Evidence of meeting #9 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was species.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Cynthia Wright  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment
  • Pardeep Ahluwalia  Director General, Species at Risk Directorate, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Mike Wong  Executive Director, Ecological Integrity Branch, Parks Canada Agency

9:55 a.m.

Director General, Species at Risk Directorate, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Pardeep Ahluwalia

If I may, Mr. Chairman, one of the more recent species that's been the subject of court challenges is the resident population of killer whales off British Columbia. That's a different level of challenge in the sense of dealing with critical habitat. We're dealing with large marine mammals that occupy a very large space. The resident killer whales are predominantly resident in B.C. waters, hence the name, but they don't spend all their time in B.C. waters. So we're not always quite sure of what the habitat is, let alone the critical habitat.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

What do the courts say in response to these challenges? Do they agree with you that there are scientific challenges? Or do they say that it's not really a scientific challenge and that maybe you're not working closely enough with the province on this? Or maybe the province is being uncooperative. I mean, what kinds of conclusions are the courts coming up with?

9:55 a.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment

Cynthia Wright

If I can, Mr. Chair, many of these actually haven't gone all the way through the court process. For the piping plover, the mistake Environment Canada made was not being clear about what we were up to. We spoke to the NGOs that raised the challenge afterwards, and we made a mistake. We should have said that we were doing further work to identify critical habitat and that we would have that done within a set period of time. We are now trying to make that our practice so that we're more transparent.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Time has expired, unfortunately.

Mr. Calkins, the floor is yours.

March 10th, 2009 / 9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I certainly appreciate the conversations happening today.

First, just quickly, can you enlighten me as to how something gets on schedule 2 or 3? I understand that COSEWIC is responsible for taking it from schedule 2 or 3 and putting it on schedule 1. Can you just tell this committee how a species gets listed on schedules 2 and 3?

9:55 a.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment

Cynthia Wright

The good news is that effectively, schedules 2 and 3 are empty now. COSEWIC has existed for a long time, and they were operating under a certain kind of assessment procedure. They reformulated their procedures to harmonize with the International Union for Conservation. They had species that had been assessed under an old protocol, but they had to be reassessed under the new protocol. Those have all been dealt with and are into the listing process or are listed under schedule 1.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

In the deemed classification clause in the bill, how many of the species moved to schedule 1 from schedules 2 and 3 because of insufficient time? Have a lot been moved into that?

9:55 a.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment

Cynthia Wright

No, they were all done on time, with scientific evidence.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

How does this act work in conjunction with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species? Is the listing that we put out in schedule 1, the endangered species there, used by the CITES?

9:55 a.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment

Cynthia Wright

That can be used as Canada's input and presentation to the CITES, but the CITES has their classification, and that's what COSEWIC was trying to harmonize with.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

I'm going to move on and ask some questions specifically pertaining to the fisheries and aquaculture.

The issue of abalone was brought up. If we take a look at the way the law is structured, we cannot take an animal or species that's been classified under the Species at Risk Act and use it for aquaculture, for harvesting, or for commercial purposes. Is that true?

10 a.m.

Director General, Species at Risk Directorate, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Pardeep Ahluwalia

Unfortunately, it's not quite as clear as that.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

That's where I'm going with this. If we take a look at the act, Atlantic salmon in the Bay of Fundy are considered endangered, or extirpated, or whatever they're classified as, yet we seem to have no trouble at all farming Atlantic salmon.

The question I have here becomes one of speciation. We have things that are listed not because of a species being at risk, but because the species is gone from what we know to be a traditional area where that species once existed. That's a habitat issue more than it is species at risk, because a species might be abundant in another part of its normal geographic range.

Also, for example, if you take a look at the peregrine falcon, we have things listed by subspecies and not actually by species. At the species level we may have an abundance of peregrine falcons, but if you take a look at the tundra subspecies of the peregrine falcon, that one is listed.

When we take a look at the abalone, we can look at it from the perspective that there is definitely aquaculture commercial value to it. If we were to actually have a mechanism in place to allow the abalone to be raised in an aquaculture perspective, it might actually reduce the poaching and the illegal harvesting of this listed species.

Where could the act use some improvement when it comes to sorting out some of these issues?

10 a.m.

Director General, Species at Risk Directorate, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Pardeep Ahluwalia

If I may, you've raised some very interesting and challenging questions for us.

With the abalone, the act does allow for us to take individuals of a species if it's for scientific purposes and doesn't jeopardize recovery of the species. We do have the ability to take species from their natural environment if it's to help recover the species. That's what has happened with the abalone example on the west coast, in that there is a commercial operation that is raising abalone. It's a first nations organization. The rationale is that the first nation is concerned with recovery. If my memory serves correctly, half of the population they raise is intended to go back into the wild to help recover the species.

The challenge is on the aquaculture side of the operation, which is intended to help provide the funding, or at least a portion of the funding, for the recovery side of the operation. We do have a mechanism in place to allow that trade to happen under a fairly onerous set of permits and handling requirements, but it's certainly not an easy path to follow for recovery of a species. The same applies for the certain others that are starting to be looked at.

It is an area that we do find challenging. I don't think we have an easy solution to this one, but it is one that may warrant some consideration.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

You have five minutes, Mr. Bigras.