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Canada is home not only to humans, but to a wide range of plants and wild animals. Canadians expect the law to protect key species like wild salmon – which play a major role in ecosystems and local economies – and to ensure that plant and animal species do not go extinct. That means ensuring that the laws intended to safeguard species are doing their job.

Taking care of fish and wildlife can be approached from two important and interconnected approaches. An ecosystem-based approach focuses on maintaining the ecosystem as a whole, with all its parts and processes, as a way to care for all species. Another approach focuses on the needs of specific species, either because they are of special management concern (e.g., species at risk; key animals that “put food on the table” for Indigenous nations ) or because they need special attention in planning and management (e.g., species with large area needs like grizzly bears).

At the federal level, the Fisheries Act is one of the most important environmental laws. It aims to protect fish as well as the marine and aquatic ecosystems that support them. Our lawyers have played a key role in the federal government’s review of changes made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act, advocating for important reforms to rebuild and strengthen protection for fish and fish habitat.

West Coast’s work has a strong ecosystem-based focus, but we are also frequently called upon to help out our fish and wildlife – and the dedicated groups wording to sustain them in other ways. For example:

  • Through our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, we helped noted marine biologist Alexandra Morton challenge BC’s laws governing fish farms as unconstitutional.
  • We’ve funded environmental organizations, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Wildsight, to press for the protection of the endangered boreal forest and mountain caribou (respectively).
  • We opposed the enactment of the BC government’s Riparian Areas Regulation, which provided fish streams with less protection from development than the earlier Streamside Protection Regulations.
  • We made submissions on proposed amendments to BC’s Wildlife Act, demonstrating the need for more meaningful protection for species at risk in the province.

We continue to press for strong laws to protect fish, wildlife and endangered species by engaging in government processes, supporting community legal efforts to defend wildlife, and by highlighting important developments on our Environmental Law Alert blog.


Top photo: Midale35 via Flickr


Linda Nowlan
Staff Lawyer