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Fisheries Act Amendment PART I


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Hi All, forwarding this on behalf of Carl Hunt:




Fisheries Act Amendment – Dec 2006

Review of Promotional Material


C. Hunt




DFO should recognize the value of national standards for fisheries management so short sited provincial priorities don’t erode national standards or jeopardize important fisheries resources that are important to all Canadians. I.e. Wild trout & salmon vs. provincial politics and industry promoted aquaculture programs or the frantic search for remaining conventional petroleum reserves.


Purpose Clause


This sounds like a simple and straightforward goal statement but the application and need for national standards is glossed over.


“Sustainable Development” is a catchy title that implies sustainable fisheries but really means unrestricted development of everything else. Thirty years ago ‘Multiple Use’ (or abuse) was the term used to allow power dams and open sewers and earlier this type of political/industrial public relations terminology was better described as “The tragedy of the Commons”.




Application Principles


“Seek to apply a precautionary approach” should read,


ENSURE a cautionary approach to maintain fish populations at the carrying capacity of the habitat and maintain habitat that ensures healthy and productive fisheries.


“Take into account scientific information etc.” should also include review and balance ‘scientific’ information about the social and economic factors that are an essential part of fisheries management.





Provincial Agreements


Federal/provincial cooperation and agreements are essential for the proper management of fisheries but I don’t see the need to enshrine these in the Fisheries Act unless politicians are trying to formalize the loss of federal priorities and leadership.


“reduce overlap & harmonize programs”


This usually leads to adoption of the lowest standards just to reach ‘agreement’


“Where a provincial agreement is ‘deemed’ equivalent to federal regulations in operating effect etc.”


This leaves way too much room for political interpretation and manipulation. Who ‘deems’ equivalency and what happens if provincial regulations for habitat protection are not adequately enforced? The Fed Fish Act has always provided a baseline standard for the protection of a fishery.


Why not apply a strong federal standard instead of fragmenting the Fed Fish Act?


“delegation of ministerial powers to provinces”


This already occurs with harvest regulations but habitat protection and environmental standards should be a federal responsibility because many water bodies and river drainages cross provincial and federal boundaries.


Programs and Projects


“Outdated statutes will be repealed”


No examples are even provided or justification for defining statutes as outdated.


Amendments “could be used to support business management” and “improving the economic viability in the fishery or aquaculture sector”.


Does this mean that our tax dollars will go towards propping up failed fisheries or to subsidize the aquaculture industry to install isolation cages to protect wild stocks from parasites and disease?


Advisory Panels


Advisory panels are an excellent form of democracy but the Act should enshrine the right of the public to hear the unedited recommendations the panels provide to government. Any studies done on behalf of the Advisory panel or cost shared with industry should be published and available to the public for review and discussion.


Why are Advisory panels limited to commercial fisheries? This concept would be most valuable for the protection and management of recreational fisheries. Perhaps it could also be used when recreational, commercial and aboriginal allocation of a finite resource becomes an issue of sustainability.




Information Management


No examples are provided of the current inability of the Minister to collect the data required for fish management. Do the new amendments allow the Minister to demand provincial records of industrial applications so DFO might track habitat alterations like culverts and other potentially damaging alterations to the stream bed or riparian areas?


If not, what federal information is not already easily shared or collected with the other federal ministries?


Considerations (Licensing & Allocation)


Guiding principles must recognize that healthy fish populations are not stable. Stability of allocation could only be achieved by inefficiently limiting quotas to protect the lows in population fluctuations. Since fish quotas have not been managed or studied in sufficient detail to predict most population fluctuations, it seems unlikely that stable allocations can be predicted. The economic models for allocation must depend on the natural fish population cycles and must recognize that harvest quotas should also fluctuate. The allocation goal should not be stability but to protect abundant spawners for natural reproduction.


The importance of maintaining public access to the fishery should include more detail and be expanded to apply priorities for access by aboriginals, commercial and recreational fishermen. The Supreme Court of Canada does not seem to recognize that our fishery resources can only be allocated within the carrying capacity of the habitat and like cod all fish populations are not an open ended source of mans needs or wants. The reality of biological limits to production should be a guiding principle enshrined in the Act.


