Posted on December 11, 2010 (updated: December 11, 2010)

New Pacific Aquaculture Regulations seriously flawed

VANCOUVER — The Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, released today by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), undermine the environmental assessment regime and fail to address long-standing transparency and accountability issues within B.C.’s fish farm industry, Ecojustice said today.

Although DFO claims to have “thoroughly considered” more than 900 stakeholder comments, no changes were made to address core concerns raised by many stakeholders regarding lack of transparency and accountability in the regulation of aquaculture.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the new regulations is its circumvention of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), one of Canada’s most important environmental laws.

“These new regulations have been carefully drafted to eliminate the need for fish farms to undergo an environmental assessment for impacts on habitat,” said Judah Harrison, Ecojustice staff lawyer. “This means that future projects will not be pre-screened and meaningfully scrutinized, and that there will be no public and transparent assessment of habitat impacts before a fish farm is allowed to proceed.”

During the comment process, Ecojustice also recommended that the new regulations explicitly list conditions under which all fish farms will be required to operate.

Instead, under the new regulations a variety of conditions may be imposed on an aquaculture facility. As a result, the only way for the public to determine the actual conditions for a particular aquaculture facility is though an Access to Information request, which can take upwards of six months.

At the very least Ecojustice requested that the regulations explicitly confirm that these licences will be available for public viewing which, like our other concerns, went ignored.

The new regulations fly in the face DFO’s stated objective, which was “to ensure the proper management of aquaculture, particularly with respect to protection and conservation of fish and fish habitat, in an open and transparent manner.”

“These new regulations were supposed to usher in a new era of transparency in the aquaculture industry, but in reality, they do nothing to promote openness and transparency,” Harrison said.

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