Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)

New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Three B.C. salmon populations will receive priority attention under proposed new laws formalizing the federal government’s obligation to protect and restore Canadian fisheries at risk.

The draft regulations released Jan. 2 stem from the amended Fisheries Act in 2019 that included the formation of binding commitments on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to manage major stocks at sustainable levels and rebuild those at risk.

“[These regulations] would strengthen fisheries management framework leading to better conservation outcomes for the prescribed stocks, more demonstrably sustainable fisheries, and compliance with the Fisheries Act,” reads a government statement accompanying the proposed regulations. “In addition, the proposed regulations would result in the increased transparency and accountability that accompanies regulatory oversight as compared with policy approaches.”

DFO policy already steers toward the regulation’s goals, but critics complain the followthrough is often weak and drawn out. The new laws aim to cement government accountability by forcing the development of a rebuilding plan within three years of identifying a stock at risk, coupled with concrete timelines and thorough assessments of why they’re suffering.

READ MORE: DFO investigating dead salmon fry washed up on banks of the Fraser River

“The plan provides a common understanding of the basic ‘rules’ for rebuilding the stocks,” the statement continues.

The proposed laws indicate that within five years DFO will prescribe all 177 major fish stocks with a limit reference point (LRP), the point at which a stock falls into serious harm. DFO will be required to develop rebuilding plans for those stocks below their LRP level.

The first batch of 30 stocks include 17 below critical numbers, including Okanagan chinook and Interior Fraser Coho. Threatened stocks of west-coast Vancouver Island chinook and Pacific herring around Haida Gwaii are both on the path of receiving a rebuilding plan early this year.

B.C.’s two populations of yelloweye rockfish are also below their LRP threshold and have already received completed rebuilding plans.

Once threatened stocks grow above their LRP, the minister must implement measures to maintain them at or above the sustainable level.

Despite the stated goals behind the proposed regulations, Oceana Canada wants to see “surgical fixes” to the proposed laws before they’re approved, as the current draft offers too many loopholes.

The organization recommended three key improvements to the regulations: speeding up the process of assigning all critically low stocks with rebuilding plans; setting clearer targets within those plans; and establishing maximum-allowable timelines for targets and milestones.

READ MORE: B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

“They explicitly say … they don’t want to set a standard. They want to maintain full flexibility depending on the stock they’re looking at,” Josh Laughren, Oceana Canada executive director said.

“The regulations say there must be a target set, but surely, every policy already says they [DFO] must manage stocks up to a healthy level. So what are their definitions? This doesn’t define that. It just says set a target, any target, essentially. It also says they have to set a timeline, but that can be anywhere from one to 100 years.”

Oceana Canada released a critical audit of Canadian fisheries last November that found only one-quarter of stocks are healthy, down 10 per cent since its first audit in 2017. Stocks of caution have risen from 16 to 19 per cent, while stocks in critical states have increased from 13.4 per cent to 17 per cent in the same time period.

In B.C. the organization also highlighted troubling decreases in crustacean populations, the backbone of Canadian fisheries, and small forage fish that are vital prey for other commercially important fish.

Oceana cautions Ottawa that consumers are increasingly demanding sustainably-caught fish, to which the adoption of robust regulations and global best practices are key to ensuring a successful Blue Economy Strategy currently under development.

“Without changes, the draft regulations that are now open for public comment would squander this opportunity, depriving Canada of the economic and environmental benefits that come with rebuilt fish populations,” reads an Oceana statement.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Chris Paulson of Burns Lake took a quick selfie with a lynx over the weekend of Feb. 20-22, 2021, after the wild cat was found eating some of his chickens. (Chris Paulson/Facebook)
VIDEO: Burns Lake man grabs lynx by scruff after chickens attacked

‘Let’s see the damage you did, buddy,’ Chris Paulson says to the wild cat

Design work continues for planned new hospital

Construction contract still in the works

Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack mine, 65 km north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack Mine, 65 kilometres north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health reports 20 more COVID-19 cases in outbreak at Brucejack Mine

So far, 42 people have tested positive, nine cases are active and self-isolating onsite

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read