Skeena NDP MLA questions fish ban plan

Skeena MLA NDP Robin Austin is wading into the ongoing debate over the proposal to move to non-retention of trout and char in the Skeena region’s rivers and streams.

Austin said he’s heard from a number of his constituents who are concerned about the proposal and will be meeting with government stakeholders to learn more.

“They can’t understand why these regulations have suddenly come in,” he said, of the constituents who have contacted him. “They can’t understand why they’ve been brought in with no consultation, kind of in the middle of the night on a website.”

Critics of the proposal have questioned the public commenting process, which saw a notice posted on the Department of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations website during the Christmas holidays.

The ministry ended up accepting comments beyond the initially scheduled commenting period.

A final decision on the proposal is set to be made in Victoria near the end of March.

“I’m not a scientist,” said Austin, noting he doesn’t know whether the proposal should be accepted or denied. “But certainly the way in which it’s been brought in is very troubling, particularly when you consider the department doesn’t even have the resources to actually do the science and collect the data.”

This will be his line of questioning when he meets with government stakeholders in upcoming weeks to discuss the issue, he said.

“Do we even have enough environmental officers out there to even get the science around this whole issue,” he said, noting cuts to B.C.’s Ministry of Environment. “Because [Environment Minister Terry Lake] has seen his department cut drastically over the last 10 years.

“There aren’t even enough people out there doing the science, collecting the data, to know whether or not different species of fish are in a healthy state or whether there’s a population decrease,” he said.

Those in favour of the proposal also cite the decline in ministry resources, specifically cuts to provincial fisheries sections, saying that this makes a precautionary stance even more necessary.



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