Speaking Notes for the Honourable Keith Ashfieldat the Protection and Conservation Announcement
Good morning and thank you for joining us.
I would like to thank Pierre Poilievre, MP for Nepean-Carleton, for being with us today. Pierre has been a great advocate for the people of Nepean-Carleton on a variety of issues, including raising concerns on behalf of his constituents about the appropriateness of the current laws on fish habitat.
I particularly want to thank representatives of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and Ducks Unlimited.
They have also raised concerns about the effectiveness of our current policies, so we all agree that these changes are a good thing.
Our government is pleased to work with these organizations on a variety of files. Our strong relationships will serve us both as we continue to work together on developing the changes being introducing today.
Canada is blessed to have a vast network of waterways that support important fisheries across the country. Our government recognizes that fisheries are a great contributor to Canada’s economy and the Canadian way of life.
For example, approximately 3.3 million Canadians take part in recreational fisheries across our country. It is an industry that was worth 8.3 billion dollars in 2010.
And approximately 80,000 Canadians are employed in the commercial fishing, aquaculture and processing sectors across Canada.
Recognizing the importance of Canada’s fisheries across the country, our government is introducing changes that will focus our fish and fish habitat protection rules on Canada’s fisheries.
These changes solidify our government’s commitment to protecting recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries and the habitat that supports them.
We want to adopt a sensible and practical approach to managing real and significant threats to fisheries and the habitat that supports them while minimizing the restrictions on routine, everyday activities that have little to no impact on the productivity of Canada’s fisheries.
We have heard from Canadians across the country that the current rules protecting fish and fish habitat go beyond their intended conservation goals.
The laws are indiscriminate and mean that all bodies of water where fish live - or could live – are subject to the same rules and evaluation, regardless of size, environment or contribution to a fishery.
That does not make sense to us, and frankly we don’t think it makes sense to the majority of Canadians.
In fact, we’ve heard Canadians tell us about farmers being prevented from cleaning out their irrigation channels, municipalities being delayed in repairing bridge supports and routine maintenance of drainage ditches, businesses not being allowed to clear flooded fields and campsites, and cottage owners prohibited from keeping up their properties – all because of the existing rules.
Conservation groups have also indicated that we are using our resources ineffectively and that there are better ways to protect important wetlands, rivers, lakes and oceans. We believe that by improving our partnerships with conservation groups, we can strengthen our collective ability to protect these important, natural areas.
Government resources are not limitless and I think we can all agree that it does not make sense to evaluate a minor project, like a farmer cleaning out an irrigation channel, in the same way we would treat a major project like a hydro dam affecting one of Canada’s important fisheries.
The new changes will protect the productivity of Canada’s fisheries while providing much-needed clarity to Canadians by:
- Focusing the government’s protection efforts on recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries.
- Drawing a distinction between vital waterways that support Canada’s fisheries and unproductive bodies of water, like man-made reservoirs, drainage ditches and irrigation channels.
- Identifying and managing real threats to the fisheries, including direct impacts to fish, habitat destruction, and aquatic invasive species.
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. Through these changes, we will be able to establish new, clear and accessible guidelines for projects in or near water.
It makes good, common sense that the government should be able to minimize or eliminate restrictions on commonplace activities that pose little to no threat, at the same time, maintain appropriate, reasonable and responsible protection for Canada’s fisheries.
Currently, all areas are treated indiscriminately under the law – be it a wetland or a floodplain. Under the new system, we will have the tools to identify ecologically sensitive areas that require enhanced protection. The existing rules to protect waterways from pollution will continue to do so, as they have in the past.
The changes I am introducing today strengthen our capacity to crack down on those who break the rules. We will now be able to enforce conditions associated with Fisheries Act authorizations. At present, Fisheries and Oceans Canada can impose conditions, but does not have the ability to enforce them.
Moreover, infractions under the Fisheries Act will now be aligned with what is set out in the Environmental Enforcement Act which provides higher maximum penalties.
Fisheries protection rules will focus on a broad range of threats to recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries.
Of particular note to our friends in the angling community, the proposed changes recognize the importance of the recreational fishery. The new rules would provide protection to recreational fisheries from threats to their ongoing productivity.
You will also be happy to know that regulations will be developed prohibiting the import, transport and possession of live aquatic invasive species, such as Asian carp, which are threatening the Great Lakes.
For landowners and municipalities, the new system will provide much-needed clarity about whether and how fisheries protection provisions apply to you.
We want to move DFO out of the business of reviewing every activity on every body of water, regardless of the impact - to focusing on activities that pose a significant threat to the sustainability and productivity of recreational, commercial or Aboriginal fisheries.
For routine and low-impact projects, we will set clear standards and regulations to guide you in your projects without harming fish and fish habitat.
Under the new rules, the government will be able to enter into productive partnerships with conservation groups, to enable these groups to use their expertise to protect, monitor and conserve specific areas.
This could include innovative approaches to protecting habitat or efforts to fight aquatic invasive species.
Our government’s strong partnership with groups like these and others will be crucial in the coming weeks and months as we work together to develop regulations and policies that will support these changes.
In the process of developing this supportive regulatory and policy framework, we will consult with conservationists who have the necessary expertise – like the ones that are here with me today, and other interested Canadians.
We will work with the provinces and territories that manage certain fisheries, with anglers and conservation groups, landowners, municipalities, commercial fishermen and Aboriginals as we go forward with the development of these new rules.
As we prepare to implement changes, we will continue to listen and to build partnerships with stakeholders devoted to preserving and protecting fisheries with the hope that they can play an even larger role in the future.
We want our rules to support their efforts and the important work they do every day and we will work with them to develop innovative conservation measures. Many are already investing time and money to make this happen and should be commended for their efforts.
My objective is to create an enabling environment where we can work together towards our common objectives.
Our recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries are important to Canadians – from a family on the end of the dock casting for a trout for the dinner table to a crew setting to sea in search of lobsters to a First Nation gathering salmon for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
We want to put in place rules that are clear and practical and that focus on the priorities of Canadians. And, in doing so, we want to conserve and protect Canada’s fisheries so that they can contribute to the Canadian way of life for generations to come.
- Date modified: