Scientists engage Science in fisheries debate

June 21, 2012, Simon Fraser University

Three Simon Fraser University scientists are engaging in a verbal battle with the federal government over its budget cuts and legislative changes in departments with environmental responsibilities, on a powerful stage.

Science, a research journal with more than one million readers worldwide, has just published online (appearing in the June 22 hardcopy issue) a letter to the editor written by the SFU trio.

In their letter, Canada's Weakening Aquatic Protection, Brett Favaro, a biology doctoral student, and biology professors John Reynolds and Isabelle Côté criticize the federal government's proposal to reduce fish habitat protection.

The three scientists, all members of the SFU biology department's Earth2Ocean Group, engage in collaborative research that tackles global questions in conservation and ecology of aquatic systems.

They use Science to challenge the government's rationale for reducing protection of fish habitat in . The authors argue that the fish habitat protection provision of the Fisheries Act seldom obstructs farming and other routine activities, contrary to the federal fisheries minister's assertions.

Their letter states: "The Fisheries Minister argued that current polices go 'well beyond what is necessary to protect fish' … The continued decline of Canadian fish and other aquatic species due to habitat loss and degradation suggests otherwise … Canada should stand up to its responsibility as first signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and steward of the world's longest coastline and largest lakes."

The authors hope their letter's appearance in Science will encourage the government to return to what they call evidence-based policy creation in Canada. "While recent changes to environmental management in Canada have drawn widespread criticism," notes Favaro, "as scientists we are uniquely positioned to provide an independent and evidence-based critique of the rationale for each of these changes."

Favaro adds the is being influenced dangerously by anecdotal and ideological arguments. "I believe that you can't govern by anecdotes. You need to thoroughly examine the effects of changing laws, especially laws such as those that have been protecting fish habitat and sustaining fisheries in Canada since 1977."

Favaro is particularly pleased that 's publication of this letter dovetails with RIO+20, the ongoing United Nations conference on sustainable development in Brazil.

"I do hope that the more extreme changes enacted by the Canadian government are challenged at this meeting," says Favaro.

Explore further: U.S. government moves to protect whipsnake

Related Stories

Scientists call for Arctic fishing moratorium, rules

April 23, 2012

Scientists on Monday urged Arctic rim nations to set fishing regulations for the Arctic Ocean, and order a moratorium on fishing until stocks are assessed, before trawlers soon start dropping nets in the pristine waters.

Canada's pristine freshwater fisheries at risk

September 19, 2007

If you want to catch a trophy northern pike, walleye or brook trout in the northern Canadian wilderness, better plan your trip soon. That’s because according to a report released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society, ...

Scientists want polar bear protection

June 20, 2006

A U.S. climate researcher is leading a team of 30 North American and European scientists in urging the polar bear be listed as a threatened species.

Recommended for you

Scale-eating fish adopt clever parasitic methods to survive

January 17, 2018

Think of them as extra-large parasites. A small group of fishes—possibly the world's cleverest carnivorous grazers—feeds on the scales of other fish in the tropics. The different species' approach differs: some ram their ...

How living systems compute solutions to problems

January 17, 2018

How do decisions get made in the natural world? One possibility is that the individuals or components in biological systems collectively compute solutions to challenges they face in their environments. Consider that fish ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2012
The Conservative Government of Canada has decided that now that cod stocks have collapsed and have not recovered for the last 3 decades, there is no longer any need to prevent the kinds of fishing that caused the collapse in the first place.

I have never encountered a Conservative who wasn't a congenital and a perpetual liar.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.