Evidence of meeting #40 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 regulations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Sarah Bailey  Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Nick Mandrak  Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Becky Cudmore  Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

I call this meeting to order.

I'd like to thank our guests for joining us here today. We certainly look forward to your presentation.

We generally allow about 10 minutes for presentations, and then we move into questions. If I cut you off at some time, I apologize in advance. It will be in the interest of fairness. We try to ensure that each member has adequate time to ask questions and have answers provided to them. We try to make sure we get as much done in the confined timeframe we have to deal with.

Ms. Bailey, please proceed when you're ready. The floor is yours.

3:45 p.m.

Sarah Bailey Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Thank you.

My name is Sarah Bailey and I am a DFO research scientist. I am by training an invasion biologist, and I have been studying ship-mediated invasions in the Great Lakes for 12 years.

With me is Nick Mandrak, a research scientist at DFO. He is also the executive director of the DFO Centre of Expertise for Aquatic Risk Assessment for aquatic invasive species. Becky Cudmore is a senior science advisor on aquatic invasive species for DFO and the national manager for DFO's Centre of Expertise for Aquatic Risk Assessment.

We're going to split our 10 minutes and each take the opportunity to address the committee. I'll make some brief opening remarks, and then Nick and Becky will follow.

I lead DFO's ballast water research and monitoring program in the Great Lakes. We have a very collaborative program. We link with the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network, Transport Canada, American researchers and regulators, as well as the shipping industry. I also participate in the ballast water working groups of the International Maritime Organization and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. We work to coordinate and improve ballast water management strategies globally.

I will focus my comments on the risks posed by ballast water, an evaluation of binational regulations that mitigate these risks, and remaining challenges.

When ships load ballast water at a port they load an entire aquatic community into their tanks. If that ballast water is not managed, a variety of species can be discharged at the next port of call, sometimes with very large population density. The discharge of unmanaged ballast water has been a very important vector of invasive species to the Great Lakes since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and is responsible for roughly 55% of invasions since 1959.

Starting in 1989, following the discovery of the Eurasian ruffe and the zebra mussel, Canada and the United States implemented a series of voluntary and then mandatory science-based ballast water regulations for vessels arriving to the Great Lakes. All vessels arriving to the Great Lakes from outside Canadian waters must now manage all ballast water, including residual water and sediments, by exchanging or rinsing their tanks with ocean salt water before discharge. A binational team inspects all of these vessels and orders corrective action, if necessary, to prevent unmanaged discharges into the Great Lakes.

I led a recent scientific evaluation of the efficacy of the current Great Lakes ballast water management program. Our comprehensive assessment used four lines of evidence and indicated that the risk of ship-mediated, non-indigenous species introductions has been markedly reduced. No new species attributed to ships' ballast water has been reported in the Great Lakes since 2006. Despite this, the risk of ship-mediated invasions in the Great Lakes has not been completely eliminated.

My team is currently conducting research to evaluate the risks posed by different vessels and different geographic routes, and we are evaluating new methods to manage ballast water. We are supporting Transport Canada in regulatory work following Canada's ratification of an international convention that will require vessels to treat ballast water using technologies such as filtration and chlorination.

We have also been exploring a combination approach, using ballast water exchange and treatment to provide an enhanced level of protection against ballast-mediated invasions for the Great Lakes.

My colleague Nick Mandrak will continue the opening remarks.

3:45 p.m.

Nick Mandrak Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

I would like to briefly discuss three topic related to AIS and the Great Lakes: pathways other than ballast water; research; and monitoring.

I believe that when he sat before this committee, Dr. Ricciardi indicated that ballast water was not the only pathway for AIS to get into the Great Lakes. As we have done with the ballast water pathway, we need to better understand the relative risks and potential to control the introduction of AIS through these other pathways. These pathways include several, collectively known as organisms in trade. In order by volume, these are aquarium, live bait, live food, water garden, and biological supply house trades. Other pathways include authorized stocking, unauthorized stocking by private individuals, and secondary spread though canals such as the Welland Canal in Trent–Severn Waterway.

Our analysis has shown that introductions of non-native fishes through ballast water and authorized stocking have levelled off in the Great Lakes in the past several decades, whereas unauthorized introductions through trade are increasing. We are currently conducting risk assessments of these pathways to determine the relative risk of each of these pathways and the best approaches to minimize these risks. Ms. Cudmore will discuss risk assessment in more detail in her presentation.

