Back to the future for Fisheries Act


On February 24, 2017, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans tabled its latest report on the 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act. Following its exhaustive review, the Committee recommended that Parliament reverse amendments to subsection 35(1) and restore the intent of original wording prohibiting “the harmful alteration or disruption, or the destruction, of fish habitat,” which had been frequently invoked when charges were laid for water pollution.

While the Standing Committee’s primary recommendation was to restore the intent of the original provisions, it also recommended going beyond those by adopting an “ecosystem approach to fish habitat protection to protect marine biodiversity as a whole, not just commercially valuable species.”

In total, the Committee report contains over 30 recommendations to improve the Act including:

  • That section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act return to its wording as of 29 June 2012 which reads: “No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration or disruption, or the destruction, of fish habitat.”
  • That the concept of “serious harm” to fish be removed from the Act.
  • That Fisheries and Oceans Canada take an ecosystem approach to protection and restoration of fish habitats so that the entire food web is preserved for fish.
  • That Fisheries and Oceans Canada create a public and accessible database system that will identify:
    • The location and status of projects that have been flagged by the Department of having a potential to cause harm to fish and fish habitat (authorizations, monitoring results and convictions) and their cumulative effects;
    • The location of different aquatic species; up-to-date monitoring of aquatic species at risk and their status; and
    • The status of authorizations; and
    • That sections 32, 35 and 36 Fisheries Act authorizations as environmental assessment triggers be re-examined.

Click here to access the report.

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A presentation on changes to the Fisheries Act will be featured at the Water & Wastewater: Regulation & Compliance course on May 3, 2017, at the Canadian Environmental Conference & Tradeshow. Visit for more information.

Article courtesy of Canadian Environmental Regulation & Compliance News, April 2017 edition.


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