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Introducing the proposed amended Fisheries Act

Canadians have called for strong legislation that will protect our fish and fish habitat for future generations. Following extensive consultation, we heard from thousands of Canadians, including over 200 Indigenous groups, who said that they want strong, fair and clear legislation that sustains our environment and protects our oceans and waterways.

On February 6, 2018, we introduced proposed amendments to restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act.

A healthy and thriving fishing sector is of vital importance to our economy. While protection of fish and fish habitat was a key focus for this legislation, we also looked at changes to support the sustainability of Canada’s marine resources for generations to come.

Description

BEFORE proposed amendments

Protection for commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fisheries
Uncertainty around requirements for development projects
No provisions referencing the independence of inshore fishers
No provisions specifically designed to create marine refuges
No provisions to include Indigenous participation in decision making
No provisions to restore degraded habitat and rebuild fish stocks

AFTER proposed amendments

Protection for all fish and fish habitat
Clearer permitting for development projects
New ability to enshrine inshore policies into regulations
Better ability to protect biodiversity in the long-term
Indigenous traditional knowledge provided must inform habitat decisions
Increased focus on habitat restoration and rebuilding fish stocks

On this page

Why we're making changes

Changes that were made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 challenged our ability to protect fish and fish habitat.

Canadians, including Indigenous peoples as well as industry and environmental groups, expressed concerns with these changes and how they were made.

As part of the Government of Canada’s Review of Environmental and Regulatory Processes, we committed to reviewing the 2012 changes to the Act. We looked at how to:

What changes are proposed

If passed into law, our proposed changes would improve the protection of our fisheries and their ecosystems. Proposed amendments would:

How proposed changes compare to the current Fisheries Act, as amended in 2012

Restoring lost protections

Before 2012, the Fisheries Act protected all fish and fish habitat in Canada. In 2012, changes were made so that only fish and habitat related to a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery were protected.

A revised Fisheries Act would see the lost protections restored, resulting in full protection for all fish and fish habitat.

How proposed changes compare to the current Fisheries Act, as amended in 2012
Before proposed amendments After proposed amendments
Not all fish and fish habitat protected. Only those related to a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery protected Protection of all fish and fish habitat

New modern safeguards

A revised Fisheries Act would also include new modern safeguards, making it stronger than ever.

How proposed changes compare to the current Fisheries Act, as amended in 2012
Before proposed amendments After proposed amendments
No explicit reference to consideration of the rights of Indigenous peoples and their unique knowledge to inform decision making

Provided Indigenous traditional knowledge must inform habitat decisions

Requirement to consider adverse effects of decisions on the rights of Indigenous peoples

Ability to enter into certain agreements restricted to provinces and territories only Added ability to enter into agreements with Indigenous governing bodies as well as provinces and territories
No specific provisions regarding the independence of inshore licence holders

Provisions recognizing social, economic and cultural factors, as well as the preservation or promotion of the independence of licence holders in commercial inshore fisheries, can be taken into consideration in decisions

Provisions providing clear regulatory authorities to support independent inshore licence holders
No tools to quickly implement in-season fisheries restrictions to address unforeseen conservation and management issues Ability to put in place targeted short-term measures to quickly and effectively respond to unforeseen threats to the management of fisheries and to the conservation of fish
Uncertainty as to when authorizations are required for development projects. Clarity on which types of projects require authorizations through permitting and codes of practice
Lack of transparency regarding authorization decisions for projects. No requirement to publicly release information on these decisions Requirement to publicly release information on project decisions through an online registry
No provisions specifically designed to create marine refuges Ability to create long-term area-based restrictions on fishing activities to protect marine biodiversity
No specific provisions to address whales in captivity A prohibition on fishing for cetaceans (such as whales) with intent to take them into captivity unless authorized by the Minister in circumstances where the animal is injured, in distress or in need of care
No legal requirements related to rebuilding fish stocks

Minister must consider whether stock rebuilding measures are in place when making a fisheries management decision that would impact a depleted stock

Enabling regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks

No ability to address Fisheries Act offences outside of courts Ability to address Fisheries Act offences outside of courts using alternative measures agreements, which reduces costs and repeat offences
No provisions to restore degraded habitat as part of development project reviews Provisions to consider restoration priorities as part of development project reviews
Insufficient capacity to enforce provisions under the Act Enhanced enforcement and monitoring capacity on the water and for projects

What happens next

The bill outlining these amendments marks a positive step towards restoring lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act. Moving forward, the bill will be subject to the parliamentary process. Regulations and policies would be developed immediately in consultation with Indigenous groups, provinces and stakeholders to support the implementation of the amendments.

Throughout the parliamentary process, Canadians will have an opportunity to comment and share their views. The public can file written submissions to parliamentary committees or contact their Member of Parliament.

Once a bill passes the House of Commons and the Senate, it requires Royal Assent before finally becoming law.

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