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Ministerial Appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (POFO)
DFO Parliamentary Affairs May 2022

Table of contents

Opening remarks

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Good morning, Mr. Chair.
It’s a pleasure to be joining you today on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people.

Thank you for inviting me to appear today alongside senior officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard. I appreciate this opportunity to talk about my vision for Canada’s oceans.

I have tremendous appreciation for the work that’s being carried out by members of this committee, including your study related to the implementation of Indigenous rights-based fisheries across Canada. Your report will help build trust, cooperation and communication between my Department, Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous harvesters as we work together to develop a fair and equitable fisheries approach that acknowledges treaty rights and prioritizes conservation.

Our shared goal is a fishery that is peaceful, productive and prosperous, that upholds the Marshall decisions and ensures First Nations can exercise their treaty rights in ways that are reflective of their Nation’s vision and needs. I’m pleased to see that this approach has been adopted in the latest moderate livelihood fishing plans that have been authorized and in the fishing that’s currently underway by the Pictou Landing and Potlotek First Nations communities.

Vision for the future of our oceans

Mr. Chair: As a coastal Canadian, I have a particular affinity for our oceans and marine life. I also have a keen understanding of the tremendous social, cultural and economic importance they hold for coastal and Indigenous communities.

It’s important to acknowledge that our government has made significant investments in ocean health and conservation since taking office in 2015. The progress we’ve made since that time will serve as a strong foundation for our country’s blue economy. Budget 2022: A Plan to Grow Our Economy and Make Life More Affordable builds on that work with investments related to the Oceans Protection Plan, the Ghost Gear Fund, the Coastal Restoration Fund and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

As Minister, it’s my job to ensure that our diverse and vital blue economy sectors can continue to grow, innovate and create jobs in an environmentally sustainable way. I believe the best way to do that is by transforming what my Department does and how we do it. Guiding this work are four key priorities that will help us prioritize long-term success over short-term expediency.

  1. First, we will address habitat degradation and restore what has been lost by promoting restoration and marine protection. This means investing in projects and partnerships that help restore aquatic habitat in coastal and marine areas, and working hard to conserve 25% of our oceans by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
  2. Second, we’ll be taking a long-term approach to species protection, which involves using the ‘precautionary approach’ to help rebuild depleted fish stocks. When scientific knowledge about a certain species is uncertain, we’ll be exercising more caution when making fisheries management decisions. If commercial fishing is going to remain a viable economic industry for future generations, we must do the hard work today to protect and rebuild depleted stocks. We must also step up our efforts to address overfishing and improve international governance in both our own waters and on the high seas.
  3. Third, we will use ocean research, monitoring and observations and leverage international partnerships to help us better understand the state of our oceans, how they’re changing over time and the impact that climate change is having on fisheries, ecosystems and coastal infrastructure. As Canada adapts to a changing climate, ocean science and observations will help us identify vulnerabilities, create adaptation tools, improve ocean forecasting in coastal regions, and inform management decision making. Internally, the Department must adapt its systems, processes and decision making so our fisheries and aquatic ecosystems are more resilient and able to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.
  4. Finally, we will build a sustainable blue economy that fully integrates the goals of ocean health, ocean wealth, social inclusion and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy will help regenerate marine life, restore biodiversity and improve ocean health. At the same time, it will help established and emerging ocean sectors adopt new technologies and innovative practices that will increase their environmental performance and generate new wealth and jobs for coastal communities.  

As my Department sets about transforming the way our oceans are managed, three things will not change. The first is our ongoing commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The second is our unwavering support for the Canadian Coast Guard. And the third is our ambition to build a workforce and a blue economy that is more diverse, equitable and inclusive. These are more than just aspirational goals or values. They are a path to greater prosperity for coastal Canadians and our country.


Mr. Chair: Canada’s oceans are more than just a proud part of our maritime history. They are the foundation of our country’s promising future. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a necessary and transformative ‘sea change’ with regard to how Canada manages its oceans and the marine life within them. Strong public policy based on sound science is one way we can improve the health of our oceans and the wealth they generate for coastal communities. I appreciate your role in helping our government advance this work.

