Evidence of meeting #39 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

  • Hugh MacIsaac  Professor, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, and Director, Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Do I still have time?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

No, you're done. Thank you very much.

Mr. MacAulay.

May 16th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Professor MacIsaac, I don't know if we've ever had a more qualified person here than you, and I'm pleased to ask you a few questions.

Number one, I am impressed with your network of combined academic, government, industry, and NGOs. That's wonderful.

We've heard a lot of different statements made here, but I believe—and I'd ask you—there are a lot of things that can and should be done, but education would seem to me.... I do not believe that the angler wishes to back that trailer into the water. I do not believe they want to have that line contaminated.

But you've been at this for 22 years, and you know more, by far, than anybody around here. I'd like you to just elaborate on what type of an education program should be put in place. I know you talked about the wieners and you were a little above my head. I'm just a commoner in the House of Commons. But the truth is that we have to stop these things from happening because it's a massive financial loss, not only in the Great Lakes but the inner waters and all across the country.

4:10 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

Absolutely. With respect to the ships, I don't think there is any education that needs to be done. What we need there is regulation, if and when it's required.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Sir, I would be more interested in how you wish.... I think it's the person, even with the person who imports some of these things. I doubt if people really import these species that are really a danger to our water. I'd just like you to elaborate on that line, too.

4:10 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

In terms of outreach, the primary group that we work with is called the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and I believe you're going to have one of their representatives speak here, if they haven't already. They try to educate boaters on how to prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading to inland lakes.

There are a couple of things we can do. Sometimes there are certain lakes that we know are either especially vulnerable to being invaded or they are likely the source of the new invasions going somewhere else. I will choose Lake Muskoka in Ontario, as an example. It is used by thousands and thousands of boaters. What we can do is post signs at marinas on that lake to warn people that they must take precautions to make sure they're not taking species out of the lake with them.

The other approach is, if you know you have a very vulnerable system, you can establish boat wash systems. This is now done in Minnesota and Wisconsin. They charge boaters a nominal fee—$5 to $10—and they will power wash their boats before they allow them to put them into new systems.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Should that be required?

4:10 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

In certain cases, yes, I think it's certainly a reasonable thing to do, if you know there's a high likelihood the species are going to come in and there is no other way to do it.

Some other jurisdictions in the United States—California—is afraid of invasive insects coming in and destroying their agriculture system, so they set up these highway checkpoints and now these same checkpoints are being used to check every boat that's being trailered into the state. They want to make sure that people are not bringing invasive species, like zebra mussels, into the state on their boats.

In fact, the northwestern U.S. states are doing the exact same thing now. They now relate their findings to the Government of British Columbia to let them know. I think last year there were three boats destined for B.C. that had zebra or quagga mussels attached to the boats or the trailers, which were intercepted on interstate highways before they ever got to Canada.

People have to be made aware that they are part of the problem or they can be part of the solution, both anglers and boaters.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

You also indicate in your statement that Quebec City traffic seems to be the greatest risk for bringing invasive species in. Why?

4:10 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

We did two things.

First, we looked at the amount of ballast water that we think is being sourced from different freshwater ports on the St. Lawrence River and is destined for the Great Lakes. The overall amount of water being carried by lakers into the Great Lakes is equal to the amount of water that's coming in from the foreign vessels from overseas. It's a substantial amount of water.

The thing about the port of Quebec is that the environmental conditions in that port are very similar to the ports where that ballast water is being discharged. If we have a huge environmental mismatch between the source port and the destination port, then we're not so worried about whether or not invaders are going to survive. If we have a saltwater source port, I'm not worried about those species surviving in the Great Lakes. But in this case, we have similar conditions in the port of Quebec City to some of the ports in the Great Lakes, and therefore we think they may pose a threat.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

But you're also indicating that there should be chlorination and the salt water. Do you think we need more regulation? Or is it just in certain places that this needs to be done, or what?

4:15 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

In the study that I mentioned we're doing—with the shipping company going down to Brazil—we're trying to determine whether or not, if we did this for transoceanic vessels coming into Canada, this could provide us with another level of protection.

We haven't suggested that we should do this for the lakers. The problem with the lakers is that there's no good place for them to do ballast water exchange. We want mid-ocean salinity, which Transport Canada defines as salinity greater than 30 parts per 1,000. Fresh water is zero parts per 1,000.

So the vessels have to come in with greater than 30 parts per 1,000, and there's no place on the St. Lawrence River where you're going to find 30 parts per 1,000. The only way you could potentially use ballast water exchange as a mechanism to reduce risk of lakers is to make them go well out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then come back. And no one's going to do that.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

So the chlorinated water is a necessity there.

4:15 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

Some form of treatment might be required. If we can demonstrate—

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

What would you suggest?