Prior to 1984, Ontario commercial fishermen did not have limits on the total annual harvest that could be made under a licence. The Ministry of Natural Resources controlled the fishery by regulating the amount of effort establishing a total number of nets for each licence.

The industry began to modernize in 1984 with the introduction of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) for quota-designated species – species that MNR feel require special harvest limits to ensure the long-time viability of the population. ITQs are a modern form of fishery regulation, governing size and quantity of a fish that may be taken, that is a form of resource rental and allows the licence holder access to a share of the resource. The licence holder may choose to lease some or all of their ITQ to another licence holder. This system allows for close regulation of commercial harvests and creates a market for the quota.

Quotas are allocated in Ontario by the Minister of Natural Resources. Allocations are allotted to the following areas:

  • Resource conservation
  • Aboriginal food and ceremonial fishery
  • Commercial fishery
  • Angling fishery and other stakeholders

In order to assign annual harvest limits to each commercial fishing licence, Ontario’s fishery management and scientific personnel analyze data derived from various assessment and sampling programs.