City concerned over changes to Fisheries Act

Potential erosion of federal standards to act could result in harm to fish and ecosystem.

Changes to the Fisheries Act as a result of the federal budget omnibus Bill C-38 are trickling down to municipal governments, leaving them with uncertainty over how to manage riparian and environmentally sensitive areas.

With Bill C-38, the focus of the Fisheries Act is expected to narrow to only major waterways and specific types of fish, with a reduced focus on protection to fish habitat.

“The concern is the federal government is gutting fisheries enforcement, and that protections will only be extended to commercially significant fish,” said Charles Thirkill, a local fisheries biologist, member of the Harbour City River Stewards and former chairman of the city’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability.

Changes to the Fisheries Act will likely affect local watercourse bylaws. Those watercourse bylaws are not based on federal legislation but instead are to be in compliance with the act.

Historically, federal fisheries biologists have been required to determine if development or a change in watercourse was detrimental to fish or their habitat. With layoffs in the federal fisheries department, it is not known if these biologists will still be available to apply their expertise, possibly lowering current standards.

“I’m not sure that they’re expecting us to pick any of this up,” said Coun. Diane Brennan, chairwoman of ACES. “I’m not convinced that they’re saying ‘we don’t want to do this anymore but you should.’ I think they’re saying ‘we don’t think this is important anymore’.”

According to a report released by the city’s advisory committee, the changes prompt a need to review the level of protection that the city has in place for watercourses and whether or not changes are needed to maintain current standards.

On Monday, city council passed a resolution stating environmentally sensitive areas are an important asset to local residents and are recognized in the official community plan, that the city has already made significant investment in the protection of fresh and marine habitat within the city.

The resolution will be distributed to both federal and provincial fisheries ministers, local members of parliament and MLAs. It is also being sent to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for consideration at the 2012 convention in September, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

With considerable development occurring in Nanaimo as a result of zoning bylaw changes, coupled with increased efforts to re-establish salmon bearing streams within city limits, such as Departure Bay Creek, a reduction in fisheries expertise could provide challenges for the city.

“Our primary concern is that when they change the Fisheries Act that it’s going to erode the standards that we have to abide by,” said Brennan. “If those standards are eroded, then our own standards need to be bumped up. These natural assets that we have are a large part of the reason people come to live here.”

Brennan added that development aside, it remains critically important to protect all fish and their habitat within the municipality.

Under current Fisheries and Oceans Canada guidelines, activity within 30 metres of streams, rivers, lakes, ocean, intermittent wetlands and permanent wetlands, or activities that may impact downstream water quality or quantity, is subject to a DFO review.

Just Posted

An artist’s rendering of a proposed student housing complex at 326 Wakesiah Ave. (WA Architects Ltd. image)
Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-staff as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Curl B.C. chairperson Teri Palynchuk is this year’s winner of the Janette Robbins Award for leadership. Palynchuk is pictured here with the Curling Canada Foundation Cup along with past chairperson Peter Muir, left, and Curl B.C. CEO Scott Braley. (Photo courtesy Curl B.C.)
Nanaimo curling exec wins Curl B.C. leadership award

Teri Palynchuk receives Janette Robbins Award

(Black Press file photo)
RCMP: Air ambulance called to Whiskey Creek after crash involving 2 motorbikes

Both riders taken to hospital with serious injuries

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

Most Read