An internal performance review says Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is at risk of losing trust, confidence, even its reputation among the public and its own staff.
The review says "transformational change" and budget cuts risk "that sufficient resources may not be available to maintain appropriate service levels for internal and external client groups."
"...The Department may not be able to adequately maintain public trust and confidence, and subsequently its reputation."
NDP fisheries critic Robert Chisholm says this confirms what he’s been hearing — that there’s chaos.
"No longer can people expect Fisheries and Oceans Canada to protect fish or fish habitat," Chisholm tells CBC News.
The 2012-2013 Performance Review was released this week in Ottawa just as regulations attached to the Harper government's controversial overhaul of the Fisheries Act went into force.
The overhaul substantially changed fish habitat protection and coincided with an ongoing 25 per cent budget cut.
"These risks do have credibility with me," said Jeff Hutchings, a Dalhousie University biologist.
This month, Hutchings published a scathing critique of the Conservative government’s re-write of the Fisheries Act. He was not surprised by the internal review.
"Losses of money. Losses of positions. Shutting down of different labs. Changes to the Fisheries Act. Getting rid of habitat protection for most of our fishes in Canada. All of those things are hurting the department in various ways," Hutchings said.
U.S. seafood industry analyst John Sackton weighed in on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada review Friday, writing in seafoodnews.com: "The implosion of a government fisheries management agency is unprecedented, and has the potential to damage Canadian fisheries in a world demanding more standards and accountability, rather than less."
Department spokeswoman Melanie Carkner says: "the risks identified are similar to those risks identified in previous years."
"We are confident that the measures in place are sufficient to mitigate these risks," Carkner said in an e-mail to CBC News.
The department has taken steps to address those risks including acquiring vessels and developing a "comprehensive communications strategy."
The review offers an insight on how the department is dealing internally with "dynamic change." Employees are required to agree annually to three separate codes of conduct.
"Conflict management practitioners continued to offer workshops on preventing and managing conflict, including a specific workshop on Managing Conflict in Times of Transition," the review notes.
"This workshop was delivered 23 times across five regions."