Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Scientists Want Federal Government to Restore Fisheries Protection

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Scientists Want Federal Government to Restore Fisheries Protection

Article excerpt

Scientists to Ottawa: Hurry up fix to Fisheries Act

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Prominent scientists and environmental groups are urging the federal Liberals to hurry up and repair what they see as damage to fisheries done by the previous government.

"We request that previous habitat protections be immediately reinstated in the Fisheries Act," says a letter signed by 47 individuals and organizations.

The signatories run from the World Wildlife Fund to the B.C. Federation of Fly Fishers and include researchers such as David Schindler from the University of Alberta, whose work revealed some of the earliest evidence that the oilsands were releasing contaminants.

"The time to start is quickly," said signatory John Smol, an ecologist at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

"Delay in the environment costs us dearly. Nature is very slow to pardon mistakes."

The letter asks Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo to repeal changes made under the Harper Conservatives in a controversial 2012 omnibus bill. Those changes removed prohibitions against the harmful alteration, damage or destruction of any fishery. Attention was instead focused on commercial fisheries.

"One of the biggest factors that affect fish abundance is habitat," said Smol. "We have to restore habitat protection."

Smol pointed out the changes came as fisheries began to face threats, including climate change, invasive species and new contaminants.

"If anything, we have to strengthen the act. Instead, it was weakened."

Protecting commercially valuable fish without protecting the habitat for all fish just doesn't work, said Linda Nowlan of the West Coast Environmental Law Centre.

"I don't think we humans are capable of picking which parts of nature need protection. You need to look at the ecosystem as a whole."

Tootoo has been instructed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to restore the protections. …

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