Aquaculture risk and security policy (FisPp.9.2.5)
This policy/procedure describes the risk analysis, based on potential genetic and ecological impacts, of the species or stock on species in the receiving waters. It also describes the required facility security requirements.
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Subject: Risk Analysis and Facility Security
Compiled by – Ministry: Natural Resources
Date issued: August 2004
Section: Fisheries Policy
Replaces directive title: Same
Number: FI 2.06.03
Dated: August 1995
In this policy / procedure,
- means the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA)
- is as defined in the Act and means the breeding or husbandry of fish, and the verb “culture” has, with respect to fish, a corresponding meaning
- is defined in the definition of “aquaculture” and when used as a verb with respect to fish has a corresponding meaning with aquaculture
- exotic fish
- is a fish species not present in Ontario waters
- is defined in the Act as having the same meaning as in the Fisheries Act and therefore includes:
- parts of fish
- shellfish, crustaceans, marine animals and any parts of shellfish, crustaceans or marine animals, and
- the eggs, sperm, spawn, larvae, spat and juvenile stages of fish, shellfish, crustaceans and marine animal“
- native fish
- are species indigenous to a particular region or area (i.e. a species that has existing in Ontario prior to European settlement).
- naturalized fish
- is an introduced fish species which is now self-sustaining.
- receiving waters
- are those waters connected to the discharge from an aquaculture facility. Waters are considered to be interconnected up to a physical or ecological barrier (e.g. temperature) to the species in question.
- regional flood plain
- according to the Provincial Policy Statement (issued under authority of the Planning Act, Order in Council No. 764-96) means the area, usually lowlands adjoining a watercourse, which has been or may be subject to flooding hazards
- refers to a group of fish that share a common environment and gene pool and which is sufficiently discrete to be considered a self-perpetuating, manageable system
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) requires the proponent of an aquaculture facility to complete an acceptable risk analysis for the approval of licence applications. This is necessary to ensure that aquaculture operations do not result in introductions (through escapement of cultured fish) that will harm the environment. The risk analysis assigns a minimum required level of facility security that depends on the degree of risk that the proposed species poses to the receiving ecosystem. A Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis will be necessary when the applicant wishes to raise a species that is not present in the receiving waters in a medium security facility (low security is not an option under any circumstances).
This policy/procedure describes the risk analysis, based on potential genetic and ecological impact of the species or stock on species in the receiving waters and the facility security requirements necessary to mitigate those potential impacts.
3.0 Program direction
The risk analysis is a guideline for determining which species may be permitted to be cultured at the location for which the licence application was submitted.
Not all the species included on the species list may be cultured at any particular location. Species, which, in combination with the likelihood of escape from the facilities, are likely to cause damage to the receiving ecosystem, will not be permitted to be cultured in a particular location.
The most secure facilities from which escapement is unlikely, pose a lesser risk to the environment. The risk analysis determines the level of facility security (facility classification) that will be required to raise a given species in a particular area. If the species proposed for culture is present in the receiving waters, then the genetic classification of the local native stock (guidelines described below under the heading of Conservation of Genetic Diversity of Ontario Fishes) must also be considered.
The General Decision Making Chart (Appendix 1) that was presented in the 1995 Aquaculture Interim Policy Directive has been simplified into a Short Form Risk Analysis (see below) which will address most routine land based applications. The Short Form Risk Analysis will also serve as part of the initial screening process at the first stage of an application for a licence for net pen (cage culture) operations in public waters. The proponent must provide the information requested in the Short Form Risk Analysis for each species proposed in a facility.
Where both the proponent and OMNR are satisfied with the facility security level identified by the Short Form Risk Analysis for land-based operations or net pen operations on private waters (e.g. some abandoned mine or gravel pits) the aquaculture licence can be issued (FisPp.9.2.1 - Issuance of Aquaculture Licence, Renewals, Transfers, Amendments, Refusals and Cancellations). For open water net pen (cage culture) operations on public waters the application can proceed to more detailed review (see FisPp.9.2.2 - Aquaculture on Crown Lands (when available)).
