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Evidence of meeting #40 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 regulations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sarah Bailey  Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Nick Mandrak  Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Becky Cudmore  Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Movement, right, and that covers wild animals and plants.

4:35 p.m.

Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Becky Cudmore

That's the intent—aquatic species.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

And because it can be applied across all of Canada—going back to a couple of questions Mr. Toone was asking—it would make sense that provincial bodies, given that they might have a specific acceptance variable to some species and not to others...that their biologists, their scientific community, their enforcement community, and their education programming and branding around that.... It would seem to make sense that they participate, contribute, and fund that sort of thing as well.

Would that be fair to say?

4:35 p.m.

Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Becky Cudmore

Yes, definitely.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Leef.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Don't I get a MacAulay minute here?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

No, you don't get a MacAulay minute.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

You've got to be here a little longer, eh?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you.

Mr. Donnelly.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Following up on Mr. Leef's comment about WAPPRIITA, I'm wondering about the timeline. You mentioned that the department is working on closing that gap or addressing that issue. How long before we can expect to see something? That sounds like an oversight that it would be nice if everyone could work together to fix.

Is that something that will need to come back to the government to approve through Parliament? And what kind of a timeline are we looking at?

4:35 p.m.

Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Becky Cudmore

The question might be better answered by people in regulations and policy rather than science people, but I am aware that it is currently in consultation—the draft regulations are in consultation—with the province, so I think they're hoping to have something very soon that they can table.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

I'll shift gears back to species risk assessments. Of the invasive animals and plants that you've done risk assessments for, what would be the top three to five that are causing the greatest risk to Canada in the Great Lakes?

4:35 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

I think, undoubtedly, it's the Asian carps that are on the doorstep to Canada that are of the greatest risk to the Great Lakes right now. You did hear about the snakehead in Burnaby. That's not the closest snakehead to the Great Lakes in North America. In fact, there's a population established in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., and in a pond in Philadelphia, and there have been sightings elsewhere towards the Great Lakes.

There is not an obvious pathway to bring them to the Great Lakes. For example, we do not see them in trade at live food markets in the Great Lakes Basin, but that's the one we're keeping our eye on, because it is moving in unpredictable ways outside of areas that had obvious pathways.

So the Asian carps, and then, secondarily, I think the snakehead, from at least a fish perspective, would be of concern.

There's another species as well that is found in the live food trade in the Toronto area. It's the Asian swamp eel. That species has had a significant negative effect in parts of the United States where it has been established. That's a species that is on the radar screen as well.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Where would Zebra mussels and round goby fall?

4:35 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

They're already here, so they are having an effect. From a risk assessment point of view, we know what the risk is. The risk is high. It's certain that they'll become established and have an impact. We're looking beyond. As Ms. Cudmore mentioned, we really want the cornerstone of our AIS program to be prevention, and we want to prevent the next round gobies and the next zebra mussels.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

What are the top three threats then? Those were risks. What are the current threats to the lakes, the fishery, the economy, etc.?

4:40 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

I actually did a study that looked at the main threats to rare species, and I think that study is a microcosm of what's actually impacting the ecosystem as a whole. Habitat degradation, I think, would be considered the greatest threat, which would include things like loss of wetlands, modification of shorelines, and so on. The second threat in our study was invasive species. They have various effects, from impacting native species through to having socio-economic impacts. We've all heard of children getting their feet cut on zebra mussel shells, for example.

It really drops off after that because those are really the two main risks. In the past it would have been overfishing, which at this point is not a major issue in the Great Lakes and hasn't been for quite a while. A century ago, some of the greatest losses in the Great Lakes were related to overfishing, but it's no longer a major issue. It's the same with contaminants. They're no longer a major issue.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Just on the contaminants, does that mean we have them under control? Is that why? We heard testimony that the contaminants issue—the fecal coliform, for instance, that's been produced on the shores—has been a real issue, but are you saying that's a local issue?

4:40 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

I don't study contaminants so it's very difficult for me to be specific about whether or not we control that issue. In fact, that's covered by Environment Canada in the province. But based on our study, we concluded that the impact of contaminants on rare fishes was very low.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Could you supply the committee with a copy of your study?

4:40 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

Absolutely.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

We would appreciate that.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Mr. Donnelly.

Mr. Sopuck.

May 30th, 2012 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you very much, witnesses.

I was very interested, Dr. Mandrak, in a recent comment about how the risk of contaminants seems to have declined....[Technical Difficulty—Editor]

I'd like to focus on the Asian carp. Everybody focuses on that, and it implies that the Asian carp, and I think rightly so, is a game changer in terms of invasive species. The rainbow trout in the Great Lakes wasn't really a game changer. The Pacific salmon weren't. But there is something about this species. I gather it's a filter feeder. Is that what the issue is? Can you elaborate on that?

4:40 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

Sure. Thank you for the question.

The rainbow trout or the other trout and salmon species were introduced into the Great Lakes to replace the lake trout, which had been decimated a long time ago. They had the same sort of ecological role. The Asian carp have a completely different role. We do not have these huge fishes that are planktivores—they're feeding on the microscopic organisms that you can't see in the water column.

They compete with every species. Every species, at some point, no matter how big they grow, will feed on those microscopic organisms. These Asian carp grow to be over a metre long, up to 50 kilograms. Every day of their life they're feeding on those organisms, at a rate of about 40% of their body weight per day. The reason they're a game changer is because they're unlike anything the Great Lakes have ever seen.