinnipeds in marine ecosystems, including the potential impacts of seals on commercial fish stocks.
Sustaining healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems is a priority for this government and we rely on the best available science when management decisions are taken.
Atlantic Seal Science Task Team
The Atlantic Seal Science Task Team was launched as a direct response to concerns raised by commercial fish harvesters in Eastern Canada on the impact of seal predation on fish stocks.
Members of the Task Team include fishing industry representatives and experts as well as other stakeholders from the Atlantic provinces.
I am looking forward to the seeing the recommendations from the Task Team on the Department’s seal science priorities and how we can increase opportunities for collaboration with the fishing industry.
- There are 11 species of pinnipeds in Canada: Walrus, Northern Fur Seal, Northern Sea Lion, California Sea Lion, Hooded Seal, Bearded Seal, Grey Seal, Northern Elephant Seal, Harp Seal, Harbor Seal, and Ringed Seal.
- Many seal and sea lion populations in Canada are recovering from historical harvesting or control programs and have increased substantially in recent decades (e.g., grey, harp and harbour seals).
- DFO manages commercial harvests for harp and grey seals in the Atlantic region.
- Because of their abundance and fish-dominated diets, seals and sea lions are thought by some stakeholders to have caused the decline or impede the recovery of commercially valuable fish species in Canada, particularly Atlantic cod on the East Coast and certain salmon species on the West Coast.
- Though DFO has conducted important scientific research over the last several decades to investigate the potential impacts of seals and sea lions on fish stocks, particularly in the Atlantic, there is still incomplete knowledge of the role of most pinniped species in marine ecosystems. This makes it difficult to properly assess the impact of seals/sea lions on fish populations.
- Estimating the amount of prey consumed by seals requires a number of different types of data that are difficult to obtain given that marine mammals are a wide ranging, diving predator and distributed in remote locations.
- In spite of the uncertainty, and limited scientific evidence that suggests otherwise, stakeholders perceive these species to be a threat to commercial fish stocks and are demanding measures to reduce populations.
- DFO scientists continue to do scientific investigation on pinnipeds in a number of regions
- Climate change is expected to impact the population dynamics and distribution of pinnipeds, particularly for seals that require ice for breeding.
- Further scientific investigation is needed to bring about a better understanding of the role of seals and sea lions in a changing marine ecosystem and the impact that they have on fish stocks so that all components of the marine environment can be adequately protected while ensuring healthy fisheries and the economic viability of the fishing industry.
- DFO researchers are participating in an international project with Norwegian scientists which is aimed at comparing Labrador Sea and Barents Sea ecosystems given very different trajectories in fish stocks, despite similarities in the predator and prey species present (e.g., harp seals and cod).
- Harp seals breed on the ice in the Labrador Sea and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and are the most abundant seal species in the Newfoundland region, numbering 7.6 million individuals in 2016.
- Poor ice conditions in recent years may be limiting reproductive success and pup survival of harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
- Most harp seal feeding occurs offshore and key prey items include capelin, shrimp, and sandlance. In the inshore areas herring, Arctic cod, and Atlantic cod are also important prey. DFO continues to acquire information on seal diet around Newfoundland, predominantly from inshore areas but including some data from offshore areas.
- DFO research has shown that harp seal predation is not a significant driver of Northern cod abundance in the Newfoundland region.
- Grey seals are present in the waters of Nova Scotia (Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy), New Brunswick and Quebec (Gulf of St. Lawrence). Grey seals are also present in the southern part of Newfoundland (3Ps), but their abundance is much lower. The main breeding colony for grey seals is on Sable Island, NS.
- Grey seals have increased exponentially in the latter half of the last century and number approximately 400,000 individuals.
- Science evidence to date (2010) suggests that grey seals are having an impact on the recovery of cod and potentially other groundfish in the Southern Gulf of St Lawrence, but there is limited evidence elsewhere.
- Concerns about the role of seal predation has resulted in the creation of the Atlantic Seal Science Task Team by the minister to review the scientific research on seals.
