Evidence of meeting #43 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 great.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • David Ullrich  Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

4:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

I think humans are great at that.

Are there barriers to trade right now that could be facilitated by the Canadian or American government enhancing that commercial market? My line of thinking is that if we had a viable market, then with limited barriers and limited red tape we probably could go further. Or is it as wide open as it can get? Do you see any barriers right now that would...? Perhaps it's not economically feasible, or there's too much red tape, or there's not a really good market in China for it, or we just haven't expanded anywhere else.

I appreciate your comment that in the short term it's okay, but we need to think bigger and longer term. I'm not trying to minimize that; I'm just wondering if there is anything that's keeping us at this ceiling for a market for Asian carp.

4:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

Well, it's interesting. Again, I'm not an expert in this field, but I have picked up bits and pieces from those who are working specifically on the commercial fishing. Apparently some of the most significant market restraints were within the U.S. itself. For some reason, apparently, carp were not deemed suitable for either cat food or dog food. Also it was deemed not suitable, by I guess the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for providing food to hungry people.

So it was easier to export it than it was to move it around within the United States. I don't know if there were any efforts to export to Canada other than the illegal efforts over the bridges of the Detroit and St. Clair rivers.

On the international market side of things, I don't think there were that many impediments. I think it was really just an issue of cost. It was necessary, apparently, that the State of Illinois government provide some subsidies to the commercial fishermen—though it didn't have the money to do this—so that it would actually pay to be able to ship these to China.

My understanding is that these are viewed as relatively high-quality Asian carp back in China. I've eaten them. I find a good Canadian pickerel or something a lot tastier, but apparently the markets really aren't developing in the U.S.

There's another little concern about this, if I might mention it. To the extent that a good market is developed for this, then there obviously would be a constituency that would be supporting the continuation of it. I think the fear is that Asian carp will be viewed as a positive thing, and then it's okay that they get into the Great Lakes even if they might damage some other things.

It's a little tricky, and I would defer to your fisheries experts on this, which all of you are, and DFO. There's a little concern about pushing the market development a little too much.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Fair enough.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Mr. Leef.

Mr. MacAulay.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Ullrich, it's certainly good to have you here. You are an excellent witness and you know the subject.

Is it just inevitable that they're going to be in the Great Lakes if we do not put the barriers up? Do you think the carp will be in the Great Lakes? Is this a necessary move to prevent the Asian carp from entering?

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

I believe that it is absolutely essential and if I felt it were inevitable, I wouldn't be spending my time on this.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

I agree that you would.

Now, there is a lot of money involved here—millions of dollars.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Can you just explain to me a bit, as I am a farmer, how it works? The water is going to move. You talk about physical barriers. What are they going to be? The water still has to move.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

Well, first of all, back before 1900 this Chicago area was essentially a mid-continental divide between the Great Lakes basin and the Mississippi River basin.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

So it doesn't have to move.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

Yes, it does, and it moved in two directions. In 1900 a canal was dug, roughly 28 miles long, connecting the Chicago River, which had flowed into Lake Michigan but was carrying Chicago's pollution to the drinking water source, with people dying as a result of drinking the waste, and sent it downstream, which isn't a good solution. It relocated the problem.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Being an environmentalist, that's a—

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

Yes. St. Louis and other areas were not consulted about this.

But basically the theory behind this most viable of the three options that are included, the mid-system option, is that it comes closest to re-establishing the natural divide where it was before. Basically what you do is to put earth and fill—concrete sheet piling—in several locations. I don't know if—