Thank you.

Departmental updates

Blue Economy Strategy

The global ocean economy is rapidly expanding and transforming. Now is the time for Canada to have a clear strategy that seizes this growth opportunity and does so in a way that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, making this a truly ‘blue’ economy.

Canada is well-positioned to demonstrate to the world that sustainable growth in the oceans sector 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. Stakeholders have told us how important this is, and we are listening to them. That is why the Government will bring forward an integrated, whole-of-government Blue Economy Strategy for Canada.

As Canada looks to post-COVID-19 recovery, there is an opportunity to “build back better”— particularly in our rural coastal communities — by enabling pathways for greater economic resiliency, high value job creation, and the conservation and regeneration of our natural environment.


Implementation of the modernized Fisheries Act

The Government of Canada continues to deliver on our promise to implement a modernized Fisheries Act to support sustainable, stable, and prosperous fisheries.

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, transparency, and collaboration.

This includes $50 million for the Indigenous Habitat Participation Program, which supports the participation of Indigenous peoples in project reviews, monitoring, and policy development, furthering our Government’s commitment to reconciliation.


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 rigorous peer review process that is used to generate science advice.


Fish harvester benefit program

The Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program has provided COVID-19 relief to self-employed harvesters and crew since its establishment in 2020.

The Program has paid out about $163 million in support to its target recipients in the fishing sector, about $53 million via the grant and $110 million via the benefit.

While intended for self-employed individuals, and not employees, the Program received many applications during its first phase from individuals whose Canada Revenue Agency data indicated they were regular employees, and therefore ineligible for inclusion in the Program.

The Program will be winding down shortly, as final appeal decisions and payments are completed, including appeals related to employment status. 


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 $10 million through Budget 2022—which helps fish harvesters acquire new gear technologies to reduce gear loss and supports the delivery of ghost gear retrieval and responsible disposal projects.

Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program (Ghost Gear Fund)

Through Budget 2022 under the Zero Plastic Waste agenda, the Ghost Gear Fund received $10 million to continue retrieval activities, and the testing of fish gear to reduce gear loss for the fiscal year 2022-2023.

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 36 harbour authorities.

All successful projects fall into at least one of four eligible categories: gear retrieval, responsible disposal, acquisition and piloting of available gear technology, and international leadership.

Ghost Gear Fund Results

To date, over 1261 tonnes of lost or discarded fishing gear has been retrieved from Canadian waters and more than 127 kilometres of rope since the initiation of the Ghost Gear Fund in July 2020.

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
Canadian context

Diversity and equity

Fisheries and Oceans Canada implemented various initiatives to support the advancement of employment equity, diversity and inclusion over the past years. That said, further efforts are required to make our organization more representative of the Canadian population.

We are conducting an Employment Systems Review to identify and address underrepresentation in the workforce, including in leadership positions. This is an analysis of the organization’s employment systems, policies and practices, attitudes, behaviours and corporate culture.

Recommendations from this review will be used to inform an Action Plan to direct efforts, including resource allocation, to the areas of greatest impact to employees.

Implementing changes will help achieve a representative workforce that is reflective of Canadian society, improve the sense of belonging for employees, and advance equity in services, collaboration, and innovation.


Systemic racism

Across the federal government, we recognize the urgency of eliminating systemic racism from our institutions. In my Department, we are taking important steps in this regard and will continue to do so going forward.

I recognize there is more work to be done to address systemic racism and am fully committed to creating space for dialogue and providing learning opportunities about the treaty relationship, as well as unconscious bias and systemic racism.

My Department continues to work internally, and with its partner agencies and departments, to promote and increase available culturally sensitive learning tools, practices, and awareness activities regarding reconciliation, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and the treaty relationship for public servants and Canadians at large.

The Department has made training from the Canada School of Public Service widely available to staff, and in some cases mandatory, to ensure all staff better understand the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples and recognize unconscious bias.

We have put in place the DFO-Canadian Coast Guard Reconciliation Strategy. This guidance document is intended to promote greater reconciliation literacy among public servants, holding my Department accountable for reconciliation results and actions, and enabling enhanced collaboration and partnership with Indigenous peoples.

