ARMS has say on Fisheries Act

The Alouette River Management Society wants the restoration of habitat protection for all native fish.

One of Maple Ridge’s streamkeeper groups is telling the Liberal government to restore protections in the Fisheries Act that were gutted by Conservatives four years ago.

The Alouette River Management Society wants the restoration of habitat protection for all native fish, not just those connected to an established fishery.

The society also wants the ban on “harmful alteration, disruption and destruction” of fish streams put back into the Fisheries Act.

The society made its demands in a letter to Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

ARMS also wants Fisheries to increase its manpower so it can enforce the legislation.

The government is seeking the public’s input before it begins any revision of the Fisheries Act and is asking people to comment on its Let’s Talk Fish Habitat website.

One question that’s proving difficult is whether changes made in 2012 have hurt local streams in the four years they’ve been in place.

“I’m not really sure,” said Greta Borick-Cunningham, executive-director at the Alouette River Management Society.

“No one’s coming to me and telling me.”

Maple Ridge’s strong streamside protection regulations, requiring minimal setbacks to protect stream banks, give an extra level of protection.

The letter from ARMS also included a request to reverse changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and to act on recommendations made in the 2012 Cohen Commission, which looked at the decline of the Fraser River sockeye.

Ross Davies, with Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, said Fisheries and Oceans simply needs more money.

“We don’t really have the local resources from the federal government that we did,” Davies said.

It shouldn’t be up to cities to protect streams, he added.

“I think the local governments will welcome knowing that Fisheries and Oceans has got their back if there was a need for any enforcement.”

Zo-Ann Morten, with the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, said one of the main changes made by the Conservatives was removing the requirement to notify the department of projects that could affect a stream that is not connected to recreational, commercial or Aboriginal fisheries. Instead, people can decide on their own whether they have to notify the department of any possible stream impacts.

“So keeping track is really difficult. They [Fisheries] don’t even know you’re there.”

She cited a development in North Vancouver, where builders didn’t have to notify Fisheries about any possible impacts on nearby streams.

Morten said the government has hired more scientists to replace those fired by the Conservatives and, “They’re allowed to speak.”

But she didn’t have any first-hand knowledge of that.

When the changes to the Fisheries Act were announced in 2012, former local MP Randy Kamp said the government was moving away from reviewing all projects in all waters and “focusing on those that may significantly impact Canada’s fisheries.”

“The whole direction, we think, is kind of a practical, sensible approach to focusing on fisheries that Canadians value,” Kamp said.