IN THE NEWS ~ Ottawa unprepared for fish farms; B.C. NDP critic fears Tories have no plan to deal with issue

PUBLICATION: The Daily News (Nanaimo)
DATE: 2009.02.12
EDITION: Final
SECTION: News
PAGE: A4
BYLINE: Robert Barron
SOURCE: The Daily News
WORD COUNT: 323
________________________________________
Ottawa unprepared for fish farms; B.C. NDP critic fears Tories have no plan to deal with issue
________________________________________
Peter Julian says he is "stunned" by the federal government's lack of preparation to address the issue of fish farms in B.C.

Julian, the NDP fisheries critic for B.C., said he asked Gail Shea, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, on Wednesday what the feds intend to do now that the B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that the controversial fish farms must be regulated by Ottawa and not the province.

B.C.'s agriculture ministry has been regulating the farms since they first started setting up on the B.C. coast more than a decade ago.

"After I asked the question, it became very clear that Shea and the government have no plans to deal with the transition of regulating authority of the farms from the province to Ottawa," Julian said from his Ottawa office on Wednesday.

"In fact, it was apparent that they hadn't even thought about it, even though they knew this would be the likely outcome of that court challenge for many months. Shea seemed quite taken aback by my question and only committed to take a look at it."

The B.C. court ruled the farms should be considered a fishery, not agriculture, so the federal government has the exclusive right to regulate them, but the ruling was suspended for 12 months to allow Ottawa to bring in proper legislation.

Julian said a year would have been enough time for the government to prepare to take over the regulatory authority of the farms if Shea and her department had already "done their homework" in preparation for the court's ruling.

"This ruling has huge ramifications both for wild salmon and the fish farms and, considering all the concerns around sea lice and escapes from the farms.

"I had hoped the minister would have answered my question with how far along her department is with the transition plan and an announcement of funding to help move the industry to closed containment systems," he said.

"We intend to stay right on top of them."

RBarron@nanaimodailynews.com