We have also established a Reconciliation Champion Secretariat to ensure sustained senior-level leadership to promote culture change, with a focus on the creation of Indigenous Employee Networks, creating cultural competencies, and identifying reconciliation gaps across the department.


Indigenous topics

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples

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 transforming 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, the Oceans Protection Plan, and Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy, I am committed to doing so in a way that creates stronger partnerships with Indigenous peoples.

Through programs that support capacity building, treaty tools, and reconciliation agreements, we will continue to build partnerships that advance our commitment to reconciliation.

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.

As a key step in renewing the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, our Government is working to advance a lasting and action-oriented framework to advance the federal implementation of the Declaration in collaboration with Indigenous peoples.

I will continue to work closely with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, who is leading the engagement process with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, to better understand their priorities, and to help shape the initial draft of a whole -of- government action plan, including identifying potential measures for aligning federal laws with the Declaration.


Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous traditional knowledge in decision making

Indigenous knowledge supports our understanding of oceans and waterways, and offers valuable evidence to support the programs and decisions protecting marine ecosystems.

Across the department, Indigenous knowledge is being considered, be it as an accompaniment to scientific research, as part of a marine protected area management plan, or in habitat or fisheries decisions.

Through the renewal of the Oceans Protection Plan in Budget 2022, funding will support measures that integrate Indigenous knowledge in marine safety and ecosystem protection, including: Indigenous participation and training activities in marine safety; and collaborations on hydrographic data collection.

We will continue to work with Indigenous peoples to develop a common understanding of how to consider Indigenous knowledge in decisions, while recognizing the need for regional, cultural and distinctions-based approaches to Indigenous knowledge.


Moderate livelihood fishing

Over the past 22 years, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has invested over $550 million to advance the implementation of the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. These investments have resulted in meaningful economic benefits for rights-holding Treaty Nations in the Maritimes and Gaspé region of Quebec.

For example, the annual landed value among these Treaty Nations has increased from $3 million in 1999, to nearly $170 million in 2019, which is approximately 6.4 per cent of the total landed value in the region.

In addition to ongoing program supports, there are currently two approaches to further implement the treaty right, depending on Treaty Nations’ preferences: medium- to long-term Rights Reconciliation Agreements; and short-term understandings based on community-developed Moderate Livelihood Fishing Plans for one fishing season.

To date, three Rights Reconciliation Agreements have been signed with four Treaty Nations and two understandings around Moderate Livelihood Fishing Plans have been reached with four other communities.

We are committed to continuing discussions with Treaty Nations to further implement their right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood and to provide for sustainable, safe and orderly fishing for all harvesters.


Collaborative fisheries arrangements with Indigenous and non-Indigenous fish harvesters

For the past 30 years, DFO has supported collaborative management capacity for Indigenous partners. The department is also negotiating agreements with Indigenous groups that recognize their rights and the collaborative role they play in fisheries management.

For example, we recently signed a Fisheries Resources Reconciliation Agreement with the Coastal First Nations (CFN). The governance model between DFO and the CFN member nations includes the development of an engagement process with 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 Strategy and the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiatives, Marine Conservation Targets, and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.


If pressed for examples of collaboration:

Ahousaht (Five Nuu-chah-nulth) First Nations

The Government of Canada is working collaboratively with the five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations (which includes Ahousaht) to advance reconciliation through negotiation of a Reconciliation Agreement for Fisheries Resources.

My department has made important progress in implementing the BC Court of Appeal’s 2021 decision. This progress has been incorporated in the recently released 2022 Five Nations Multi-Species Fishery Management Plan.

We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Five Nations in implementing their rights-based sale fishery.

Area E crab - reduction in commercial trap limits

In April 2021, the BC Court of Appeal decision required DFO to reassess the crab allocation for the Five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. DFO completed that assessment and proposed to increase the Five Nations’ crab access. DFO consulted with the Five Nations and the commercial crab fleet on the proposal before implementing a portion of the increase this April.

The Department is working to mitigate the additional crab access provided to the Five Nations through voluntary commercial licence relinquishment. However, this will take time and full mitigation for the overall crab amount is not yet in place.

