Law and Policy

The Law and Policy Working Group, based at Dalhousie University, is studying the current state of Canada’s law and policy frameworks in critical sectors affecting the management of our oceans, with a view to strengthening a principled approach to these legal and policy structures. Legal principles of sustainable development can be made the “foundation stones” for supporting healthy social-ecological systems, and we employ this perspective in all aspects of our work.

One of our key research activities is a comprehensive assessment how Canada has performed in implementing its international and national legal commitments to ensure integrated coastal/ocean management. Regional case studies will compare and critique integrated planning efforts under Canada’s Oceans Act that have occurred in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific regions. We also review approaches used in other countries (e.g., Australia and the United States) to draw out best practices that can be implemented at home.

Our Working Group is also evaluating national fisheries law and policy frameworks, in light of sustainability principles, in order to better understand Canadian approaches to, and challenges faced in, seeking principled governance in the fisheries sector.

Canada’s law and policy approaches to and challenges in the growing field of aquaculture will be also assessed by members of our team, and compared to international experiences, with a view to the future development of a coherent legislative approach to the sector. Here too, regional case studies will be carried out to assess the extent to which sustainability principles are being implemented, and where they may be more forcefully advanced.

In addition to our formal SSHRC partners, the Canadian Fisheries Network and the Jebsen Institute (Tromsø, Norway) are informal associates of the Law and Policy Working Group.

Anticipated outcomes

  • Assessments of the current state of implementation of sustainability principles in the Canadian legal and policy frameworks applicable to integrated ocean management, fisheries management and aquaculture
  • Comparative studies to evaluate best practices internationally, and their potential applicability in the Canadian context
  • Scenarios for future development and enhancement of sustainable approaches to the governance of the three sectors under study
  • Directed policy advice for provision to federal, provincial and territorial governments in the legislative implementation of the results of these studies
  • Training for graduate students in law and policy frameworks for sustainable ocean governance

Activities 2015/2016

During 2015/2016, the Law and Policy Working Group focused on the Aquaculture and Fisheries Law and Governance components. In Aquaculture, a workshop and publications, both in cooperation with the K. G. Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea at the University of Tromsø, proceeded on or ahead of schedule. The Fisheries Law and Governance component held a workshop with representatives of other OceanCanada Working Groups as well as partners, and work proceeded on initial publications. Further cooperation and cross-disciplinary contacts were pursued with the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) and OCP partners, which will be developed in an upcoming workshop to refine and plan research outputs. Contact was made with OceanCanada Working Groups on possible cooperative work, and this will be pursued in the first six months of 2016/2017. The Integrated Governance component had no outputs planned for this period (although related outputs were completed), but initial work suggested some possible challenges to its current structure, in particular in ensuring interest and full input from other OceanCanada Working Groups.