Evidence of meeting #33 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 funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Greg Farrant  Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
  • John Van Rooyen  Hatchery Manager, Board of Directors, Bluewater Anglers
  • Terry Quinney  Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
  • Kristen Courtney  Committee Researcher

April 23rd, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Fin Donnelly

I call this meeting of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to order.

Thank you for your patience as we waited for a few members to join us. We do have another member on her way from the airport. Ms. Davidson will be joining us shortly.

I'd like to welcome our guests to the committee. We have two presentations this afternoon. We will hear from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and also from the Bluewater Anglers. We will start with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Gentlemen, you have an allotted time for your opening remarks, and then there's a set amount of time for questions by members around the table.

I'd like to introduce Greg Farrant, manager of government affairs and policy, and Terry Quinney, provincial manager of fish and wildlife services.

Gentlemen, you have the floor. You have up to ten minutes for your opening remarks.

3:35 p.m.

Greg Farrant Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Thank you, and good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and staff. Thank you very much for the invitation to appear before you today. It's something we've had the pleasure of doing previously, particularly on the topic of aquatic invasive species.

As the chair noted, with me is Dr. Terry Quinney, from OFAH. In addition to being responsible for fish and wildlife programs at OFAH, Dr. Quinney is an official Canadian advisor to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. He was also the only Canadian to serve on the stakeholder advisory committee to the recent Chicago waterway study conducted by the Great Lakes cities initiative and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The OFAH itself represents over 100,000 members, supporters, and subscribers, as well as 675 member clubs across Ontario. As such, we are the largest non-profit conservation-based organization in the province and one of the largest in the country. We are deeply concerned about the threat that aquatic invasive species pose to Canada' s ecosystems, fish and wildlife populations, as well as to the socio-economic benefits that are derived from both recreational and commercial fishing on the Great Lakes.

While a great deal of progress has been made since we last appeared before this committee, I regret to say that some of the same issues we addressed back in 2003 and 2005 are still prevalent today. These include but are not limited to the need to address funding pressures, which a previous committee attempted to change but which remains.

Since 1994 the OFAH has been home to the invading species awareness program, the largest program of its type in the country and the only comprehensive program run by an NGO. Since 2003 that program has operated in full partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. We're a member of the Great Lakes panel on aquatic invasive species under the aegis of the aquatic invasive species task force, and we work with major groups such as the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the International Joint Commission, the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association, and the Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association. On the ground we also work with important fish hatcheries such as Bluewater, conservation authorities, lake and cottage associations, and bait and marina operators, who have an interest in preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species and invasive plants.

Putting modesty aside, the invading species awareness program--ISAP--has been a major success story for OFAH. Over the last decade we have participated in virtually every major exercise in the Great Lakes basin related to the monitoring, assessment, and control of aquatic invasive species, including zebra mussels, round goby, and more recently Asian carp.

As you heard during testimony by officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on April 2, the establishment and spread of aquatic invasive species represents a threat to ecosystems and to fish habitat and causes irreparable economic and environmental harm. Of the roughly 180 aquatic invasive species mentioned by Mr. Gillis in his remarks, approximately 160 have found a home in the Great Lakes. You will also recall that Mr. Gillis noted that the recreational, sport, and commercial fishery in the Great Lakes is cumulatively worth over $7 billion annually. So it's not hard to see how the presence of aquatic invasive species that disrupt fish populations can make a significant ecological and economic impact.

The same species have a devastating impact on the 250,000 inland lakes across Ontario that support a thriving recreational sport fishery. Vital lake ecosystems are more vulnerable to impacts because of their smaller size and lower species diversity, which enable invasions to occur more rapidly and pervasively.

Public awareness and education are key to helping prevent the introduction of new species and controling current ones. This is why we developed a national public education and outreach program, which has twice been the source of discussions at this committee. In both 2003 and 2005 the committee recommended funding for our ISAP proposal to run a national public education and awareness program together with our provincial and territorial affiliates. Unfortunately, this has not occurred.