Without full mitigation in place, commercial trap allocations for commercial licence holders will be reduced for the 2022 fishing season to ensure the total trap limit for the management area is not exceeded. 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.

To reflect the Five Nations’ fishing capacity and facilitate an orderly transition that completes the voluntary licence relinquishment process, the increase to the Five Nations’ crab access will be phased in over one year. A portion of the increase has been implemented as of this April. The balance of the increase will be implemented for the 2023/24 fishing season.


Ahousaht (Five Nuu-Chah-Nulth) First Nations
Area E Crab - Reduction in commercial trap limits

Increasing First Nation participation in the commercial elver fishery

The Department’s priority continues to be further implementation of treaty-based fishing rights in a way that aligns with conservation objectives and supports safe, orderly, and peaceful fisheries.

The commercial elver fishery is unique. It has seen exponential growth in value over the past decade and lower costs in gear or vessels to enter, compared to other fisheries. As such, the elver fishery presents a potential avenue to increase Indigenous participation in commercial fisheries to pursue a moderate livelihood.

As a result, for the 2022 season, I have reallocated 1,200 kg of the total allowable catch to support increased Indigenous participation in the commercial elver fishery.

As discussions continue between Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials and First Nations communities concerning elver access for the 2022 season, my Department will also engage all licence holders to determine a longer term approach for 2023.


Issuance of a fourth Arctic surf clam licence

Due to an increase of the 2016 total allowable catch, of Arctic surf clam, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) sought to create a fourth licence as triggered by the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan.

In keeping with the Government of Canada’s effort to advance Indigenous reconciliation and DFO’s objective to increase the participation of First Nations in the commercial fisheries, plans were established to launch an Expression of Interest process for the fourth licence opened only to Indigenous interests.

Following the sale of Clearwater and the reissuance of the three existing Arctic surf clam licences to FNC quota, the Coalition of seven Atlantic Mi’kmaq First Nations now has the full access to this fishery.

Given that the goal to increase Indigenous access to fishery has been achieved through the market, the planned Expression of Interest has been cancelled to support a predictable Arctic surf clam fishery, for employees and the communities involved.


Nunatsiavut Government seeking access to the Northern shrimp fishery

We are committed to working towards a renewed Crown-Inuit relationship, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is aware of the Nunatsiavut Government’s request for a shrimp allocation in the Eastern Assessment Zone.

Decisions for the Northern shrimp fishery take into consideration obligations of all applicable land claims agreements, including in respect of allocations.

The Department recognizes that the Nunatsiavut Government interprets some requirements of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement differently and we remain open to continuing discussions to better understand its views.


Sale of Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated

After the sale of Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated, a request was made to the Department for the reissuance of fishing licences and associated quota to a Coalition of seven Atlantic Mi’kmaq First Nations.

As with any application for licence reissuance in fisheries within or adjacent to waters to which there are land claims agreements, the Department has engaged with all northern interests to ensure their views and all relevant treaty obligations are taken into consideration on the final decision.

After a thorough review process, taking into account all relevant factors, the request was approved by my predecessor to reissue Clearwater’s licences and associated allocations to FNC Quota, a company wholly owned by the Atlantic Mi’kmaq Coalition.

My department continues to engage with Indigenous groups to explore various means that could facilitate the access to fisheries in support of reconciliation and strengthen partnerships amongst First Nations and non-Indigenous fishers.


Canadian Coast Guard

Emergency response readiness

The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for ensuring the safety of mariners in Canadian waters resulting in contributing resources to emergency management.

The renewal of the Oceans Protection Plan, including Canadian Coast Guard’s Coastal Marine Response Network, will further advance the Government’s ability to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to, incidents and hazards.

The Canadian Coast Guard will continue to work in a coordinated manner with Indigenous and non-indigenous coastal communities and partners to support improvements to the emergency response regime.

Enhanced readiness and coordination with all partners, including Indigenous Communities, leads to more effective responses to better serve Canadians and to reduce the economic and environmental impacts of incidents across Canada.


