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Evidence of meeting #36 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 things.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tim Purdy  Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited
Peter Meisenheimer  Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you.

Mr. Purdy, how many other operations exist in the Sarnia area?

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

We're the only commercial plant in the Sarnia area. Depending on the wintertime ice floes and stuff like that, if there's a lot of west wind and southwest wind and the ice is bad in February, we could have five or six boats fishing out of Sarnia. If the wind is really bad out of the north and all the ice ends up in Sarnia, we all end up fishing out of Goderich. So it depends on the ice.

Right now we're the only trap-net fishery on the south end of Lake Huron, and then there's one trap-net fishery on the north end, up in Georgian Bay. For gillnet fishermen, I think there are about eight different licences for that area.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

How many people would you employ in that area?

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

With the economy and the way it is, we've changed our focus. Back in the 1990s, when you could get an extra 60¢ on the dollar, we shipped almost everything to the States, and that's where we made some money, with the exchange rate. Once the exchange rate changed, we had to change our focus on how we sold our fish. We added two restaurants. We have a dockside eatery in Sarnia and we also have one in Grand Bend. Instead of selling our fish to somebody else and letting them make the money, we try to add value and take care of our own product.

With our two restaurants, we have nine fish boats. We don't operate all nine at once, but we'd be around 45 employees.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

So it would be a noticeable impact in that region, then, for your business.

Is there an additional association, or are you facing this issue for the Sarnia area on your own, as a family run business?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

We're part of the Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association, so as part of the whole association we deal with it together.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Are these common concerns being held by the association?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

Very much so. Very scared. The further north you go on Lake Huron...the lamprey has a bigger effect the further north you go. We still see the lamprey effect in southern Lake Huron. In the wintertime we can get three or four lamprey per day attached to the fish, where if you go up to northern Lake Huron, guys who fish off Manitoulin Island will see 70 or 80 a day. Up off the St. Marys River, Sault Ste. Marie, that's a big breeding ground up there.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Leef.

Mr. MacAulay.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Purdy, welcome, and Mr. Meisenheimer. It's good to see you again, Peter.

First, Tim, it's impressive for you to bring Leigha and Josiah here. This business is not always the easiest on family, and you've shown that you're not only a good businessman but you're a family man. That's nice to see; I couldn't emphasize that enough.

You mentioned that the live fish sales—this is not on the invasive species issue—have changed a lot over the years and that you basically have lost that market. What happened?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

When the VHS came in, they took away our live industry, because we were not allowed to transport water or fish from one body to another body. It hurt us. It basically took our whole live fishery away. It really hurt the bait industry, because they were catching bait from one lake and moving it to the other.

Peter could tell you about the lines, where they went. I think a lot of it was the 401.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

But that is, of course, what invasive species do. They don't want you transporting water and fish from one area to another—

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

Exactly; that's what it was.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

—and it's hard to disagree with that, but it does hurt.

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

They said the fish can carry it; the water can carry it; it can be on a duck's feather.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

That's right, and it can be.

You also mentioned the Asian carp and the snakehead and what a devastating effect these would have on your fishery. You mentioned the electric barriers and the dam, also indicating, I believe, that a little funding now could save a disaster down the road. I'd like you first of all to indicate your view on the electric barrier, plus the dam, and then on the need for the funding.

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

I'm skeptical on the dam. I've never personally seen it. I've read reports on it; I have talked to people who have worked on it. I guess I'm not sure how effective it is. I hear people who work on it and assure me that it's effective and that no Asian carp can get by, but their livelihood is not relying on that; their livelihood is working on that dam. My livelihood is hopefully being protected by those Asian carps not getting through. I guess that's the—

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

What you're actually saying, Tim, is that you probably do not have the answer, but we'd better find it and make sure they stay out.

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

Yes, and I hope it's not too late. I'm very scared.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Well, I hope not.

Peter, I wouldn't ever mention the study to Tim after what he stated about studies, but I understand that on the American side there's a study done indicating that the impact of invasive species is $180 million to $800 million a year. Was any of that done on the Canadian side, or not?

4:30 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

It's very difficult to know sometimes. The Army Corps of Engineers and the organization—whose acronym I forget—of governments and mayors on the U.S. side just commissioned a study, and none of the Canadian numbers were included in it. So it's not at all clear to me that the numbers that are put forward are comprehensive at any point in time.

I've heard numbers for annual impact considerably higher than that. It's a bit of a mug's game, I think, to try to put a dollar value on it.

It's a lot of money to us. Speaking on behalf of our industry, it has clearly had a profound effect on the viability of our industry for half a century or three-quarters of a century.

May 2nd, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

I take it, listening to you, that you're not against having environmental reviews before projects take place.

Also, before you get going, I'd like you to—because my time is short here, if I don't get the questions in.... The Fisheries Act could, in the budget implementation bill, bring in changes on possession, import, export, and the release of invasive species.

I wonder whether you have any recommendation to the committee. We've heard a lot of different suggestions—and no doubt it's probably factual—that it comes in, it's flushed down toilets, you find it in ponds. Would you have some advice for the committee as to what type of regulation should be put in place in order to make sure that it's not just imported into the country?

4:30 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

I'm a major proponent of risk management as a way of dealing with fisheries issues generally as long as it is fully open, transparent, and accountable to stakeholders. I think this is an issue that could very well be structured through that kind of approach very productively. For example, I can't think of any credible reason why anybody should be allowed to bring a snakehead into Canada alive.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

But do they?