In Canada, public outreach programs continue to be spearheaded largely by organizations like the OFAH, whose public education and awareness programs focus on pathways of introduction, monitoring, and researching impacts and control measures. Our invading species hotline receives thousands of calls each year and was indeed the vector for the first report of round goby being found in Lake Ontario.

During recent testimony by DFO officials, several members of this committee asked about the funding attached to the fight against aquatic invasive species, particularly sea lamprey. You were told that of the $10 million spent on invasive species, $8 million is directed towards the control of sea lamprey, with the remaining $2 million split several ways to pay for programs across the country.

With all due respect, apportioning a relatively small amount of money to address a very large problem is by no means a function of this government alone. It is in fact an example of the chronic underfunding that stretches back to the early 1990s.

The shared blame for the underfunding of the invasive species strategy not only undermines the implementation and credibility of the national strategy, but leaves precious few resources to address a myriad of problems across the country and in the Great Lakes in particular. This is in direct contrast to the U.S.—recognizing the larger population base and budgets—which spends over half a billion dollars annually to address the threat posed by invasive species. In fact, the President announced $50 million for 2012 just to address the threat posed by Asian carp on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes, so you get a sense of the problem we're facing here.

Just last week, the OFAH received a letter from Environment Canada informing us that, due to budget cuts, years two and three of a three-year, $50,000-per-year funding agreement between that department and the invasive alien species partnership program was terminated, effective immediately. As I noted earlier, however, the limited amount of funding available to address the threat posed by aquatic invasives and the failure of successive governments to improve upon that funding envelope is not a new phenomenon. It's something we've struggled with for years.

Since 2003 the OFAH has had an memorandum of understanding with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which provides us with roughly $300,000 per year. We match that dollar for dollar. The recent loss of federal funding will make it harder to leverage matching contributions and will put more strain on our budget to make up the shortfall.

We've had extensive experience both with sea lamprey and with Asian carp. I'll use my remaining time to outline where we are on both of those species.

The arrival of sea lamprey in the Great Lakes was an unmitigated disaster for the recreational and commercial fishery. The annual commercial harvest fell from millions of kilograms to nearly nothing almost overnight. It is not an exaggeration to say that sea lamprey has changed a way of life in the Great Lakes basin: commercial fisheries suffered or shut down entirely, and the entire ecosystem was thrown into chaos.

The news today, I'm glad to say, is much better. In 1954 Canada and the U.S. collaborated on a plan to address the threat posed by this species. They formed the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, a binational body, and charged the commission with developing and carrying out a sea lamprey control program. As a result of their work and the work done by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Province of Ontario, the fishery has been rehabilitated.

However, the rosy picture painted by DFO officials during their appearance is not entirely a reflection of reality. They would have you believe that the program has achieved a success rate of 90%, is one of the most successful programs of its kind, and is being achieved on a budget of only $8 million annually as Canada's portion of the funding envelope.

While it's certainly technically true that the program is successful, efforts to control sea lamprey have been chronically underfunded while resources are diverted away and applied to coastal fisheries. In actual fact, the success of the program must be looked at on a lake-by-lake basis. As an in-depth assessment provided by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission shows, on all five of the Great Lakes the spawner abundance is above the target levels, with Lake Erie being the worst of the five.

Asian carp, as you know, were imported into the southern U.S. in the 1970s to keep aquaculture facilities clean and to manage fish waste. They were also imported as a food fish for aquaculture. Since that time and the floods of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in the Mississippi basin, they have spread throughout the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, reproducing in large numbers to become the predominant species in those ecosystems.

Strong dietary overlap between Asian carp and native fish means they out-compete native fish for food, because they eat up to 40% of their body weight each day. You heard from DFO officials the allusion to the silver carp, which has the nasty predilection, when disturbed, of leaping out of the water into boats and injuring people and property.

