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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

4:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

In fact the common carp has been enormously destructive for a number of native species.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Right.

4:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

They're very destructive in wetland habitat, which is really rough on things like pike. There are a number of native....

If you go into Hamilton harbour, Burlington Bay, that area, they've invested huge amounts of money in getting the carp out of this area, called Cootes Paradise, simply to bring back some of the native fish population. The carp were destroying it.

Nonetheless, yes, they're a bottom feeder. They stir things up. That's how they do their damage. It's a very different thing.

It's important to keep in mind that although we talk about silver carp and bighead carp as if they're the only Asian carp species at the border, there are two more that actually do feed on the bottom. One is grass carp and the other is black carp, which is a mussel eater. There's a lot of hemming and hawing about whether these things would eat zebra mussels because they specialize in eating molluscs, but Lord, if it turns out they like zebra mussels and they get into the Great Lakes, I mean, we're going to have to do some market development.

May 2nd, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I was interested in your notion of the enzyme issue with the smelt. Back where I come from in Manitoba, the smelt have invaded Lake Winnipeg and have become a primary forage fish for the walleye there. The pickerel there seem to be doing excellent on the smelt.

Is that the same thing that happens with Lake Erie?

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

Yes. In fact, there are two things there. One, the thiaminase in smelt is not as toxic as the thiaminase in.... It's a different type of thiaminase. It's a little less toxic than the one in alewife. And walleye is one of the species that's resistant to it.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Okay. That explains it then.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

Not totally, but largely.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Right.

Mr. Purdy, I gather that perch are a big component of the Lake Erie fishery. They're little discussed in all of these deliberations. How have the perch fared over these decades of invasions of different species?

4:45 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

In Lake Huron the perch quota has actually gone up in the last 10 to 15 years. Back in the early nineties, perch quota was at its lowest for different reasons; nobody really knows why. Some of the fishermen blame it on some of the restocking of lake trout. I think it was different cycles, with a couple of bad year classes. With perch stocks, a lot of it can depend on how cold the winter is, and the spring, and things like that. I think we had a couple of bad year classes. Since the alewife have gone, the perch stocks have really rebounded well.

You were talking about the live Asian carp getting delivered at the border and that. As little as two and a half weeks ago, there was a shipment in Sarnia of live Asian carp. They were still live in the tank when they got there.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Okay. Thank you very much.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Mr. Toone.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

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

I want to start by putting out that any delay that may have occurred to the start time of this meeting today is not my fault.

4:45 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:45 p.m.

NDP

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

Thank you for your interventions. I think the presentations were really quite enlightening.

I was especially interested, Mr. Meisenheimer, when you said earlier that there's a bit of a struggle between DFO officials and local fishers. They don't necessarily see eye to eye. That's unfortunately very true.

I think what you're bringing, Mr. Purdy—your family, the long history you have, and your knowledge is invaluable. Local communities and local fishers tend to know what's going on, even if DFO seems to sometimes think differently. DFO certainly has their constraints with a precautionary approach. They don't want to go beyond a certain floor, and that's certainly understandable.

What I am also hearing from both of you is that there is a lot of volatility between—the species that are populating our Great Lakes are changing quite dramatically, due largely to the invasive species. It's not from overfishing or because fisheries are not trying to manage their stocks, but because invasive species are forcing them to re-evaluate. That leads me to the question of what is a commercial fishery. We can't think of this in the long term any more. It's always quite short term. From the presentations I've seen recently, we're looking at about a 10-year turnover between what's commercially viable today to what's going to be commercially viable tomorrow. Those are incredibly short periods of time. It's very hard for families and for any community to be able to survive that kind of a transition.

I'm going to bring it back to the fact that we're also talking about changing protections within the Fisheries Act. Article 35—we're going to be scrapping the idea of protecting habitat per se. We're going to be talking about protecting species at risk that are commercially viable. I wonder what that means now. How in the world can we know what's commercially viable if it changes every 10 years? If the Canadian dollar's variations from year to year—that alone could impact what's going to be commercially viable.

DFO is no longer going to be keeping track, essentially, of all fisheries. They are only going to be interested, frankly, in commercially viable fish. How are we going to know what's going to be the commercially viable fish in 10 years? Are the local communities able to predict these things for us? Who is going to do that science?

Do you have any comments on that?

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

This is the downside of not being nervous in these sorts of situations. It always falls to me.

4:50 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:50 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

Maybe I can throw things at you.

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association

Peter Meisenheimer

We're very big advocates of an approach to management decision-making that's commonly called structured decision-making. On the west coast I think the buzz phrase is management strategy evaluation. It used to be called decision analysis and adaptive management, but basically it's a way of going about making decisions with the things you don't know very clearly articulated and on the table and an assessment of the risk that attends them, having that as part of the management decision process.

I'll be fairly blunt here. Part of the reason it hasn't happened in a big way nationally is that a lot of folks with interests in a political process around management—and I'll be honest, that would include folks in elected offices as well as folks within the bureaucracy—like to be able to work with it. They don't necessarily want everything laid out. They want to be able to work with it.

It hasn't been a system that has worked terribly well, the old way of doing things. I'm sure if you got some other members of the commercial fishing industry or representatives of the commercial fishing industry from elsewhere in the country in this room, they'd tell you I'm crazy, that they don't like it either.

But from our perspective, and this is speaking with some experience, because we've managed to get this kind of approach brought to bear in the international decision-making process that we have to live with in some of the Great Lakes.... A total allowable catch, for example, with perch and walleye on Lake Erie is set by an international process, not by our local officials. They participate in that.

But we've managed to get the new management planning process opened up to stakeholders from both sides of the border, with a full facilitation from competent folks. We're going to come up with what we consider to be a real science-based management plan, with full transparency that our members can understand.

That's the answer, as far as we're concerned, that kind of an approach.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Mr. Kamp.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I know my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie would like to ask some questions, but I want to take a moment or two to thank you for coming. It has been good. And I want to ensure that you don't leave with any misunderstandings about the proposed changes to the Fisheries Act, some of which you've heard referred to today.

At the heart of the new strategic direction there's still a prohibition. The prohibition reads that:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery.

So the notion that we have to somehow figure out commercial viability is certainly not in the act...or to fish that support such a fishery. So the notion of ecosystem and how that supports one another is certainly there in the act.

At the beginning of the new Fisheries Act, in the definitions section, there will be a definition of what serious harm is. There it says:

serious harm to fish is the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat.

So the notion that somehow habitat has gone missing from the act and we're going to no longer be interested in it is just not accurate.

I think that as you see this debate get fleshed out and some of the facts become more apparent, you'll be pleased. In fact, I would say that if I were a commercial fisherman or part of a commercial fishing association, like you are, Mr. Meisenheimer, I would be pleased with what I see here, in addition to the new regulation-making powers about invasive species and the ability to enter into legally binding agreements with associations like yourselves perhaps and other factors. I think you'll find it interesting.

I wanted to clarify that before passing it over to Mr. Hayes.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Thank you. I have three minutes.

Can I ask Leigha a question? It's an easy question. Have you ever seen a sea lamprey attached to a trout?

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

It's the one your brothers chase you with.

4:55 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Purdy Fisheries Limited

Tim Purdy

She goes on the boats—her brother more, but she goes on the boats and her brother takes them and chases her with them.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Thank you.

Tim, how often are you seeing sea lamprey attached to a trout or other kind of fish?

Secondly, not only that, but obviously sea lamprey detach themselves too. There's a lot of scarring concerns. Do you see a lot of scarring, and is the trend changing in terms of what you've seen in the last 10 years?