Evidence of meeting #7 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 thank.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Siddika Mithani  Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Claire Dansereau  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Marc Grégoire  Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Balfour  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Kevin Stringer  Assistant Deputy Minister, Program Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Bevan  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Minister.

As I said earlier, the officials will remain with us for the rest of our time together here today.

We'll take a short break while the minister departs.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

We will resume our meeting.

Once again, thank you for agreeing to stay with us for the rest of the meeting.

Monsieur Toone.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Thank you.

Thanks for staying. I have a question regarding oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Corridor Resources is planning to undertake some exploratory drilling for oil and gas at the Old Harry site in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. People in the neighbouring communities are quite concerned about the impact this drilling might have on fisheries, and tourism, and their way of life, frankly.

I'd like to know how the department is planning to fulfill its obligations regarding the protection of fish stocks, especially species at risk, within the context of oil and gas extraction in the gulf, which has a five-province regulatory structure—in fact, an unharmonized five-province regulatory structure.

Perhaps you would answer that question. Thanks.

4:20 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

Certainly there are other bodies, other government agencies and organizations, that would manage the whole of the regulatory side of oil and gas exploration in the gulf and elsewhere.

Our role would be to ensure that fish and fish habitat are protected, somehow, through that exploration. It's done on a case-by-case basis. I'm not sure about the particular case you're talking about now, but in any case we would do an analysis of the impact on the habitat and the potential impacts on fish. There would likely be, if any government agency at this point felt it were a necessity, or if the law allowed for it, an environmental impact assessment done. It depends. Each case follows similar steps, and we do the same kind of work, involving analysis on a case-by-case basis.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Mr. Donnelly.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

On the subject of marine protected areas, or MPAs, Canada committed during the recent Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to the conservation of 10% of its marine areas through the establishment of “ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas” by 2020. But Canada is making very slow progress on this international commitment. Currently, less than 1% of Canada's oceans are protected and at this rate of MPA establishment Canada would meet its commitment by 2064.

In the House the other day, I did ask the minister this question about fulfilling the 2012 obligation, and he confirmed that it was on track. I wonder if the department could comment on Canada, as we see it, being so far behind. How are you on track in committing to this 2012 agreement?

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

The numbers are somewhat different. If I remember correctly, the 2012 commitment is to have six marine protected areas by then, and we're on track for that. The 2020 commitment is a different set of numbers and includes much more than just our department. If you look at the map, you'll see that there are many MPAs or conservation areas being protected.

As for whether or not we're at 1% or 9%, I'm not sure. I don't know if Siddika or Kevin has more information on that, but we're certainly continuing to do the work.

October 6th, 2011 / 4:25 p.m.

Kevin Stringer Assistant Deputy Minister, Program Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

I might add that a number of international agreements speak to different types of numbers. One of them said that we were going to have 12 in place by 2012, one spoke of 10%, and one spoke of MPA networks.

What we can say is that there has been an exercise to try to bring together all of the different jurisdictions that are protecting different parts of the ocean and the Great Lakes. One of the commitments was to establish an MPA network in each country; and at the meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, they approved in principle the MPA network.

Through that exercise, we've identified to date 802 separate parts of the ocean that have been protected and that we believe will meet the international requirement for MPAs. So we have our MPAs, the ones that are already established and the ones in the areas of interest process that is ongoing now, which we're hoping to have done for 2012. But we also have what Environment Canada has done, what Parks Canada has done, and what other provinces have done.

In addition to that, we're also doing an exercise with our department, but also with others, to identify fishing areas that have been closed. Those areas might not meet the requirements of the international definition of an MPA. An enormous amount of work is under way to try to meet as many of our obligations as we can and to be as comprehensive as we can.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

I appreciate the answer. I just find it hard to understand—with the commitment being so far behind, the lack of resources, the cuts that are coming, plus our pulling out of PNCIMA—how it's going to be possible to make this commitment and to move in a positive direction in terms of marine protected areas.

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

If I may, I'm not sure there's agreement that we're so far behind. I think in some ways it's a matter of definition, and we're certainly continuing to work on this. And we have not pulled out of PNCIMA; we have changed the scope of planning. It had been reaching a level of detail that was not even possible to do within the timeframe, nor would that have been useful to do. So it was brought back up to a higher planning level to ensure that work continued. So we have not pulled out of PNCIMA.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Donnelly.

Mr. Leef.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Thank you, senior team members, for coming. It's nice to have you here. I'll bring you out of Atlantic Canada for a little bit and take you way up north. I'd just like to get your views on the Yukon chinook salmon fishery.

I had an opportunity to meet with first nations stakeholders in the Yukon this summer. There is some serious concern there, with some calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to produce a cumulative impact assessment report in conjunction with the United States. I'm just wondering if you're aware of that or if you can share any information with the committee with respect to what might be going on with the chinook salmon in the Yukon.

4:30 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Balfour

The reports we've had on salmon returns this year indicate that escapement targets will be met in the Yukon River systems, and there has been the opportunity for some commercial, recreational, and aboriginal subsistence fishing on those stocks.

It is a situation that is somewhat reflective of the situation throughout the range of salmon in British Columbia, where we're seeing returns within the those predicted for the cycles, albeit in some instances low compared to averages.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

This is more just a bit of messaging, I guess, but beyond just being a significant food source for them, the chinook salmon are a critical cultural element to the Yukon first nations. They are a method for them to share stories and teach and to have essential family time, including protecting their language. As well, the Yukon River salmon enhance the environment and feed other species like grizzly and wolf, which are a significant species in a wild and healthy Yukon.

I'm just wondering if it is your understanding that efforts to enhance Yukon River salmon actually end up enhancing a large number of other aspects of the Yukon River region.

4:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

I would say in general that would be true of most fish species, so I can't say in particular for that one. But as a general principle, yes.