First Nations, recreational & commercial salmon licensing

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Contact the Pacific Fisheries Licensing Unit at 200-401 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 3S4. 1-877-535-7307.

First Nations salmon licensing

First Nations salmon licensing

Fisheries for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) purposes are authorized by a Communal Licence issued to individual First Nations organizations by Fisheries and Oceans Canada under the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations. Communal licences specify various conditions such as species, quantity, methods, location, and times. There are four general FSC licence categories:

  1. Single Species: Issued for a single species, typically salmon. It is used to licence all fisheries on the Fraser River.
  2. Multi-Species: Uses separate schedules to licence a number of different species, for example salmon, herring, and shellfish. Typically it is used for coastal fisheries.
  3. Dry Rack: Issued to individuals of First Nations who have historically air dried fish, have appropriate fishing and drying sites, and erect drying structures along the Fraser River. The fish are dried or canned.
  4. Ceremonial: May be issued when local stocks cannot support an open fishery but may support limited effort. It is intended to allow fishing for ceremonial purposes only. Ceremonial licences are used almost exclusively in the lower Fraser River.

Communal commercial licences are issued to First Nations organizations for participation in the general commercial fishery, pursuant to the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations, these licences were originally retired under the Aboriginal Fishery Strategy Licence Retirement/Allocation Transfer Program. When issued as Commercial Communal licences, the licences have the same capacity as before retirement. Since the program's inception in 1994, approximately 87 commercial salmon licences have been retired from the regular commercial fishery and new licences issued to First Nations organizations.

ESSR licences may be issued for identified salmon surpluses in various areas.

Recreational salmon licensing

Recreational salmon licensing

Tidal water recreational fishers of all ages are required to obtain and have in their possession a valid British Columbia Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence prior to angling for salmon in tidal waters. Anglers intending to retain salmon caught in tidal waters must also purchase a salmon conservation stamp and have it affixed to their licence. This stamp is not required if anglers intend to release all salmon caught.

The stamp was developed by the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 1988/89. The Pacific Salmon Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to salmon restoration. A portion of the revenues received from the sale of the conservation stamp is endowed to the Foundation to fund salmon restoration projects.

Since 1994, there has been a general decline in the number of Tidal water sport fishing licenses and salmon conservation stamps sold. The number of Tidal water licenses sold to Residents and Non-Residents of Canada decreased from 400,000 in 1994 to 326,000 in 2004. Salmon conservation stamp sales have decreased from approximately 320,000 in 1994 to approximately 236,000 in 2004.

Statistics on recreational licences and licence vendors

Anglers over the age of 16 years are required to obtain and have in their possession a valid provincial Angling Licence to fish for salmon in non-tidal waters of the province. A salmon conservation stamp is also required if anglers intend to retain any salmon caught. This stamp is not required if anglers intend to release all salmon caught in non-tidal waters.

Anglers under the age of 16 years do not require a licence to fish in non-tidal waters.

Information on BC freshwater sport fishing licences

Commercial salmon licensing

Commercial salmon licensing

Commercial salmon - licence categories

Commercial salmon fishing is authorized by issuance of a category "A", "N" or "F" licence. The majority of commercial salmon licence eligibilities are category "A" vessel based, i.e. issued to a vessel. Salmon is a limited entry commercial fishery. There are full and reduced fee Category A licence eligibilities. Reduced fee licence eligibilities are held by vessels owned by an Aboriginal who has elected to pay a lower annual fee. Where this election has been made, the lower fee applies in all years after and therefore only an Aboriginal may own the vessel.

Category N licence eligibilities are party based, i.e. issued only to the Northern Native Fishing Corporation for vessels designated by the corporation. There are 254 "N" licence eligibilities, the majority of which are Area C gillnet.  

Category F (Communal Commercial ) licence eligibilities are party based and issued under the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations. They are allocated to First Nations under the Allocation Transfer Program and First Nations must designate vessels to hold "F" licences.

Salmon licences that are placed on vessels with other vessel based licence eligibilities are considered tied to the other vessel based licence eligibilities on the vessel and may not be separated except where the Integated Fishery Management Plan (IFMP) for a species allows.

