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

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.

Monsieur Tremblay.

June 11th, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I wish to thank the witnesses for being with us today.

I believe that to make informed decisions, it is essential to go through consultation. We must take the time to study all the new measures. I think that is imperative, especially when there are a lot of them.

Does the fact that there are going to be amendments to the protection of fish habitats and that funding for research is going to be reduced cause you any concerns, as far as the future goes? Do you fear that, in the medium or long term, this may have an impact on the fight against invasive species and that knowledge about fish habitat and fish in general may be lost? In your opinion, is it essential to have this data available?

4:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

It's difficult at this point to comment on the changes, because we don't know a lot of details. Going back to the discussion before, I think it would be very valuable to have further discussions about what exactly is being done. So there's not really much more we can comment on other than what we've already talked about.

Research is really critical. We've seen that the only way to mitigate some of these problems is to really understand the nature of the animals—the invasive species—that are of concern to us, to understand the kind of habitat they need, the kind of food sources they need, and so on and so forth. The more you know about that, the better equipped you are to combat it. Without research, you can't do that. Research is really critical, and obviously we want to maintain a high degree of research.

Among the partnering agencies, it's not just about government research. With reference to the previous conversation, there's research capacity within universities, within federal government agencies, within provinces, within a bigger network, and we really do need to maximize to the fullest extent possible the degree to which we all collaborate, to extract every ounce of opportunity we can out of that research capacity so that we're complementing one another.

4:50 p.m.

Communications Director and Legislative Liaison, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Marc Gaden

Could I add something, Commissioner?

Research on the Asian carp issue is a case in point. Canada has a centre of excellence for invasive species in Burlington. It's a national centre, but it's located in Ontario, and it looks at, among other things, the risk of invasive species.

I've been working on the Asian carp issue for more than a decade now. The research that's coming out of Canada on invasive species, especially on the Asian carp issue, has led the discussion and the debate. When the governments, especially of the United States, sit down to decide whether to spend four to nine billion dollars to reseparate the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, a lot of that is going to be based on the research that's done through this Asian carp centre of expertise. Without it, how can you justify making the kinds of decisions that we're talking about for this particular species? That's just one example.

It's absolutely essential.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Thank you.

Several witnesses have told us that it is important to act quickly when an invasive species is discovered, that this increases the chances of success. In the current context, we cannot rule anything out. You said that Canada and the United States could invest.

Do you have any suggestions for improving our ability to act quickly when a new species is discovered?

4:50 p.m.

Communications Director and Legislative Liaison, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Marc Gaden

The first thing that has to be done is monitoring, because you have to know where these species are. You have to be able to see them when they emerge, and monitoring is just something that you have to do. It's not sexy. It's not something that governments like to devote resources to, but you do have to be monitoring and be able to see them when they're there.

The second gets to the whole issue of rapid response. Part of that requires the will or the courage to see a problem and to be nimble enough to actually do something about it. We're getting better at that. Ten or twenty years ago, to even talk about mounting a rapid response in a small area would be too bureaucratic and burdensome to even consider.

We needed to do a rapid response, for example, several years ago on a tributary to Lake Simcoe to try to keep round goby, a small invader, out of the lake. It took an awfully long time to gather the partnership and the resources between the federal government and the province to do that. So to call it rapid may be open to interpretation, but they did carry it out, and it was successful and important.

With the Asian carp it's much better. We have monitoring set up for the Asian carp issue, and we now have stockpiles of the pesticide that would be needed to do that. But it's a matter of having the will of government to do it, and they have to be able to have the successful monitoring in place.

4:55 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

With respect to Asian carp, we were fortunate about 10 years ago in that the fishery commission went to the state department and said that Asian carp were advancing towards the Great Lakes, and that if they got there, they would like to have some sort of rapid response plan on the shelf. The state department actually provided the money, and we worked through a number of committees that were out there. We took the lead in developing the rapid response plan for the treatment of the Chicago area waterway system. So when they had to shut down those electric barriers, I'm sure all of you read that there was the mother of all rapid response treatments. We were able to very rapidly apply rotenone to six kilometres of that system to ensure that species was not migrating up through the system when things were shut down. We had that in place.

There's also some very interesting work going on right now on the U.S. side through the USGS, taking advantage of an anatomical feature of Asian carp, and that is that their gill rakers are very fine so they are able to trap much smaller particles than most other fish species. So what USGS is looking at is, in a way, like our granular Bayluscide. They're actually taking rotenone and coating a little micro-matrix.

The preliminary results are really exciting. They think that for a rapid response issue, if it comes up in a small localized area, they might be able to spread these micro-matrices over the water and they will then get ingested by the Asian carp. Where other fish species will pass them through their gills, the Asian carp will trap them, and it will be lethal to Asian carp and not to other fish species.

