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* Can Canada save its fish habitat before it's too late?

* Lobster fishery in trouble

* Another collapse possible under DFO watch

* NL biologist critical of DFO capelin fishery policy

* Dalhousie Univ. shark researcher criticizes derbies

* DFO conflict of interest in salmon farming questioned

* Oceana Canada finds fishery mismanagement

* DFO rejects endangered label for bluefin tuna

* DFO action plan falls short of Cohen recommendations

* Heiltsuk force DFO to reduce herring quota

* DFO sides with LNG company on BC plant

* Oil lobbyist hired to advise DFO

* DFO signs MOU with NEB on fish protections

* Canada poised to gut fish protection

* DFO and Coast Guard budgets slashed

* Muzzling scientists not the answer

* DFO no longer enforcing

* DFO to protect only fish of interest to fishermen

* Canadian science gets censored

* Journalists give DFO 'F' for free expression

* Salmon Confidential: A follow up

* Canada muzzling gov't scientists?

* Canada making poor fishery decisions

* Spreading sea lice and killing seals and sea lions

* DFO failed to protect sockeye salmon

* DFO: regulating AND promoting the fishing industry

* DFO opposes protecting salmon

* Salmon population collapse on DFO watch

* DFO putting salmon in jeopardy

* Short-sighted caplin management

* Unsustainable lobster catches

* Lobster conservation needed

* DFO war on owner-operators

* DFO turns blind eye to bottom trawling dangers

* Hearn to revive recreational cod fishery

* Grey seal hunt - more mismanagement

* Commercial fishing of depleted cod allowed

* Endangered species listings fall short

* DFO officer accepts bribes

* Grey seal slaughter illegal

* DFO criticized in Senate



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The Failures and Fatuities of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans

DFO Mismanagement of the Ocean Ecology

How Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is destroying marine ecosystems

The DFO isn't only driving the seals toward extinction, they're working on many other species, too...

Note: This is a work in progress. There is simply too much DFO incompetence to present all the evidence here at once...besides, the DFO hasn't given up on ruining the ocean ecosystems yet.



Can Canada Save Its Fish Habitat Before It’s Too Late?

By James Wilt
Desmog Canada
November 14, 2016

Babine River spawing salmon - D. Herasimtschuk - Freshwaters Ltd
BC Babine River salmon spawning Photo: D Herasimtschuk, Freshwaters Limited

Thirteen years ago, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) issued almost 700 authorizations to projects that would negatively impact fish habitat, mostly in the resource extraction sector: forestry, mining, oil and gas.

By last fiscal year, that number had dropped to 74.

One would think that’s a positive sign. Perhaps the DFO approved far fewer projects, echoing its ambitious 1986 commitment to “no net loss” of fish habitat?

That wasn’t the case.

Thanks to a number of changes — mostly via the “Environmental Process Modernization Plan” of the mid-2000s and the Conservative Party’s industry-led gutting of the Fisheries Act in 2012 — most projects are now “self-assessed” by proponents.

Over the same span, the DFO’s budget was repeatedly slashed, increasingly undermining the department’s ability to monitor and enforce contraventions with “boots on the ground.”

“Harm is happening at the same levels that it always has been,” says Martin Olszynski, assistant professor in law at University of Calgary who specializes in environmental, water and natural resources law. “It’s just that fewer and fewer proponents are coming to DFO and asking for authorization. That’s the reality on the ground.”

In other words, over the past decade the government abdicated responsibility for ensuring the protection of fish habitat to the private sector while simultaneously reducing the ability for the responsible department to actually ensure compliance.
The federal government is currently reviewing Canada’s fish habitat protection regime via a standing committee and public consultations, with recommendations expected in early 2017.

Its verdict could determine the fate of millions of trout, salmon, pike, bass and halibut, which could in turn impact the future of projects like the Mount Polley mine, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal.

Fish Habitat No Longer Explicitly Protected

The specifics of fish habitat protection are very complex, involving lengthy acronyms, highly precise wording and subsections of subsections.

Such details also matter a great deal.

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians and Mark Mattson of the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper argued in the 2014 that “the Fisheries Act was arguably the most important piece of anti-pollution legislation in Canada,” while Linda Nowlan of the WWF described it as “Canada’s strongest environmental law.”

There’s a reason that Barlow and Mattson phrased it in the past tense. As part of the Conservative government’s overhaul of environmental assessment processes via its infamous 2012 omnibus bill, Section 35 of the Fisheries Act was completely rephrased.

No longer did it refer to the “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat,” known as HADD. Instead, the act prohibited “serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery,” with “serious harm” defined as “the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat,” known as as DPAD.

The difference between HADD and DPAD may seem small. But there’s a good reason that 625 scientists signed a letter to Stephen Harper in 2012 opposing the change.

The act no longer explicitly prohibits damage to fish habitat. Instead, it focuses on protecting “fisheries” and muddies the waters with the idea of a “permanent alteration.” This meant that project proponents don’t have to be overly concerned about the DFO cracking down as the concept of “permanent harm” is so ambiguous.

“It’s a lot easier to look at a stream or river or marine area and decide the habitat has been ‘altered, disturbed or destroyed’ rather than, you know, finding the dead fish and tying that back to a particular activity like somebody bulldozing the side of the stream or something,” says Nowlan, who now works as staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.

DFO Gave Self-Assessment Powers to Companies

It’s not like all was well pre-2012.

Olszynski says the number of referrals (which he describes as “inquiries or authorization requests from proponents”) gradually dropped from 13,000 to fewer than 3,500 between 2003 and 2014, accompanying the fall in actual authorizations. At that time, any authorization by the DFO triggered a mandatory environmental assessment (EA).

However, the DFO didn’t have the capacity to conduct basic screening for every project, let alone a full EA as mandated by the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency.

As a result, Olszynski says the department started to divert projects from the “authorization stream” by sending letters of advice and operational statements to proponents building “low-risk” projects, with the info describing mitigation measures and requests that proponents notify the DFO when they were proceeding.

That meant that companies were largely responsible for ensuring that fish habitat was protected with very little oversight, especially in the North.

Cumulative Effects of Thousands of ‘Minor’ Projects Unchartered

Even that meagre voluntary requirement disappeared in 2012. Today, proponents can’t notify the DFO of proposed projects even if they want to: the system has since been replaced with a “self-review” website that provides information about what projects do and don’t require authorization.

Although the new Fisheries Act wasn’t actually implemented until November 2013, the number of referrals to the DFO dropped dramatically after it was announced in 2012, which Nowlan says “sent a message out to the world that habitat wasn’t as important.”

That was compounded by the aforementioned decline in enforcement, as well as a failure to increase penalties to a level that actually deters bad behaviour.

“In 2012, a big shift was instead of having habitat biologists and protection officers on the ground, out there, able to give fines and all the rest of it, you have people either fired or shifted to different positions,” says Nikki Skuce, project director of Northern Confluence. “There was a whole bunch of offloads.”

Nowlan says there haven’t been any prosecutions for fish habitat damage in Canada since, which is “quite astonishing.”

This has also resulted in even less information available to the DFO. One of the major impacts of this is the inability to assess cumulative effects of projects, such as how a series of small individual withdrawals of water from a river or stream changes flow rate. Together, thousands of minor projects could have massive combined impacts on fish habitat.

If actually tracked, such cumulative effects could be input into databases analyzed via maps and GIS software. Olszynski says that, eventually, the government could begin to tailor regulatory regimes and offsetting requirements to what’s happening on the ground.

“Over a couple of years, hopefully, DFO would start to develop a better sense of the activity on the watershed,” he says. “That’s part of that ability then to finally answer the question that DFO has never been able to answer, which is ‘what’s happening with fish habitat in Canada?’ ”

‘You Have to Have Habitat to Protect Fish’

There are many things the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans could recommend to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc to correct some of these issues.

Rephrase Section 35 to refer to explicitly refer to habitat destruction. Alter the act to account for cumulative effects. Commit far more funding to the DFO for monitoring and enforcement to help create a sense that someone’s paying attention; Skuce notes it’s also important to retrain staff to know what to look for and ask the right questions.

Establish a means for proponents of “low-risk” projects to report progress to the DFO. Create a public registry of authorizations, with the long-term goal of crafting appropriate regulations that respond to real-world events. Work with Indigenous nations under the terms of the the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Many seem optimistic the government will make the most of the opportunity to restore protections to pre-2012 levels and exceed them with “modern safeguards.”

Olszynski says the DFO’s consultation website for the review process is “pretty first rate” in terms of online engagement and suggests the department is thinking seriously about some of the issues.

Skuce also notes the minister’s father, Roméo LeBlanc, was responsible for implementing habitat protection in the first place in 1977 and that she hopes his son can “do the same thing but even better.”

“It’s such a no-brainer,” Skuce says. “You have to protect habitat to protect fish. The sooner they can do it the better as we’re seeing declining salmon stock and projects being permitted. We’d really like to see this happen sooner rather than later.”



MEEK: All we are saying is give fish a chance

By Jim Meek
October 7, 2016

lobsters in tub - Chronicle Herald
Lobsters in a large tub. According to a report by Julie Gelfand, the lobster fishery off southwestern Nova Scotia fetched more than $310 million at the wharf in 2014. In 2016, the value of the catch will be closer to $400 million. (Staff)

Canada’s iconic fish species used to be cod, until we ran out of it.

Now we brag about lobster, the tasty crustacean featured in fine restaurants from London to Tokyo — and perhaps the one product that could transform ‘Nova Scotia’ into a quality global brand.

A federal audit released this week by Julie Gelfand, the federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, confirms what we already know — the lobster fishery off southwestern Nova Scotia is the most valuable in Canada.

According to Gelfand’s report, the fishery fetched more than $310 million at the wharf in 2014. In 2016, the value of the catch will be closer to $400 million.

Here’s what we didn’t know: Canada’s not doing enough to manage this fishery sustainably.

Overall, the lobster stock is classified as “healthy” — as recent catch levels suggest.

But, “the assessment for this lobster stock did not take into account recent changes in the ecosystem or the impact of new, more efficient fishing methods.”

This isn’t a five-alarm fire, yet.

But those “changes in the ecosystem” would include warmer water temperatures, the very factor that all but wiped out the lobster fishery in southern New England.

Lobster, which is apparently susceptible to fatal hot flashes, has been migrating north to cooler water.

So far, this has been great news for fishermen in Maine and Nova Scotia. But many wonder what will happen if, or as, waters warm up in the Gulf of Maine.

If I’m getting Gelfand’s report right, Canada environmental watchdog isn’t saying that fisheries collapses are inevitable.

Her real warning: Canada doesn’t have enough scientific data to make a sound, educated guess about what the heck will happen to major commercial species in Canada.

For instance, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has failed to implement (or update) rebuilding plans for a dozen depleted commercial species.

The Gelfand report, in short, tends to confirm the inconvenient truths outlined a couple of months ago in Canada’s Marine Fisheries: Status, Recovery Potential and Pathways to Success, a 150-page report sponsored by the lobby group Oceana Canada.

The report, co-authored by Halifax biologist Susanna Fuller, found that only a quarter of 125 fish stocks were considered (by DFO itself) to be healthy.

In addition, Fuller’s team found that tracking down stock data — and the science, when it exists — was a challenge of Sherlockian proportions.

Gelfand’s report, meanwhile, piles on bad news by describing “systemic” problems in the fisheries observer program, under which dockside monitors are funded by companies with links to the industry. (The fox is in the henhouse.)

Former fisheries observer Phil Thompson summed this issue up a month ago in these pages, when he argued the observer program hit the skids after DFO turned it over to private companies.

Not everyone in the industry will agree with Thompson, but Gelfand’s report adds credibility to his conclusion that “the department has reduced the quality of data, created conflicts of interest . . . and side-stepped federal rules.”

For the record, I figure blaming DFO for all the problems in the fishery is now badly out-of-fashion. (In truth, department officials only made one mistake — failing to flee the scene of the crime along with everybody else.)

Successive governments have stripped DFO of scientific capacity for at least two decades now and I was glad to hear Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc say all the right and soothing things after the Gelfand audit was released.

“We fully intend to act on her recommendations,” said LeBlanc, whose department’s budget was hiked by $200 million in the Trudeau government’s first budget.

In short, Dominic’s going to make it all better and Godspeed to him on his journey.

After all, the fishery is still Nova Scotia’s largest private sector employer.

So let’s understand the science well enough to manage the industry effectively and to give the fish a chance to survive, too.



Another cod-like collapse possible under DFO watch, says federal audit
'From my perspective, we are still at risk of having another stock potentially go into collapse'

By Paul Withers
CBC News
Oct 05, 2016

cod fish - CBC
A federal audit report found of 15 'critical' depleted fish stocks, only three had the required rebuilding plans. (CBC)

A new federal audit report warns another fish species collapse could happen again under the watch of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"From my perspective, we are still at risk of having another stock potentially go into collapse, similar to what happened to the [Northern] cod," said Julie Gelfand, federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, who released the audit this week.

Working on behalf of the federal auditor general, the commissioner looked at the management of wild fisheries in Canada between 2013 and 2016 and concluded DFO lacked the key information it needed to manage major fish stocks.

Among the findings:

  • Of 15 depleted stocks deemed "critical" because continued fishing poses a threat, the audit found only three had required rebuilding plans.
  • Of the 154 major stocks, 44 were missing required integrated fish management plans, or those plans were out of date.
  • The department failed to carry out planned scientific surveys due in part to mechanical problems on board coast guard vessels.
  • There are "systemic" problems with fishery observer programs — a vital source of information on catches at sea.

Case study: Fisheries Observer failures

The audit followed up on changes in the DFO made by the previous Conservative government.

One was a 2013 change that required fishing companies — not DFO — to hire third party observers. That left the department little leverage when observers fail to comply with program requirements.

The only recourse was to revoke their designation, which in turn would disrupt access to catch data. As a result, no revocation has ever happened despite complaints.

The department is also struggling with the potential for conflict of interest in dockside monitoring companies. There is a policy that fisheries observer companies can have fewer than half of board members with ties to the fishing industry.

However the audit reported, "For at least four dockside monitoring companies, the Department was aware of a serious potential conflict of interest, but took no action to ensure it had been mitigated."

Big budget cuts too

The audit says significant budget cuts between 2011 and 2016 eroded DFO's ability to fulfil its mandate.

The budget for DFO's key tool for sustainable management — the Integrated Fisheries Resource Management Program — was reduced by more than 25 per cent. The budget for its Fisheries Resource Science Program was reduced by almost 20 per cent.

Environmentalist Susanna Fuller of the Ecology Action Centre says the previous Conservative Government is 75 per cent responsible for today's problems at DFO.

"Budget cuts and strategic reviews have eaten up huge amounts of senior management time and really devastated the morale," Fuller said.

"The fact they agreed to every single recommendation in the report is quite telling. It means they recognize those problems internally. I think we've had a decade of budget cuts, we've not had a lot of importance given to our fisheries over the last decade either."

Liberals promise action

On Wednesday, federal Minister of Fisheries Dominic Leblanc told CBC News the Liberals take the environment commissioner's audit report very seriously.

"We fully intend to act on her recommendations. We think it validates some concerns we've had for a long time," LeBlanc said.

In its spring budget the federal government increased DFO's budget by $197 million.

In its response to the findings, DFO pledged to develop integrated fisheries management plans where none exist and to update those that are out of date by next spring.

The department promised better scientific monitoring and technology upgrades that will allow the department to share information between its six regional offices.

A failure to communicate between the two regions that share management of the Greenland halibut fishery — formerly known as turbot — resulted in a catch that was 50 per cent over limit.

The overfishing only came to light after the fishery season ended.



Leading biologist in Newfoundland calls for end to capelin fishery

The problem with capelin fishery is that it focuses on catching female with eggs so "you're essentially fishing the next generation,” said a leading biologist in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Canadian Press
Aug. 23, 2016

HALIFAX—They are tiny fish that feed the mightiest of mammals — and they’re in trouble.

Capelin travel in large schools off Canada’s east coast and are the preferred food of many species of whales, but these silver, smelt-like fish experienced a population crash in the early 1990s from which they have yet to recover.

Capelin - Paul Daly - Canadian Press
Capelin come ashore to spawn at Middle Cove Beach in Newfoundland on Friday, July 22. A leading researcher in the province has called for the closure of the capelin fishery. (PAUL DALY / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A leading biologist in Newfoundland and Labrador says the recovery of capelin is so important that the province’s commercial fishery for capelin roe — known as masago among sushi fans — should be stopped.

“It essentially feeds all of the large vertebrate predators in the Northwest Atlantic,” said Bill Montevecchi, a well-known research professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s.

“But the population crashed, for reasons we think have to do with their food, climate change and (other factors). Nothing has been normal with capelin for two decades ... Things are out of whack.”