Maritime safety

The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for ensuring the safety of mariners in Canadian waters.

The Canadian Coast Guard’s maritime safety programs are mandated under the Oceans Act and the Canada Shipping Act. Programs include: aids to navigation, waterways management, environmental response, icebreaking, marine communications and traffic services (MCTS), search and rescue, and support to other federal departments, boards and agencies through the provision of ships, aircraft and other services. 

The Canadian Coast Guard’s maritime safety responsibilities are aligned with Transport Canada, as the national regulator of marine transportation. The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for implementing Transport Canada’s Vessel Traffic Services Regulations through its MCTS program for the safe, efficient, and economical movement of vessels in Canadian waters.

The Canadian Coast Guard leads the maritime component of the federal search and rescue system with the support of partners including, the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Indigenous responders. Coast Guard provides maritime search and Rescue services 24-hours a day, seven days a week and responds on average to 6,000 calls for assistance annually.


Marine Navigation Programs
Environmental Response
Search and Rescue
Canadian Coast Guard College

Pacheedaht First Nation Marine Safety Centre

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and Pacheedaht First Nation (PFN) are working together to develop a multi-purpose marine response facility (Marine Safety Centre (MSC)) in Port Renfrew, located in PFN's territory on western Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

The MSC is part of a Trans Mountain Expansion project accommodation measure. CCG and PFN signed a Memorandum of Understanding in June 2020 which outlined a shared vision for the MSC.

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 establish the MSC. The Government of Canada remains committed to enhancing response capacity in the Port Renfrew region to keep mariners safe and protect the coast of British Columbia.



Federal Aquaculture Act

My department is continuing to work to develop Canada’s first ever Aquaculture Act, in line with my mandate letter from the Prime Minister.

I am committed to the sustainable development of the aquaculture sector in Canada, governed by a strong and modern regulatory regime that respects existing jurisdictions and regional differences.

If pressed:

We will continue to engage with provinces, Indigenous groups, and other partners as we work to develop an Aquaculture Act, and will keep Canadians informed of our progress.


Marine finfish licence reissuance

On June 30, 2022, licences issued under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations to produce marine finfish in British Columbia will expire.

The Department has finalized engagement with the Province of BC, First Nations, industry, and environmental groups to inform updates to licences. I will announce decisions concerning the reissuance of licences and conditions of licence ahead of the June 30th licence expiry.

I recognize that these decisions have implications for the companies, workers, and communities in the region. Decisions will be made with an open mind, carefully balancing multiple considerations.

We will continue to work with provincial and Indigenous partners on several initiatives to advance sustainable aquaculture management in British Columbia that will protect wild salmon and jobs in coastal communities.


Net-pen aquaculture transition in British Columbia

The protection of wild Pacific salmon is a priority for our Government. Jobs in coastal areas and a sustainable aquaculture sector are also priorities for this government. With that in mind, we will be developing a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025. 

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.

Budget 2021 provided $20 million to support broader engagement on the transition plan, which will occur in the very near future.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to work with BC, First Nations, and stakeholders to develop a sound plan that is environmentally, economically, and socially responsible.



Aquatic invasive species

Our government understands that aquatic invasive species pose a serious threat to Canada’s freshwater and marine ecosystems, and that preventing negative impacts to our biodiversity, economy, and society is a priority. 

The management of aquatic invasive species is a responsibility that the federal government shares with provincial and territorial governments. We are focused on coordinating our efforts with them and our U.S. counterparts to support prevention, early detection, response and control activities to protect our mutual resources.

Our collaborative work has prevented the establishment of Asian carps in Canada, successfully controlled Sea Lamprey in the Great Lakes, and stopped the illegal import of prohibited species including Zebra Mussels. We are working to further improve measures taken at international borders.


Aquatic Invasive Species
Zebra and Quagga Mussels
Miramichi Lake and River
European Green Crab
Vase Tunicate

Lobster Science Partnership Roundtable

The Lobster Science Partnership Roundtable brings together Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists, Indigenous partners, commercial fishing representatives, and other key researchers to chart a common course for lobster science.

