Canada Target 8

By 2020, all aquaculture in Canada is managed under a Goal B science-based regime that promotes the sustainable use of aquatic resources (including marine, freshwater and land based) in ways that conserve biodiversity.


About the Target

Aquaculture refers to the cultivation of aquatic species, usually for commercial harvest, processing, sale and consumption. Aquaculture operations have been established in every Canadian province and in Yukon, and it impacts many rural and coastal areas, including many Indigenous communities. Aquaculture represents about a third of Canada’s total fisheries value and about 20% of total seafood production. Atlantic and chinook salmon, trout, Arctic char, mussel, oyster and clam are well established aquaculture industries. Canada is the fourth-largest producer of farmed salmon in the world and mussel is our top shellfish aquaculture export.

Continued active, responsive management and consultation with different levels of government, industry, and Indigenous groups are essential to ensure the health of ecosystems in which aquaculture takes place, and that environmental impacts are mitigated by management actions and regulations informed by dedicated aquaculture science in order to foster a sustainable and innovative industry that remains globally competitive.

Canada Target 8 is linked with the following global Aichi target under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

  • Aichi Target 4 - By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.
  • Aichi Target 7 - By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.


2018 Interim Progress Assessment

On track to meeting target icon Canada’s approach to a science-based aquaculture regime consists of establishing a regulatory framework that is supported by the best available science advice. To this end, Canada renewed the Sustainable Aquaculture Program in 2013 and allocated $54 million over five years for ongoing regulatory reforms and aquaculture science research. This funding was renewed again in 2018 with a $22 million, two-year commitment.

These investments have supported scientific research, including assessments of the impact of aquaculture on the abundance and diversity of wild Fraser River Sockeye Salmon in British Columbia, as well as work on shellfish production capacity in Prince Edward Island.

Canada has increased its investment in aquaculture science research under the Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research, which funds research that advances the understanding of interactions between aquaculture and the aquatic environment and supports the development of a regulatory framework that both protects biodiversity and helps increase seafood production. Under this program, scientific and regulatory tools have been developed or updated to address the environmental impacts of aquaculture. The research projects respond to regionally-specific issues that arise from aquaculture activities or those that are found to be the most relevant for improving farm-level management. For example, one 2015 project in Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan assessed the potential impacts of cage farms on wild fish populations with the goal of contributing to the development of regulatory standards and assessment methods. Another ongoing project in the Gulf of St. Lawrence aims to describe the extent and effect of interactions between mussel aquaculture activities and adult lobsters, including: the movement of lobsters within and around mussel aquaculture sites, their availability to the fishery, and the influence of mussel aquaculture on the condition of the lobsters.

Research has also informed the development of the first national regulations for aquaculture. Known as the Aquaculture Activities Regulations, these regulations under the federal Fisheries Act contain provisions that support pollution prevention and are intended to minimize incidental harm to fish and fish habitat from aquaculture activities.

Regulations and standards developed for aquaculture are enforced primarily through aquaculture license conditions. An operator is required to implement farm management plans that include, among other things, management of diseases and parasites, the prevention of farmed fish escapes into the environment, environmental monitoring, and, the prevention of deleterious substance deposits into fish bearing waters. Compliance rates (assessed on the basis of charges laid) were 98% from 2011-2014 and then increased to 100% in 2015-2017. (Please note that the methodology associated with calculating this indicator is currently under review. If all violations detected during site inspections [including those of lower severity where no charges were laid] are included, the rate of compliance was 83% in 2017-18. This method provides greater granularity and transparency on industry compliance with aquaculture regulations and standards.)

Other relevant tools to promote the sustainable use of aquatic resources and biodiversity conservation include the 2017 National Code on Introductions and Transfers, which regulates intentional movement of live aquatic organisms (i.e. fish, shellfish and plants) from one waterbody to another. This Code helps minimize the risks of unintentionally spreading diseases or pests, altering the genetic makeup of native species, or otherwise negatively impacting surrounding ecosystems.

In addition, a public reporting system is being established to demonstrate Canada’s commitment and the industry’s responsibility to sustainable seafood production. The aquaculture industry is also taking steps to demonstrate their commitment to Canada’s biodiversity targets by adopting third-party certification. Certification demonstrates that an operator meets comprehensive environmental and food safety standards. Currently, all major salmon farming companies in Canada, as well as some mussel and feed companies, have achieved various levels of certification.


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