DFO has taken the lead in developing a state-of-the-art science assessment of the Asian carp risk to the Great Lakes, which should be released in the next short while. This assessment was conducted in cooperation with U.S. scientists and represents the first and only risk assessment focused entirely on the Great Lakes. It's expected to confirm and build upon the science on Asian carp, reaffirm the risk they pose to the Great Lakes, and demonstrate that the lakes will provide an ample food supply and that suitable spawning habitat exists.

In response to this threat, the U.S. has established the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, led by John Goss—who, as an aside, is known as the “carp czar”—of the President's Council on Environmental Quality. The committee coordinates the actions of a myriad of federal, state, and local agencies involved in Asian carp prevention and threat management.

You are also aware of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' electrical barrier on the Chicago canal, which prevents the movement of species between the two basins.

The U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission are working cooperatively on risk assessment, monitoring, and control measures.

Canada needs to take an active role in preventing the movement of carp into the Great Lakes. Recommendations 3 and 4 attached to our comments speak to further specific actions that we believe DFO should take, including imposing a national ban on the importation of live Asian carp similar to what currently exists in Ontario and several U.S. border states, and supporting the complete separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi watershed.

I'll conclude my remarks there. I look forward to taking your questions.

Thank you again, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for having us here today.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Fin Donnelly

Great. Thank you very much, Mr. Farrant.

I'd now like to introduce Jake Van Rooyen. Mr. Van Rooyen is the hatchery manager and manager of the board of directors of Bluewater Anglers.

We'll hear your presentation. You'll have up to ten minutes, and then we'll take questions from everybody.

3:45 p.m.

John Van Rooyen Hatchery Manager, Board of Directors, Bluewater Anglers

Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee, for the opportunity to present the concerns of the local fishing community.

My name really is John, but everybody calls me Jake. At present I'm the hatchery manager for the Bluewater Anglers fish culture station, which is located in Point Edward. It's part of Sarnia in Lambton County. I've been on the board of directors for the last 12 years and have been president for some time.

I also serve on the MNR's Lake Huron FMZ 13 advisory committee, so most of my comments apply to Lake Huron. That's the lake I know best. That's home.

I'm a non-professional and a dedicated fisherman.

I'll tell you a little bit about our club history and operation.

Back in 1980 a group of local sport fishermen decided they wanted to put something back into their sport. We have a current membership of 400. The initial emphasis by the club was to raise rainbow trout to enhance the local sport-fishing effort. In 1984 the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources sanctioned the stocking of chinook salmon. The club lobbied and was granted a licence to raise and stock chinooks. The club then proceeded to fund and build a full-scale, 5,000-square-foot hatchery. This was accomplished in two years. The first fish were stocked in 1986. Since inception, this hatchery has raised and stocked over five million fish, all to Lake Huron.

Along with fish stocking, the club is active in a variety of community activities to encourage youth involvement, public education, and community tourism. Our greatest support is from our host community, the village of Point Edward.

The majority of our finding is raised by the membership. We receive $3,000 a year: $1,000 for each species we raise. This comes from hunting and fishing licences. It's exactly the same amount of money we received in 1982. My travel expenses today will be almost equal to any funding we receive from governments. All additional funding to operate and maintain the hatchery is raised by the membership.

As fishermen, today we feel threatened, not so much in a physical sense, but in regard to the effects the invasives have had and are having on the local fisheries, and the potential total disruption of the enjoyment of the lake as we know it if the Asian carp ever arrives. Chicago is a lot closer to Sarnia than it is to Ottawa.

Over time, we have seen the devastating changes to our fishery—some good, some bad. One of the first noticeable impacts was the lamprey wounding to all of the game fish in the area. We see the wounding numbers at our annual salmon derby, where data is collected every year. It's cyclical, but it's always there—and I don't like lampreys in my boat.

