Fisheries Act amendments show promise, but true test will be in implementation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 6, 2018
[KJIPUKTUK (halifax)] – Today, the Government of Canada tabled a new Fisheries Act, with the goal of upgrading the Act to restoring protections that were lost as part of the 2012 Omnibus budget Bill as well as add modern safeguards. The Fisheries Act hasn’t seen tangible improvement since it was created in 1868 and has not included a purpose section since amendments were made in 1996.
A clear purpose now guides the Act and provides the basis for conservation of fisheries and fish habitat as well as protecting from pollution. The Act also recognizes Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution – protecting Indigenous Rights – as integral to implementing the Act. Both mark important progress in a modernized Fisheries Act.
“We are pleased to see that the government has restored the habitat protection provisions that were removed in 2012, which are crucial to protecting and restoring aquatic biodiversity” says Susanna Fuller, senior marine coordinator at the Halifax based Ecology Action Centre. “We are also pleased that modern principles of fisheries management, such as precautionary decision-making, an ecosystem-based approach, as well as science advice and local knowledge, are to be considered and that there are provisions for the Minister to make regulations explicitly for the protection of aquatic diversity.”
In the development of the amendments announced today, a key ask of the conservation community has been to ensure that the Fisheries Act enabled and called for the rebuilding of depleted fish populations, with timelines and targets for their recovery. Atlantic Canada alone has 17 marine fish species considered Endangered or Threatened by Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Permanent protections can also be provided to fisheries closures with the purpose of biodiversity protection.
“It is a big step that the new Act includes that the minister must take into account whether or not rebuilding measures are in place for depleted species, however, details on rebuilding will be in regulations,” notes Fuller. “We will continue to advocate that the regulations require timelines and targets as well as an ecosystem approach to rebuilding, taking into account impacts of climate change and species interactions.”
Fisheries remain an important public resource to Canadians; for commercial purposes, angling activities, Indigenous use, culturally and socially, and of course as part of intact aquatic ecosystems in both freshwater and marine environments. The new Fisheries Act now includes protections for all fish, not only those considered important for human use.
“Independent fishing fleets across Canada have advocated for socio-economics to be considered in the new Act,” says Fuller. “Decisions on how fisheries resources are allocated and how the resource is managed for the public good, into the future, will be an import test of the mettle of current and future Fisheries Ministers to protect coastal communities and the livelihoods that support them.”
The Act also provides for establishment of advisory panels which could be instrumental to proper and diligent implementation of the Act and its regulations over the long term, to ensure that the stated purpose is met.
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View the amended Fisheries Act here: http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-68/first-reading
View a comparison of the proposed changes here: https://www.canada.ca/en/fisheries-oceans/news/2018/02/comparing_propose...
Learn more about the Ecology Action Centre's work on the Fisheries Act at http://ecologyaction.ca/fisheriesact