The estimated biomass of capelin plunged from six million tonnes in 1990 to about 150,000 tonnes in 1991 — a decline that coincided with the collapse of the cod stocks and an increase in the harp seal, crab and northern shrimp populations.

Capelin are also an important source of food for seabirds, seals and several species of groundfish, including cod — once the backbone of commercial fishing in the province.

Easing fishing pressure on the capelin could be crucial to the province’s cod fishing industry as surveys continue to suggest cod stocks are finally on the rebound after being virtually wiped out by overfishing, mismanagement and environmental factors, Montevecchi said.

The problem with the capelin fishery, he said, is that it focuses on catching females with eggs.

“You’re not only fishing what you catch, you’re essentially fishing the next generation.”

The inshore fishery, which started in the 1970s, peaked in the late 1980s, with landings averaging about 80,000 tonnes a year, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Earlier this season, Newfoundland fishermen landed more than 26,000 tonnes of capelin. That’s about 5,000 tonnes more than the annual quota.

About a dozen companies process capelin across the province. The landed value in 2015 was $10 million, up by 11.5 per cent from 2014, according to the province’s Fisheries Department.

Earlier this month, World Wildlife Fund Canada issued a statement saying the fisheries for capelin and other so-called forage fish — including herring and mackerel — are poorly understood in terms of scientific assessment.

“Populations of large predators like humpback whales, along with seabirds and commercial species such as cod, will never recover if they don’t have enough food to eat,” David Miller, CEO of WWF-Canada, said in the statement.

“It’s shocking that many of these fisheries are being managed without adequate information about the stocks.”

Alejandro Buren, an aquatic sciences biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said he doesn’t agree with Montevecchi’s suggestion that the capelin fishery should be shut down.

The relatively small size of the fishery does not warrant such a move, he said.

However, Buren said it’s essential that the population be monitored effectively, noting that there was no capelin survey this year.

And he agrees that targeting egg-bearing fish is a problem.

“Fishing on spawning fish can have an impact on the populations,” he said in an interview. “Some management on the timing may be appropriate.”

Buren said it’s clear that the capelin population remains in deep trouble despite some positive signs of growth in recent years.

“It’s nowhere close to where it used to be, prior to the 1990s. It’s encouraging, (but) I wouldn’t be over-confident with only two or three years of buildup.”

Montevecchi said he’s hoping the federal government and the industry will do the right thing.

“The fishery is really changing perspective for the better,” he said. “People are coming to the realization that best practices are important, and you make more by catching fewer, high-quality fish.”



Shark researchers question DFO policy on catch-and-kill derbies
Some researchers support moving to catch-and-release tournaments

By Shaina Luck
CBC News Posted:
Aug 19, 2016

The catching of a large female mako shark has prompted some researchers to question the Fisheries and Oceans Canada policy on Nova Scotia's annual shark derbies.

Mako shark - Marshall Bower
The catching of a 488-kg mako shark at the Lockeport Shark Derby prompted researchers to suggest a change in policy. (Marshall Bower)

The shark derbies are annual community festivals that include a shark-fishing event. Fishermen compete to catch large sharks, which are then turned over to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans so scientists can gather biological data. Sharks smaller than 2.4 metres are tagged and released.

Brendal Townsend, a shark researcher at Dalhousie University, says she is concerned that the data collected is no longer scientifically useful. She believes the same information could be gathered through catch-and-release methods.

"They say that they're collecting data. But just because you're collecting data that doesn't make it science ... If they're justifying the catching and killing of these animals, that information needs to be available to the public, not just in internal documents at DFO," Townsend said.

"I think there's a real opportunity here to move this event to catch and release. To make sure that there's more of an education component outreach here, on all the sharks that exist in Atlantic Canadian waters."

Published within DFO

Warren Joyce, a shark technician at DFO, said the information from the derbies does get published within the department.

"They are usually published in internal documents called research documents," he said.

"We haven't got around to mako sharks at the moment, but two years ago we had published a research document incorporating the data from the shark derbies in regards to the blue sharks.

"What we found in there was the overall mortality of the sharks landed in the shark derbies was about less than three per cent of the total population mortality. So it's a very small number in terms of what's actually caught commercially."

In recent years, derbies have caught about 100 or fewer sharks each year. However, Townsend says she is worried about the optics of killing a large shark and displaying it as a prize.

"We're catching and killing sharks and hanging them up for display for the general public. And that is an optical issue," she said.

"I think that's something that needs to be considered. Because sharks are not out there to eat people. They're not out there roaming the seas to get the next beach-goer. They're actually very fragile creatures, and very important for the ecosystem."

Largest sharks killed

Christine Ward-Paige, who teaches and studies sharks at Dalhousie, is also concerned about the derbies. She noted that the largest sharks are the ones that are killed.

"In Australia, one of the most well-managed shark fisheries in the world, they have imposed maximum size limits for shark fishing," Ward-Paige wrote in an email.

"They protect those largest sharks that are reproducing adults. This highlights the difference here, where Nova Scotia derbies kill only the biggest individuals."

Conservation groups trying to educate

Conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund have been trying to do more education on how to identify and handle the sharks, says Jarrett Corke, a shark specialist with the organization.

"World Wildlife Fund has been engaged with the shark derbies for the last four to five years now, providing them educational materials on identification and the best catch, handle and release practices," he said.

"So the fishermen who are out on the water catching the undersized sharks — the ones that are being let go during the tournament — that those are being put back in the best condition possible."

Corke said the WWF has also been working more widely among fishermen to talk about shark handling. He said it was important to note that the recently-caught mako was estimated to be about 20 years old and sexually mature. He said killing large female sharks could have "unintended consequences" on that species.

Catch and release?

Joyce said the derbies are reviewed each year. He did not rule out the possibility of moving to catch and release, but said how the derbies are handled is between DFO management and the organizers, which is distinct from DFO's science branch. He noted DFO scientists continue to get valuable biological data from the derbies through methods like the voluntary tagging program.

He said the capture of the large female mako will provide more data, and DFO has only had one previous opportunity to study a female mako.

"I actually do have the reproductive tract out of it that we're hoping to look at," he said. "It'll give us more biological information on these large females."


DFO not in conflict of interest for promoting salmon farming, minister says

Geordon Omand
The Canadian Press
August 9, 2016

Young Atlantic salmon- Jim Cole - AP
Young Atlantic Salmon are seen at the National fish Hatchery in Nashua, N.H. on April 2, 2012. (AP / Jim Cole)

VANCOUVER - Canada's fisheries minister is dismissing concerns from stakeholder groups over suggestions the government agency tasked with conserving wild fish stocks is in a conflict of interest by also being in charge of championing the salmon-farming industry.

Removing industry advocacy from the purview of Fisheries and Oceans Canada was one of the key recommendations from a 2012 report by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen into the 2009 collapse of sockeye salmon in British Columbia's Fraser River.

The public mandate letter from the prime minister to the minister of fisheries and oceans, a portfolio Dominic LeBlanc took over in June, directed him to "act on recommendations of the Cohen commission on restoring sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River."

However, LeBlanc said the ministry's mandate to preserve fisheries is fundamental to its responsibility to promote a viable, long-term salmon-farming industry.

"I think Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a responsibility to promote the sustainable use of fish resources in a way that's good for the local economy," LeBlanc said Tuesday at a news conference.

"If it's a $2- or $3-billion piece of the Canadian economy, with $5 million in labour wages alone in that sector, I think Fisheries and Oceans Canada would be irresponsible not to."
LeBlanc was in West Vancouver to provide a status update on the Cohen commission's report.

He emphasized the government's move to spend nearly $200 million to hire 135 new scientists, biologists, oceanographers and technicians countrywide, which LeBlanc said would contribute directly towards fulfilling 10 of Cohen's 75 recommendations.

Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs applauded the government's commitment to expand its focus beyond the commission's narrow analysis of the Fraser River's sockeye salmon run to the entire province.

But he also raised concerns about the agency's apparent conflict of interest between promoting industry and protecting fish, saying it raises the possibility of one being bolstered at the expense of the other.

"I'm completely in support of the Cohen commission's recommendations," Chamberlin said. "The (department's) primary responsibility ... is looking after wild fish and the environment."

He also described some of the government's declared successes in making progress on Cohen's recommendations as "disingenuous," adding that more concise reporting is needed on which recommendations have been embraced. Chamberlin cited two of the report's orders: freezing fish-farm licences on Discovery Channel, a stretch of water between mid-Vancouver Island and the mainland, as well as consultation with First Nations on where to locate open-net fish farms.

"They did a little bit of discussions with First Nations on siting criteria, but it was absolutely meaningless," Chamberlin said.

"They tinkered around the edges and only wanted comment on tinkering."
And while the department has technically followed the recommendation not to issue any more permits in the Discovery Channel, Chamberlin said, it's approved facilities a scant eight kilometres up the coast.

Ian Hinkle from Watershed Watch Salmon Society said there's a pressing need to restore provisions to the Fisheries Act that protect not only salmon but their habitat as well.
"I think there's an opportunity to put more pressure on the minister to act immediately," he said. "Wild salmon can't wait."

The B.C. government thanked LeBlanc for his department's contribution in managing the province's fishery in a news release.

"We believe the collaborative approach outlined by the federal government, including the involvement of First Nations, stakeholders and the Province of British Columbia will lead to continued sustainable fisheries that help support coastal communities around British Columbia," Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick said in the statement.


Here’s the Catch: How to Restore Abundance to Canada’s Oceans
New research reveals the real state of Canada’s fisheries

Oceana Canada
June 2016

Oceana Canada report summary page

It’s easy to say that we’ve learned from the mistakes that led to the collapse of Atlantic groundfish and other species. But have we?

To find out, Oceana Canada commissioned renowned fisheries scientists Dr. Julia K. Baum and Dr. Susanna D. Fuller to assess the state of Canada’s fisheries. The resulting report represents the most comprehensive and up-to-date public analysis ever conducted on the state of Canada’s fish.

We found that although Canada has a long history and diverse culture that connects us to our vast oceans, our fish populations are still severely depleted. Decades after the cod collapse we still have not recovered our ocean abundance. The report also outlines the extent to which overfishing and decades of poor management practices continue to impact Canada’s fish populations.

Some key findings of this report include:

  • Only 24% of Canada’s fish stocks are considered healthy.
  • The health of 45% of Canada’s fish stocks cannot be determined due to a lack of data.
  • Canada’s seafood industry, although economically prosperous, is dependent on a small number of shellfish species. The lack of diversity makes coastal communities and the Canadian seafood industry vulnerable, as communities could have little to fall back on if these stocks decline.

Now, armed with this information, we need to act. Oceana Canada calls on the government and all Canadians to protect and rebuild our nation’s fisheries and the oceans that support them.

Read a summary of the report. Read the individual species stock assessments.



Fishermen relieved Atlantic bluefin tuna dodges endangered species label
Species-at-risk designation would have 'significant socioeconomic cost,' says DFO

By Paul Withers
CBC News
Aug 29, 2016

bluefin tuna - CBC
Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans will not list Atlantic Bluefin tuna as an endangered species. (CBC)

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans has rejected advice to list the Atlantic bluefin tuna as an endangered species.

The long-awaited recommendation should preserve the region's $10-million bluefin tuna fishery, industry representatives say.

The department says western Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks have been rebuilding since 2011, when the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada said tuna should be listed as an endangered species under federal species-at-risk legislation.

Fisherman 'very relieved'

That would have made it illegal to kill, harm or capture the giant fish.

Glenn MacKenzie of the Gulf Nova Scotia Tuna Association said he was "very relieved."

He's one of 135 commercial tuna fishermen who fish from the Nova Scotia side of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

"The science proves that the stock is becoming healthier, more abundant and sustainable," MacKenzie said Monday.

'Significant socioeconomic cost'

On Monday, the federal government announced 12 aquatic species it would be listing as species-at-risk, including loggerhead sea turtle, two populations of leatherback sea turtle and two populations of beluga whales.

In Atlantic Canada, there are 645 commercial licences to fish bluefin tuna and another 57 for bluefin sport fishing charter operations. All were threatened by an endangered species designation.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans warned a species-at-risk designation "would result in a significant socioeconomic cost" for commercial fisheries.

International angler caught up in DFO bluefin tuna sting
Tuna fishermen handed five-year suspension after guilty pleas

'Increasing year upon year'

Lost landed value is estimated to be worth an annual $6.6 million to $8.7 million, lost profit up to $2.6 million and lost charter business an another $1.9 million.

"From the fishing industries perspective, it's not a species that is at risk," industry gear supplier Troy Atkinson said.

"We've seen nothing but numbers increasing year upon year upon year."

'More and more' bluefin tuna in Newfoundland waters, DFO scientist says

Quotas could change

In its analysis posted in the Canada Gazette Saturday, DFO said the original recommendation was made based on data up to 2009.

"However, since that time, the status of the western stock of Atlantic bluefin tuna has improved significantly," the report said.

Bluefin tuna fishing quota rules aim to reverse population decline
DFO said the biomass is expected to continue to increase under current catches, which are set at 2,000 tonnes in 2016. Canada's share is about 450 tonnes.

DFO also noted a species-at-risk listing "is not expected to have a positive impact on the species" since the international commission that manages western Atlantic bluefin stocks could allocate the Canadian portion to other countries.

'End up being worse'

That's a point brought up by industry representatives, including Atkinson.

"They may utilize it in a less well-managed fishery than we have here in Canada, so it could also end up being worse," said Atkinson.

He's also president of the Nova Scotia Swordfishmen's Association, members of which hold licences to land tuna as a bycatch.

'Maintaining the status quo'

But critics such as Heather Grant of Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre argue DFO has not done a good job managing the tuna stocks.

Under the current allowable catch, there is only a 50 per cent chance the stocks will stabilize or increase, she said.

"It really looks like they are going to be maintaining the status quo, in terms of what they are willing to do, and we don't think that's acceptable," Grant said.

Bluefin tuna industry needs more oversight, Pictou County fisherman say
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas will reassess the stock next month. A review of the total allowable catch is expected in November.

Meanwhile, members of the public have 30 days to comment on DFO's recommendation that bluefin tuna not be listed as a species-at-risk.


DFO lands in Richmond to announce action plan on fish
But Minister stops short on all Cohen recommendations as 2016 sockeye run could dip below one million

Graeme Wood / Richmond News
August 12, 2016

fishing boat

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced Tuesday it is taking “further action” on the 75 recommendations of the 2012 Cohen Commission, which sought to address declining Fraser River sockeye salmon runs.

Twenty-nine new employees will be hired for the Pacific Region to help implement many of the recommendations, according to Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Hon. Dominic LeBlanc said

However, there was no commitment that all of the recommendations will be fully implemented yet.

“For some recommendations, DFO supports implementation but additional funding or further work (e.g. consultations) would be required to implement,” noted an online update on the status of the Cohen Commission.

This week, critics have taken aim at DFO’s continued mandate of “economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries,” and “sustainable aquatic ecosystems,” including fish farms.

Commission Recommendation 3 calls for the government to “remove from the (DFO) mandate “the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.”

Environmentalists, such as Alexandra Morton and members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, claim open ocean fish farms are prone to dangerous diseases, thus harming wild stocks. Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, insists farming has no impact on wild stocks.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation said, via an online statement, that it “welcomes the update provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and is very encouraged to hear directly from the minister that full implementation of the Cohen Commission recommendations is a top priority for this new government.”

Grim estimates from Commission

Steveston’s gillnetters have been marooned at their docks this season and it’s expected to stay that way, after the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) released detailed estimates of this year’s sockeye salmon run, which could mark an all-time low.

“The migration of sockeye through both marine and Fraser River assessment areas has been tracking substantially lower than expected for the time of year . . . Sockeye catches in both areas have been at levels less than observed on past cycle years at this time of year,” stated PSC, last Friday.

This week PSC updated its projections, which are worse than last week’s.

The adopted in-season total sockeye run now stands at 968,000 fish, down from the previous estimate of 1.3 million fish. PSC initially expected 2.3 million fish. So far, only 566,900 have returned. First Nations have caught 66,400, with commercial fishers tied at the docks. In 2012, the Fraser saw 2.3 million sockeye return to the river (fish that parented this year’s run).

Sockeye runs occur every four years. The river is now left with just one significant run., In 2014 about 20 million returned from the ocean. Their offspring are expected in 2018.



Bella Bella herring fishery to re-open with much smaller catch
Agreement comes after First Nation's occupation of DFO offices in March 2015

Jan. 19, 2016
By Radio West
CBC News

Heiltsuk fishery
A fishing boat pulls in a net full of herring on the Central Coast of B.C. The Heiltsuk First Nation and the DFO have come to an agreement to limit the size of the 2016 catch considerably. Photo: Heiltsuk First Nation

Less than a year after members of the Heiltsuk First Nation occupied federal fisheries offices in Bella Bella, the two parties have reached an agreement over the Pacific herring fishery.

