Canada to focus on aquaculture communications

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The Canadian government has announced proposed changes to the country’s Fisheries Act that appear to add to the Aquaculture Act with money for wild fish habitats and more transparency on fish-farm projects

On Tuesday, the government said a long period of public and expert consultation was now largely over, and a new “streamlined” Fisheries Act would include a “requirement to publicly release information on project decisions through an online registry”. The government said the previous regime provided a “lack of transparency regarding authorization decisions for projects” and “no requirement to publicly release information on these decisions.

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“To preserve, protect and help restore our environment we need a Fisheries Act that Canadians can trust,” Fisheries Minister, Dominic LeBlanc, said in a statement.

“We are responding to calls from Canadians who told us clearly that the health of our fish and ecosystems is important to them, and that they want us to protect and rebuild fish habitat.”

More online
While the Federal government already has a publicly available register of approved projects in place, it has lacked a registry for coming projects. Most salmon-farming provinces, however, do have online registries for some projects under evaluation.

In-line with the transparency initiative from Ottawa, the government also appointed heart specialist Mona Nemer of the University of Ottawa to an expert panel “to provide recommendations on the appropriate use and consideration of scientific evidence in protecting the marine environment in decision-making on aquaculture”.

Official voice
The Canadian aquaculture lobby applauded the decision, after foreign, old and otherwise discredited labs had used official Canadian science channels to disseminate seemingly spectacular findings on fish health surrounding fish farms. Those findings often appeared to contradict the work of Ottawa’s top fisheries scientists.

“The panel will also provide advice on the communication of this science, and associated decisions, to Canadians,” the report said.

“Our government understands that Canadians have real concerns around aquaculture. We look forward to the recommendations of the panel led by the Chief Science Advisor on how science can be better applied to decision making and communicated to the public in support of sustainable aquaculture as we seek to remain a strong, science-based regulator of the aquaculture industry.”