Pacific Region Marine Finfish Integrated Management of Aquaculture Plan
2. Legislation, governance, and policy framework
2.1 Legislation and mandate
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO’s) aquaculture management approach in British Columbia is guided by the broader mandate and strategic priorities of the Department. DFO is the lead federal agency responsible for developing and implementing legislation, regulations, policies and programs in support of Canada’s scientific, ecological, social and economic fisheries interests in oceans and fresh waters. For the purposes of aquaculture in British Columbia, the most relevant pieces of legislation are:
- the Fisheries Act which provides, among other things, broad powers to the Minister for the proper management and control of commercial, aboriginal, and recreational fisheries, and the activity of aquaculture. As part of various long-standing arrangements, the provinces have assumed administrative responsibility for the management of most inland fisheries
- the Oceans Act, among other things, provides authority to the Minister to lead the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of activities affecting estuaries, coastal and marine waters, and the coordination of oceans issues. The Act also establishes the Minister’s responsibility for Coast Guard services, as well as responsibility for marine science services such as the Canadian Hydrographic Services’ nautical charts and publications
- while the Minister of Environment has primary responsibility for the administration of the Species at Risk Act, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is the minister responsible for aquatic species
DFO’s Role, Mission and Vision, along with additional information on the organization, is provided on the Department’s website: (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/us-nous/vision-eng.htm).
DFO’s Role: The Department:
- supports strong economic growth in our marine and fisheries sectors by supporting exports and advancing safe maritime trade
- supports innovation through research in expanding sectors such as aquaculture and biotechnology and
- contributes to a clean and healthy environment and sustainable aquatic ecosystems through habitat protection, oceans management, and ecosystems research.
DFO’s Mission: Through sound science, forward-looking policy, and operational and service excellence, Fisheries and Oceans Canada employees work collaboratively toward the following strategic outcomes:
- economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries;
- sustainable aquatic ecosystems and
- safe and secure waters
DFO’s Vision: To advance sustainable aquatic ecosystems and support safe and secure Canadian waters while fostering economic prosperity across maritime sectors and fisheries.
Other federal agencies also have important legislation governing aquaculture – for example the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for the Health of Animals Act; Health Canada the Food and Drug Act and the Pest Control Products Act, and Transport Canada the Canada Shipping Act.
In British Columbia, provincial legislation relates to business and labour aspects, processing of fish, as well as the tenuring of Crown land. Local government jurisdiction includes issues related to zoning.
The Fishery (General) Regulations, (FGR) the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations (PAR) and the Aquaculture Activities Regulations (AAR) are the principle regulations governing marine finfish aquaculture in British Columbia. Under these regulations DFO has established a licensing regime which is consistent with other fisheries managed by the Department, yet tailored to address the unique characteristics of the aquaculture sector.
Licence conditions are developed to provide a management approach for aspects of aquaculture managed federally that relate to facility operations (e.g. site operations, introductions and transfers of fish, marine mammal interactions, and incidental catch).
The AAR, enacted in July 2015, governs the deposition of substances required to treat pests and disease and the deposition of organic matter. PAR Conditions of Licence previously in place since 2010 dealing with these aspects of aquaculture have now been removed and are now outlined within the AAR. The overall management of the deposition of deleterious substances and of benthic impacts has remained very similar through this transition, as mitigation, monitoring, performance thresholds and reporting requirements have all remained in place.
Legislation and regulation provide a legal framework for the management of aquaculture, while Departmental policies and operational approaches provide more specific context and detail in terms of how that authority is translated into management.
The Fisheries and Oceans Canada Aquaculture Policy Framework provides a high level overview of DFO’s approach to aquaculture management. Numerous other policies relate to DFO’s approach on specific diverse aspects of aquaculture management, such as introductions and transfers of fish, broodstock collection, compliance and enforcement approaches, and interaction with wild species designated under the Species at Risk Act.
