Proposed changes to Fisheries Act meet the mark
On February 6, 2018, after a two-year consultation process, the Hon. Dominic Leblanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard, introduced highly-anticipated legislation to make changes to the Fisheries Act.
Canadian environmental and conservation organizations agree the Bill goes a long way to restoring lost protections for fish and fish habitat and introducing new, modern safeguards to address 21st century realities such as increasing pollution and declining biodiversity.
Welcome updates to the Act include:
- a return to strong habitat protections for all fish
- a focus on restoration, sustainability considerations
- a public registry to track cumulative effects
- provisions for rebuilding depleted fish stocks
- recognition of indigenous rights and knowledge.
Minister LeBlanc also announced new funding when tabling the Act that is key for enforcement, planning and science-based decision-making.
Many of the recommendations made by NGOs and tens of thousands of Canadians are reflected in the proposed amendments.
What’s Next for the Fisheries Act?
Bill C-68 - An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence will be sent to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for study after a second reading in the House of Commons. This is a chance for interested parties to appear as witnesses to brief the Committee on strengths and recommend changes to the Act.
After hearing from witnesses, the committee will review the Bill line by line, and vote on proposed amendments. It takes a majority vote to pass an amendment. The Senate then undertakes a similar process (review by committee) before the Bill receives royal assent, at which point it becomes law.
Alongside this Parliamentary process, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is planning to engage stakeholders on regulations and policies needed to fulfill the commitments in the Act when it becomes law.
Amendments to the Fisheries Act are part of a broader review of federal environmental laws including Canada’s Environmental Assessment law, Navigation Protection Act and the National Energy Board Act.
Questions & Answers about the 2018 Proposed Amendments to the Federal Fisheries Act
As part of a broader suite of environmental law reforms, the Fisheries Act has been under review since 2016. The reviews relate to a series of changes by the previous government in 2012 that weakened those environmental laws. The mandate letter issued to the Fisheries Minister by the Prime Minister in 2016 called on him to “restore lost protections and introduce modern safeguards” to the Fisheries Act.
Amendments to the Fisheries Act have been proposed in a Bill C-68, introduced into the House of Commons on February 6th, 2018. This Q&A is intended to answer questions about the amendments, and examine how the Bill restores lost protections and introduces modern safeguards.
West Coast reacts: Amended Fisheries Act meets the mark
“We are very glad to see the return of HADD, the prohibition on altering, damaging or destroying fish habitat, and congratulate the government on repairing this hole in the torn legal safety net for Canadian fish. Whether it’s salmon, cod, lobster or crab, all fish need healthy waters free from excessive human influence. The amendments announced today show that the government is reaffirming the importance of not only protecting fish, but the habitat they rely on.”
- Staff Lawyer Linda Nowlan
Fisheries Act amendments deliver for fish and habitat
"Canada needed a modernized Fisheries Act that restored the habitat-protection provisions lost in 2012. These amendments do that and more. Especially important is the inclusion of an ecosystem-based approach to the protection of fish habitat, which will bring Canada in line with international best practices, safeguarding freshwater and marine wildlife."
- Megan Leslie, President and CEO, WWF Canada
Good news for the Bay of Fundy: our statement on new Fisheries Act
"It’s a good day for all of the communities and the men and women whose livelihood is made day in and day out along the Bay of Fundy. Minister LeBlanc’s new law is smart — it looks at how to protect the Bay as a complete ecosystem, from the small plankton that the right whales depend on all the way up the Bay’s food chain."
- Matt Abbott, CCNB's Fundy Baykeeper
CWF sees a brighter future for Canada’s freshwater and marine wildlife thanks to proposed changes to Fisheries Act
"The proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act are a great step forward. The amendments create powerful new tools for habitat conservation including a focus on restoration of past harms and creation of a habitat banking system. In addition, greater importance will be placed on fish passage in Canada’s rivers, there are strong powers to protect ecologically significant areas as well as the ability to modify commercial fisheries to address impacts to marine mammals or marine biodiversity."
- David Browne, Director of Conservation Science
Feds table promising Fisheries Act bill, Ecojustice reacts
"We praise the government’s decision to fund up to $284.2 million to support restoring lost protections to fish, which includes our recommendation to invest in the enforcement and monitoring of violations. We look forward to the next report to Parliament on Fisheries Act enforcement to see the results of the new resources."
- Joshua Ginsberg, Director of Legislative Affairs
New Fisheries Act Restores Lost Protections and Adds Modern Safeguards
"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. 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."
- Susanna Fuller, Senior Marine Coordinator
Oceana Canada welcomes significant changes to Fisheries Act
"This is a potentially historic turning point for Canada’s oceans – where we move from depleting our fisheries to restoring them. Canadian fish populations declined by 52 per cent from 1970-2006. To realize the Act’s potential, it must clarify the goal of restoring populations to abundance and be backed by new regulations that ensure robust rebuilding plans are developed."
- Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada
Fisheries Act changes bring protection back to fish and their habitat
"The effectiveness of these amendments will depend on how well they are enforced. Additional funding announced by Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc today will help, but actual enforcement is needed. We’re also concerned that the ability to enforce fisheries closures isn’t strong enough and that the act hasn’t adequately addressed mounting concerns over the impacts of climate change and finfish aquaculture."
- Jeffery Young, Senior Science and Policy Analyst
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Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel.