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Proposed Changes to the Fisheries Act

Today, February 6, 2018 Federal Fisheries Minister Dominc LeBlanc announced that a Bill to Amend the Fisheries Act has been tabled in Ottawa.

IF this bill is passed there are some provisions that could help in the long term to protect wild salmon from the pathogen spill ongoing from salmon farms on the BC coast.

Here are some of the proposed amendments:

1 - ALL fish habitat will be "protected" not the more limited description enacted by the Harper government

2 - There would be a requirement to consider adverse effects of decisions on indigenous people

3 - New ability for rapid response to unforeseen impacts on management of fisheries and conservation of fish

4 - The minister would have to consider wild fish stock rebuilding when making fisheries management decisions that would impact a depleted stock.

5 - The minister promises that any and all practices that harvest fish won't affect the long term viability and abundance of wild stocks of fish

If this bill passes and DFO honours the spirit and intent of these statements,

  • wild fish would have to be protected from the ongoing pathogen spill from salmon farms including sea lice, bacteria and viruses,
  • the ongoing impact of the federally licenced salmon farms on indigenous people would have to resolved,
  • the by-catch of the endangered Area 12 Mainland herring stocks in salmon farms halted and
  • a rapid response to the spread of the Norwegian salmon blood virus, piscine reovirus into wild fish stocks as reported in the scientific literature halted.

27503643_10155968108345429_1205644833570350489_oThese are all positive statements, however, they have not been passed by parliament and furthermore I have great difficulty reconciling the statements by this Minister, who is currently fighting me in court to allow the salmon farming industry to transfer farmed Atlantic salmon from their hatcheries into marine pens without screening for piscine reovirus. The industry has told the court that 5/6 of their hatcheries are infected and this means infected farm salmon are entering the Pacfic Ocean into wild fish habitat... which LeBlanc is announcing he intends to protect.

In my view, the minister is not being consistent. He seems conflicted; telling us that he is committed to restoring the abundance of wild fish, and respecting First Nations, but he is also unwilling, unable or simply terrified of forcing the Norwegian salmon farming industry to comply with the laws of Canada wherein section 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations prohibit transfer of fish carrying a disease agent with the potential to negatively impact the conservation of wild fish. Therefore, he is in court with Marine Harvest and Cermaq as co-defendants, to make it legal for this dangerous practice that runs counter to much of what he announced today.

The scientific research reports piscine reovirus is Norwegian, it is spreading to wild salmon, it is causing disease in BC and it's nature as a low-grade infection means wild salmon will spread it wherever they migrate with the devastating potential to weaken with fish to the point that they can no longer reach their spawning grounds.

In my view there continues to be something baffling and very wrong between Canada and Norway that is preventing the Trudeau government from living up to its own aspirations and standards.