Bill Taylor at Standing Committee Meeting Nov. 8
Fisheries Act Amendments
ON THE RECORD - The following is an excerpt from the Nov. 8 discussions on Fisheries Act amendments that took place on Parliament Hill between ASF President Bill Taylor and Members of Parliament on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. These amendments will fundamentally shift the ways fisheries, habitat and habitat protection will be defined. So far, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has not carried out the consultations with Canadians that were promised by government.
As part of his presentation and exchange of views, Bill Taylor called for meaningful consultation, framed by DFO’s provision of information and scientific background that support the rationale for effective protection of our fish and their habitat under the amended Act.
Mr. Bill Taylor:
" Consultation is a lengthy discussion between at least two parties, with an opportunity to ask questions and to have questions answered. If you do not understand the answers or the implications of the answers, you work with each other, and at the end of the day, in our case, you walk away from a consultation understanding the implications of the amendments being proposed.
I realize and fully appreciate that senior DFO staff are under a very tight deadline in this. While I can respect that, and maybe have sympathy for that —
— it does not change the fact that substantive changes are being made to an absolutely critical fisheries protection bill that has implications across the country, has implications for all Canadians, has implications that are social, environmental, and commercial.
For the Atlantic Salmon Federation, being the main representative of wild Atlantic salmon on the east coast of Canada, having two very short meetings with senior staff, without the opportunity for discussion and have questions answered, to my mind is not consultation, and that would be shared by all of the people I represent.
One major change is the shutting of habitat offices across Atlantic Canada and beyond. Bill Taylor remarks:
You did mention, sir, the loss of habitat staff in Prince Edward Island. No, there would be no habitat staff on Prince Edward Island. The Charlottetown office will be closed. As far as the east coast of Canada, we're going to be down to only three offices, Moncton, Dartmouth, and St. John's, Newfoundland.
If I had appeared here and spoken to you two years ago about the situation in eastern Canada, I would have said at that time we did not have enough habitat staff. Habitat staff are being dramatically decreased, and delivery opportunity is going to be next to nil.
You asked specifically about Prince Edward Island. All summer long, all fall long, there have been serious problems in Prince Edward Island with respect to agricultural runoff. I do not know how that will be handled without staff in Prince Edward Island.
Bill Taylor said there is a need to include many other factors of habitat and non-commercial species when considering the changes planned for the Fisheries Act. DFO is working towards a schedule that would get the amendments approved by Order-in-Council by January, 2013. ASF asked for an extension to June, 2013 for approval to ensure that government officials have time to do an effective job of developing and sharing their science-based rationale and consulting with stakeholders.
...Whether it's an aboriginal fish, recreational fish, or commercial fish, the quick response from most of us is, okay, we need to protect the fish that, as an example, Atlantic salmon eat, which are caplin, sand eels, and so on. Fine.
Another dynamic to healthy wild Atlantic salmon populations is the juvenile salmon heading out of the river in the spring, called smolt. There may be 10,000 or 20,000 out of a small river, there may be hundreds of thousands out of a river like the Miramichi. They all exit the river in a very short window of time.
If there is not predator cover...and the predator cover for wild Atlantic salmon smolt in the spring is healthy runs of alewives, herring, and shad that are coming into the river. We can't improve on nature, and nature has worked over the millennia to make sure that the young smolt going out of the river are going out at the exact same time that healthy runs of millions and millions of alewives and shad are coming in. The reason for that is so that the cormorants and the seals and the striped bass that are in the estuaries feeding at that time of the year are going to focus on the abundant prey species like herring and not so much on the smolt.
So it's not just the fish that support the fish in terms of food; what about the fish that support the fish in a healthy ecosystem?
The full 46-page transcript of the presentation and conversations can be downloaded below.