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Wild Animal Law of Canada

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Fisheries Act (Alberta)

(current to 01 August 2016)

Note Re Application of the Fisheries Act ('FA')

The Fisheries Act expressly provides that any reference to a 'subject organism' [which means fish and invasive organisms: FA 1(1)] includes reference to it when alive as well as when dead, and to it's eggs as well - unless the context requires otherwise [FA 1(3)]. Therefore it can apply to wild fish, though farmed fish (aquaculture) are treated here as domestic fish.

Note that the versions of the General Fisheries Regulation [203/97] and the Fisheries (Ministerial) Regulation [220/1997] integrated into this module are recently amended, but at the date of writing (01 August 2016) the amended versions are not yet posted by the province in their statutes website.

This law bears on the wildlife issues of:
  • OWNERSHIP/POSSESSION
  • EXTERMINATION
  • HUNTING, TRAPPING AND FISHING
  • SALE
  • IMPORT/EXPORT/RELOCATION
  • ADMINISTRATIVE
  • HABITAT
The full current text of this legislation (including regulations) may be viewed at the Alberta statute website.

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Table of Contents
1. Overview
2. Invasive Species
3. General Fishing Provisions
(a) Possession
(b) Purchase and Sale
(c) Farmed Fish and Provincial Waters
(d) Import
4. Enforcement
(a) Generally
(b) Ministerial Orders
(c) Inspection Stations
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1. Overview

Alberta's Fisheries Act ('FA') merges together licensing and regulation of both commercial and recreational fishing, fish marketing, aquaculture (I consider farmed fish as domestics), and establishes controls over invasive aquatic species. It is written to be complementary to the federal Fisheries Act (see that module), and as such shares several key definitions with that Act (eg. "fish", "fishery", "fishing" etc).

In addition to typical licensing provisions and prohibitions, FA provisions respecting invasive species are particularly relevant to the present wildlife legal guide, a focus which the FA shares [FA 1(4)]:
It is the intent of this Act that, in construing it, invasive species are considered to be a threat to the ecology and the economy of Alberta and the overall purposes of the provisions in this Act relating to invasive species are to facilitate and enhance the detection, suppression, elimination and, at least, prevention of the spread, of invasive organisms in Alberta.

2. Invasive Species

'Invasive species' (of fish, plants and others) are listed in Schedule to the Fisheries Act (scroll down) [FA 1(1)].

It is prohibited to "place or keep an invasive organism in, or allow an invasive organism to enter, water of any kind" without specific license to do so, and to possess or to import into Alberta an invasive species unless specifically authorized by license [FA 11.01-11.03]. Importation of listed (see the Schedule) dead, or dead and eviscerated, invasive fish are exempt from the importation ban.

Where a person finds an invasive fish or organism living wild they shall report that to the Minister within 14 days[Fisheries (Ministerial) Reg 6.2(1)].


3. General Fishing Provisions

(a) Possession

Possession of fish caught under license is legal for the license-holder. Possession of live bait fish or crayfish is prohibited except under a research license or the fish are "held in contained waters as pets or for sale as pets" [General Fisheries Regulation 8(1) ('GF Regs')].

(b) Purchase and Sale

Live fish may only be sold under a research license, and then only if it is a specific term of that license that sale is permissible [GF Regs 9(2)]. Knowingly buying and selling illegally caught fish is prohibited [GF Regs 9(4)].

Fish caught by sportfishing may not be sold [GR Regs 11]. Fish caught under commercial license may be sold [GF Regs 22.1].

(c) Farmed Fish and Provincial Waters

Stocking of provincial waters with farmed fish is allowed under license [GF Regs 26]. Wild fish or their eggs may not be taken from provincial waters for use in fish farming [GF Regs 39].

(d) Import

Import of live fish and their eggs listed in "Category 1 or Category 2 of section 1 or in section 2.1 of Schedule 2" of the Ministerial Regulation [* link presently unavailable] is prohibited except under license, and unless the destination of the fish is licensed, or otherwise legal, for possession of the imported fish [GF Regs 36].


4. Enforcement

(a) Generally

Additionally, the Act is supported, for enforcement purposes, with a typical array of appointed enforcement personnel (fishery officers) [FA 19], who possess entry and inspection authority [FA 25,26] and seizure of potential evidence [FA 28]. Also, violations of the FA may be prosecuted as offences [FA 34.4]. Anyone engaging in enforcement activities under the FA has no civil liability except for actions done in bad faith [FA 42].

(b) Ministerial Orders

The Minister may make Orders where they have reasonable grounds to believe that [FA 32(2)]:
  • "any subject organisms pose an ecological threat or genetic danger to any fish or any other animal or any individual or might cause economic harm;

  • "any invasive organisms pose a danger to any organism";

  • "any subject organisms or any place or conveyance where subject organisms are held harbours disease or is materially infested by parasites and might present a danger to the health of any fish or other animal or any individual"; or

  • "any subject organisms, place or conveyance harbours or may harbour any invasive organisms".
Such Orders may require the creation of quarantine zones, the seizure and detention of suspect organisms, the killing of suspect organisms, that the owner/operator of a facility provide information as required and that "any other steps considered necessary to eradicate the problem be taken" [FA 32(3)].

(c) Inspection Stations

The Minister may also establish inspection stations on highways in order to inspect conveyances for the presence of invasive species [FA 33.2].
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