Evidence of meeting #32 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 species.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • David Gillis  Director General, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Burden  Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Michelle Wheatley  Regional Director, Science, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Have you eradicated...?

Go ahead.

4:55 p.m.

Regional Director, Science, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Michelle Wheatley

In addition to the sea lamprey, I would add the work we've done on ballast water, the research we've done. One of our research scientists actually worked with the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network in Windsor and with Transport Canada, and that has led to major changes in regulations both in Canada and the U.S., and now potentially globally. To our knowledge, there's been no introduction of an invasive species from ballast water since 2008.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

I'm aware that can be a big problem, but how do you...? Is there enough of a surveillance to know? You know, people will do things they should not do, and this causes major problems—

4:55 p.m.

Director General, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Gillis

In this case, Transport Canada is the manager. We provide advice, and my understanding is it has.... Part of its regulatory program is a monitoring and surveillance system that verifies that ships have done the ballast water exchange they are required to do, depending on where they're coming from.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. MacAulay.

Go ahead, Mr. Donnelly.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

You mentioned that prevention is probably one of the best ways we can deal with aquatic invasive species possibly entering Canadian waters. I'm wondering if you could expand on what some of the best ways are. We've heard some. Do you have other specifics in terms of prevention? Your presentation here talks about risk assessment, but I'm looking for some specific steps.

I'm thinking also specifically in relation to your comments about your work with Transport Canada. You mentioned you work cooperatively with the department, but does that mean it takes the lead and its mandate dominates, or does DFO have the ability to, for instance, say that you have to deal with ballast water, and that's an issue, and you need to go beyond...? Whose mandate trumps?

4:55 p.m.

Director General, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Gillis

I'll take on the first one, and then maybe we'll have a joint answer on the second question, if you don't mind.

We talked a bit about prevention. There are really three layers to this, or three elements. Risk assessment is the first one. Sorry, I should say that understanding is the first one—understanding the species that might be a threat and what causes it to be a threat, and then using that information to put in a structured risk evaluation process that allows us to look, as Michelle mentioned earlier, at the likelihood of that animal becoming an invasive species in Canada and the consequence if it did. The likelihood covers a range of things—the arrival, the survival, the establishment, and the spread.

Really, knowledge is our key tool here, and then once we have that knowledge of what the relative level of risk is, we can undertake our prevention activities. Our experience with this, again, is that we take a highly leveraged approach. Often, if you have a series of community groups or an industry association you can work with, that's a very powerful way to get out a message about the risk to the constituency that needs to have that information.

It's a very case-specific thing. It's hard to generalize. If the vector you're worried about is maybe moving boats from one area to another, as it might be for something that Mr. MacAulay referred to—tunicates—then working with fishermen's associations and recreational boating groups is money well spent, especially if you can be very specific with them on when, where, and how they could modify their behaviour to prevent the organism from spreading.

I think it really starts with the understanding of the animal that might be a threat, and then having a good clear assessment of the risks and what it would mean, and that information then fuelling prevention measures. It's a sequence of activities that can really go to prevention.

On the second question, David, do you want to....?

5 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Burden

Sure.

On the role between Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans, it's not about one trumping the other. There's a specific role that Transport has, and it is the regulatory agency, but we have the role, the mandate, to provide it with the appropriate scientific advice to support its regulatory role. It is very much about partnerships, and there is a very good working relationship.

Michelle's science team supports Transport Canada and all our dealings with either the International Maritime Organization or, in our discussions on ballast water—the example that was used—with the marine advisory boards and that kind of stuff that would be talking to industry about this.

5 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Okay.

In the short time remaining, I probably have time for one question on the impact of Asian carp. How does that impact other aquatic species? Are we talking about how it outcompetes for food or what...? Is that essentially the main—

5 p.m.

Director General, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Gillis

These are species that collectively feed at the bottom of the trophic chain. They're feeding on plant material and small biota in the water, so they're going to be very aggressive in the way they compete for those food items. They obviously will have, then, a corresponding impact on other native fish populations around them. They compete for food. They compete for space as well. They're quite a large species.

Between those two things, it's a very.... As David said, where they have become established, they have effectively taken over a lot of the biomass in those systems.

5 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Mr. Donnelly.

Mr. Allen.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, folks, for being here.

I was interested in your comment on the flood. A small community in my riding was flooded about 10 days ago due to an ice jam, and they found a fish in the gymnasium of the school. I hope you don't declare that habitat or anything like that—

5 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!