2.3.1 Fisheries and Oceans Canada Aquaculture Policy Framework
DFO's vision for aquaculture development is to benefit Canadians through the culture of aquatic organisms while upholding the ecological and socio-economic values associated with Canada's oceans and inland waters. As the lead federal agency for aquaculture development, DFO is guided by the principles of the Aquaculture Policy Framework, including:
- DFO will support aquaculture development in a manner consistent with its commitments to ecosystem-based and integrated management, as set out in Departmental legislation, regulations and policies
- DFO will address issues of public concern in a fair and transparent manner, based on science and risk-management approaches endorsed by the Government of Canada
- DFO will communicate with Canadians and seek their input on issues pertaining to aquaculture development
- DFO will respect constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights and will work with interested and affected Aboriginal communities to facilitate their participation in aquaculture development
- recognizing that aquaculture is a legitimate user of land, water and aquatic resources, DFO will work with provincial and territorial governments to provide aquaculturists with predictable, equitable and timely access to the aquatic resource base
- DFO will strive to ensure that its own legislative and regulatory frameworks enable the aquaculture sector to develop on an even footing with other sectors
- in consultation with other federal departments, the provinces and territories, the academic sector and industry, DFO will support responsible development of the aquaculture sector
- DFO will make every effort to understand the needs of the aquaculture industry and to respond in a manner that is solutions-oriented and supportive of aquaculture development
DFO will work with other federal departments, and with provincial and territorial governments, to coordinate policy development, integrate regulatory frameworks, and improve service delivery. Through this policy framework, DFO is committed to being both an enabler and a regulator of aquaculture development, affirming its role as a Department engaged in sustainable resource development. In this context “enabling” means improving the business climate for aquaculture development to benefit Canadians. DFO achieves this by:
- ensuring that DFO's laws and regulations relating to aquaculture are clear, efficient, effective, consistently applied and relevant to the sector
- investing in aquaculture science and research and development
- working in partnership with provinces and territories to develop a proactive siting process and
- considering support for industry development programs consistent with DFO’s mandate and objectives
Further information regarding DFO’s Aquaculture Policy Framework can be found at the following website: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/ref/APF-PAM-eng.htm.
2.3.2 Sustainable Aquaculture Program
The Canadian aquaculture industry operates within rigorous environmental standards, some of the strongest in the world. These standards, based on the best available scientific research, are in place to safeguard the environment and wild fish stocks.
The Government of Canada undertakes numerous initiatives to ensure a successful and sustainable aquaculture industry across Canada. These initiatives streamline the regulatory process, strengthen science to create performance-based environmental standards, spur innovation to enhance the sector’s competitiveness and productivity, and support the development of certification schemes to meet rigorous quality standards in international markets.
The objectives of the renewed Sustainable Aquaculture program (2013 – 2018) are as follows (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/programs-programmes/sustainable-durable/renewed-renouvele-eng.htm):
- Regulatory Science: Improved science knowledge and advice to inform regulatory decision-making and policy development
- Regulatory Reform and Governance: Improved regulatory certainty through better coordination among regulatory authorities and
- Aquaculture Public Reporting: Improved reporting on the environmental and economic performance of Canada’s aquaculture sector
2.3.3 British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program
The British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program was established to carry out the Department’s responsibilities related to aquaculture in British Columbia. In particular, the Program was designed to implement federal regulations under the Fisheries Act and carry out the day-to-day management of the fisheries and environmental aspects related to aquaculture.
These responsibilities include a number of areas previously managed by the Province of British Columbia (until 2010) such as licensing, containment plans and fish health management plans, as well as matters which have historically been managed by DFO such as habitat protection, introductions and transfers of fish, and marine mammal interactions.
DFO’s aquaculture-related responsibilities are managed by staff both at national headquarters in Ottawa and in the Pacific Region. The Program is primarily administered by DFO staff located in various communities on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver.
Within the Pacific Region, DFO is responsible for a range of aquaculture activities, including:
- developing operational policies and Integrated Management of Aquaculture Plans
- reviewing licence applications, setting appropriate licence conditions, issuing licences and reviewing licensee/facility management plans
- liaising with stakeholders, other governments and First Nations
- reporting publicly on the performance of the aquaculture industry
- conducting compliance evaluations for fish health and environmental protection
- reviewing and analyzing environmental and compliance data and
- evaluating the effectiveness of environmental protection
Consistent with the legislative, regulatory and policy framework outlined above, DFO has identified the following management objectives:
- maintaining healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems
- supporting an aquaculture industry that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable
- supporting economic opportunities through sustainable growth and development of the aquaculture sector in British Columbia
- ensuring sound environmental performance on the part of the aquaculture industry
- providing an efficient and effective regulatory system for aquaculture in British Columbia
- supporting First Nations participation in aquaculture
- meeting obligations related to First Nations consultation
- engaging First Nations, industry, other levels of government and stakeholders in management of the aquaculture sector
- taking an open and transparent approach to the management of aquaculture in British Columbia and
- maintaining a high level of compliance with DFO regulations and licence conditions
DFO employs a range of management measures which support Departmental objectives related to aquaculture. These are intended to work in concert with the jurisdictions of other agencies with regulatory authority over aspects of aquaculture management such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the Health of Animals Act. The primary tools DFO employs are aquaculture siting considerations, aquaculture licensing (including Conditions of Licence), required site monitoring, a DFO audit program, and compliance and enforcement measures.
