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Fisheries Act: return of protections eliminated in 2012

Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Minister Dominic LeBlanc announces $284 million to amend the Fisheries Act to better protect fish and their habitats.

Minister LeBlanc says it was necessary to reinstate many lost protections in 2012.

We are introducing amendments to the Fisheries Act to reinstate the protections that were eliminated by the previous government.

Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Preservation of habitats and species

Environmentalists and scientists were eagerly awaiting this announcement to see if the Liberals would keep their promise to restore marine habitat protection.

They have been accusing the Harper government since 2012 of only protecting important habitats for commercial fisheries.

Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced that all fish and fish habitat will now be protected.

Aboriginal Peoples Consultation

In his amendments to the Fisheries Act, the minister proposes to systematically take into account the negative effects on the rights of aboriginal peoples.

Decisions will also have to take into account Aboriginal traditional knowledge that has been communicated to the department. And the department will not publicly disclose Aboriginal traditional knowledge, upon which a decision can be based, unless it is approved by the Aboriginal nation that provided its knowledge.

The proposed amendments also set out the possibility for Ottawa to enter into agreements directly with Aboriginal governance bodies.

Proposed changes:

  • the possibility of taking into account social, economic and cultural factors in the decision-making process;
  • possibility of emergency measures to respond to unforeseen threats (for fisheries management and fish conservation);
  • more clarity on the type of projects requiring a permit;
  • publication of decisions in an online register;
  • prohibition to hunt cetaceans for captivity;
  • possibility of settling offenses under the Fisheries Act outside the courts.

These amendments to the Fisheries Act were prepared as a result of public consultations with local people and Aboriginal peoples

Well-received changes

Environmental groups have responded positively to the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act.

West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver is pleased with the restoration of protections for fish habitat. He also welcomes the creation of an online registry to provide more transparency on departmental decisions.

We commend the government for its willingness to repair the cracked net of legal fish protection in Canada.

Linda Nowlan, Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
The Green Party of Canada also supports the amendments proposed by the Liberals. He emphasized that the greater emphasis on indigenous peoples in fisheries management is a good step towards reconciliation.

Greens are disappointed, however, that the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act do not mention aquaculture.

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