As someone constantly surrounded by fisheries management and currently policy changes, I've heard quite a bit surrounding the current Canadian governments proposed changes to the Fisheries Act. I wrote to some Ministers of Parliament and would like to share their responses with you.
If you don't know what is going on with our Fisheries Act, check here. In a nutshell, these changes drastically weaken the document, and will provide less protection to the habitats that fish desperately need in order to thrive and reproduce. Those currently involved with fisheries management at an academic level (that I've been conversing with) do not agree with these changes, and frankly, neither do I.
Thus, I started writing. My e-mail was as follows:
"I'm alarmed by the Harper government's alleged plan to remove habitat protection from the federal Fisheries Act. The changes to the Act will remove the most important protection that we have for the freshwater and marine habitat that Canada's fish species depend upon. It also threatens long-established coastal industries such as commercial and sport fisheries, ecotourism, and fish processing plants. Without viable habitat for fish, the health of coastal and ocean ecosystems will suffer, and so will the coastal economies that depend on them. Although we don't like on the coast, it would be ignorant to believe that Ontario would not be affected by this. Overall, I believe this government must not proceed with this revision to the Fisheries Act.
I have recieved two drastically different responses - one from Fin Donnelly (MP, New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody, BC and Member of the NDP) and one from Lois Brown (MP, Newmarket-Aurora, ON and Member of the Conservative Party).
Here's what Mr. Donnelly had to say:
"Thank you for writing to share your concerns about the Conservative government's plan to remove fish habitat protection from Section 35 of the Fisheries Act.
At a time when the government should be strengthening habitat protection, the Conservatives aim to gut one of the strongest environmental laws in the country.
These changes will set Canada back decades.
By eliminating provisions to protect fish habitat, the Conservatives will be better positioned to fast track their agenda of pipelines, oil super tankers, mega mines and other major industrial projects.
With the stroke of a pen, this government would wipe out decades of progress and condemn future generations to a less diverse environment. The Conservative plan to ram this key change through the budget omnibus bill is reprehensible.
Canada’s New Democrats are strongly opposed to these changes.
As the Official Opposition Critic for Fisheries & Oceans, I have raised this issue with the Minister both in Question Period and in Committee (read more here). It’s clear the Minister is considering these changes to the Fisheries Act and regards fish habitat regulations as an ‘irritant’.
Canada’s New Democrats will continue to advocate for protection of our fisheries and oceans, and will oppose any move to gut DFO’s responsibility to protect fish and fish habitat.
Many people are asking what more they can do to stop the Conservative government’s destructive plan.
Please consider printing off the attached petition and collecting as many signatures as possible, which I can table in the House of Commons. I have also launched an online petition, which you may wish to circulate to your friends and family.
Thank you again for raising your voice on this important issue."
Although automated, it was a nice and fresh response showcasing what I has asked about. Ms. Brown solicited this response:
"Thank you for recent email concerning the Fisheries Act.
The Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans issued the following statement:
"The government is reviewing fish and fish habitat protection policies to ensure they do not go beyond
their intended conservation goals. Recent speculation about the current review is inaccurate. No decision has been made.
"The government has been clear that the exisiting policies do not reflect the priorities of Canadians.
"We want to focus our activities on protecting natural waterways that are home to the fish Canadians value most instead of flooded fields and ditches."
Again, we thank you for taking the time to share your views and opinions. Please feel free to contact our office should you require further assistance at any time."
Unfortunately, this statement is fairly broad and doesn't really answer what has been done to ensure the protection of waterways/fish habitats. I know Ms. Brown isn't a fish ecologist - but providing a little more insight, and perhaps a little more of her own knowledge on the subject, would have been beneficial to the argument.
Starfish readers, what do you think about these responses? And importantly, what do you want to see happen with the Fisheries Act?