Canada-U.S. Fish Habitat Working Group


The Fish Habitat Working Group (FHWG) is one of several subcommittees established by the Canada-U.S. Steering Committee (Steering Committee).

The Steering Committee facilitates informal coordination between Canada and the U.S. concerning transboundary fisheries issues. The FHWG provides an informal forum to identify shared concerns related to the management of fish habitat. The working group is comprised of managers and scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Maritimes Region and the Greater Atlantic Region of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries).

The Steering Committee is Co-Chaired by the Greater Atlantic Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries, U.S. and the Regional Director General of the Maritimes Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Members of the Steering Committee include Regional federal fisheries staffs from each organization, representatives from the New England Fishery Management Council and Gulf of Maine Advisory Committee, including industry representatives from both countries. The Steering Committee provides direction to the FHWG through agenda development, annual work plans, and relevance of the habitat contribution to the overall collaboration.

Coordination between Canada and the U.S. concerning fish habitat issues in the transboundary area has been ongoing since the formation of the FHWG in September 2004. The working group's outputs have included the preparation of the Canada-U.S. Fish Habitat Working Group, Guidance Document May 2, 2005. The guidance document was a foundation piece that stated general objectives, goals, administrative criteria and tasks, and provided the basis for these terms of reference.


The FHWG primary objective is to enhance communication and the sharing of knowledge with respect to the protection and conservation of fish habitat in both jurisdictions. This will be accomplished through:

  • Enhancing communication in areas of habitat conservation, protection, management and policy
  • Promoting staff to staff discussion on development projects of common interest
  • Collaborating on shared habitat issues
  • Strengthening Canada-U.S. cooperation on marine conservation and the links to sustainable fishery management in transboundary waters

Deliverables / Outputs

Recent tasks have included

  • A survey and workshop of standardized habitat classification systems that could serve as facilitative tools to enhance FHWG transboundary management discussions.
  • Ongoing discussion on respective approaches to proposed marine development activities from a regulatory and environmental assessment perspective to protect and maintain functional fish habitat. Energy projects including liquefied natural gas and tidal power development have been identified as current areas of interest by the working group.
  • Preparation of an annual work plan to identify issues, participants, milestones and deliverables.


Co-Chaired by a member of DFO and a member of NOAA, formed September 2004. Membership also includes members of Habitat Management and Science from both Canada and U.S.



In September 2011, the SC accepted that the Habitat and Oceans Working Groups could be dissolved at this time and reconvened if further collaborative efforts are required in the future.


Reports summarizing the major issues, proposals, and meeting minutes from FHWG meetings shall be prepared by the host country, including the identification of any action items. All Working Group members shall be provided an opportunity to review any Working Group documents prior to their finalization. Once reports are agreed upon by both members from DFO, Maritimes Region and the Greater Atlantic Region of NOAA Fisheries, documents will be finalized and forwarded to the Steering Committee and the Integration Committee. Documents cleared by the Steering Committee may be posted on the Canada-U.S. website.