The alewife is an invasive that made its way into the Great Lakes with the opening of the Welland Canal. In the 1960s it was a major problem on the lakes, with large masses of rotting carcasses on the beaches. Fortunately, the control—another exotic species, the chinook salmon—became an industry of its own, providing commercial enterprise and an exciting new sport-fishing industry.

By the mid-eighties the zebra mussel arrived in our area. Initially it was thought to be not so much a problem for the fisheries but more for the physical structures of the area—water lines and docks. This was not the case. It soon became evident that the mussel was depriving the bottom end of the food chain, filtering the planktons out of the water. In the early 2000s the salmon fishery started to weaken; the forage base was shrinking. By 2003 we were seeing a fish we called “swimming heads”—a 10-pound salmon in a 25-pound body. They were not getting enough forage to sustain their numbers.

Today the alewife has totally disappeared from the lower end of the lake because it was competing for the same food source as the zebra muscle and the round goby, another exotic. It was very weak going into the extremely cold winter of 2002-2003 and this year-class hatch was totally wiped out because of its weakness. It has not recovered in the lower end of the lake, and I fear we have not seen the full effect of the zebra mussel. The water in Lake Huron is too clear. When light can penetrate to depths of 50 feet, we're going to start growing things that we really don't want to ever see.

The financial effect of this is easier to see on the U.S. side of the lake, where every port had numerous charter boat operators. They had to employ security people just to control the salmon fishermen on the weekends at the boat launches. It was that attractive a sport. Along with the charter operators, the restaurants and tackle shops are gone. One report I read estimated a $1 million loss to these small villages. The charter boats have either moved to Lake Michigan or Lake Ontario or totally shut down. At one time there were four operating out of the marinas in Sarnia. There is now one part-time between Sarnia and Grand Bend.

We've seen improvements in the salmon fishery, but we don't see the size of fish or the numbers of fish. Small food means small fish. The fish in most cases are into a three-year cycle now instead of a natural four-year spawning cycle, which gives us problems in the hatchery. We see small eggs, underdevelopment, and higher losses.

If the Asian carp gets established in our ecosystem, it will be a major competitor for the total fishery. Once again, it will be a competitor for the lower end of the food web. For the existing fish community, it's like trying to climb a ladder up the side of a building with the bottom two or three steps missing: there's nothing for the fish to get started on.

From the U.S. studies, we see that any motorized activity on the lake could create a severe hazard if the silver carp ever start to jump. If, as has happened on the lower Mississippi, 90% of the habitat is taken over by the carp, there will be no sport fishery as we know it today, and I would guess our commercial fisheries would become unproductive or totally obsolete.

Can we afford to take a several-billion-dollar hit to our Great Lakes fisheries?

We also now have the quagga mussel competing for the same territory as the zebra mussel. It goes deeper and is slightly larger. It is similar to the zebra mussel, and all of these affect the food chain.

The following are recommendations from the local fish community:

Sea lamprey control needs to be increased; $8 million is a small number for all the Great Lakes. DFO funding for this has not changed since 2004. Fish-wounding rates are up, which we as fishermen can see. Control measures need to be intensified.

Close the Chicago shipping and sanitation channel. Stop the fish before they get here.

Increase enforcement on fish transport. Only allow the transport of gutted fish. If they're dead, they won't swim.

With respect to transshipping, stop the ocean freighters at the east and west coast ports. Stop bringing things into our Great Lakes. The lost dollars add up to a very large number compared to the small economic benefit of having ocean boats on the lakes. Somewhere there is a report that ocean boats generate something like $50 million a year to our economy. Zebra mussel control is something in the order of $700 million a year. Those are phenomenal numbers.

In terms of education, don't dispose of any live fish into waters the fish are not native to, not even into the toilet. The Ministry of Natural Resources had an experiment years ago in Thunder Bay that introduced pink salmon into the lake. The sewage treatment plant did not kill those fish, where they thought it would.

Thank you for this opportunity.

4 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Fin Donnelly

Thank you, Mr. Van Rooyen.

