Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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Canada’s federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or DFO, is the world’s largest, both in numbers and in geographical responsibility, fisheries and coastline management agency. DFO employes more than 10,000 people  directly, and another 6,000 are indirectly contracted to them. With three large coasts and several major inland seas as well as tidal watersheds to manage, Fisheries and Oceans Canada are one of the biggest government departments in the country.

DFO has split Canada into several manageable areas of responsibility

DFO has split Canada into several manageable areas of responsibility

The DFO Crest

The DFO Crest

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been around a long time. The Department was first founded in 1867 under the name “Department of Marine and Fisheries”. In fact, it was the Department that first made up Canada’s navy when an Act of Parliament created the Canadian Naval Service and gave the Department of Marine and Fisheries control over warships (this was changed with the outbreak of World War One when the Royal Canadian Navy was created and sea-going warships were transferred to them). In 1930 the Department had its name changed to the “Department of Fisheries”, which it remained until 1971 when it was renamed “Department of Fisheries and Environment”. In 1979 the name was changed to its present incarnation, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

HMCS Rainbow, the Department's, and Canada's, first warship was commissioned in 1909.

HMCS Rainbow, the Department’s, and Canada’s, first warship was commissioned in 1909.

Today, the DFO is in charge of several very important facets of Canada’s coastal waters.

COAST GUARD

DFO is in charge of Canada’s coast guard. The Coast Guard is responsible for policing and patrolling 202,000 square kilometres of coastline and approximately 2.3 million square nautical miles of water, the largest nautical jurisdiction in the world. For this, some 3,500 highly trained Coast Guard personnel are permanently employed.

The Canadian Coast Guard performs Search and Rescue, criminal interceptions, border security and anti-submarine monitoring, in addition to general policing, weather monitoring and sea-lane traffic control. The Coast Guard works heavily with the US Coast Guard as the two agencies have share responsibility for protecting the coastal waters of North America.

The Canadian Coast Guard heavily patrols the disputed arctic sea-lanes that are opening up.

The Canadian Coast Guard heavily patrols the disputed arctic sea-lanes that are opening up.

Coast Guard quick-response units

Coast Guard quick-response units

The Coast Guard is responsible for nautical search and rescue

The Coast Guard is responsible for nautical search and rescue

Canadian Coast Guard personnel are highly trained and very specialized.

Canadian Coast Guard personnel are highly trained and very specialized.

Canadian and American Coast Guards work together often. Several cross-training programs exist and it is not uncommon to find a few Canadians on US ships, and vice-versa.

Canadian and American Coast Guards work together often. Several cross-training programs exist and it is not uncommon to find a few Canadians on US ships, and vice-versa.

PROTECTION AND CONSERVATION

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a large staff of armed peace officers whose duty it is to manage and enforce regulations surrounding Canada’s fisheries and coastal waters. DFO jurisdiction includes commercial, sport and native fisheries, environmental sustainability of tidal waters, managing foreign fishery intervention in Canadian water and helping Coast Guard and RCMP police the shorelines.

Fishery Officers go through a year of training in Quebec and several months of police training at the RCMP center in Regina.

Fishery Officers go through a year of training in Quebec and several months of police training at the RCMP center in Regina.

Fishery Officers police the coastline and ensure Canada's laws are enforced on the high seas.

Fishery Officers police the coastline and ensure Canada’s laws are enforced on the high seas.

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Fishery Officers are peace officers commissioned by the Crown, and thus are armed and have the power to inspect, arrest and seize in the pursuit of their duties.

Fishery Officers are peace officers commissioned by the Crown, and thus are armed and have the power to inspect, arrest and seize in the pursuit of their duties.

Fishery Officers are tasked with protecting marine life. Here they untangle a whale caught in illegal fishing gear.

Fishery Officers are tasked with protecting marine life. Here they untangle a whale caught in illegal fishing gear.

Tidal watersheds, such as the Fraser River in BC, are DFO jurisdiction and Fishery Officers will regularly patrol such rivers.

Tidal watersheds, such as the Fraser River in BC, are DFO jurisdiction and Fishery Officers will regularly patrol such rivers.

SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is a world-leader in marine biology and scientific research of tidal aquasystems. Some 1,200 people are employed directly or indirectly by DFO research. The invaluable research DFO conducts includes leading research on marine mammal life, such as whales and seals as well as coastal mammals such as otters. DFO research helps determine fish stock levels in the ocean, which is invaluable data in establishing fishing quotas and determining which areas are closed to fishing activity and which are open. DFO led groundbreaking research into an Atlantic cod worms epidemic, which effectively shut down the global Atlantic Cod fisheries. DFO has also been at the forefront of Arctic ecosystem research and conservation efforts.

The DFO Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, British Columbia. It is North America's largest Pacific research station.

The DFO Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, British Columbia. It is North America’s largest Pacific research station.

DFO Scientists perform invaluable research in understanding our oceans and watersheds.

DFO Scientists perform invaluable research in understanding our oceans and watersheds.

DFO uses raw science to establish its regulations and report to Parliament for legislation. It is based on evidence that DFO Fishery Officers and Coast Guard can then enforce the laws and protect the oceans.

DFO uses raw science to establish its regulations and report to Parliament for legislation. It is based on evidence that DFO Fishery Officers and Coast Guard can then enforce the laws and protect the oceans.

Coral Reef research is key to understanding how the marine ecosystem is tied together.

Coral Reef research is key to understanding how the marine ecosystem is tied together.

DFO scientists will go wherever they need to in order to get data!

DFO scientists will go wherever they need to in order to get data!

DFO is the world's leading research organization on the Arctic and Arctic conservation.

DFO is the world’s leading research organization on the Arctic and Arctic conservation.

DFO performs an annual seal survey, and have developed methods to count, age and tag seals without causing much distress to the animals.

DFO performs an annual seal survey, and have developed methods to count, age and tag seals without causing much distress to the animals.

Establishing fish stock levels through live assessments at sea is a key component of DFO responsibility.

Establishing fish stock levels through live assessments at sea is a key component of DFO responsibility.

The DFO Library in St John's, Newfoundland

The DFO Library in St John’s, Newfoundland

The DFO Science Building in Quebec, along the St Laurence Estuary.

The DFO Science Building in Quebec, along the St Laurence Estuary.

DFO is even responsible for Canada's sea otter population!

DFO is even responsible for Canada’s sea otter population!

LIGHTHOUSES

One of the anachronisms that has carried over to the modern day is DFO’s jurisdiction over Canada’s lighthouses. DFO’s lighthouses connect today’s DFO to its historical roots, are important to Canada’s vital sea lane traffic, are a source of inspiration for a million tourists a year and have become parts of entire communities over the centuries. As a result, DFO jealously guards its jurisdiction over lighthouses, and rightly so.

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DFO ships, from Coast Guard to Protection to Research, on display near Halifax, NS.

DFO ships, from Coast Guard to Protection to Research, on display near Halifax, NS.

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2 thoughts on “Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    • I’m not sure. If so then the foreign fisheries department would have an arrangement with DFO, so best avenue to find out is to contact that particular nation’s fisheries department.

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