Notice of intent with respect to amendments to regulations for managing movements of live fish

The purpose of this notice is to outline Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) intentions to amend section 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations (FGR) in order to clarify the scope of aquatic animal diseases regulated by DFO and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and reflect implementation of the National Aquatic Animal Health Program (NAAHP) and amendments to regulations under the Health of Animals Act.

This Notice does not replace prepublication of the proposed regulations in Canada Gazette, Part I or DFO’s duty to consult with the affected and interested parties as part of the regulatory process.

  1. Context

Canadians intentionally move live aquatic organisms for numerous beneficial reasons, including for the purposes of aquaculture, academic research, stock enhancement, etc. However, the introduction of aquatic animal diseases via such movements has the potential to cause serious ecological, economic, and trade impacts. Therefore, there is a need to effectively manage disease risks associated with the movement of aquatic organisms between their source (e.g., a hatchery) and destination (e.g., a lake). In Canada, DFO and the CFIA are the two federal entities managing fish health.

DFO, in collaboration with provinces and territories, manages disease, genetic, and ecological risks associated with the movement of live aquatic organisms by means of risk-based reviews carried out by Introductions and Transfers Committees (ITCs), which exist in every province and Yukon. The committees manage the licensing processes, following the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms (Code).

Under the FGR, DFO administers the Code and issues introduction and transfer (I&T) licences to intentionally release and transfer live aquatic organisms into fish bearing waters or fish rearing facilities in all provinces and territories except Ontario, Quebec (freshwater environments), Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta where provincial officials authorize these activities.

Each licence application is assessed on a case-by-case basis by the ITC in the province or territory where the organism will reside to ensure that all risks have been addressed. Once an introduction and transfer licence is issued, the proponent may proceed with the authorized movement, as long as all conditions of licence are met.

In 2010, the CFIA amended the Health of Animals Regulations and Reportable Diseases Regulations to enable the implementation of the NAAHP. In December 2015, the CFIA implemented the final component of NAAHP. As a result of the amendments, which provide the CFIA with a modernized and streamlined regulatory framework for managing fish-related diseases risks, the Agency is now the nationally and internationally recognized lead federal authority for preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic animal diseases in Canada. However, these changes also introduced some program overlap with DFO’s present management of fish health under the FGR that must now be addressed. DFO and the CFIA have been working collaboratively to transition responsibilities from DFO to the CFIA. The last step is to amend FGR section 56 to resolve the program overlap.

  1. Purpose and Expected Outcomes of Proposed Regulatory Amendments

The purpose of the proposed amendments is to align DFO’s management of disease risk regarding fish movements with similar activities carried out under the NAAHP while continuing to uphold the mandate of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to conserve and protect fisheries. To resolve any program overlap with the HAR, section 56 of the FGR must be amended so that the Minster, when issuing I&T licences, would no longer need to consider disease risks that were already being managed by the CFIA through the NAAHP.

A process would be put in place to allow DFO and the CFIA to identify and address domestic policy overlap that may remain between their two programs. This process would include a mechanism to modify the scope of disease concerns under the NAAHP and address any emerging diseases, while maintaining CFIA’s authority over the management of aquatic animal health. With respect to disease risks not managed by the CFIA, the proposed amendments to FGR section 56 should retain DFO’s statutory responsibility to manage the movement of fish; therefore, DFO could, as a last resort and based on sound scientific evidence, exercise its authority to stop a movement of fish for disease concerns not currently managed by the CFIA.

The proposed FGR section 56 amendments would entail a more efficient and effective allocation of resources regarding the Minister’s consideration of disease risks and subsequent issuance of I&T licences, while maintaining DFO’s responsibilities for protecting fisheries and the environment. The decrease in program duplication would result in savings for the Federal Government because only one federal entity would have to consider any one disease risk related to the intentional introductions and transfers of live fish.

Administrative costs to businesses would similarly decrease because they would only have to provide evidence of fish health to one federal agency or department to confirm that a particular movement of fish does not pose disease risks. At present, businesses are providing both DFO and the CFIA with the same laboratory test results to prove absence of a particular disease. Since much of the aquaculture industry (especially shellfish aquaculture) is comprised of “small businesses”, the decrease in administrative burden would also benefit small businesses.

  1. Public Comment Period

All comments, (in English or French) must be received by November 23, 2017 via email (AquacultureConsultations.XMAR@dfo-mpo.gc.ca) or by writing to the address below:

FGR Section 56 NOI Comments
c/o Aquaculture Management Directorate
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
14W087-200 Kent Street
Ottawa ON  K1A 0E6