Recommendations for changes to the Fisheries Act made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans have the potential to create a robust framework of environmental legislation, WWF-Canada said today. In the fall, WWF-Canada testified that the Act should be modernized, and that key protections removed in 2012 should be restored in order to protect habitats and species in freshwater and oceanic habitats.
The three most important recommendations made by the Standing Committee are:
- Restoration of habitat protection provisions that were lost in 2012 (known as the "HADD" provisions, the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat). Prior to 2012, this was Canada's strongest environmental law, and reinstating the provisions in the Act restores legal protection to ocean and freshwater habitats.
- Adopting the ecosystem approach for the protection of fish habitats. This approach protects marine biodiversity as a whole, not just commercially valuable species – an important shift in fisheries management which brings Canada in line with best international practices. Ecosystem-based fisheries management helps safeguard marine species like whales and seabirds by taking into account their need for healthy populations of forage fish even if there is no commercial fishery.
- Protecting fish habitat from key activities that can damage habitat, such as destructive fishing practices and cumulative effects of multiple activities. World Wildlife Fund's 2016 Living Planet Report showed that freshwater populations have declined 81 per cent over the past four decades. Habitat loss is the number one reason for the decline. Protecting fish is impossible without protecting habitat.
However, some of the recommendations in WWF-Canada's testimony were not included.
In particular, WWF-Canada recommended the restoration of Section 32, removed in 2012, Killing Fish By Means Other Than Fishing. Since the 2012 removal, fish haven't been protected from harm due to industrial activities. WWF-Canada also recommended adding protections against harm that injures or reduces the fitness of fish populations but does not kill them.
David Miller, President and CEO of WWF-Canada, said:
"WWF Canada is very pleased to see recommendations for the restoration of many of the provisions of the Fisheries Act that were taken out in 2012. When the Act was gutted, Canada lost one of its strongest environmental laws. The Standing Committee's recommendations have the potential to create 21st-century legislation that emphasizes science, monitoring, sustainable fisheries and essential habitat protection."
About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.