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

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Chemainus’ Matt Simpson, far right, with other Northland College athletes during an orientation session. (Photo submitted)
Cool transition to college baseball in Wisconsin for Simpson

Chemainus baseball product anxious to get going after last season lost due to COVID

From left: Viola Hegglund (Lebitschnig), Bob Duncan (a.k.a., Luff), Gordy Crawford, Clyde (Phil) Bodger, Gordy Duncan (a.k.a., Luff), Pat Dyke (Quaife) and Colleen Bundock. (Photo submitted)
Old school days

Going way back in Crofton’s history

Letters to the Editor.
Gratitude to those who did snow removal

Sidewalks and driveways for the elderly kept clear

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

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

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

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

Most Read