CEC receives a submission on BC salmon farms

Montreal, 17 February 2012—On 10 February 2012, the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (“CEC”) received a citizen submission filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society, the Kwikwasu’tinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (together, the “Submitters”). The Secretariat subsequently received a version of the submission correcting a minor error of form on 13 February 2012, and it is the latter version the Secretariat is reviewing pursuant to Article 14(1) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (“NAAEC”). The Submitters assert that Canada is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law and, in particular, provisions of the federal Fisheries Act (the “Act”).

Section 35 of the Act prohibits “any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat” without valid authorization. In Submission SEM-12-001 (BC Salmon Farms), the Submitters assert that Canada has allowed more than 100 commercial salmon farms, or feedlots, to operate in coastal British Columbia. The Submitters assert that section 35 authorizations are required “because each salmon feedlot is responsible for creating a harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat.” The Submitters allege that such salmon farms are not, however, validly authorized.

Section 36 of the Act, among other things, prohibits the deposit of a “deleterious substance” in “water frequented by fish” unless such deposit is authorized by regulation. The Submitters assert that because of “the government’s failure to prohibit the use of the neurotoxic chemical, emamectin benzoate, used to treat infestations of sea lice, despite evidence that this substance is deleterious to natural fish habitat,” Canada is failing to enforce section 36 of the Act.

The Submitters assert generally, that as a result of the above-mentioned alleged failures to enforce sections 35 and 36 of the Fisheries Act, Canada is “exposing wild salmon to amplified levels of parasites such as sea lice, viral and bacterial diseases, toxic chemicals and concentrated waste.”

The CEC Secretariat is reviewing SEM-12-001 to determine whether it meets the criteria for submissions set out in Article 14 of the NAAEC.

NAAEC Articles 14 and 15 include procedures allowing private parties to make submissions to the CEC Secretariat asserting “that a Party [to the NAAEC] is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law.” The CEC has published “Guidelines for Submissions on Enforcement Matters” explaining these procedures.

In appropriate cases, and upon instruction from the CEC Council, the CEC Secretariat may examine a submission further and develop a factual record.

For more information, please visit the CEC’s “Citizen Submissions on Enforcement Matters” webpage, and the registry of Submission SEM-12-001 (BC Salmon Farms).