Minister Ashfield responds to SSBC letter to Prime Minister Harper regarding proposed changed to the Fisheries Act

Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, took time to respond to our letter we sent to Prime Minister Harper in March of this year regarding changes to the fisheries act.  Below are some highlights and the reply, in its entirety, is attached at the bottom of the page.


Dear Mr. Braidwood,

As you may be aware, on April 26, 2012, Bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, was tabled in the House of Commons. Amendments to the Fisheries Act were included in Bill C-38. the proposed amendments are intended to support a shift from managing impacts to all fish habitats to managing threats to fisheries by: focusing the regulartory regime on managing threats to the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada's commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries; provider clarity, certainty and consistency of regulatory requirements through the use of standards and regulations; and enabling enhanced partnerships to ensure agencies and organizations that are best placed to provide fisheries protection services to Canadians.


-Aligning the Fisheris Act with the Environmental Enforcement Act (increased fines and penalties for offences)

-Improving the enforceability of conditions to Ministerial authorizations

-Providing for the designation of ecologically significant areas for fish

-Increasing inspector powers to provide them with additional authorities


For updates on the proposed amendents to the Fisheries Act, please see http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca


Yours Sincerly

Keith Ashfield

Reply From Fin Donnelly, Official Opposition Critic for Fisheries & Oceans,

Mr Fin Donnelly, the official opposition Critic for Fisheries & Oceans, replied to our letter regarding changes to the fisheries Act.


Thank you for writing to share your concerns about the Conservative government's plan to remove fish habitat protection from Section 35 of the Fisheries Act.

At a time when the government should be strengthening habitat protection, the Conservatives aim to gut one of the strongest environmental laws in the country. These changes will set Canada back decades. By eliminating provisions to protect fish habitat, the Conservatives will be better positioned to fast track their agenda of pipelines, oil super tankers, mega mines and other major industrial

With the stroke of a pen, this government would wipe out decades of progress and condemn future generations to a less diverse environment. The Conservative plan to ram this key change through the budget omnibus bill is reprehensible.

Canada’s New Democrats are strongly opposed to these changes. As the Official Opposition Critic for Fisheries & Oceans, I have raised this issue with the Minister both in Question Period and in Committee (read more here). It’s clear the Minister is considering these changes to the Fisheries Act and regards fish habitat regulations as an ‘irritant’. Canada’s New Democrats will continue to advocate for protection of our fisheries and oceans, and will oppose any move to gut DFO’s responsibility to protect fish and fish habitat.

Many people are asking what more they can do to stop the Conservative government’s
destructive plan. Please consider printing off the attached petition and collecting as many signatures as possible, which I can table in the House of Commons. I have also launched an online petition, which you may wish to circulate to your friends and family.

Thank you again for raising your voice on this important issue.


Fin Donnelly
Member of Parliament
New Westminster–Coquitlam & Port Moody
Official Opposition Critic for Fisheries & Oceans

Cast & Blast 2012 Thank-you

April 29, 2012

Dear Mr Niska,

On behalf of the Steelhead Society of British Columbia’s Board of Directors, I would like to express our sincerest appreciation for the organising of the recent Cast and Blast event in Squamish. The evening was a huge success, and the silent auction raised $2065.00 for the Squamish River Trust. That would not have been possible without your initiative and work in getting donations for the auction to be the recipient of The SSBC is deeply grateful for your support and generosity.

The mandate of the Steelhead Society is the conservation and restoration of wild fish and the wild rivers they inhabit. These funds will be used to restore and enhance the spawning and rearing habitat on the Squamish watershed.
Again, thank you for your contribution towards wild steelhead and salmon advocacy.


Brian Braidwood
President, Steelhead Society of British Columbia

Letter to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans - Kokish River

This letter is regarding the proposed independent power project on the Kokish river on the northern end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

The Steelhead Society of BC is alarmed that the Kokish river, located 15 km east of Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island, is slated to be de-watered and put into a pipe.
Kwagis Power, owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and the Namgis First Nation, has applied to dam and divert the 11 km river into a 9 km pipe. Water used to produce electricity will be removed from the river near its head water lake and returned just above tide water effectively de-watering the entire river.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) considers the Kokish to be a high-value river with a sensitive fish population.
The Kokish is a fish-rich river. It is home to five species of wild salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden char and both winter run and the much rarer, summer run steelhead.
The proponents have recently received an environmental certificate and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is about to make their decision sealing the fate of this river.

