Fish

Tougher fish protections coming from federal government

Amendments range from protecting fish habitats to considering traditional Indigenous knowledge

The legislation amendments will protect habitats and increase fish stock.   Will Gordon

The federal government is proposing a $284.2-million revamp of the Fisheries Act to protect fish and their habitats for future generations.

At a news conference on Tuesday in Vancouver, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc introduced these proposed changes.

“If we are to protect our waters for generations to come, the best place to start is to protect fish habitat,” LeBlanc said from the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building.

Currently, the Fisheries Act deals with the protection and conservation of freshwater and marine fish habitats. The proposed amendments would increase environmental safeguards and enforce responsible development around fish habitats.

Some of the mentioned environmental safeguards would involve:

  • Protecting fish and their habitats
  • Short-term powers to provide solutions to time-sensitive scenarios
  • A ban on keeping whales, dolphins and porpoises captive
  • An online registry for project transparency
  • Consideration of social, economic and cultural factors into decisions.

The amendments would also restore protections removed in 2012 during the Stephen Harper-era government.

Leo Muise, executive director of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, found the proposal to be positive.

“The investment they’re making in front line fishing officers and front line habitat officers in science is very welcomed,” Muise said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Muise did express concern about a lack of mention in the Act about the buyers and processors. His organization represents 70 small and medium sized land based seafood companies in Nova Scotia.

“There’s no mention anywhere in that Act, that I can find, where (it) will take into consideration the needs and the requirements of that buying and selling shoreside industry,” Muise said.

The legislation largely focuses on environmental safeguards, but includes amendments focused on communities too. A range of the amendments focused on integrating Indigenous communities and their concerns into the Fisheries decision-making process.

“Involvement by Indigenous communities shouldn’t wait until a resource project has already been years in the making,” LeBlanc said.

The Indigenous focused amendments included:

  • Using traditional Indigenous knowledge in decision making, if provided
  • Protection of traditional knowledge unless group wishes it disclosed
  • Consideration of consequences on Indigenous peoples
  • Indigenous representation to help advise and carry out Act.

The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act were introduced as Bill C-68 to the House of Commons on Tuesday.