Last March the Department of Fisheries and Oceans opened up the herring roe fishery in the Spiller Channel, which the Heiltsuk Tribal Council said should have remained closed to preserve herring stocks.

Eventually, after a tense few days, the federal government agreed to shut down the fishery, and the two parties began working on a joint management plan for the stocks.

Marilyn Slett, chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council says that management plan is now finalized and the agreement will lead to considerably less herring fishing in 2016.

She said the agreement allows for 215 tons of herring to be caught, which works out to about seven per cent of the usual allocation.

"It's really taking a precautionary approach to this year, so it's something that we could support because it's aligned with our values around the rebuilding of the herring stocks," she told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen.

The agreement also closes off some areas from fishing entirely, and grants the Heiltsuk the right to have an observer on DFO boats in the area, Slett said.

Herring fishing usually takes place in March and April, and the agreement between the DFO and Heiltsuk only covers 2016. Slett says that future years will require more discussion between the two parties.



B.C. environmentalists, federal scientists at odds over LNG plan

Jan. 18, 2016
Brent Jang
The Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — B.C. environmentalists are upset that federal scientists have sided with a consortium’s proposal to export liquefied natural gas.

The scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada agree with Pacific NorthWest LNG’s studies that an $11.4-billion terminal would have little impact on Flora Bank, a sandy area with eelgrass that nurtures juvenile salmon in northern British Columbia. Flora Bank is located next to Lelu Island, the site of the proposed export terminal.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said in a letter last week to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency that Pacific NorthWest LNG has conducted rigorous scientific research to show that the project poses a low risk of causing any significant harm to Flora Bank in the Skeena River estuary.

Greg Horne, energy co-ordinator with Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, said Monday that a study commissioned by the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, published a year ago by SedTrend Analysis Ltd. president Patrick McLaren, isn’t being given the attention that it deserves.

The SedTrend analysis warns that Pacific NorthWest LNG’s project would disrupt a complex system of waves and currents that effectively holds Flora Bank in place. The consortium, led by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas, wants to build a suspension bridge and trestle-supported pier to carry a pipeline from Lelu Island to a dock for loading LNG tankers bound for Asia.

Mr. Horne disputes the conclusion reached by federal scientists. “Dr. McLaren has shown that if they build the trestle, it will block the incoming waves, which will lead to Flora Bank eroding out to sea and being destroyed. That’s my concern. That is peer-reviewed published science, which has more credibility than a Pacific NorthWest LNG report that has not been peer reviewed,” Mr. Horne said.

“How do you know what to trust? Courts and the public should trust the peer-review process that scientists go through.”

Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, said he is dismayed at the prospect of construction of the terminal, bridge and pier.

“The bottom line is if you put infrastructure overtop of the most sensitive salmon habitat on the West Coast of Canada, you’re going to have problems,” Mr. Knox said. “When you look at the amount of blasting and underwater dredging, it’s ridiculous to conclude that there won’t be any significant impact.”

John Helin, who was elected in November as the new mayor of Lax Kw’alaams, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, also known as DFO because it was formerly the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said in its letter to the environmental assessment agency that the trestle pilings will be small and “can be expected to have a very limited impact on Flora Bank.”

However, the letter added that marine mammals would be sensitive to underwater noise from construction, so “DFO believes there remains a medium to high risk of the project having significant adverse effects on harbour porpoises.”

The proposed suspension bridge over Flora Bank has been designed to vastly minimize dredging. That span would connect with a pier to a deep-berth location in Chatham Sound. Two supporting structures in the water should be circular in shape to reduce the environmental impact, federal scientists recommend.

Pacific NorthWest LNG says Flora Bank would remain stable during construction and operation of the LNG terminal, bridge and pier.

The consortium is aiming to start construction later this year, if the assessment agency grants approval. The federal regulator is expected to issue a draft report within weeks, and invite submissions during a 30-day public comment period.

A final decision by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna could be made by this April. The assessment agency started its review into Pacific NorthWest LNG in April, 2013.



Top oil lobbyist was hired to help negotiate transfer of Experimental Lakes Area

By Stephen Maher, Postmedia News
January 28, 2014

ELA researchers - Handout photo - Postmedia News
Experimental Lakes Area centre researchers perform an experiment. (FILE HANDOUT PHOTO)
Photograph by: HANDOUT PHOTO, Postmedia News

OTTAWA – One of Canada’s most prominent oil lobbyists was hired to advise the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the Experimental Lakes Area, a freshwater research facility that the federal government ordered shut in 2012.

Gerry Protti, a former Encana executive and one of the founders of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was hired by the department in December 2012 on a three-month “management consulting” contract for $21,000.

Emails obtained under access-to-information legislation show that Protti worked with senior DFO officials as they were negotiating with the organization trying to save the ELA.

In 2012, DFO contacted scientists at the northwestern Ontario facility near Kenora to let them know the government would no longer fund the ELA, which meant that long-term experiments related to environmental contamination of fresh water had to be stopped.

In a Dec. 24. 2012 email, DFO official Dave Gillis described Protti as a “consultant working for DFO on strategic issues related to the ELA file, including to assist” the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the organization hoping to re-open ELA with funding from the Ontario government.

World-renowned scientist and fresh-water expert David Schindler said in an interview Tuesday that it seems odd DFO would hire an oil man for the job.

“I think there’s a conflict in that if you want someone to evaluate what Experimental Lakes Area could do and what the implications of it being transferred to IISD would be, you’d think you’d look to a senior scientist, not someone who’s not a scientist at all and is connected to the oil and gas industry.”

Protti’s contract with DFO ended on March 31, 2013. On April 2, 2013, he was appointed as Alberta’s top energy regulator. He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Melanie Carkner, a spokeswoman for DFO, said in an email Tuesday that Protti’s “background and professional experience with academia, NGOs, industry, industry associations and government departments were important tools for the government of Canada’s work to create a solid base for the potential new operator.”

At the time of the contract, Protti was registered as a lobbyist for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, an industry association set up by Bruce Carson, a former senior PMO staffer who is now facing influence-peddling charges in an unrelated matter involving First Nations water-treatment systems.

According to the lobby registry, in August 2012, Protti met with Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council, Canada’s top bureaucrat, and Claire Dansereau, then the deputy minister of fisheries.

Neither DFO nor the Privy Council would say whether they discussed ELA.

In 2008, Protti donated $975 to the Conservative riding association of Calgary Centre North, the riding then held by Jim Prentice, the environment minister.

In March 2013, Protti set up a meeting in Calgary between scientists working to save the facility and representatives of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The government appeared to hope Protti could help line up industry financing for the facility, although nothing ultimately came from that.

In July, the Ontario government announced it would provide funding of up to $2 million a year to keep ELA operating.

The province has proposed regulatory changes that would allow the agency to operate under provincial authority. For the deal with IISD to go through, the federal government would have to agree to continue to take responsibility for legal liabilities and make regulatory changes.

Scientists use the 58 lakes at ELA to study how freshwater ecosystems respond to pollution.

Scientist Carol Kelly, whose was working on an expensive, long-term international study on mercury pollution that was stopped after Ottawa pulled the plug, said Tuesday that it’s too bad scientists don’t have the kind of access Protti enjoys.

“I think the scientists who were working there should have had an appointment to discuss the future of ELA, and we did not,” she said. “We were really not considered in making decisions.”


© Copyright (c) Postmedia News



Harper guts more fish protections: NEB takes over habitat along pipelines

by Damien Gillis
Posted January 11, 2014

It’s the latest in a long line of efforts by the Harper Government to dismantle Canada’s environmental laws in order to facilitate energy development. In a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the National Energy Board – quietly released just before Christmas - DFO relinquished much of its oversight of fish habitat in pipeline corridors.

Sockeye salmonThe decision means that Enbridge and Kinder Morgan – which formally filed its own pipeline application on December 16, the same day the NEB memo was made public – will no longer need to obtain permits from DFO to alter habitat for their projects. “Fish and fish habitat along those pipelines is now the responsibility of the Alberta-based, energy friendly National Energy Board,” notes Robin Rowland of Northwest Energy News, who broke the story yesterday.
NEB takes point on fisheries, species at risk

Under the terms of the agreement, the NEB becomes the lead agency in determining issues that relate to the Species at Risk Act or the Fisheries Act and, only involving DFO should they deem it necessary:

"The NEB will assess a project application and determine if mitigation strategies are needed to reduce or prevent impacts to fish or fish habitat. If the project could result in serious harm for fish then the NEB will inform DFO that a Fisheries Act authorization under paragraph 35(2)(b) is likely to be required. DFO will review and issue an authorization when appropriate, prior to project construction. Authorizations issued by DFO would relate to those watercourses impacted, not the entire project.

This MOU better integrates the Government of Canada’s initiative to streamline application processes by eliminating the requirement for duplicate reviews."

Asks Rowland, “Just how much expertise, if any, in fisheries and fish habitat can be found in the Calgary offices of the National Energy Board?”

First Nations consultation impacted

The memo – particularly the following passage – is likely also to provoke legal challenges from First Nations over the dimishing of their constitutional rights to consultation and accommodation:

"When the Crown contemplates conduct that may adversely affect established or potential Aboriginal and treaty rights in relation to the issuance of authorizations under the Fisheries Act, and/or permits under SARA, the NEB application assessment process will be relied upon by DFO to the extent possible, to ensure Aboriginal groups are consulted as required, and where appropriate accommodated"

The move hardly comes as a surprise, given the gutting of the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, and many other longstanding Canadian environmental laws in order to push forward the Conservative energy policy. Yet it is sure to provoke a serious backlash amongst British Columbians and First Nations as the ramifications of this quiet deal sink in.



Canada poised to 'gut' fish protection laws, biologist claims

Move would make it easier for projects like Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline to B.C. to clear federal hurdles

By PETER O'NEIL, Vancouver Sun January 8, 2013

kokanee - photo by Handout - BC Environment

Pictured are Kokanee, a landlocked sockeye salmon and the main food source for rainbow and bull trout, have a four-year spawning cycle. The Harper government is planning to gut the powers in federal legislation intended to protect fish habitat, making it easier for projects like Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline to B.C. to clear federal hurdles, according to a retired fisheries biologist who obtained the information from a government source.
Photograph by: Handout , B.C. Environment

OTTAWA - The Harper government is planning to gut the powers in federal legislation intended to protect fish habitat, making it easier for projects such as Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline to B.C. to clear federal hurdles, according to a retired fisheries biologist who obtained the information from a government source.

Proposed new wording would prohibit activity that would cause an “adverse effect” on “fish of economic, cultural or ecological value,” whereas the current law bans activity that results in the “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat,” according to the information leaked to Otto Langer.

The changes, if enacted, would result in the total re-writing of the legislation to remove habitat protection provisions that have been in place since 1976, said Langer, a federal biologist for 32 years who later worked for the David Suzuki Foundation before his retirement.

“This is a serious situation and will put Canada back to where we were in the pre-1976 period where Canada had no laws to protect fish habitat and no way to monitor the great industrial expansion that occurred in Canada, with the consequential loss of major fish habitat all across Canada,” Langer said in a statement.

NDP MP Fin Donnelly raised the issue Tuesday in the House of Commons, asking Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield if the government planned to include changes to “gut” the Fisheries Act in upcoming federal budget omnibus legislation.

“There has been absolutely no decision made with regard to this issue,” Ashfield replied.

His office, which was sent the proposed wording changes allegedly leaked to Langer, did not deny the validity of Langer’s assertions. The office also released a statement reiterating that no decision has been made, but added that changes are needed.

“Federal fisheries policies designed to protect fish are outdated and unfocused in terms of balancing environmental and economic realities,” the Ashfield statement said.

The statement suggests that the Harper government is siding with industry in a lengthy and intense lobbying battle that has been waged between environmental and corporate lobbyists.

More than three dozen organizations that have registered with the federal lobbyist registry have raised the matter.

The NDP accused the government of engineering a major reversal in Canadian environmental policy.

“The Conservative government is systematically dismantling environmental protection and regulation,” said Donnelly. “By eliminating provisions to protect fish habitat, they can push through their agenda of pipelines, oil super tankers, mega-mines and other projects that harm the environment.”

Langer said in an interview Tuesday that the Enbridge pipeline would cross hundreds of rivers and streams, so looser federal legislation would be a major break for the Calgary company.

Langer said he was told the change would be included in upcoming federal omnibus legislation following the March 29 budget.

The new wording includes numerous exemptions to that watered-down wording to give the minister “or a person prescribed by the regulations” the authority to allow an “adverse effect” on fish considered of value.

Langer said the “subjective and ambiguous” new wording would make the law extremely difficult to enforce.

“For instance, what is a fish of economic, cultural or ecological value?” he asked.

Newly released internal documents reveal a bitter divide in Canada over the Fisheries Act’s habitat provisions.

“Some of the largest and most complex natural resource and industrial development projects across the country are affected by Fisheries Act requirements, which are consistently identified as one of the top federal regulatory irritants by stakeholders across the country,” stated a 2011 briefing note prepared for Ashfield.

The note, obtained by Postmedia News, said the legislation’s habitat protection provisions are “one of the most frequent triggers” of federal assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

A CEAA review “can occur for a project of any size, and across many sectors of the economy (eg. Construction, urban development, agriculture, nature resource development).”

The briefing note said there’s a “strong contingent” of environmental groups advocating in favour of protecting fish habitat, while industry groups are advocating their own economic interests.

“As minister you will be required to manage these often competing interests in order to balance protection of fish and fish habitat resources with other social, environmental and economic objectives of importance.”

Among the corporate lobbyists raising concerns about the Fisheries Act are the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Business Council of B.C., the Canadian Electricity Association, the Canadian Hydropower Association, EnCana Corp., Teck Resources Ltd., The Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Council of Forest Industries, and the Saskatchewan Power Corp.

Environmentalist and social activist groups include the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice Canada, the World Wildlife Fund Canada, MiningWatch Canada, the Pembina Institute, and Environmental Defence Canada.

Former auditor general Sheila Fraser, in a 2009 report, said protecting fish habitat is important “not only for fish, but also for human health and recreational use. Healthy habitat — places where fish can spawn, feed, grow, and live — is a fundamental requirement for sustaining fish, providing food and shelter for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, and contributing to water quality for human consumption and other uses.”

A senior official with the Council of Forest Industries, one of the industry associations which has lobbied on the Fisheries Act, refused to say whether the current wording is an irritant.

“There’s no question in our mind that many pieces of legislation, including the fisheries legislation, could be made more efficient from an administrative point of view, and therefore lower our operating costs and improve our competitiveness without compromising the conservation goals and objectives of the legislation,” said Doug Routledge, COFI’s vice-president of forestry.

With files from Mike De Souza, Postmedia News





The axeman cometh for DFO and Coast Guard?
Federal cuts raise serious questions about fish management and offshore enforcement

By Jamie Baker
CBC News
Posted: Jan 05, 2014 5:36 AM NT

Canadian Coast Guard ship
Cuts may be coming to the Canadian Coast Guard and DFO, writes Jamie Baker. (CCG)

Some things are hard to explain even by the most verbose of politically astute minds.

The ongoing gutting/changing of budgets and services at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard are beginning to defy logic.

A recent article in Postmedia News by Mike De Souza outlined the depth and breadth of the situation and in doing so sent a shock-wave through the fishing and marine communities.

The story said that there will be $100 million in cuts and upwards of 500 jobs lost at DFO in many high profile areas in the very near future.

The bulk of the cuts are expected to come within the Canadian Coast Guard, where the story said $20 million will be shaved off and as many as 300 people could be shown the door.

Many insiders knew the axe was going to fall, but I would hazard to say few people expected it to be quite this dramatic.
Less offshore fishing surveillance

One of the more stunning elements could come in the form of what looks like a major reduction - a $4.2 million budget cut and 23 job losses - in Canada's offshore surveillance of foreign fishing vessels. That would mean less monitoring of foreign vessels fishing outside Canada's 200-mile limit.

What's more perplexing than the decision is the rationale for it.

The powers-that-be suggest they've done such a good job of reducing "serious" (a word DFO has worked very hard to cut out of its list of fishing citation reports in recent years) foreign overfishing infractions in the last while that we just don't need as much monitoring any more.

I won't ramble on about the rationale, only to say it's comparable to firing the cops because you haven't had a serious crime in a while.

The piece also noted that environmental monitoring regulations could be changed around industrial development, and that there will be cuts to department science including a program that looks at the biological impact of oil and gas - work that will now apparently be out-sourced.

Of course, De Souza's excellent story also touched on the cuts to the Marine Traffic and Communications Services (96 jobs and a spending cut of about $6 million) as well as the closing down of DFO satellite offices in different communities as part of that conversion over to the online fish licencing system.
Moves contradict advice

What is particularly interesting about this investigative piece is that it noted top bureaucrats in the department - including the deputy minister - have advised against making the cuts and have recommended spending be increased - not slashed.