Summer run steelhead are now only found in three east coast Vancouver island streams. It is Fisheries and Oceans Canada responsibility to protect anadromous salmonids. This project promises to cause harm to fish and fish habitat. No amount of mitigation can replace this rare wild race of summer run steelhead. Indeed the response letter from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to the proponent dated June 30 2011 clearly states that the proposed water flow regime for the period June 16th to October 15th remains a significant concern to DFO.


Please follow this link: http://a100.gov.bc.ca/appsdata/epic/documents/p332/1317251761757_3dc1ab2fb4bda2542418868117dc9ba25f36e96004f84d9407bc22256509ee64.pdf
“At the August 24th, 2011 Fisheries Technical Working Group meeting, Kwagis Power presented a revised fish and fish habitat mitigation strategy for the Kokish River hydro project. Following a review of this information, it remains DFO's position that the proposed Kwagis Power revised fish and fish habitat mitigation strategy represents an unacceptable risk to fish and fish habitat in the Kokish River. As such, DFO's position regarding instream flow releases for the Kokish River hydro project remains consistent with the information provided in the June 30th, 2011 letter to Brookfield Power’’

For this reason alone, SSBC finds it unacceptable to allow this project to move forward. Furthermore in response to the proponent recently receiving the environmental certificate, there have been a number of area user groups that have expressed their concern over this proposed development via full page advertisements both in the Vancouver Sun and Province.
There is more information regarding this here: http://savethekokish.ca/

There is a historyof non compliance of operational terms as set out by the government by operators of various run of the river projects in B.C. For example, the Ashlu project near Squamish, B.C. has a history of water ramping issues that have resulted in fish stranding and significant mortality.

It is our hope that you carefully review the facts as presented by DFO biologists tasked to review this project and allow them to fulfill their mandate of protecting salmon and increasingly rare summer run steelhead from the unacceptable risk to these fish and their habitat from this project.

Yours truly,
Brian Braidwood, President, Steelhead Society of BC
Ralf Kroning, Vice President, Steelhead Society of BC

Letter to Harper - Changes to the Fisheries Act - From Craig Orr

March 26, 2012


The Pacific Marine Conservation Caucus (PMCC) echoes the concerns of a large number of Canadians who strongly oppose the removal, or weakening, of habitat provisions in the Fisheries Act. Numerous negative opinions have been publicly voiced recently in regards to this issue (see appendix below).

Taking habitat protection out of the Fisheries Act would be a betrayal to the interests of Canadians, both because so many depend on fish but also because we all depend on clean water that the Fisheries Act helps protect. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Canadians place an extremely high value on wild salmon, and furthermore, believe that more—not less—must be done to protect salmon and salmon habitat. Sacrificing fish habitat in an attempt to expedite development for some large industries is short-sighted and dismisses the values of many Canadians.

The PMCC concurs with the concerns of the 625 scientists who recently urged you to abandon any initiative that would jeopardize many important fish stocks and the lakes, estuaries and rivers that support them. We agree that the weakening of habitat protections in section 35 of the Fisheries Act will negatively impact water quality and fisheries across the country, and could undermine Canada’s international credibility on environmental protection.

The PMCC also agrees with the scientists and Canadians who urge you to make changes based only on the best science and only after appropriate consultations with affected citizens.

In summary, weakening the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act would be a most unwise action, which would jeopardize a national treasure, and seriously compromise trust in government.


Craig Orr, Ph.D, PMCC Chair

On behalf of the Pacific Marine Conservation Caucus

Letter to Harper - Changes to the Fisheries Act

March 25, 2012


The membership of the Steelhead Society of B.C. (SSBC) is deeply concerned regarding rumours of proposed changes to the federal Fisheries Act as outlined in various media of late. It is the SSBC’s understanding that such changes may significantly downgrade habitat provisions of Section 35(1) of the Act and, further, may be attached to the May 29th 2012 budget bill.

The March 16th 2012 statement from federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Ashfield (at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/statement-declarations/2012/20120316-eng.htm) does little to allay the SSBC’s concerns and states that while no decision has yet been made, also imply that changes are, in fact, under consideration.

Since formation in 1970, the SSBC has been deeply involved in the restoration and protection of fisheries habitat in British Columbia. SSBC volunteers have spent countless hours fundraising for fisheries habitat and provided willing “hands on” for in-stream rehabilitation, important work that continue to this day.

The SSBC is not aware of any public consultation mechanism in place that has provided advice to government regarding significant change to the Fisheries Act, nor is the SSBC aware of any scientific imperative to enable such drastic change. Further, the SSBC would encourage a more proactive use of the existing Fisheries Act rather than reactive as so often appears to be the case.

The SSBC therefore request that you maintain current wording the Fisheries Act. 

Yours sincerely,  Brian Braidwood President