What modern safeguards should be instituted in order to ensure appropriate protections for fish and fish habitat?
SHIM methods ( http://cmnmaps.ca/cmn/files/methods/SHIM_Methods.html ) should be required by DFO as part of a land use proposal assessment, to describe the existing "fish habitat". This method has been used in BC for 15 years by many local governments to inform their land use planning and decisions. Those local governments have found it a practical method to meet their business needs. SHIM should be applied to several kilometres of a water course or most of a water body shoreline to establish a baseline data set and to capture any cumulative effects in a watershed.
DFO needs to require several activities of developers to ensure compensation and habitat banking is successful.
- Establish baseline data prior to compensation actions to facilitate site planning and long term assessments of success using prescribed methods.
- Accurately map and inventory newly constructed projects to facilitate future monitoring and research.
- Monitor and apply adaptive management to mitigate stressors in perpetuity, because compensation and habitat banks are always near human activity which carries the risk of future unforeseen impacts.
- Many completed compensation projects have failed because the above process was not used and DFO needs to systematically find and fix broken habitat compensation projects, to repay the habitat deficit to Canada that has accumulated since the No Net Loss principle was adopted in the 1980s
Compensation, Offsetting and Habitat Banking are ecosystem assets owed to Canadians in lieu of land development. It needs to be considered a permanent cost of doing business not just a one off expense by the developer. There are many financial instruments DFO can use to ensure habitat created is not lost due to neglect.
Many provinces, municipalities, conservation groups, universities, the federal government, industries, etc. have surveyed and mapped fish habitat in various parts of Canada. It would be an ambitious but worthwhile project to combine all of these sources of data (some of which are likely in print only) into a national, online, publicly assessable fish habitat map. Even if some data are a bit outdated, this online tool could be regularly updated and improved.
With such a map, an individual or company could readily access existing information to help locate their proposed project where it would result in lower impacts to fish, right from the start. This could save time and money if plans don't need to be altered as much later to reduce impacts. Academics and students could possibly use this data to analyze fish habitat impacts and recommend best practices. Indigenous, conservation, and educational groups could help fill identified gaps in fish habitat information.
Moving forward, I'm wondering if data collectors could be trained through something similar to Environment Canada and Climate Change Canada's CABIN Program (link below).
Does anyone have thoughts on how we could address with data integrity/standardization of existing habitat mapping??