Canada’s Fisheries Act, last amended by the Conservative government in 2012, now clearly needs review. Sustaining Canada’s Major Fish Stocks , a highly critical audit of the management and conservation activities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was released by the Commissioner on Environment and Sustainable Development on October 4. The response by New Brunswick EcoAction states, “Several of the gaps and failings identified in the report can be addressed by a commitment to modernizing the Fisheries Act …. In other developed fishing nations, the fisheries legislation includes provisions for stock rebuilding and targets and timelines to guide this work. Canada’s Fisheries Act has none of this, not even references to the precautionary or ecosystem approaches to fisheries management – which have been enshrined in international law for over 20 years.” The CBC summary of the report was blunt: Another cod-like collapse possible . Keith Sullivan, President of Fish Food and Allied Workers union (Unifor) appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans at the end of September, explaining the union’s position about the competitive need for quality more than quantity, in order for the cod fishing industry to rebound. At present, 32 union harvesters are part of a research project to determine the best new techniques required to achieve this.
The Standing Committee has also been holding hearings into the Wild Atlantic Salmon . Advocacy group EcoJustice has launched a court case challenging the approval of genetically modified salmon in Prince Edward Island under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act , and a separate case against the Minister of Fisheries regarding B.C.’s salmon . West Coast Environment Law has recently written about the threat to salmon habitat from the approval of the Pacific North West LNG project in B.C. , with a full brief, Scaling up the Fisheries Act , which argues for changes to the legislation to identify and protect essential fish habitat .
On October 18, the federal government announced a public consultation as part of the government’s review of the Fisheries Act, part of the larger Review of Environmental and Regulatory Processes . The Let’s Talk Fish Habitat website provides information and an opportunity to submit ideas.