- Other seal species present in the Atlantic region include harbour seal, ringed seal, bearded seal, and hooded seals. Their abundances are believed to be much lower than harp and grey seals, but recent population estimates are not available.
- Harbour seals increased exponentially in the Salish Sea in the 1970s and 1980s following protection from historical culling and hunting. Their numbers have remained constant since the early 1990s at ~40,000 seals.
- This increase in abundance appears to correlate with the decline of coho and Chinook salmon, leading to speculation by stakeholders that predation by seals might be impeding salmon recovery.
- Two US-Canada workshops recently took place (2019/20) to assess the state of scientific knowledge and identify key gaps needed to evaluate impacts of seal predation in the Pacific. One of the recommendations was to improve information on seasonal seal and sea lion diets in the various areas they occupy. DFO Science has started to address this recommendation.
- Harbour seal predation on salmon has been inferred by stakeholders and others to be greater than 50% of all chinook salmon production. However, such statement is derived from very limited data. More recent Harbour seal diet data from the Salish Sea has led to a very significant and large reduction of this figure.
- DFO is undertaking work to expand understanding of seal and sea lion diets for both populations. Preliminary results suggest the proportion of salmon species in the diet has been found to be less than previously documented and the size of salmon consumed greater than previously assumed.
- Steller sea lions have also increased since protection in the 1970s and stakeholders suggest a linkage to significant predation on Chinook salmon and herring.
- DFO-led research on seal predation in the Pacific is not as far advanced as that in the Atlantic region, though research efforts have been increased in recent years.
- There continues to be considerable interest in a seal harvest in the Pacific, in large part by indigenous communities.
- Other species of pinniped on the west coast of Canada include northern fur seals and California sea lions.
- The Task Team is co-chaired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Glenn Blackwood, [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.] Marine Institute at Memorial University. Members have a range of expertise, including fisheries experience. They include:
- Bill Taylor, Atlantic Salmon Federation
- Laura Ramsey, PEI Fishermen’s Association
- Ginny Boudreau, Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association
- Jamie Snook, Torngat Joint Fisheries Board
- Kris Vascotto, Atlantic Groundfish Council
- Robert Hardy, Seafood Consultant
- Jocelyn Thériault from the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels des Îles-de-la-Madeleine was originally appointed as a member of the Task Team, [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.]
- The objective of the Task Team is to provide input on DFO’s Atlantic seal science priorities; how to increase fishing industry involvement in seal science projects; and how DFO can better communicate science to the fishing industry.
- The sustainable management of Canadian fisheries is important to fish harvesters. DFO ensures that the best available science is considered when making management decisions, including the impact of seal predation.
- The Task Team focuses only on Atlantic seal science activities and programs and is distinct from DFO's existing Atlantic Seal Advisory Committee (ASAC) which solicits input on seal management issues, including licensing policy, management measures, quota allocations, as well as conservation and compliance issues.
- The Task Team participated in several science information sessions on Atlantic seals in both 2020 and 2021. The Task Team has now completed its review and is preparing a final report which will include input and recommendations on DFO’s seal science priorities and how the Department can increase opportunities for collaboration with the fishing industry.
- These recommendations will be considered by the Department’s Science sector as one input into its priority-setting process. DFO has confidence in the integrity of its Departmental science program. If employees have concerns, they may bring those forward through the established internal processes to be addressed.
Climate change and ocean acidification
Canadians know that climate change is real; we are witnessing important impacts that are directly affecting Canadians and our coastal communities.
Our department continues to research and study the impacts of climate change including ocean acidification, low oxygen levels and changing sea ice, as well as impacts on our fisheries and aquatic ecosystems.
Understanding the ocean and how it is changing is more important than ever as we work to protect and recover fragile ocean ecosystems.
- Oceans surrounding Canada have warmed, become more acidic, and less oxygenated, consistent with observed global ocean changes. These changes threaten the health of marine ecosystems.
