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Minister announces changes to federal fisheries act

Boats involved in the snow crab fishery are seen at Bonavista in this file photo.
Boats involved in the snow crab fishery are seen at Bonavista in this file photo. - Glen Whiffen

Union says amendments will make for a stronger inshore fishery

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced today $284.2 million to support the restoration of protections to fish and fish habitats taken away by the former Conservative government in 2012, and to incorporating new modern safeguards in the industry.

It was part of amendments to the Fisheries Act that LeBlanc outlined at a news conference in Vancouver.

“To preserve, protect and help restore our environment we need a Fisheries Act that Canadians can trust,” LeBlanc stated. “Today, I am pleased we are introducing amendments to the Fisheries Act that will restore the protections for fish and fish habitat that were lost under the previous government. We are responding to calls from Canadians who told us clearly that the health of our fish and ecosystems is important to them, and that they want us to protect and rebuild fish habitat.

“By restoring lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards, we are creating a Fisheries Act for the future to preserve our precious resources for generations to come.”

The proposed amendments will: restore lost protections by returning to comprehensive protection against harming all fish and fish habitat; strengthen the role of Indigenous peoples in project reviews, monitoring and policy development; recognize that decisions can be guided by principles of sustainability, precaution and ecosystem management; promote restoration of degraded habitat and rebuilding of depleted fish stocks; allow for the better management of large and small projects impacting fish and fish habitat through a new permitting framework and codes of practice; create full transparency for projects with a public registry; create new fisheries management tools to enhance the protection of fish and ecosystems; strengthen the long-term protection of marine refuges for biodiversity; help ensure that the economic benefits of fishing remain with the licence holders and their community by providing clear ability to enshrine current inshore fisheries policies into regulations; and clarify and modernize enforcement powers to address emerging fisheries issues and to align with current provisions in other legislation.

Keith Sullivan, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Worker’s (FFAW-Unifor) union, was quick to claim victory saying it comes after many years of advocating changes to legislation.

“We have worked closely with our fellow harvester organizations in Atlantic Canada to present a clear argument for greater and better enforced protections for independent fish harvesters,” he said. “Today’s announcement is proof that our efforts are worthwhile. “

Sullivan said amendments to Canada’s Fisheries Act that will provide legal protection to the owner-operator and fleet separation policies which protect the independence of the inshore fishery and the coastal communities that rely on it.

“The capacity of the minister to make fishery decisions to protect the economic independence and sustainability of inshore harvesters and coastal communities has been repeatedly challenged by the corporate interests in the fishery,” he said. “Today’s proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act remove any ambiguity, clearly stating that the minister may make decisions to protect independent inshore licence holders and the communities that rely upon them.”

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