Harper Conservatives Weaken Fisheries Protection

In the guise of merely clarifying the Fisheries Act, the Harper Conservatives have introduced changes with the potential to remove federal protection of ecosystems across Canada.

“As the Fisheries Act reads now, any water inhabited by fish and any habitat used by fish require federal protection. Now the Minister has proposed a fundamental weakening of the Act by changing the meaning of the word ‘fish,'” noted Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada.

The Minister of Fisheries has announced that instead of protecting all fish, the law will now only apply to fish of recreational, Aboriginal or commercial importance. This approach has no meaning in an ecological sense.

“What of the fish the other fish eat? What of fish eaten by seabirds or bears? If a fish has no benefit from a recreational, commercial or Aboriginal point of view, are they of no significance?” noted Green Party fisheries critic, Janice Harvey.

“While I must review the legal language when the proposed changes are tabled, the description of the new approach raises many concerns.  Particularly worrying, and clearly designed to speed the growth of fossil fuel and other resource extraction, is the removal of the requirement for authorizations under the Fisheries Act before approving loss of fish habitat — if those fish are not within the new regime of special status fish.”

Also of concern to the Green Party is that the policy of “no net loss” of fish habitat is also being “reviewed.”