Canada aquaculture regs come under fire

A Vancouver-based environmental law association is raising concerns over proposed new federal regulations regarding aquatic drugs, pesticides and fish waste from aquaculture operations.

The West Coast Environmental Law Association on Tuesday rejected a Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) plan to reduce oversight over fish farms and called for stronger protections for British Columbia’s struggling salmon populations.

“This is a classic case of government turning a blind eye to the risks of industrial activities,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law. “DFO is essentially proposing to divest itself of responsibility for the harms fish farms cause to wild fish populations and their habitat. It must uphold its obligation to Canadians to ensure that aquaculture does not come at the cost of Aboriginal, commercial and recreational fisheries.”

The association says the regulations would permit aquaculture facilities to introduce drugs, pesticides and fish feed and waste into the ocean without a license or environmental assessment. There are more than 100 salmon farms along British Columbia’s coast.

Gail Shea, minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said in August that the Canadian government is “taking extra steps to increase sustainable aquaculture production in Canada while protecting the environment by proposing these new Aquaculture Activities Regulations.

“Aquaculture activities currently fall under 10 different federal acts,” Shea continued. “The proposed changes aim at clearly spelling out conditions under all federal acts. Authorized aquaculture operators would therefore be able to operate with additional certainty about compliance with federal pollution prevention provisions. Importantly, the proposed Regulations would also impose greater public reporting on the environmental performance of the sector.”

The regulations are a result of recent changes to federal environmental laws, including the 2012 omnibus budget bill C-38. Fisheries Act changes in this controversial bill were opposed by scientists, First Nations, community groups, fishing associations, conservation groups and former fisheries ministers as environmentally irresponsible and undemocratic, according to the association.


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