North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold has won unanimous support for a motion he introduced calling on the House of Commons’ fisheries committee to study the federal government’s approach to preventing and managing aquatic invasive species, or AIS.
By passing this study motion, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has committed to examining the Aquatic Invasive Species Component (AISC) of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Fisheries Protection Program (FPP).
According to the motion passed on Oct. 30, the committee’s study will focus specifically on the mandate and resources of the AISC and how resources and activities for preventing or managing AIS are distributed across Canada.
“Increasing risks of AIS like zebra and quagga mussels necessitate a robust program preventing an infestation in our Okanagan or Shuswap watersheds,” said Arnold. “An invasive mussel infestation in our region would cost local economies tens of millions of dollars and inflict permanent ecological damage. Prevention is the only option that makes sense.”
Since being elected in 2015, Arnold has been a strong voice in Parliament advocating for expanded federal resources for AIS prevention in B.C. and has worked with local organizations, municipalities and First Nations to raise the importance of this issue. Arnold’s advocacy led to a commitment last year from the fisheries minister for increased federal resources for AIS prevention in B.C. this year.
However, the actual increase amounted to approximately $50,000 annually — an increase that Arnold has called “insulting.” Of the $10.1 million of ongoing funding, DFO has for AIS activities nationally, about 86 per cent is given to fighting two species, invasive Asian carp and sea lamprey, in Ontario.
“Aquatic invasive species pose a major threat to ecologies and economies across Canada, especially in the North Okanagan – Shuswap, and we must ensure that federal resources and activities are well-placed and managed for optimum results,” said Arnold.
“I appreciate the unanimous support for this important study and sincerely hope the fisheries committee can produce a report that strengthens our national efforts for preventing and managing AIS across Canada, including British Columbia.”