In the Great Lakes, DFO carries out one to two AIS research projects per year. Since 2005, these projects have included improving the tools required to conduct risk assessments, including methods to predict establishment and impacts of potential AIS currently in a pathway, and a method of screening large numbers of species in a pathway such as the aquarium trade, which imports millions of individuals of over 2,000 fish species into Canada every year. Although only a very small fraction of those species may harm Canadian ecosystems if introduced into the wild, we need to develop tools to identify those few species, and develop regulations to minimize the release and subsequent impact of such species.

In 2006, DFO developed an AIS monitoring plan for central and arctic regions, including the Great Lakes. Based on this plan, DFO has since carried out one to two AIS monitoring projects per year. These projects have monitored for species, including Asian clam, bloody red shrimp, round goby, and tubenose goby, and pathways including the Trent–Severn Waterway, the Welland Canal, and in conjunction with other sampling in some of the Great Lakes action plan areas of concern. The purpose of monitoring is to better understand the current status of existing AIS and their use of pathways, and for early detection and rapid response. Monitoring of existing AIS and pathways can be used to minimize the spread of species, but monitoring for early detection and rapid response is much more effective in controlling AIS if early detection and rapid response plans are in place. In the Canadian Great Lakes, we are in the early stages of the development of such plans.

3:50 p.m.

Becky Cudmore Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Going on to risk assessment, risk assessment is a cornerstone of any aquatic invasive species program and provides a foundation based in science. Advice stemming from risk assessment is used to determine effective actions and use of resources by targeting highest-risk species, pathways, and locations. The advice is helpful in terms of research, monitoring, response, and management, including regulations.

Risk assessment for aquatic invasive species first looks at the probability that a species would be introduced, taking into account the likelihood that it would arrive, survive, establish, and spread. The second part is to determine what the magnitude of the consequences would be if the species is successfully introduced. Combining these two parts gives the risk of that species to an ecosystem.

DFO's national Centre of Expertise for Aquatic Risk Assessment was established in 2006 in Burlington, Ontario, and represents a key step in the development of a prevention-based aquatic invasive species program. The centre is internationally recognized for its expertise and provides guidance and tools to many agencies. To date, we have conducted full risk assessments for 25 species and written biological reports for 38 species. We also look at pathways and have completed two pathway risk assessments—ship-mediated and the Ontario baitfish pathway. As mentioned by Dr. Mandrak, other pathway assessments are under way.

One of the purposes of risk assessment is to identify future threats and concerns, assess them, and develop roadblocks to prevent the arrival of high-risk aquatic invasive species. Northern snakehead and the organisms in trade pathways are some of our top concerns in the Great Lakes right now, along with Asian carps. The concern of the arrival of two of these Asian carp species led to the development of a bi-national risk assessment targeting the Great Lakes. This initiative was announced in October 2010 and was led by the DFO Centre of Expertise for Aquatic Risk Assessment, and it was coordinated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. We worked extensively with our Great Lakes colleagues on both sides of the border, from the U.S. Geological Survey, other federal, state, and provincial agencies, and universities. The goal of the project is to provide scientifically defensible advice for managers and decision-makers to prevent the introduction and establishment of these harmful species. The results will guide the activities for an Asian carp strategic plan, the funding for which was just announced by Minister Ashfield on Monday at $17.5 million over five years.

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

We're going to move right into questions now, and we'll start a seven-minute round, with Ms. Davidson leading off.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

Thanks very much to our witnesses here this afternoon. This has certainly been an interesting study. We've heard from a wide variety of people, but the concerns all certainly seem to be much the same. I think it is felt that there has been some progress made in different areas when it comes to invasive species. It's felt that there has been quite a bit of progress made on the lamprey eel, for example, and also on the ballast water regulations.

It's also widely felt that the Asian carp will be a huge problem if in fact it ever does become established in the Great Lakes. I think everybody is very concerned about that.

The other invasive species that has come to light from the witnesses has been the northern snakehead fish. There have been some grave concerns expressed about that.

I'd like my first question to be about the ballast water research. Perhaps, Ms. Bailey, you could just talk a little bit more about the new methods you're looking at developing for early detection and enforcement. Could you just enlighten us a bit on where this is going?

