Fisheries Council of Canada concerned by amendments to Fisheries Act

Fisheries Council of Canada President Paul Lansbergen spoke to Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on Friday, 11 May, to advocate in favor of a clear and stable policy framework.

The challenge and frustration for those working in a regulated industry, like fisheries, is the inconsistent application of rules and regulations, Lansbergen, the head of the trade group representing Canada's fishing and seafood industry, told the committee. Without clarity and stability, the industry won’t have the confidence to invest in and support conservation, he added.

The committee is examining Bill C-68, an amendment to the country’s Fisheries Act, which contains extensive amendments to restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards. It is part of the government’s review of environmental and regulatory processes.

“Our growth opportunities won’t be realized in the absence of a clear and stable policy framework. Unfortunately, this is currently lacking in Canadian fisheries,” Lansbergen said.

Lansbergen criticized the recent policy change which took part of an existing quota in Arctic surf clams from a producer without compensation. 

“Taking away long-standing licenses and quotas does not respect past investments and has eroded the sector’s confidence to invest and could undermine conservation efforts,” he said,” Lansbergen said. “They have taken away a license and quota to give to indigenous groups as part of the reconciliation agenda the government has. We’re not questioning the reconciliation; it’s a question of how they’re doing it. They can continue doing that with or without Bill C-68, but it colors how we view the bill and whether any of the provisions of the bill or the regulations that will follow, whether those will make things better or make things worse, in terms of stability of access.”

To provide that clear and stable framework, the FCC would like “an engagement process with the government on how to find a win-win solution to our concerns, so a win for them on continuing to proceed with reconciliation and win for us that regains the confidence for the sector to invest,” Lansbergen said.

Another troubling change, which was less recent, involved northern shrimp, he said.

“They took away the LIFO – last in, first out – policy for reallocation and went for proportional sharing. That was a fundamental change to how the allocations had existed in that fishery,” he said. “The amount of consultation that led to that wasn’t as comprehensive as people would like. So when people don’t know, that’s when they get concerned and feel things are uncertain.”

Equally troubling is the inconsistency of government speaking about a “voluntary relinquishment” of a commercial license to forcing an involuntary relinquishment on the sector, Lansbergen said.

“What we want is an engagement process with the government on how to move forward, because businesses want certainty,” he said. “If they know what the government wants to do, how they are going to more forward in terms of policy, then we can make the decisions we need to to operate within that policy framework. Obviously, we want them to follow the willing buyer-willing seller approach. They have that policy on the books, but in surf clams, they didn’t follow it. And the minister has said that he may not follow that going forward. And that concerns us.” 

Photo courtesy Fisheries Council of Canada


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