Under policy, all salmon licence eligibilities must be applied for annually by the renewal date and the applicable fee paid as set out in the Schedule II (section 19) Pacific Fishery Regulations, 1993, in order to maintain eligibility.  

Effective in 2002, the salmon licence year became April 1, to March 31. All vessels licensed to fish for commercial salmon are also authorized to fish for Schedule II, category "C" species and to undertake transporting activities. Vessel owners who wish to fish for Schedule II category "C" species, or transport fish prior to the availability of commercial salmon licences, may apply for a Schedule II special Issue "CA" licence. Upon issuance of salmon licences, the special issue "CA" licence must be returned.

Salmon licence fees were last adjusted in 1998. All commercial licence fees are set out in Schedule II (section 19) Pacific Fishery Regulations, 1993.

Commercial salmon licence fee schedule

Vessels under 9.14m Vessels over 9.14m Seine Vessels
Reduced fee $380.00 $650.00 $2670.00
Full fee $430.00 $710.00 $3880.00

Area licensing, single-gear licensing and stacking

In 1996, permanent gear choice, area selection and licence stacking were introduced. Permanent gear choice meant that each salmon licence eligibility would be restricted to either seine, gillnet or troll fishing for the future.

Area selection meant that vessel owners/licence eligibility holders selected one area to fish for a period of four years. Area licensing divided the coast into two areas for seine gear, three areas for gillnet and three areas for troll. In 2000, the department reaffirmed its commitment to area licensing as a long term feature of commercial salmon management. A six year voluntary area selection occurred prior to the 2000 fishery and these selections remain in place through the 2005 season. The existing number of areas and the area boundaries remain as previously established except for a change to troll area boundaries.

Area A Areas 1 to 10 and Subarea 101-7 (Salmon Seine - North Coast)
Area B Areas 11 to 29 and 121 (Salmon Seine - South Coast)
Area C Areas 1 to 10 and Subarea 101-7 (Salmon Gill net - North Coast)
Area D Areas 11 to 15 and 23 to 27 (Salmon Gill net - South Coast)
Area E Areas 16 to 22, 28, 29 and 121 (Salmon Gill net - South Coast)
Area F Areas 1 to 10, 101 to 110, 130 and 142 (Salmon Troll - North Coast)
Area G Areas 11, 20 to 27, 111, 121, 123 to 127 (Salmon Troll - WCVI/Q.C. Sound/Strait)
Area H Areas 12 to 19, 28 and 29 (Salmon Troll - Johnstone/Georgia St)

Licence stacking allowed vessel owners to combine different gear and area licence eligibilities onto one vessel by permanently "stacking " additional salmon licences from other vessels onto their vessel. Different gear and area licences can be combined on one vessel. A vessel may not hold more than one licence for the same area.

A single salmon licence eligibility may be stacked to a vessel that is up to 30% longer in overall length than the overall length of the vessel from which the eligibility is being removed.

A salmon licence may not be separated from other licence eligibilities for the purpose of stacking.

Where salmon licence eligibilities tied to other licence eligibilities are stacked, the 30% is not applicable and stacking may not result in the stacking of licences other than salmon.

Licences eligible for a temporary placement (e.g. total loss of vessel) will not be permitted to be stacked.

An area change request may be made at the time of submission of application for licence stacking. The area change may only be requested for the licence eligibility that is being stacked. The owner of the receiving vessel must make the request by completion of the applicable section on Application for Salmon Licence Eligibility Stacking. Stacking applications are accepted between December 01 and May 31 annually.

Category "N" and "F" licence eligibilities may be stacked upon annual designation in compliance with all stacking rules except that they will not be tied to other salmon licence eligibilities and no area changes are permitted.

Voluntary retirement

In 1995, the Fraser River Sockeye Public Review Board recommended formation of a consultative forum to plan the future of the salmon fishery. The Pacific Roundtable was formed with representation from the commercial, Aboriginal and recreational fishing sectors. The Roundtable called for a fleet reduction of between 25 and 50%. In March, 1996 then Minister of Fisheries & Oceans accepted the recommendation and announced a comprehensive plan to revitalize the West Coast commercial salmon fishery. An $80 million voluntary salmon licence retirement program was carried out that spring with two application rounds held. 797 salmon licence eligibilities were retired representing a 19% fleet reduction.