Even maintaining public access to recreational fisheries should be considered. What does it really mean or imply? B.C. is raising some salmon license fees to levels that are getting beyond the economic limits of many Canadians. Alberta is running a lottery to distribute a meagre surplus of walleye to a handful of ‘lucky’ anglers. Do these gimmicks provide public access to a fishery or just add a completely different value (like gambling) to the sport.


Licensing Provisions


This section seems to apply only to commercial fisheries but a discussion of problems in the recreational fishery needs to be addressed including the rights of Canadian anglers from other provinces.





Fisheries Management Orders


Prohibitions should include the phasing out of non-selective commercial gear that causes mortality of non-target sport fish i.e. phase out gill nets and use various live traps so undersize and trophy sport fish can be released or ban large ocean trawlers that destroy bottom fauna, fragile corrals and waste large quantities of unwanted species.


Fisheries Management Agreements


Guiding principles must recognize that fish population cycles and loss of habitat will limit the available harvest and when production fails the allocation agreements must be in place in advance to control the harvest.


Effective and independent monitoring should be used to determine the harvestable surplus and the agreement should be in place to determine the timing, methods and allocation of the harvest of declining stocks.


Protection of Fish and Habitat


“Clarification that both an ‘alteration’ or ‘disruption’ must be harmful” seems to increase the difficulty of laying a charge and decreases the likelihood of successful prosecution. What’s the purpose of this amendment?


The Fisheries Act is often touted as a powerful piece of legislation. Sec 36 makes it illegal to put a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish. This works okay for point source pollutants and an abundant supply of dead fish makes a prosecution relatively simple. Various permits legalize the noxious effluents from cities, pulp mills and petroleum refineries and make it very difficult to prosecute under the Act.


The Fisheries Act is not successful in dealing with critical habitat damage that results from cumulated impacts such as silt from numerous small sources or stream warming from riparian canopy removal or bedload movement caused by flooding etc. Most of the long term damage is difficult to attribute to one action or a particular duration. Most of these impacts are properly licensed by large industries and allocation of ‘harm’ is impossible to prove.


On the other hand harvest regulations, usually involving individuals, are easily enforced. Keep one fish too many or too small or fish in closed waters or even with a barbless hook and you will be quickly processed by the legal system with no requirement to show the ‘harm’ or ‘alteration’ or ‘disruption’ to the fishery. Quite simply these actions are deemed harmful, so why must we prove the impact of each small habitat loss?


It is critical that small actions leading to habitat damage must be ‘deemed’ harmful and prosecuted when they occur and not just when dead fish are evident.


A recent edition of The Alberta Game Warden (summer 2006) reported the 2004 Fisheries Enforcement Stats that included 826 charges laid and a conviction rate of 92%. Despite all the construction activity in logging and the petroleum industry, not one charge was laid for depositing a deleterious substance or habitat destruction under the Fisheries Act. Maybe DFO handled the charges but have not responded to my request for this information made several weeks earlier.


Aquatic Invasive Species


We usually think of zebra mussels etc in bilge water or the pet trade and grass carp as being the main threat of AIS but nowhere do I see a reference to parasites and disease which are common and often accepted in the aquaculture industry. Unlike livestock, fish are not easily tested and even the water used during transport may carry diseases. The disease certification system is easily circumvented during transportation. Worse is the fact that overflow waters from holding facilities may distribute parasites and diseases quickly to the rest of the watershed.



Administration and Enforcement


Alternatives to costly court proceedings sound like a good idea. Usually this includes assessed penalties with the company agreeing to clean up the mess and the public being largely unaware of the process and often the agreement includes company anonymity. Habitat destruction and pollution are the unmeasured and unpaid costs of corporate Canada and large multi nationals. Court cases are open to the public and Canadians have the added opportunity to show their displeasure in the marketplace.


Too often fisheries habitat violations are just the cost of doing business and no one is really responsible. If company CEO’s were deemed personally responsible the application of the Fisheries Act could be greatly improved.



Carl Hunt

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