Provincial Court Judge Patricia Cumming fined the company $10,000 and ordered it to make a $50,000 contribution to Bird Studies Canada (BSC) for bird research and conservation. Becky Whitham of BSC has indicated that this amount will be put toward the Maritime Breeding Bird Atlas, a massive, volunteer-driven, five year project led by BSC, along with many partners to document and map the breeding birds of the three maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island).
The guilty plea and contrition of Irving is a very positive turn to this case after Irving’s failed challenge to the constitutionality of the very law under which they were charged in June of this year. Irving has pledged to improve its practices of environmental protection. The guilty plea and the unequivocal dismissal of the constitutional challenge to the MBCA both send very clear messages to industry that Environment Canada is serious about enforcing this Act, and that the Act can and will be used to protect migratory birds and their nests.
Nature New Brunswick, EcoJustice and Nature Canada all played a role as civil society organizations in supporting the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada in this case. Kudos go especially to Nature NB and their volunteers for carrying the torch for the Great Blue Heron and the Migratory Bird Convention Act, and for Environment Canada officials who left no doubt in Justice Cumming’s mind that this law is a legitimate and indispensible tool to protect bird populations in Canada.
The Migratory Bird Convention Act states that it is an offence to harm migratory birds, their eggs or nests. The Great Blue Heron is one of several hundred species protected under this law. Great Blue Herons are large, elegant, and distinctive birds that nest in colonies. There colonies are known as heronries. A heronry can vary in size from a few to over a hundred nests. The birds typically return to the same site year after year, adding a few sticks to the same nest.
Herons are predators, eating mainly fish, frogs, snakes, crayfish and other small aquatic animals. They are masters of patience, standing motionless for long periods of time in the water, their sharp and powerful beak angled down, neck cocked, ready to strike. Sometimes herons even make shade with their wings to lure fish to the “protective” cover.
Heronries are animated, at time raucous environments during the breeding season, particularly when one or more of the parents returns to the nest from a hunting area many kilometers away, to provide the one or two nestlings with a meal. Heronries can also be extremely stinky places, as the bird feces, bits of dead fish and other organic matter accumulates beneath the nests which are usually placed high in trees.
Here are pictures of a heronry -- though not in New Brunswick, these were taken in Stanley Park, Vancouver, by Jim Dubois.
Protecting herons and their nesting sites protects food chains, respects our laws, and ensures that this magnificent species has its place within the Canadian wild.
(Thanks Jim and Elena Kreuzbert for the heron pics!)