Mandate and role
Canada is uniquely blessed with an abundance of freshwater and marine and coastal areas that are ecologically diverse and economically significant. The core business of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, managing Canada’s fisheries and safeguarding its waters, is central to who we are as a Department. Our work is part of the daily lives of Canadians.
- ensure commercial vessels and recreational boaters can safely navigate our waters and are there to save lives and protect our environment when emergencies arise;
- sustainably manage fisheries and aquaculture and work with fishers, coastal and Indigenous communities to enable their continued prosperity from fish and seafood; and
- ensure that Canada’s oceans and other aquatic ecosystems are protected from negative impacts.
In over 400 locations across Canada, the employees of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard carry out important work and deliver real results to Canadians. This work is centered on four core responsibilities:
- Fisheries. We ensure Canada’s fisheries, including aquaculture, are protected, managed sustainably and support Indigenous participation, and that our national network of harbours is open and in good repair.
- Aquatic ecosystems. We protect our oceans, freshwater and aquatic ecosystems and species from the negative impact of humans and invasive species through sound science and in collaboration with Indigenous communities.
- Marine navigation. We maintain waterways year round so they are safely navigable by mariners and all Canadians.
- Marine operations and response. We respond to maritime incidents, such as search-and-rescue and environmental emergencies, through our Coast Guard fleet and in collaboration with Indigenous communities.
Each responsibility calls for science-based decision-making, engagement with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and reliance on the Canadian Coast Guard fleet as a platform for our on-water activities.
For a detailed inventory of programs and services that support these core responsibilities, see our Departmental Results Framework and Program Inventory.
Departmental priorities and mandate commitments
DFO is responsible for meeting Government of Canada priorities and our departmental mandate commitments, which are outlined in our Minister’s Mandate Letter.
Important examples of departmental priorities and mandate commitments include:
- implementing Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan in collaboration with other departments, coastal communities, and Indigenous groups
- renewing the Canadian Coast Guard Fleet through the National Shipbuilding Strategy
- completing a full review of Canada’s Fisheries Act to restore lost protections and introduce new and effective safeguards
- managing the Atlantic Fisheries Fund to help transform and invigorate the fish and seafood sector in Canada
- using scientific evidence, the precautionary principle, and taking into account climate change when making decisions affecting fish stocks and ecosystem management
- collaborating with First Nations to develop a protected area network and co-management plans along the North Pacific Coast
- increasing the proportion of Canada’s marine conservation areas to 10 percent by 2020
- making significant new investments in ocean science to support key research on aquatic species and their habitats, threats to our oceans and freshwater environments
- collaborating with other departments to examine the implications of climate change on Arctic marine ecosystems
- working with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to improve marine safety
For a status report on how Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other government departments are meeting their commitments and delivering results for Canadians, see the Mandate Letter Tracker.
Our Department’s work is supported by the following key pieces of legislation:
- Oceans Act: Authorizes the Minister to lead the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of activities affecting estuaries and coastal and marine waters, in addition to the coordination of oceans issues. The act also establishes the Minister’s responsibility for coast guard services, as well as responsibility for marine science services, such as the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s nautical charts and publications.
- Fisheries Act: Provides broad powers to the Minister for the proper management and control of commercial, Aboriginal and recreational fisheries, as well as aquaculture operations. Through long-standing arrangements, the provinces have assumed administrative responsibility for the management of most inland fisheries.
- Species at Risk Act: Primarily the responsibility of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. However, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for aquatic species at risk.
- Coastal Fisheries Protection Act: Regulates access by foreign fishing vessels to Canadian ports and Canadian fisheries waters. The act gives the Minister the power to issue licences authorizing foreign fishing vessels to enter Canadian fisheries waters to engage in specified fisheries-related activities.
- Canada Shipping Act, 2001: Led by Transport Canada, the act sets out the Canadian Coast Guard’s responsibility for search and rescue and lighthouses, including lights, signal buoys and beacons.
- Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act: Provides authority to the Minister over the use, management and maintenance of harbours listed in Schedule I of the act, including the power to undertake projects and to lease scheduled harbours to any person.
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