This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

4:45 p.m.

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

Michelle Wheatley

The wounding rates, especially on the lake trout, are used as one of the measures of success. That's monitored, and those come from the commercial fishermen reporting the wounding rates they're seeing.

In general, if you look back on the historical data, there has been a decrease in the wounding rates. Some of the numbers are up a bit at the moment. We're working on some of that to figure out why the numbers of sea lamprey are down but the wounding rate is up. That may also depend on the numbers of fish that are there and the opportunities that are there.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Okay. What is the cycle of aquatic invasive species in terms of an initial population explosion versus later populations? Do they level out on their own?

4:50 p.m.

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

David Gillis

I'm generalizing, but they probably could. I know of other instances, though, where a species has become established in a localized area and can exist for quite some time but then go through a period of breakout once the animal gets fully adapted to its new ecosystem.

This is the pattern we saw on green crab. They have been on the east coast of North America for several hundred years but confined to several bays down around Chesapeake and the Potomac area. In the last 50 to 70 years, since the Second World War, they have broken out and are migrating up the coast in a fairly aggressive fashion.

4:50 p.m.

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

David Burden

If I could add to what David was saying, it really is species-dependent. If we look at the Asian carp and what we're seeing in the United States and the Mississippi watershed, there is a lot of sound science telling us that basically anywhere between 80% and 90% of the biomass is Asian carp.

Some things can get in and get established, and it's about the degree of impact. You can have a lot of them, but it doesn't really impact the native ecosystem. If you get something like Asian carp and you see what's happening in the Mississippi delta, that's a different story.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

My line of questioning relates to focusing our work on exactly what the problem is. To carry on with that theme, there are invasive species, and the green crab was really interesting. That's a native species that all of a sudden is expanding its range.

We have a couple of other species, for example, the smelt in Lake Winnipeg and the alewife in the Great Lakes, and they have become very important forage fish for very important economic fisheries. The system has kind of adapted to those species being there, and they probably wouldn't be a target of these efforts, right?

4:50 p.m.

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

David Gillis

Not at the present time, no. That may to some extent be the difference in this case between something that's more on the non-endemic side, as opposed to invasive, with a lot of ecological and economic consequences that are negative.

I should clarify something that maybe you heard me say earlier. I didn't indicate the green crab were native. They are invasive. They have come from the Mediterranean, but it was several hundred years ago. For a long time they did not greatly expand their range, and then they broke out. As was David's point—I think it was a very strong one—it's going to depend quite a bit on the species and how they interact with their new ecosystem.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

The Pacific salmon in the Great Lakes have become extremely important, from an economic standpoint, for those fisheries, and they've been deliberately introduced by people and seem to be what we could call a success story. That would be an invasive species deliberately released that you would not consider a “problem”, would you?

4:50 p.m.

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

David Gillis

It's not endemic.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Okay.

That's good.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.

Go ahead, Mr. MacAulay.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Would that be included then in the 182 species?

4:50 p.m.

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

David Gillis

Yes, the 182 are non-native species or non-endemic species. But they're not all problem cases.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Burden, you certainly support the three-barrier system, obviously.

4:50 p.m.

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

David Burden

From what we've seen and where we are, it seems to be working.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Also, is there a certain area in the Great Lakes that's more of a problem than others? If so, why? Is it just the problem of keeping the species out totally, would you say?

4:50 p.m.

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

Michelle Wheatley

I think, as David said before, prevention is the first option, the first thing we would be looking to. When we do a risk assessment, part of what we're looking at is if it arrived—when you're talking about an invasive species, you're talking about the arrival, survival, then establishment, and then spread. So what we would do, looking at the Great Lakes, is say the characteristics we know about that species—what do they need for breeding habitat, what do they need for food, what do they need to survive and to become established. That would help guide us as to where in the Great Lakes might be the areas of concern or the areas where they might most likely become established. So that's one of the reasons we do the risk assessment, to tell where those areas would be.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Universities help you with this, too, right?

4:55 p.m.

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

Michelle Wheatley

We work with universities, both on the Canadian side and the U.S. side. We're working very closely with some universities on the U.S. side because they can hold live Asian carp. Of course, with the restrictions on possession of live Asian carp in Ontario, our researchers who are in Ontario have said they are not going to go and get special permission to have live Asian carp. It's easier to go and work with their colleagues at the universities in the States.

April 2nd, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

The biggest involvement I had with invasive species was with the blue mussel. It was a major problem.

What would you consider would be one of your biggest successes? Is it in eradication, or is it in your research, or what you found out in order to prevent...? I'd just like you to elaborate on that. What would you consider your biggest success? Possibly with that, you must have some problems, unless you've got everything you need.

4:55 p.m.

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

David Gillis

We've talked a lot about sea lamprey, and I think that is an example. It's a very high-profile one. Obviously, we're not able to prevent it from getting established in the Great Lakes. But it being here...I think the program we've been describing, with the investment we have in relation to the protection it affords for the commercial and recreational fishery and the success rate we've been able to maintain at around 90%...given that you have a problem, that seems to me to be fairly effectively coping with the problem. It's not an eradication, but it is a management program.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Have you eradicated...?

Go ahead.

4:55 p.m.

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

Michelle Wheatley

In addition to the sea lamprey, I would add the work we've done on ballast water, the research we've done. One of our research scientists actually worked with the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network in Windsor and with Transport Canada, and that has led to major changes in regulations both in Canada and the U.S., and now potentially globally. To our knowledge, there's been no introduction of an invasive species from ballast water since 2008.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

I'm aware that can be a big problem, but how do you...? Is there enough of a surveillance to know? You know, people will do things they should not do, and this causes major problems—

4:55 p.m.

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

David Gillis

In this case, Transport Canada is the manager. We provide advice, and my understanding is it has.... Part of its regulatory program is a monitoring and surveillance system that verifies that ships have done the ballast water exchange they are required to do, depending on where they're coming from.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much.