COMMISSION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION
THREE COUNTRIES WORKING TOGETHER TO PROTECT OUR SHARED ENVIRONMENT
Summary of the matter addressed in the submission:
The Submitter asserts that Canada is failing to effectively enforce the federal Fisheries Act, the Pacific Fishery Regulations, and, in particular, ss. 22(1) and 22(2) of the Fishery (General) Regulations in connection with the alleged violation of fishing licenses and notices in the Skeena River, British Columbia, Canada.
In submission SEM-09-005 (Skeena River Fishery), the Submitter asserts that Canada is allowing commercial salmon fishers to "ignore license conditions aimed at protecting and conserving certain kinds of fish." The Submitter alleges that the federal government of Canada and, more specifically, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans ("DFO") "is legally required to protect steelhead from the effect of by-catch." Specifically, in 2006, the Submitter alleges that with respect to licenses involving gill net fishers, Canada did not enforce requirements in licenses such as: 'gill net fisher vessels must have necessary equipment on board when fishing'; 'prohibited species must be sorted and released causing the least amount of harm'; 'operation and fishing of gill nets must be done in a specified time (short sets)'; 'taking of steelhead is prohibited at all times'; and 'taking and possession of chum, coho and chinook salmon is only permitted at specified times'. The Submitter also alleges that a disproportionate amount of time has been spent on sport and aboriginal fishery patrolling as opposed to commercial fishing, and that during the summer of 2006 there was a short period of time when the Department's enforcement of fishing licenses was allegedly weak and/or non-existent.
Summary of the response provided by the Party:
Canada, in its Response, states that there are two important variables when considering efforts to conserve and protect, which include "an agreed-upon incidental catch rate" and "the model used to quantify the incidental catch rate." With respect to enforcement in 2006 (the Submitter's reference year), Canada asserts that the year was anomalous in terms of the staffing of fisheries officers in the Prince Rupert Region and in the enforcement circumstances and priorities.
Canada states, moreover, that subsequent enforcement efforts, supported by science and consultations, have been increased and these are effective in conserving and protecting fish. Canada notes that there is no disproportionate targeting of recreational harvesters versus commercial fishers when comparisons of absolute hours by length in season are factored in. Canada maintains that enforcement coverage rates for each year subsequent to 2006 "exceeded those for recreational fisheries, in some cases by a significant amount." In that connection, Canada points out that its enforcement allocation choices have not led to the alleged "negative impacts on the conservation and protection of fish" as the Submitter asserted. Canada notes that it is also "very active in a number of other areas that are also considered enforcement actions."
Names and citations of the environmental laws in question:
Fisheries Act, the Pacific Fishery Regulations, and in particular, ss. 22(1) and 22(2) of the Fishery (General) Regulations in connection with the alleged violation of fishing licenses and notices in the Skeena River, British Columbia, Canada.
Submitter(s):North Coast Steelhead Alliance, represented by Richard Overstall and Christina Cook