June 28, 2012

Slashing of Canadian Fisheries Habitat Staff So Wrong, So Sad

As the word spreads that our present government in Ottawa somehow sees fit to slash Department of Fisheries habitat staff by a third, I suspect tens of thousands of volunteer stewards across British Columbia, and the rest of Canada, are reeling.

Having volunteered for over ten years and hundreds of hours as a streamkeeper, this news is devastating.

Here is a synopsis from retired DFO biologist Otto Langer of DFO habitat staff cuts announced internally today.

Today all DFO habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now red circled ie they are being affected by Bill C 38 with it's budget and habitat legislation and program cuts (ie DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Yesterday all staff in BC - Yukon were advised of this happening in a telephone call from Pacific Regional Director General Susan Farlinger. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue.

132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months in that many will have to compete for remaining jobs. In Pacific region they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 staff - ie 32 will be laid off ie an approx. 33% cut in staff. Also all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo. That means offices such as those in Mission, Campbell River, Prince George, Nelson, Williams Lake, Smithers, Port Hardy, etc are to be shut down. If the Enbridge and the natural gas lines go across northern BC there will be no habitat staff in Prince George or Smithers, etc and the closest offices will be Prince Rupert or Kamloops. The office in Part Hardy did look after salmon farming issues.

This puts DFO back where it was in the early 1980s ie 5 offices in BC and even less staff than they had in 1983 with many giant projects such as Enbridge, gas lines, gas liquification plants, New Prosperity Gold Mine, Site C Dam on the Peace River, Panamax tankers of jet fuel up the Fraser River, Roberts Bank Port expansion, etc. now being proposed and pushed along. Never in the pasts 50 year history of habitat protection have we seen such great cuts in staff the face of upcoming massive industrial development that can and will harm habitat and our fisheries of the future.

Finally, Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove their name Habitat Management Program title from their organization and from their offices etc. in that they are now to be called the Fisheries Protection Program.

In summary this puts DFO back to where they were in the late s1970s in terms of habitat staff numbers in Pacific Region but with next to no legislation to protect overall habitat and a greatly reduced presence in the field where the habitat damage takes place. Their efforts will of course be distracted over the next year or more in that staff will have to compete for the surviving 60 positions and put their minds to what do can do for a living when laid off and where do they move to to get a job to support their families etc. I am told the then very low morale of the staff was destroyed by Bill C 38 and now it received its final blow and morale and willingness and direction to do their jobs can now be measured in negative quantities. . .

Cheers Otto Langer

PS. All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC - Alberta border ie Central and Arctic Region will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now - fisheries protection staff) most will be closed and the number of offices having 'habitat' type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area - ie Canada.

This will impact volunteers, but I really feel for the Fisheries field staff on the ground and on the water -- in my experience they are wonderful, hard-working folks with huge hearts who really care about what they do. I cannot imagine the impact this is having on them and their families, much less the morale and productivity of the organization as a whole. And Pacific region was already understaffed with unfilled openings in many positions before this latest round of cuts.

Posted by Paul at June 28, 2012 09:16 PM