Commercial fisheries licensing rules and policies reference document Pacific region
Table of Contents
- A commercial fishing licence
- Pacific region licence terminology
- Vessel based vs. party based licensing
- National online licensing system (NOLS)
- Pacific fishery licence unit (PFLU)
- Commercial licensing reports
- Integrated fisheries management plan (IFMP)
- Notice and acknowledgement system
- Licence prefix categories
- Party based licences
- Vessel based licences
- Fisheries management area map
- Vessel replacement / nomination of licence eligibilities
- Change of ownership
- Vessel registration
- New vessel identification requirements
- Guidelines for vessel measurements
- Fishing vessel safety
- Pacific region licence appeal board (PRLAB)
* The list of categories above is a reflection of commercial and communal commercial licences within each fleet. Licences that reflect an F in front of the prefix (e.g., FL) are communal commercial licences.
The purpose of this reference document is to provide the commercial fishing industry, and any others who may have an interest, with an overview of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) licensing rules and policies for commercial fisheries within the Pacific Region.
DFO should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting and applying these policies.
All persons making use of this reference document are reminded that it has no official sanction and its contents may change without prior notice.
Please note that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans retains complete discretion to approve an exception to these rules/policies.
A commercial fishing licence
A fishing licence is a document or instrument by which the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, pursuant to authority under Section 7 of the Fisheries Act, has an absolute discretion to either issue or authorize to be issued fishing licenses which grant permission to an individual, company or First Nation to engage in the harvest of a certain species or any other activity related to fishing, subject to certain conditions attached to the licence.
A licence is in no sense a permanent authority to fish; the vessel owner or licence eligibility holder essentially acquires a limited fishing privilege rather than any kind of absolute or permanent right.
Pacific region licence terminology
Communal commercial licences – Referred to as Category F licences, communal commercial licences have been relinquished from the commercial fishing fleet through the Allocation Transfer Program (ATP) or the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI) and are allocated to First Nations through an agreement between the ATP/PICFI and the First Nation. Communal commercial licences are party based with the First Nation identified as the licence eligibility holder. Each communal commercial licence has a maximum vessel length (MVL) associated with it. The communal commercial licence eligibility cannot be designated to a vessel with an overall vessel length (OAL), which exceeds the associated MVL. Regardless of the overall length of the designated vessel, the MVL associated with the communal commercial licence will remain at the established length.
Contact Vessel Owner – A vessel owner identified to be the contact party for the vessel for all licensing matters. This name will appear on all licensing documents.
Delegation Code/Public Identifier – A unique number that a vessel owner/licence eligibility holder may provide to a person they wish to appoint as their representative. The Public Identifier is also used to assign a person as an authorized individual for an organization (e.g. contact person).
Designation/Redesignation - Assignment of a party based licence eligibility to a registered Canadian commercial fishing vessel. Redesignate or redesignation implies a second assignment of the licence to an alternate registered Canadian commercial fishing vessel.
Limited Entry – The total number of licences within a fishery is restricted.
Married – Licences which are permanently attached to other vessel based licences held on a single vessel. Single licences may become married if placed on a vessel with other vessel based licence eligibilities. Once married, all licences must move together to a replacement vessel, unless the current vessel replacement rules for that fishery permit to be separated. The exceptions being within the Halibut, Sablefish, Groundfish Trawl and Geoduck fisheries; where a category C licence or the Schedule II Species privileges from within the licence eligibility is retired in conjunction.
Maximum Vessel Length (MVL) – The maximum vessel length assigned to a licence eligibility. This length is based on the surveyed overall vessel length of the vessel holding the licence at the time either the licence was relinquished or the maximum vessel length was established. The licence cannot be designated or placed on a vessel with an overall vessel length which exceeds this length.
National Online Licensing System (NOLS) – A system used by DFO to issue commercial and communal commercial fishing licences and Fisher Registration Cards. The same system is used by all vessel owners and licence eligibility holders to view, pay for, and print commercial/communal commercial fishing licences, licence conditions, and/or receipts.
Nomination – A party based licence eligibility holder may request that the Minister consider another individual, company or First Nation for the applicable limited entry licence eligibility. There is currently no nomination process within the Clam, Eulachon and Spawn on Kelp fisheries.
Original Vessel Length (OVL) – the overall length (OAL) of the original vessel, the vessel licenced as of the date in specified fishery.
Overall Length (OAL) – The length of a vessel, based on an official measurement survey according to established DFO guidelines, which includes a measurement of the extreme ends of the outside of the hull.
Party based Licence – A licence eligibility held by an individual, a company or a First Nation. The licence eligibility holder may apply for the licence and have control over licensing transactions for that licence. Party based licence eligibilities include Herring, Rockfish, Clam, Sea Cucumber and Sea Urchin.
Representative/Delegate – A family member, friend, colleague or other trusted individual appointed by a vessel owner or licence eligibility holder to use the National Online Licensing System to conduct business on their behalf. The appointed representative is permitted to renew licences, submit requests, pay licence renewal fees, print licence documents, and receive notifications on behalf of the vessel owner or licence eligibility holder on record.
Stacking – More than one licence of the same species category has been placed/designated to the same vessel at the same time. In some fisheries, once licences have been stacked, they then become married and take on the overall length of the vessel upon which they are held. Some fisheries have applicable deadlines and special stacking provisions; such as a vessel may not hold more than one licence for the same area.
Total Loss – When a vessel has been declared unsuitable for fishing due to an accident or a surveyor’s report. Vessel owners are given three years to permanently replace the vessel and place the licence eligibilities held on the vessel to a vessel of the same length or shorter. Vessel owners are permitted to temporarily place a licence, within the three years, on a vessel with a 10 per cent flexibility in length restriction.
Unlimited Entry – The total number of licences within a fishery is not restricted.