The Roundtable will build on existing knowledge and partnerships, and create new opportunities to collaborate and increase our scientific knowledge on lobster.

Members will identify important lobster science research questions, identify new areas of work, and discuss how we can work together.


Management of the Atlantic Seal Harvest

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting a sustainable, humane, and well-regulated seal harvest that supports Canada’s Indigenous, rural, and coastal communities.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada ensures that the best available science is considered when making management decisions, with the goal of sustaining a healthy and productive aquatic ecosystem.

Removals have been low in recent years due to low market demand. The Department continues to support efforts to maintain existing markets for Canadian seal products and support the development of potential new markets.

If pressed on current seal total allowable catch for Atlantic Canada

There is currently no Total Allowable Catch (TAC) levels assigned for the Atlantic seal harvest. These fisheries are closely monitored to ensure landings respect the most recent science advice. Should this situation change, additional management action will be considered.

If pressed on seal predation

Our scientists continue to do research on the potential impacts of seals on fish stocks as well as the ecosystem factors that may influence their levels of abundance.

Sustaining healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems is a priority for this government and we rely on the best available science when making management decisions.


Marine conservation targets

Our government recognizes the important role that our ocean plays in addressing the global biodiversity crisis and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

That 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 ambitious new 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. 


Pacific Salmon

Budget 2021 announced $647.1 million over five years, plus $98.9 million in amortization, for a Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative, which will include habitat, hatcheries, and harvest approaches to conserve and restore Pacific salmon.

The Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative is built on four key pillars: Conservation and Stewardship, 
Salmon Enhancement, Harvest Transformation, and Integration and Collaboration.

2021-22 was the launch year for the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative and focused on finalizing financial and program authorities and engagement with Indigenous peoples, partners and stakeholders regarding early program design, implementation and ongoing consultative mechanisms.  

The Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative’s early implementation is now underway, and the Department is continuing to work to ensure new and ongoing investments and activities in Pacific salmon programming are appropriately aligned to achieve key results, including to respond to the historic declines of Pacific salmon by putting in place conservation approaches and plans for prioritized Pacific salmon populations, to support their recovery.

Engagement and collaboration

The Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative’s early implementation involves engagement on many key initiatives with First Nations, as well as stakeholders and our other partners. The Initiative provides a new framework to guide DFO’s Pacific salmon work now, and in the years ahead.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is interested in collaborating with BC and Yukon First Nations in a strategic and targeted approach to addressing the challenges facing Pacific salmon, while focusing on shared 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.


United Nations (UN) Oceans conference

The 2nd United Nations Oceans Conference, co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya, will take place in Lisbon, Portugal from June 27 to July 1, 2022.

The UN Oceans Conference is an opportunity for Canada to showcase our leadership on oceans issues and advance the work of the international oceans’ agenda.

Canada will participate in the UN Oceans Conference and work with likeminded partners to mobilize action for Sustainable Development Goal 14: conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources.

Conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources is in line with Canadian values, and a healthy ocean will benefit all Canadians.


Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Strategy

Atlantic salmon populations continue to decline despite progressive management measures, this is why our government is committed to make new investments and to work 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 in the development of 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 2019-2021 Implementation Plan will be publicly released this spring. In the meantime, we are continuing to engage Indigenous organizations and stakeholder groups on how to achieve a better outcome for Atlantic salmon into the future. This feedback will be used to inform the development of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Strategy, which will deliver a coordinated approach to conservation.



Access to the Recreational Fishery in British Columbia

We acknowledge the challenges being faced by all Pacific salmon fishery participants, including recreational anglers, as we take measures to protect at-risk British Columbia salmon stocks, including Fraser River, Southern BC and Skeena River Chinook stocks, amongst others.

Conservation is our highest priority and requires a precautionary approach to managing these stocks. After conservation, First Nations’ Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) and Treaty Domestic fisheries are the priorities.

The Department provides recreational harvest in areas where fishery impacts on species and stocks of concern can be avoided. Limits on recreational harvest will be determined according to abundance levels and in keeping with conservation goals.

