Land use - aquaculture

Last updated on January 31, 2024

Responsibility for the regulation and licensing of aquaculture in British Columbia (B.C) is shared by a number of provincial and federal agencies.

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Canada and B.C. share a common goal of having an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aquaculture sector in B.C. and are committed to work collaboratively to authorize and regulate aquaculture and land use in the most effective, efficient, and transparent manner possible.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for managing all fisheries, including aquaculture and wild fish stocks, and potential impacts on the marine environment including habitat.  DFO is responsible for regulating, monitoring and licensing finfish and shellfish aquaculture operations in B.C., both in fresh and marine waters. 

Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program is responsible for administering the Navigation Protection Act through review and authorization for the placement of aquaculture containment and/or structures (works) within the navigable waters of Canada. The nature and degree of interference to navigation of the project is evaluated, and if an authorization is issued, any impacts are mitigated through terms, conditions and compliance measures.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests is responsible for managing Crown land, including the issuance of land tenures for aquaculture. This includes tenures for aquaculture facilities and ancillary uses on land covered by water, upland and foreshore. The Ministry is also responsible for managing and licensing the wild harvest and culture of aquatic plants

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture supports marine fisheries, aquaculture and seafood industry development, and issues licences under the Fish and Seafood Act and Fish and Seafood Licensing Regulation for certain activities in the seafood industry (e.g. receiving fish, processing fish, etc.).

Harmonized process for aquaculture applications

DFO, Transport Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Forests work collaboratively to review applications to operate an aquaculture facility in B.C. A harmonized application form includes the information requirements for all three agencies to conduct their review. FrontCounter BC is the single point of contact for receiving all aquaculture applications. 

Applications are reviewed by the federal-provincial Project Review Team for completeness and consistency with federal and provincial policy prior to being accepted and processed.

Applications and guides

Please complete the most current application form (below) as previous versions may not be accepted. Incomplete or unsigned applications will not be accepted. The guides provide additional information on how to complete the application form and prepare the required maps.  

For applications to amend existing operations please consult the applicable guide to confirm which sections of the application form must be completed for the different amendment types. Prior to submitting an amendment application it is advisable to discuss the proposal with the appropriate agencies.

Pacific Aquatic Plant aquaculture applications

Completion of these harmonized application forms eliminate the requirement to complete the 2 page “Cultured Aquatic Plant Application Form'.

Pacific shellfish aquaculture applications and guide

Pacific finfish aquaculture applications and guide

Pacific freshwater/land-based aquaculture applications and guide

New! Mapping instructions and example maps

Operational Policy

Debris Management Plan

  • A debris management plan is required for all applications. It must be attached to your application or the processing of your application may be delayed. Consult the Guide to Debris Management Plans (pdf, 168KB) for more information.

Other authorizations or documentation

Applicants are encouraged to contact FrontCounter BC to determine whether other authorizations or documentation may be required. 

Examples of other authorizations:

Examples of other documentation:

Federal requirements

The DFO Pacific Region Aquaculture Website has information about the regulation of the B.C. aquaculture industry and current information about active aquaculture licences.

Specific questions related to federal aquaculture licensing should be directed to the applicable email address:

Refer to Transport Canada's website for more information regarding federal  Navigation Protection Program. Specific questions related to navigable water requirements should be directed to or 604-775-8867.

Provincial fees and annual rent

Applicants are required to pay a provincial application fee when submitting an application for a new aquaculture site or to amend or replace an existing aquaculture tenure. Fees for new applications are identified in the Land Tenure Purpose and Application Fees Schedule (PDF, 49KB) and fees for amendments and replacements are identified in the Land Tenure Miscellaneous Fees (PDF, 58KB).

Note: Please review the requirements carefully and submit a complete application. Some or all of the application fees are non-refundable in accordance with the Fee Refund Land Policy (PDF 942KB).

Successful applicants are required to pay annual rent based upon a percentage of the land value. For more information about pricing please refer to the Pricing Policy and the Land Use Operational Policy for Aquaculture (PDF, 1.2MB).


Shellfish facilities - restrictions

 At this time, DFO will not accept applications under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulation for the following shellfish species: 

  • Bay scallop
  • Northern abalone
  • Olympia oyster
  • Red and green sea urchin
  • Sea cucumber
  • Spot prawn
  • Varnish clam (however, harvest is allowed under any valid shellfish aquaculture licence)

Water classification and biotoxin monitoring

DFO cannot accept applications under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations for specified bivalve species in waters having water classifications/biotoxin monitoring status noted below:

  • Unclassified waters for all bivalves
  • Prohibited waters (where bivalves are to be cultured and the majority of the culture area is within prohibited waters unless for seed purposes only)
  • Conditionally restricted waters (for scallops, mussels, butter clams, cockles or geoducks)
  • Where appropriate biotoxin monitoring is not in place.

Additional resources:

Additional information related to shellfish facilities

Marine finfish facilities - restrictions

There is a moratorium on marine finfish aquaculture is in effect for tidal waters north of Aristazabal Island.

Discovery Islands 

The Province will not consider issuance of any new or expanded tenure for net pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands until at least September 30, 2020. Applications will continue to be considered to amend the boundaries of existing net pen salmon farms for purposes such as safety.

DFO will not be considering increases in production until at least September 30, 2020.

Salmon aquaculture pause

The Province will not review applications for new salmon aquaculture operations (these applications will be on hold as described in the July 31, 2015 and September 30, 2015 information bulletins).

Aquatic plant licensing

The Ministry of Forests is responsible for authorizing the occupation of provincial Crown land under the Land Act for the purpose of culturing aquatic plants. The Ministry is also responsible for the issuance of licences for the wild harvest and culture of aquatic plants under the provincial Fish and Seafood Act. Please refer to the aquatic plant web page for more information on applying to culture aquatic plants or harvest wild aquatic plants.

Transport Canada is responsible for managing any navigational related concerns under the Navigation Protection Program. Contact the Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program (NPP) for federal authorization by email or at 604-775-8867.

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