IN THE NEWS ~ Federal government working with B.C. to manage aquaculture: fisheries minister

PUBLICATION: The Whitehorse Star
DATE: 2009.02.12
SECTION: Environment
PAGE: 11
Federal government working with B.C. to manage aquaculture: fisheries minister
Federal NDP fisheries critic Peter Julian says he is "appalled" that the federal government doesn't have a contingency plan in place after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Ottawa should take over management of the controversial salmon farm industry.

The Supreme Court declared this week that the federal government, not the province, should regulate fish farms because it has jurisdiction over the ocean.

The ruling gave Ottawa a year to bring in new legislation so fish farms can be licensed by the federal Fisheries Department.

In Ottawa on Wednesday, Julian asked Fisheries Minister Gail Shea what the Conservative government plans to do as a result of the ruling, which he said was expected for months.

Under fire in the House of Commons, Shea said the government could not have known what would happen until the ruling was formally declared just a few days ago, but Julian said the government should have been prepared.

"I am absolutely appalled that on an issue that is so important to British Columbia, the ministry of fisheries and the minister have obviously done no preparatory work whatsoever," Julian, the MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, said in an interview.

"They've been given responsibility. You would expect them to have in place a contingency plan for just the possibility of that decision going the way it did."

For now, Shea said Ottawa and Victoria will continue to work together to jointly manage the aquaculture industry.

"We do have a one-year window to work with the province of B.C. and we will be doing that," she said in the Commons.

Shea said the government has set aside $1 billion for communities in need and if there is a need in the B.C. salmon industry, those funds are available.

Julian said British Columbians deserve better.

"It's very clear that no thought has gone into this whatsoever," he said.

Fish farm critics say sea lice from the open net-cage farms have been killing wild salmon who migrate past them.