Restoring lost protections to fish and fish habitat

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On August 28, 2019 provisions of the new Fisheries Act came into force including new standards, codes of practice, and guidelines for projects near water. Find out what the changes mean for you.

This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated.

Restoring lost protections to fish and fish habitat

Changing the Fisheries Act

The Fisheries Act gives the government authority to manage Canadian fisheries and to protect the fish and fish habitat that support them. Learn about what we’re doing to conserve our resources, improve our tools for protecting the aquatic environment and ensure the sustainability of Canada's fisheries.

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Why we’re proposing changes to the Act

On November 13, 2015, the Prime Minister directed the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to:

  • review changes made to the Fisheries Actin 2012
  • restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards

To meet this goal, the Minister asked the House of Commons Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada also engaged directly with Indigenous peoples and provinces and territories.

Canadians made it clear that protecting fish and fish habitat matters to them. They’ve called for strong, fair and clear legislation that sustains the aquatic environment and protects our oceans and waters.

What needed to be fixed

Some changes made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 challenged our ability to protect fish and fish habitat. Canadians, including Indigenous peoples, expressed concerns with these changes.

We looked at how to:

  • restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards
  • provide better certainty for industry
  • ensure the long-term sustainability of marine resources
  • make sure the Fisheries Act provides strong and meaningful protection for our fish and waters

The proposed amendments would:

  • restore lost protections by returning to comprehensive protection against harming  all fish and fish habitat;
  • strengthen the role of Indigenous peoples in project reviews, monitoring and policy development;
  • recognize that decisions can be guided by principles of sustainability, precaution and ecosystem management;
  • promote restoration of degraded habitat and rebuilding of depleted fish stocks;
  • allow for the better management of large and small projects impacting fish and fish habitat through a new permitting framework and codes of practice;
  • create full transparency for projects with a public registry;
  • create new fisheries management tools to enhance the protection of fish and ecosystems;
  • strengthen the long-term protection of marine refuges for biodiversity;
  • help ensure that the economic benefits of fishing remain with the licence holders and their community by providing clear ability to enshrine current inshore fisheries policies into regulations; and
  • clarify and modernize enforcement powers to address emerging fisheries issues and to align with current provisions in other legislation.

About the review

Consultation has been at the core of our review. The proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act were undertaken with the views of Canadians in mind.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) consulted broadly with Canadians, partners, stakeholders and Indigenous peoples. We received extensive feedback on restoring lost protections and adding modern safeguards through two rounds of online public consultation and numerous in-person meetings.

After both phases of consultation, DFO had:

  • 2,163 Canadians registered online
  • 5,438 completed e-workbook questionnaires
  • Over 170 meetings with Indigenous groups
  • Over 200 submissions from Indigenous peoples
  • Over 200 letters to the Minister

In addition to the consultation by DFO, the review by the House of Commons Committee on Fisheries and Oceans:

  • held 10 meetings
  • heard from 50 witnesses
  • received 188 written submissions

All of this feedback was considered when developing the proposed amendments.

Stay connected

Follow us on twitter: @DFO_MPO (Fisheries and Oceans)

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