Pacific Region - Freshwater/land-based integrated management of aquaculture plan: Background and overview of the sector

July 2016 - Version 1.1

1.1 Background

In December 2010 the Government of Canada assumed primary responsibility for the regulation and management of aquaculture in British Columbia. As the lead federal agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO, the Department) is responsible for regulating, monitoring and licensing all aquaculture operations in the province, including those which are freshwater/ landbased. In order to carry out these responsibilities, the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations ( were developed under the Fisheries Act to govern the management and regulation of the aquaculture industry in British Columbia. The Aquaculture Activity Regulations ( provide further direction relating to the management of the aquaculture industry throughout Canada. The Department established the British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program (BCARP) to support implementation of the regulations and day-to-day management of the sector.

While DFO is the lead federal authority governing the regulation of the aquaculture industry, other federal departments and provincial agencies also have roles in managing and regulating various aspects of aquaculture management in British Columbia. For example, Transport Canada is responsible for reviewing applications with respect to the protection of navigable waters, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has jurisdiction related to aspects of fish health and processing.

The Province of British Columbia remains responsible for authorizing the occupation of provincial Crown land, aquatic Crown land, and lakes associated with aquaculture operations. The Province manages some environmental aspects of aquaculture operations in fresh water bodies, and some fish processing responsibilities. In some cases, zoning requirements, administered by local governments, apply to aquaculture facilities.

Under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, aquaculture is defined as “the cultivation of fish.” The freshwater/land-based Integrated Management of Aquaculture Plan (FW/LB-IMAP) is concerned with the cultivation of fish (inclusive of shellfish) in a freshwater environment (ponds, rivers, lakes) or in a land-based facility using either fresh or salt water. Cultivation implies individual or corporate ownership, control, and responsibility for the stock being cultivated. An aquaculture licence is required where a facility is raising fish or shellfish which are destined for sale for human consumption or transfer to another aquaculture facility.

The Aquaculture Activity Regulations clarify conditions under which aquaculture operators may treat their fish for disease and parasites, as well as deposit organic matter, under Sections 35 and 36 of the Fisheries Act. They allow aquaculture operators to do so within specific restrictions to avoid, minimize, and mitigate any potential serious harm to fish and fish habitat. All freshwater/land-based aquaculture sites which release effluent to fish bearing waters must provide written reports of considered alternatives to pesticide and drug use. Sites are required to have mitigation measures in place to minimize serious harm to fish and fish habitat when they use any pesticide or drug. They must also report these activities on a yearly basis to the Department, which makes this data publicly available.

The FW/LB-IMAP outlines the management framework for freshwater/land-based aquaculture in British Columbia. In some cases, where more than one cultivation method is used, the process of cultivating fish throughout a life cycle may fall under more than one IMAP (e.g. marine finfish or shellfish and freshwater/land-based). This includes the situation where juvenile fish/ shellfish are bred or reared on land and then transferred to a marine-based aquaculture facility at some stage of their life cycle.

Consistent with its overall management approaches, DFO has established advisory processes to support the development of IMAPs and to provide a mechanism for feedback to DFO related to the management of aquaculture in British Columbia. There are Aquaculture Management Advisory Committee (AMAC) processes in place for marine finfish and shellfish aquaculture, which link to most species covered in this plan. The AMAC Terms of Reference provides seats on the committees for First Nations, aquaculture licence holders, industry associations, environmental interests and local government. DFO and the Government of British Columbia are ex-officio participants. More information on AMACs and a schedule of meetings are available on the DFO Pacific Region consultations webpage (

DFO undertakes bilateral consultation with individual First Nations, and works with the First Nations Fisheries Council in order to engage British Columbia First Nations in discussions related to aquaculture management and decision-making. The Department also meets with other organizations through bilateral processes to engage these constituent groups in discussions related to the management of aquaculture in British Columbia.

