Evidence of meeting #29 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Claire Dansereau  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Roch Huppé  Chief Financial Officer, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Jody Thomas  Deputy Commissioner, Operations, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Kevin Stringer  Assistant Deputy Minister, Program Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Siddika Mithani  Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Balfour  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:15 p.m.

David Balfour Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

The quota for this project would be within the 5,000 tonnes that are assigned for the project, which is within the allocation that's provided to the Barry Group. There are no additional herring being provided to the seiner group, other than what is already provided for in the management plan. It will be a well-monitored project, with observers on board and dockside monitors to ensure that the quotas are respected.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

I understand quite well, Mr. Balfour. But am I correct in saying that they were not able to catch the quota last year, but because of the change in the gear they will be able to catch the quota this year? Keep in mind that off Fisherman's Bank and Pictou Island, and areas that I represent, the herring catch is way down. Possibly you'll be able to announce today that the quota will go up in these areas, but I would wonder what is the rationale for why this would take place when it seems to me that the catch is going down instead of up. What would be the reasoning? It could be a pilot project, but a pilot project for what?

It's my understanding that they could not catch the herring with the net size they had last year. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have now allocated to this group a deeper, larger net that will catch the herring. This means that you're going to take herring that could not be caught previously out of the mix. What will happen if one entire school or family of fish is removed? Where do we go then? Do you have any plan for that?

It's a very serious issue. I was involved in this herring issue. And it's not Liberal-Conservative, it's government, period. It's just that it's wrong, in my view.

4:20 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Balfour

First, science advice tells us that the herring that congregate south of the Magdalen Islands, at the edge of the St. Lawrence Channel, in area 4T, are a mix of fall-spawning herring, and that—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Fall and spring, you're talking about.

4:20 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Balfour

It's primarily a mix of fall-spawning herring. This will be the third year of the project. In 2010 this project was able to take primarily fall herring, with a very modest catch of spring-spawning herring, and the seiners used their allocations of spring herring to be able to account for those catches. Last year they did not, as you pointed out, get very successful fishing results, and the reason for that—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

That's easy for you--

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Mr. MacAulay, your time's expired here. I've been more than generous.

4:20 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Balfour

—is that the herring are congregating at lower depths of water. But the current integrated fisheries management plan in fact provides the authority to allow the use of a mid-water trawl in the herring fishery, so this year it's been decided to allow this project to proceed, all within the quotas assigned to the company, using a mid-water trawl, with the monitoring regime that we have in place in terms of observers and dockside monitors, in order that this company can see if they can harvest the herring they have the quotas to harvest in that area and within the sustainability imperatives that are important to us.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Mr. Balfour.

Mr. Minister, I want to say welcome to the committee. It's always a pleasure to have you here.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

I was almost hijacked by Mr. MacAulay when I walked in the door.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

I wouldn't do that.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

That's quite common in the committee here, Mr. Minister.

Mr. Minister, I believe you have some opening comments. I'll give you the floor to make your comments, and then we'll proceed to questions.

March 14th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me to discuss Fisheries and Oceans Canada's main estimates.

I want to thank my deputy, Claire Dansereau, and members of our department's management team for starting the discussion with the committee. I understand that our chief financial officer has presented the highlights of our main estimates to you already.

The estimates represent a snapshot in time of the government's spending plans. Our fiscal outlook for the year ahead will be reflected more fully in the budget that will presented in two weeks by my colleague, the Minister of Finance.

I'd like to take this opportunity first to thank this committee for its excellent work. I appreciated your insight into the snow crab industry in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and I'm looking forward to your report on closed containment salmon aquaculture.

I'm also very appreciative to have this chance to talk with you and share my thoughts on Canadian fisheries, aquaculture, and other marine sectors, and to inform you about how we are advancing the three main strategic objectives of Fisheries and Oceans Canada: economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries, sustainable aquatic ecosystems, and safe and secure waters.

Under the objective of economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries, we continuously undertake activities to ensure that Canada's fisheries and related economic benefits are operating at their fullest potential.

Under sustainable aquatic ecosystems we focus on the conservation, protection, and sustainability of Canada's aquatic ecosystems by managing the risks that affect species, oceans, and fish.

Under safe and secure waters we lead, deliver, and maintain the preparedness for the maritime component of the federal search-and-rescue system with our partners.

As I am sure you're aware, there is a lot going on in our marine environments in addition to fishing. The total value of Canada’s oceans and marine activities, including fisheries, offshore oil and gas, marine transportation, aquaculture, ecotourism, and cruises, is currently worth more than $28 billion, and there remains considerable unrealized economic potential.

Fish and seafood are one of the largest single food commodities exported by Canada. The sector currently employs approximately 80,000 Canadians who are involved in commercial fishing, aquaculture, and processing activities.

After five years of decline between 2004 and 2009, last year represented a small increase in Canada’s export numbers. While this is a positive indicator, I believe we still have work to do to make sure that Canada remains a world leader in this industry. There are also significant growth opportunities in the fisheries, with world demand expected to continue to grow over the next decade.