- Climate change is impacting the oceans, its resources, ecosystems, and its infrastructure in several different ways:
- Higher ocean temperatures reduce dissolved oxygen and affect fisheries distribution, health, and timing of life cycles, such as when lobsters molt;
- Ocean acidification reduces the availability of calcium carbonate, making it more difficult for several marine organisms to grow shells; and,
- Rising sea levels and increased frequency and severity of storm surges damage shorelines and coastal infrastructure, and harm coastal ecosystems.
- Ocean acidification is the term used to describe the long-term change of ocean chemistry as CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere. Since 1960, roughly one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have ended up in the ocean. To date, the only certain way to slow ocean acidification is by reducing global CO2 emissions.
- Oxygen concentrations have been declining in both open ocean and coastal waters for at least the past 50 years, largely because of human activities that have increased global temperatures and nutrient discharge to coastal waters.
- DFO's annual State of the Ocean reports describe recent status and trend information on Canada's three oceans, including key findings on sea ice loss in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, increased ocean acidification in all of Canada's oceans and decreasing oxygen levels in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans (Canada’s Ocean Now, 2020).
- Environment and Climate Change Canada is leading work to guide and prioritize climate change adaptation programming as well as research planning to inform the achievement of a climate-resilient, net-zero Canada.
Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment
Microplastics have been found everywhere in the environment - in every ocean, lake and river that has been sampled.
Understanding the effects of microplastics on aquatic ecosystems is a priority for Fisheries and Oceans Canada; my Department is supporting research at universities and research organizations that will increase our understanding of the effects of microplastics on aquatic animals in Canadas’s freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Since 2016, my department has committed over $2 million in research to increase our knowledge about the impacts of microplastics on our aquatic ecosystems. For example, we are investing over $400 thousand to McGill University for research in the detection of micro and nanoplastics in aquatic animals and their related health impacts.
- Microplastics are plastic particles 5mm or smaller in diameter, and can originate from the breakdown of larger plastics (secondary microplastics) or have been manufactured to be microscopic in size (primary microplastics).
- The most common source of microplastics are wastewater treatment plants as microbeads found in personal care products and microfibres shed from textiles and laundry pass through wastewater treatment plants into the environment.
- Microplastics are of environmental concern because their small size renders them accessible to a wide range of organisms from zooplankton to large mammals. Laboratory studies have shown some effects of microplastics and associated contaminants on a range of aquatic species; however, population level and long term impacts are not well understood.
- In 2016, the Government of Canada added plastic microbeads under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act as a toxic substance to enable the Government to propose regulations to manage the environmental risk associated with the use of microbeads. The import or manufacture of toiletries containing microbeads was banned on 1 January 2018 and sales were banned as of 1 July 2018. Bans on microbeads in natural health products and non-prescription drugs came into effect in 2019.
- DFO has supported numerous projects with external research organizations and Canadian universities to better understand the effects of microplastics in Canada’s marine and freshwater ecosystems.
- DFO is currently funding three projects; all of these projects will be completed between 2022 and 2024.
- Université du Québec à Rimouski researchers will be studying long term effects of microplastics on scallops, an important fishery resource.
- University of Toronto researchers will be using ecosystem-based experiments to determine the ecological impacts of microplastics on freshwater fish and their food web.
- McGill University will be studying how micro and nanoplastics in aquatic environments are up taken by aquatic animals.
- An Ocean Plastics Charter was adopted at the 2018 G7 Leaders Summit under Canada’s presidency by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to combat ocean pollution. The charter outlines a lifecycle management approach to plastics in the economy including making all plastics recyclable by 2030, reducing single-use plastics, promoting the use of recycled plastic, building recycling infrastructure, and innovating sustainable technologies. As of May 2020, 25 governments and 65 businesses and organizations have endorsed the Charter.