If that has been the case, it has highlighted a question that was asked on The Fisheries Broadcast on Dec. 30 by Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor Liberal MP Scott Simms: If the federal government is making these cuts in spite of what their own top people are telling them, then why are they doing it, and where is that information coming from?

While all this has been happening, we are looking at DFO libraries being trashed, questions are being raised about the future of fish science programs in the region (there hasn't been a capelin survey here in a dog's age, for example).

Serious concerns have been growing about search and rescue capability - concerns that will not be reduced with word that Coast Guard could lose upwards of 300 bodies and $20 million.
Spending and slashing

Look, I get that government goes through spending and slashing phases.

But the vigour and consistency with which the cuts have been coming for DFO and Coast Guard in recent years (fees for fishing licences, vessel inspections, observers, logbooks, etc. have not been going down either, I might add) have many people wondering what the end game is.

In the face of all these changes and cuts, I have been repeatedly told that the services are improved and more efficient, search and rescue services are super-great and safety is not compromised, our offshore is being awesomely policed, and that fish science could not be better.

But then, one minute a bottle of champagne is being broken against a new Coast Guard ship or a brand new station is slated for construction.

The next minute, people who work on those ships or in those stations are getting their Records of Employment (ROE) and being shown the door.

Government logic. Certainly an oxymoron. Methinks 2014 won't be dull.


Muzzling scientists not the answer

by Clare Ogilvie

October 24, 2013

piquenewsmagazine.com on muzzling scientists

The muzzling of Canada's scientists has been in the news for many months now, here at home and also around the world.

This week it once again captured headlines after the results of a survey were released, which showed that 90 per cent of federal scientists who answered a questionnaire felt they couldn't speak freely about their work.

The survey was carried out by Environics Research for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents 55,000 professional civil servants. About 15,000 government scientists in 40 departments and agencies were asked to complete the survey — 26 per cent responded. A spokesperson for PIPSC suggested that many did not complete the survey out of fear of reprisals if anonymity was breeched.

"According to the survey, 90 per cent of federal scientists do not feel they can speak freely about their work to the media. This alone will be alarming to Canadians who expect openness and accountability from their government," Gary Corbett, the president of PIPSC, told a news conference, which was reported by the Globe and Mail.

"But it is even more troubling," said Corbett, "that faced with a departmental decision or action that could harm public health, safety or the environment, nearly as many scientists — 86 per cent ­— do not believe they could share their concerns with the media or public without censure or retaliation."

The Globe also reported that 24 per cent of government scientists have been asked to exclude or alter technical information in federal documents.

The frustrations stem from the model of "communication" of Stephen Harper's conservative government, which has accelerated and strengthened government control over all public servants.

Back in early 2012, a science correspondent for the BBC, while covering a conference in Vancouver, pointed to the Orwellian way media have to deal with the federal government to reach any scientists as part of the story research.

"The allegation of 'muzzling' came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008," states the Feb.17 BBC report.

"The 2012 protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.

"Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview."

Interesting policy.

In September of this year the New York Times took Harper to task for allegedly silencing publicly funded scientists, a strategy the Times said is designed to ensure oil sands production proceeds quietly.

"Over the last few years, the government of Canada — led by Stephen Harper — has made it harder and harder for publicly financed scientists to communicate with the public and with other scientists," the Times editorial board stated.

"The government is doing all it can to monitor and restrict the flow of scientific information, especially concerning research into climate change, fisheries and anything to do with the Alberta tarsands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline."

The federal information commissioner's office launched an investigation into complaints on the matter earlier this year. The list of actions prompting the investigation is long. It includes shutting the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area, axing the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, eliminating funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences and prohibiting federal scientists from speaking about research on subjects ranging from ozone, to climate change to salmon. The government denies that it muzzles scientists, saying access is granted on requests.

In terms of specific departments, the survey said 62 per cent of the scientists at Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) said the government isn't incorporating the best climate-change science into its policies — that's a real concern when it comes to long-term planning.

About the same percentage of DFO scientists said alterations to the Fisheries Act brought in in 2012 hamper their ability to protect fish.

All of this is happening as the government introduces environmental policy changes and reduces funding even though there is little information to suggest regulatory review is inefficient.

This survey report is the first of two that the PIPSC will release this year. The second will look at the effect of government cutbacks.

While the research and science that many of the academics look at might boggle the average mind the impacts of what they find, and the affect the findings could have on our planet must not, and it needs to be shared with everyone.

As science guru and environmentalist David Suzuki puts it: "In a truly open and democratic society, ideas, policies and legislation are exposed to scrutiny, debate and criticism. Information is shared freely.

"Governments support research that makes the country stronger by ensuring its policies are in the best interests of the people. A government that values its citizens more than its industrial backers does not fear information and opposition."


DFO no longer enforcing
Harvesters being asked to 'self-assess,' mayor told

Brian Wilford
Oceanside Star
October 3, 2013 12:00 AM

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek
Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek at the helm on the occasion of his retirement from herring fishing in 2009. DFO’s abandonment of enforcement is “more downloading,” he says. “This is a national responsibility.” Photograph by: STAR FILE PHOTO

Don't expect a cavalry from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to save Oceanside's beaches.

DFO appears to have abandoned enforcement for something it's calling "self-assessment."

In August, Oceanside residents Eileen Becker and Monica Stuart began lobbying local councils to do something about commercial harvesters, posing as tourists, stripping the area's beaches of geoducks, clams and oysters.

They want the area's local governments to lobby the province to consider making the 17-kilometre-long waterfront Parksville-Qualicum Wildlife Management Area a biological park. In the interim, they want more enforcement of catch quotas and other regulations from DFO.

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek raised the matter with DFO officials at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver last month.

"It's now self-assessment, not enforcement," he says, noting he's not entirely clear on what "self-assessment" entails.

"DFO is much-weakened," says Westbroek, a commercial fisherman for 35 years and a former Canadian representative to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. "It's not encouraging... They have definitely reduced resources."

When he pressed for an explanation of "self-assessment," he was told it's "an enhanced complaint procedure, not enforcement" based on "observe, record, report."

There, however, the process seems to stop.

For example, no one is checking on whether a fish farm or other fishing operation is complying with regulations.

"The company just does a selfassessment," Westbroek says. "It's clearly a reduction in the level of service. I thought it sounded awfully weak."

One of the people he spoke to at the UBCM convention is Alain Magnan, a senior habitat biologist for DFO and its "team leader, fisheries protection," based in Nanaimo.

However, Magnan, like other federal scientists, isn't allowed to speak to the media.

Reached by telephone, he said he would let DFO's Communications department know about the call and they would contact the reporter and ask for a list of questions. Of course, Communications hasn't called, in seven days.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has no problem with a sustainable shellfish harvest but DFO has decided that "sustainability is not our problem."

C-38, a federal omnibus bill passed last year, gutted the Fisheries Act and created a system of "self-regulated industry," she says. "DFO is so neutered... It's a real crisis."

The stripping of beaches is also a concern in her riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, she says. She supports turning a Wildlife Management Area into a park if that's a solution that works locally, she says, "but you can't make everywhere a provincial park."

She suggested harvesting might be curtailed by "a couple of prosecutions."

As well, she says, British Columbians need to call on their federal government to do its job.

"It's really quite outrageous," she says. "The purpose of having a government is to have protection for the things we care about."

© Copyright 2013



Controversial changes to Fisheries Act guided by industry demands


OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Aug. 05 2013, 9:51 PM EDT

The federal Conservative government consulted with both environmental organizations and industry associations before making controversial changes to the Fisheries Act last year, but listened primarily to industry.

When a section of one of the government’s massive 2012 omnibus budget bills limited the scope of the legislation governing the protection of fish and their habitats, some ecologists said it was the biggest setback to conservation law in more than 50 years.

One of the most significant changes was to remove the broad protections that covered all fish habitats and to specify the law would now prohibit only “serious harm” to fish “that are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries, or to fish that support such a fishery.”

Documents released recently to The Globe and Mail under federal access to information laws suggest that wording was offered by industry associations.

In 2010, the High Park Group consulting firm was commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to gather industry and business observations about the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act. The feedback was not good.

The 23 organizations that were consulted, which included the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA), the Canadian Hydropower Association (CHA) and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce (SKCC), roundly criticized the law.

The associations argued that it was too unpredictable, that it caused considerable barriers to infrastructure investment, and that it increased regulatory costs and timelines. “CEA/CHA and SKCC call for modification of the act’s definition of ‘fishery’ to clarify that it refers to ‘commercial, recreational, subsistence or aboriginal use of fish as a resource,’ ” the consultant’s report said.

The High Park Group pointed out, however, that there was a dearth of evidence to back industry concerns and a “lack of cogent and substantive documentation of industry positions on the issue.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was providing another point of view after consulting with numerous environmental organizations between 2006 and 2009.

In a report also released under access laws, the department said the environmental groups praised the Fisheries Act saying it is “one of the strongest laws in Canada that can be used to protect our environment” and urged the government to strengthen and enforce it.

Many of those groups were shocked and furious when the changes to the Fisheries Act were unveiled in the budget bill last year.

The Fisheries department said in an e-mail this week that it is still focusing on preserving fish habitat but “is adopting a practical, common-sense approach that focuses on managing threats to Canada’s recreational, commercial and aboriginal fisheries and the fish and fish habitat on which they depend.”

But critics said it is clear that the government has allowed industry to write the law. “What we see here is a government listening only to industry concerns,” said Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law, one of the environmental groups that were consulted by the DFO before the law was rewritten. “When laws are written to pander to particular industries, Canadians get weak environmental laws, and weak protection for our fish.”

John Bennett, the executive director of Sierra Club Canada, said “the federal government ignored serious advice from environmental organizations and accepted undocumented knee-jerk advice from self-interest industry groups who could not substantiate their complaints.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the department has obviously lifted “holus-bolus from industry comments a new definition for what a fishery is and completely [ignored] the comments from a wide consultation from people on the ground who are actually protecting the fishery.” And Robert Chisholm, the NDP fisheries critic, said the government has subsequently had trouble writing regulations because department officials know “that if they continue to go down this direction that they are going to devastate the ability of the DFO to protect fish habitat.”



Canadian Science gets censored

Date: 14 July 2013
The Canadian
Posted By : by Fedor Karmanov

Last summer, a rally of over 2,000 researchers, scientists, and students gathered on Parliament Hill to protest a federal trend of scientific censorship that began when the Conservative party took control of the Federal government in 2006. For the protesters, the government had crossed the line with numerous budget cuts to environmental research programs, extensive job cuts to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and numerous restrictions on investigators’ communications with the media.

Almost one full year has passed since the “Death of Evidence” protest, and Canadians have yet to see any progress by the Conservative government concerning their policies of scientific oppression. Though the main tide of dissatisfaction has dissipated, the situation remains much worse than many realize.

The problem lies chiefly in the government’s insistence on being increasingly industry-driven. ‘Applied’ research models, primarily in oil sands extraction and mineral mining, are rapidly replacing ‘pure’ research in the form of environmental and zoological investigations.

At a press conference in May, The National Research Council’s president, John McDougall, commented on the council’s new business-oriented direction, claiming that “if [a discovery] doesn’t turn into something that’s used, it’s really of no value, and it shouldn’t qualify as an innovation until it’s developed into something that has commercial or social value.”

Meanwhile, environmental research groups concerned with investigating the negative impacts of the mineral resource industry continue to experience drastic funding cuts; the Experimental Lakes Area face potential closure to save $ 2 million a year in federal funding, while the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is currently experiencing a $ 100 million cut over three years.

These funding cuts become much more worrisome when we consider the increasing accounts of the government’s direct and indirect censorship of government researchers. This past February and March, the federal government has placed a number of excessive restrictions on investigators – often to the extent of preventing existing research from being published due to conflicts with public policy.

University researchers have witnessed first-hand the restrictions placed on their government-employed colleagues. In an interview with The Daily, Alfonso Mucci, a professor in McGill’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, recalled a specific incident this past year while working with a scientist from the DFO. “We had a request from journalists at Télé-Québec to shoot a documentary on the work we were doing, and since the chief scientist was a government worker they had to get special permission to get on board.”

Mucci went on to clarify that even though the journalists were allowed on-board, “They weren’t allowed to interview [the chief government researcher] or take a picture of him… he was not allowed to speak to them beyond the technical description of what [we] were doing at sea.”

To add insult to injury, the media has come under public fire from the federal government, receiving numerous open criticisms from top officials about their ‘attitude’ on federal business policies. Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board of Canada, recently criticized David Suzuki and other environmentalists for opposing the Energy East Pipeline project which he claimed would bring jobs and energy independence. Federal Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver insisted, in an interview with La Presse on April 12, that the climate change issue is “exaggerated,” citing no specific scientists as a source. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry is openly praising Parliament for amending significant changes to “outdated” environment preservation laws back in 2011.



DFO gets F in free expression from journalism group
Annual report gives improved grade to Access to Information program

CBC News
Posted: May 2, 2013 5:24 PM ET

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been given an F in an annual Canadian press freedom report card.

Canadian Coast Guard ship - photo by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
DFO was singled out 'for its zeal in muzzling scientists and keeping critical research findings from Canadians,' said a news release from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Although the federal government as a whole received a C-, Fisheries and Oceans Canada was singled out "for its zeal in muzzling scientists and keeping critical research findings from Canadians," said a news release from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Thursday.

The organization, which advocates for the rights of journalists and media workers to express themselves, released the annual report card in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day, which takes place Friday.

The report accompanying the report card said DFO received the failing grade because:

* It did not allow scientist Kristi Miller to speak to the media about her work on salmon diseases for two full years after the research was published.

* It is one of the departments under investigation by the information commissioner for allegedly muzzling its scientists.

* It was singled out for "severe limits on publication" that could prompt scientists in other countries to pull out of collaborations with Canadian scientists.

A more detailed article in the report said that as of January, DFO scientists have been told they must now get departmental approval to submit research to science journals and the department has the power to pull scientific articles that have already been accepted for publication. It also has proposed confidentiality provisions "that, for the first time" would apply to non-government and non-Canadian research collaborators.

"The Harper administration isn't the first government to try to massage the message," wrote Ottawa journalist Bob Carty, author of that section of the report.

"But in my experience, it's never been this bad. Some journalists have given up even trying to get a comment from a federal scientist in Canada — it's easier to call someone in the U.S. or the U.K."

Communicating science 'a priority,' DFO says

In response to the report, Barbara Mottram, press secretary to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, said in a statement that "communicating its science is a priority for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the department’s record is solid."

Mottram added that the department responds to about 380 media calls per year, publishes weekly science feature stories on its website, and releases science advisory reports "documenting our research." The reports provide updates on individual fish and shellfish stocks, ecosystems and habitats.

In the case of Miller, Mottram said she was not allowed to speak about research published in 2011 in order to "protect the integrity" of hearings later that year at a public inquiry into the 2009 collapse of the Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks. However, she said the written report, published in the journal Science, was widely available.

Other organizations graded in the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression report included:

* The Access to Information program, which got a D-, up from F in past years. That was due to " a very slight increase in completed federal ATI (access to information) requests and a slight decrease in the number of requests denied for security reasons."

* The federal government overall, which received a C-. CFJE praised the government for withdrawing its controversial internet surveillance bill. However, the group criticized the government for its suspension of Justice Department lawyer Edgar Schmidt for claiming that the government's way of judging whether legislation was consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was illegal.

* The Supreme Court, which got a C, down from B+ last year. CFJE said the court broke no important ground this year, unlike last year when it made some significant rulings about free expression.

* The Parliamentary Budget Office, which got an A for "its contribution over the past five years to the discourse in Canada bout access to information, transparency and accountability of government."



Salmon Confidential: A Follow Up

Tumbler Ridge News
April 22, 2013
By Lynsey Kitching

This story is a follow-up to last week’s piece about Dr. Alexandra Morton and her film Salmon Confidential.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is sticking to their guns regarding their protocols to protect BC’s wild salmon—in complete dismissal of the data and information provided to the department since the mid-80s from Dr. Alexandra Morton about the state of the wild sockeye salmon run.

When asked what the DFO thinks about the film (Salmon Confidential) and how the department is portrayed? The DFO answered, “The Government of Canada has stringent federal regulations in place to protect Canada’s aquatic species (farmed and wild) from disease and will continue to work diligently with our partners to ensure they continue to be strictly enforced.”

Did that answer the question?

The DFO then stated to Tumbler Ridge News, “The fact remains that there has never been a confirmed case of ISA in British Columbia salmon – farmed or wild. Anyone who suspects a case of ISA must report it to CFIA. CFIA will then investigate. The disease must be confirmed using international World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recognized protocols.”

