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Evidence of meeting #32 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 work.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David Gillis  Director General, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Burden  Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Michelle Wheatley  Regional Director, Science, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Does that not have an impact on other species? Have any studies been done to see whether or not this is the case?

4:10 p.m.

Director General, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Gillis

It is not a problem for other species.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Very good.

4:10 p.m.

Michelle Wheatley Regional Director, Science, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

If I can add to that, we have done some studies, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with whom we work, doing the sea lamprey program...they have funding for research on some of these things to look at impacts on other species. The studies to date have shown very limited impacts. There are certain times of the year when some species might be more susceptible. When we're planning the activities, we'll try not to be doing the lampricide treatments at a time when a species might be sensitive, when a species is spawning. So we make every effort to make sure it isn't a time when they're sensitive. Also during the work, it's very carefully done, tracking what the concentration of lampricide is in the waterway to make sure it only gets to the level that's needed to eradicate the lamprey and doesn't get higher, where it might be a risk for other species.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you.

Go ahead, Mr. Hayes.

April 2nd, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank my colleague, Pat Davidson, for bringing this motion forward. It's incredible that we're studying this and having us step into the Great Lakes. I'm so pleased that the committee is going to actually have an opportunity to have a look at the Great Lakes. It's very close to me, being from Sault Ste. Marie.

A quote from Great Lakes United states that if the Asian carp, which can grow to three feet and a hundred pounds, enters the Great Lakes, “...they could devastate the region's $7 billion fishing industry and permanently alter how recreational boaters, anglers and tourists use and enjoy the lakes....”

I don't have any question on that; I just want folks on the committee to understand that it could devastate the $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes. So let's just be clear on that.

But I want to turn back to the sea lamprey. What we haven't discussed today is the implications. What is the damage caused by the sea lamprey to native fish?

4:10 p.m.

Regional Director, Science, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Michelle Wheatley

The sea lamprey have a complex life cycle. They spend the first four to five years of their life in streams, living in the substrate of streams as they slowly grow. Then they reach a stage called transformers, which is that they transform and become a parasitic form, and that's when they move out to the lakes. At this point they're still fairly small, but then they attach onto the side of a fish—the third slide had a picture of the sea lamprey and a hole in the side of the fish—and basically drill through the side of the fish and start to consume the fish from the outside, sucking out the juices. It can kill the fish, depending on the size of it, but for the commercial fishery it causes damage to the fish. Even if the lamprey drops off after it's been attached for some time, it can leave damage. Therefore, if that fish is caught by the commercial fishermen, people don't want to fillet a fish with a hole in the side of it from a sea lamprey.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I've read reports that state that an adult sea lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds' worth of fish, and I believe those fish generally in the Great Lakes are the lake trout. Is that a correct statement?

4:15 p.m.

Regional Director, Science, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Michelle Wheatley

That's correct.

Before the sea lamprey control program started in 1955, the lake trout had been decimated; they had taken over and decimated that population. That had been the effect. The lake trout have come back as a result of the sea lamprey program.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I did some research. This was a bit of a tough one to swallow. There's a group called the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. I don't know if you're familiar with them. They have a website. Apparently, they do a lot of research. What they state is that the adult sea lamprey in the St. Marys River is still at the same level it was 40 years ago. The St. Marys River is the connecting river between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. It goes right by my door in Sault Ste. Marie.

They say that the St. Marys River is the hot spot for sea lamprey. I can believe that. That's why the Sea Lamprey Control Centre is housed in Sault Ste. Marie, I suppose. That would indicate that current measures aren't working.

Are you familiar with that? Can you comment on the sea lamprey in the St. Marys River in terms of quantity now versus quantity 40 years ago? Is there any truth to the statement?

4:15 p.m.

Regional Director, Science, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Michelle Wheatley

I don't have the numbers in front of me, so I wouldn't want to comment right now. But certainly the St. Marys River is a major area, and as you say, it's a major hot spot for the sea lamprey. It's an area where a lot of the work is done.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I'm now going to ask a carp question.

