Feds Introduce Legislation to Restore Fish Habitat Protection

Image of Stephen Hazell

Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel

Today in Parliament, federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc introduced amendments to the Fisheries Act, including provisions to restore important habitat safeguards and strengthen enforcement measures, as well as clarify  authorizations for projects or proposals that may damage habitat. Most importantly, the prohibition on altering, damaging or destroying fish habitat would be restored. Habitat that is particularly sensitive ecologically would be carefully scrutinized and activities that could affect them would not be authorized.

The amendments make good on the 2015 election pledge by the Trudeau Liberals to restore lost protection for fish habitat. The legislation would also be modernized by providing for “fisheries management orders” that add regulatory tools and broaden the government’s ability to limit harmful fishing practices. New long-term area-based fisheries closures would better protect marine biodiversity and protect vulnerable stocks of fish. New whale protection provisions are also included.

Image of ships on water

Photo by Sofia Osbourne

A new public registry would provide public access to a wide range of government decisions, improve transparency and help stop the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ for fish habitat.

The Fisheries Minister’s power to enter into agreements with Indigenous governing bodies would be increased. A new section addresses the use of traditional Indigenous knowledge. Finally, there would be a new legal requirement to consider the adverse effects of decisions on fisheries on the rights of Indigenous people.

Congratulations to Hon. Dominic LeBlanc on this very good bill. Thanks to Nature Canada’s members and supporters who pushed hard for a strong Fisheries Act and strong environmental laws in general.

Watch this space—we need to make sure that the House of Commons and Senate both pass bills that are at least as strong as the bill the Minister introduced into the House today.

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