Letters to the Editor for the week of May 17th, 2012 

Feds need to re-think

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The Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable, comprised of a broad range of Canadians with interests in fish and fish habitat, appreciate the continuous discussions we've had with MP John Weston to date including meetings with constituents on Fisheries matters and three meetings arranged ... with the Fisheries Minister (Keith) Ashfield, Gail Shea (Minister of National Revenue) and Parliamentary Secretary Randy Kamp.

However, we are immensely concerned with the significant changes proposed in the Budget Implementation Act (BIA) that we feel will degrade protections to fish and fish habitat.

In reference to the changes specifically, but not exclusively, we are concerned with:

• the ability of the Federal Government to delegate fish habitat protection, pollution prevention and fisheries management to the provinces and territories;

• the prohibitions against the Harmful Alteration Disruption or Destruction (HADD) of habitat and the killing of fish, and that they will be narrowed by cabinet in the future to one prohibition against "serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery."

"Serious harm to fish" is a new concept defined as, "death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat." Hence, it will no longer be against the law to harmfully alter or disrupt fish habitat. This change could mean many activities under the current Fisheries Act that were scrutinized for their potential impact on fish habitat and fisheries will be ignored. For example, temporarily disrupting spawning habitat through gravel removal could inhibit the development of an entire year class of salmon but not "permanently" alter habitat; and the expansion of the government's ability to authorize harm to fish habitat as proposed in s. 35(2). Section 142(1) of the BIA proposes that harm to fish habitat caused by some works could automatically be exempted from the S. 35(1) prohibition. DFO would no longer need to be notified of these works and those carrying out such works would no longer be liable for prosecution for damage they cause to fish or fish habitat provided they follow any conditions prescribed in the regulation. In this situation, the government could remove any projects from the requirement to protect fish habitat, and could deprive any lake, river or stream of protection;

• the amendment (s. 35(2)(c)) allowing the government to delegate to industry, developers or provinces the right to authorize adverse effects on fish and fish habitat. This is akin to allowing the fox to guard the chicken coop;

• these changes being proposed before the release of the Cohen Commission final report, which may include recommendations to the government around fish habitat protection and the maintenance of healthy salmon populations for future generations.


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