Terms of Reference for Updating the Commercial Salmon Allocation Framework


Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is undertaking an initiative to update the current commercial salmon allocation framework. To help guide effective discussion and clearly indicate the purpose and scope of this initiative, the Department will engage with the Commercial Salmon Advisory Board (CSAB) and First Nations under this Terms of Reference.

This initiative is intended to address one element of the Mitigation Program to implement changes to the Chinook Chapter of the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) announced by the Department in 2010. This includes addressing the deficiencies in the current commercial salmon allocation framework that were identified by the CSAB and the Integrated Advisory Group (IAG) formed to provide advice on PST mitigation. Equally as important, this work is intended to improve the long term stability, certainty, and resilience of the commercial salmon allocation arrangements, and provide more flexibility to licence holders to make effective business decisions, and thereby better respond to uncertainty in salmon abundance and changing market conditions.

The scope of this work is on updating the commercial salmon allocation arrangements within An Allocation Policy for Pacific Salmon. For the purposes of this document “commercial” refers broadly to any existing commercial and First Nations fisheries where the licence holder has been permitted to sell fish. The existing allocation priorities for First Nations food, social and ceremonial and recreational salmon fisheries will be maintained, consistent with this Allocation Policy. Outcomes from this initiative must also be consistent with key department direction. For example, conservation of wild Pacific salmon and their habitats is the highest priority in resource management decision making and any changes to the commercial salmon allocation framework will respect Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (the ‘Wild Salmon Policy’).

DFO will consult with Aboriginal groups when allocation decisions may potentially affect Aboriginal fishery interests, in accordance with S. 35 of the Constitution Act (1982), relevant case law, and consistent with Departmental policies and considerations. Further, this process will not in any way define or limit any aboriginal title or rights of First Nations, and will be without prejudice to the positions of the parties with respect to Aboriginal title or rights.


DFO will work with First Nations and commercial harvesters, and the Province of BC, to update the commercial salmon allocation framework by soliciting input in two phases.

In Phase 1, discussions on possible changes to the commercial salmon allocation framework will commence in the fall of 2013. The key questions (see below) are intended to better ensure that advice given during the consultations can be used effectively to best address the challenges facing the commercial salmon fisheries now and in the future. Suggestions made for updating the commercial allocation framework will need to be consistent with the Departmental principles and objectives as outlined below. As part of Phase 1, the Department, First Nations and commercial harvesters will discuss potential criteria and scope for a socio-economic analysis which will be used to help evaluate potential outcomes from changes to the current commercial salmon allocation framework. This analysis will use key criteria that are identified as guidance to frame the questions. This analysis is planned to occur over the winter of 2013/2014 and expected to take two to three months to complete.

Phase 2 is anticipated to begin in early 2014. In Phase 2, the Department will seek advice from First Nations and commercial interests on the results of the socio economic analysis and approaches to updating the commercial salmon allocation framework. It is anticipated that Phase 2 will take approximately four months to complete. Following Phase 2, the Department will consider the received advice and will make a decision on any changes to the current commercial salmon allocation framework.

Meetings for both Phase 1 and 2 are expected to take place with commercial harvesters within existing advisory processes where possible, including the commercial salmon advisory board (CSAB), the First Nations Fisheries Council Salmon Coordinating Committee (SCC) and with interested First Nations.

Discussion Questions

The Department is seeking suggestions from First Nations, commercial interests and the Province of BC for updating the commercial salmon allocation framework. Input received through this process will be considered in any final arrangements outlined by the Department. The following questions are proposed to help inform the discussions and any responses will be used to assist in evaluating suggestions for changing the current commercial salmon allocation framework.

  1. What are the current deficiencies with the current commercial salmon allocation framework?

  2. What elements of an updated commercial salmon allocation framework would you like to see to give you greater allocation stability, business flexibility and/or increased access to harvest opportunities?

  3. What elements of an updated commercial salmon allocation framework would facilitate increased collaboration on operational harvest decisions among commercial fishery participants?

  4. What current rules or barriers could or should be eliminated as part of the updating of the commercial salmon allocation framework?

  5. What economic impacts do you hope to see for yourself and the fishery as a whole, from the proposed changes to the commercial salmon allocation framework? How would you like to see these impacts captured and measured in the socio-economic analysis which is planned as part of Phase 1 of this process?

  6. Are the criteria provided for evaluating any suggestions put forward for updating the commercial salmon allocation framework reasonable? Are there other criteria that should be evaluated? How should the retirement of commercial licences be incorporated into an updated commercial salmon allocation framework? How should possible future licence retirements be dealt with?

Strategic Context and Management Considerations

Responses to the questions above will inform suggestions for updating the commercial salmon allocation framework. Importantly, updating the commercial salmon allocation framework will occur within a broader strategic context in which there are a range of current and anticipated management considerations influencing commercial salmon harvests. The following considerations, among others, could comprise this context.

