Evidence of meeting #35 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 lamprey.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5:05 p.m.

Director and Chair, Fisheries Committee, Georgian Bay Association

John Wilson

Nearshore has not changed that much. The nearshore fishery, which would be made up of largemouth and smallmouth bass, you'll find that at certain times of the year all the walleye will be in the nearshore. That has not changed a lot.

The biggest change in the Great Lakes has been the offshore, where the big fish are, where the big predators are, where the commercial fishing takes place. That's where the quagga mussels are.

The nearshore is a very small ring. If you take the edge of the Great Lakes and go 30 feet deep and you look at it, it's a very small ring. The vast body of the lakes is really offshore, but that's where you start to see the big change. Quagga mussels have now gone into the deeper water and have been doing the filtering process there.

The loss of the tiny shrimp, the diporeia, was big for the whitefish. Whitefish struggle. They're hanging in there, but they lost a lot of their weight. They lost a lot of their oils. A lot of the commercial fishermen were struggling. They weren't getting the same kind of quality product they were getting before, because the whitefish ate the diporeia as well.

Alewife also, their main food source was the diporeia.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

The alewife is another introduced species.

You mentioned the cisco. Have the cisco come back and replaced the alewife as a forage fish?

5:05 p.m.

Director and Chair, Fisheries Committee, Georgian Bay Association

John Wilson

They have, but not as much as the round goby. The round goby is prolific. It started on the nearshore, but you find now it's in deep water as well. If you looked at bass, whitefish, lake trout, walleye, if you were to open up the stomach of a lake trout, 65% of what you would find in the stomach would be round goby.

The cisco are there, and they're coming back, but the round goby has become this amazing fish. I don't know if you've seen them, but they're really ugly. They grow four inches long. You wouldn't want to eat them. This is what they're finding. They look in the stomach and they find the round goby.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

One last point: In terms of lake trout, are the lake trout you're catching now in good condition?

5:05 p.m.

Director and Chair, Fisheries Committee, Georgian Bay Association

John Wilson

They are coming back.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

The cisco is their main—

5:05 p.m.

Director and Chair, Fisheries Committee, Georgian Bay Association

John Wilson

Well, it's an interesting thing that happened. The slate of scientists, the same ones we're talking about funding, discovered this. The alewife produce an enzyme. That enzyme, when the lake trout would eat it, would break down thiamine. Thiamine is needed in the lake trout's eggs.

We lost the great fishery of lake trout with the sea lamprey. Everyone expected as they got the sea lamprey under control and reduced it by 90% that the lake trout would come back, but it didn't. It came back very slowly.

A lot of stocking of lake trout has been done every year for years now by the Ministry of Natural Resources in trying to help it get back. When the alewife crashed, suddenly it wasn't there any more. They're finding that the lake trout are reproducing naturally again, the wild lake trout. We're starting to see that fishery come back, only because it was being kept down because of this invasive species. No one knew why it was happening.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Cisco is the traditional prey for the lake trout.

5:10 p.m.

Director and Chair, Fisheries Committee, Georgian Bay Association

John Wilson

And the others. That's also helping the lake trout come back.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I think my time is up. Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Mr. MacAulay.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.

You mentioned a regime change, a generic change. The Fisheries Act was mentioned. We don't want to get into a political discussion, not at all, but it sounds like you could be the luck of the draw.

I think it's so important. You talked about the return of the lake trout and other things. I would expect that if you do not have scientists, it puts you behind. I'd like you to expand on that.

5:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Georgian Bay Association

Robert Duncanson

Absolutely. You can't replace some of the scientists who get laid off, temporarily moved, or whatever. They're carrying with them invaluable knowledge. I worry when I see quick shifts between federal and provincial priorities and what not, that you could end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You get rid of these scientists, and there goes your historical knowledge on some of this stuff.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

To get rid of the scientists would be totally unacceptable.

I'd like you to bring in the Ontario-Canada agreement, which you referred to in your discussions.

5:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Georgian Bay Association

Robert Duncanson

The Canada-Ontario agreement is what's going to allow Ontario to continue to be a partner with the federal government in whatever form, and I agree that the revised Fisheries Act may well target the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay as some of the continued recipients of attention. But as John said, you need the ground troops out there, the MNR and MOE folks who are out there in their boats pulling in some of this data to feed back into the system, and that can only happen if they get funding. There's no reason to believe that we won't continue to get funding through the Canada-Ontario agreement. I guess the discussion is about how much.