So there are possibilities down the road for rapid response for Asian carp.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Merci, monsieur Tremblay.

Mr. Allen.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for being here.

Mr. Lambe, when you were talking about Asian carp, the words you used were that you have to prevent, as you cannot control. The other day when the International Joint Commission was here there was an inference, and maybe not even an inference but a direct statement, that we could get total eradication of sea lamprey from the Great Lakes.

Do you believe that it is even possible—given the statement that you made about Asian carp—that you could get complete eradication of sea lamprey, given the history?

4:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Again, I'll defer to Dr. Goddard, but we've certainly had fluctuations in the population despite a fairly aggressive war on sea lamprey over 50-odd years now. The best we can do is keep them to within 90% of what they were at their maximum.

One of the things we haven't talked about a lot is the research. We've alluded to the research a few times. I've not been a part of any organization that does more effective research than this organization, and applies that research quickly. We're looking at a few things now that we're trying to implement or test as alternatives to lampricide. I mentioned pheromones earlier. We've been relatively successful, I would say, at synthesizing pheromones that lamprey use for migration and for reproduction, and we're testing that to attract sea lamprey into areas where we want them to go to for trapping and for false reproduction.

We're also just discovering—it's so sophisticated that we're calling it a repellant at this point—an odour that sea lamprey emit when they die. Other sea lamprey detect this and avoid the areas where dead sea lamprey are. So one of the new terms that we're using—not very sophisticated—is push-pull. If we can perfect the odour to drive them away from streams, and perfect the pheromones to attract them to streams, then we're excited about the opportunities that this represents to help control the population. But that said, it is still extremely difficult to eradicate—extremely difficult.

Dr. Goddard, do you...?

5 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

With the present technology we have, I think it's just not possible to eradicate the species. Even if you knock the stuffing out of them, getting the last few, or the last 20, or the last 100 would be prohibitive in terms of cost.

One of the things that we find.... We were talking about Lake Erie, and about how we thought we were going to really knock the stuffing out of them and they shot up to pre-control levels. We had a very similar thing, which is a huge problem, in that a huge barrier in northern Lake Michigan sprung a leak, and suddenly we had 400 kilometres of lamprey spawning. We had the population driven down and suddenly it shot up again.

So eradication is very difficult. The only place I'm aware of where there is a really serious attempt to look at the eradication of a species and where the research is ongoing right now is Australia. They're using a technique called “daughterless technology”, and the plan is to introduce a gene into carp such that the offspring are all male. The modelling indicates that over a period of about 40 years you might in fact eradicate carp from Australian waters. That research has been going on for a decade or so.

We don't have research like that ongoing now, but we're fortunate in that the sea lamprey is the most primitive vertebrate that is out there, so what has happened is that the National Institutes of Health, over a five- or six-year period, mapped the entire genome of the sea lamprey. We know all of the genes within the sea lamprey, and we have one of our leading scientists looking at this and trying to see if there's some way, in looking at when genes turn on and when they don't, that we might be able to ultimately eradicate them. But with our existing technology, it's just not possible.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

I just want to follow up on your comments, Mr. Goddard.

I understand the complexity of trying to re-establish the barrier between the Mississippi basin and the Great Lakes. You made a comment like 12 years, kind of an interim approach over 12 years.... What are some of the steps that can be taken in the interim? Obviously the carp are moving north faster than that—well, they're close now. So in the interim, what kinds of things is the corps thinking about?

5 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

Well, as we like to say, unfortunately the carp are moving at the speed of Asian carp, not at the speed of government.

5 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

5 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

Obviously there's the barrier—that's ongoing. There's another very large program they have below the existing barrier. That's a very intensive netting program whereby they're going out and removing large quantities of Asian carp in the areas immediately downstream of the barrier. The hope is that by reducing the pressure of these Asian carp below the barrier, they'll significantly reduce the opportunities for those carp to move above it.

There are also other barriers that are being put in place, such as the barrier on Eagle Marsh. There's a possibility that if there's flooding, the carp might be able to flow across water into other waterways, so they've constructed a barrier to stop adults migrating between systems.

One of the other exciting things that's ongoing right now is that the USGS has adopted a technology from the military. We're calling them “carp cannons”. It's essentially about using sound as a deterrent for Asian carp moving northward. They're in the process now of deploying these carp cannons and checking their effectiveness, as well, in trying to keep carp below the barriers. Of course, the concern is that if there's too much underwater sound, they're going to destroy whatever barrier or whatever structure is there, but it's also another promising technique.