  1. Biological resiliency and resource sustainability

    The Wild Salmon Policy guides the Department’s work to restore and maintain healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitats for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Canada in perpetuity. Climate change and other environmental factors are anticipated to continue to create uncertainty and will likely increase variability of salmon returns and shifts in species productivity. Future harvest opportunities will likely be focused on those species and/or stocks that are thriving and that can be harvested with little or no adverse impact on other populations. Fishing will need to be selective, able to change with changing relative abundance and could include an increased harvest in more terminal fisheries to avoid weaker sub-populations and non-target species. Over time, improved conservation outcomes resulting from these changes should have the potential to increase the available harvests.

  2. Increased harvester responsibility

    Consistent with the Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF) and an ecosystem-based management approach, harvesters are likely to have increasing responsibility to demonstrate that their harvests achieve ecosystem and conservation objectives. Fisheries management decisions will consider the impacts of the fishery on the target species, as well as, non-target species and the ecosystems of which these species are a part. Enhancements to current catch monitoring standards and independent verification can be expected to be a basic requirement of harvesters in many fisheries to better support achievement of sustainability and conservation objectives. Where catch targets or exploitation rate limits are in place, commercial salmon harvesters will be expected to demonstrate compliance with these.

  3. Uncertain business environments

    Harvesters and producers face challenges associated with the highly variable and seasonal nature of salmon fisheries, increasing global market pressures to increase the value of their product, and meeting the demand from consumers for eco-certified products. Providing greater certainty of access provides incentives for harvesters to make sound business decisions that enhance the long-term prosperity and sustainability of their enterprise, and to support conservation measures and effective fisheries management. Coupled with increasing costs of harvest and production, harvesters will need to have increased flexibility to self-adjust to changing market and/or environmental conditions.

  4. Role of government

    The fiscal climate will place a premium on effective cost management. The Department’s role will continue to be focused on achieving core objectives, such as ensuring the conservation of Pacific salmon, promoting responsible and sustainable fisheries, and removing barriers and unnecessary rules that restrict flexibility.

  5. First Nations

    It is anticipated that First Nation communities will continue to seek increased flexibility to access commercial harvest opportunities to provide economic opportunities. DFO will continue to work with First Nations and commercial harvesters to develop an approach to an integrated commercial fishery based on the principles of transparency, accountability and collaboration. Several Departmental programs including the Allocation Transfer Program and Pacific Integrated Commercial Fishery Initiative provide commercial access to First Nations communities through voluntary relinquishment of existing commercial licences. The Department also seeks to manage fisheries in a manner consistent with the constitutional protection provided to Aboriginal and treaty rights under S. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and consistent with relevant court decisions.


Key departmental objectives are intended to inform consultations on updating the commercial salmon allocation framework and define their scope. The review is guided by the following departmental objectives:

  1. To increase the stability of the commercial salmon allocation framework;

  2. To increase flexibility of licence holders and producers to better adapt and optimize economic benefits in an uncertain business environment;

  3. To improve compliance with conservation objectives;

  4. To simplify and streamline rules and processes to allow commercial harvesters greater opportunities to self-adjust;

  5. To improve required standards for monitoring and catch reporting so that timely and accurate information is available to decision-makers to support prosperous, sustainable fisheries;

  6. To promote effective management arrangements and support open, transparent and collaborative decision making;

  7. To provide clarity when costs of management are shared by those who benefit from the harvest of the resource;


In Phase 2, the Department will use evaluation criteria to assess whether proposed suggestions for updating the commercial salmon allocation framework are likely to achieve the above-noted principles and objectives. The proposed criteria represent desirable outcomes for fisheries management, against which commercial salmon allocation framework changes can be compared and measured.

  1. Resource sustainability
    1. Is consistent with Wild Salmon Policy objectives for maintaining healthy and diverse salmon populations;
    2. Provides incentives for selective fishing technology and practices to be adopted where appropriate and that there are continuing improvements in harvesting gear and related practices;
    3. Contributes to all commercial salmon fisheries adhering to selective fishing standards within set timelines;
    4. Promotes public, market and participant confidence that the fishery is sustainable;
    5. Provides incentives for fish harvesters to work to balance the level of fishing effort with the sustainable supply of fisheries' resources to support responsible management and responsible professional harvesting;
    6. Aids in minimizing unintended by-catch and reducing waste and adverse impacts on the freshwater and marine ecosystems and habitats to promote healthy stocks.
  2. Economic prosperity
    1. Enables improved economic prosperity;
    2. Enables fleets to have the capacity to assume a larger share of the cost of management of their fishery;
    3. Increases opportunities to access small abundances, otherwise not available under current arrangements.
  3. Improved governance
    The proposed commercial salmon allocation framework fosters:
    1. Stable and consistent operating environments;
    2. All commercial participants fish under the same priority of access and similar rules;
    3. Costs of management are shared by those who benefit from the harvest;
    4. Participants are self-reliant and able to self-adjust;
    5. Allocation arrangements permit flexibility to respond more effectively to changing conservation conditions and market demands
    6. An increased role for harvesters in fishery decision-making and enhanced collaboration among First Nations, the Department and commercial interests;
    7. Fair and transparent transfers of catch shares to First Nations through voluntary means.

A commercial salmon management system consistent with the above-noted objectives, principles, and criteria can realize greater economic benefits, better support long-term sustainability of Pacific wild salmon stocks and create a more resilient commercial salmon industry which is capable of self-adjusting to changing market and environmental conditions.