Changes to the Fish Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act

Description of Program, Policy or Program Proposal

The proposal includes legislative amendments to the Fisheries Act in support of the plan for Responsible Resource Development to enhance protection for fisheries and compliance under the Fisheries Act.  In particular, the proposed amendments are as follows:  clarify the Government's intention/direction with respect to the management of fish habitat; provide more comprehensive regulatory tools for the Minister to implement this direction; establish additional legislative and regulatory tools; modernize outdated habitat provisions; and, enhance powers to authorize pollution in pollution prevention provisions.

The proposed amendments support focused attention on managing threats to fish that are part of or support commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries, improved enforceability of conditions included in authorizations, improved penalty structures to support compliance, and expansion of inspection powers, all of which will result in improved fisheries protection.

Summary of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Results

Some of the proposed amendments to the habitat protection provisions have the potential to result in environmental effects (both positive and negative).  There is potential for a very small number of fish species and water bodies, which are not part of or support commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fisheries not being captured under the provisions. However, fish species and water bodies supporting fisheries will receive greater protection because of improved enforceability of conditions included in authorizations, improved penalty structures to support compliance, and expansion of inspection powers.

The proposed amendments to the pollution prevention provisions enhance enabling authorities which will not, in and of themselves, cause environmental effects. The environmental impacts of the authorization authorities will depend on how they are implemented. If implemented as intended, the environmental effects will likely be minimal or neutral as the intention is to authorize deposits of deleterious substances that are already well controlled at the federal or provincial level, which have been fully assessed and managed through other processes.

Linkages to the Goals of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS)

This proposal will support Theme II "Maintaining Water Quality and Availability" of the FSDS, by providing a clearer regulatory framework for addressing deposits of deleterious substances in water frequented by fish.

This proposal will also support Theme III "Protecting Nature and Canadians" of the FSDS, by protecting priority fish species and water bodies that support high-valued fisheries, thus managing threats to ecosystems and sustainable fisheries.