Thursday, March 5, 2009

"We The Fish People"

Following her victory in the BC Supreme Court, biologist Alexandra Morton is pursuing the DFO with a petition titled "We The Fish People." As of today Ms. Morton has signed up over 1100 salmon gillnetters, herring and halibut fishermen, tackle suppliers, seafood distributors and sport fishermen, among others whose livelihoods are tied to BC's wild fish.

The letter to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Paul Sprout, Regional Director of DFO's Pacific Region branch, asks that the agency apply the same rules to salmon farms that are applied to all fishermen in BC waters: namely, that salmon farms be monitored for bycatch, wild fish ingestion by farmed fish, and be required to remove all underwater lights. These are a good start towards treating salmon farms like other fisheries.

Click the "Read Full Post" link below to read the letter; bolding in the text is mine.
"Dear Paul Sprout and the Honourable Gail Shea:

We, the fishermen of British Columbia, work under increasing regulation, restrictions and closures set by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to protect our industry and Canada’s ocean resources. Some of us are required to carry observers and DFO cameras at our expense to monitor and reduce our by-catch. We are prohibited from fin-fishing with lights at night.

All fishing and packing vessels are required to be licensed by your Department. We have been required to alter our gear, install revival tanks and limited our fishing time and areas following DFO instructions. But we are disheartened that despite this, wild fish stocks continue to decline. Clearly it is not only fishing that is causing this..."

"On February 9, 2009 the BC Supreme Court ruled that British Columbia salmon farms are not “farms,” and that current Provincial regulation of this industry is unconstitutional.

The responsibility for salmon aquaculture will pass from the Province to the federal government in 12 months. As it stands today, the salmon aquaculture industry is now a public fishery.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has always had the power to regulate the aquaculture industry to comply with the Fisheries Act, but has chosen not to. You can understand why we do not accept this as fair conduct by your department. In addition, many of us have experience with the salmon aquaculture industry and we have witnessed practices that serve to undo the sacrifices by our industry.

While the court has given the federal government 12 months to assume regulation of salmon aquaculture, the dire state of many fish stocks in BC moves us to demand that DFO take steps immediately to meet its current constitutional obligations to conserve and protect the fisheries resources of Canada.

We request:

That observers and cameras be required during the harvesting and off-loading
of aquaculture salmon to assess by-catch of non-target species by this fishery;

• Examination of farm fish as they are cleaned for presence of wild fish in their digestive tract;

• That the vessels transporting aquaculture salmon be licensed like all other
commercial fishing vessels;

• That the Pacific Fishery Regulations (1993) Section 8 Prohibited Fishing
Methods be enforced. All brilliant submerged and above water lights should be
removed from the aquaculture facilities immediately
to prevent wild prey and predator species from being drawn to and into the pens.

I like her new term for the salmon farming industry, which follows in the summary paragraph:
As Justice Hinkson wrote in his landmark decision, “The inclusion of fisheries in s.
91(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867 was a recognition that fisheries, as a national
resource, require uniformity of the legislation.” We feel certain that the aquaculture
industry will be the first to agree that they can comply with the laws of Canada.
We insist that the Fisheries Act be applied to the salmon feedlot fishery immediately.
The petition is filling so fast, says Ms. Morton, that her email inbox is overflowing. An automated means of recording signatures is "coming very quick" she says. Check back here for updates, and to find out how to sign up.

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