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