Energy, Mines and Resources

Comparison - Fish Habitat Management System vs YPA

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Comparison - The Fish Habitat Management System vs the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA)

The Fish Habitat Management System (System) replaced the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA).  There were a number of key differences between the way the System works and the way the YPA operated.

Separate Authorizations

The YPA was a class authorization pursuant to Section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act.  This one authorization governed placer mining throughout the entire Yukon.

The Fish Habitat Management System replaced the YPA with approximately 19 separate watershed authorizations, each of which are class authorizations under Section 35(2), governing placer mining in specific drainage basins.

Stream Classifications

The YPA had a stream classification system that emphasized the presence or absence of fish when rating the importance of habitat.  The presence or absence of  fish could change due to many factors, yet the YPA stream classification were difficult to change.

As well, most Yukon streams were not classified when the system was established.  Requests for stream classification often resulted in delays, costly field assessments and contentious debate.

The System classifies habitat according to its quality, sensitivity, productive capacity and suitability for fish.

All streams in a drainage basin covered by a watershed authorization are classified.  Classification decisions followed transparent rules, and were based upon existing information.

Adapting to Change

The YPA was relatively static and unchanging, with the exception of stream classification decisions.

The System incorporates the principle of Adaptive Management, which is designed to increase the System's effectiveness in meeting its management objectives.  The results of monitoring programs will be evaluated and when new information becomes available, management actions will be adjusted in response.

Monitoring Programs

The use of Adaptive Management highlights another significant change.

The YPA set standards for wastewater discharges and stream channel restoration.  All monitoring efforts were designed to determine the state of compliance with these standards.

The System includes four monitoring programs, all of which may influence Adaptive Management recommendations:

  1. Regulatory compliance monitoring
  2. Water quality objective monitoring
  3. Aquatic health monitoring
  4. Economic health monitoring.

Discharge Standards

The YPA included a schedule of discharge standards based on the use of certain streams by fish, and on a water quality prediction model heavily influenced by principles related to the dilution and transport of sediment within the water.  Its standards were based on "end-of-pipe" measurements, taken as the water emerged from the placer mining operation.  The "end-of-pipe" standards are not as important for fish as instream sediment levels or water quality.

The System's discharge standards are based on both "end-of-pipe" measurements and instream water quality objectives.  The system should result in improved water quality in almost every watershed.

Habitat Importance

The YPA classified certain streams as unimportant for fish or as unproductive habitats.

The System recognizes the importance of all habitats.  It more effectively achieves the Fisheries and Oceans Canada goal of "no net loss" of fish habitat.  In fact, successful implementation of the Fish Habitat Management System will lead to a net gain of fish habitat in watersheds that have been placer mined for many years.

Certainty for the Industry

The YPA did not provide regulatory stability to the industry, despite Fisheries Act authorizations approving placer mining activities under certain conditions.

The System provides more certainty for the industry.  Successful use of Adaptive Management makes the System self-adjusting, and leads to predictable improvements that ensures the System meets its management objectives of a sustainable placer mining industry, and conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat supporting fisheries.