The reviewing OMNR office should follow the outcome of the Short Form Risk Analysis except under exceptional circumstances. Those circumstance occur when, despite the outcome of the Short Form Risk Analysis, OMNR believes that the proposed species may pose such a high ecological risk that culture should not be approved at the security level recommended by the Short Form Risk Analysis (and in some cases even in high security (F1) facilities (e.g. brook trout facility adjacent to native aurora trout lake)) without further consideration via a completion and review of a Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis (see section on Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis for more detail). Such situations are expected to be rare, and will require a strong rationale from OMNR.
If the proponent wishes to raise a species in a facility that is less secure than that recommended in the Short Form Risk Analysis, then it will in all cases be necessary for the proponent to perform a Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis (see below for more detail). To complete the Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis, it may be necessary for the proponent to hire a consultant.
The proponent is responsible for assessing and demonstrating that the proposed facility and species poses an acceptable risk to the environment. The analysis is to be used in conjunction with the List of Species Eligible for Culture in Ontario (Appendix 2 of this policy and Schedule B - Fish Licensing Regulation).
Where a Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis is required the Great Lake Management Office and/or District Office must provide a copy of the completed analysis to the Chair of the Ontario Introductions and Transfers Committee for review. The Introductions and Transfers Committee will make non-binding recommendations, based only on an evaluation of ecological risk, to the Great Lake and/or District Manager. All applications requiring a Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis must also be posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry. See FisPp.9.2.1 - Issuance of Aquaculture Licence, Renewals, Transfers, Amendments, Refusals and Cancellations for details.
3.1 Key to facility classification
OMNR identifies three classes of aquaculture facilities based on the risk of escape from the facility. A facility that is considered to offer high security for species X may only offer medium security for species Y. For that reason facility security requirements should be considered and set on a species specific basis and in some cases a life stage specific basis depending on the species in question. In that context the three facility security levels are:
1) F1 - High security facility
A high security level is the highest practical level of security for production facilities. No aquaculture operation can be 100% secure through all pathways at all times. However, in a high security facility the risk of escapement is extremely low.
- highly secure source water supplies (ground or treated) or multiple (3) inflow pathway barriers appropriate to the cultured species and life-stage. At least one inflow barrier must be passive (i.e. not dependent on a power supply);
- highly secure receiving water/outflow destination (ground, sewage treatment facility, lethal chemical effluent treatment) or multiple (3) outflow pathway barriers appropriate to the cultured species and life-stage. At least one outflow pathway barrier must be passive (i.e. not dependent on a power supply);
- highly secure waste conduit destination (ground, sewage treatment facility, lethal chemical effluent treatment) or multiple (3) waste conduit pathway barriers appropriate to the cultured species and life-stage. At least one waste conduit pathway barrier must be passive (i.e. not dependent on a power supply);
- located above regional flood plain, or engineered to contain fish above regional flood plain;
- one or more methods for controlling access (enclosures such as fencing or building, site location, human monitoring, guard dogs) appropriate to the site.
2) F2 - Medium security facility
In medium security facilities, the probability of live loss is moderate, however numbers are small, usually associated with leakage, as opposed to large loss from catastrophic events such as flooding.
- multiple (2) inflow pathway barriers appropriate to the cultured species and size but not necessarily able to contain the smallest life-stage at all times. At least one inflow barrier must be passive (i.e. not dependent on a power supply);
- multiple (2) outflow pathway barriers appropriate to the cultured species and size, but not necessarily able to contain the smallest life-stage of the cultured species at all times. At least one outflow pathway barrier must be passive (i.e. not dependent on a power supply);
- multiple (2) waste conduit pathway barriers appropriate to the cultured species and life-stage but not necessarily able to contain the smallest life-stage of the cultured species at all times. At least one waste conduit pathway barrier must be passive (i.e. not dependent on a power supply);
- located above regional flood plain, or engineered to contain fish above regional flood plain.
Note: Most existing Ontario trout farms are currently licensed as medium security facilities.
