Land Use - Aquaculture

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

Aquaculture Industry in BC

Responsibility for the regulation and licensing of aquaculture in British Columbia is shared by a number of provincial and federal agencies. As such, Canada and British Columbia share a common goal of having an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aquaculture sector in British Columbia.

Canada and British Columbia are committed to work collaboratively to authorize and regulate aquaculture and land use for the purposes of aquaculture in the most effective, efficient and transparent manner possible.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for regulating, monitoring and licensing finfish and shellfish aquaculture operations in British Columbia.

Transport Canada (TC)’s Navigation Protection Program (NPP) is responsible for administering the Navigation Protection Act (NPA) through the review and authorization of works in navigable waters. 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 Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) is responsible for land use policy, authorizing the use and occupation of provincial Crown land for shellfish, finfish, marine plants purposes (including related aquaculture facilities) and issuing cultured aquaculture marine plant licences.

The Ministry of Agriculture supports marine fisheries and aquaculture and seafood industry development, issuing wild marine plant licences and issuing business licences to businesses involved in the aquaculture sector (including permits for seafood processing facilities, buying and selling seafood, marine processing plant) under the Fisheries Act and Fish Inspection Act.

Freshwater & Marine Shellfish, & Finfish Aquaculture Approval Process

Harmonized Process for the Freshwater and Marine Shellfish and Finfish Aquaculture

To simplify the approval process for the aquaculture sector The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNR) Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and Transport Canada (TC) work together to review aquaculture applications. All information necessary to receive authorizations under the federal Fisheries Act (Pacific Aquaculture Regulation), the Federal Navigation Protection Act, the provincial Land Act and the provincial Fisheries Act is collected on a harmonized application form.

The harmonized application form is the only application form that will be accepted for:

  • New finfish or shellfish facilities whether marine, freshwater or land based, and
  • Amendments to existing shellfish and finfish aquaculture facilities regardless of the authorization required.

This form is not used for marine plant aquaculture applications as marine plants are solely the responsibility of the Province.

Harmonized Finfish/Shellfish Guides & Applications

Pacific Shellfish Aquaculture Applications

Pacific Finfish Aquaculture Applications

Pacific Freshwater/Land-Based Aquaculture Applications

FrontCounterBC is the single point of contact for receiving all aquaculture applications.

Guide to the Harmonized Application Forms

Updated guides will be available online shortly. For access to the most up-to-date guidebook please contact:

The guides provide information necessary to complete all components of the application form and to prepare the necessary mapping. Please consult with the guide to confirm which sections of the application form must be completed for the different amendment types.

Please complete the most current application form (form posted on the webpage) as previous version application forms may not be accepted. It is important to ensure all applicable sections are completed and the application is signed and dated. Incomplete or unsigned applications will not be accepted.

Prior to submitting an amendment application, it is advisable to discuss the proposal with the appropriate agencies.

Other Authorizations or Documentation

In addition to the harmonized application form, submission of other applications may be required in order to seek approvals for additional authorizations. Applicants are encouraged to contact FrontCounter BC to determine all the necessary authorization requirements prior to the submission of a harmonized application. 

Examples of other authorizations may include:

Aquaculture proposals received without all necessary applications may be determined as incomplete and returned to the applicant.

Federal Requirements

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

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

Refer to their website for more information regarding Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program, (NPP). Specific questions related to navigable water requirements should be directed to or 604 775-8867.

Fees & Annual Rent

Applicants are required to pay provincial application fees when submitting a request to use and occupy Crown land for the purpose of aquaculture or to amend an existing use authorized under the Land Act.  Fees for new applications are identified in the Land Tenure Purpose and Application Fees Schedule (PDF) and fees for amendments are identified in the Land Tenure Miscellaneous Fees (PDF).

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 refund policy.

Successful applicants are required to pay annual rent based upon a percentage of the land value determined by the program area.  For more information about pricing please refer to the Land Use Operational Policy for Aquaculture (PDF).


Shellfish Facilities

There are restrictions relevant to shellfish development. At this time, Fisheries and Oceans Canada 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

Fisheries and Oceans Canada 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)
  • Conditionally restricted waters (for scallops, mussels, butter clams, cockles or geoducks)
  • Where appropriate biotoxin monitoring is not in place.

Additional Information Related to Shellfish Facilities


Marine Finfish Facilities

There are restrictions relevant to marine finfish development. The moratorium on marine finfish aquaculture is in effect for tidal waters north of Aristazabal Island.

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 other than for increasing production.

Marine Plant Aquaculture Applications

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is responsible for authorizing the occupation of provincial Crown land associated with marine plants and the issuance of cultured marine plants licences.   

Transport Canada is responsible for managing any navigational related concerns under the Navigation Protection Program. 

Required authorizations are noted below:

Contact the Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program (NPP) for federal authorization by email or at 604 775-886.