Activists praise Canada’s move to protect wild fisheries

Canada’s Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced on Tuesday, 6 February, that the Canadian government is moving forward with proposed legislation for a CAD 284 million (USD 227 million, EUR 184 million) overhaul of the nation’s Fisheries Act.

According to CBC News, the legislation would include money to hire new officers to enforce stricter regulations and would free up government funds to rebuild depleted stocks.  

The announcement drew praise from SumOfUs, a consumer group that has been pushing the government to restore fisheries protections since video surfaced last year of wastewater effluent from a farmed Atlantic salmon processing facility on British Colombia’s Vancouver Island being pumped into wild salmon migratory channels. 

Studies found that the wastewater, which originated from a facility that processes farmed Atlantic salmon raised on Vancouver Island by Norwegian aquaculture giant Cermaq, contained contained piscine reovirus (PRV), which has been linked to disease in wild salmon.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Emma Pullman, campaign manager at SumOfUs, urged the government to be vigilant of aquaculture, especially when it affects wild salmon. 

“There is more to be done. The government must enforce regulations that keep PRV-infected fish out of Canada’s oceans. This is particularly critical following the test results this week that confirm that the tens of thousands of liters of bloody effluent released into the ocean from two fish processing plants did contain the dangerous piscine reovirus. This is a critical issue that cannot be ignored. Now, we need all levels of government to look at the entire aquaculture industry closely and ensure our laws can do they should be doing: protecting and restoring our wild salmon,” Pullman said in the statement. 

The press release from SumOfUs said 26,000 Canadians had signed a petition urging LeBlanc to protect wild salmon by amending the Fisheries Act, which was altered in 2012 by the administration of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper to weaken such protections.

Under the proposed legislation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration would ramp up protections for wild fish and their habitat and recognize the importance of fishing in Canada’s coastal communities, where many indigenous tribes live and fish.

“We are heartened to see a commitment recognizing indigenous rights included in the amended act, and to see HADD (the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat) restored, including on dumping deleterious substances into fish-bearing waters,” Pullan said in the statement. “Among other positive changes are sustainability considerations, provisions for rebuilding depleted stocks, key habitat restoration, and strengthening of enforcement powers.”


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