3) F3 - Low security facility
Low security facilities are those which pose a high risk of escapement. Examples include operations connected to Ontario waters, located in a lake or located on a regional flood plain (e.g. earth ponds and floating cages). In low security facilities, losses are inevitable, with potentially large numbers primarily related to storm/seasonal flooding events. Low security facilities are most common where source water is riverine. Regular movement of small fish to and from receiving and/or source water may occur in low security facilities.
- single inflow conduit barrier appropriate to species cultured
- single outflow conduit barrier
3.2 Conservation of genetic diversity of Ontario fishes
The following list outlines genetic considerations for different fish stocks in Ontario which require protection. It considers, in hierarchical order, populations that may suffer adverse consequences from interbreeding, competition or predation due to escape or accidental release of fish. The first category requires the most protection and the third category requires the lowest protection. Protection in this context means the conservation of genetic diversity of those fish species found in the receiving waters of the proposed aquaculture facility.
The priority for protection of Ontario fish stocks based on time of genetic isolation, uniqueness or rarity is:
G1 - Special native stocks
- native species or sub-species that have been reduced to a few local stocks and are threatened by extinction or extirpation (e.g. spotted gar); and
- native stocks within species that are "glacial relics", i.e. stocks differentiated prior to the last ice age (e.g. Haliburton Highlands lake trout); and
- remnant native stocks in large lakes for which most similar stocks with overlapping distribution have been lost, i.e. stocks differentiated since the last ice age (e.g. Lakes Huron and Superior lake trout stocks); and
- remnant native stocks which are genetically distinct and do not occur together, and other identified sensitive native stocks, that have been physically isolated from other stocks since the last ice age (e.g. Lake Simcoe lake trout, aurora trout, Kawartha lakes muskellunge).
G2 - Native stocks
This is basically all native stocks (i.e. those within their native range) that do not meet the criteria for G1 classification. However they can be more specifically described as:
- native stocks that do not occur together and have been physically and genetically isolated from each other since the last ice age (e.g. most native lake trout and brook trout stocks); and
- native stocks with overlapping distribution that are isolated by behaviour from each other and are locally adapted to their habitats, but some gene flow between stocks may still occur; and
- a lost stock that may be rehabilitated from a neighbouring stock (e.g. Lake Nipissing walleye, brook trout in headwater streams).
G3 - Introduced stocks
These are stocks relocated to an area where they do not occur naturally. Introductions can be deliberate or accidental and can include exotics, naturalized species (e.g. Great Lakes rainbow trout), and stocks native to Ontario which are stocked beyond their native range (e.g. some bass waters).
3.3 Other considerations
3.3.1 Local stocks
Where the Short Form Risk Analysis process indicates that a species present in the receiving waters is G1 or G2, the species normally must be cultured in facilities with F1 or F2 security level respectively. However, culture in facilities with lower security levels can be considered without completion and review of the Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis if the stock proposed for culture is of the same genetic stock as the local stock. If approval is granted to culture a species in a facility with security less than recommended by the Short Form Risk Analysis on the basis of using local stocks, conditions explicitly addressing genetic stock must be clearly set out as a condition of the licence.
3.3.2 Sterile stocks
Where the risk assessment process indicates that a species is G1 or G2, the species normally must be cultured in facilities with F1 or F2 security level respectively. However, in some cases, culture in facilities with lower security levels can be considered if the stock proposed for culture is certified to be sterile. A Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis will be required in all such cases. If approval is granted on the basis that sterile stocks be used then conditions limiting culture to the sterile stock must be clearly set out on the licence.
3.3.3 Other jurisdictions
In cases where the proposed species is absent from the receiving waters, and these waters are connected to a watershed in another jurisdiction or to a Great Lake in which the species is also absent, additional consultation (with other jurisdictions) may be required before an application can be approved. OMNR will be responsible for conducting this consultation.
3.3.4 Facility security
The security level of existing and proposed facilities should be described and assigned a classification on a species specific basis based on the Key to Facility Classification (see above). Licence applicants must include a site plan showing the location of the proposed facility with respect to receiving waters and relevant safeguards to prevent escape for all facilities seeking approval at a medium or high security level.
