Harper’s budget bill may eliminate fish habitat protection

Sockeye salmon sit on a commercial fishing boat as they’re unloaded at Steveston Harbour during a 32-hour fishery window in Richmond, BC, on Thurs. Aug. 26, 2010 (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Darryl Dyck)

 The federal government is proposing two new approaches to how industry should protect fish habitat.

Once this bill is passed, the first provision will come into effect immediately. This permits the federal government more “leeway to allow exceptions.”

The second phase, which has been most criticized by the media, will come later (it is not clear when). It permits industrial development near and around fish habitat, so long as the development does not harm any fish important to commercial or First Nations fisheries. In other words, regulations on industry will be based on the fatalities of fish and not the sustainability of their populations or habitat.

Under the new provisions, habitat is not the main concern. They look at the fish themselves.

According to the wording in the budget bill, the government will only stop development if “serious harm” to fish is at stake, and only if those fish are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery.

“Serious harm” is defined as death, or permanent damage to habitat.

Green Party’s, Elizabeth May, believes that “[…]the legislation will eventually eliminate protection of fish habitat, hand more oversight to provincial regulators and remove all federal impediments to natural resource extraction.”

Current regulations require companies to ensure that they do not disrupt fish habitats by their actions, if they do, they are responsible for providing a new habitat for the fish.

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