(English) Helping Habitat : Bill C-68

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I have been invited to write a regular column on conservation issues related to Muskies and their Habitat.  So my territory overlaps well with the range of Muskies in Canada.

A bit about me first, I work for Ducks Unlimited Canada as the Director of Regional Operations for Eastern Canada.  This means I oversee DUC’s conservation work east of Manitoba. So my territory overlaps well with the range of Muskies in Canada.  I have been a member of Muskies Canada for three years and am yet to catch my first Muskie.  I hope the 2018 is my year. 

I worked with Peter Levick, then president of Muskies Canada to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between Muskies and DUC in 2015.  In this MOU we committed to ongoing collaboration to expand mutual habitat conservation projects that benefit Muskellunge and Waterfowl in eastern Canada.  Given our shared focus on habitat this was the quickest MOU that I have ever developed.  You will have seen in Chris Nielson’s Presidents message, that we are seeing good examples of working together.

Implications of proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act

One of the powerful tools supporting habitat conservation at scale is Federal or Provincial legislation or policy.  These government directions can have significant impacts on habitat and uses of habitat.  The federal fisheries act is a critical act that regulates activities related to fisheries and fish habitat.  As such, it is an important tool in conservation of habitat. 

The fisheries act underwent significant modernization and change in 2012.  Some of these changes reduced the extent of fish habitats protected across Canada.  The Federal government has introduced new amendments to the act (Bill C-68) that will have a significant impact on fish and fish habitat.  Some highlights include:

Before Proposed Amendments

After Proposed Amendments

Not all fish and fish habitat protected; only those related to a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery protected

Protection of all fish and fish habitat

Uncertainty as to when authorizations are required for development projects

 

Clarity on which types of projects require authorizations through permitting and codes of practice

 

Lack of transparency regarding authorization decisions for projects; no requirement to publicly release information on these decisions

 

Requirement to publicly release information on project decisions through an online registry

No provisions to restore degraded habitat as part of development project reviews

 

Provisions to consider restoration priorities as part of development project reviews

 

No tools to quickly implement in-season fisheries restrictions to address unforeseen conservation and management issues

 

Ability to put in place targeted short-term measures to quickly and effectively respond to unforeseen threats to the management of fisheries and to the conservation of fish

 

 These proposed amendments are important to Muskies Canada for several reasons.  First, the changes strengthen the protection of habitat for muskellunge throughout their lives.  In addition, the proposed amendments will make is easier to know and understand if future development projects are going to impact muskellunge habitat and how developer will compensate for these impacts.  The amendments are more explicit on compensation for destruction of fish habitat.  Muskies Canada has the opportunity to guide compensation for loss of muskellunge habitat.

The act is currently moving thru the parliamentary process and the government is considering the proposed amendments.   MP and Federal Ministers respond to comments from members of grass roots organizations like Muskies Canada.

So it is time to Take Action.

You can have a positive influence on getting Bill C-68 adopted by sending a letter, email or talking to your MP and/or Dominic LeBlanc the Federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.  The message is simple you support the positive changes to increase the protection of fish habitat being proposed in Bill C-68.

Here is the complete Bill-C68 submission.