The Short Form Risk Analysis (Step 1) must be completed as part of the application process for an aquaculture licence. If the proponent wishes to raise a species in a facility that is less secure than that recommended in the Short Form Risk Analysis, then it will be necessary for the proponent to proceed to Step 2 and perform a Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis.
Step 1 - Short form risk analysis
Step one consists of working through the Short Form Risk Analysis for Aquaculture Facilities. The proponent must complete the Short Form Risk Analysis for each species proposed in a facility.
Species proposed for culture
The only species which will be considered are those on the List of Species Eligible for Culture in Ontario (Appendix 3 of this policy and Schedule B - Fish Licensing Regulation). Where the species is not included on the list of species eligible for culture see FisPp.9.2.1 - Issuance of Aquaculture Licence, Renewals, Transfers, Amendments, Refusals and Cancellations for steps to follow if the applicant wishes to have the species considered for addition to the list of species eligible for culture.
The first step is to identify the receiving waters for the proposed facility, and then to determine whether the proposed species is present in the receiving waters. This information is normally determined from OMNR Aquatic Habitat Inventory Surveys. Other sources of information may also be acceptable to determine presence/absence of a species. Proponents should check with the local OMNR office. If there is no information available regarding the presence or absence of the proposed species, then the proponent will be responsible for conducting a survey acceptable to OMNR, for this determination. The source of information for determining presence/absence must be documented.
Genetic classification of native stock
This portion of the Short Form Risk Analysis is used to assess the genetic risks posed to local native stocks by the stock proposed for culture (with respect to interbreeding and loss of locally adapted native stocks). The level of facility security required is based on the genetic classification of the local stock, i.e. Receiving waters with special native stocks (G1) require high security facilities (F1), similarly G2 stocks require a minimum of medium security (F2) facilities and G3 stocks require a minimum of low security (F3) facilities. The three categories of genetic classifications, G1, G2, and G3, represent a decreasing order of concern with respect to local genetic stocks.
The proponent must assign a genetic classification to the native (or naturalized) stocks present in the receiving waters on which the aquaculture facility is situated. A rationale for the classification, with accompanying references should be included. Proponents are encouraged to consult with OMNR staff with respect to genetic classifications. Most native Ontario stocks will fall into the G2 category. This review should identify the source of the fish proposed for culture. In cases where the stock/strain proposed for culture has different life history characteristics than the local stock, further analysis of ecological concerns may be required through the Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis (Step 2).
Step 2 - Detailed ecological risk analysis
The proponent is responsible for completing the Detailed Ecological Risk Analysis.
OMNR staff will review the completed risk analysis. It is necessary to conduct a separate risk analysis for each proposed species. OMNR will provide the applicant with any relevant information available (within MNR) on the receiving waters.
It is recommended that the analysis be conducted by a person with a sound background in aquatic ecology/biology. Any risk analysis that is considered inadequate by OMNR will not be accepted.
Guidelines for conducting detailed ecological risk analysis
It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide rationale and appropriate references at each step where decisions are made. In cases where uncertainty exists, this must be noted. High levels of uncertainty should be treated conservatively, leading to requirements for higher minimum facility security requirements.
The General Decision Making Chart for Facilities (Appendix 1) identifies only one question for this section of the risk analysis - will the proposed species have a detrimental impact on the receiving ecosystem? Species which will have detrimental impacts are limited to High Security (F1) facilities. Species which will not have detrimental impacts can be raised in medium security (F2) facilities. This is a difficult question to answer, as it requires a review of the ecology of the proposed species, the characteristics of the receiving ecosystem, and the potential interactions between them. To properly address ecological risks, the applicant should consider many factors including those listed below.
- habitat requirements and physiological tolerances at various life history stages
- reproductive biology
- feeding habits and preferences
- longevity and growth
- migratory behaviour
- source of stock with respect to pathogens and parasites (i.e. fish health status/ information)
- impacts on native species where introduced elsewhere
- biological safeguards (e.g. ploidy, single sex)
- suitable for survival of proposed species (i.e. within physiological tolerances, appropriate habitat and food available)
- spawning habitat for proposed species
- nature of fish community and ecology of native species
- presence of species at risk, or other sensitive populations (including plants and invertebrates)
- what niche is the proposed species likely to occupy?
