The alarm has been raised that the federal government is about to turn the clock back on fisheries protection by about 35 years.
According to documents released by retired fisheries biologist Otto Langer, and introduced in the House of Commons by New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly last week, the government plans to strip habitat protection for fish in Section 35 of the Fisheries Act, effectively making creek and stream protection a thing of the past.
Documents produced by Langer indicate the government plans to remove a ban against activity that results in the “harmful alteration, disruption or disruption or destruction of fish habitat” and replace it with a ban on activity that has an “adverse effect on a fish of economic, cultural or ecological value.”
While on the surface, it looks like the changes would protect fish, it’s not clear how, when fish rely on a healthy environment, ecosystem or habitat to thrive. If it can’t be proven that a species of fish has special value, then can the habitat – creek, river or stream – be legally destroyed?
Many have heard stories of property owners who were prevented from subdividing because there’s a ditch in the way that sometimes has fish in it. And there are times when it’s hard to understand the “economic” or “environmental” value of a creek or stream, but lack of knowledge or understanding about how our watersheds work is the reason most of them were paved over, culverted or diverted in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving us low fish returns today.
Ignoring for a moment the secretive way the government appears to be moving on this matter, the idea that fish, and the rest of the planet, can be altered unless an economic argument can be made to save it, is short-sighted at best.
At worst, it ignores the web of life that even the youngest pre-schooler understands when they marvel at the abundant life in the tiny creek flowing in their neighbourhood.