CSIA Government Affairs Update
By Phil Morlock
“Everything old is new again”, as the saying goes. This fits perfectly as a description of the ongoing justification by the government of Canada to arbitrarily restrict or ban angler access to vast areas of coastal and inland waters under the guise of ‘protection’.The current direction is to adopt the UN campaign known as “30 by 30”, which is to set aside 30% of the oceans as marine protected areas by 2030. The next rung on the policy ladder is 50% access closures to public waters by 2050. For Canada, the agenda includes fresh water and public lands as well as coastal regions. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has morphed ‘marine’ from a term normally related to salt water to also include fresh water policy and zoning of access.
The requisite element being avoided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and ECCC in the ‘sky is falling’ descriptions of pending aquatic doom is the absence of any credible evidence of an actual threat or specific problem in Canada’s waters which would require such draconian measures to solve. No evidence is offered of other fishery management strategies having been considered or tried first as should be the case. Where problems do exist, the science based model to solve them is well known by fish and wildlife biologists and professional resource managers. But they aren’t the ones setting policy direction.
The North American Model of Conservation has over 100 years of unprecedented success stories in restoring depleted fish and wildlife habitat and populations, improving water and soil quality, and improving species abundance and diversity continent wide. The proponents of the “30 by 30” initiative use words like “dire” and “grim” to describe the state of the worlds oceans and fish stocks. However they also acknowledge the U.S. success at restoring depleted fish stocks. Rather than apply a proven approach to conservation, Canada’s federal agencies have chosen to abandon this science based strategy and follow a ‘one size fits all’ theoretical UN agenda which does not come close to fitting environmental or economic circumstances here. Where there are serious problems for fish stocks in Canada (e.g. west coast salmon and steelhead) the consequences of failing to effectively apply this time tested conservation model are clear.
One constant from DFO Minister Bernadette Jordan and ECCC Minister Jonathan Wilkinson ( formerly DFO Minister) is the lack of any attention to or inclusion of the recreational fishing industry and economy, or our eight million customers who fish. At best they simply ignore us, but at worst they are inclined to adopt policy direction from the U.S. based organizations who are actively opposed to fishing, hunting and trapping by anyone. During her time as a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, M.P. Jordan was present for my presentation and testimony for CSIA on these threats to angler access and the North American Model of Conservation. She asked probing questions and was attentive throughout. During his term as DFO Minister, Mr. Wilkinson received a hand delivered copy of the CSIA policy document on these issues. They have no excuse for ignoring the recreational fishing community as a major constituency for both agencies.
Anglers and the industry need to pay close attention to these threats and make their voices heard to M.P.’s through Keep Canada Fishing. As former CSIA Managing Director Rick Amsbury said, “ We’ll get what we settle for and therefore deserve what we get.”