- potential for competition, predation with native species
- potential for interbreeding
- potential for disease/parasite transmission
- potential to migrate to other systems
- presence of other stresses
- potential for increased exploitation
In order to facilitate review by Ontario’s Introductions and Transfers Committee the final risk assessment report submitted to OMNR must follow the directions and template set out in the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms (Appendix III) and again in the Ontario Introductions and Transfers Committee Terms of Reference (Appendix II). A copy of the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms should be provided to the applicant along with instructions to complete the risk assessment template.
Guidelines have been developed to use this information to determine if a species proposed for culture will have a detrimental impact on the receiving ecosystem and from that information determine the minimum level of facility security (Figure 1).
5.1 Legislative references
- Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act
- Section 47
- Fish Licensing Regulation
- Sections 19 to 22
- Schedule B
5.2 Directive cross references
- OMNR Aquatic Habitat Inventory
- A Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries
- Ecological Impacts of Fish Introductions: Evaluating the Risk
- National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms
Appendix 1 - General decision making chart
Appendix 2 - Species list
Schedule B of Fish Licensing Regulation
List of species eligible for culture in Ontario
|English common name||Scientific name||French common name|
|lake sturgeon||Acipenser fulvescens||esturgeon jaune|
|Atlantic salmon||Salmo salar||saumon atlantique|
|brown trout||Salmo trutta||truite brune|
|brook trout||Salvelinus fontinalis||omble de fontaine|
|lake trout||Salvelinus namaycush||touladi|
|Arctic char||Salvelinus alpinus||omble chevalier (Omble de l'artique)|
|splake||The hybrid of Salvelinus fontinalis and Salvelinus namaycush|
|chinook salmon||Oncorhynchus tshawytscha||saumon chinook|
|coho salmon||Oncorhynchus kisutch||saumon coho|
|pink salmon||Oncorhynchus gorbuscha||saumon rose|
|rainbow trout||Oncorhynchus mykiss||truite arc-en-ciel|
|lake whitefish||Coregonus clupeaformis||grand corégone|
|lake herring (cisco)||Coregonus artedi||cisco de lac|
|northern pike||Esox lucius||brochet (grand brochet)|
|creek chub||Semotilus atromaculatus||mulet à cornes|
|white sucker||Catostomus commersoni||meunier noir|
|bluntnose minnow||Pimephales notatus||ventre-pourri|
|fathead minnow||Pimephales promelas||tête-de-boule|
|northern redbelly dace||Phoxinus eos||ventre rouge du nord|
|finescale dace||Phoxinus neogaeus||ventre citron|
|common shiner||Luxilus cornutus||méné à nageoires rouges|
|golden shiner||Notemigonus crysoleucas||méné jaune|
|emerald shiner||Notropis atherinoides||méné émeraude|
|common carp||Cyprinus carpio||carpe|
|brown bullhead||Ameiurus nebulosus||barbotte brune|
|channel catfish||Ictalurus punctatus||barbue de rivière|
|American eel||Anguilla rostrata||anguille d'Amerique|
|largemouth bass||Micropterus salmoides||achigan à grande bouche|
|smallmouth bass||Micropterus dolomieu||achigan à petite bouche|
|bluegill||Lepomis macrochirus||crapet arlequin|
|pumpkinseed||Lepomis gibbosus||crapet soleil|
|black crappie||Pomoxis nigromaculatus||marigane noire|
|walleye||Sander vitreus||doré jaune|
|sauger||Sander canadensis||doré noire|
|yellow perch||Perca flavescens||perchaude|
|tilapia of the genera||Oreochromis, Sarotheradon, Tilapia||tilapia|
|crayfish||Orconectes immunus, O. virilis, O. propinquus, Cambarus robustus, C. bartonii||cinq espèces d'écrevisses|
|marsh pondsnail or melantho snail||Stagnicola elodes|