Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ranting on Fisheries

I typically don't use my blog as a venue for ranting but on this occasion I can't keep it to myself.  Recently there has been talk, and numerous newspaper articles, about the position of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  Apparently they wish to slim down the fisheries act so that permit application processes are completed in a more timely fashion and so that fewer projects will trigger the need for a Canadian Environmental Impact Assessment.  That information (no official statement has been given on this) alone would not usually send me into a rant but on the same night I heard this I happened to watch the documentary movie "The Last Mountain."  I'll let you watch this on your own and form your own opinion, but I think it was a well presented movie.

In Ottawa the Conservatives are apparently comparing "environmentalists" to al Qaeda or the Taliban quotes the "Ottawa Citizen."  What?!  First off, I have been long unimpressed with the way in which people throw the word "environment" around.  In most Environmental Assessment documents it will state something to the effect that the purpose of the assessment is to ensure the project will not have a minimal impact on the local economic, societal, and ecological values.  If you then take environment to mean those three values then I suppose those in power in Ottawa might have an argument on one of the three and only if they are looking no farther than their own nose.

Environmental assessments generally assess the current conditions in a community, its long term sustainability, and its ability to provide a healthy environment for its residents to prosper for many generations comparing the current assets to those that might (stress might when reading this) develop if large projects are carried out.  In my opinion, the economic component of the assessment is given to much weight, and not enough weight is given to the natural environment or ecological function of the project area. 

If DFO moves forward with the plans to streamline the Fisheries act then this set of environmental scales will be tipped even further towards the economic values.  These will likely only lead to short term economic gains for a small portion of the impacted population while the rest will likely suffer.  In the long term, all involved will no doubt suffer from poor water quality, poor ecological conditions that will lead to health issues, and further to that a project might result in an environmental accident that we will be required to clean up using tax payer dollars. 

I'm not against business and if I was all about making money for myself then I wouldn't blame them but, our government should hold them morally accountable for the manner in which they make their money.  If they want to make money simply for themselves then waiting for our government, who has a responsibility to all tax payers, to conduct an environmental assessment, should be no issue.  For those of us who are not totally dependent on financial wealth for our sense of accomplishment, and for those who care about future generations, I think it is time to let your MP know how you feel.  Write him/her an email or letter and if you need help finding them try this link: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC

The DFO website states:
“The government has been clear that the existing policies do not reflect the priorities of 
 Canadians."
“We want to focus our activities on protecting natural waterways that are home to the fish Canadians value most instead of on flooded fields and ditches.”

I have a hard time with the statement in that I can't believe that Canadians don't want to protect their natural beauty and habitats.  I think most Canadians realize that if we manage our waterways for simply one or two species of fish then they are no longer a naturally functioning waterway and that the ecological balance within that watershed could be threatened which could lead to who knows what.  Further, flooded fields and ditches, in many instances play a role in the life cycles of many fish and animal species and need to be considered on a case by case basis, but if we dismiss them all then it is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 

If our MPs feel that the economics, rather than our long term future, is more important then it is likely the changes being suggested to the fisheries act, and possibly other environmental laws, will be carried out.  If you want your kids or grandkids to have an opportunity to fly fish for a salmon this might be a turning point in that natural battle or as some are touting it, war.
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