Sunday, 22 November 2015

DFO Minister’s Marching Orders

Justin Trudeau, our new Prime Minister, sent notes to each of his new Ministers, apprising them of their mandate of action based on election campaign promises.

You can find the letter to DFO Minister Hunter Tootoo here:

Part of the Preamble to Tootoo: As Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, your overarching goal will be to protect our three oceans, coasts, waterways and fisheries and ensure that they remain healthy for future generations. Canada is uniquely blessed with an abundance of freshwater and marine and coastal areas that are ecologically diverse and economically significant. Canada has a responsibility to the world to steward our resources with care.
Specific objectives for Hon Tootoo:
·         Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to increase the proportion of Canada’s marine and coastal areas that are protected – to five percent by 2017, and ten percent by 2020 – supported by new investments in community consultation and science.

·         Restore annual federal funding for freshwater research, and make new investments in Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area.

·         Restore funding to support federal ocean science and monitoring programs, to protect the health of fish stocks, to monitor contaminants and pollution in the oceans, and to support responsible and sustainable aquaculture industries on Canada’s coasts.

·         Use scientific evidence and the precautionary principle, and take into account climate change, when making decisions affecting fish stocks and ecosystem management.

·         Work with the provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders to better co-manage our three oceans.
·         Support the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin, and the Lake Winnipeg Basin.

·         Act on recommendations of the Cohen Commission on restoring sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

·         Work with the Minister of Transport to review the previous government’s changes to the Fisheries and Navigable Waters Protection Acts, restore lost protections, and incorporate modern safeguards.

·         Work with the Ministers of Transport, Natural Resources and Environment and Climate Change to formalize the moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast, including the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.

·         Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources, to immediately review Canada’s environmental assessment processes and introduce new, fair processes that will:
o    restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction, while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication;

o    ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public interest;

o    provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate; and

o    require project advocates to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.
·         Re-open the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland and the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver.

·         Work with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to meet the commitments that were made for new Coast Guard vessels as part of the National Shipbuilding and Procurement Strategy.

·         Work with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to improve marine safety.

·         Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Science to examine the implications of climate change on Arctic marine ecosystems.

In response, here are a few comments:

Marine Protected Areas, this is one where the Sport Fish Advisory Board and the Sport Fishing Institute should become part of the consultation process. Sport fishers want these areas open for, at the least, salmon fishing. Also, let’s remember that the SFAB, after asking DFO for 12 years to set aside some Rockfish Conservation Areas, got them to take us up on this in year 13. The SFAB set up scores of these all along the coast line. In great measure, these were needed because of serial depletion of stocks by the commercial sector.

Since we have done this, we should be reminding Tootoo that we have already done our part, and been the leaders in the process. In addition, the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, has received agreement from DFO to set up chinook netpens in the greater Victoria Regional District to provide food for killer whales and, by golly, a few for us, too. Good for Tootoo, too, to do.

Increased freshwater research expenditure, yes to this, and also binging back the Experimental Lakes that were vital for freshwater research in Canada and the world. In addition, do remember the research libraries that were axed, particularly the one in Winnipeg. We want them back.

Saltwater research. This one would bring back the scientists cut at many facilities by Harper. He intended to let go 200 scientists. Some of those that were let go, included staff close by at the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Pat Bay.

On the other hand if this includes leaving fish farms in the ocean, I think that is a non-starter in BC. You may recall that Chief Bob Chamberlain sent a letter to Tootoo last week pointing out that the association of First Nations of BC wants these out of the water. Also, the Ahousaht First Nation in Clayoquot Sound is taking its demand for all 22 fish farms to be out of the non-flushing Sound, a UN Bio-sphere, to Norway in January to join with aboriginal Sami in that nation that also wants fish farms out of Norwegian waters. See:

Then both move on to Oslo to present the petition to get them out in both nations. I would guess it’s not long before the aboriginal groups from Finland, Chile, and New Zealand will become part of this movement.

Cohen Commission. The 1,200 page tome with 75 recommendations has languished under the previous government and the Environmental Petition that I worked through with the federal Auditor General’s office received bland pap as an answer when I asked for a disaggregated budgets and FTEs – staffing. It is on that site, if you care to look.

The first 22 recommendations of the Cohen Commission regard fish farms in BC. The most important recommendation was taking the conflict of interest with respect to fish farm support out of DFO, and DFO getting on with the Wild Salmon Policy, etc.

Re-enacting Laws, for example, the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and other legislation, with respect to salmon. The Royal Society of Canada, several environmental law organizations, scientists, previous DFO ministers and British Columbians told the previous government that the laws should not have been changed. See the Huffington Post’s searing article on weakening the laws:

The post with that link will take you to the Cohen Commission website. Or, look here:

DFO had deleted the Cohen site, but so many people across Canada complained that they had to bring back an archival version. It is complete.

The Tanker Ban has already been put in place, suggesting that the Northern Gateway pipeline is toast. On the other hand, the new government has said it supports the Kinder Morgan pipeline. We shall see.

Reopen Kitsilano Coast Guard Station. A popular move in BC, which should also include bringing back the marine traffic stations that have been closed. These stations are like airport controllers and keep tabs on all commercial vessels 24 hours a day. The Estevan site was closed, with Port Hardy, and Ucluelet on the way out as well. Having done the Inside Strait at night, I can tell you that there is more commercial traffic in the dark than all day long, and it is some impressive to be connected 24 hours a day to traffic control, so you know what is coming at you or catching up.

Climate Change. This should include ‘on the BC coast’. We have watched chinook not be able to get into rivers, even pinks on some northern Van Isle rivers this past summer, until late rains occurred. We need to plan for: dry, hot summers, of high water temp and low oxygen; elimination of side-streams and their essential coho fry; cold, dry winters putting ice on side-streams; and monsoons in October/November that bury or scour laid eggs. All of these need technical solutions. I hate to suggest high system dams as that just opens the Run of River power debate, but extra flow, such as the Campbell River system, and the Lake Cowichan weir, would be good to have during changing weather patterns.

To sum up, I think the big issues facing salmon are: habitat work, including the 70,000 culverts out there dissuading fish from crossing to feed or spawn; climate change response; changing DFO, making it a BC-centred department for salmon (rather than Ottawa), and perhaps by passing its habitat money to the Pacific Salmon Foundation that leverages every dollar seven times. Also, as noted, local decision making with respect to fish stocks, for example, Regional Aquatic Management in the Port Alberni style, would be good in other areas; getting fish farms out of the ocean and putting them on land rounds out the top five.

I have estimated BC fish farm sewage cost at $10.4 Billion, more sewage than the entire human population, and also that we are subsidizing them, compared with Norway that auctions saltwater licences for up to $12 Million each, $1.56 Billion because our licence fee is only $5,000.

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