Habitat protection, supply management key concerns in review of Canada’s Fisheries Act

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.

Fisheries in the News: Collaboration is Moving Newfoundland’s Cod Fishery to Sustainability

The Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) on the southern Newfoundland shore announced on March 13th that it has entered full assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

After the collapse of the cod fishery in the 1990’s, this is an historic milestone, and according to World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF) President David Miller: “It demonstrates that good management and collaboration can lead to the recovery of cod populations – and that struggling fisheries can once again thrive, not only in Atlantic Canada but across the world”. The recovery of the fishery is indeed the result of extensive collaboration and co-operation- led by Icewater Seafoods Inc. and Ocean Choice International, partnering with WWF (formerly World Wildlife Federation) to manage the FIP, with additional financial support from the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Resources Legacy Fund, and High Liner. The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are also cited as key supporters.

Read the press release at WWF at: http://www.wwf.ca/newsroom/?14901/Newfoundland-cod-fishery-announces-milestone-sustainability-assessment. Read about the FFAW Stewardship Program at: http://www.ffaw.nf.ca/?Content=Science_Research/Fisheries_Stewardship_Program, and an overview of the WWF Conservation Program in Atlantic Canada at: http://www.wwf.ca/conservation/oceans/atlantic_canada/.

Commercial Fisheries Still on Hold in the Arctic

Although there is currently no commercial fishing in the Arctic, the rapidly warming waters may allow for one to develop. In 2012, scientists from 67 countries called for a moratorium on such fishing pending more research, to avoid damage to fish stocks. In February 2014, the five Arctic coastal countries – Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway – agreed to avoid commercial fishing themselves and to work to include other countries in the agreement. In March, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for protection of the High Arctic, prohibiting fishing, and prohibiting pollution from ships and oil rigs. See “Canada agrees to work to prevent fishing in High Arctic” on the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/canada-agrees-to-work-to-prevent-fishing-in-high-arctic-1.2554332. As part of its extensive work on ocean conservation, The Pew Charitable Trust provides many studies on the Arctic at: http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_detail.aspx?id=606; documents on Ocean Conservation and overfishing are at: http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_category.aspx?id=134.