Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

April 24, 2012 11:06 ET

Harper Government Commits to the Responsible Protection and Conservation of Canada's Fisheries

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 24, 2012) - The Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, announced that the Harper government will introduce changes to protect the productivity of recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries. This means focusing protection rules on real and significant threats to these fisheries and the habitat that supports them while setting clear standards and guidelines for routine projects. It also means strengthening partnerships with provinces and conservation groups as well as creating better tools to ensure compliance and enforce the rules where necessary.

"Our government is committed to adopting a more sensible and practical approach to protecting Canada's fisheries and making sure they are productive and sustainable for future generations," said Minister Ashfield.

"We have been clear that the current rules governing the protection of fish habitat are indiscriminate and unfocused and do not reflect the priorities of Canadians," continued Minister Ashfield. "We are committed to making sure our rules protect the fisheries that Canadians value and the habitat that supports them. We can do this while giving Canadians the freedom to maintain their properties and minimizing restrictions on everyday activities that have little to no impact on Canada's fisheries."

Under the Fisheries Act, no distinction is drawn between the vital waterways, lakes and rivers that support Canada's fisheries and small bodies of water that may not even be home to fish. For example, under the current system, drainage ditches, man made reservoirs and irrigation channels are subject to the same rules and guidelines as rivers, lakes, and oceans that support fish and local fisheries.

"The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) agrees that Canada's fish habitat protection policies need to be improved and we are encouraged by the government's commitment to the conservation of Canada's recreational fisheries" said Dr. Terry Quinney, Provincial Manager of Fish and Wildlife Services. We are convinced that with the participation of stakeholders like the OFAH and others across the country, that better protection and enhancement of our fisheries, habitat and aquatic ecosystems can be achieved. We look forward to working with the Minister and Government of Canada on these important issues."

"Our government recognizes that Canada's fisheries are important to Canadians. We simply want the rules to focus on these priorities and ensure our fisheries continue to be protected," said the Minister.

According to the most recent survey on recreational fishing in Canada, recreational fishing generates approximately $8.3 billion of economic activities to local economies across Canada. Approximately 3.3 million Canadians take part in recreational fisheries and the industry brings over 2 million tourists into the country every year. Fish and seafood is one of the largest single food commodities exported by Canada. The commercial fishing, aquaculture and processing sectors employ about 80,000 Canadians. The Government also recognizes the importance of fishing to the Aboriginal people of Canada and will continue to respect Aboriginal and treaty rights and protect food, social and ceremonial fisheries.




On April 24, 2012, the Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced new changes to the laws protecting fish and fish habitat. The existing rules treat all bodies of water in the same way, regardless of size, environment or contribution to the fishery. The new changes will protect the productivity of Canada's fisheries and provide much-needed clarity to Canadians.

These new changes will focus the rules by:

  • Focusing protection efforts on recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries.
  • Drawing a distinction between vital waterways that support Canada's fisheries and unproductive bodies of water like man-made reservoirs, drainage ditches and irrigation channels.
  • Identifying and managing real threats to the fisheries, including direct impacts to fish, habitat destruction, and aquatic invasive species.

The Minister will also have tools to:

  • Establish new, clear and accessible guidelines for Canadians to follow for projects in or near water. Regulatory standards for routine, low-risk projects such as building a boat launch or a dock at the cottage do not exist at this time.
  • Identify ecologically sensitive areas that require enhanced protection. Currently, all areas are treated indiscriminately under the law.

The changes will also:

  • Allow the government to enforce the conditions associated with Fisheries Act authorizations. At present, Fisheries and Oceans Canada cannot enforce the conditions on authorizations.
  • Align infractions under the Fisheries Act with the Environmental Enforcement Act, which provides higher maximum penalties.

Existing rules will continue to protect waterways from pollution, as they have in the past, and a legislative proposal would provide additional clarity on the application of the law.

For anglers, the proposed changes will recognize the importance of the recreational fishery and would provide protection to these fisheries to support their ongoing productivity.

For conservation groups, the proposed changes would enable the identification and protection of ecologically significant areas. Under the new rules, the Minister will also be able to enter into agreements with these and other groups, to enable them to undertake measures to enhance fisheries protection. This could include innovative approaches to protect habitat, support for aquatic invasive species outreach, and developing standards for fish protection or other matters.

These proposed changes will also include enhanced compliance and enforcement tools such as enforceable conditions, duty for proponents to notify in the event of serious harm to fisheries, and penalties aligned with the Environmental Enforcement Act.

For landowners and municipalities, the proposed new measures would provide regulatory certainty as to whether and how the fisheries protection provisions apply to them. It moves Fisheries and Oceans Canada away from reviewing every activity that landowners may undertake to focusing on activities that may have a significant impact on the sustainability and productivity of recreational, commercial, or Aboriginal fisheries.

For industry, the proposal provides greater clarity on the types of activities that will be reviewed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. These changes complement those announced as part of the Responsible Resource Development announcement, which included regulations clarifying information requirements and timelines for permitting.

For provinces and territories, the new measures would enable further opportunities for partnerships and working together, including equivalency, delegation and broad agreement-making authorities to ensure the two levels of government can work together effectively.

Over the coming weeks and months, the Minister and Fisheries and Oceans will be consulting with provinces, Aboriginal groups and stakeholders, such conservation groups, anglers, landowners and municipalities, to develop the regulatory and policy framework to support the new and focused direction that is set out by these proposed changes.

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions on Fisheries and Oceans Canada's website at:

Contact Information

  • Frank Stanek
    Media Relations
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    Ottawa, Ontario

    Barbara Mottram
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada