Submission 0138-WATSON

Submitter: Barbara Watson

Community: Sidney

Date Submitted: August 3, 2023

DFO documents (linked to in the submission) indicate that DFO has been aware for over 20 years that navigational and fish health protections must be degraded in order to allow the aquaculture industry to operate in Canada. For this reason, the commission should consider the possibility that aquaculture contamination and disease was a factor in the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye run. The commission must also grapple with numerous legal and political questions that underscore the complexity and importance of the situation.

It appears that Fisheries and Oceans have been aware for over twenty five years that aquaculture was unconstitutional to Canadian Law; that both navigational and fish health protections must be degraded in order to allow this industry to operate in Canada. With this awareness in their own files, they have proceeded to change the constitution(and continue to do so), knowing that wild salmon, as well as every other aquatic species, was put at risk by this industry.
For this reason alone, you must assess the possible risk of aquaculture contamination and disease to be a factor in the collapse of the Fraser River Sockeye run of 2009.
Below is a link to a paper from 1984 that examines the federal government’s constitutional mandate against the existing aquaculture regulations. This paper was commissioned by DFO, under contract. The paper shows the conflicts of Canadian Law (at the time) as it pertains to the implementation of aquaculture, and how many of the environmental protections and navigational rights embedded in our constitution must be degraded and altered in order to permit the legal support of this industry. Mostly about fisheries regulations with some important sections on feed and disease, but take note also of the water lease portions.

How much public money has been spent since to accommodate this unconstitutional invasion of our waters? How many rights and protections have been obliterated to allow this?
This is the DFO library:

This is the paper: (Technical report 1252 by B.H. Wildsmith, 1984)

The following questions summarize the complexity of the situation that you are trying to resolve.When in doubt, should we not err in favour of the people of BC, our wild salmon and the BC coastal environment? These are not frivolous questions, and we should know the answers.

Recent legal cases against the Norwegian salmon farming industry in BC waters have raised the legal questions of “WHO OWNS THE FISH?”

Are wild fish common property when in the ocean?
Are farmed fish private property when in ocean farm pens?
If farmed fish escape the pens, are they then common property or private possessions?
If you catch an escaped farmed fish in the ocean, are you stealing?
If you catch a wild fish, is it really yours?
If a wild fish enters farm pens accidentally, is it legal for the farm owner to sell it?
If the right to fish in the ocean is a public right, why have exclusive private fisheries been permitted to exist?
These fish questions have been passed along to the Federal government to determine.

The aquaculture industry in BC has also raised additional legal questions about “WHO OWNS THE WATER?”

Is the ocean common property in Canada?
Can water be a private possession?
If the right to navigate and anchor in Canadian waters is a historic common law right, why have hazards to navigation been authorized in needed safe havens and anchorages?
If authorized farms create dangerous floating hazards to navigation, who is liable for any damage to vessels?
If the coastal ocean is Canadian common property covering BC Crown Lands, why are Canadian mariners denied access to their own marine resources?
Should our waterways have been given away to private foreign fisheries; leased at bargain basement rates and without adequate notification to the mariners who used those waterways?
Is it legal for fish farms in the public ocean to conceal their disease records; diseases that also threaten to severely impact all of the wild fish?
-Why have shellfish operations been allowed to expand from the benign beach and foreshore locations to occupy huge areas of protected anchorages?
Who has the right to determine the purposes that the waterways of BC should serve?
The mariners of BC (All Nations)?
The local municipalities?
The Provincial Government?
The Federal Government?
The people of Canada (All Nations)?
First Nations?

Finally, some political questions.

If the water tenure leases were obtained with procedures that failed to adequately notify the users and owners of the water (us), are they still legal?
Can the people of BC refuse to allow the invasion and obstruction of our waterways?
If the water tenures are refused by the people of BC, can the Federal Government still give aquaculture permissions?
How much public money has been spent promoting and defending the aquaculture industry against the wishes of people of the coast? Money that could have been used for wild fish enhancement and spawning stream maintenance.

We need to know the answers to these questions! The answers will determine the future of BC. The stewardship of the sea bed should remain a sacred trust. We must not divide the water into private parcels of greed and exclusive ownership.

The Office of the Ombudsman is currently conducting an investigation into the practices and procedures used by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands for aquaculture, at my request. It is an investigation into the procedure that was used to obtain the water leases for aquaculture operations. It was a faulty process that served bureaucratic expediency, not the marine public, and has permitted the occupation of our public waters for private purposes. This was achieved by a lack of meaningful public notification resulting in a lack of meaningful public participation. Since “we” are the primary owners and users of our waters, I maintain that the possession of our waterways was obtained without our knowledge and permission, and therefore renders the aquaculture water leases illegal.

Aquaculture is acceptable in land-based containment. No one should be permitted to obstruct our waterways. Water leases should only be issued to facilitate the access between land and water, not to obstruct and deny access. Marine safety has not been adequately protected.

The recent healthy runs of 2010 prove that our oceans are still capable of producing healthy fish if they are protected from feed lot diseases and viruses.

I have attached one specific example (Cecil Island – Greenway Sound) and the objections to the procedure used to deny Canadian mariners access to their own waters.

Barbara Watson

PO Box 2384

Sidney, BC

V8L 3Y3

Submission Files:

File 1:

Cecil Island – Greenway Sound.doc

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