Action Alert re: Protection of Fish Habitat

The Fisheries Act is one of the strongest and most important environmental acts in Canada. As you can see from the media release which follows this Action Alert, DFO is planning to decrease protection of fish habitat.

What can you do?

  1. Distribute this media release or do your own media release.
  2. Call, write, fax, email or meet with members of Parliament and the Senate and ask them to oppose both the proposed reduction in funding for protection of fish habitat and the Modernizing Compliance Initiative which would result in the cutting of 80 Fishery Officers and 42 Habitat Management Positions.
  3. Ask to be consulted about any proposed changes related to fish habitat protection and about any proposed changes to the Fisheries Act. (Rumors are that a new Fisheries Act is going to be tabled in the fall.)

The Friends of the Oldman River

Media Release

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Secretly Develops Plans to Reduce Protection of Fish Habitat in Canada

May 9, 2005

According to leaked documents sent anonymously to Martha Kostuch, Vice-President of the Friends of the Oldman River, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has secretly developed plans to reduce protection of fish habitat.

The memo received by Martha Kostuch states, “The Modernizing Compliance Initiative was announced after the 2005 Federal Budget. It came as the result of an expenditure review exercise that was carried out in complete secrecy from staff, unions and the Canadian Public. In fact the department is still trying to quietly undertake this initiative, reducing both the level of service to Canadians and the level of protection of the aquatic environment. This is clear when one compares the information provided to staff on the internal Intranet site to the information provided to the pubic on DFO’s Internet site.”

Under the Modernizing Compliance Initiative, DFO is planning to cut 80 Fishery Officer positions and 42 Habitat Management positions. DFO plans to help offset the reductions of staff by the creation of 40 new habitat stewardship and monitoring officers’ positions. The Fisheries Act has no provision for such positions and provides no authority for them to conduct inspections, to respond to complaints or to enforce the Fisheries Act.

Funding for fish habitat protection will be cut by $2.3 million in 2005 if the Federal budget is passed with further cuts to a total of $7 million a year by 2007.

The Interim Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fish Habitat states: “It would be a serious mistake if the Department’s fish habitat program were to be adversely affected by an internal reallocation. Moreover, the Committee strongly believes that the DFO needs additional funding.”

In its submission to the Senate Committee, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that of the 39 submissions received by the CEC as of June 6, 2003, 13 submissions were relevant to Canada – eight of which were on the subject of enforcing the Fisheries Act.

The 2002 Annual Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development which oversees the Auditor General’s environmental petitions process noted that:

  • protecting fish and fish habitat had been the most dominant concern of petitioners during the first five and a half of the petitions process;
  • nearly one half of environmental petitions had touched on fish and fish habitat or related issues; and
  • in 2002, the DFO continued to be one of the most petitioned federal departments.

“It is wrong for DFO to be reducing protection of fish habitat in Canada,” said Martha Kostuch. “The Government of Canada should increase, not decrease, funding for fish habitat protection as recommended by the Senate Committee. In addition, DFO should increase, not decrease, enforcement of the Fisheries Act.”

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For more information contact Martha Kostuch – 403-845-4667.