Speaking Notes for the Honourable Keith Ashfield at the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress
Good morning and thank you for inviting me to be part of the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress.
Canada is blessed to be home to an abundant array of natural resources. We are honoured to have the responsibility to be stewards of those resources – to protect them, enjoy them and benefit from them.
Conservation is a subject that holds tremendous importance for our government. I am proud to share the stage today with the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment.
Hearing from Canadians is something that I take very seriously. Over the past year as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans I have met with literally hundreds of individuals and organizations from coast-to-coast-to-coast to hear what we are doing well, and where we need to make improvements.
I want to ensure you that our government is listening and will continue to engage with organizations like those represented in the room here today to help ensure that our systems are focused on the priorities of Canadians.
There are conservation organizations right across this great country that are devoted to rebuilding, preserving and protecting fisheries, and we applaud those efforts. Our government will continue to work with you because we recognize that you have importance expertise and local knowledge to share.
The importance of this collaboration was reinforced by the Prime Minister yesterday when he announced the creation of a new national Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel. The Panel will help ensure that future conservation practices are based on input from Canadians who have a long tradition of conservation.
In looking at our fisheries, we have an equally long tradition. Canada’s fisheries are a tremendous economic contributor. Recreational fishing alone contributes some $8.4 billion to local economies across the country.
Fish and seafood represent one of the largest single food commodities exported by Canada, and approximately 80,000 Canadians are employed in commercial fishing, aquaculture and processing activities.
Our Government also understands the importance of fishing to the Aboriginal people of Canada. We are committed to protecting the right of Aboriginal peoples to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
As you know we have three main strategic objectives: – economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries, sustainable aquatic ecosystems, and safe and secure waters.
We will continue to improve how we do business and how we ensure the conservation, protection, and sustainability of Canada’s fisheries.
In the most recent Budget, we have proposed some important changes to the Fisheries Act that will help ensure Canada’s fisheries can be sustained for future generations while creating greater clarity for individuals who work around the water.
They represent 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.
Under the current rules, 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.
Fish and wildlife and conservation groups, like you, have been partners – and I have heard from you 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, especially with fish and wildlife conservation groups, we can strengthen our collective ability to protect these important, natural areas.
For anglers, the proposed changes will mark an important improvement in that, for the first time we will recognize the importance of the recreational fishery in the law and we will provide protection to these fisheries and to the fish that support them.
For conservation groups, new legislation will enable the identification and protection of ecologically significant areas. We will be able to enter into agreements with conservation organizations, among others, to enable them to more effectively enhance fisheries protection.
We will no longer require lengthy approval processes for habitat enhancement projects where we are in such partnerships. The proposed changes will also provide for enhanced compliance and enforcement tools, including penalties aligned with the Environmental Enforcement Act, as well as providing better tools for managing aquatic invasive species.
For provinces and territories, the new measures would enable further opportunities for partnerships to ensure the two levels of government can work together effectively.
All of the new partnerships should allow us to make a real difference to fisheries of importance to Canada and Canadians. We know that healthy fish stocks and aquatic ecosystems are the key to stable and prosperous fisheries.
Before I conclude my remarks, I want to take this opportunity to let you know about an important announcement made on Monday. As most of you know, there are concerns that Asian carp could make their way into the Great Lakes if we are not vigilant.
If they were to breach the barriers, the negative impacts on some of Canada’s most valuable ecosystems would be significant. That is why I was pleased to announce, on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that our Government will invest $17.5 million over five years to do what is necessary to keep these fish out of our ecosystems.
With this money we will concentrate on four key activities: prevention, early warning, rapid response, and management and control. Together these measures will go a long way toward our ultimate goal of stopping Asian carp from entering and becoming established in all five of the Great Lakes.
We continue to work closely with our American counterparts to address the threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes.
Ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to the next few years when we can work together on ensuring that one of Canada’s important resources – our fisheries – remains protected.
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: