Sophie Smith and Greta Borick-Cunningham of the Alouette River Management Society with a coho.

Sophie Smith and Greta Borick-Cunningham of the Alouette River Management Society with a coho.

Maple Ridge seeks restoration of federal Fisheries Act

Asks the Liberal government to restore the previous “ecosystems-based approach."

Maple Ridge is talking tough to the federal Liberals when it comes to protecting fish – the same way it did to the Tories four years ago.

A Nov. 28 letter from Mayor Nicole Read asks the Liberal government to restore the previous “ecosystems-based approach” to the Fisheries Act.

Maple Ridge also wants “clear and meaningful definitions” in any new Fisheries Act and wants public involvement and disclosure of the scientific basis for changing the act.

A parliamentary committee is reviewing the Fisheries Act, following drastic changes made by the preceding Conservatives, which removed fish habitat protection.

The 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act removed general projection of fish habitat and focused on projecting  aboriginal, sport or commercial fisheries from “serious harm.”

This fall, the new government asked for public input on how the Fisheries Act could be restored

Maple Ridge is also demanding that “appropriate levels of staffing support” be provided to Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard of Canada and, that there also be a deadline by which fish passage has to be provided when hydroelectric dams are built that impede fish access.

If such a deadline is included into the new act, it could help the Alouette River Management Society achieve one of its key goals of building a fishway around BC Hydro’s Alouette dam to connect the South Alouette River to the Alouette Lake reservoir.

Restoring the connection between the river could help rebuild the sockeye salmon run and other species in the Alouette system.

Greta Borick-Cunningham, with the Alouette River Management Society, is heartened by the government’s process.

It’s a “great thing” the government is taking public comments, but it should have begun earlier, she said.

Changing the legislation to require fishways be built under deadline, around dams, is “extremely important” to address the historical wrongs to fish.

The group also sent its own letter to the minister, asking that the concept of “no net-loss” of fish habitat be followed when considering developments near streams.

It also sought restoration of protection of all fish habitat, not just those that are part of a commercial, aboriginal or recreational fishery as the Conservatives had implemented.

Former Conservative MP Randy Kamp said, in 2012, that the Fisheries Act had grown and broadened over the years beyond just fisheries.

“This allows us to focus our protection where we think it should be.

“Right now, if there’s a body of water, and there might be a fish, even if it’s not a fish that anyone ever fishes, the act requires us to go through the authorization process with the municipality,” he said then.