We understand that the recreational sector, including members of the Sport Fishing Advisory Board, are very concerned with the social, economic and cultural impacts of recreational salmon fishery closures in BC. We encourage recreational fishers to take advantage of the sustainable fishing opportunities that exist for a variety of other species when salmon opportunities are constrained.

Review of the Pacific Salmon Allocation Policy

Since 2018, DFO has been working with First Nations, the recreational sector and the commercial harvest sector to scope and develop draft terms of reference for the review of the 1999 Pacific Salmon Allocation Policy. This Policy sets out the principles for allocating salmon in BC among First Nations, commercial and recreational harvesters.

It is important that we review and update this policy given the many changes that have taken place since 1999, including declines in salmon populations, changes in fisheries management, and recent court decisions regarding rights-based sale fisheries.

We acknowledge that all parties will have perspectives to share on salmon as a common property resource, and that it will be important to consider the federal government’s constitutional responsibilities with regards to recognizing and respecting Indigenous rights and its statutory responsibilities for the conservation, protection and management of salmon resources. 

We are committed to continuing to work with First Nations and stakeholders, including the recreational and commercial harvest sectors, to review and renew the policy.

Mass Marking (MM) and Mark-Selective Fisheries (MSF)

Consistent with Harvest Transformation Pillar of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI), Fisheries and Oceans Canada will work with First Nations and stakeholders 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, while also supporting sustainable harvesting opportunities.

Departmental staff are currently developing a discussion paper on MM and MSF implementation which will be used to guide consultations.

The Department will also be exploring opportunities to improve the regulatory and licencing framework used to manage the BC recreational fishery, including making improvements to catch monitoring and reporting and further consultations are planned in 2022 to seek input on benefits and challenges of these approaches.


Recreational Sector and the Review of the Pacific Salmon Allocation Policy

Mass Marking/Mark-Selective Fisheries

Perspectives on the application of MSFs will be diverse; recreational harvesters are strong advocates for additional MSF opportunities, whereas many First Nations and environmental groups are strongly opposed, citing the potential for impacts on wild stocks of concern and the availability of fish to support FSC fisheries, as well as the limited data available to gauge impacts of MSFs.

Atlantic mackerel closure

I recently had to make a difficult decision to close the Atlantic mackerel commercial and bait fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. 

I recognize the importance of the Atlantic mackerel fishery. Conservation is my top priority to promote the sustainability of these stocks for future generations.

Atlantic mackerel is an important source of food for many species and plays a critical role in our ecosystem. The Department is committed to rebuilding these stocks which are in the critical zone.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is optimistic that the Atlantic mackerel stock can rebuild, and is committed to supporting the future opening of the Atlantic mackerel commercial fishery. Next steps will be considered following the Atlantic mackerel stock assessment in 2023.


Category B lobster licences

The categorization of licences in the lobster fishery began in 1976.

Category B licences, which allow for modest levels of harvesting, were an accommodation for harvesters who have a historical attachment to the fishery.

Our current policy states that Category B licences cannot be reissued and extinguish upon the death or retirement of the licence holder.

Keeping lobster fishing removals at sustainable levels remains a primary objective for the fishery. 

Federal Court Decision

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is aware of the Federal Court decision on Publicover v. Canada. Given this matter is with the Department for re-determination, I have no comment to make at this time.


Category B Lobster Licences
Increased Interest From Current Licence Holders and Estates

Foreign ownership

My Department is aware of the concerns previously expressed by Parliamentarians and some stakeholders about the degree of foreign ownership of Canadian fishing enterprises and concentration of fisheries access.

On the East coast, regulations mandate that all inshore licences be held and fished by Canadians or businesses that are wholly owned by Canadians. We also have a long-standing policy that requires other Atlantic licence holders be at least 51 per cent Canadian-owned.

We just concluded an information-gathering exercise that will identify who is benefitting from commercial fishing access. 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.


Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC)

The Great Lakes are important to the environment, economy, health, and well-being of both Canada and the United States, and our Government is committed to preserving our freshwater resources and protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species.

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 by protecting the Great Lakes from the impacts of invasive sea lamprey.

