Responsible Protection and Conservation of Canada’s Fisheries
On April 24, 2012, the Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced new changes to the laws protecting fish and fish habitat. The existing rules treat all bodies of water in the same way, regardless of size, environment or contribution to the fishery. The new changes will protect the productivity of Canada’s fisheries and provide much-needed clarity to Canadians.
These new changes will focus the rules by:
- Focusing protection efforts on recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries.
- Drawing a distinction between vital waterways that support Canada’s fisheries and water bodies such as ditches and agricultural channels.
- Identifying and managing real threats to the fisheries, including direct impacts to fish, habitat destruction, and aquatic invasive species.
The Minister will also have tools to:
- Establish new, clear and accessible guidelines for Canadians to follow for projects in or near water. Regulatory standards for routine, low-risk projects such as building a boat launch or a dock at the cottage do not exist at this time.
- Identify ecologically sensitive areas that require enhanced protection. Currently, all areas are treated indiscriminately under the law.
The changes will also:
- Allow the government to enforce the conditions associated with Fisheries Act authorizations. At present, Fisheries and Oceans Canada cannot enforce the conditions on authorizations.
- Align infractions under the Fisheries Act with the Environmental Enforcement Act, which provides higher maximum penalties.
Existing rules will continue to protect waterways from pollution, as they have in the past, and a legislative proposal would provide additional clarity on the application of the law.
For anglers, the proposed changes will recognize the importance of the recreational fishery and would provide protection to these fisheries to support their ongoing productivity.
For conservation groups, the proposed changes would enable the identification and protection of ecologically significant areas. Under the new rules, the Minister will also be able to enter into agreements with these and other groups, to enable them to undertake measures to enhance fisheries protection. This could include innovative approaches to protect habitat, support for aquatic invasive species outreach, and developing standards for fish protection or other matters.
These proposed changes will also include enhanced compliance and enforcement tools such as enforceable conditions, duty for proponents to notify in the event of serious harm to fisheries, and penalties aligned with the Environmental Enforcement Act.
For landowners and municipalities, the proposed new measures would provide regulatory certainty as to whether and how the fisheries protection provisions apply to them. It moves Fisheries and Oceans Canada away from reviewing every activity that landowners may undertake to focusing on activities that may have a significant impact on the sustainability and productivity of recreational, commercial, or Aboriginal fisheries.
For industry, the proposal provides greater clarity on the types of activities that will be reviewed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. These changes complement those announced as part of the Responsible Resource Development announcement, which included regulations clarifying information requirements and timelines for permitting.
For provinces and territories, the new measures would enable further opportunities for partnerships and working together, including equivalency, delegation and broad agreement-making authorities to ensure the two levels of government can work together effectively.
Over the coming weeks and months, the Minister and Fisheries and Oceans will be consulting with provinces, Aboriginal groups and stakeholders, such as conservation groups, anglers, landowners and municipalities, to develop the regulatory and policy framework to support the new and focused direction that is set out by these proposed changes.
For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions on Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s website.
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