Vessel based Licence – A licence is issued “in respect of a vessel” as the licence eligibility must be attached to a vessel. The reported vessel owner(s) may apply for the licence and have control over licensing transactions for that licence. Vessel based licence eligibilities include Salmon, Schedule II Species, Geoduck and Horseclam, Halibut, Sablefish, Shrimp by trawl, Groundfish Trawl, and Prawn and Shrimp by trap.
Vessel Replacement – where the vessel owner(s) of a vessel that holds a limited entry vessel based licence eligibility may make an application to permanently/temporarily place the licence eligibility on another registered commercial fishing vessel.
Vessel Registration Number (VRN) – A vessel registration number is assigned to all vessels registered with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that are engaging in commercial fishing or transporting activities. The VRN can be comprised of five or six digits (i.e. 23456 or 312133). Vessels that are registered as a commercial fishing vessel will have a vessel registration number that begins with a 2 or a 3 (i.e. 23456 or 312133); whereas vessels that are registered as a transporting vessel will have a vessel registration number that begins with a 9 (i.e. 90052).
Vessel based vs. party based licensing
Some fisheries are subject to vessel based licensing rules while others are subject to party based rules. Vessel based licenses were initiated in the Salmon fishery at the beginning of limited entry as a means to control the capacity of the individual vessels in the fleet. In fisheries where the fishing vessel was not seen as the central element of fishing effort, party based licenses were utilized. Within each fishery, there are also differences in the application of licensing rules and restrictions.
Under vessel based licensing, a licence eligibility is held by a vessel and the vessel owner(s) may apply for the licence and have control of licensing transactions. Most vessel based licence categories are limited entry with a limited vessel size restriction.
Under party based licensing, a licence eligibility is held by an individual, a First Nation or a company who may apply for the licence and have control of licensing transactions. Most party based licences are limited entry and required to be annually designated to a registered commercial fishing vessels holding a vessel based licence eligibility. Some party based licences are also limited to vessels that do not have an overall length that exceeds the maximum vessel length associated with the licence eligibility.
National online licensing system (NOLS)
All fish harvesters, licence eligibility holders, and vessel owners must use the National Online Licensing System (NOLS) to view, pay for, and print commercial fishing licences, licence conditions and/or receipts.
All limited entry licences must be renewed, and the renewal fees paid, every fishing year to retain the privilege to be issued the licence in the future. This means that vessel owners and licence eligibility holders must renew the licence(s) whether they intend to fish or not. If the licence is not annually renewed, the licence will cease and DFO will not be able to consider a request to issue that licence in the future.
Before a party based or communal commercial licence may be issued (where applicable), licence eligibility holders must annually designate a fishing vessel to hold the licence, by submitting a request through the NOLS. Instructions are available.
NOLS training materials, including step-by-step guides and a detailed user training manual, are available to help users register to use the system and complete their licensing transactions.
The Department also provides client support and assistance on how to use the system via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling toll-free 1-877-535-7307 (7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Monday to Friday).
Pacific fishery licence unit (PFLU)
The Pacific Fishery Licence Unit can be reached by:
Commercial licensing reports
Reports on licence statistics, vessel searches and commercial fishing licenses may be found under the following Fisheries and Oceans Canada webpage:
Integrated fisheries management plan (IFMP)
Current year Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMP) for each commercial fishery may be found on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada WAVES library page.
A copy of the full IFMP can be found when entering ‘Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and the applicable fishery name’ in the search box on the WAVES homepage.
Notice and Acknowledgements System
Fisheries and Oceans has worked with various financial institutions, including the Canadian Bankers Association to develop the Notice and Acknowledgement system for financial agreements entered into by a lender and vessel owners/licence eligibility holders. This was done in response to concerns expressed by the fishing and financial service industries relating to the need for access to capital.
The Notice and Acknowledgement system is a system that may be used where financing is arranged with a lender.
The Notice and Acknowledgement Form, notifies DFO of a financial arrangement between the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder and the lender, in relation to a specific licence eligibility and quota. The Notice and Acknowledgement Forms (or lack of Acknowledgement Form) are considerations that can be taken into account by DFO when determining whether to approve a request submitted by the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder.
The Notice and Acknowledgement process is as follows:
- The vessel owner/licence eligibility holder or the lender on behalf of the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder can notify DFO of a financial arrangement(s) by filing the appropriate Notice and Acknowledgement Form with DFO.
- The vessel owner/licence eligibility holder (depending on the licence eligibility being identified) must complete the Declaration of Consent on the Notice and Acknowledgement Form, consenting to DFO notifying the lender when the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder does not pay the required licence renewal fees or when he/she does not apply to renew the licence eligibility.
- DFO will sign the Notice and Acknowledgement Form, acknowledging its receipt, and return a copy of the document to the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder and/or the lender.
- The original Notice and Acknowledgement Form will be kept on file with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
- By filing a Notice and Acknowledgement Form, the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder and lender agrees to submit a completed Acknowledgement of Request for Licence Activity Form, signed by the lender whenever a request to permanently place a vessel based licence to another vessel for the issuance of a replacement licence, the transfer of quota for more than one fishing season or to have the Notice removed altogether, is submitted.
- The filed Notice and Acknowledgement Forms (or lack of Acknowledgement Form) are considerations that can be taken into account by DFO in determining whether to approve a request submitted by the licence holder for licence activity set out in the current Acknowledgement of Request for Licence Activity Form.
- If there is more than one Notice and Acknowledgement Form on file associated with a particular licence, then DFO will require one Acknowledgement of Request for Licence Activity Form for each Notice.
Where the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder is an Individual, the Notice and Acknowledgement forms are available.
Where the vessel owner/licence eligibility holder is a Company, the Notice and Acknowledgement forms are available.
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