I'd like to open it up to the committee for questions, starting with Mr. Hayes.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The issue of invasive species in the Great Lakes is very, very important to me and to my riding of Sault Ste. Marie. The biggest concern is that there seems to be so much information out there, and I just am not sure there's a process in place that agencies aren't working independently as opposed to collectively. I'm trying to get a sense of how many agencies are doing things specific to the study of invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Can we put a dollar value on the resources that are going into invasive species in the Great Lakes and whether they're being distributed appropriately? Do we have any way of ensuring that there are consistent research outcomes being shared? I'm all about sharing of information, and the efficiency of that happening, but I'm looking for some assurance that this is in fact happening. And who is ultimately in charge of that process?

4 p.m.

Dr. Terry Quinney Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Thank you very much.

I'll answer your questions, and I'll answer them not only on the basis of my knowledge gained from working for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters for some 24 years now, but also, as Mr. Farrant alluded to at the beginning of his presentation, from being an independent Canadian adviser to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. I do not get paid to do that. I'm fortunate that our organization permits me the time to provide professional advice to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

I want to highlight some of the activities of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to answer your questions, Mr. Hayes, because in my professional experience, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which is an international body established by treaty between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States, is one of the best examples there is of a working professional agency in North America. When it is properly resourced, it gets the right job done.

It has a very clear mandate—to kill lamprey in order to prevent the harm that lamprey cause, and continue to supply benefits, therefore, to Canadians, Americans, society, and governments. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission provides additional important roles, not only direct sea lamprey control but also funding and facilitating applied research to find better ways to control sea lamprey and better ways to manage the fishery resources of the Great Lakes cooperatively.

Off the top of my head, I can say that there are approximately nine jurisdictions who cooperatively work with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission: the Government of Canada through DFO; the Government of the United States of America through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Geological Survey of the U.S.; six U.S. states; and the Province of Ontario. All of them operate under a joint strategic plan to control sea lamprey and manage the fisheries of all of the Great Lakes. That joint plan has scientifically based targets to achieve with reference to the control of sea lamprey.

You heard Mr. Farrant refer to the fact that unfortunately, because of lack of resourcing, none of those established targets are being met today. Unfortunately there are too many lamprey out there. Instead of the $7 billion in economic benefits that recreational fisheries provide to both side of the Great Lakes—the United States and Canada—those economic benefits are decreasing. We can increase them. Collectively we can increase them. The track record is clear.

Hopefully over time, as your study progresses, you will invite the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in front of you, and they can speak to you and give additional details. Let me just finish by saying that they are very efficient and they are very cooperative.

Mr. Hayes, you're concerned about things like redundancy and duplication. Agencies like the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, because of extended periods of constraint, have learned to become very effective, very cost-effective, but very cooperative in their approaches.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Have you ever heard of the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center?

4:05 p.m.

Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

They made the statement that the adult sea lamprey in the St. Marys River is still at the same level it was at 40 years ago. Now, to me this would indicate that current measures of control are ineffective.

I'm challenging that statement in terms of whether it's the controls that are ineffective or whether there is a lack of human resources actually applying the controls. Or is it, as the statement was made in the opening statements about the sea lamprey, that the sea lamprey has been “chronically underfunded while resources are diverted away and applied to coastal fisheries” instead? That's a pretty bold statement. I'm hoping that these resources that are being diverted away are not part of the $8 million that go into sea lamprey control.

Can you please elaborate on that a little bit?

4:05 p.m.

Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Dr. Terry Quinney

Sure. To start with the last of your comments and questions, no, the $8 million is not being diverted.

But Mr. Farrant is correct when he says that we're here today in front of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and our concern—and it has been over an extended period of time—is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is in fact the department of ocean fisheries, not the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We are concerned with a withdrawal of resourcing, particularly with reference to fresh water and the great inland freshwater seas called the Great Lakes.