As part of the Budget 2022, the Department successfully brought forward a proposal seeking additional incremental funding of $44.9 million over five years and $9 million ongoing for DFO and its support to the GLFC, to ensure the continued success of the Commission in contributing to the health of the Great Lakes.

This funding will help to augment Canadian sea lamprey control activities, and support the GLFC’s research agenda and binational fisheries management coordination efforts across the Great Lakes.

If pressed on governance change

I know that the Commission and its secretariat staff have been advocating for a governance change from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to Global Affairs Canada, and that a related motion was introduced during the previous session of the House.

This is a more complex matter than it appears on the surface. We are continuing to assess the implications of a possible change in responsibility, 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.


Illegal, unreported and unregulated 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.

Canada is a leader at multilateral international bodies mandated to manage fisheries in the high seas, where we actively contribute to strong policy efforts to curb IUU fishing.

In 2019, we committed nearly $12 million to develop new surveillance technologies and improve information and intelligence sharing 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’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.


Marineland’s beluga transfer to Mystic Aquarium in the United States

In May 2021, five beluga whales were exported from Marineland to Mystic Aquarium. The transfer permits were issued by my predecessor. My Department’s assessment of the permit applications looked at the value and validity of the proposed research as well as animal welfare and ethical considerations.

I was saddened to learn of the deaths of Havok and Havana following the transfer. I am also aware that the U.S. government is conducting an investigation into the whales’ deaths. This is a situation my Department continues to monitor.

If pressed on opening an investigation into the Marineland transfer

Under the Fisheries Act, the responsibility for authorizing the import and export of live cetaceans falls to me as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. However, in Canada, aquatic parks and zoos, animal care and private property of animals are primarily under provincial jurisdiction.

The results of any investigations of the transfer to Mystic Aquarium, along with many other considerations in accordance with the applicable Fisheries Act provisions and supporting policy, will be factored into any decisions to issue or refuse to issue future transfer permits.


Canadian legislation aimed at ending the captivity of cetaceans
DFO’s Cetacean Permitting Policies
The transfer of the five belugas from Marineland to Mystic Aquarium
CITES export permit
Fisheries Act export permit
Recent deaths among beluga whales transferred from Marineland
Recent media coverage
United States (U.S.) Investigation and Jurisdictional Authority in Canada
Proposed Whale Sanctuary Project

Quota allocation

As Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, my Department manages over 200 fisheries on three coasts through complex management decisions, including the allocation of quota. 

I recognize that these decisions have socio-economic impacts for many Canadians, as well as environmental impacts for the future of Canada’s fisheries.

The quota allocation decisions I make under the authority of the Fisheries Act are grounded in science, guided by policies and carefully informed by socio-economic considerations, as well as Indigenous and Treaty Rights, international agreements, and stakeholder consultations. 

As a government committed to science-based decision making, we are working to provide sustainable fishing opportunities for Canadians, now and for years to come.


Fisheries Management Decision Making
Key Inputs to Inform Ministerial Discretion in Quota Allocation
Fish Stock Provisions
Indigenous and Treaty Related Fishing Rights
International Fisheries Management

Russian engagement in international fisheries and oceans fora

The Putin regime’s attack on Ukraine is a war on freedom, democracy and the right of Ukrainians to choose their own future. As we’ve made clear since the beginning, Canada will continue to hold Russia to account within the rules based international order.

We are working closely with NATO and G7 partners, as well as other likeminded countries, in our approach to Russia within the international community.

This includes at international fisheries and oceans organizations responsible for regulating the rights and responsibilities of its members fishing in international waters, like the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization – or NAFO.

Russia does not -and will not, fish in Canadian waters.

Russia as Chair and President of NAFO

Russia became the Chairperson and President of the organization last September, but in March the incumbent stepped aside.

If pressed on removing Russia from NAFO

Canada is one Party to NAFO and the other international organizations it is a member of. We are engaged with other Parties on how to approach this situation.

We need to be conscious of what NAFO does and does not do. A party removed from NAFO would no longer be subject to NAFO quota, regulations and enforcement. It would likely continue to fish in these international waters – by its own rules.

We will take action with our allies to sanction Russia for its aggression in ways that have the desired impact.


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