The National Aquatic Animal Health Program’s (NAAHP) mandate is to “prevent aquatic animal diseases from being introduced to, and from spreading in, Canada”. The NAAHP program is administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in partnership with DFO.
The Animal Health and Reportable Disease Regulations for Aquatic Animals fall under the Health of Animals Act. The Regulations were published in Canada Gazette II in Dec 2010 and Jan 2011.
Importers, exporters, and those engaged in aquaculture will be particularly impacted by the Aquatic Animal Health regulations. FSC fisheries near aquaculture farms where there is a greater potential for disease outbreak will also potentially be impacted.
The establishment of a national framework to identify and respond to aquatic animal disease is of critical importance since it can contribute to the protection of First Nations rights by maintaining healthy fish stocks, which are the corner-stone of First Nations fisheries rights.
However there are two major issues concerning to First Nations and they are:
Compensation for loss of wild stocks due to disease – compensation strategies are needed for situations where First Nations access to fish is lost. Currently, NAAHP guidelines only provide compensation where destruction of fish is required. In the context of First Nations rights, which are tied to the ability to physically possess fish, loss of access to fish is equivalent to the destruction of fish stock.
Consultation prior to Regulations becoming Law – Although consultation began in 2007, it is felt that First Nations have not received meaningful consultation on NAAHP. CFIA has made efforts to engage with First Nations in the 2009 forum; however, consultation requires the Government of Canada to meaningfully engage with First Nations rights holders, on the terms set by those rights holders, on all proposed programs which may impact or affect First Nations rights.
AFN ESU has encouraged CFIA to increase its effort to involve First Nations in all aspects of the NAAHP. Now that the Regulations are law, a concerted effort will be required to ensure First Nations have the information and tools required to engage in the implementation of NAAHP.