New September 21/97, Updated January 1/98, March 10/98, June 24/99
The Ontario Government's BILL 139
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997

(select "Fish & Wildlife Conservation" from the "F" list)

Regulations  - under the Fish and Game Conservation Act -  RE :Fish Licensing
'the trap doors'


reply from Helen Johns, M.P.P. Huron

December 19, 1997

Rainbow Trout Hatchery
R R # 1 Belgrave, Ontario
N0G 1E0



Dear Mr. Hedley,

Thank you for your letter of December 12,1997. Regarding the potential implications of Bill 139, the proposed Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, on Ontario aquaculture industry.

I have spoken to the Honourable John Snobelen, Minister of Natural Resources regarding your concerns and I can assure you that he recognizes the importance of aquaculture to the economy and supports the industry's efforts to grow and diversify.

He indicated to me that the Ministry is examining ways in which the aquaculture industry can participate in enhancing stocking programs in the province. In addition, they will be soliciting input from the industry representatives in the development of the aquaculture-related regulations and policies under the proposed new Act.

I understand that the Ministry staff met with the representatives of the OAA on November 20, 1997 to discuss ownership rights of cultured fish; the Ministry's ability to cancel an aquaculture licence; and the ability to transfer a licence. Staff explained to the OAA why it is inappropriate to deal with property rights in legislation designed for fish and wildlife management. They also reiterated that Bill 139 would make it more difficult for the Minister to cancel a licence but that it was necessary to retain the ability to do so in extreme circumstances. Finally, they confirmed our intention to address the ability to transfer aquaculture licences in the regulations under the new Act. I can assure you that the Ministry will work with the OAA and other client groups as we draft the new regulations and policies.

I hope that this information is helpful, if would like me pass along any other information I would be happy to do so.

Yours truly,

Helen Johns, MPP Huron.

Bill 139, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997
Hon. J. Snobelen (Minister of Natural Resources).
First Reading June 9, 1997.
Second Reading debated November 26; December 8/97.
Carried December 8. Ordered referred to the Standing Committee on General Government. Considered December 11/97.
Reported as amended December 15. Ordered for Third Reading.
Third Reading December 18/97.
Royal Assent December 18, 1997.

Letter to:
March 2, 1998
Helen Johns, M.P.P. (Huron)
P.O. Box 520 Exeter,
Ontario, N0M 1S6
RE: Proposed Bill 139 (as it applies to aquaculture)



Dear Mrs. Johns:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for the great job that you did in conveying the concerns of myself and other fish farmers to the Minister of Natural Resources. There probably was nothing further that you could have done to gain a more favorable solution toward the concerns of fish farmers.

Before Bill 139 formalized, it was rumored that fish farming was to be "froze-out" and that there was an "understanding" between the Ministries of Natural Resources and Food & Agriculture.

I can assure you that the MNR had no desire for input from the Ontario Aquaculture Association, or for that matter, anybody supporting fish farming. They only asked for participation somewhat past the eleventh hour when it became apparent that there would be some political liability. A quickly called meeting with the OAA just prior Bill 139 being publishing was good enough for the OMNR to blatantly claim that they had consulated with the industry.

The communiqué from the Hon. Chris Hodgson (then Minister of OMNR) to the OAA on Sept 9/97 could only be interpreted as a "slammed door." The statement "You will be advised that we cannot accommodate proposed changes to the Bill . . ." was truly incredible. Chris had always been forthright - but fair. What pressures would have made him pen such an undemocratic perspective?

During the clause by clause consideration of Bill 139, Dec. 11/97, the governments continued to voice disdain for fish farming by putting forth a supercilious argument that the OMNR would lose control of the aquarium trade if they recognized "fish farming." However, the aquarium business has never been regulated nor licenced by the OMNR. (Copy of Hansard is attached)

In short, it was absolutely convoluted and incredulous for the MNR not to recognize fish farming since they [OMNR] have been practicing the business for the past seventy five years. However, it was more shameful that the government fostered a conspiracy with aquaculture's lead advocate (OMAFRA) to bastardize the very concept of what farming is about.