2.4 Compliance and enforcement
Monitoring, auditing and enforcement are integral parts of DFO’s approach to the management of the aquaculture industry. Conservation and Protection (C&P) staff (Fishery Officers) and other DFO employees play key roles in this approach.
A specialized aquaculture C&P unit enforces compliance with the Fisheries Act, the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, and the Aquaculture Activity Regulations. Fishery Officers responsible for aquaculture enforcement are stationed on Vancouver Island in Campbell River and Nanaimo.
DFO Fishery Officers conduct investigations and may initiate enforcement actions based on C&P site inspections, inspections undertaken by DFO staff who monitor and manage industry reporting, or on information received from the public.
In collaboration with the enforcement activities conducted by Fishery Officers, DFO has a team of dedicated veterinarians, biologists, fish health technicians, and resource managers who verify that aquaculture facilities comply with the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations and the Aquaculture Activities Regulations as well as all Conditions of Licence. The data gathered by DFO staff through site inspections and technical audits provides valuable information related to the environmental and operational performance of the aquaculture industry in British Columbia.
2.5 Science in support of aquaculture
DFO undertakes a science-based approach to managing the aquaculture industry in British Columbia. In addition to supporting regulatory decision-making, scientific research also improves the Department’s understanding of the interactions between farmed and wild finfish and shellfish, as well as the environment on which these species depend.
DFO is involved in a number of aquaculture science and research activities designed to:
- better understand and regulate the potential environmental interactions of aquaculture activities
- develop new and enhanced tools and technologies to ensure optimal fish health and
- establish sustainable, ecosystem-based practices
Results of this research help inform regulatory and policy development and decision-making (within the Department and other government departments and agencies), and support the responsible growth of Canada’s aquaculture industry.
DFO’s aquaculture research activities fall mainly under two key programs within the Sustainable Aquaculture Program: the Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR), and the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP).
The PARR supports research activities that build understanding and the knowledge base that is used to inform DFO’s aquaculture and fisheries protection regulations and policy decision-making. This includes the Department’s environmental regulations. Information on the PARR can be found at the following web location: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/environmental-environnement/aquaculture/parr-prra/index-eng.asp.
The ACRDP is a DFO initiative designed to increase the level of collaborative research and development activity between the aquaculture industry and the Department. The ACRDP teams industry with DFO researchers to undertake research that lies within DFO’s mandate, but is based on the needs and priorities of the aquaculture industry. More information regarding ACRDP can be found at the following website: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/enviro/aquaculture/acrdp-pcrda/index-eng.htm.
Other related programs and activities include Science Peer Review (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/sci-res/index-eng.htm), Canadian Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Network (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/sci-res/imta-amti/index-eng.htm), and Aquatic Animal Health Science (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/aah-saa/index-eng.htm).
The broad range of aquaculture research initiatives currently being undertaken by the Department, as well as other individuals and institutions (e.g. universities, environmental groups, private consultants, First Nations and industry), are summarized in the biennially published Canadian Aquaculture Research & Development Review. The most recent Review (2015) can be found at: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/environmental-environnement/aquaculture/rd2015/index-eng.html.
The Department has undertaken a number of comprehensive science reviews evaluating the state of knowledge and research needs in the area of aquaculture-environment interactions. In addition to these broad review processes, individual CSAS processes are routinely undertaken to evaluate emerging issues and science developments. The resulting Advisory Reports, as well as Research Documents and Proceedings documents, are posted on the CSAS website: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/index-eng.htm.
The Department recognizes the importance of research on aquaculture-environmental interactions (and broader marine ecosystem and fisheries issues) that is conducted by individuals and institutions (e.g. universities, environmental groups, private consultants, First Nations). The reports and publications resulting from these studies are also included and evaluated through CSAS review processes. This includes participation of external experts at CSAS peer review process workshops and active involvement in the formulation of Science Advisory documents.
