OTTAWA, Ont. — A new online licensing system and an overhaul of the At-Sea Observer program are some of the service delivery changes recently announced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
According to Gus van Helvoord, executive director for the fisheries modernization initiative, the new system will result in the closure of six regional systems in favour of a national one. The move will see staff reportedly cut from 84 to 42 across the country, although van Helvoord insists DFO will attempt to ensure a smooth transition.
According to DFO’s website, this year will be the last fishers can renew their licences under the traditional system where information is sent directly through them by mail.
Starting in January, a three-month phase-in period will begin, and in April, fishers will be able to renew and pay licences using the new online system which will provide 24-hour service. Fishers will also be able to designate an alternate person to access their accounts and make payments.
“We are ensuring that service is maintained so that ... people get their licences on time in a manner that reflects the service standards required by the industry,” van Helvoord said. “It is a big change both in terms of the way we do business. We will be providing training tools along the way to ensure people are familiar with these changes.”
To assist with the transition phase, counter service will be maintained until March 31, 2013 before becoming exclusively an online service. As DFO continues to modernize the system, van Helvoord said such things as quota management and quota transfers could eventually be done online as well.
In addition to the new system, starting in 2013 fishers will be required to obtain and pay for gear tags and log books, and in April, DFO will no longer share the cost of the At-Sea Observer program, leaving fishers to foot the bill themselves.
Van Helvoord deferred comment when asked about the changes to the observer program.