New Provisions of the Fisheries Act
On June 29, 2012, the Fisheries Act was amended to strengthen DFO’s ability to manage threats to the sustainability and productivity of Canada’s commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries. These changes include improved compliance and protection tools, and more accurate and consistent regulatory requirements. Provisions to establish or strengthen partnerships, including with other government agencies and local groups to ensure a comprehensive approach is taken to protect fisheries, are also part of these amendments.
A new Section 35, a new policy and new regulations
On November 25, 2013, new provisions of the Fisheries Act regarding fisheries protection came into effect, completing the planned amendments to the Act. These new provisions include the prohibition to undertake projects that may result in serious harm to fish that are part of or support a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery (Section 35). The Act describes serious harm to fish as follows: the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat. Provisions also include powers relating to the flow of water and passage of fish (Sections 20 and 21).
To reflect these changes, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has developed a new Fisheries Protection Policy that explains how the new provisions are to be enforced and that defines terms such as “permanent alteration to fish habitat” as well as “commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries.” This policy replaces the Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat.
A Regulation governing applications for authorization under paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act came into effect on November 25, 2013. This regulation sets out the requirements regarding the information that must be submitted in applications for authorizations and establishes procedural requirements and time limits for processing these applications.
Better guidelines for proponents
Pursuant to these changes, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has provided new tools to determine whether projects near water must be reviewed under the Fisheries Act. Some types of projects are no longer subject to review if they meet specific design or performance criteria, and may be completed without the authorization of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. To help proponents comply with the Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada also recommends that they comply with the Measures to Avoid Causing Harm to Fish and Fish Habitat.
The new guidance tools, including the Applicant’s Guide to Submitting an Application for Authorization under Paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act and the Applications for Authorization under Paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act Regulations, are posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website. Others will be added in the coming months, so we invite you to visit the site on a regular basis.
Please note that some documents, including the departmental operational statements, are no longer valid since November 25, 2013.