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Failure to implement existing regulatory framework
A new report by East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) notes the challenges ahead for the province of Nova Scotia as it develops a new regulatory framework for Aquaculture, according to a news release Wednesday. The report, which has been six months in the making, comes directly on the heels of an announcement Tuesday by the NDP government of a commission to review the regulatory “framework” in the province.

The regulation of open net pen aquaculture has been both a national and provincial hot topic over the last several years, says the report. Nationally, the report of the Cohen Commission in B.C. identified several weaknesses in the current regulatory framework and locally, public concern in Nova Scotia has raised questions about both regulation and enforcement as open net pen aquaculture has expanded. 

The Report, says ECELAW, “provides a regulatory overview to serve as a foundation for analysis and discussion during the process of regulatory reform.”

“We are facing an entire new landscape, with changes made in Ottawa to the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act,” says Lisa Mitchell, lawyer with ECELAW.

“These changes may have significant impacts on provincial aquaculture regulation requiring the province to step up its regulatory framework to cover aspects the federal government will no longer address.”

The report outlines some concerns with the current provincial regulatory framework, including conflicting mandates, lack of transparency and lack of required public engagement.

“In Nova Scotia, we have failed to effectively implement our existing regulatory framework and some of the key recommendations of the B.C. Cohen Commission could be addressed at the provincial level,” says Tricia Barry, Executive Director of ECELAW.

The Report clearly identifies seven specific areas for consideration in the context of strengthening provincial regulation to ensure that the industry is more environmentally sustainable and in line with the principles of the Mova Scotia Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. These include: research needs & application of the precautionary approach; the need for transparency of information and data; changes required to federal regulation and regulatory authority; conflicting departmental mandate, due to the Aquaculture Department having roles as both regulator and promoter of aquaculture; need for greater public engagement; the lessening of ministerial discretion and the need for increased environmental impact assessments.

“We hope this report helps both the public, the advisory committee, the independent panel and government staff in their efforts to move forward towards a revised regulatory process that ensures environmental protection,” says Mitchell.

The full report is available online at: http://www.ecelaw.ca/reports/view-category.html