Bill C-38, which became law in late June 2012 and came into effect on July 20, 2012, made numerous changes to a number of governmental Acts, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and the Fisheries Act. Those following the development of Bill C-38 expressed numerous concerns over how aquatic habitats would be protected under the new CEAA (WCEL, 2012). Relating to aquaculture, the Bill introduced a legal mechanism for offloading the responsibility for protecting fish habitat from federal to provincial authorities (WCEL, 2012). In terms of EIA, aquaculture projects would not be considered designated projects, and would therefore not be subject to a federal EIA process. Some postulated that no EIAs would be conducted (Aquaculture Coalition, 2012). In the end, and at least for now, this is what has occurred – the online federal EIA database contains a number of EIAs for aquaculture projects that were underway, but were terminated as they were no longer required (e.g. one for the Shoal Bay Project discussed below, http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/052/details-eng.cfm?pid=66202).
This video shows some of the immediate impacts of fish farms in B.C.
Provincial authorities are now expected to pick up where federal authorities left off. However, provincial laws, developed under the assumption of federal involvement in aquatic environment protection, are likely inadequate at this point (Butler, 2013). The same goes for provincial authorities, who had previously played a smaller role in protection, and now must find room within their already restrictive budgets to take a larger role (WCEL, 2012). In the interim, with regards to aquaculture projects, it appears as though EIAs will not be occurring. Such is the case for a fish farm in Shoal Bay, Nova Scotia. Although it had triggered a federal EIA in Jan. 2012, the process was aborted later in July. The project made recent news headlines in late February of this year when it was revealed that provincial authorities had no intention of completing the EIA – as well as no immediate plans to update Nova Scotia’s Environmental Act to compensate for the federal changes. The case was used to highlight the gap left behind by CEAA 2012 and the federal offloading of EIA responsibilities (Butler, 2013). In March 2013, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Sterling Belliveau, announced that it had rejected the project on the grounds that during its initial review of the project, the DFO had expressed concern that the project posed a moderate risk to wild salmon (Fish farm rejected by Nova Scotia government, 2013). For now, it would seem provincial authorities may be able to rely on the recommendations that come out of partially completed federal EIAs to make their decisions. However, it is clear that some adaptation to their laws and practices will need to occur.
Aquaculture Coalition. (2012). Submissions of the Aquaculture Coalition Regarding Bill C-38 Proposed Amendments to Fisheries Act and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act May 14, 2012. (Document presented to the Cohen Commission – Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon the Fraser River). Retrieved 19 March 2013 from http://www.cohencommission.ca/en/pdf/FinalSubmissions/InitialBillC38Submissions/08-BillC38-AquacultureCoalition.pdf.
Butler, Erica. (2013, Feb 22). No More Environmental Impact Assessments for Salmon Farms in Nova Scotia. Halifax Media Co-op. Retrieved on 19 March 2013 from http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/no-more-environmental-impact-assessments-salmon-fa/16461.
Fish farm rejected by Nova Scotia government, risk to wild salmon cited. (2013, March 13). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved on 19 March 2013 from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/fish-farm-rejected-by-nova-scotia-government-risk-to-wild-salmon-cited/article9726828/.
Pynn, Larry. (2012, Aug 22). Feds walk away from environmental assessments on almost 500 projects in B.C. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved on 19 March 2013 from http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Federals%20dump%20environmental%20assessments%20almost%20projects/7125419/story.html.
West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL). (2012). Bill C-38 and offloading Fisheries onto the Provinces. Retrieved 19 March 2013 from http://wcel.org/sites/default/files/publications/OffloadingFisheriesFinal.pdf