4:15 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Burden

I was just going to add to what Michelle said.

Clearly, as David said in his remarks, we're about 90% effective in our treatment for sea lamprey. As we see the resident fish populations grow, we're also seeing areas along the St. Marys River course, in some instances, where when we slow down treatments, there's a resurgence of sea lamprey. What we're trying to do now is go back to some water courses and do one year and then the next year. We're basically nuking any sea lamprey larvae in the areas. We're seeing much better results from that kind of approach. You're seeing that some places will get hotter with the number of sea lamprey. As we do our analysis and look at what the performance of the program has been, we'll modify our approach in that area specifically. Again, I'm not familiar with that specific report, but our similar findings would necessitate going back and doing these kinds of approaches. As I've said, it's a double treatment kind of approach.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I have one quick question. I think my colleague alluded to this, but I'm not sure.

The binational ecological risk assessment for bighead carp in the Great Lakes is being led by DFO's Centre of Expertise for Aquatic Risk Assessment, in Burlington, Ontario. And it is being coordinated by the binational Great Lakes Fishery Commission. That report was to be available, apparently, on January 12, 2012, and the socio-economic impact assessment was to be competed by March 12, 2012. Both of those dates have passed. I'm wondering what the status of those reports is.

4:20 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Burden

On the first one, the binational risk assessment, I guess probably the safest answer for me to give on this is that when you have a bunch of scientists who have to come to some kind of consensus agreement, and these things are peer reviewed, it takes some time to finalize reports. That report is in the final stages of editing. It would be available shortly. I guess that is a way to look at it.

The next part of your question, related to a second phase of that work, is with regard to the socio-economic impact. The work Canada is doing is ongoing. Your information says March. That is what we were originally looking at. We've had some challenges getting appropriate information and data to verify what the real economic impact would be. We're now looking at that report. We had some meetings just last week with the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, and we expect to have the final report for the Canadian work probably around October. It will be the fall of this year for sure.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Mr. MacAulay.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

And welcome.

Just on what Mr. Hayes was talking about, the U.S. and Canada have a joint agreement on the sea lamprey program, if I understand it correctly, and we put in $8.1 million. What do the Americans contribute to this?

4:20 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Burden

The spread for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is 69 American and 31 Canadian, so they put in approximately $22 million a year to our $8.1 million.

That's for the eradication and measures related to the sea lamprey. There is also an administrative component and a scientific research component, and that's cost shared on a 50-50 basis between Canada and the United States.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much.

Will the budget cuts have any affect on your research or what you're doing on eradication?

4:20 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Burden

We're still studying the budget, and we're not in a position to comment on what is actually in or out of the budget at this point in time. This is an area where we have ongoing commitments with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and it would be my hope and expectation that we will be continuing to do this work.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Again, on the back of what Mr. Hayes had to say, if the sea lamprey expands its presence, it's a major cost to the Canadian economy, from what I'm hearing here.

4:20 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Central and Arctic Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Burden

That would be correct. As I said, we don't know what's in or what's out from a budget perspective.

It would be speculation on my part, Mr. Chairman, so I think I should probably decline.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

It's not good, not good. But anyhow, thank you very much.

I'd like you to elaborate on the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network. What is involved and who is involved? How much money do we allocate to that?

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Ecosystems and Oceans Science Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Gillis

As I said, it's an academic network. It's centred in the University of Windsor, and it may involve other universities as well. It's funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. There are quite a few of these kinds of networks in different areas of science and engineering.

The core funding from NSERC is a total of $5 million over five years, so it's essentially $1 million a year that they put in. This money goes to research programs in universities that are student-based, but obviously with expert academia backing them. It is focused on research questions that are related to aquatic and invasive species.

The department augments the NSERC contribution to the tune of $200,000 a year, so a million dollars over five years. As I was saying earlier, we feel this is very good leveraging for the department, and for Canadians, to be linking the government research program to the academic network. It allows us a voice to help make sure the research program that the network undertakes is relevant and tied to our sense of priority that we develop from the tools I mentioned earlier.