Recent changes to the Fisheries Act and what it means for freshwater biodiversity
July 13, 2012
The adoption into law of Bill C-38 in June 2012 brought in drastic changes to the Fisheries Act. The Fisheries Act is arguably the most powerful and most applied, on a daily basis, environmental law in the country. The Act protects fish by protecting the habitat which the fish need to live. Protecting fish habitat has the added benefit of protecting water quality, water quantity and freshwater biodiversity.
The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act are to section 35. This section of the Act prohibits the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat. A HADD without an authorization is a punishable offence.
The significant change to the Fisheries Act will come into effect within the next year and will entirely replace subsection 35(1) with the following:
“No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery”.
In summary, the amendments will bring the following key changes once fully implemented:
- While fish habitat is still captured in the definition of “serious harm”, the harm is now to fish only.
- The harm to fish now has to be serious harm, not just any harm; and
- The fish that are harmed have to be part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or that support such a fishery.
For a detailed description of the changes, please read:
There is still time to mitigate or prevent these legislative changes! The changes to the Fisheries Act wording around 'serious harm' are part of a second phase of amendments that will take place within the next year.
Write to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield and let him know that you care about fish and fish habitat. Tell him:
- You want to see the Fisheries Act strengthened, not weakened!
- Canadians and independent scientists have not been consulted on these sweeping changes
- Canadians care about biodiversity, not just species we can make money from.
- These changes are in violation of our obligations agreed to under the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992 (Canada was the first country to ratify this agreement), i.e., the so-called “Agenda 21”