Sunday, June 21, 2009

Systemic problems in DFO

If you think all our criticism of DFO on the north coast and elsewhere in British Columbia is just isolated special interest group rantings, check out this link to the Office of the Auditor General and her "2009 Spring Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development"
Weve linked to the Main Points section which gives a quick overview of the Report.Copied below is the findings( in italics) with our comments added (in blue) and items of interest (in red)

What we found
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that fish habitat is being adequately protected as the Fisheries Act requires. In the 23 years since the Habitat Policy was adopted, many parts of the Policy have been implemented only partially by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or not at all. The Department does not measure habitat loss or gain. It has limited information on the state of fish habitat across Canada—that is, on fish stocks, the amount and quality of fish habitat, contaminants in fish, and overall water quality. Fisheries and Oceans Canada still cannot determine the extent to which it is progressing toward the Policy’s long-term objective of a net gain in fish habitat. There has been little progress since 2001, when we last reported on this matter.

The parallels between these criticisms and the ones we use are eerie. For example, the Wild Salmon Policy has been around for years and who knows what parts, if any, have actually been implemented. The Selective Fishing Policy has also been around for years with little or no implementation. We see DFO not measuring stocks adequately or having limited information on stocks throughout the watershed. The AG reported on issues in 2001 and 'there has been little progress'....this is pretty standard for DFO as weve see little progress on many fronts for years, decades even.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has made progress in implementing the Environmental Process Modernization Plan (EPMP) so that it can better manage risks that various projects pose to fish habitat. Under the Plan, the Department does not require that proposals for low-risk projects be submitted to it for review, relying instead on project proponents to voluntarily comply with habitat protection measures and conditions. This streamlining of the review process was intended to free up departmental resources for review of projects that pose a higher risk to habitat. For those projects that it has reviewed, however, the Department has little documentation to show that it monitored the actual habitat loss that occurred, whether habitat was protected by mitigation measures required as a condition for project approval, or the extent to which project proponents compensated for any habitat loss.
Moreover, the Department reduced enforcement activity by half and at the time of our audit had not yet hired habitat monitors to offset this reduction.

This sounds familiar doesnt it? Lack of oversight and monitoring combined with reductions in enforcement activity are very familiar to us on the north coast. These are the very issues in the commercial fishery that weve been criticising for a few years now.
Many of the issues raised in this report are long-standing and have been identified in previous audits that we have carried out. For example, we have previously observed that Fisheries and Oceans Canada had not implemented aspects of the Habitat Policy; that it did not know whether it was progressing toward the ultimate objective of a net gain in fish habitat; and that it needed to devote more time and effort to monitoring compliance with the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.
Now this really sounds familiar; long standing issues previously identified but not addressed, Policy not implemented, ignorance of whether objectives are met, and monitoring compliance shortfalls.....All these same issues can be directly transposed onto the DFO north coast fishery management.The Auditor General has reviewed several facets of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans over the years with little success it seems. Unfortunately, there is no real teeth to these Reports...other than theshort lived public shaming of the DFO bureaucracy when groups like our post the reports for all to see. DFO will respond to the AG with promises of studies or internal reports to look into the stated problems while knowing full well it will look after its own business in the end. And in a few more years the AG will produce another Report and state the same things all over again. It will take more than the AG's office to secure systemic change in DFO.

1 comment:

North Coast Steelhead Alliance said...

Looks like the Vancouver Sun also read the Auditor General's Report on DFO, check the linked story out.