As of October 31st, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has commenced a review of changes to the Fisheries Act.

The second meeting of the committee was on November 2nd. Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, was in attendance to describe the proposed changes to the Standing Committee and to answer questions.

In his initial address to the Committee, LeBlanc raised issues of stress on Canada’s oceans, such as over-fishing, habitat loss and destruction, marine pollution, and warming temperatures.

Additionally, LeBlanc indicated that the intention of the current review process is to address problems created by the amendments made to the Fisheries Act in 2012/13 that “stripped out and weakened some of the environmental protections that were specific to fish habitat.” LeBlanc also indicated the hope that a broader consultation process would in the current review of The Act would lead to a better response to any policy changes.

A strong point of contention in the meeting was raised by MP Robert Sopuck of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa in Manitoba. Sopuck asked the Minister of Fisheries that a representative from his department provide quantitative evidence of the damage done to Canadian fisheries by the legislative changes introduced in the 2012/13 changes. Neither LeBlanc nor Minister Kevin Stringer, to whom LeBlanc deferred, had the resources to provide said evidence.

Minister LeBlanc specifically requested public input on:

  • Concerns about changes to the Fisheries Act;
  • Improvements to the current Fisheries Act;
  • Improved science and indigenous knowledge within the Act;
  • Considerations on climate change and other future realities;
  • And additional enforcement elements to maintain the security of Canadian fisheries.
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Of particular concern to Minister of DFO are the commercial, recreational, and indigenous fisheries. Protection of fish habitat is foremost on the agenda, as LeBlanc said, “Quite simply put, without fish habitat there will be, ultimately, no fisheries.”

LeBlanc repeatedly stressed the need for modern scientific tools to provide feedback on the health and preservation of Canada’s fish habitats.

To contribute to the public consultation, visit the website of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

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