- In general, monitoring of pollution and regulations related to marine debris falls under the purview of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Lobster assessment and basis for season and the impacts of concentrated effort
The Department continues to regularly monitor and assess Canadian lobster stocks to support management decisions. The outcome of these assessments are shared publicly on DFO’s website.
We also continue to increase the scientific monitoring of lobster in all four Atlantic regions to strengthen our understanding of this valuable resource.
Lobster fishing seasons vary by area. An important conservation consideration is seeking to minimize the interaction of the fishery with important life history stages, including mating and moulting.
Impacts of concentrated effort
Lobster stocks in Atlantic Canada are doing well; throughout the Maritimes Region, stocks are in the healthy zone with many near historic high levels.
While there is uncertainty around the impact – particularly over the longer-term – that a significant increase in effort could have on lobster populations, we know there are a number of risk factors that need to be considered (including level and timing of additional harvest, population size and the amount of lobster habitat available).
Additional science work is required to assess the impact of incremental and localized effort on lobster population health.
- The inshore lobster fishery is an input control fishery managed using management measures that control effort, the size of animals at harvest and prohibit the landing of egg-bearing females. Total allowable catches (TAC) are not established. The offshore lobster fishery in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 41 is the only lobster area that is managed using a TAC, which has been set based on historical catches.
- In most LFAs, lobster is primarily assessed using fishery-dependent landings and catch data. Unreported changes in level of effort may result in increased uncertainty in the assessment. Fishery-independent information is also used, when available, and includes trawl surveys, dive surveys, and recruitment surveys that monitor young lobster before they grow large enough to be harvested in the fishery.
- In LFA 34, biomass indices from fisheries-independent trawl surveys are used as primary indicators to assess stock status. Secondary indicators, such as landings, effort and commercial catch rates, are also used to provide additional information.
- The information collected, the analysis and the conclusions are subject to a scientific peer-review process. The resulting science advice on the status of the stock then guides fisheries management decisions.
- The department is also initiating new fisheries independent surveys in some LFAs supported through the Fish Stock provisions funding from Budget 2019.
- Lobster Fishing seasons vary by area and in part attempt to minimize interactions of the fishery with important life history stages, including egg hatching, lobster molting, egg laying and mating. In many areas, seasons are set to avoid these critical times.
- Lobster growth occurs through moulting which takes place during summer to early fall. Following molt, lobsters are soft and their carapace hardens over the following weeks and months. Fishing while their carapace is not fully hardened increases injury and incidental mortality. In most lobster fishing areas, the current fishing season ends prior to this more vulnerable time
- Increases in cumulative effort or mortality rates resulting from a change to fishing seasons or fishing out of season can be a conservation concern depending on the specific timing, the scale of the fishery, and the characteristics of the LFA.
- In areas where Science advice largely depends on information from the fishery, changes to the timing of fishing and effort levels (e.g., seasonal changes, fishing out of season) would impact the advice, particularly without logbooks or other means of documenting these changes.
Impacts on concentrated efforts:
- Results from the most recent scientific assessments indicate the lobster stocks in the Maritimes Regions are in the healthy zone. Abundance indicators, where available, remain high relative to historic levels.
- In Maritimes Region, lobster stock assessment and advice are provided at the scale of the LFA. While there are likely connections between LFAs, they are managed separately. However, in LFA 34 DFO conducts a fisheries-independent trawl survey and it is possible to look at data from stations in some smaller areas.
- There is potential for localized depletion if a large number of traps or effort is concentrated in a small area. Localized depletion can have negative impacts to overall productivity in an LFA at small population sizes or in LFAs with limited areas of suitable lobster habitat.
- Lobster just recruiting to the fishery makes up a large proportion of lobster landings on an annual basis. With additional, unreported fishing pressure, it may take a number of years to detect any impacts to the lobster population.
- In many LFAs, including LFA 29, the assessment relies on commercial catch information relative to previous years. As a result, changes to the fishery such as changes to the season and/or unreported landings and effort may impact our ability to track changes in lobster indices. This may increase uncertainty in our assessments.
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