What problems does the OMNR have with fish farmers? I don't know. They talk of risks, yet they vigorously control the circumstances of incidents. They expound on the principles of protecting the environment (risk from fish farming?) Yet, fail to document or substantiate such claims.

I strongly believe that the MNR regime is (or has been) unable to recognize that aquaculture is not a wild fishery and that the conservation mentality necessary to manage the wild fishery does not apply to the aquaculture industry.

Where does this leave fish farmers today? The proposed Band-Aid solutions of loosely worded policy statements and ambiguous proposed regulations are a far cry from solutions. It is highly unlikely that this government is going to propose any new or substantial significant changes to assist the fish farming industry.

In real life, there have been job losses. Ontario aquaculture is again feeling the effects of investor withdrawal due to the prominent perception that there is a lack of government support for fish farming.

Dare I suggest that the agenda of this military mode bureaucracy [OMNR] needs outside scrutiny? .

Possibly, Mrs. Lyn McLeod summed up the situation just prior to third reading of Bill 139 (An excerpt from Hansard).

Mrs. Lyn McLeod (Fort William): A second controversial issue that is not dealt with, that again is of ongoing concern, is the whole question of fish farming. I know that people who are involved in aquaculture have considerable concerns about certain parts of the Game and Fish Act. I think their concerns need to be heard, they need to be addressed, and if it means the current government or a future government has to come to grips with further amendments to the Game and Fish Act, so be it. I don't think these long-standing concerns can simply be ignored now that there is to be some proceeding with a process of amending the Game and Fish Act.



Thanks again for your help. Too bad we couldn't have done more but until a major organizational shakeup takes place, I suggest the advancement of fish farming may have been efficaciously killed.

Yours truly,

David Hedley

encl. Hansard
cc: OAA, FOA
copy of Hansard for part of Thur. Dec. 11/97


Mr Michael Brown: I move that subsection 1(1) of the bill be amended by adding the following definition: 'farmed fish' means fish raised under the authority of a fish farm licence."

If I might speak to it, this was put forward by the Ontario Aquaculture Association. I think it provides a more suitable definition of what actually is going on and would differentiate a farmed fish from a wild fish.

Mr Chudleigh: We have added a proposed definition for "aquaculture" to help provide for the recognition of the industry. There are people engaged in aquaculture who are not fish farmers, and MNR would lose the ability to regulate these people with the Ontario Aquaculture Association's proposed definition or the member's proposed definition. I would be opposed to the motion.

Ms Martel: If I can add to this, part of the reason the aquaculture association has been so adamant about having recognition of a specific title of "farmed fish" is because they believe they should be monitored in the province as an agricultural activity. Under Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing guidelines now they are considered an agricultural activity. Under OMAFRA they are also considered an agricultural activity, and OMAFRA provides $1 million a year to this industry to help it grow.

What we have been trying to do and what the association has been trying to do with MNR through the whole piece is get that recognition; hence our moving the definition to more clearly define them as an agricultural activity, as they are under two ministries. That's where the discrepancy is coming in.

Mr Michael Brown: I fail to see why this is a problem. Why can we not include both? I don't see it as an either/or situation.

Mr Chudleigh: We would lose control over the aquarium trade, for instance, and those kinds of things, so it becomes difficult.

Ms Martel: Under this bill, there is not a licence required for the aquarium trade in any event. As I understand it, that trade is not regulated by licence.

Mr Chudleigh: Not currently, but it might be at some point in the future.

Ms Martel: You're saying you're going to lose control over some other trade, but that trade right now is not regulated under the current Game and Fish Act and we're also not proposing to regulate it here. You're not losing anything that's already not lost, if I can put it that way.

Mr Chudleigh: I understand what you're saying, but we think it restricts it. The Vice-Chair: Shall this amendment carry? All those in favour? All those opposed? It's defeated.

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