In 1973, responsibility for federal fishing harbours in Canada was assigned to the Small Craft Harbours Branch. SCH was provided an established budget to manage, construct and operate a system of harbours in support of the commercial fishery.
In succeeding years, as a result of program review and rationalization of government programs, the on-site management and operations of the harbours was gradually transferred to local community groups known as Harbour Authorities.
Under the present Harbour Authority model, which has been in place for more than 10 years, each local Harbour Authority board of directors decides what services are to be provided and at what cost. As there has not been an established set of core services which must be provided, this has resulted in a system of harbours with varying services and corresponding service fees. A number of factors are considered to be part of any future SCH program delivery model. These include a stronger role for local harbour authorities; the need for paid on-site management to ensure safety, environmental and operational requirements are met; user fees at all sites; increased fees in some cases, to meet higher operational costs; and a greater training role for SCH.