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OTTAWA, ONTARIO—(Marketwire – Nov. 29, 2007) – On Thursday November 29, the Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, introduced in Parliament a new Bill to modernize the 139-year-old Fisheries Act.
Bill C-32 aims to provide a more predictable, stable and transparent fisheries and fish habitat management system where fish harvesters, and others with an interest in the fisheries, can share in the management of this important public resource.
“It is simply not realistic to govern a $12-billion fishing industry any longer with laws that were drafted before British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador or the North were a part of Canada,” said Minister Hearn. “In the 21st century it is not acceptable to have a system that allows politicians to determine who gets what fish without any type of public accountability.”
Last December, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-45, a bill to modernize the Fisheries Act. With the prorogation of Parliament on September 14, 2007, Bill C-45 died on the Order Paper.
The Government has received significant input on the bill from fish harvesters, their associations, the fish processing sector, aquaculturists, Aboriginal groups, resource industry, environmental groups and many, many others. The Government has incorporated this feedback, leading to improvements contained in the new Fisheries Modernization Bill C-32.
Broad agreement exists in four key areas. In keeping with the Government’s commitment to engage stakeholders, it amended the bill to:
– affirm that the fisheries are a common property resource;
– require the Minister to first take into account conservation in licencing and allocation decisions and then all other important considerations;
– remove the authority to allocate fish within a Fisheries Management Agreement; and,
– remove language that cast doubt over the issue of licence “transfers” by removing wording that cast doubt on the practice.
“Canadians will have further opportunity to discuss this legislation when it is sent to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans after Second Reading in the House of Commons, and the Government will work collaboratively with the Committee and Canadians to make this the best legislation possible,” said Minister Hearn.
NEW FISHERIES ACT
In the past years, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has undertaken dozens of consultation processes on various topics affecting the fishery and the conservation of fish and fish habitat. During these numerous sessions, fish harvesters, resource industries, other levels of government, First Nations and other aboriginal groups, conservation groups and environmental groups have identified issues that can only be remedied by amending the Fisheries Act.
Last December, the Government introduced a modernized Fisheries Act in the form of Bill C-45. Since the tabling of that bill, DFO has been engaged with stakeholders through technical briefings and correspondence to discuss details and answer questions on the bill.
On September 14, 2007 the 1st session of this Parliament ended, marking the end of further consideration of Bill C-45. The government has now introduced Bill C-32 to amend the Fisheries Act. While Bill C-32 is essentially the same as Bill C-45, it incorporates four important changes where there was a strong agreement that changes were needed. The Government’s new bill now:
– affirms that the fisheries are a common property resource The addition of this phrase will refine the language in the Preamble and clarify the intent of Parliament to manage the fisheries as a common property resource for the benefit of Canadians. This also reflects current Supreme Court decisions.
– requires the Minister to first take into account conservation in licencing and allocation decisions and then all other important considerations This amendment is a direct result of concerns that the Minister is granted too much discretion when making licensing and allocation decisions and with regard to the lack of reference to conservation as a priority.
– removes the authority to assign a quota of fish to fund activities within a Fisheries Management Agreement This change removes the authority of the Minister to allocate fish to fund management activities within a Fisheries Management Agreement and clarifies the fact that the allocation of fish made by the Minister through an allocation order is completely separate and independent from these agreements.
– Removes language that cast doubt over the issue regarding licence “transfers” by removing wording that cast doubt on continuing the current practice Confusion about this section in Bill C-45 warranted an amendment. Regulations under Bill C-32 will continue to authorize what is commonly referred to as a “request for transfer”, i.e. the relinquishment of an existing licence and the issuance of a new licence to an eligible fish harvester.
Canadians will again have the opportunity to express their views and help shape the legislation when it is sent to the Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans after Second Reading where C-32 will be considered by Parliamentarians.