FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 27, 2017
[KJIPUKTUK (Halifax)] – The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO) released its report on the Fisheries Act on Friday, February 24th. Tasked with hearing from experts and stakeholders and receiving submissions from Canadians, members of parliament from all three parties released recommendations to restore protections that were lost during changes made to the Act in 2012, and to explore additional, modern safeguards.
The 2012 changes lead to widespread critique and opposition from environmental organizations, First Nations and former Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans. The changes were made through the 2012 Omnibus Budget Bill and included the removal of language requiring the protection of fish habitat, which significantly weakened the Act and its ability to thoroughly protect and preserve Canadian fisheries and marine ecosystem. The Ecology Action Centre participated in the hearings and submitted 9 recommendations to reverse these changes and add further improvements.
“A significant number of our recommendations, and those put forward by others, were recommended for inclusion in a revised Fisheries Act”, says Susanna Fuller, Senior Marine Coordinator at the Halifax based environmental charity. “We are particularly pleased that the committee recommended a restoration of the previous habitat protection language, and that habitat provisions be extended to activities including fishing.”
The report also made recommendations on increasing transparency of decisions, creating an accessible database for areas where permission has been given to alter habitat, and increasing ecosystem based research and funding for enforcement.
“After several years asking DFO to do more to protect commercial fish species that are in decline, we are also happy to see the recommendation that revisions to that Act include direction for restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks,” says Fuller. “In other countries, there is legal accountability and reporting – we see this recommendation as key for both rebuilding but also better understanding why stocks don’t recover.”
The report is expected to influence the drafting of a revised Fisheries Act, which may be tabled in early fall. Fifty witnesses presented to the Standing Committee between October and December 2016 and 189 written briefs were submitted to the all-party committee.
“While we fully support most of the 32 recommendations, there are areas that need more attention – including consideration of the rights of Canada’s indigenous peoples and access to fish by coastal communities. The true test will be the draft legislation and seeing how DFO reacts to programmatic and practice recommendations in the short term,” says Fuller.
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