Recently, the final report for the Cohen Commission, which is a federal inquiry into all factors affecting the health of the wild salmon, was released. The commission concluded, “The most that can be said at present is that a plausible mechanism has been identified, creating a risk that ISAv or an ISAv-like virus may have affected the health of Pacific salmon stocks for the past few decades, or that it may mutate in certain circumstances to a more virulent form.”

This conclusion was drawn after the commission heard testimony from numerous experts and scientists in the field. Their data is within the OIE recognized protocols.

It is the responsibility of the DFO to investigate and monitor diseases (as they stated), which could potentially be harming wild salmon.

ON the DFO website it states, “The NAAHP [National Aquatic Animal Health Program] improves protection of Canadian aquaculture and wild fisheries from diseases to maintain the country’s competitive access to seafood trade markets.”

However the reason the Cohan Commission was unable to fully state whether wild sockeye salmon have been affected by fish farms on their migration route was because there wasn’t enough research done by the DFO into the pathogen transmission from fish farm into wild salmon. The report reads, “DFO has not carried out research to look at the effects of pathogens from fish farms on Fraser River sockeye. In short, there are insufficient data—almost no data—on cause-and-effect relationships, and insufficient data (in terms of a time series) to look for correlations between fish farm factors and sockeye productivity.”

The DFO was then asked what action they have taken to remove the fish farms from the migration route of the sockeye salmon. Their response was as follows, “The National Aquatic Animal Health Program combined with DFO’s fish health regulatory requirements on aquaculture operations under the BC Aquaculture Regulatory Program ensure that wild salmon are protected. The Department continues to work with CFIA on the ongoing evaluation of risks to fish and fish habitat.”

The Cohen Commission surmised, “I find that the evidence does not allow me to conclude whether the infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAv) or an ISAv-like virus currently exists in Fraser River sockeye, or whether such an ISAv or ISAv-like virus, if present, is endemic to British Columbia waters or has been introduced. At most, a plausible mechanism has been identified, creating a risk that ISAv or an ISAv-like virus may have affected the health of Pacific salmon stocks for the past few decades.”

Later on the Commission decided, “I accept the evidence that Atlantic salmon farms may be a significant source of Leps infection for outmigrating smolts. However, the most recent numbers for prevalence and intensity of Leps on Fraser River sockeye juveniles are not a cause for concern. Salmon farms may also be one of many sources of Caligus infection, but there is an absence of scientific information about the effect of Caligus infection on sockeye. Sea lice may act as a vector for other pathogens causing disease, but I accept the evidence that transmission through water is a more effective means of transmission. I am satisfied that sea lice acting alone did not cause the decline of Fraser River sockeye, but sea lice acting in combination with factors such as other pathogens or increasing water temperature may have contributed to the decline.

“I accept the undisputed evidence that there is some risk posed to Fraser River sockeye from diseases on salmon farms, but I cannot make a determination as to the precise level of risk. Therefore, precaution would suggest assuming that the risk is not insignificant. I accept the evidence that scientists need at least another ten years of regulatory data before they can find relationships (if they exist) between salmon farm factors and Fraser River sockeye productivity.”

Again, it is the DFO’s responsibility to collect data to keep the wild salmon safe from pathogens and unfortunately they didn’t have the data to provide to the Cohen Commission.

So what does BC and the citizens of the province have to gain from salmon farming? Well, lots and lots of money.

The BC Salmon Farmers Association says, “Our industry employs over 6,000 people in direct and indirect jobs, and contributes more than $800 million annually to the provincial economy. Today, we produce about 75,000 metric tonnes per year, making farm-raised salmon BC’s largest agricultural export.”

This translates into $511.5 million in revenue back to the province between salmon and other finfish exports, but mostly from salmon.

So, the Cohen Commission has said there has to be ten more years of data collection to make it absolutely evident the salmon farms are harming the wild salmon, even though the DFO has been getting letters about the wild salmon population decline and the potential link to fish farms on their migration route for over two decades already.

There is hope however, as the DFO was quick to point out, “Recent returns of Fraser River sockeye are equal to long-term averages, and represent a significant improvement in the rates of return from 2007–2009. In the last three years, Fraser River sockeye have returned at rates four to six times higher than they did from 2007–2009.”

However, due to research presented at the Cohen Commission, these stats are seen to be insignificant in the grand scheme of the wild salmon population.

The Commission stated, “What do we make of these numbers? Has the decline reversed itself? It should be remembered that this recent rebound was not consistent across all stocks—many small stocks from the Upper Fraser River have not fared well. Also, two years’ worth of data does not establish a trend, but at the same time the returns of those two years cannot be ignored,” the report continued, “They found that most Fraser River and many non-Fraser River sockeye stocks, both in Canada and the United States, show a decrease in productivity, especially over the past decade and often also over a period of decline starting in the late 1980s or early 1990s. This decrease includes several stocks that migrate along the west coast of Vancouver Island.”



Has Canada's government been muzzling its scientists?

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News
2 April 2013

Getty image
Journalists say the rules prevent scientists talking about publicly-funded research (Getty image)

Canada's Information Commission is to investigate claims that the government is "muzzling" its scientists.

The move is in response to a complaint filed by academics and a campaign group.

BBC News reported last year instances of the government blocking requests by journalists to interview scientists.

Some scientists alleged that the muzzling could help suppress environmental concerns about government policies.

The former president of the Canadian Science Writers' Association, Veronique Morin, says that the commissioner's office will now have to find out if the federal government has in effect been operating a policy of censorship.

"Vital stories pertaining to the environment, natural resources, food safety, fisheries and oceans are not coming out in Canada because, for several years now, the government has imposed rules which prevents its scientists from speaking freely about their publicly funded research," she said.

"I am thrilled that the information commissioner has decided to take this on, and I am looking forward to the commission's report."

Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper reports that the Information Commission is investigating seven government departments: Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources, National Defence, the Treasury Board Secretariat, National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The investigation is in response to a complaint filed by the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre (ELC) and the campaign group Democracy Watch.

Timely access

In a letter to the ELC, the assistant information commissioner, Emily McCarthy, stated her office is investigating possible violations of the Access to Information Act.

"The commissioner has concluded that, to the extent that your complaint alleges that the right of access to information under the Act is impeded by government policies, practices or guidelines that restrict or prohibit government scientists from speaking with the media and the Canadian public, your complaint falls within the scope… of the Act," she said.

The ELC asked for an investigation into "the systematic efforts of the government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media - and through them, the Canadian public - to timely access to government scientists."

The report notes that the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) and the Canadian Science Writers' Association have both complained about the lack of "timely access" to government scientists.

Prof Jean-Marc Fleury, director of the WFSJ, said: "Canadian science journalists' fight against the Canadian government obstructing access to government researchers has finally achieved a major step forward."

The Canadian government has repeatedly denied allegations of muzzling rather a strict application of a "media protocol" set out by the governing Conservatives, shortly after their election in 2008.

The aim of the protocol, according to a leaked internal document, is to ensure that all messages from scientists are along "approved lines". The government's stated protocol is that ministers and senior civil servants should not be "surprised" by what they read in the newspapers.

Follow Pallab on Twitter @bbcpallab



Canada making poor fishery decisions: report

Published on February 13, 2012


fishermen-Clayton Hunt, Transcontinental Media
While cod stocks in some areas of Newfoundland have not rebounded well since the 1992 moratorium, a cod fishery is still ongoing in 3Ps. Here Reuben Rose, skipper of the Ocean Otter 11, and crew members David Snook, Leonard Langdon and Richard Whittle overhaul their nets Feb. 7, after catching their allotted quota for 2011. — Photo by Clayton Hunt, Transcontinental Media


Royal Society panel says country is failing to live up to its own laws and to international and national obligations
Topics : Department of Fisheries and Oceans , Dalhousie University , Royal Society of Canada , Atlantic Canada , Halifax , Norway
Harbour Breton — Professor Jeffrey Hutchings, a professor of marine biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says Canada has a poor record, compared to other countries, for protecting fish stocks.

According to Hutchings, this country has not adopted science-based targets for protecting fisheries, but favours having successive federal fisheries ministers make short-term, "czar-like" decisions on fisheries management.

Hutchings chairs the 10-member Royal Society of Canada panel that concluded, in a report last week, that Canada is failing to live up to its own laws and to international and national obligations outlined in a United Nation's convention.

The panel included professors from Canada's East and West coasts, as well as a research scientist from Laval University, one from Washington State and one from England.

The report is entitled: "Sustaining Canada's Marine Biodiversity: Responding to the Challenges Posed by Climate Change, Fisheries and Aquaculture."

Hutchings said one of the things the panel noted was that other developed fishing nations such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Norway have been making huge strides in advancing their fisheries management with the application of science to fishery management decisions.

"The fact that other countries have been able to respond in an effective manner to fisheries management tells us that it is possible to change," he said in an interview.

"If Canada is not adapting as fast, it must speak to something institutional within the country as to why we're not doing it as fast as other jurisdictions."

Hutchings said the panel identified two points with respect to the minister of Fisheries and Oceans - that any minister enjoys a huge amount of discretionary power which means they are open to short-term, politically based decisions rather than looking at the long-term picture.

The second point is that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has a regulatory conflict of interest in that one of DFO's objectives is to promote the fishery while on the other hand it is there to protect the marine environment and to protect and sustain fish stocks over the long-term.

"Some people would see these two objectives a conflict of interest," he said, "and that it is very difficult to achieve both objectives at the same time."

The professor said that even after nearly 20 years since the cod moratorium, Canada still does not have a recovery target for Northern Cod.

"Not having a recovery target for this cod stock is indicative of our country not being consistent with responsible fisheries management," he said.

"Other countries have set targets they want stocks to be rebuilt towards. An identified target and a rebuilding timeline means you have rather strict measures but at least everybody knows what the measures are to control the fishery and to allow for rebuilding stocks to take place."

According to Hutchings, target dates and timelines have helped the Norwegians to rebuild the Barents Sea cod stock.

"In the late 1980s, the Barents Sea cod stock was in dire straits.

"Today, the Norwegian cod stock is the largest one in the world, and the Norwegians are catching more cod in a sustainable fashion off their coast than almost ever before.

"This has happened because Norway set targets with harvest control rules that determined what the fish catch should be, depending on how close the fish stock was to the target.

"Canada has had no such plan in place and our fisheries officials are not really accountable to anybody. We are not undertaking fisheries management in a transparent manner," he said.

Hutchings noted the closure of the Northern Cod stock in 1992, its re-opening in 1998, its re-closure in 2003 and its re-opening a few years ago was all done in the absence of any long-term plan by DFO.

These re-openings took place at the discretion of the minister, he said.

They were not based on science; they were not based on an overall recovery plan consistent with our national and international obligations.

Any hope?

So, can anything be done to save Canadian fish stocks like the Norwegians did with the Barents Sea stocks?

Hutchings believes it is "fundamentally important" for current and future federal fisheries ministers to take a long-term view of all ocean and fish management decisions.

"One of the things that would happen by doing this is that we would rebuild stocks under particular plans to levels that would result in higher catches, more people being employed, healthier coastal communities with a greater access to food and protein for Canadians.

"These long-term goals may cause some short-term pain. We need to look at the fishery issue as a Canadian issue instead of being just a Newfoundland issue or an Atlantic Canada problem.

He says one of the key problems in the fishery is that, "at the end of the day, in this country there are little or no political costs to making bad fisheries decisions.

As long as there are no political costs, politicians will continue to do what they've always done.

"In order to have a political cost for bad fisheries management decisions, people need to care enough to talk about it, to contact ministers and members of parliament."



A practice that is impossible to defend

By Ray Grigg

Special to Courier-Islander

September 30, 2011

If spreading sea lice and pollution weren't justification enough for removing open netpen salmon farms from BC's wild West Coast waters, the latest outrage is the slaughter of California sea lions and their marine cousins.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in an unusual gesture of candidness, reported that between January and March, 2011, salmon farms were responsible for the killing of 141 California sea lions, 37 harbour seals and two Stellar sea lions - which are listed as a species of "special concern" under Canada's Species At Risk Act. All these magnificent marine mammals were shot - another four animals got entangled in netting and suffered the horror of drowning - because they trespassed on salmon farms (Vancouver Sun, Sept 15/11).

Ian Roberts, a spokesperson for Marine West, a West Coast salmon farming corporation, said that, "Zero lethal interaction is our goal." Well, a "goal" is neither consolation to a dead sea lion nor deterrent for a hungry one accustomed to freely roaming the open ocean. And "lethal interaction" is a euphemism for "kill", slippery public relations jargon intent on massaging the gruesome into something that seems less brutal.

Considering that these corporate salmon farms are camped in the middle of a marine thoroughfare for migrating mammals - and wild fish, too - the obvious way to ensure "zero lethal interaction" would be to get their net-pens out of the ocean.

But shareholders don't like expensive solutions. The more profitable alternative is to tame the West Coast wilderness with enough "lethal interactions" that troublesome marine mammals are eradicated, a tragedy considering that these waters have been their natural swimming, feeding and breeding territory for millennia.

But "lethal interaction" is the chosen course of action, evident from the information released by DFO in early 2011. The Director of Aquaculture for its western office, Andrew Thomson, who has been "monitoring" the kills during the last six years, offers the comforting assurance that the number of "culls" are down.

"Cull" is an revealing word. Since salmon farms are not mandated to manage the populations of marine mammals, authorization of a "cull" is yet another example of DFO managing the environment to suit corporate interests. Of course, DFO doesn't kill the trespassing sea lions and seals. Neither do the farm employees dirty their hands with guilt. In a gesture that is supposed to introduce an element of compassion to the slaughter and distance corporations from the blood of outright killing, the actual shooting is done by "licensed contractors." This attempted evasion of responsibility is analogous to the CIA avoiding charges of torture by "rendering" suspects to dictatorships so confessions can be forcibly extracted by less civilized regimes. Guilt cannot be contracted to others.

Not that salmon farmers are without a twinge of guilt. Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, confessed that, "We don't take this lightly." Indeed.

But her explanation that sea lions are "extremely intelligent" merely makes the act less defensible - killing highly sentient creatures carries more moral burden than killing dull ones. And her description of sea lions as "aggressive" doesn't elicit an image of a hapless and beleaguered industry suffering the terrible adversity of being surrounded and viciously attacked by marauding aliens.

So, what are the poor, victimized salmon farms to do? The burden of guilt must be extremely heavy - but not heavy enough to entice them to the safety of closed containment or land-based farms. Removing their net-pens from the natural habitat of unmanageable mammals while suffering the deprivation of less profitability must be a much more painful prospect than enduring the anguish of distributing sea lice, polluting, and killing seals and sea lions.

And how many seals and sea lions? DFO's numbers are sobering. Of the 13 years reported, 1997 was the worst year for seals when 550 were killed - 500 were common at this time.

The worst year for sea lions was 2000 when 250 were shot because they weren't "intelligent" enough to know that salmon farms are lethal.

For anyone concerned with this bloodshed, the consolation is that those were only the most bloody years. The killing of 180 animals in 2011 - plus the four that drowned - is excused by the rise in their population, a defence that uses plenitude to justify slaughter. Although more marine mammals mean more predation and more "lethal interactions," more salmon farms don't count. What is a caring corporation to do with a conflict between its financial interests and the perils imposed by a marine wilderness?

Well, they could be honest enough to show visitors some of the gruesome events that actually occur on their farms. The sharp crack of a rifle will rivet attention while the dull impact of a bullet exploding through bone and brains will be vivid and memorable. The slumping body of a dying sea lion staining the cold ocean with a last ooze of blood should be informative for those who want to experience one of the unadvertised workings of salmon farms.

This unmitigated cruelty, this obscene and atrocious act of shooting magnificent marine mammals simply underscores the profound incongruity and the environmental folly of placing open net-pen salmon farms in the wild, natural ecology of the West Coast. The two have never belonged together, and the extent and severity of this conflict is getting worse. Orcas are scared away. Any native fish-eating creature - herons, otters, mink, eagles - all become the enemy of salmon farms. The diverse, vibrant and stunning character of BC's West Coast is being systematically neutered by foreign-owned corporations so they can use small-fish protein - a food needed by the world's poor - to grow an expensive product that most people cannot afford to buy.

Subduing the wild West Coast to suit salmon farming is ecological madness. The most sane option - especially for the sea lions, seals and wild salmon - is to get the salmon farms and their open net-pens out of the oceans. They are the trespassers.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News



Ottawa left endangered sockeye unprotected

VANCOUVER— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, May. 31, 2011 6:54PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, May. 31, 2011 7:00PM EDT

A unique population of sockeye salmon identified in 2004 as facing “a high probability of extinction” wasn’t given protection under the Species At Risk Act because the federal government was worried about the cost of shutting down fisheries.

Today, Cultus Lake sockeye are still on the edge of extinction, despite an effort by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to restore the salmon run outside the SARA process.