2.6 Developing science and research priorities
As advisory processes associated with aquaculture management in the Pacific Region develop, DFO will work collaboratively with First Nations, industry, and stakeholders to identify ongoing science and research priorities. Regional priorities will then be considered within a national context.
Nationally, aquaculture regulatory research priorities for marine finfish aquaculture have consistently focused on the following themes:
- Fish Pathogen and Pest Treatment and Management Approaches (e.g. effects of sea lice management approaches, fish health zones)
- Cumulative Effects and Ecosystem Management Strategies (e.g. fish health zones, transfer zones, ecosystem assessment to support potential boundary delineation, cultivated/non-cultivated fish interactions)
- Habitat Impacts (e.g. aquaculture activity effects assessment for different cultivation types, assessment of dynamics of effects from increased deposition, far-field and cumulative issues)
- Interactions with Wild Populations (e.g. non-indigenous species assessment, cultivated stock escapes assessment, incidental catch evaluation, wild-cultivated interactions including sea lice)
The Department seeks input into science and research priorities through advisory committee processes and bilateral engagement processes. Science and research, as well as the management of the industry, will benefit from the collaborative engagement of governments, First Nations, industry, and other stakeholders, working together to identify priorities and carry out initiatives.
2.7 Integration of traditional and local knowledge
In developing and implementing its aquaculture management approach, the Department is committed to working with First Nations, other levels of government, industry, and stakeholders in order to gather and integrate traditional and local knowledge. Through collaborative processes with First Nations and local communities, DFO continues to improve its understanding of how traditional and local knowledge can be effectively utilized to improve the management of aquaculture.
2.8 Engagement and advisory processes
In order to facilitate open and transparent communication relating to the management of marine finfish aquaculture, DFO has worked with First Nations, industry, and other stakeholders to establish the Marine Finfish Aquaculture Management Advisory Committee (MF-AMAC). The MF-AMAC is a multi-stakeholder forum which provides feedback to DFO on the coast-wide management of marine finfish aquaculture.
The MF-AMAC brings together a range of interests related to aquaculture to provide coordinated analysis and advice to DFO with regard to aquaculture management in British Columbia. The AMAC provides a venue for discussion among industry, First Nations, stakeholders, and local/provincial/federal governments. This advice plays an important role in the ongoing development of the MF-IMAP, and provides a transparent opportunity for interested groups to better understand and participate in the planning and management cycle for aquaculture.
DFO has also established bilateral processes with First Nations, environmental non-governmental organizations, and the aquaculture industry. These processes complement, inform, and support work being done in the multi-stakeholder AMACs, and allow for more targeted discussions to identify and address specific issues. The Department also meets with other groups on a more informal, as-requested basis, such as local governmental bodies, recreational fishing advisory boards and commercial fishing industry advisory boards.
Through programs like the Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management (AAROM) and the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI), DFO has invested in building First Nations capacity related to fisheries and aquaculture. These funds have been used to improve communications and information sharing among First Nations on aquaculture issues, and to provide technical capacity to help First Nations more effectively engage in discussions related to aquaculture management.
In addition to consultation and engagement with individual First Nations and other AAROM bodies, the Department continues to work closely with the First Nations Fisheries Council (FNFC) to seek advice and assist with coordination of engagement on a broader, province-wide basis. This includes progress toward the establishment of processes with First Nations which provide a vehicle for bilateral discussions, as well as support for effective First Nations engagement in the AMAC and other processes.
2.9 First Nations consultation
Consultation with First Nations is a key part of DFO’s aquaculture licensing and review process. Consistent with legal obligations and the federal duty to consult, DFO consults with First Nations on new licence applications and amendments where there is a potential to impact claimed and/or established rights and title.
Other provincial and federal partners in the harmonized licence application process may also have their own protocols for consulting with First Nations.
In addition to steps undertaken by the Department, DFO encourages aquaculture proponents (i.e. licence holders/applicants) to contact and engage First Nations prior to applying for a new licence or amendment.
In cases where an application relates only to a DFO area of jurisdiction (e.g. species amendment), the Department identifies First Nations in the area and provides them with a detailed overview (referral package) of the application and information regarding the proposed site and a proposed timeframe for comments/feedback on the application. First Nations are provided an opportunity for follow up through meetings and/or discussions. All comments are reviewed and carefully considered by the Department, including key issues and potential impacts identified by First Nations through the consultation process. In most new marine finfish applications received by the Department today, First Nations have already been heavily engaged in the planning and development of the application undertaken by the proponent company.
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