Entry written by: Thea Rodgers
Changes to the federal Fisheries Act, in Bill-C68, are currently being reviewed by the Senate. These proposed changes include an important amendment to include “quantity, quality and timing of water flow” in the definition of fish habitat. This is a very important and necessary modernization, that will help protect fish and aquatic ecosystems in the face of climate change and growing demand for Canada’s freshwater resources.
At a time when unprecedented drought is threatening the return and spawning of salmon runs in BC rivers, it’s important to call on our representatives to stand firm on their commitment to modernize Bill-C68 by including environmental flow needs as a critical feature of fish habitat.
Other important proposed changes to the Fisheries Act include commitments to protect all fish (not just commercial fisheries) and restore fish habitat, to develop a clearer permitting system and impact assessment process for development projects in fish habitat areas, and to strengthen the role of Indigenous communities in project reviews, monitoring, and policy development for Fisheries-related projects across Canada.
If you care about our fish and our freshwater, please use the letter below to help you voice your concerns to our leaders in government.
08 November, 2018
Re: Support for Bill C-68
Dear Minister Wilkinson:
This fall’s unprecedented, prolonged drought in northern and central BC is threatening the return and spawning of this year’s sockeye salmon runs.
Troubling images in the media of creeks drying up and water flows in some of our most important rivers at 50% below normal levels are stark reminders of why your government’s modernization of the Fisheries Act is so important.
I am writing to urge you to do all that you can to ensure Bill-C68 is passed in law before next October’s federal election.
We are witnessing extended dry periods more frequently as our climate changes. This will mean more competition — and potentially conflict — over constrained water supplies.
Modern protections proposed in Bill-C68 explicitly recognize what we have long known — that the quantity, timing and quality of water flow are a critical part of fish habitat. This important change to the Fisheries Act will ensure that salmon, sturgeon and other important fish species that support economies, communities and cultures throughout the nation are front and centre in decisions about how water is shared and allocated in the future.
Some industry groups may express concern that this change to the law will negatively impact their business. The reality is there are many examples of how to balance water flows needed for ecosystem health — including fish and fish habitat — with the water needed for irrigation, resource extraction and hydro-power generation. Here in BC, provincial Water Use Plans are a prime example of an existing tool that can help achieve this balance.
It’s been a tough year for BC rivers. With unprecedented heat, wildfire, and drought across the province, the long-term impacts to water quality, flow, habitat, and fish health are yet to be accounted for.
I am calling on you to defend this important modernization to the Fisheries Act.
[Name and organization]
Thanks to Coree and Megan with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance for their work as co-authors of this letter.