Documents filed with the Cohen Commission of inquiry this week show DFO officials knew in 2004 that the Cultus population, which has declined 92 per cent over the past 15 years, could go extinct if commercial, native and recreational fisheries weren’t curtailed.

The sockeye spawn in Cultus Lake, near Chilliwack, about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver. When adult fish return to spawn, they co-migrate in the ocean and Lower Fraser River with larger runs of sockeye that are headed to other watersheds. Cultus fish, which look identical to other sockeye, are often killed in nets set for other runs of salmon.

A government assessment in 2004 concluded the Cultus population, which has unique genetic and biological characteristics, collapsed largely due to overfishing.

But John Davis, who retired in 2008 as DFO’s associated deputy minister of science, said in testimony at the Cohen Commission, Monday and Tuesday, that the socio-economic impact of shutting down fisheries, just to protect the small Cultus run, was considered too great.

He said listing under SARA would have led to widespread fishery closings costing $126-million in lost revenue over four years.

“When is the likely economic impact [of listing a species] too high?” he asked.

Although the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada called for an emergency listing of the Cultus stock under SARA, in 2004, the Liberal government at the time rejected the proposal.

Instead, DFO launched a project to restore the population by killing predatory fish in Cultus Lake and by producing sockeye in a hatchery program.

Despite such efforts, the Cultus sockeye population, which historically averaged about 20,000 a year, has fallen to a four-year average of just 1,000 spawners.

Ernie Crey, an aboriginal fisheries adviser to the Sto:lo Tribal Council, on the Lower Fraser, said it is clear the stock can’t recover until fisheries are restricted on the Lower Fraser River..

“My personal view is that the decision not to list Cultus sockeye under SARA was a critical mistake,” said Mr. Crey in an interview outside the Cohen Commission hearings.

He said 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the Cultus sockeye are taken in commercial fisheries – and those fish are critically needed on the spawning grounds.

“At some point in time, they [the government] will have to make a tough decision about protecting small stocks of fish like this,” Mr. Crey said.

At the inquiry, Mr. Davis said the government tried to balance the potential environmental losses against the financial gains associated with keeping fisheries open.

“Clearly the department wanted to do the right thing,” he said.

But under cross-examination by Brenda Gaertner, a lawyer representing the First Nations Coalition, Mr. Davis acknowledged that at the time the government did not assess the “social value” of the Cultus fish to aboriginal communities. The coalition represents 12 bands that have standing at the Cohen Commission.

“I don’t think there’s a way of putting value [on the social importance of salmon] … I wouldn’t know how to value that,” he said.

When Ms. Gaertner suggested the government’s assessment was flawed, Mr. Davis seemed to agree.

“I’m sure there were deficiencies there … we were learning from this early SARA experience,” he said.



Making smart seafood choices
Sustainable fishing means fishing gently and responsibly


Jun 10, 2010

School of tuna. Sustainable fishing means fishes must be caught in a way that will ensure long-term sustainability of the oceans and where the practice doesn’t impact other species or habit. Courtesy Photo

While Torontonians may be about 2,000 kilometres from the ocean, the curator of fishes and marine invertebrates at the Toronto Zoo said citizens have the power - and the responsibility - to ensure what they are putting on their plates was caught in a sustainable way. "Ontario is far from the ocean, but we can make a difference," said Cynthia Lee of the Toronto Zoo.

More people are becoming aware of sustainable fishing, where fishes must be caught in a way to ensure long-term sustainability of the oceans and where the practice doesn't impact other species or habit.

And that's a good thing, said Lee as well as Suzanna Fuller, a marine conservation coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, N.S., and Sarah King, a oceans campaigner for Greenpeace in Vancouver, B.C.

Current fishing methods, coupled with the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada not only regulating the industry, but being a part of it; a strong advertising campaign by aquaculture (fish farming); and bad labelling of fishes at grocery stores and fishmongers means the oceans are in crisis and on the verge of collapse.

"It will be really soon," Lee said. "It's not going to be in our children's lifetime, it's is now going to be in our lifetime."

While King said the biggest looming threat to oceans is ocean acidification, which is caused by rising carbon dioxide levels due to global warming, the immediate threat is overfishing, which is where sustainable fishing comes in to play.

"Overharvesting and destructive fishing practises go hand in hand," said King in a phone interview from Vancouver.

To help consumers make sustainable fish choices, several organizations have created seafood guides, which list three choices of fishes: Best choice (green); some concerns (yellow); and avoid (red).

While the Toronto Zoo has partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium () and its SeafoodWatch program, the Canadian version, SeaChoice, an initiative of Sustainable Seafood Canada, which includes the Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club BC and the David Suzuki Foundation, offers a similar guide.

"It's not a competition," said Lee about the two organizations that offer a seafood guide. "They all have the same message of support."

And a goal of helping raise awareness about sustainable fishing.

Canada's Seafood Guide, which is available as an app, tells consumers what types of Canadian fish they should or should not be eating.

The colour-coded guide not only suggests the best and worst fishes to eat, it also labels the fish with hearts, which means seafood high in omega-3 fats and low in contaminants; and diamonds, which means you should limit your consumption of these type of fish due to the elevated mercury or PCB levels.

The Monterey Bay's SeafoodWatch Guide focuses on U.S. and global fisheries and is also available to download as an app. Lee suggested if you are going to use the SeafoodWatch Guide, you should click on Buffalo.

"The card (seafood guide) is an important tool to try make a very complicated industry easy," said Fuller in a phone interview from Nova Scotia.

Greenpeace also has a red list, which uses information from SeafoodWatch and SeaChoice, among other sources, and lists fish most often found at Canadian retailers, King said.

Sustainable fishing is important because the oceans cannot handle how much we are taking out of them, Lee, Fuller and King said.

An example of this is Canada's cod fisheries collapse, said Lee and Fuller.

The oceans were able to sustain Canada's cod fishery when it consisted of small fishing operators who went out with a line and caught fish. But when commercial vessels started coming in and catching thousands of fishes, the cod stock collapsed.

"The biggest fishery in the world is now gone," Fuller said.

While the predatory cod wasn't fished in extinction and is now coming back in some areas, it is nowhere near the levels it used to be at and people still can't fish it.

"Ninety per cent of large predatory fish have vanished from the oceans," King said of the impact of fishing on the oceans.

Fishing methods

In the past, the oceans were able to sustain their stocks because fishing methods were different, the three women said. For hundreds of years, it was a small boat that went out with a fisherman, who baited a hook and caught hundreds of fish, Fuller said.

Today, commercial vessels use several methods. Longlines (lines with hooks) or bottom trawling (nets that literally scoop up species at the bottom of the ocean destroying sponges and fish habit) not only catch thousands of targeted fish, but what is called bycatch, or species not targeted by lines and nets - endangered sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and 35 other species, which are thrown back into the oceans dead or dying when nets are finally emptied, Fuller said.

"The impact of just the two ways of catching is so fundamentally different," she said. "The last thing you want in harvesting seafood is large-scale (fishing)," Fuller said. "Small-scale (fishing)...doesn't impact the environment..."

King said longlines and bottom trawling doesn't "target species one by one, (but rather) targets everything in the path."

And it's these methods that must to be changed, Lee said. "We have to smarten up with our harvesting."

And this is where the consumer comes in.

"Sustainable fishing is 20 years behind the organic food movement," said Fuller from the Ecology Action Centre. "The only reason we have an organic food section is because people asked for it."

All three women encourage people to ask the following questions at their grocery stores and fishmongers: "What type of fish is it? Where was it caught and how was it caught?"

Part of the problem, said Fuller, is there are no labelling laws in Canada so people have to ask questions to ensure the fishes being sold are on the green list and were caught in a sustainable manner.

"Regardless of labels, keep asking that (what, where and how) because retailers are shifting," Fuller said. "All major retailers now have a sustainable fishing policy" because consumers demanded it.

Lee agrees.

"It is food choice that makes a difference," she said. "Purchase green, avoid red, you could not do more for ecology of the ocean...The manufacturers will respond; they are very clever. He will respond to the finance" when he notices people aren't buying certain types of fish.

Fuller suggested people remember "all fish in Canada is a public resource" and Canadians have the responsibility to ensure their safety.

Once retailers begin to change their buying policies, the Canadian government will be forced to change their policies as well, Fuller and King said.

Part of the problem in Canada is the department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) not only regulates the fishing industry, but promotes it as well, Fuller and King said.

"The Canadian government is in a difficult position," Fuller said. And the "industry has incredible power. They are constantly in conflict of interest with themselves...Until there is public outcry, the DFO won't change. We need to get the public out there demanding change. That's the one way the public can truly be involved."

King from Greenpeace suggested people contact their MPs to demand changes to laws in Canada.

"It ultimately has to come from our regulators, the public, major buyers or sellers of food. They play major roles in it all. It's everyone really," King said about who must be responsible for change.

Lee, from the Toronto Zoo, compared the sustainable fishing movement to the work of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and its goal of make drinking and driving socially unacceptable. It took time, but eventually MADD was successful. Lee said she has great hopes people will eventually figure out they have to do everything possible to help the oceans survive.

"Work with local retailers for smart seafood choices. If you work with the local grocery stores and restaurants, that's a groundswell of public opinion. If retailers are not buying species, fisherman will move to another source. Like farmers, they don't hunt to extinction, they need a livelihood for the next 20 years."

Things are starting to change, Fuller said. She gave an example of the New Zealand orange roughy, which has the same life cycle as humans. They live for about 80 years and don't start reproducing until they are about 20. Because of this life cycle, when bottom trawlers come through and clear out the entire seamount where the fish live, the species can't hope to survive, Fuller said.

"It's (orange roughy) a poster child of what shouldn't be done to fish," she said.

However, thanks to consumer pressure and environmental groups, shipping companies are refusing to ship the fish.

So should Canadians worry about what other countries are doing in their sustainable fishing practices?

"We don't have to look beyond our own borders," Lee said. "We shouldn't be pointing fingers at other people until we (fix our own issue)," in reference to bluefin tuna, which other nations are asking to be protected and Canada is refusing to do so.

Despite the grim news from the ocean front, Fuller said he remains positive.

"There is hope. That is why things like the Toronto Zoo getting involved in sustainable fishing is really important," Fuller said.

King agreed.

"I think awareness is definitely growing in the public with movies like SharkWater and the End of the Line, the plight of the bluefish tuna, because more and more are aware of (what we do) impact species."



Shatner beams his way into B.C. salmon debate

The Canadian Press

Date: Thursday Jun. 10, 2010 5:04 PM ET

William Shatner
Will Sasso as Vince, William Shatner as Ed and Nicole Sullivan as Kathleen on '$#*! My Dad Says'

VANCOUVER — William Shatner wants British Columbia's wild salmon to live long and prosper.

The Canadian icon, made famous for his work as Capt. James T. Kirk in the "Star Trek" series, has waded into efforts to protect wild fish from sea lice.

B.C. aquaculture critics have long accused farmed fish of spreading parasites to wild stocks.

Fin Donnelly, the federal New Democrat Fisheries and Oceans critic, introduced a private member's bill last month that would force fish farm operators to move from open nets along the B.C. coast to closed-containment systems.

Shatner joined Donnelly on a conference call Thursday in which he urged Canadians to prevent their precious resources from being destroyed.

"As a father and a grandfather (it's my) wish that my offspring live to see the same things I did, the wildlife and the wilderness," said Shatner, who dialled into the teleconference from Los Angeles.

Shatner, 79, said he gained personal experience with B.C. fish a few years ago when he did some filming on Vancouver Island and in the province's interior.

"I learned and saw first-hand not only the beauty of British Columbia, but saw how and was lectured on how this basic species -- salmon -- feed and nurture not only the animals that are on the land but the sea as well," he said.

In addition to his Star Trek work, Shatner played the role of lawyer Denny Crane on the TV drama "Boston Legal."

In a 2005 episode, his character travelled to B.C. to go fly fishing but learned the wild salmon population was under attack from sea lice, courtesy of fish farms.

"My rage is against companies that have no conscience about what they're doing and that the bottom line is the only thing they think of," he said during the conference call.

"What we must do is ensure that the farmed salmon do not destroy the wild salmon."

The Montreal-born Shatner did not take questions and conceded he hasn't read Donnelly's bill. He also said the technical aspects on how to preserve wild salmon are better left explained by others.

"My opinion is that anybody who's trying to do something about as basic a species as salmon must be listened to," he said of Donnelly's bill.

Last year, Ottawa ordered a federal commission to examine the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks after just one-tenth of an estimated 10.5 million sockeye returned to B.C.'s Fraser River.

The commission, headed by B.C. Supreme Court Judge Bruce Cohen, has said it will examine the possible impacts of farmed fish on wild salmon.

Donnelly, member of Parliament for the B.C. riding of New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody, said he's just thrilled to have Shatner on his side.

"His support demonstrates interest to see the federal government step up and deal with the threats to wild salmon before it is too late," he said.

Donnelly's bill would see the transition from open nets to closed-containment systems within five years of the bill becoming law.

Bill C-518 would also require the fisheries minister to develop a transition plan within 18 months that would protect all aquaculture industry jobs.

Ruth Salmon, executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, said Shatner's opposition to fish farms is "misguided."

"Shatner's a Hollywood actor, he's not a fisheries scientist," she said in an interview.

"The biggest factors affecting wild salmon decline are overfishing and development, logging, mining and changing ocean temperatures."

Salmon added that a 2008 study of 40 closed-containment systems by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans failed to identify a method for successfully producing farmed Atlantic salmon. She said closed-containment systems are also synonymous with higher energy use and a larger carbon footprint.

"At this point in time, it really isn't a viable option," she said.

Shatner, who will star this fall in a Twitter-inspired comedy titled "(Bleep) My Dad Says," has used the social networking site in the past to express his conservationist views.

An online campaign earlier this year called for Shatner to be named the country's next governor general.

Shatner Tweeted soon after: "I'm being drafted by various groups to run for Governor General. Would they accept me if I campaign for salmons' rights?"

Shatner and Donnelly were joined on the conference call by Chief Bob Chamberlain of B.C.'s Ah-Kwa-Mish First Nation and marine biologist Alexandra Morton. Both Chamberlin and Morton have been vocal opponents of fish farms.

"Salmon represents a very clear, stable food for our people to help sustain a very diverse culture, which we have managed for thousands of years," Chamberlin said.

"I want to call on (Fisheries and Oceans) Minister (Gail) Shea to embrace this private member's bill, I want to call on Minister Shea to embrace the notion of closed-containment and make it a reality."

Chamberlin said if Shea is unable to make such a decision, then she must resign.

Morton said since salmon-farm jurisdiction will move from the province of B.C. to the federal government later this year, following a court ruling, there's a real opportunity to spark industry change.



Millions of missing fish signal crisis on the Fraser River

Brian McKinlay, owner and head guide of Silversides Fishing Adventures on the Fraser River near Mission, BC. John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

More than nine million sockeye have vanished from B.C. river. How it happened remains a mystery

Mark Hume

Vancouver — From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Published on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009 7:57PM EDT

The Fraser River is experiencing one of the biggest salmon disasters in recent history with more than nine million sockeye vanishing.

Aboriginal fish racks are empty, commercial boats worth millions of dollars are tied to the docks and sport anglers are being told to release any sockeye they catch while fishing for still healthy runs of Chinook.

Between 10.6 million and 13 million sockeye were expected to return to the Fraser this summer. But the official count is now just 1.7 million, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

sea liceWhere the nine to 11 million missing fish went remains a mystery.

“It's beyond a crisis with these latest numbers,” said Ernie Crey, fisheries adviser to the Sto:lo tribes on the Fraser. “What it means is that a lot of impoverished natives are going to be without salmon. … We have families with little or no income that were depending on these fish. … It's a catastrophe,” he said.

Mr. Crey said a joint Canada-U.S. salmon summit should be called to find solutions.

The sockeye collapse is startling because until just a few weeks ago it seemed the Fraser was headed for a good return.

In 2005 nearly nine million sockeye spawned in the Fraser system, producing a record number of smolts, which in 2007, began to migrate out of the lakes where they'd reared for two years. Biologists for the DFO were buoyed by the numbers – the Chilko and Quesnel tributaries alone produced 130 million smolts – and because the young fish were bigger than any on record.

Those fish were expected to return to the Fraser this summer in large numbers, and those projections held until a few weeks ago when test fishing results began to signal a problem.

Barry Rosenberger, DFO area director for the Interior, said test nets at sea got consistently low catches, then samples in the river confirmed the worst – the sockeye just weren't there in any numbers.

There had been some hope the fish – which return in five distinct groups, or runs – might be delayed at sea, but Mr. Rosenberger dismissed that possibility.

“There are people hanging on to hope … but the reality is … all indications are that none of these runs are late,” he said.

Mr. Rosenberger said officials don't know where or why the salmon vanished – but they apparently died at some point during migration.

