Trudeau government urged to restore fisheries protections

A Nova Scotia environmental group is part of a countrywide network pushing for the restoration of fisheries protections they say were stripped by the previous Harper government.

Coalition of 47 groups urge Trudeau government to restore fisheries protections stripped by Harper's Bill C-38

Changes to the Fisheries Act implemented by the Harper government means means economically viable fisheries are the focus of protection, not all fish habitats. (The Canadian Press)

A Nova Scotia environmental group is part of a countrywide network pushing for the restoration of fisheries protections they say were stripped by the previous Harper government. 

The coalition of 47 groups of scientists, environmental groups, First Nations and fisheries organizations wants the Trudeau government to repair what they see as damage done by the previous government.

In 2012, the federal government introduced Bill C-38 — the Budget Implementation Act. The 450-page bill included changes to seven environmental statutes.

Among the alterations were a re-write of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and a major shift in direction for the Fisheries Act. The new Fisheries Act no longer protects all fish habitats, but instead focuses on the protection of economically viable fisheries.

"Under the last government, a lot of the protections around fisheries habitat were removed from the act or weakened so that a lot of the areas where fish swim, fish breed, aren't protected under the act anymore," Katie Schleit, marine campaign co-ordinator with Halifax's Ecology Action Centre, told CBC's Information Morning.

"Previously, there would be prohibition against destructing the stream in a way that would impact the fish habitat, but now the act only relates to fishing that is related to a fishery.

"For example, if it's a fish that exists in the stream that's not related to a particular fishery, it wouldn't be protected." 

Act needs to be repaired and modernized

Last fall, Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo was instructed in his mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to restore the protections. 

CBC News has contacted federal fisheries and transportation departments for an update. Members of the coalition will meet with federal officials to discuss the issue on April 11 in Ottawa.

Schleit said the coalition is proposing there be two years of consultation and the 150-year-old Fisheries Act be modernized.

Part of modernizing the act, said Schleit, includes looking at what other countries are doing. 

"[We want] to have a legal mandate to recover fish stocks that are depleted and have timelines and targets associated with those," she said.

She said the government has told the coalition it supports this idea.

With files from Information Morning


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.