Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Changes to Federal Fisheries Act Draw Fire from Three B.C. Scientists

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Changes to Federal Fisheries Act Draw Fire from Three B.C. Scientists

Article excerpt

B.C. scientists attack Fisheries Act changes


VANCOUVER - Three scientists from B.C. have used an internationally prestigious journal to launch an attack against changes to the federal Fisheries Act currently before the Senate.

In a letter published online Thursday in the journal "Science," the scientists from Simon Fraser University criticize cutbacks at eco-toxicology labs and an aquatic research facility and changes to the act itself, saying the government's rational for making the changes is not supported by fact.

The changes are part of the omnibus budget bill known as Bill C-38, which passed third reading in Parliament earlier this week but has not yet become law.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not respond to a request for comment on the letter.

"Where it seems that the evidence doesn't support the claims, it's important that people look at that and make the leaders aware of that, and continue to call out that we do value evidence and we do value effective management of the country," said Brett Favaro, a PhD student at the university.

"So that's where this really comes from is looking at the data and making sure we are making the best decisions based on the data."

According to the bill currently before the Senate, the amended act would only apply to major waterways and only to prohibit "serious harm" to a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery.

"Serious harm" is defined as death or permanent damage to habitat.

The changes would also give the federal government more leeway to allow exceptions.

The Conservative government has argued the legislation has been applied indiscriminately against ditches and other structures unlikely to bear fish and as a result has interfered with landowners and farmers, write Favaro, and SFU biology professors John Reynolds and Isabelle Cote, citing Parliamentary debates.

The government has also argued that removing habitat protection would enable Canadians to undertake activities on their properties without obtrusive interference, the scientists add. …

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