“We've been pondering this and I think a lot of people are focusing on the immediate period of entry into the Strait of Georgia and asking what on earth could have happened to them,” said Dr. Brian Riddell, President of the Pacific Salmon Foundation. “What we're seeing now is very, very unexpected.”

Some are pointing accusing fingers at salmon farms, as a possible suspect, because of research that showed young sockeye, known as smolts, got infested with sea lice as they swam north from the Fraser, through the Strait of Georgia.

“This has got to be one of the worst returns we've ever seen on the Fraser. … It's shocking really,” said Craig Orr, of Watershed Watch.

Dr. Riddell said sea lice infestations are a possible factor, but it is “extremely unlikely” that could account for the entire collapse.

“We have had the farms there for many years and we have not seen it related to the rates of survival on Fraser sockeye [before],” he said.

Dr. Riddell said a sockeye smolt with sea lice, however, might grow weak and become easy prey or succumb to environmental conditions it might otherwise survive.

Alexandra Morton, who several years ago correctly predicted a collapse of pink salmon runs in the Broughton Archipelago because of sea lice infestations, in March warned the same thing could happen to Fraser sockeye.

She said researchers used genetic analyses to show Fraser sockeye smolts were getting infested with sea lice in Georgia Strait.

“I looked at about 350 of this generation of Fraser sockeye when they went to sea in 2007 and they had up to 28 sea lice [each]. The sea lice were all young lice, which means they got them in the vicinity of where we were sampling, which was near the fish farms in the Discovery Islands. If they got sea lice from the farms, they were also exposed to whatever other pathogens were happening on the fish farms (viruses and bacteria), ” said Ms. Morton in an e-mail.

“There's a lot of different beliefs as to why the fish haven't shown up, but I think it's pretty clear where there are no fish farms salmon are doing well,” said Brian McKinley, a guide and owner of Silversides Fishing Adventure.

“It's pretty frustrating to watch what is happening,” he said from his boat, anchored on the river near Mission. “I remember sockeye would just boil through here in August and September. It was insane. . .now the river seems dead.”

Dan Gerak, who runs Pitt River Lodge, said there is an environmental crisis on the river.

“Definitely something's got to be done – or it's finished forever,” he said of the Fraser's famed salmon run.

Other big runs of salmon are expected to return this year - notably pinks where are projected to number 17 million - but it is too early to tell if the sockeye collapse will be repeated with other species.


Overfishing pushing salmon stocks near collapse, study warns


Globe and Mail Update

December 3, 2008 at 5:13 AM EST

VANCOUVER — Salmon stocks in British Columbia are on the brink of collapse largely because the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has consistently allowed too many fish to be killed in commercial and recreational fisheries, according to a new research paper.

The high exploitation of stocks - which draws parallels with the destruction of Atlantic cod by overfishing - may be more to blame for the decline of Pacific salmon than global warming or poor ocean conditions, says the study assessing salmon management practices, published today by the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

The researchers, from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the University of California, also conclude that DFO has been managing on the basis of biased data because it has stopped monitoring hundreds of streams with weak runs, choosing to focus on stronger runs only. As a result, managers have a flawed picture that suggests salmon stocks are much healthier than they really are.

The researchers said that based on the monitoring of 137 streams between 2000 and 2005, DFO found 35 per cent of salmon runs in northern B.C. were classified as depressed. But an assessment based on 215 streams that included weak stocks rated 75 per cent of runs as depressed.

"The lack of information [fisheries managers have] is troubling," said Misty MacDuffee, one of three biologists on the research team.

"The precautionary approach has to be at the forefront of fisheries management ... but not having accurate information will lead to overfishing, as it did with Atlantic cod," she said.

The paper examined data over a 55-year period in order to evaluate DFO's effectiveness in hitting escapement targets.

Escapement targets refer to the number of salmon that escape commercial, recreational and native food fisheries to make it to the spawning grounds. Escapement targets are considered the bottom line in fisheries management and are used to justify fishery catch limits.

If an adequate number of fish are allowed to spawn, the rest are considered surplus and can be caught in commercial, sport or native food fisheries.

But the research paper, "Ghost runs: management and status assessment of Pacific salmon returning to British Columbia's central and north coasts," found that since 1950 DFO has failed to reach escapement targets 50 per cent of the time.

And during the 2000-2005 period, chum, sockeye and chinook runs failed to hit escapement targets up to 85 per cent of the time.

"Data ... which span nearly six decades, show that management has repeatedly not met DFO's own target levels. This resulted in diminished runs for all species in nearly every decade," the researchers state.

"Although climate and ocean survival likely play substantial roles, multiple lines of evidence suggest that over exploitation may be the greatest cause of salmon declines across the Northeast Pacific," they say.

The researchers say cutting catch rates can have dramatic results and they note some stocks that recovered when fishing overexploitation was stopped.

The researchers were Michael Price, Nicola Temple and Ms. MacDuffee, all staff biologists with the Raincoast, a B.C. non-profit organization, and Chris Darimont, Department of Environmental Studies, University of California.



Caplin roll again in revived fishery

Caplin are a delicacy in the Japanese marketplace, and were the basis of a fishery that flourished until the late 1980s. (CBC)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | 11:03 AM NT
CBC News

Fishing vessels have returned to waters off Newfoundland for the first time in years for a commercial harvest of caplin, despite warnings that the health of the stock may be fleeting.

"Basically, right now, there's more caplin than we've seen I'd say in 20 years," said Kevin Slaney, owner of one of a handful of boats chasing the small fish in Conception Bay.

One owner told CBC News that on Tuesday, vessels would harvest about one million pounds — or about 450 tonnes — of caplin in Conception Bay alone.

Kevin Stanley
Kevin Slaney says this year's caplin harvest has been the busiest in two decades. (CBC)

Caplin, a delicacy in the Japanese marketplace, were once part of a vibrant fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, although catches fell as cod stocks began collapsing in the late 1980s.

Indeed, scientists are still trying to figure out why caplin — a key source of food for cod — disappeared in the first place, and what's bringing them back again. Scientists are limited, though, because old research programs fell by the wayside.

"[The recovery is] a combination of things, but certainly we've not done the offshore acoustic surveys that we used to do in the 1980s," said biologist Brian Nakashima, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Brian Nakashima
Biologist Brian Nakashima notes that Fisheries and Oceans has not done the field research on caplin that it managed in the 1980s. (CBC)

There have been commercial catches of caplin in subsequent years, but nothing compared to this year's activity.

Richard Haedrich, a Memorial University scientist who is a world expert on threatened fish stocks, said he is concerned that short-term commercial interests are eclipsing understanding of the big picture.

"Planning takes place on an annual basis, and none of these things function annually," Haedrich told CBC News.

"They function on a time frame of five, 10, 15, 20 years."





Trying to keep lobster in every pot, or at least in some pots

RALPH SURETTE | 7/7/07 4:42 AM

We've become blasé about scary headlines with regard to the ecology, especially the marine one which is underwater where we don’t see it. But let’s linger a moment over some that appeared this week: "Will lobster go the way of cod?" "Atlantic lobster industry unsustainable without new plan: report." And so on.

The report in question is from the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, which advises the federal government and which heard from more than 800 people in the fishing industry over the past year and a half. At issue is an industry that lands $600 million worth of lobsters a year in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, with the lion’s share in Nova Scotia, and that is the mainstay of the economy of many areas, including the Yarmouth/Shelburne/ Digby strip where I now live.

But lobsters have been declining in recent years. The word "collapse" is being applied here and there, notably in parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The report’s main point is that this decline, because of overfishing, has been foreseen for years but neither the industry nor the government had the will to do anything about it.

On the contrary, it merely got worse. More expensive boats with more fishing capacity were bought in the usual error of downward cycles: The fishing pressure increased as the resource declined in order to pay for the more expensive equipment. The council’s message is that unless serious change occurs, like shortening seasons or reducing trap limits, the fishery is unsustainable. And indeed, the drift to Alberta among fishermen is already on.

But here’s a more complicated twist. Difficult as it is to break the cycle of overfishing, if it’s only overfishing then we’ll be lucky.

In the cases of cod and most other groundfish, remember, even when the fishing stopped completely, they didn’t rebound. This suggests that although overfishing might have caused the collapse, there’s something else involved preventing a recovery.

In fact, recent research out of Cornell University in the U.S. suggests just that, arguing that ecosystems along the continental shelf from Labrador to North Carolina are undergoing "large, rapid changes." Some of these changes are indeed due to overfishing, and particularly the cod collapse which upset the food chain; but most are due to more fresh water from melting Arctic ice and changing ocean currents, both the result of global warming. These changes, in which the fresher water lingers at the surface longer than it used to, are not all inimical to ocean life. More plankton is being produced in the fall in this lingering surface layer, the researchers say, and they suspect that it was a factor in the rebound of herring stocks in the 1990s.

However, this research suggests that when it comes to the ups and downs of overfished species, it’s a crapshoot as to whether they recover or not even if you stop fishing them.



It's not too late - yet ( EDITORIAL)

Last updated at 11:40 AM on 13/07/07

The Amherst Citizen

Unless lobster fishermen in the Atlantic region are willing to take some pretty austere conservation measures it’s very likely the popular seafood could head the way of the codfish. That would be bad news for an industry that pours millions into the Atlantic region and employs thousands either directly on the boats or indirectly in processing plants.

In a report released earlier this week, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council said there are “high risks” associated with current strategies for fishing lobster in many areas of Eastern Canada.

While stocks are generally in good shape, there are areas where numbers are dwindling while at the same time fishing pressure is intensifying. One of those areas has to be the Northumberland Strait where catches have been dropping for close to a decade.

It has yet to be determined why lobster stocks are down. Some say it’s a result of silt stirred up by construction of the Confederation Bridge a decade ago, others say it’s a changing climate resulting in cooler waters while others – on this side of the Strait – say it’s a difference in the carapace size between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

While all of these are factors in the fishery’s decline, no one seems willing to consider over fishing as a possible cause. There are hundreds of fishermen along the Strait in both provinces and as much as government tries to control the number of new lobstermen, there appears to be more people fishing than there are lobsters to catch.

The time may have come to take a serious look at the future of the Northumberland lobster fishery and take some tough, if not unpopular, conservation measures to ensure there are lobster there to catch for future generations. We must learn from the mistakes of the Newfoundland cod fishery or risk repeating them.



The secret war to sink owner-operator fishermen

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA | Sunday October 15, 2006

Unknown to the Canadian public, there is a fierce and largely secret battle going on to undermine government policy and radically restructure the Atlantic Canada fishery. It is a guerrilla war that pits a group of strange bedfellows – a few wealthy fishermen, some fish processors and a number of bureaucrats inside the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans – against the DFO minister and the existing fisheries licensing system.

So far, the strange bedfellows seem to be winning in their stealth campaign to overthrow the foundation of Atlantic fishery policy. They are succeeding by doing everything in their power to make the existing licensing policies meaningless and unenforceable.

The Atlantic fishery employs over 30,000 people directly and, despite a major stock collapse and a rising Canadian dollar, it is still – at a value of $2.5 billion – the third biggest export earner in the Atlantic region after energy and forest products.

The current structure of the fishery has been shaped by two fundamental policy decisions made more than 25 years ago. First, the DFO’s owner-operator policy established that on fishing vessels under 65 feet in length, the holder of the licence has to fish it personally. This means that a non-fisherman can’t hold a lobster licence and have someone else fish it, and similarly an active fisherman can’t officially buy a second lobster licence and have someone else fish it for him.

The fleet separation policy established that companies that process fish cannot own licences and operate fishing vessels under 65 feet. Because of these policies, the greater portion of the wealth of the Atlantic fishery today goes not to big fish companies or absentee investors, but to thousands of owner-operator fishermen based in hundreds of coastal communities.

And that’s what the war is about – gaining control over these small owner-operator businesses in Atlantic Canada. For years, fish companies and other investors have been quietly getting around the owner-operator and fleet separation policies by means of secret "trust agreements" – legal fictions that give control over fishing licences to people other than those entitled to them.

For a long time, these deals were thought to be of marginal significance. Recently, however, industry and community leaders have awakened to the reality that in some very lucrative fisheries, like lobster in southwest Nova Scotia and snow crab in Newfoundland, the under-the-table trust agreements are threatening the foundations of their local fisheries. Not only do companies now control more and more licences, but the underground market means most young people in fishing communities can never hope to become owner-operators.

Every time this conflict has come out into the open, the owner-operator and fleet separation policies have been widely supported. In extensive public consultations for DFO’s recent Atlantic fisheries policy review, the overwhelming majority of individual fishermen and fishermen’s organizations forcefully called on the government to maintain and strengthen the policies. They were supported by the governments of the four Atlantic Provinces and Québec and by numerous municipal governments and community organizations. Only a few individuals representing fish companies spoke against the policies.

In response to the strong support for the existing policies, successive ministers of DFO made clear commitments to maintain and strengthen the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. The new minister, Loyola Hearn from Newfoundland, is the latest to do so. Last June, in his first appearance before the Senate fisheries committee, Mr. Hearn said: "Our firm belief is that the person who owns the licence, the fisherman who has a licence, should be the one who fishes the resource. He should be the one benefiting from the resource. The skipper should be in the boat and not down in Florida phoning home orders to several people who operate boats which he owns."… The department is ready for a fight with the people who benefit from the trust agreements, if that’s what it takes to stop the practice … We let this thing get out of hand."

Despite the clear message from the minister, nothing has been done to stop the practice. The changes needed to prevent trust agreements from undermining government policy still haven’t been made and there is no indication from DFO of when they will be. Worse, the undermining of government policy has become more blatant and open. In Nova Scotia, companies and individuals are buying newspaper ads offering to buy and lease lobster licences, all in open contravention of DFO licensing policies, and yet regional DFO officials are doing nothing to stop it.

Like a cancer on the fisheries management system, this situation is undermining the overall credibility of DFO. In recent meetings in Nova Scotia, for example, fishermen challenged the DFO to explain why they should be following the regulations if the department does not enforce its own rules and allows a few companies and rich fishermen to buy up control of the resource.

That is a very good question. The secret war against the owner-operator and fleet separation policies has successfully forestalled the promises and commitments of three DFO ministers for over four years. Mr. Hearn is right. The situation is out of hand. It’s time for him to take control, bring his managers into line with departmental policies, and introduce the changes needed to make the policies meaningful again.

Marc Allain is an independent fisheries policy analyst.



Atlantic & East Coast Report
Canada Turns a Blind Eye to Protecting Our Oceans

By Myles Higgins Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans recently released a report entitled, "Impacts of Trawl Gears and Scallop Dredges on Benthic Habitats, Populations and Communities". This report clearly shows the horrific impact of bottom dragging on fish habitats.

In the report it is identified that, "...measures to reduce impacts of mobile bottom-contacting gears requires case specific analysis and planning. There are no universally appropriate fixes...".

Sorry folks, but you are wrong again as usual. There is indeed a universally appropriate fix. Legislate a complete ban on all bottom dragging gear.

Read the full commentary here.



Hearn keen to revive recreational fishery

Tuesday, September 5, 2006 | 9:07 AM NT

CBC News Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn says a recreational cod fishery held off the coast of Newfoundland this summer showed little evidence of abuse.

The recreational fishery — also known as the food fishery — closed Monday, after five weeks in which ordinary residents could take to bays and coves to catch their own cod.

Hearn said few violations were reported during the course of the fishery, and added that he is leaning towards reopening a similar fishery next summer.

"From the light in the eye of the 82-year-old who says, 'You know, b'y, you delivered for us,' to the young kids who went out with their granddad, for instance, to experience what we experienced as kids, yes, if all things being equal, if the stock is there to do it … I would certainly continue," said Hearn, who represents St. John's South-Mount Pearl.

Against recommendations from many scientists, Hearn approved a limited recreational fishery this summer around the coasts of the island.

Individuals were allowed to catch as many as five cod per day, with a daily boat limit of 15 fish.

Hearn said all aspects of the fishery will be reviewed before a decision is made on next year's fishery.

Safety was a recurring issue during the fishery. A father and son fishing from Petty Harbour drowned after their small vessel overturned on Aug. 1, the day the fishery opened.

Search crews also rescued at least two sets of fishermen who ran into trouble at sea.


Grey seal hunt "epitome of inappropriate management’

Tuesday August 22, 2006
By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau

YARMOUTH — A group incorporated little more than two years ago calling itself the Grey Seal Conservation Society was founded in opposition to a proposed grey seal hunt in Nova Scotia.

"The purpose was to help draw attention to the changes in the ecosystem overall," said Debbie MacKenzie, one of the group’s members. She’s not a biologist but has studied the grey seal question extensively.

Grey seals are large and seemingly everywhere. They’re inshore and offshore, and they’re around Nova Scotia 12 months of the year.

Fishermen from Cape North to Cape Sable Island this summer have been reporting grey seals taking their groundfish and their bait. They’ve said grey seals have been damaging their gear and following lobster boats to snap up undersized lobsters that are thrown back.

