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 work.

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

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

But it's easy to see how an invasive species could actually get a foothold based on that kind of situation as well.

I want to ask you about Miramichi Lake in a bigger context. You're going into the third year of your three-year plan. I guess what I'd like to do is understand what your maintenance plan is after this year when that's over. Also, is there a maintenance plan where you would go back to see if your smallmouth bass had been reduced to a certain level?

In that context, I guess, it's the same thing with the sea lamprey in a way: where do you define success? I mean, you go down to 90% reduction, but is there a time when you define success in those measures and have a monitoring program after that?

5:05 p.m.

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

David Gillis

With regard to the smallmouth bass, thinking positively, we have a three-year program, and we'd like to think that we would be able to effectively take that species out of that lake. Do you need to monitor afterwards, obviously, to see whether you've been able to achieve that? Of course.

Depending on what you would see, then, you would have decisions to make at that time as to whether you wanted to do it again or whether other measures might be taken. I'm sure there's some sort of high-level thinking that has been done in that regard, but the focus right now is on implementing the third year of the three-year program. We're quite encouraged by what we've been able to achieve there up to now by using those largely physical means for removal.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Okay, and is it the same type of thing with the lamprey? You would monitor...?

5:05 p.m.

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

David Gillis

With the lamprey, I'm not sure if there is still an expectation that we're going to eradicate. Probably not, actually, so I think it's a case of ongoing maintenance in that regard, but maybe David or Michelle could elaborate.

5:05 p.m.

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

David Burden

I think the issue with any invasive species—and we've talked about all of the invasive species—is that once it's here, it's almost impossible to eradicate. That's sort of what we're up against.

I grew up in the coast guard, so I take the analogy of what we do from a boater education perspective. Whatever dollars we invest in educating people, it helps in the prevention. If we don't have to go down that eradication road, it's pennies for dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the comparative. If you can ensure that it doesn't get here and ensure that people are aware of the impacts of it getting here, then you're a long way there.

But once it gets here, as we've seen with the sea lamprey.... You know, 90% is incredible compared to where we were back in the 1960s and 1970s on this, but as we've seen, when we slow down or stop treating in a watercourse for one year, we see significantly increased spikes in the number of sea lamprey. So I don't think that once you have an establishment there's really a way of going back to where it was before.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Okay. Thank you.

I have a two-part question on the next one. You talked about how the round goby is a predator, but it has predators as well within the existing system. What are some of those predators? Also, do the Asian carp and the northern snakehead—that northern snakehead is a nasty piece of work—have predators that we know of, or is it too soon in the cycle for us to understand that?

The second part of the question is that we see a lot of them in the river systems, so do we know if they have the ability to survive in lake systems as well as river systems?

5:05 p.m.

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

David Gillis

There are several questions there.

With regard to the round goby, it is a complicated tale, let's just say. It's a fairly small fish, four to eight inches long, and it is food, obviously, for any of the piscivorous fish in the lakes that would encounter and feed on fish that small.

That would include northern snakehead, if we had them. They are known to be very predatory fish, so I expect that if we did have them, you would have several invasive species interacting at that level as well. I expect that northern snakehead would be food for other fish where they occur, especially when they're small, but they're a fair-sized freshwater fish. They can be up to 15 pounds, at least, so they may not have all that many predators, certainly when they're in their adult stage.

I think the point of all this is that we're bringing a species from another area and putting it into an ecosystem that has had hundreds of thousands of years of stability, where everything has come into a natural equilibrium. It's not easy to always predict exactly how a new species in that ecosystem will find its niche and the extent to which it would be predator and/or prey. I think that's one of the elements we try to focus on when we're doing a risk assessment, especially if we're trying to determine if it can successfully establish.

There is always the element of the unknown there, because you're introducing something that may not have a lot of natural predators, in some cases, which would contribute to their invasiveness or their ability to colonize a new ecosystem.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Allen.

Mr. Leef.

April 2nd, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Gillis, you mentioned a little bit about the program being highly collaborative in terms of management. I'm not sure if you were specifically talking just about the sea lamprey or if you were talking about aquatic invasive species in general. Perhaps you could expand a bit on the role, on how significant the role is in terms of human and financial resources, and on what level of intergovernmental cooperation there is.

From my experience, when zebra mussels kind of hit greater public consciousness in Ontario, it seemed like the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario was great on the education front there.

What role does Environment Canada, or MNR in Ontario, and DFO have with this program?

5:10 p.m.

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

David Gillis

As I mentioned several times, and you've just mentioned, the program is highly collaborative. We have a lot of leveraging of our activities within it across the country.

We were talking in the context of Asian carp, where there are a lot of organizations that we can and should be working with in regard to prevention. One that I'll mention, and maybe Dave can elaborate on, is the work we do with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. A relatively small amount of resource that goes from our program into awareness and outreach gets us access to a very well-organized and motivated community to help them understand what to look for and what to do if they were to see something. It's a very powerful tool.

You asked about intergovernmental cooperation. That is very much a hallmark, I would say, of this program. A specific committee has formed as an adjunct to the Canadian council of fisheries ministers, which is the federal-provincial-territorial ministers council, and they have all kinds of substructure underneath that.

There is a very active discussion going on there now with regard to the development of a legislative regulatory package for the very reason that all those jurisdictions can and will play a role in bringing a more effective regulatory approach to all the aspects—prevention, mitigation, and management.

So I think in general terms it's collaborative and highly leveraged across the whole national program, including the Asian carp component of it.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Who would take the lead in terms of an enforcement perspective? It seems to me that if something gets through the CBSA and then gets onto the 401, at that point it would get logistically difficult to start that inter-agency cooperation to figure out who is going to take the lead in Ontario.

Is there somebody tasked with that? How does that work in terms of intergovernmental enforcement application?

5:10 p.m.

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

David Burden

That's a good question. It is one that we have been working at with our American partners, as well as with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, in that we have done some tabletop exercises in looking at exactly what we would do if a truck was going down the 402 or whatever and dumped a load.

One of the scenarios we worked on was a scenario in which a truck rolled over and a load of Asian carp got into the Thames River, and where it could go from there. At that point, if it's a fisheries management issue, that's controlled by the province in the inland waters. But it doesn't mean that DFO doesn't have a role to play. It doesn't mean that CFIA doesn't have a role to play. It doesn't mean that all of the other agencies.... As Dave was answering your question, I started going, “Okay, who are my contacts?” I have 20 provincial and federal agencies—not counting the state agencies—that we're very much involved in. That's why, when we talk about the amount of money we're investing, it's leveraged across all of these other jurisdictions.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Do I have time...?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

You still have a couple of minutes left.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Lawrence, you always get cut off. I always seem to get extra time.