1.2 Sector overview

DFO currently licences approximately 110 freshwater/land-based aquaculture facilities. A list of all current freshwater/land-based aquaculture licences is available on the DFO website:

As of January 2016, the types of culture authorized under these licences (a licence may include more than one type of culture) include:

1.2.1 Cultivated species

The most commonly cultivated species under the freshwater class of licences include:

Common Name Scientific Name
Atlantic salmon Salmo salar
Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
Coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch
Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas
Signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus
Rainbow trout/ steelhead trout Oncorhynchus mykiss
Sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria
Tilapia (Nile) Oreochromis niloticus
White sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus

1.2.2 Cultivation pperations and characteristics

Freshwater/ land-based fish and shellfish are cultivated within facilities, including:

Some facilities include both hatchery and grow-out components. Finfish hatcheries and rearing

Today most finfish aquaculture companies harvest eggs from their own fish which have been reared in British Columbia over several generations and bred for traits that allow them to thrive in a local environment. In some cases DFO provides limited access to wild or enhanced fish stocks for broodstock development. Access of this kind is provided through the National Policy for Access to Wild Aquatic Resources as it Applies to Aquaculture (

Licensees may apply for an introductions and transfers licence to import eggs from outside of Canada. Imported eggs must meet stringent requirements as set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the federal regulatory authority on disease risk management of fish imports. With respect to Atlantic salmon, there have been no eggs imported for commercial aquaculture purposes since 2009. There have been imports of sablefish eggs and fry within recent years, as this new industry works to establish an effective, self-sustaining broodstock program.

Information relating to the process of applying for an introductions and transfers licence is available here:

The life cycle of a cultivated salmon begins in a freshwater hatchery. As fry emerge from their eggs, they are transferred into troughs or tanks, where they are provided with a continuous flow of water and a diet appropriate to their size. As the fish grow, they are moved into different tanks to maintain the desired stock densities. Other species such as sablefish may also be cultivated using land-based hatcheries and tanks to breed and rear young fish.

Hatcheries generally access groundwater through an underground intake system (i.e. a well), and discharge to a groundwater outfall. In some cases there may be a surface water intake from a stream or river, but groundwater is preferred to minimize the risk of pathogen or disease exposure for young fish. Many hatcheries today utilize recirculating technology and both require and discharge relatively small amounts of water in comparison to older-style hatcheries.

Juvenile fish are generally kept in a controlled setting to provide optimal growing conditions and protection from disease and predation. Vaccination occurs in the juvenile stage, most commonly by injection, prior to transfer from the controlled setting of the hatchery to other facilities.

The approach to the hatchery and early rearing phase varies depending upon finfish species. In some cases the aquaculture industry in British Columbia is still in the process of determining the most effective way to breed fish in captivity. The National Policy for Access to Wild Aquatic Resources as it Applies to Aquaculture (applicable to marine species only) allows limited access to wild broodstock in specific cases, but the overall objective is for aquaculturists to have the ability to generate their own broodstock and juveniles to sustain operations. DFO policy states that the aquaculture industry should not rely on wild stock for brood purposes, and should aim to be selfsustaining.

Propagation of freshwater fish takes place along much the same lines as that of marine finfish. In most cases broodstock will be collected from the population being cultured for breeding purposes. Fish will be bred, generally with the assistance of human intervention, and are reared during their juvenile phases according to their biological needs. At some point during the grow-out period they are separated according to size. Shellfish hatcheries and rearing

Shellfish culture begins with the production of seed/spat. Spawning can be facilitated through human intervention in natural biological processes. While some spat is collected in the wild, the aquaculture industry in British Columbia generally relies on the production of seed/spat by hatcheries. Most clam, mussel, and scallop spat utilized by the shellfish aquaculture industry in British Columbia are produced in hatcheries. Seed are generally acquired by grow-out facilities in the spring or early summer to maximize growth. Most of the oyster and clam seed used by British Columbia growers today is imported from hatcheries in the United States. Importation of aquatic animals is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Freshwater and land-based grow out facilities

As outlined above, many of the marine finfish and shellfish propagated in a freshwater/ land-based hatchery will eventually be transferred to a marine-based grow-out facility. Some fish and shellfish will remain in freshwater/land-based aquaculture facilities. These include: Transfers

The Fisheries Act governs the transport of fish and shellfish within Canada. The freshwater/ landbased Conditions of Licence grant licence-holders the authority to move certain species under specific low-risk and routine circumstances to and from their facility. All other transfers of fish require a separate Introductions and Transfers Licence.

