June 5, 2017- Federal investments in Fisheries and Coast Guard
Last year the Department of Fisheries and Oceans(DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) undertook a review of all of its programs and services in order to get a complete and detailed picture of the financial stress that so many of these programs and so many agencies had been under. After years of cuts, years of successive cuts that were so deep the basic day to day operations of DFO and the CCG were in jeopardy.
Our government has made not one but two investments on a scale not seen in generations. The first is the Ocean Protections Plan at $1.5 billion. The second investment of $1.4 billion to rehabilitate the core functions of DFO and the CCG, righting the damage done by previous cuts over so many years.
DFO expects to hire upwards of 900 new employees across the country over the next year, including approximately 200 in British Columbia alone.
CCG will be upgrading and investing in a wide range of communications towers, buoys and maritime radar, as well as improving search and rescue training. DFO will be investing more in ocean science, fisheries management which includes conservation and protection, physical infrastructure and information technology assets needed to carry out the mandate provided by Canadians.
On Salmonid Enhancement Program
The Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) supports volunteer efforts of local communities by providing education, tools and funding need to support habitat and rebuild the iconic Pacific salmon stocks.
I have shared with the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard the concerns I have heard from community members over recent days with respect to some recent changes to the SEP. I take those concerns extremely seriously, as does our government. Preserving and restoring salmon habitat is fundamental to ensuring the Pacific coast has salmon for generations to come.
We remain committed to the conservation of wild Pacific salmon and the broader Salmonid Enhancement Program, which this year, will receive $27 million in federal funding. The SEP continues to be one of the most successful examples of partnership between communities and their government.
On SEP – Habitat Restoration
The Resource Restoration Unit will be phased out over 3 years as habitat restoration capacity in the broader community has greatly increased. We will work with communities to identify where new opportunities for collaboration and funding exist with the recent investments in Budget 2017 and the Oceans Protection Plan.
DFO has for a long time focused on inland waters but emerging new science has also shown we need to mitigate stressors in the ocean environment and focus our work to restore habitat along our ocean coastlines as well. As well as continuing and strengthening the partnerships developed over years with the SEP, we will be turning our attention to also working to strengthen and protect ocean coastlines.
The new Coastal Restoration Fund – $75M over 5 years – will addresses historically degraded areas and will support projects that contribute to coastal restoration plans; support the identification of restoration priorities; and threats to marine species located on Canada’s coasts. (Link: http://dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/crf-frc/index-eng.html)
Investments stemming from this fund will help Indigenous people, community based groups, not for profit organizations, academic institutions, researches and industry to work together with us to restore marine environments and protect critical coastline habitat.
As we focus on restoring lost protections in the Fisheries Act, and focus on rebuilding habitat management capacity in DFO, our government will outline better and more significant investments in the months ahead as to how we intend to partner with these community groups to ensure that this important work is not lost and is continued and strengthened for the years ahead.
On SEP – Stream to Sea Program
All of the classroom planning for September of next year will go ahead as planned; we are committed to completing the programming that has already been planned for the upcoming school year. The educational and technical support contracts for this year will go ahead as planned.
DFO will make our SEP related material available online and Fisheries Officers who visit classrooms to explain their role in conservation will continue to do so. We’re also committed to transitioning to find the best way possible to continue to deliver these educational programs. The Department will work with its partners over the next year to look at new ways to deliver these programs in the future.
On SEP – Steelhead and Cutthroat Trout
As steelhead and cutthroat trout are managed by the province of BC, we will phase out their production. SEP programs that will continue include: fish production at the 23 large hatchery facilities, fish production through the Community Economic Development Program, as well as numerous Public Involvement Projects that are delivered by community groups and supported by DFO.
Increased Search and Rescue Capacity
Through the Oceans Protection Plan, our government is increasing the Canadian Coast Guard’s search and rescue, and environmental response capacity. To increase our search and rescue capacity so vital to Canadians on all of our coasts the Canadian Coast Guard will establish seven new lifeboat stations. Four of these stations will be located in British Columbia – in Victoria, Port Renfrew, Nootka and Hartley Bay.
As part of creating a world leading marine safety system the Coast Guard will create 24/7 emergency coordination capacities within existing regional operation centres – one in Victoria.
Total investments in 2017 will create more job opportunities within the Coast Guard, resulting in up to 15% increase in staffing across the country within the next year. The total number of personnel assigned to the Coast Guard’s search and rescue mission in British Columbia will increase over the next three years, resulting in safer waterways for everyone in the region. We expect to see mariners across BC better protected.
Sea Island Dive Team
The CCG understands the value of the specialized service provided by divers, but emergency response is a joint responsibility between various agencies and levels of government. As such, the Department determined that resources from the Sea Island base dive program, the only such program offered throughout the Coast Guard, were better utilized to enhance other search and rescue activities, and decided to discontinue the dive program.
Funding is not being cut, but rather re-directed as our government is re-prioritizing resources to enhance Search and Rescue capacity and response. BC will see four new lifeboats added to the coast, in addition to new radars to cover the blind spots and new radio towers to address the dead zones we’ve known have been out there for some time.
The diving capability, including penetration dive proficiency, which involves entering wrecked or submerged vessels, vehicles and aircrafts, is not part of the core Search and Rescue mandate and Sea Island is the only such CCG base in the country to provide such specialized service.
The Coast Guard delivers search and rescue services in partnership with other agencies as it is a shared responsibility. Coast Guard has begun exploratory discussions with its search and rescue partners as it transitions out of providing this service, to mirror emergency services that are provided to Canadians in other busy coastal cities, such as Montreal or Halifax.
With last summer’s re-opening and modernization of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, and expanding its mandate to include emergency environmental response, Vancouver harbor is safer than it was two years ago and the entire coast will be safer than it has ever been once all these historic investments will have been made.