Make no mistake: we have the greatest of respect for our colleagues in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, from the top to the bottom, and from the bottom to the top. They're consummate professionals and they absolutely do the best job they can with the limited resources they have.

But let's just take the Great Lakes Basin as an example. Let's just take the Ontario side. You heard DFO officials say that 13 million Canadians live on our side of the Great Lakes basin. You've already heard what the benefits can be—$7 billion for recreational fishing alone. We would say, my gosh, it could be $10 billion; it could be $15 billion.

We are not asking for huge increases to make sure those sea lampreys are controlled. You've already heard that unfortunately that $8 million provided in 2004.... That represented an increase from $6 million at the time. This commission has been operating for almost 50 years. But the point is that with this $8 million as, at best, a flatline budget since 2005—they don't get a cost of living or inflation allowance—their budget has been decreasing for the last seven or eight years.

The proof is in the pudding. Fish—important fish, fish that are important to people and the economy—are being killed by those lamprey as a result, sir.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Fin Donnelly

Thank you.

Mr. Toone.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Merci.

Thank you for your presentation. It's very enlightening.

I'm interested. DFO has an important role to play, and perhaps it hasn't been playing as important a role as it should. You mentioned that it's also about competency and that jurisdiction over this matter is shared over several jurisdictions and amongst very many departments. This makes the situation all the more complicated, because there are so many different government players and also an international border.

When it comes to the Government of Ontario, I'd like to better understand that particular relationship. How much of a part to play in this does the Government of Ontario have versus DFO? How much responsibility is the Government of Ontario supposed to be taking up? I'm thinking, for instance, that agriculture probably has a part to play in this. Also, with the ministry already involved on several levels, especially as a stakeholder within the Great Lakes fisheries committee, who is represented on the Great Lakes fisheries committee specifically within Canada?

Could we talk about what role the Government of Ontario has to play in all of this? Also, who are the actual Canadian stakeholders on the Great Lakes fisheries committee? You can start with that.

4:10 p.m.

Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Dr. Terry Quinney

I'd characterize the Great Lakes Fishery Commission as a professional collection of agencies, which includes the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and agencies from the United States--for example, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

When I say the Ministry of Natural Resources has a role, there are many committees that have evolved over time within the commission and have different functions. I've made reference to the direct sea lamprey control management function of the commission, but I've also referred to the important role they play in sponsoring and facilitating applied research, not only to improve sea lamprey control methods, but to enhance the fisheries across all the Great Lakes as well. That's just an illustration.

Again, I'm happy to speak at length with reference to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission because my experience has been that they accomplish what they've been assigned to do when they get the resources to do so. But there are others you could invite who are just as qualified to speak on the topic of the commission.

The commission plays a key role with reference to sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes, but when it comes to the wider question of other aquatic invasive species, there are all kinds of agencies involved on both sides of the border. We're all in this together. It is not only private non-profit conservation organizations, such as OFAH, but all levels of government, federal, provincial, and even local are involved as well.

You heard earlier in testimony from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about the study the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and the Great Lakes Commission undertook to examine the feasibility of physically separating the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes basin to prevent Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes at Chicago. That's an example of municipal action. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a coalition of mayors around the Great Lakes.

The point is that there are many agencies and bodies working collectively towards the same goals, and they're to be commended for doing so.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

DFO has a fairly important role to play in all this, clearly. With the fact that there's an international border involved, we especially need the federal government to be involved, and I think more so than it is now. As you correctly point out, funding has either stagnated or even dropped in some cases.

DFO has recently announced a serious cut in its funding overall, with a cut of $79 million in its yearly budget. You're correct in saying that the funding for control of sea lamprey needs to increase. When it comes to Asian carp, our commitment has to be a lot more solid than it is now. What kind of opening has DFO given you up to now? What have your discussions with DFO amounted to? Certainly my concern is that with such serious cuts, DFO's commitment is going to be compromised. In fact, their commitment might even be reduced. I'm wondering where you are with your discussions with DFO right now.