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First Nations, recreational and commercial salmon licensing

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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 4 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 (category F) licences are issued to First Nations organizations for participation in the general commercial fishery, pursuant to the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations.

Excess Salmon to Spawning Requirement (ESSR) licences may be issued for identified salmon surpluses in various areas.

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. They are also required to record immediately and permanently on their printed licence, or National Recreational Licensing System (NRLS) account, all retained chinook salmon.

We provide all of the funds generated from salmon conservation stamp sales to the Pacific Salmon Foundation to support salmon restoration, stewardship and enhancement projects in British Columbia. The Pacific Salmon Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and rebuilding Pacific salmon populations.

Commercial salmon licensing

Commercial salmon - licence categories

To participate in the commercial salmon fishery, you require 1 of the following licence eligibilities:

Category A salmon licence eligibilities are limited entry and vessel based and are made up of both full fee and reduced fee licence eligibilities. Reduced fee licence eligibilities must be held on a vessel that is owned by an Indigenous individual.

Category FA and NAG licence eligibilities are party based, limited entry and must be designated to a commercially registered fishing vessel that meets established length restrictions. Category NAG licence eligibilities are held by the Northern Native Fishing Corporation (NNFC). Category FA eligibilities are held by a First Nations group.

Vessels authorized to fish under authority of a salmon licence are also permitted to fish for species described in Schedule II, Part 2 of the Pacific Fishery Regulations, 1993, according to the conditions of each licence, transport fish caught by other vessels, and be designated to fish under the authority of a category Z licence.

Renewal of a Category A licence and payment of the licence renewal fees must be done on an annual basis to retain the privilege to be issued the licence in the future, regardless of whether or not fishing is carried out. Those category A licenses not renewed by March 31, will cease and licence issuance requests will be unable to be considered in future.

Commercial salmon licence renewal fees

Commercial salmon licence renewal fees are available at full fee and reduced rates. Annual licence renewal fees are based on the length of the vessel.

A listing of the annual licence renewal fees associated with commercial salmon licence eligibilities can also be found on the Pacific Region fishing licences page.

There is no annual renewal fee for communal commercial licences.

Area and single-gear licensing

Single gear and area choice have been applied to salmon licence eligibilities since 1996. Gear selections that were made in 1996 are permanent and area selections that were made in 2007 are still in effect. Gears applicable within the salmon fishery include seine, gillnet or troll:

A vessel may not hold more than 1 salmon licence eligibility for the same area.

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 issuance

All salmon vessel owners/licence eligibility holders are required to use the National Online Licensing System (NOLS) to view, pay for and print commercial fishing licences, conditions of licence and/or receipts.

Prior to licence issuance of a category NAG licence or communal commercial salmon licence, licence eligibility holders are required to annually designate the fishing vessel to hold the licence. The overall length (OAL) of the designated vessel may not exceed the maximum vessel length (MVL) of the category NAG licence eligibility or communal commercial salmon licence eligibility. This must be done by selecting Submit a Request in NOLS. See the User training manual page for full instructions.

In advance of salmon licence issuance, vessel owners/licence eligibility holders are required to:

Upon receipt of the licence renewal fee being paid, category A licences will be issued and notification sent via email to advise vessel owners/licence eligibility holders that a change has been made to the vessel owners/licence eligibility holders NOLS account. It will also advise that the salmon licence document, conditions of licence and receipt will be available to be printed at that time.

Vessel replacement (category A only)

A vessel replacement is conducted when the vessel owner(s) of a vessel that holds a limited entry vessel based licence eligibility (such as a salmon category A licence eligibility) makes an application to permanently/temporarily place the licence eligibility on another registered commercial fishing vessel.

Both the vessel that holds the licence eligibility and the replacement vessel are required to have a survey either on record or submitted with the Application to replace a commercial vessel form. Commercial vessel surveys must be dated after May 1, 1989 and conducted by a Marine Surveyor in accordance with current Fisheries and Oceans Canada Vessel Measurement Guidelines. Only original surveys will be accepted.

The following vessel replacement rules are applicable to salmon category A licence eligibilities that are to be placed on a replacing vessel.

Communal commercial and category NAG licence eligibilities are not eligible for vessel replacement as the licence eligibility is party based.

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.

In situations where vessels are in disrepair at the time of purchase, delays in annual maintenance or rebuilds do not qualify for temporary replacement.

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


An Application for salmon licence eligibility stacking form is accepted by the Pacific Fishery Licence Unit, between December 1 and May 31 annually.

A salmon category A licence may not be split from other vessel based licence eligibilities.

Different gear and area licences may be combined on 1 vessel. That is, 1 vessel may have a salmon gillnet licence eligibility and a salmon troll licence eligibility. Multiple licence eligibilities of the same gear may be stacked on 1 vessel, so long as each licence eligibility is for a different area. A vessel may not hold more than 1 licence eligibility for the same area.

For the purpose of stacking licences, a single salmon category A 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 licence eligibility is being removed.

A salmon category A licence eligibility cannot be separated from other licence eligibilities. Salmon licences that are ‘married’ to other limited entry vessel based licence categories may be stacked, but the additional 30% in overall length is not applicable and the salmon stacking cannot result in the stacking of other licence categories, except where permitted for that licence category.

Reduced fee salmon licence eligibilities may be stacked with either another reduced fee licence or a full fee licence eligibilty, but the receiving vessel must be owned by an Indigenous individual with status.

Categories NAG and FA licence eligibilities may be stacked with any category A licence eligibility, full fee or reduced fee, or another NAG licence eligibility, in compliance with all stacking rules except that they will not be tied to the other salmon licence eligibility.

Licence area changes are not allowed when stacking a category NAG or FA licence.

Area change requests may be made at the time of submission of a stacking application. The area change request is only applicable to the licence eligibility that is being stacked. The owner of the receiving vessel may make the request by completing the applicable section of this form. An area change may not result in a change to gear type. Gear selections may not be changed.

Vessel replacement rules for salmon licence eligibilities where no stacking is involved, remain at exact overall length or smaller of the existing vessel. Licences eligible for temporary vessel replacements (e.g. total loss of vessel) are not permitted to be stacked.

Contact us

Pacific Fisheries Licensing Unit
Telephone: 1-877-535-7307

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