An intergovernmental organization set up under a NAFTA side treaty is considering launching an investigation into whether Canada is failing to enforce its own laws on fish farms in B.C.
On May 12, the secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation recommended the preparation of a "factual record" about the federal government's enforcement of section 36 of the Fisheries Act. The governing council of the commission has until August 12 to make a decision on whether this probe should proceed.
"For the reasons contained in this Notification, the Secretariat finds that having considered the Submission and the Response, central questions remain open about Canada’s enforcement of section 36 of the federal Fisheries Act in relation to salmon aquaculture operations in British Columbia," the secretariat's decision states.
Section 36 stipulates, in part, that "no person shall deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish or in any place under any conditions where the deleterious substance or any other deleterious substance that results from the deposit of the deleterious substance may enter any such water".
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society are two of the four groups that petitioned for the investigation. In a May 21 news release, the groups noted their 2012 petition "challenged the Canadian government’s violations of its Fisheries Act in permitting more than 100 industrial salmon feedlots in British Columbia to operate along wild salmon migration routes, exposing ecologically, socially and economically valuable salmon runs to epidemics of disease, parasites, toxic chemicals and concentrated waste".
“NAFTA absolutely should investigate why Canada has failed to enforce the Fisheries Act to keep harmful pollutants, viruses and parasites out of water used by wild salmon, and the damage being done to wild salmon in British Columbia by the aggressive Norwegian salmon farming industry,” biologist Alexandra Morton of the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society said in the release. “The fate of our wild salmon runs is an environmental, economic, social and trade issue of international concern.”
According to the commission's website, its council members include Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq and high-level representatives from the U.S. and Mexico. The commission was established by the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation to "support cooperation among the NAFTA partners to address environmental issues of continental concern, including the environmental challenges and opportunities presented by continent-wide free trade".