Fisheries Act habitat protection weakened
June 5, 2012 – B.C. fishermen and fish plant workers are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to immediately withdraw habitat protection changes to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-38. The United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union – CAW and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation say that although the changes seem to protect fish habitat that “supports fisheries,” the suite of changes will actually reduce current fish habitat protection and put B.C. fishery jobs in jeopardy.
The two organizations have memberships based in the commercial fishing industry on the B.C. coast, an industry that employs more than 12,000 people in various fisheries and in the fish processing sector.
“The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act would allow some alteration and disruption of fish habitat, which could be at critical times of the year when salmon are spawning or young juvenile salmon are in our streams,” said David Lane, Executive Director of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. “This ignores the extremely sensitive biological needs for salmon – any disruption of salmon eggs over winter, juvenile salmon rearing areas or spawning grounds would wipe out an entire salmon run for ever, even if the habitat were to be restored some time later.”
“Protecting only fish habitat related to a fishery is hairbrained and unworkable in practice,” said Irvin Figg, President of the UFAWU-CAW. “A Chinook salmon caught in the sports fishery off Haida Gwaii or a pink salmon caught by the commercial fishery on the North Coast could have come from any number of watersheds. Literally thousands of streams in B.C. have not been studied enough to make a definitive link to a fishery, given that fishing can take place a thousand kilometres from a salmon spawning bed.”
The UFAWU-CAW and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation have written Prime Minister Harper asking for the current Fisheries Act fish habitat provisions to remain in place.