1.3 Economic profile of the aquaculture industry

Aquaculture production takes place across Canada, with the bulk of production occurring in the Atlantic provinces and British Columbia. Canada is the 26th largest producer of aquaculture products in the world and the fourth largest producer of salmon after Norway, Chile and the United Kingdom. In 2013, Canadian aquaculture production had a final product value of approximately $1 billion.Footnote 1 Finfish accounted for about 90% of the value. Shellfish accounted for 10% of the overall aquaculture product value.

The British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture industry is the largest in Canada, with British Columbia producers accounting for 55% of Canadian finfish value ($.9 billion). The shellfish industry is the second largest producer of shellfish in Canada after Prince Edward Island, accounting for about 1/3 of the farmgate value for shellfish nationally. British Colunbia is the largest producer of cultured clams, oysters, and scallops.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures the value added to the economy by an activity and includes wages, owner profits, returns to invested capital, changes in inventories and depreciation. The aquaculture sector as a whole can affect the economy through direct, indirect and induced impacts.Footnote 2 In 2010 (the last year of available data), the direct contribution to Canadian GDP from aquaculture was about $354 million, of which $185 million was in British Columbia (0.09% of the British Columbia total GDP). The indirect effect was an additional $464 million in Canada and $173 million in British Columbia. The induced effects added $246 million to Canadian GDP, $95 million of which was in British Columbia. The overall impact on the GDP of Canada was $1.1 billion (0.07% of total Canadian GDP), of which $452 million was in British Columbia (0.21% of total British Columbia GDP). British Columbia accounts for a larger share of direct impacts than total impacts as there are substantial indirect and induced impacts in Ontario and Quebec, both of which have limited aquaculture production.

It is difficult to quantify the economic impact of the freshwater/ land-based aquaculture sector to the Canadian or British Columbia economy. Marine finfish (as outlined above) are reared for the early stages of their life cycle in a freshwater/ land-based facility and then transferred to a marine finfish aquaculture facility. Many cultivated shellfish will start their lives in a land-based shellfish hatchery and eventually be transferred to a beach or deep-water shellfish facility. In addition, there are numerous freshwater and land-based facilities which grow-out fish to marketable size entirely on land.

Canadian Aquaculture Total GDP Impacts - 2010
Canadian Aquaculture Total GDP Impacts - 2010
Newfoundland and Labrador 9%
British Columbia 42%
Quebec 7%
New Brunswick 12%
Nova Scotia 5%
Prince Edward Island 6%
Ontario 11%
Others 8%
Canadian Aquaculture Direct GDP Impacts - 2010
Canadian Aquaculture Direct GDP Impacts - 2010
Newfoundland and Labrador 13%
British Columbia 52%
Quebec 2%
New Brunswick 14%
Nova Scotia 5%
Prince Edward Island 12%
Ontario 2%

1.4 Employment

Statistics Canada estimated that the aquaculture sector in British Columbia employed an average of 1,700 people in both 2010 and 2011. Income declined by 5% from $58.5 million in 2010 to $55.7 million in 2011.

Table 1: Estimates of employment impacts in 2010 for total aquaculture in British Columbia, estimated using multipliers (BC Stats 2013) with production and processing combined (Prod = primary production, Proc = processing facilities). Jobs are measured in number of employees, and income is measured in thousands of dollars (nominal).

Total Aquaculture
Jobs Income
Prod Proc Prod Proc
Direct 1,918 443 85,472 15,860
Indirect 1,870 170 101,498 10,309
Induced 395 52 21,368 2,379
Total 4,183 665 208,338 28,548