Another significant penalty has been ordered in relation to an offence under the Fisheries Act.
Earlier this month, a Nova Scotia pulp and paper company was ordered by a provincial court to pay $225,000 in relation to a pipeline break that released 47 million litres of untreated effluent into the environment. The spill occurred in an area leading to the East River/ Pictou Harbour.
The effluent was found to be deleterious to fish. Under subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, it is an offence to deposit or allow the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish.
Although the incident occurred nearly 2 years ago, in June 2014, and the company was sentenced back in March, the Court only this month made its determination as to how the fine would be allocated. It ordered the funds to be distributed in equal part to two environmental groups and a first nation to undertake fish and fish habitat projects in the area.
This is the latest in what appears to be a string of convictions resulting in hefty penalties for Fisheries Act offences. Among others, last month, the Department of National Defence was recently fined $100,000 in relation to a diesel spill in the Halifax Harbour. Earlier this year, we wrote about a BC company that was fined $3 million for spilling effluent into the Columbia River.
Back in 2012, the federal government introduced increased penalties under section 40 of the Fisheries Act, including mandatory minimum fines. These stiffer penalties came into effect in November 2013 and formed part of a suite of changes to the Fisheries Act, many of which, conversely, actually weakened that act’s protections. The most significant of these was the removal of the previous prohibition against harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat.