Provincial fish processing licence
Find out if you need a licence for your fish processing operation and learn how to apply.
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On January 1, 2020, Ontario introduced a fish processing regulation under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 (FSQA).
As of January 1, 2021, if your business requires a provincial fish processing licence under O. Reg. 456/19 (Fish Processing), you must obtain a licence for your fish processing operation before conducting any licensed activities.
Fish processing operations may be subject to inspection by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), public health or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the regulation may apply differently in those cases. This summary is for information purposes only. Learn more about the specific details of O. Reg. 456/19 (Fish Processing).
When a licence is required
You will require a provincial licence for your fish processing operation if:
- you are not federally licensed to process fish, and
- you are processing or packaging a fish product for other than direct distribution to consumers. A fish product means food that contains fish, where the amount of fish constitutes more than 25% of the product by weight, or any ready-to-eat fish products that contain raw fish; and
- you are conducting any processing or packaging of a ready-to-eat fish product for other than direct distribution to consumers, or
- you are packaging any fish product, using modified atmosphere packaging or vacuum packaging for other than direct distribution to consumers, or
- you are processing or packaging a fish product in a provincially licensed meat plant for other than direct distribution to consumers, or
- you are processing or packaging a fish product in a plant that holds a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (Canada) to process meat for other than direct distribution to consumers
Processing fish products includes:
- boning, canning, coating, comminution, cooking, cooling, curing, cutting, dehydrating, emulsifying, fabricating, fermenting, filleting, freezing, heating, icing, marinating, pasteurizing, pickling, refrigerating, rinsing, salting, seasoning, slicing, smoking and thermal processing
- reprocessing of previously processed fish products
- any other activity performed to prepare a fish product for use as food
When a licence is not required
You may not need a provincial fish processing licence in Ontario in certain situations. However, your operation could still require inspection by your local public health unit and/or the CFIA.
You do not need a provincial fish processing licence if:
- You process or package a food that contains fish if the amount of fish contained constitutes 25% or less of the product, by weight, unless the food is a ready-to-eat fish product that contains raw fish. Your operation may require an inspection by your local public health unit.
- All your fish products are processed or packaged for direct distribution to consumers or are sold, offered for sale or transferred directly to consumers. Your operation may require an inspection by your local public health unit.
- You are licensed under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (Canada) and its regulations to process or package fish and all the fish processed or packaged is sold under this licence. Your operation requires a federal inspection by the CFIA.
Apply for a licence
We recommend that you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org about your plans to operate a fish processing operation. It is up to you to determine whether you need a provincial fish processing licence.
We will walk you through the licensing process and the supporting documents you need to provide. A member of our licensing team may conduct regular check-ins to help you with any outstanding items and plans.
Step 1: Complete an application package
The fish processing licence application package includes:
- application for a licence to operate a fish processing operation
- links to the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 and all applicable regulations
- decision tree to help you determine if you operate a provincial fish processing operation that requires a licence
- plans review submission checklist (PDF)
- information on how to obtain a Provincial Premises Registry number
- Fish Plant Guidelines
Step 2: Submit your complete licence application
You can either:
- fill out the online form and attach all supporting documents before submitting
- email the completed PDF application form and supporting documents to email@example.com
- mail your application package to:
The Director (appointed under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001)
Fish Inspection Program
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
1 Stone Road West, 5th floor NW
Your application package must include:
- a completed licence application form
- schedule of operation for the current calendar year, including:
- daily start and end times
- days of operation
- periods when closed
- your meat plant number if your fish processing plant is also a provincially licensed meat plant.
- a list of all ready-to-eat fish products that you process or package
- a list of any fish products that you package using modified atmosphere packaging or vacuum packaging
- a list of any other fish products that you process
- water testing results dated within 30 days of the date you sign your application (if applicable)
- Water testing results must meet the microbiological standards for potable water set out in Schedule 1 of O. Reg. 169/03.
- Samples must be taken from a fixture that is used for a purpose related to the processing, packaging, labelling, storing or handling of fish products, ingredients, labelling materials or packaging materials.
- Water samples must be tested by a person who holds a drinking water testing licence and must be handled in accordance with the directions of the laboratory that will perform the testing. The laboratory must be accredited and licensed to test drinking water.
