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November 11, 2013

Far-Reaching Fisheries Act Amendments Come into Force November 25, 2013

Long-awaited and far-reaching amendments to the federal Fisheries Act tabled in Bill C-38 come into effect on November 25, 2013.  If you received a Fisheries Act authorization prior to November 25, 2013, you have until February 24, 2014 to request a review of your existing authorization to confirm whether it should remain unchanged, be amended or be cancelled.

The amendments refocus the Act on commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries, rather than habitat protection.  The amendments also streamline the authorizations required for work that would cause “serious harm to fish” (i.e., the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat).  The new Applications for Authorization Regulation (SOR/2013-191), which also comes into force November 25th, describes the information that must be submitted by a proponent seeking an authorization, and requires that a Canadian financial institution provide an irrevocable letter of credit to cover the costs of implementing the required “offsetting plan.”  Upon submission of an application, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has 60 days to determine its completeness and another 90 days to either issue or refuse the authorization.  An abridged application and approval process applies to emergency circumstances.

Fisheries and Ocean Canada has published a new Fisheries Protection Policy, an accompanying Operational Approach for implementing the Fisheries Act changes, and transitional guidance for existing and new authorizations.  These are available at www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/habitat/changes-changements/index-eng.htm

We will cover these amendments, regulations and instruments in greater detail in a forthcoming issue of our newsletter.

If you have questions about how the amendments affect you or your organization’s existing or planned Fisheries Act authorizations, please contact Julie Abouchar at jabouchar@willmsshier.com / (416) 862-4836 or Charles Birchall at cbirchall@willmsshier.com / (613) 761-2424.

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