Fisheries Act changes worry scientists, seafood industry

Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act have some people concerned of potential harm to Atlantic Canada’s coast.
Stewart Lamont, the managing director of Tangier Lobster, says the changes could harm his industry.

Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act have some people concerned of potential harm to Atlantic Canada’s coast.

The current regulations prevent dangerous substances from being released into water where fish can be found. The proposed changes would exempt the aquaculture industry from that rule.

"All other industries have been able to comply with the general provisions of this act and still remain viable," Bill Ernst, a former toxicologist with Environment Canada, told reporters on Tuesday.

"In my opinion, the reason that the changes are being made is just to reduce the oversight of Environment Canada, who is the administrator of that section of the [Fisheries] Act and allow the industry more free access to some of the higher-risk chemicals" used to kill sea lice.

These chemicals are a concern for many in the wild seafood business, like Stewart Lamont, the managing director of Tangier Lobster.

"Potentially it's a huge concern because of the potential lethal impacts on lobster and other wild fisheries," said Lamont.

"We want to nip this in the bud, we want to raise the consciousness of this issue right across the country. Pesticides in fish farms may be necessary from [the aquaculture industry’s] standpoint, but they're absolutely damaging from the standpoint of coastal communities, of the wild fisheries," said Lamont, one of 120 people who have united in their fight against the proposed changes and sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Other representatives of the seafood industry, environmental groups and scientists from across Canada have also signed the open letter.

"These changes are coming at a time when, in Nova Scotia, we have consensus that we need better regulation of the open net pen aquaculture industry and the federal will significantly undermine that process," said Susanna Fuller, the Ecology Action Centre’s marine conservation coordinator.

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