Federal government reverses decision to scrap BC marine programs

Jun 18 2017, 7:19 am

The federal government is going back on its decision to rid British Columbia of two of its marine programs, including the Coast Guard dive team.

The government axed the dive team in BC back in late May.

At the time, a spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Michelle Imbeau, told Daily Hive the decision came after a “thorough review” by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as well as the Canadian Coast Guard, during Budget 2016.

However, hardly a month since the decision was made, the government has changed its mind.

In a statement emailed to Daily Hive, Vance Chow, spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said “a program integrity exercise resulted in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard receiving $1.4 billion in new funding for the provision of important services to Canadians.”

This funding will be in addition to the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan.

Two Coast Guard programs were identified for possible review following the program integrity exercise.

The DFO has now confirmed all their services, as well as those of the Coast Guard, will be maintained.

The Coast Guard Dive program, based on Sea Island, will remain and no reduction will be made to Coast Guard presence in inland waterways.

Chow said “the safety of mariners and the protection of the marine environment are the top priorities of the Canadian Coast Guard.”

“The Coast Guard is always seeking to improve services to Canadians and works closely with local communities and Indigenous groups to ensure that resources are utilized where they can best have a positive impact on mariners and communities,” he said.

As for the future of the DFO and the Coast Guard, search and rescue capacity will be increased and they plan to staff up to 900 positions across Canada on all three coasts.

Response of grassroots groups

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty, Official Opposition Critic for Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, sees this as a huge win for grassroots groups.

Doherty praises these groups for pressuring the government to maintain the programs and said it’s great news in a Facebook post he shared.

Salmonid Enhancement Program to continue

Chow also said there will be no cutback to the Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP).

These include the SEP Resource Restoration Unit, the hatchery production of Steelhead and Cutthroat trout, and the educational and technical contracts that support Stream to Sea and Salmonids in the Classroom.

The Stream to Sea program educates students in BC in all grades how to protect their local watersheds and how to connect them to aquatic ecosystems and conserve them for the future generations.

The federal government will fund the SEP with approximately $27 million this year, and Chow said it has already invested $1.3 million in implementing the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

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