In 1998, then Minister of Fisheries & Oceans announced initiatives aimed at further restructuring the Pacific salmon fishery. Included in the measures was another Voluntary Salmon Licence Retirement Program. Over three rounds of the program, 1404 salmon licence eligibilities were retired from the Pacific commercial salmon fleet. Since 1996, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has reduced the size of the commercial salmon fleet by nearly 50% through the 1996 Pacific Salmon Revitalization Plan and the 1998-99 Canadian Fisheries Adjustment and Restructuring Program.

Specific troll area boundary changes included moving statistical Areas 11 and 111 to licence Area G. Area G licensed vessels will continue to be permitted access to Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon along the west coast of Vancouver island. Area G licensed vessels will also be permitted access to Fraser River sockeye, and pink in the northern portion of Area 12 (north of the boundary of Subarea 12-5) in those years where there is a high diversion rate of these salmon through Johnstone Strait or in years when fishing opportunities are not available on the west coast Vancouver Island due to impacts on stocks of concern.

Reports from the Pacific Salmon Commission staff, and from ambassador John Fraser, recommended that directed Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon harvest not be permitted by northern area licence holders. In the future, northern licence areas (i.e. areas A, C and F) will not be provided opportunities for directed Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon harvests.

Vessel replacement

  • Replacement vessels for category A salmon licence eligibilities where no stacking is involved must be the exact overall length or smaller than the vessel being replaced.
  • Licence eligibility area changes are not permitted at time of vessel replacement.
  • Where a vessel is eligible for a reduced fee salmon licence, an Aboriginal must own the replacing vessel.
  • If a vessel is eligible for more than one licence category, all licence eligibilities must be reallocated to the replacement vessel except where the IFMPfor a species allows.
  • The replacement vessel must meet all registration requirements. Information regarding vessel registration is available at a Pacific Fishery Licence Unit.

The following items must be submitted along with the completed Application to Replace a Commercial Fishing Vessel:

  • Validation tabs;
  • Commercial Fishing Licences(s);
  • Declaration Concerning Licence Documents (available at all Licence Units) as to why the vessel owner(s) are unable to return any or all of these documents;
  • Written advice from each lien and encumbrance holder stating that they have been notified of the application;
  • A vessel survey for overall length, breadth and depth conducted by a Marine Surveyor in accordance with Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Vessel Measurement Guidelines, must be on file or submitted.

In addition, the following requirements must be met:

  • The Application to Replace a Commercial Fishing Vessel must be completed and signed by all owners of the vessel to be replaced. All signatures must be notarised.
  • The contact owner of the replacement vessel must sign Part 2 of the application form.
  • All conditions of the licence(s) to be reallocated have been met. (ie log book, fish slips submitted, etc.)
  • If the vessel being replaced will no longer be eligible for any commercial fishing licences as a result of the application then any party based licences (Category Z, communal commercial, etc.) designated to the original vessel must be re-designated to a suitable vessel or relinquished to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
  • When a replacement vessel is eligible for a Schedule II species, category C licence, the licence must be relinquished to Fisheries and Oceans Canada or placed on another vessel.
  • Where a replacement vessel has a current year transporting, category D licence, all licence documents decals and registration certificate must be surrendered and the vessel must be re-registered as a Commercial Fishing Vessel.

Temporary vessel replacements

An application to temporarily replace a vessel may be made if the vessel has been declared a Total Loss, or the vessel is out of service due to an accident or unforeseen damage. Written confirmation from an insurance company, shipyard or marine engineer explaining why the vessel is inoperative is required.

Situations where vessels are in disrepair at the time of purchase, or vessels with engine problems, delays in annual maintenance or rebuilds do not qualify for temporary placement.

Licences eligible for a temporary placement (e.g. total loss of vessel) are not permitted to be stacked.

Please consult a Pacific Fishery Licence Unit for advice with regard to the permanent or temporary placement or the stacking of salmon licence eligibilities.