3:55 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Sarah Bailey

Certainly. Thank you.

With regard to new methods for the treatment and management of ballast water, there are a variety of technological systems, globally, being developed. Pretty much all the systems combine at least two technologies. One would be a mechanical separation—something like filtration—which would do an initial treatment of the water. The second treatment normally involves some kind of biocide or active substance, such as chlorine, which would further reduce the viability of any species that would be in the ballast water.

A few systems are type approved. They have gone through a type approval process with the International Maritime Organization. But very few of these are being tested for fresh water or cold water. So a lot of our work is focusing on making sure these treatment systems that have been approved elsewhere are also going to work to protect the Great Lakes.

We have also been working with early detection tools, using things like vital stains and particle counters, to try to quickly assess what's in a ballast water sample. Right now, if we collect a plankton sample and send it to a taxonomist, it could be months before we get the results. We're trying to find technologies we can use so that we can get results in an hour, in which case we could actually take action before that discharge is completed.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

You talked about your collaborative programs and your international working groups and so on. Is it mainly the United States you work with internationally, or do you work with other people and study their best practices as well?

3:55 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Sarah Bailey

We work internationally. We have a very close working relationship with the United States because of the Great Lakes and the need for compatible regulations. We are also able to work together on research in the Great Lakes.

The international working groups are generally working groups of scientists who come together to share the latest developments and information internationally to inform the international regulations and make them as protective and as science-based as possible.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you.

Ms. Cudmore, I believe it was you who referred to the announcement made on Monday regarding the $17.5 million to protect the Great Lakes against the Asian carp. Of course, I expect that everybody at this committee was extremely happy to hear that announcement. It's very good when we know that there has been a fair amount of work ongoing, but it's great to see that this is being continued.

As I said earlier, it seemed as though most of our witnesses felt that the Asian carp was the invasive species that could probably be the most harmful and that concerned them the most. Could you just talk a little bit about what this funding announcement means when it comes to addressing the threat of the Asian carp?

4 p.m.

Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Becky Cudmore

Yes, and thank you for the question.

You're correct in that we have been working on Asian carp for several years, especially with our American colleagues. Asian carp are not in Canadian waters at this time. They are in the U.S. The bulk of the work has been in the U.S., but we have been participating with them in terms of control measures and providing scientific advice. This funding will allow us to more aggressively pursue proactive activities with our key partners around the Great Lakes.

The strategic plan centres around four pillars. One is prevention, looking at outreach activities, research on containment and movement, and understanding pathways and entry points. Second is early warning, setting up a monitoring program in waterways of highest risk of entry to the Great Lakes. Third is response, working with our Great Lakes partners to develop response plans should Asian carp show up in the Great Lakes. Fourth is management, collaborating with our enforcement agencies around the Great Lakes.

These four pillars will allow us to deal with this imminent problem of the Asian carp's arrival in the Great Lakes. They are certainly the closest on our radar screen. They're in close proximity, and we are in a really unique position to not react to an invasive species that's already shown up. We are able to be proactive and prevent them from arriving in the first place.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Ms. Davidson.

Mr. Donnelly.

May 30th, 2012 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome to our guests. Thank you for appearing in front of the committee.

We've heard some differing views from different witnesses regarding the managing of ballast water from ships. Some witnesses have said Canada's ballast water management system is adequate, and others are saying it's inadequate. Certainly some have pointed out that they feel we have an inferior regime to the one in the United States, for instance, their laws, their regulations, their management systems, and their practices.

I'm wondering if you can give your opinion. Do you feel we are adequately addressing the ballast water issue, or do we need to up our game in terms of the Canadian laws, regulations, and practices?

4 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Sarah Bailey

Thank you for the question.

Canada has had regulations in place for a number of years now, and because of the time lags in being able to detect invasive species, we're only actually able to start seeing differences now. Although the discovery of the last ballast-mediated species in 2006 coordinates nicely with the 2006 regulations, because of time lags we actually think that effect is a result of the regulations in the early 1990s, and we think it's going to be another 10 years before we see the added benefits of the introduction of tank flushing in 2005 and 2006.

That being said, we're already seeing remarkable decreases in invasion risk with the current exchange and flushing regime. Canada has already signed on to the international convention for ballast water management, which means we're moving forward to having numerical standards in place, meaning ships are going to be required to install treatment systems.