Mandate and role

Canada has an abundance of freshwater and marine and coastal areas that are ecologically diverse and economically significant. Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard manage Canada’s fisheries and safeguard its waters by:

  • sustainably managing fisheries and aquaculture
  • working with fishers, coastal and Indigenous communities to enable their continued prosperity from fish and seafood
  • ensuring that Canada’s oceans and other aquatic ecosystems are protected from negative impacts
  • ensuring commercial vessels and recreational boaters can safely navigate our waters
  • being there to save lives and protect our environment when emergencies arise

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard work in over 400 locations across Canada on 4 core responsibilities.


We protect and manage Canada’s fisheries, including aquaculture, and support Indigenous participation in fisheries. We also ensure 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. We achieve this 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

Our Coast Guard fleet, in collaboration with Indigenous communities, responds to maritime incidents, such as search-and-rescue and environmental emergencies.

We use science-based decision-making, engage with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and rely 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

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for meeting Government of Canada priorities and our departmental mandate commitments, which are outlined in our Minister’s Mandate Letter. These priorities include protecting Canada’s 3 oceans and waterways, ensuring they remain healthy for future generations and providing economic opportunities to Canadians and coastal communities.

In particular, our department will support the Minister to:

  • develop a comprehensive blue economy strategy with the support of other departments and in consultation with provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples and business stakeholders
  • implement the recently modernized Fisheries Act
  • implement and further develop the Oceans Protection Plan, in collaboration with with other departments, coastal communities and Indigenous groups
  • invest in small craft harbours and work with communities so that harbours better serve the needs of the fishing industry and local residents
  • renew the Canadian Coast Guard Fleet through the National Shipbuilding Strategy
  • work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to introduce a plan to conserve 25 percent of Canada’s land and 25 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, working toward 30 percent by 2030
  • invest in marine science and fighting invasive species
  • create a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025, working with the province of British Columbia and Indigenous communities
  • begin work to introduce Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act
  • support the Minister of Health in developing a boat-to-plate traceability program to help Canadian fishers to better market their high-quality products
  • use good scientific evidence and traditional Indigenous knowledge when making decisions affecting fish stocks and ecosystem management
  • implement the Ocean Plastics Charter and the G7 Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities
  • support the Minister of Public Services and Procurement in bringing forward options and analyses for the creation of Defence Procurement Canada

For a status report on how we and other government departments are meeting our commitments and delivering results for Canadians, see the Mandate Letter Tracker.

Key legislation

Our department’s work is supported by the following key pieces of legislation:

  • Oceans Act, which:
    • authorizes the Minister to plan activities affecting estuaries and coastal and marine waters
    • establishes the Minister’s responsibility for coast guard services and marine science services, such as the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s nautical charts and publications
  • Fisheries Act, which provides broad powers to the Minister for the proper management and control of commercial, Aboriginal and recreational fisheries, as well as aquaculture operations
  • Species at Risk Act, which allows us to protect and promote recovery of aquatic species at risk
  • Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, which 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 which is led by Transport Canada and 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 which 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