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General News · 7th November 2012
Ken Hanuse
More than enough resources for investigations, Ottawa says.
Biologists have been cut, but uniformed officers in full force.

By Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun
November 7, 2012 3:04 AM

The federal government said Tuesday it has more than enough resources to conduct investigations of Fisheries Act violations in B.C. despite planned staff cuts.

While the federal fisheries department is reducing the number of West Coast biologists by a third, from 90 to 60, the government has retained the number of uniformed fisheries officers who patrol the province looking for illegal activity.

"In British Columbia alone there will be over 170 officers in over 30 locations because we do take the management of Canadian fish very seriously," acting Fisheries Minister Gail Shea told the House of Commons.

She was responding to criticism from New Democratic Party MP Fin Donnelly, who alleged that the government is weakening fisheries habitat protection despite criticism of federal policy in last week's $26-million Cohen Commission report.

Critics complained on Monday about Ottawa's establishment of two "habitat investigative teams" of fisheries officers to be located in Winnipeg and Burlington, Ont., saying those locations are too far from the B.C. coast.

But Erin Filliter, spokeswoman for Shea, said those two offices will focus on habitat investigations in Central Canada and the Prairies.

The 170-plus B.C. officers, working with biologists, are capable of conducting investigations of Fisheries Act violations in B.C., she said.

She didn't rule out, however, the possibility that some officers could be dispatched from Winnipeg or Burlington to either coast.

"Our resources and personnel are structured in such a way that, in the event of a major investigation or another incident requiring reinforcements, we can rally resources if required from elsewhere in Canada in order to ensure this important resource is protected," Filliter said in an email.

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http://www.cohencommission.ca/en/FinalReport/