“Stop weakening the Fisheries Act,” was the message in Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s latest submission to Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
We were responding to draft Aquaculture Activities Regulations published recently in the Canada Gazette. These regulations are the latest step in a series of changes which have dramatically weakened Canada’s environmental laws.
Many aquaculture facilities (e.g., fish farms) pollute surrounding waters with pesticides, drugs and organic waste. The new regulations are intended to give more power to the aquaculture industry regulate itself.
Here are a few of our concerns:
- The new regulations allow facility operators to decide for themselves what levels of pollution are acceptable.
- They defer to industry to monitor and report the effects of its own activities on surrounding fish and fish habitat.
- They contain vague, unenforceable phrases that ask industry to “consider” alternatives to the deposit of pesticides and drugs and use “reoasonable measures” to “minimize” harm, but do not guarantee any environmental protections.
In short: the regulations signal that DFO will no longer prioritize the protection of wild fish and natural habitat.
Not the first time
In 2012, the Fisheries Act was transformed from one of the strongest pieces of anti-pollution legislation in the country to a vague mishmash of protections that favour development over conservation and ecosystem protection.
Waterkeeper has consistently advised against these changes on the grounds that they make environmental protection standards in Canada more confusing, create more uncertainty for corporations and communities, and do little to protect the country’s natural heritage.
To read our full comments, click here.
(w/ research from Sara Elcombe.)