By Michael Finley

Though many laws regulate water and water use, the Fisheries Act remains the only legislation that directly addresses the protection and conservation of fish and fish habitat. Enacted in 1868, the Act is one of Canada’s oldest pieces of environmental legislation. The Fisheries Act has a significant scope of application to a wide variety of undertakings that directly or indirectly involve water, ranging from hydroelectric projects to wetland improvement and conservation works.

Significant amendments to the Act are underway through Bill C-68, now before the Senate. Some of the most important amendments will restore the broad habitat and fish protections that were removed in 2012. This article reviews what changed in 2012, why those changes occurred, and what protections Bill C-68 proposes to restore to the Act.