Fish may be the biggest losers in federal environmental law rollbacks. Bills C-38 and C-45 gutted the Fisheries Act, one of Canada’s oldest and – until then – strongest environmental laws.
Scientists agree that the most effective way to protect fish populations is to protect fish habitat. Shredding Canada’s environmental safety net put the health and abundance of Canada’s fish seriously at risk by:
- Eliminating protection of any fish that are not part of or support a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery.
- Reducing protection from “harm” to “serious harm.” Before 2012, anything that harmfully altered, damaged or destroyed fish habitat was prohibited. Now, something must actually kill fish, or permanently alter or destroy its habitat, to be caught by the law.
- Lessening protection for at-risk fish. Scientists estimate that the changes have removed protection of approximately 80% of Canada’s freshwater fish that are at risk of extinction.
- Expanding government’s power to permit harm by giving it broad powers to exempt entire fish species or waters from protection, or industries and activities from the prohibitions.
- Offloading responsibility onto the provinces and private interests, which may not have the laws or desire to ensure the safety of wild fish.
- Removing legislative protection of 99% of Canada’s lakes and rivers.
- Giving blanket-authorization to fish farms to dump aquatic drugs and pesticides into wild salmon habitat.