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 control.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Can you speak to what prompted them to actually set that target? Was there something wrong with the use of lampricides? Was it creating something that made people feel they needed to change what they were doing? Was there a particular reason for setting that target? Why would they have made that suggestion?

3:55 p.m.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Algoma University, As an Individual

Dr. Istvan Imre

From reading the literature as well as the reports that came out from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, my opinion is there could be several reasons. One of them, which I think everybody is aware of, is nobody likes pesticides being put into drinking water supplies. Now, admittedly this pesticide biodegrades, but nevertheless it has a negative connotation. There is at least some evidence that this pesticide, despite the claim that it acts only against sea lamprey, in fact causes chronic effects in the very early life stages of lake sturgeon, for example. We know lake sturgeon is at the present stage endangered, or very close to being so.

The last and probably most important reason is that the cost of lampricide is literally going up almost every year. My understanding is that at the present time the cost of the chemical is in the order of $1 million per lake. It varies, I think, from about $800,000 to over a million, depending on the lake.

That's the overall control, but most of the control in fact relies on pesticides. I think the Fishery Commission can see the writing on the wall, in the sense that costs keep going up and up and the public doesn't like the fact that pesticides are being used in water in industrial quantities. It would probably be a very sensible idea to try to decrease the amount of it and come up with other methods that at least could complement the use of the pesticide.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I read your article, and it mentioned, as did you, other alternatives, such as the pheromones, the intensification of existing alternative control technologies, such as low-head barrier dams, and the trapping and release of sterile male lamprey. To date, have you measured or is anybody measuring which method is proving to be the most effective?

3:55 p.m.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Algoma University, As an Individual

Dr. Istvan Imre

I cannot give you data because I'm not part of the actual control personnel, but I think there's no question, pesticide is by far the most effective.

I alluded to the use of traps that are being used at the present time mostly for population evaluation purposes in terms of what densities of lamprey we are dealing with, as opposed to being used for outright control because of the high variability in efficiency. Typically efficiency is quite low, especially in very large river systems like the St. Marys.

In terms of the barrier dam issue, it can be quite good, in that it really prevents animals from moving up into spawning habitat and it's a one-time cost in the sense that you have to build a barrier only one time. Of course you have to go and collect the animals. And it's effective.

There is a problem with that. During the latter part of my undergraduate studies in the late nineties I actually participated in a study that looked at the effect of those barrier dams on the migration patterns of other native fish species. Yes, we do stop sea lamprey, but we also stop a number of other fish species that actually have their spawning migration roughly around the same time. An example at hand would be the common white sucker, catostomus commersoni, which also has its spawning migration right at the same time as when sea lamprey do. So yes, we stop sea lamprey, but it has other effects. So again, it's kind of a double-edged sword.

In terms of the other methods, namely the sterile males, I'm not aware of any data in terms of how effective it is. If you were to ask somebody from Fisheries and Oceans Canada they probably could give you better data on that, but I know that due to cost issues that program was terminated lately, even though we do know that once those animals are sterilized they cannot spawn.

The pheromone program is not at the stage of actually being used for any kind of control, and the repellent is just starting up, so those would not figure at all into the overall equation.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Hayes.

Mr. Chisholm.

4 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to split my time with Mr. Donnelly. I just had a couple of questions, and Mr. Donnelly is going to pursue a little more the issue of the pesticides.

You talked about the St. Marys River and about how the efforts to clean that river up resulted in the lampreys coming into that territory. Maybe other people have heard the presentation, but I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about what was done with the St. Marys River, about what was the problem, and then explain a little bit about how that happened.

4 p.m.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Algoma University, As an Individual

Dr. Istvan Imre

It's a water quality issue that we have had for quite a long time--namely, all the effluents, mostly industrial effluents, that went into St. Marys. Many of them have accumulated in the sediments too. We used to have a paper mill; I think it's closed now.

Anyway, due to usual Ministry of the Environment regulations, as in trying to restrict any kind of toxic outflow from any kind of industrial entity, over time that has resulted in generally cleaning the water up. Don't get me wrong; it's a positive thing, and I very much applaud that. We should do more of it. But the issue is that sea lamprey actually need good quality water, clean water, cold water for spawning, just like salmon and trout do. An unwanted effect of the cleanup of the river itself, namely cutting down on toxic load and what not and improvement of water quality, has resulted in sea lamprey being able to move into it and spawn, and, more importantly, the larvae being able to survive in the sediments.