The grey seal population has grown too large, probably because shark populations have diminished, say fishery groups. Many fishermen remember their fathers talking about seal bounties. All that was needed to collect a little cash reward was a jawbone. Those times are gone.

A fishing industry group calling itself the Grey Seal Research and Development Society asked Ottawa for permission to hunt some grey seals.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans allocated a quota of 10,000 of the animals, said DFO marine mammal specialist Jerry Conway. Most of that quota remains intact and industry now has until the end of 2006 to use it.

Asian markets are being tested for grey seal meat sales, said Denny Morrow of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association.

But the cull is opposed by the Grey Seal Conservation Society. Top predators like grey seals are important to have around to manage the ocean ecosystem in the way it was meant to be managed, says the group.

"The approval of a grey seal hunt is the epitome of inappropriate management," said Ms. MacKenzie.

Federal government scientists have said groundfish stocks will have a hard time recovering because the food web has changed and not enough large, healthy and robust groundfish remain, she said.

Large cod or halibut used to be found, as well as skates the size of a barn door, she said.

The presence of natural predators helps by eliminating young, old and injured fish. Normally these fish are the first to be eaten, said Ms. MacKenzie. The big healthy fish escape and live to reproduce.

The fact that many groundfish are now undersized is a sign of a lack of predation, she said.

Many fishermen would scratch their heads at this because they’ve reported just the opposite — an increase in predation from grey seals.

The fishing industry should take an ecosystem approach, putting the health of the ecosystem first and leaving the seals alone, said Ms. MacKenzie. That may involve avoiding longlining, she said.

Ms. MacKenzie said fish that are hooked by longline may have been able to escape from seals otherwise, she said. If seals are ripping the bellies out of cod and halibut that have been hooked by longliners then longline fishermen should avoid the areas where seals are found, she said.

That’s ridiculous, say fishermen who note that the seals are everywhere from six to 160 metres of water.

Longlining is also touted by other conservationists as good fishing practice because it does not scoop up large amounts of fish or damage the seabed like dragging does. Longlining keeps people working and catches fewer fish, good all around, say many.

But Ms. MacKenzie insists killing grey seals won’t help the situation.

"They shouldn’t shoot for any predator reduction.

"Unfortunately it’s the fishery that should back off," she said.

( bmedel@herald.ca)



Small cod fishery reopens off Newfoundland, but conservation concerns linger

June 8, 2006 - 17:32

PETTY HARBOUR, N.L. (CP) - Fishermen in eastern and northern Newfoundland will be allowed to reel in their most coveted catch for the first time in three years, despite concerns that the decision to reopen the northern cod fishery is based on faulty science.

A small-scale, inshore commercial fishery for northern cod, as well as a limited recreational fishery, will resume this year, federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn announced Thursday.
"That is what most people have asked for, that is what we can deliver," Hearn told a news conference in Petty Harbour, a cozy fishing village just south of St. John's.

Up to 2,300 commercial fishermen will each be allowed to catch 1,350 kilograms of northern cod within Canada's 12-mile inshore zone. The one-year pilot project will be reviewed after a season scheduled to last three weeks.

"That should give us a lot of information we don't have today about the health of stocks in every area of this province," Hearn said.

The 2,300-tonne limit will appease some commercial fishermen, but it's a small step toward re-establishing an industry that was pulling in an average of 260,000 tonnes per season in the 1980s.

Newfoundland's cod fishery has been a source of contention in the province since Ottawa closed the northern fishery in 1992 to restore depleted stocks. A year later, the province's south coast fishery was closed along with most of the cod fisheries in the rest of Atlantic Canada.

More than 30,000 people lost their jobs - the single-largest mass layoff in Canada's history.

Commercial cod fishing was allowed to resume years ago off Newfoundland's south coast, but the once mighty northern fishery was shut down in 2003 after a four-year stint amid numerous reports that stocks had not recovered enough to sustain commercial or recreational fishing.

While some scientists insist the northern fishery should be kept closed, fishermen say there's plenty of cod in the sea and they welcomed the small quota.

"It's good news, not great news," said Doug Howlett, a 44-year-old commercial fisherman in Petty Harbour. He said the federal government could have tripled the quotas it announced and still maintain healthy stock levels.

"It'll put a few dollars in (fishermen's pockets), not very much."

Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said the ban on fishing northern cod should never have been lifted.

"If you fish a population when they're down, you'll inhibit recovery, so if you ever want to get cod back, you have to stop fishing it," Myers said. "This goes in the face of all scientific advice."

The federal Fisheries Department will largely rely on the honour system to ensure fishermen are abiding by the rules, Hearn said.

"If conservation isn't the bottom line for any of us, this will be a one-shot deal and a one-shot deal only," Hearn said

He warned that abuse of the measures would result in an early shutdown.

"This is always the problem, boys," he told several dozen fishermen at the wharf.

"If people can't live by the rules that you've asked for and help set, and we set, then we'll close her down. Other than that, we'll have a hell of a summer on the water."

Myers said Newfoundland will be hard-pressed to ensure fishermen are obeying the regulations.

As for the recreational fishery, it is expected to open in August and will last five weeks.

Those taking part in the so-called food fishery will be allowed to land five fish each, and 15 fish per boat under 45 feet in length. Recreational fishermen will no longer need licences nor tags to catch cod under requirements already in place for other Atlantic provinces.

The reopening of commercial and recreational fishing for northern cod was welcomed by NDP fisheries critic Peter Stoffer.

"If he keeps it tightly controlled and everything is monitored well and that information is shared with the scientists, I think this would be a good thing," Stoffer said from his home riding of Sackville-Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia.


Northern Bottlenose Whale (Scotian Shelf) and Channel Darter protected under the Species at Risk Act

OTTAWA -- The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today announced that two aquatic species will be added to the list of species protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

The Northern bottlenose whale (Scotian Shelf) and the channel darter will be listed under SARA, bringing the total number of species protected under the Act to 347.

"The government looked at each species very carefully when deciding whether to list it under SARA," said Minister Hearn. "These decisions have real impacts on Canadians and it's critical that we consider all of the information, including scientific assessments, Aboriginal traditional knowledge, the feedback we received from thousands of Canadians, as well as the social and economic impacts of listing these species."

The Northern bottlenose whale (Scotian Shelf) and the channel darter were part of a larger group of 12 aquatic species which underwent an extended period of consultation while under consideration for addition to SARA.

Four species will not be listed under SARA, including three populations of Atlantic cod (Newfoundland & Labrador, Laurentian North and Maritimes). Comprehensive recovery plans for cod will be completed and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will continue to pursue strong conservation measures with the provinces, fishers and key stakeholders.

Following the public posting of the recommendations, a decision was also made to not list Interior Fraser River coho salmon under SARA. Extensive protection measures are already in place and will be continued under the Fisheries Act. Although Interior Fraser River coho remains a concern, the department is confident that it has the tools to rebuild the species.

Six species' assessments will be returned to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) for further information or consideration, including Atlantic cod (Arctic population), cusk, bocaccio, harbour porpoise (NW Atlantic population), Lake Winnipeg physa, and shortjaw cisco.

More information regarding the Species at Risk Act is available on the SARA Public Registry at www.sararegistry.gc.ca. Information on aquatic species at risk is available at www.aquaticspeciesatrisk.gc.ca.

Info: Sophie Galarneau Manager, Media Relations Fisheries and Oceans Canada Ottawa (613) 990-7537 or Steve Outhouse, Office of the Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (613) 992-3474



Sierra Club Canada Response:

Canada Abandons Endangered Species: Wild salmon, Northern Cod on the way to extinction

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

(Ottawa, Victoria) - Sierra Club of Canada expressed its outrage that the federal government has decided not to list Interior Fraser Coho in the west and Northern Cod on the east coast. Clear scientific advice from the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Canada (COSEWIC) has been ignored. Advice from scientists within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been rejected.

“Canada has clearly abandoned any pretence that we, as a country, care about the protection of endangered species,” said Sierra Club of Canada’s British Columbia Conservation Chair Vicky Husband. “This is the government’s message to the world. How can we ever urge the protection of endangered species in other countries, when we fail to protect them at home?”

The British Columbia Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada particularly lamented the damage to the Wild Salmon Policy that is part and parcel of this decision. The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) should operate to support the efforts to recover wild salmon. SARA must be a critical decision point which strengthens actions taken in the implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy (WSP). SCC argues that the Minister’s decision spells the end to SARA being a useful tool for the conservation of salmon, and it extracts the teeth from the WSP.

“Without an effective SARA, the Wild Salmon Policy is undermined,” said Vicky Husband of the BC Chapter’s fisheries programme. “It took us seven years to finally get a Wild Salmon Policy and now it appears as endangered as the salmon it seeks to protect. I am profoundly saddened by this decision and by the lack of leadership shown by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment, they are ultimately responsible if these species go extinct.”

“This decision has implications well beyond salmon and cod,” said Executive Director Elizabeth May, “If we can’t use federal law to protect Thompson coho and the Northern Cod, we can’t use the law to protect anything else. And if Canada, the ninth largest economy on earth, the only nation with balanced books in the OECD, cannot protect endangered species, then what country can?”

SARA is the federal government’s primary instrument for endangered species protection. The listing of a species was intended by Parliament to be primarily a scientific exercise. Concerns about socio-economic implications can be considered later, throughout the recovery process.

“There is a widespread misunderstanding about the Act,” continued Elizabeth May. “It is anything but Draconian. There are many opportunities to exempt economic activity that incidentally kills a listed species and even to decide that it is not feasible to try to recover a species. These options are available after listing. Failure to list denies the species, and those who wish to protect it, access to additional funds for recovery as well as to a consultative process to develop the best way to protect species while continuing economic activity. Failure to list is the ultimate abdication of responsibility to species at risk of extinction.”

Vicky Husband, BC Chapter, Conservation Chair, 250 920-9355
Elizabeth May, Executive Director, 613-241-4611
Rachel Plotkin, Director of Forests and Biodiversity, 613-241-4611


It pays to be a corrupt DFO fisheries observer. $10,000 clams, to be exact

Dockside monitor claims she accepted bribes

BY JAMIE BAKER, The Telegram
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A dockside observer says she accepted bribes from a fish company as part of her role in an "elaborate scheme" to misreport some 115,000 pounds of crab in Black Tickle, Labrador over a three-year period. Brenda Dyson pleaded guilty to one charge in connection with the incident(s) and received a $7,000 fine; her agreed statement of facts was read in provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Tuesday.

Paid for false info

In that statement, Dyson said she had received $17,000 between 2001 and 2003 to "record and forward false information" to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and that she "received top employment stamps as a fisher and an employee of Labrador Sea Products during the three-year period."

The investigation revealed Dyson had received $4,000 over a five-week period in 2001; $8,000 cash in 2002; and another $5,000 cash in 2003 for her role in misreporting the crab catches.

"This is a very serious matter and this is a very important case for the fishing industry," said Morley Knight, DFO's director of conservation and protection for the Newfoundland and Labrador Region.

"When you look at this from an economic perspective, if someone is misreporting, what they are doing is stealing the resource - it's the same as stealing from other fishermen. It has to be an elaborate scheme because not just one person can undertake this on their own."

Two-year investigation

Dyson's case stemmed from an intensive two-year investigation conducted by DFO's special investigations unit, which began after a routine inspection at the Black Tickle plant in November 2003.

On June 14, 2004, investigators seized more than 25,000 documents and computer hard drives in simultaneous raids at the Labrador Sea Products plant in Black Tickle, and related offices on the island. In a taped interview that same day, Dyson also confessed to being involved in the misreporting of crab.

"We did the searches based on reasonable probable grounds that offences of misreporting of crab had been committed - we knew that from the preliminary inspection we did in the fall of 2003," Knight noted.

On June 30, 2005, following more than a year of investigation, some 80 charges were laid related to the misreporting of crab catches against seven people and three companies. Knight said several additional charges were laid in connection with the case in August and again in January.

The preliminary inquiry related to the remaining charges and individuals is expected to go ahead in May.

Knight could not say what role, if any, Dyson might play as the case proceeds.

'Before the courts'

"It's before the courts, and it remains to be seen how the other parties and other people charged will respond to the charges," he said.

Knight said misreporting of catches is considered a serious hindrance to proper conservation and management of crab, a lucrative species that has been in decline in recent years.

In cases where misreporting is suspected, Knight said DFO would "leave no stone unturned" in carrying out its investigations using all available high-tech methods at their disposal for everything from evidence recovery to forensic auditing.

"It is very important to let those in the industry know, while they may misreport, they can be caught."



DFO Officers Encourage Illegal Grey Seal Slaughter

reported by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

In the last posting on our website on this issue (2/24/06), we reported that the Canadian Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Officers turned a blind eye to the activities of nine Cape Breton fishermen who cruelly and illegally slaughtered 220 gray seals in a protected wilderness area of Nova Scotia.

It appears now that the DFO officers actually encouraged the illegal slaughter.

"We were encouraging it," DFO spokesman Jerry Conway said on 2/23/06, a day after the men received summonses from provincial Natural Resources Department conservation officers as they stepped onto the dock Tuesday at Main-a-Dieu, Cape Breton County.

The pending charges are under the Wildlife Act, the Wilderness Protection Act, and the Environment Act. The nine men are to appear in Sydney provincial court on May 8.

The men killed the seals on Hay Island, a small outcropping off Scatarie Island, a provincially-designated wildlife management area. Because it lies within 1.6 kilometers off Scatarie, Hay Island is automatically included in the management area, a fact that at least two levels of government say they were unaware of.

"Not only wasn't this department (DFO) aware that Hay Island was not considered to be part of Scatarie, but the provincial Fisheries Department weren't aware, because both were encouraging the development of this fishery," Mr. Conway said, adding that when the seal hunt was established, sealers were informed they could harvest gray seals from Cape North through to the Bay of Fundy. No specific areas were closed to them."

So both the Federal and Provincial Fisheries Department were admittedly ignorant of the fact that this was a protected area.

"This is the kind of ignorance routinely displayed by the Canadian Department of Fisheries," said Captain Paul Watson. “Here they are in charge of protecting wildlife, and yet, they admit they don't know where the boundaries are."

A letter from the Natural Resources Department in 2003 alerted both government departments to this area being off limits, Mr. Conway admitted.

And as recently as three weeks ago, a group trying to develop a sealing industry in Nova Scotia was lobbying Provincial Environment Minister Kerry Morash to allow seals to be slaughtered specifically on Hay Island.

"The minister advised them that Hay Island is not open to hunting and they subsequently have been advised again and by DFO and DNR officers that there was to be no hunting on Hay Island and they chose to ignore that advice," Mr. Conway admitted.

Ewen MacIntyre, spokesman for the Natural Resources Department in Coxheath, said DFO regulates the seal fishery and that his department is involved simply due to the location of the hunt.

"As far as we are concerned, the onus is on the sealers to know where they can and cannot hunt," he said.

Victoria-The Lakes MLA Gerald Sampson says he was approached last month by a number of northern Victoria County seal hunters who want Hay Island excluded from the wildlife management designation.

"They told me that they had harvested seals there previously and wanted permission to harvest seals there again," he said, adding he directed them to Mr. Morash and Neil Bellefontaine, a senior DFO official.

"I don't know if they received permission or if that was the group that was charged," he said.

Jay Luger, spokesman for the Grey Seal Research and Development Society, which wants to develop a grey seal industry, has refused to comment on the illegal slaughter on Hay Island.

It is expected that the arrested sealers will use the fact that DFO encouraged them to kill seals as their defense on the charges. It is also expected that the courts will be lenient.

"It is not as if they did something serious like photograph a seal hunt," said Captain Paul Watson. "Eleven of my crew were sentenced to jail for 22 days or a fine of $1,000 for the "crime" of witnessing the slaughter of one seal. These bastards viciously slaughtered 220 seals illegally and I bet their sentence, if they in fact are even found guilty, will be significantly more lenient than those convicted of trying to stop the killing of the seals. Justice is not blind in Canada; it is applied with great clarity and prejudice."


Criticizing the DFO in Canada's Senate

Proceedings found on website of the Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia


I read that DFO feels that 136 years of the Fisheries Act or a bunch of fisheries acts are out of date and must be modernized. It is not the fisheries policies that must be modernized; rather, DFO must be modernized. It is an anachronism and has been since the British North America Act was first developed.

When Canada emerged as a nation in 1867, the oceans indicated where our boundaries were and the oceans were the strength of Canada in our linkages to Britain and to the West Indies, for example, through the fish trade. The fish trade was the essence of our wealth.

It is a long time since that has been the case. Fisheries were brought under the federal government because they were so important for wealth creation for the new nation. But since that is no longer the case, we now have a department that is under the federal government and a long way from the communities with which it does most of its work. The problem is that the department has no accountability.

Read the full text here.





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