The World Bank estimates that $50 billion is lost annually from this industry around the world due to poor management. According to a forecast by the OECD, global per capita consumption of seafood is projected to increase by about 5% in the next eight years. This represents a tremendous opportunity for more jobs and more economic growth in our coastal and rural regions. There is a growing global demand for the product, and we could be better positioned to capture that market share.

Canada’s fishery sector is going through fundamental changes driven by significant and unprecedented shifts in global economics, market demand for sustainable seafood, and environmental realities. According to Christian Brun of the Maritime Fisherman’s Union,

The main problem our Atlantic fisheries face is price for its products. ...the dockside price for lobster has dropped sharply since 2008 because of both the strengthening of our Canadian dollar and the on-going recession in the United States, our main lobster market. These are the main reasons why the Canadian lobster fishery is less competitive and prosperous today than it was a few years ago.

Mr. Brun goes on to say that we need to look at ways to increase the value of our fisheries and work together to make things better.

I agree with Mr. Brun. We have important challenges ahead of us to ensure that Canada’s fishery and aquaculture sectors take advantage of growing market opportunities and maximize the economic value of this resource in a dynamic and changing global marketplace.

The recent engagement exercise undertaken by DFO was intended to do two things: talk about change that is ongoing in the department and industry, and review future opportunities for the industry. There is no doubt that this sparked a lively debate, and one that is, quite frankly, welcome.

This is a preliminary discussion to examine the multiple rules that drive our current system and to see how fisheries management can be advanced to meet the needs of today.

The department is currently working on some changes to our management practices, which were outlined last year. We are developing evergreen multi-year fisheries management plans for key fish stocks where levels are sustainable. We are also introducing a multi-year planning cycle for science advice to support management plans and total allowable catch limits for fisheries.

Moving to this multi-year approach provides conditions that allow individual fishermen to better plan for the long term, to make better business decisions, and to maximize the potential of the harvest. Doing so should eliminate some uncertainty for fishermen that results from using an annual approach.

Through ongoing and constant consultations and dialogue, the department is constantly reviewing and renewing its policies to better meet the needs of fishermen today. We are also constantly reviewing and renewing how we protect fish and fish habitat across the country. We're blessed with an abundant array of natural resources, which we should be proud of, and we should take seriously our responsibility to conserve and protect them.

Some of the federal fisheries policies that currently exist to protect fish and their habitat are not focused on the real needs of Canadians or the environment. I am sure that you, as members of Parliament who represent Canadians, are well aware of instances in which Fisheries and Oceans Canada policies go beyond protecting habitat and frankly become irritants to farmers, landowners, municipalities, and others.

No decision has been taken at this time, but we are looking at ways to change fisheries policies so they focus on the priorities of Canadians rather than prevent Canadian farmers from cleaning out ditches, stop people from draining flooded fields and campsites, or disallow cottage owners from keeping up their properties.

Finally, Fisheries and Oceans Canada includes the Canadian Coast Guard, a proud national institution that plays a key role in the maritime economy through ensuring the safe navigation of marine transportation and providing maritime services such as search and rescue, environmental response, and ice-breaking.

The coast guard continues to deliver on its motto: Safety First, Service Always. The Canadian Coast Guard provides the on-water platforms for other government departments and agencies for research or law enforcement or public safety.

We are very pleased to be celebrating the coast guard’s 50th anniversary this year. We will be celebrating the tireless contribution of the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard throughout this year, and I invite all members of the committee to visit our website for information on upcoming events. We are honoured that the coast guard is now featured on a Canadian stamp, and that the CCGS Amundsen will be on the new 50-dollar bill.

We are also very proud that the largest and most capable icebreaker ever built in Canada, the John G. Diefenbaker, in addition to many other smaller vessels across the country, is now under development. In November I had the opportunity to unveil the first of the new Hero class vessels being built at the Irving shipyard in Halifax. These vessels are named after Canadian heroes killed in the line of duty.

The mandate of my department is important to all Canadians. Canada is blessed with the longest coastline in the world, as well as with abundant natural resources and beauty, things of which we can all be very proud.

We take seriously our responsibility to conserve and protect our resources and to ensure that they contribute to the economic prosperity of our country today and for our grandchildren.

Thank you very much.

That's my opening statement. I'd be happy to address any questions.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

We'll begin with Mr. Kamp.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have just one question. Then, with your permission, I'll turn it over to my colleague Mr. Leef, who will have some additional questions.

Thank you, Minister, for being here. It's always good to hear about where you think things are headed for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

My question is about the ISA virus. Over the last several months we've heard about it a number of times. It gets raised in this committee from time to time as well, with regard to both the west coast and, more recently, the east coast.

I'm from B.C., so I wanted to ask you what is happening with regard to this virus in B.C. The most recent report I've seen is actually from yesterday. One of the anti-aquaculture activists indicated in her blog that she had identified another five fish with the ISA virus. She did point out that she bought most of them in an Asian supermarket, so I'm not sure what we think of the chain of evidence there and so on.

Can you or your officials tell us just generally what we should be thinking and what comfort we can take in terms of the presence or not of the ISA virus in British Columbia?