Just before coming here I read a report written by Lupi and Hoehn that was published in 1998 and reported that the Great Lakes Fishery Commission had looked at the number of sea lamprey coming out of St. Marys and seeding northern Lake Huron in 1998, which was 14 years ago. The average estimated number of sea lamprey per lake was about 50,000. However, in northern Lake Huron--and remember that all the lampreys are coming from St. Marys as a point of origin--their number was estimated at 400,000, more than all the Great Lakes combined.

I assume the next issue would be if we can do streams, why can we not do St. Marys? The reason it's so difficult to control is that St. Marys is a very large river. It is very deep and very fast. Putting a chemical into a very deep and very fast river is not particularly effective, even when using a huge amount, because the flow takes it away very quickly. We can control through chemical only in some backwaters kind of sporadically. It doesn't really make a dent.

That river has enjoyed a lot of research attention in terms of the dams in Sault Ste. Marie. The Brookfield dam and the Edison company on the other side have several traps built into the dams. Those traps are catching sea lamprey every year. There's a lot of research attention coming from the University of Guelph as well as from me and DFO locally to try to figure out how we can increase the efficiency of those traps as much as possible, given that chemical control wouldn't work.

Did I answer your question?

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Yes. It's interesting.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Mr. Donnelly.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I understand that TFM lampricide can be harmful to other species. You mentioned the lake sturgeon, and there's also the threatened northern brook lamprey and spotted salamanders. While pesticides no doubt play an important role in controlling invasive aquatic species, we know that they can harm many species at the same time and have effects that are difficult to predict. In light of this, how important is Fisheries and Oceans Canada's research and other scientific research like yours to the understanding of the impact of these pesticides?

Also, do you believe your work could be affected by the cuts to DFO?

4:05 p.m.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Algoma University, As an Individual

Dr. Istvan Imre

I think I'm probably overstating the obvious a little bit, in the sense that everybody knows what kinds of effects pesticides can have in general and on other aquatic species that cohabit the streams with sea lamprey juveniles.

I think what I said about lake sturgeon earlier is important. It's not a strong effect. It doesn't result in immediate large numbers of individuals dying, but over time it can influence their survivability. It's not strong evidence, but it's there. Of course other lamprey species—and there are several that are native to the Great Lakes ecosystem—would be affected. I think it's important to conduct further work on that as well as to try to conduct more work on other avenues that are more environmentally friendly, to perhaps hopefully in the near future.... That's what the Great Lakes Fishery Commission was thinking in 2001. It hasn't happened in the past 11 years, but some of these things take a long time.

In terms of how my work could be affected, my money typically comes not from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has given me a grant for one year to pursue this repellent idea. So if funding were cut—and we've already felt cuts from the U.S. side that came last year—that would basically prevent us from doing further work. We couldn't do it.

Something else I think cannot be stated enough—and this is what I'm fighting at my own school too. I have colleagues who do, for example, plant ecology. I'm not trying to trivialize it, but it takes a lot less money to go out and do research with plants than to do research in water, where you need boats, trucks, personnel, and shocking devices. Or say if you want to do lab experiments, you need special.... DFO, for example, in St. Mary's has actually built a very nice lab facility that they have allowed me to use.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Maybe I could ask just one more quick question, since I have a short amount of time.

Given those constraints, what do you think is the most important next step that Canada could take in dealing with the aquatic invasive species?

4:05 p.m.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Algoma University, As an Individual

Dr. Istvan Imre

Do you mean other than providing at least the same amount of funding that we had before?

I think that funding this research as well as managing, in terms of control, is really important.

Please excuse me, I'm not trying to tell you what to do—that's your own decision. But you could think of this money as an investment in the sense that if we invest the appropriate funds in control and further research, we can make sure that the existing commercial fisheries will exist in the future. It's literally at that level.

Remember that both commercial and recreational fisheries are estimated as being worth billions of dollars per year in terms of revenue. In that regard, I would take the view that I don't think they'll ever be able to get rid of the sea lamprey. It's more just a matter of trying to keep them at very low densities and allowing fish populations to survive alongside them.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Mr. Kamp.

April 30th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Dr. Imre, for being here.

It was a great presentation, and I think it helped us. We've heard a lot about sea lamprey, but I don't think we've understood as much as we have today about the biology and the life cycle and so on. So I appreciate your testimony.

Obviously the sea lamprey is native somewhere. Can you explain where that is in the world?