Guidance on Determining the Common Names for Fish Sold or Processed in Canada

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1. Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on the process for identifying common names for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency List of Canadian Acceptable Common Names for Fish and Seafood (CFIA Fish List). This policy is intended to ensure that these names are not false, misleading or deceptive, are supported by reliable scientific references and foster fair market practices.

2. Scope

This document applies to persons preparing and/or importing fish for commercial purposes in Canada and to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) personnel who are involved in fish inspection or the maintenance of the CFIA Fish List.

3. Regulatory Authority

The authority requiring the use of common names for fish sold or processed in Canada is provided by:

  • Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) (as it relates to food)
  • Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR)

3.1 Label Information [199(1)-(2), 217, SFCR; 6(1), SFCA; 5(1), FDA]

No person shall package any fish or mark or label any container of fish in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive.

Canadian law applicable to labelling of foods in Canada prohibits labelling and advertising of foods in a manner that is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.Footnote 1

3.2 Common Name [1, 201, 218(1)(a), 264, SFCR; B.01.001, B.01.006(1), FDR]

Common name of fish species is defined as:

  • the name printed in boldface type, but not in italics, in the document entitled Canadian Standards of Identity, Volume 3 – Fish;
  • the name given in the document entitled Common Names for Prepackaged Fish, if the food is hermetically sealed;
  • the name identified by boldface type, but not in italics, in the Food and Drug Regulations;
  • the name prescribed by other applicable Canadian legislation; or
  • if the name is not prescribed in legislation, the name by which the food is generally known.

4. Canadian Food Inspection Agency List of Common Names for Fish and Seafood (CFIA Fish List)

The CFIA Fish List serves as a collection of French and English common names recognized by legislation and/or by which the fish is generally known.

Only the common name(s) listed for the fish species should be used as the name(s) for the species being sold or processed in Canada.

The CFIA Fish List provides the French and English common names for the labelling of fish in Canada.

The CFIA Fish List also provides a Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN) for each species, along with any associated hazards. Scientific names for fish species are verified with the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).

5. CFIA Fish List Process

5.1 CFIA Fish List Application

Anyone seeking an amendment (deletion or addition) to the CFIA Fish List may submit a request through the Ask CFIA website, which must include:

  • the valid scientific name (genus and species) and the scientific family name;
  • the proposed English and French common names;
  • the scientific references to support the proposal; and
  • the rationale to support the proposal.

The CFIA may not be able to consider a request which is not complete. Incomplete requests may be returned to the applicant.

5.2 CFIA Fish List Request Review

5.2.1 Assessment Principles

Requests for changes to the CFIA Fish List will be assessed in accordance with the following:

  • The required common name of the fish is
  • A common name should generally conform to the other members of the taxonomic family or generic-level grouping.
  • A name must be supported by recognized Canadian and international scientific references. The primary references used for this are provided in Annex A.
  • A new name will not be considered, where an adequate number of common names have already been assigned for a given species.
  • A name cannot be similar to or resemble the name of a fish having a higher market value or of a fish having a quality characteristic that is distinguishable to the fish being reviewed.
  • A name historically in regular use in Canada or widely accepted names or combinations may be given priority over less used or less well-known names.

5.2.2 Other Factors

  • Group names assigned to cover multiple species in a particular scientific family or group of fish may be considered.
  • Literal translations of either the English or French common name of a species will not automatically be accepted.
  • Canadian trade interest and harmonization with the names used by major Canadian trade partners may be considered.
  • Where a common name is difficult to identify, (i) a modified form of the scientific family/genius/species name may be considered or (ii) Foreign common names may be used.
  • Common names will not be assigned to subspecies and hybrids.

5.2.3 Scientific Names

Periodically, as a result of advances in scientific knowledge and of changes with respect to scientific opinion within the fish biology community, the scientific name of a species may change and a species identified with a new scientific name. The Fish List will be updated accordingly as these changes are known. In general, the common name would be unaffected by the update of the scientific name on the Fish List.

5.3 Decisions and Communications

Applications will be reviewed based on the above principles and decisions will be communicated to the applicant.

The CFIA Fish List will be updated accordingly.

Appendix A
Fish Names References

Primary Assessment References:


Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)
[Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility (CBIF)]

Le grand dictionnaire terminologique - (French only)
[L'Office québécois de la langue française]
Pêches - Terminologie - Noms des espèces halieutiques à potentiel commercial au Québec [Document No. 8070-005 (no longer in print)]
[Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ)]
[Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ)]


Termium Plus
[Government of Canada's Terminology & linguistic data bank]

Secondary Assessment References:

Catalogue of Life

Elsevier's Dictionary of Fishery, Processing, Fish and Shellfish Names of the World (1990).

Encyclopedia of Life

Fish Labelling (England) Regulations 2010, Schedule - Fish Designations

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
Search Aquatic Species Fact Sheets

Liste des dénominations commerciales - (French only)
[Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) (France)]

Multilingual Dictionary of Fish and Fish Products
[Organisation For Economic Co-Operation And Development (OECD)]

Seafood List
[United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)]

Standard Fish Names in Australia (commercial species)
[Codes for Australian Aquatic Biota (CAAB)]

World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS)

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