Evidence of meeting #42 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

  • Robert Lambe  Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
  • Chris Goddard  Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
  • Marc Gaden  Communications Director and Legislative Liaison, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Is the electric barrier the best for that?

4:30 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

I think, in our case, no, because sea lamprey cannot jump. If you use a low-head barrier they cannot get past it, so that's very effective.

The third is trapping spawning sea lamprey.

But the point I want to make is that we had another technique that we used for about 12 or 14 years, and that was a sterile male technique where we collected usually around 30,000 males from throughout the Great Lakes basin. We would sterilize them in a facility in Michigan at Hammond Bay, which is right up here on Lake Huron, and then we would transport those sterilized males to the St. Mary's River where we would release them. We know for a fact—we did all sorts of scientific research—that these sterile males were competing effectively with fertile males, and when they did that they took the spawn from the females and the spawn died.

But what we did was we really investigated the effectiveness of that program, and what we found was that this program was just not a cost-effective program, and the commissioners made the decision this year that because it was not cost-effective we were going to discontinue that program and put the resources into trapping.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Mr. Donnelly.

June 11th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our presenters for your testimony. It's very interesting information.

Mr. Lambe, in your opening remarks, you referenced the natural barrier, and you mentioned that the Army Corps of Engineers has a major study going on. I'm just wondering right now if you have any idea of what the cost of this natural barrier or improving it is at this point, or is that what the study is about to reveal?

4:35 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

The study that I referenced won't reveal that. The study that I referenced was the assessment of the threat of arrival and establishment of Asian carp populations in the Great Lakes. You will hear from, as I understand, David Ullrich later in the week. He's the executive director at the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. David's group, in conjunction with the Great Lakes Commission, funded that study on separation, and they have three options in their study, which was released in January, I believe it was, of 2012.

The cost of each one of those options are in there. There are no recommendations, but there are three options in there. So there's an option for one barrier, and an option for two, and I believe three or four, depending on where you put them in the system. So that's the most current information that's out there in terms of the actual cost.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Do you have an idea of the range of the costs?

4:35 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Do you remember what they are, Marc?

4:35 p.m.

Communications Director and Legislative Liaison, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Marc Gaden

Yes. For one option, the range is about $4.5 billion, and at the high end it is about $9.5 billion. So Mr. Donnelly, we're talking about a substantial cost to the United States should they decide to re-establish that natural disconnect between the Great Lakes and Mississippi basin.

Nobody is under any illusions that if you are to recreate a separation, which by the way is really the only way you can be sure these fish are not going to swim their way into the Great Lakes.... If they decide to move forward with that connection, we're not under any illusions; it's going to be a very costly endeavour to do so.

4:35 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Part of the reason it is so expensive is that, as we were saying, it's not as simple as just dumping dirt into the canal. The canal is actually used as a major transportation system now. It's also a part of the flood management system in Illinois. The barrier has to accommodate those multi-uses that have evolved for the system over time.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Is the U.S. government actually considering this option, $4.5 billion to $9.5 billion? I'm sure this government on the Canadian side would not be considering those sorts of numbers or even a proportion of that kind of number, even with the recent announcement.

4:35 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

I serve on the steering committee for the army corps study, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River interbasin study. What they're looking at now is doing an iterative program stretched over a large number of years. I don't think anyone thinks they're going to cut a cheque for $4.5 billion. They're going to do it iteratively as other things come online.

There's a major flood management program that's going on right now in Chicago that won't be completed for another 12 years. They see phasing it in, if they go forward with this project, in conjunction with things such as the TARP program.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thanks.

Switching gears for a second, there have been a few presentations to the committee about ballast water legislation. I'm wondering if you can provide any comment about where you feel the Canadian regulations or legislation is at compared with that of the United States.

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Ballast water is an interesting discussion. On the one hand, I think we can say that one of the most untold success stories in recent years has been the ability to introduce effective controls for ballast water. You've probably heard from Dr. Ricciardi that the invasive numbers directly related to ballast water have gone down significantly since 2006. But as he and others in the field say, it's way too early to declare victory, because it takes time to identify invasive species. I think we've made some great inroads in mitigating the effect of that pathway. But I don't think anybody is in a position to declare victory. We need to still be vigilant of the potential that ballast water represents in terms of the introduction of damaging invasive species.

In terms of the regulations, the international regulations we look at are considered to be effective. Others argue that there need to be more effective regulations.

Part of the issue right now is that there really isn't much technology out there for enacting more stringent regulations. People will argue that this was the case in California when automotive emissions were put in place. There wasn't technology to realize the emissions called for in automobiles. It's a very different situation, of course, with the shipping industry. You're not talking about the same mass and volume, and so on and so forth.

There are various opinions on that. So it's more of a personal opinion I'm sharing with you, which is that in light of the technology that exists right now, that international standard is effective. Taken into consideration, with the control mechanisms happening in the port of Montreal right now, we have a much better situation than we did in the past.

That said, though, I would hope that by not having more stringent regulations, we don't stop the pursuit of greater technology that would provide an even greater guarantee or greater comfort that we would stop the introduction of invasives through ballast water, because we've seen the cost of them over the years.

One of the statistics that stands out in my mind, from research done in 2001, is that the cost of biological invasions globally was $1.4 trillion, in 2001 dollars. In 2009, a study was done on the cost of the destruction by natural disasters, and it was $190 billion. That was eight years after the study on invasive species. It was $190 billion versus $1.4 trillion. I think the economic cost of invasive species is not a very well-known fact. We only hear about it when we have an issue like the Asian carp, but the opportunity costs and the cost to taxpayers every day is incredibly substantial.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Lambe.

We'll go to Mr. Sopuck.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I'd like to go back to your answers to Mr. Chisholm's questions regarding your advisory board and their comments on our proposed changes to the Fisheries Act. You seemed quite sympathetic to what your advisory board was saying.

I'm curious about which specific sections of our proposed Fisheries Act you are concerned about. I don't know who will answer.