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Evidence of meeting #39 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 organisms.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hugh MacIsaac  Professor, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, and Director, Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Professor, you said that one of the big problems has to do with aquariums and garden ponds. You mentioned also the water soldier. What is the water soldier, and what type of regulations need to be put in place?

Perhaps the people that are selling them might have an idea, but I expect that a lot of the people who are buying them do not realize what they're doing. Again, it's back to the education.

4:40 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

A good friend of mine, a dentist, has a nice pond. So does my brother-in-law, who is also a dentist. They both have these plants in their gardens out in the backyard. The problem is that they grow so prolifically when it's warm that if they put a plant in their pond, a month later the pond surface is covered with them.

If they're living around a creek, which some of these people do, they take the plants, and instead of throwing them in the garbage, they throw them in the creek behind their house. These plants have these air vacuoles that allow them to float. You can watch them float out into the Great Lakes.

An undergraduate at my school called me and said there was an invasive plant called water lettuce in his backyard. I didn't know anything about water lettuce, so I Googled it, and the first thing I came up with was this pond shop. I almost fell out of my chair. When I saw the species he was selling, I realized he was selling not only the two that we're dealing with, but also a whole series of other ones. So I now use this example. I gave a presentation to the provincial fisheries ministers last year, and I showed that every one of the nine species that this gentleman was selling was invasive either in Canada or in some other part of the world.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

But should he be allowed to sell them? Should there be information when you sell this kind of thing?

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

One of the responses of Fisheries and Oceans to the Auditor General's audit was the creation of a centre called CEARA, the Centre of Expertise for Aquatic Risk Assessment, and it's based in Burlington, Ontario. Before you can ban the sale of these organisms.... This is trade, and so the government could, in fact, be sued by the vendors, if the vendors initially selling these are, say, somewhere in the United States or some other part of the world. They could say that their business had been harmed. Before we can do that, the World Trade Organization has rules that governments must play by if they want to ban live sale of organisms.

One of the things you must do is a formal risk assessment. DFO has this centre and they will do the formal risk assessments as they've done with snakeheads and with Asian carp species. After those ecological risk assessments are done, if the answer is that they could survive in Canada and that they would harm Canada if they were introduced—you have to have a yes to both of those questions—then the government is legally entitled to ban live sale of that organism in the country. That's when Ontario then brought in legislation to ban possession of live Asian carp in Ontario. So, you'd have to do this with these plants as well.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Does that happen before it comes in, or is it a legal case that goes before, or...?

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

No, you can do it before it comes in.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

So, you can stop them from coming in, and then it goes before the WTO and all this process takes place.

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

No. We had concern about Asian carp, so CEARA did a risk assessment before the Asian carp were introduced in large numbers to Canada. They said that they thought that these fish were a threat to Canada; therefore, they have a legal ability to prohibit live possession. Then Ontario was the one that brought in the regulation. You would have to do that on a species-by-species case. These two plants that I mentioned, most governments do not perceive them to be a problem because they're from Brazil. They're tropical plants.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

But, they are a problem

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Hugh MacIsaac

I saw them in 2010 at a number of locations. In 2011 a woman who lives on one of the tributaries out in Belle River, Ontario, outside of Windsor sent me a whole series of photographs and said that they couldn't navigate boats through their little waterway because it was choked with these plants.

Either the plants are surviving when they are not supposed to, and I don't think that's happening, or they're reproducing when they're not supposed to, and we don't think that's happening. What we think is the most plausible thing is that people are purchasing them in local stores—pond shops—and if they have too many of them growing in their pond by midsummer to late summer, they take some of them and dispose of them in areas where they shouldn't, and they end up in the Great Lakes.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. MacAulay, your time is up again.

Professor MacIsaac, on behalf of the committee, I would like to say thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here with us today, for taking the time to answer our questions, and for making a presentation to our committee. If you have anything further that you'd like to add to your presentation, or anything of that nature, please feel free to forward it to the attention of the clerk. Certainly, we do look forward to anything further that you might have to add. Thank you very much for being here today.

There being no further business, this committee stands adjourned.