The federal government introduced amendments to the Fisheries Act on Tuesday aimed at restoring “protections to all fish and fish habitats that were lost with changes that were made in 2012.”
“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,” said Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “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.”
One of the reasons the Conservative government gave for updating the fisheries legislation in 2012 was to reduce the red tape and bureaucratic approval process involved in cleaning out farmland drainage ditches and managing bodies of water that are not significant for fish.
The proposed amendments would include the development of “codes of practice,” which would serve as formal guidelines for small, routine development projects, says a spokesperson for LeBlanc’s department.
They say Fisheries Act authorization would not be required when a project fits under these codes of practice, as the code would set out measures to minimize impact to fish and fish habitat.
“We are proposing a partnership approach, where DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) would work with the farming industry as a whole on developing codes of practice for small work such as farmland drainage, so that farmers have clear information and guidance readily available to know how to minimize the impact they have on fish and fish habitat,” says the department.
The department will also “recommend proponents of smaller projects to voluntarily report to DFO, so that the department can properly monitor, assess and determine impacts, cumulative effects and effectiveness of management measures such as code of practice.”
Indigenous peoples will also get more say in project reviews, monitoring and policy development, according to the department.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is currently seeking more information on the proposed legislation. There are questions about whether provinces will lose control in managing watersheds and waterways.
LeBlanc said the government will spend up to $284 million to support the Fisheries Act changes.
Updated 9pm, February 6th with new info from DFO on how the department will handle small water management projects.