The federal government recently announced it is looking to make changes to the Fisheries General Regulations Act.
Although the feds say the key focus of the changes to increase protection for fish and waters, First Nations in British Columbia, who oppose open-net fish farms, are worried about the move.
Such as testing for piscine reovirus (PRV), a contested virus found in fish farms that has long been fought over by industry, government, scientists and First Nations.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been under pressure to test for PRV in B.C. fish farms that some believe is potentially deadly.
Potential changes to the act could mean that responsibility moves to a different department, like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
“All these little chess moves that they are enjoying right now is nothing more than to obfuscate the facts that are coming out,” said Chief Bob Chamberlain of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
The facts he is referring to is PRV and the worry that farmed Atlantic salmon could pass the virus to wild salmon.
“To remove disease testing and transfer of fish from DFO – who has the precautionary principle to guide it – to the CFIA, which does not, to me it’s just another piece of a complicated game, where DFO continues to support the industry at the expense of its primary obligation of looking after wild salmon and the environment in B.C.,” said Chamberlain.
Kegan Pepper-Smith, a lawyer with Ecojustice, says the notice of intent is concerning as no one knows exactly how the Fisheries Act will change but some hints have been put on DFO’s website.
“What we do know is that … they intend to transfer the consideration of disease risks to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The second is that they used euphemisms like ‘reducing regulatory overlap’, ‘ increasing efficiency’, ‘reducing burden on businesses’ for what we are saying is an abdication of the minister’s responsibility,” said Pepper-Smith.
APTN requested an interview with DFO but a spokesperson directed a reporter to their website.