Fish will swim, but the habitat in which they could or might swim was open to question in the Fisheries Act until a proposed amendment to Bill C-68 was deleted.
A sub-section of the bill as initially presented raised concerns about what water bodies would be deemed fish habitat and thus be subject to new regulations.
The House of Commons has since agreed to a Senate amendment to repeal that provision in the final version, which received royal assent June 21.
Initially the bill said “the quantity, timing and quality of the water flow that are necessary to sustain the fresh-water or estuarine ecosystems of a fish habitat are deemed to be a fish habitat.”
That definition “would have greatly expanded what could be deemed fish habitat to include any watercourse or water body with the necessary water flow characteristics to sustain ecosystems of fish,” said the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in describing its objection to the habitat definition.
“This would have been the case even if there were no fish using the area for any life process. The provision would have meant virtually all water bodies become fish habitat where no one could alter, disrupt or destroy the ‘habitat.’ ”
During Senate hearings on the bill, senior staff with Fisheries and Oceans promised to consult with the agricultural sector when developing regulations regarding small and/or low-risk activities involving or potentially affecting water bodies.