Licensing & Leasing

The practice of aquaculture in Nova Scotia requires a Licence from the Province, and those wishing to conduct aquaculture in the marine environment, also require a lease from the Province for the use of the Crown waterway and bottom. Although NSDFA is the primary regulator of Aquaculture in Nova Scotia, the Aquaculture Division works in concert with a variety of Federal Regulators which include Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Transport Canada (TC), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Numerous other Departments and Agencies of the Government of Nova Scotia also provide advice to the Aquaculture Division in relation to Aquaculture applications.

Aquaculture is conducted in both the marine environment and at land-based operations in Nova Scotia. Land-based operations require a license from the Province while marine based operations require both a license and lease from the Province. Decisions regarding aquaculture licenses and leases are governed by the Aquaculture License and Lease Regulations.

Depending on the nature of the request, the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture follows one of two distinctive processes to make license and/or lease decisions:

Administrative Process

Decisions made by the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture

Land-based Operations:
  • New land-based licenses;
  • New experimental land-based license;
  • Renewals of existing land-based licenses;
  • Assignments of existing land-based licenses; and
  • Amendments to existing land-based licenses.
Marine Operations:
  • New experimental marine license and lease;
  • Renewals of existing marine licenses and leases;
  • Reallocation of existing marine licenses and leases;
  • Assignments of existing marine licenses and leases
  • Boundary amendments that do not result in expansion of the site; and
  • Culture method (gear) amendments for existing sites.

Adjudicative Process

Decisions made by the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board

  • New marine licenses and leases;
  • Amendments to expand existing marine licenses and leases; and
  • Amendments to add finfish species to existing marine licenses and leases.

Administrative Process

Outlined below is an overview of the administrative application process from the time an initial request is submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture until a decision is made by the Administrator.

Download a PDF version of the Administrative Process.

  1. Step 1: Pre-application discussion with Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture

    Prior to submitting the administrative application to the Department, proponents are required hold a meeting with Department staff. During this step, the Department will notify the proponent of what information needs to be collected and included in the application.

    Step 2: Information collection

    During this time, the company gathers the information necessary to complete the Development Plan for their proposal. This may include biophysical, technical, or social data depending on the nature of the application.

  2. Step 3: Administrative application submitted to the Department

    Once the pre-application phase is complete, the proponent may submit an application to the Department. A completed application must include the appropriate application form and a Development Plan, as well as any information deemed necessary by the Department during the pre-application phase.

    Step 4: Review of application for licence and lease

    Department staff review the application to make sure it provides all the documentation required. The Department can request additional information from the applicant as necessary. The application will be shared with the necessary federal and provincial departments for their input. Consultations with First Nations may be required depending on the nature of the proposal.

  3. Step 5: Public submission period

    The Administrator will publish a notice on the Department’s website and in the Royal Gazette Part I inviting the public to submit written comments on the application to the Administrator. Members of the public have 30 days after the date the notice is published to submit comments to the Administrator. Comments received from the public that comply with all submission requirements will be posted on the Department’s website when the Administrator’s decision concerning that application is made and communicated. Comments as posted will include the name of the person submitting the comment as well as their community and province/state. The street address, email address and phone number of the person submitting the comment will be removed.

    Step 6: Decision by administrator

    After the close of the public comment period, the Administrator makes a decision on the application. This can be to approve, approve with conditions or reject the application. The Administrator must issue a written decision that includes the reasons for the decision and then publish the decision on the Department’s website.

Adjudicative Process

Outlined below is an overview of the entire process from the time an initial request is submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture until a decision is made by the independent Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board.

Download a PDF version of the Adjudicative Process.

  1. Step 1: Request submitted to Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture

    A proponent submits a proposal for an option to lease in the area they would like to develop. This means a company is requesting permission to explore a potential location for aquaculture. The request must include the species to be farmed, potential location, industry experience and a business plan. In the case of an amendment, the proponent submits a request to amend the existing site. The Department reviews the request and decides whether to allow the proponent to explore the location. Approving a request to explore location does not allow a company to begin farming or, in the case of an amendment, enable them to make changes to existing operations.

    Step 2: Information collection

    If approved, the company has up to six (6) months to explore a potential location and submit an application. During this time, the company: shares information with local stakeholders about what is being farmed, how the site would be designed and managed; gathers biophysical and other information about the area they propose to lease; and receives feedback to shape their plans. The company must host at least one public meeting near the potential site location to hear from the community.

  2. Step 3: Application to the Department for a licence and lease

    Once the scoping phase is complete, the proponent may submit an application to the Department. A submitted application must include an application form, a development plan and a scoping report that includes the results of information collected at the location and through engagement with the community. The company may apply for more than one site in a potential location.

    Step 4: Review of application for licence and lease

    Department staff review the application to make sure it provides all the documentation required, including the results of public engagement from the scoping phase. The Department can request additional information from the applicant if they believe it is needed. The application will be shared with the necessary federal and provincial departments for their input. Consultations with First Nations may be required depending on the nature of the proposal. The Department will then submit the completed application to the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board for review and decision.

  3. Step 5: Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board process

    The Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board will hold a public hearing on the application in a community close to the potential site. The date of the hearing will be published at least 60 days before the hearing. Members of the public can submit written comments or request to speak at a hearing and they may apply to be an intervenor at a hearing. Intervenor status will be granted to those who clearly demonstrate they are substantially and directly affected by the application. Submissions from members of the public are not accepted prior to the notice of the hearing being published.

    Step 6: Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board decision

    The Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board has 30 days after the public hearing to decide on an application. The Board can approve, approve with conditions or reject the application. The Board’s decision will be posted publicly on the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board websites and can be appealed up to 30 days after it is made. The Department must implement the decision of the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board.

Rockweed Leases

The Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act requires all rockweed lease applicants to post public notice of their application. Notices must be published in a newspaper having a general circulation in the county or counties in which the applied-for area is located and in the Royal Gazette not less than ten days before the date of the application.

The Act also states that any member of the public who objects to the issuance of a lease in the area referred to in the notice shall notify the Minister, in written form, not more than seven days after the date of publication. These letters are then taken into consideration by the Minister when he reviews the application package.

The Minister would like to acknowledge and thank the public for their feedback on all rockweed applications.