- If you are a provincially licensed meat plant under O. Reg. 31/05 and you are exempt from submitting water testing results as per subsection 8(2) of O. Reg. 465/19, you do not have to submit water results with your application.
- a document identifying every potable and non-potable water system that supplies water to the fish processing plant and is used by the fish processing operation
- the identification of at least one supervisor who works at your operation and will meet the food safety training requirements at the time of licensing. Meeting the food safety training requirements means that the individual has completed the food safety training that is either:
- provided by a local board of health
- provided by an agency of a board of health
- in a formal course or program that is acceptable to the director
Contact our licensing team for food handler training information by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As part of providing accessible service, you can also contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre (AICC) at
1-877-424-1300or by e-mail at email@example.com if you require this information in alternate formats.
- a detailed and to-scale sketch of the layout of the fish processing plant including the patterns of movement in the normal course of operations. Refer to the plans review submission checklist in the application package for details.
Step 3: Assessment
OMAFRA will conduct a technical review of your sketch of the layout of the fish processing plant to determine if your proposed plans appear to meet the requirements of the Act and O. Reg. 465/19.
A member of the licensing team will discuss with you any concerns or deficiencies identified by the technical review that may require further action.
“Fish Processing facility plans appears to meet” letter
When the program manager has verified that any potential issues are addressed, you will receive a “Fish Processing facility plans appears to Meet” letter confirming that the proposed fish processing operation plans appears to meet the requirements of the Act and Regulation 465/19. This is not a licence to operate.
Before recommending your licence to the director, we will schedule an inspection visit to perform a pre-licensing assessment of the fish processing facility to make sure the facility is compliant with the regulation.
You will be able to address items of non-compliance by submitting a corrective action plan to OMAFRA.
Final inspection visit
A food safety inspector will conduct a final inspection to confirm that any corrective actions have been addressed and ensure your facility’s operational readiness.
After successful completion of the field inspection visit, the program manager will review the results and recommend the licensing of your operation to the director.
Step 4: Obtain licence
When all licensing verification checks have been completed and the licence has been approved, the fish program will send you an email containing your licence.
If your licence is denied, you will receive a letter explaining the grounds for refusal. You can appeal the licence refusal through the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.
Step 5: Operate your fish processing operation
Once you have your licence, you can begin operating your fish processing operation.
Your fish processing operation will be inspected regularly by a food safety inspector, based on risk.
If a food safety inspector finds deficiencies, they will discuss any required corrective actions with you and schedule follow up inspections to ensure compliance has been met.
Significant changes to existing fish processing premises
If you are an existing provincially licensed fish processing operator, you must notify us if you are planning to make significant changes to your fish processing operation.
A significant fish processing operation change is a change for which a building permit is required.
Email the director of the fish inspection program at firstname.lastname@example.org at least 30 days before making any changes to your facility. Your email must include:
- the legal name and the address of the operator
- the business address of the fish processing plant
- a description of the proposed change and the nature of the regulated activities to be carried out at the location that would be affected by the change
The fish inspection program will contact you to:
- discuss the proposed alterations and documentation required for OMAFRA review
- provide you with a 30-day notice of proposed alteration form
You are required to submit this completed form to the fish inspection program.
It is your responsibility to ensure that any changes to your fish processing operation also complies with other applicable legislation, such as the Ontario Building Code.
- The fish inspection program will discuss with you any concerns or deficiencies of your proposed alteration to make sure you are compliant with the regulation.
- Once any issues are addressed, you will receive an “Alterations appears to meet” letter which will confirm that the proposed alterations to your fish processing operation appear to meet the regulatory requirements. We strongly recommended that you do not start construction until you receive this letter.
- You must inform the fish inspection program if any unintended changes to the proposed alteration occurs during construction. The fish inspection program will assess the information to make sure any variation from your existing plans does not compromise your ability to maintain compliance.
- Your fish processing premises may be subject to inspection by a food safety inspector following the completion of the alterations, and prior to resuming production of fish products. This will ensure that your fish processing operation is compliant with the Act and its regulation.
If you are an existing provincially licensed fish processing operator, you must notify us in writing of any change to the information provided under paragraphs 1 to 17 of section 6(2) of O. Reg. 465/19 within 30 days of the change.
We offer advisory services to all existing and new fish processing operators once you submit your licence application.
To discuss licensing requirements, send us an email and a member of our licensing team will be assigned to contact you: