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 #42 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 commission.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Robert Lambe  Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Chris Goddard  Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Marc Gaden  Communications Director and Legislative Liaison, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

It's an evolving issue and it's fairly current, so we haven't had a formal approach or strategy for dealing with the changes thus far. As Dr. Gaden said, we're learning more from what the advisers are bringing to us than from any other source.

So certainly at this point we're waiting to see what the response is to the resolution that the advisers brought forward. They've raised some interesting questions, not in the resolution but in the discussions with us, about the degree to which wetlands would be protected going forward. Wetlands provide critical habitat, not only in terms of the wetlands themselves but in terms of the headwaters that they provide for fish habitat downstream. The specialists on that advisory body, in particular, are concerned that wetlands might not be as protected with the changes. Again, it may be premature to jump to that conclusion. We just need to know more about what the legislation is about.

So we do support the resolution and we're anxiously awaiting what the response will be, because we all need to know more about what the spirit and the content of the legislative changes are.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

Ms. Davidson.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thanks to our presenters here this afternoon. Certainly, it's a pleasure to have you here, and thank you very much for coming.

We've been hearing from a lot of different people, people who have been intimately involved with the aquatic invasive species and the issues that they present for both sport and recreational fishing, as well as total economic impacts that they may be having in many ways. It certainly spreads out across the communities that would be involved.

I know that your fishery commission is involved and works with many other groups, and you've talked a bit about it and you've talked a bit about your advisers, but what groups in fact do you work with?

Do you work with the IJC? Do you have any formal relationship, other than the advisers, with the sport fishing and recreational fishing groups? What is your direct role with the Canadian government?

4:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

I'll let my governance expert speak to that in more detail, but there is a formal network and an informal network. I think one of the things that we can say about the commission—it being slightly older than I am—is that it has forged incredible relationships over the years. People don't think anything of picking up the phone and phoning the commission or the commissioners or the advisers about issues. We hear it from people who are happy and unhappy, whether they're part of that network or not.

Before I turn it over to my colleagues, I would say that, to my knowledge—and they can correct me if I'm wrong—despite the fact that we actually have eight U.S. states that have a stake in the business of the commission and have to decide amongst themselves how to allocate the fishery resource, and we have one or two provinces, depending on the issue, and tribal fisheries and aboriginal fisheries, there has been only one incident that I'm aware of in the 50-odd years where they weren't able to reach agreement on how to allocate that very valuable resource and that was resolved within the commission. When you consider that they bring pretty sound science to the table to base their arguments on, I guess that's part of the reason why there have been few conflicts. But that particular one was resolved on the basis of science as well.

So there's a formal and an informal network, but I'll defer to Dr. Gaden.

4:15 p.m.

Communications Director and Legislative Liaison, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Marc Gaden

Maybe I'm the governance expert.

We have, let me say, a mature assortment of institutions in the Great Lakes basin to deal with governance, and you're looking at one of them, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which operates under a treaty. We have the International Joint Commission, which operates under a treaty. We have other institutions that operate under various types of agreements, like the Great Lakes Commission, which is an interstate compact. Part of the U.S. Constitution allows for the formation of state alliances in a formal way. There is a compact, for example, that governs the allocation of water and diversion of water in the Great Lakes basin, which the provinces have also agreed to.

We do have an assortment of institutions to deal with the varying problems in the basin. It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we have a wealth of expertise to deal with the issues that exist out there. On the other hand—and let's use invasive species as an example, because this is the subject of the hearing today—if there is nobody specifically in charge of something, or if everybody is in charge of something and interested in it, you're in the same place: nobody is really accountable for it.

That's why these cross-linkages need to occur in the Great Lakes basin. We're in charge of lamprey. It's right in the treaty. The buck stops with us. We're accountable for it, and the control program works. You can come and ask us questions on how we're doing. You can't ask the same question for any of the other invasive species in the Great Lakes basin, even though there is a wealth of institutional arrangements that exist.

Speaking specifically about the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and our relationship with other institutions, we do not have a formal relationship with the International Joint Commission, our sister treaty organization, but we do have a longstanding informal relationship with that commission, because it's absolutely essential that our two commissions work together. We have differing missions, but we have the same vision for the Great Lakes. Our commissioners meet with the International Joint Commission commissioners from time to time. The staff interact on a regular basis, and we try to work together to articulate what our shared goals are.

With the fishery institutions of the Great Lakes basin, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission does not have direct management authority or even the ability to compel any jurisdiction, whether it's Ontario or any of the eight Great Lakes states or the U.S. tribes, to do anything with respect to their fisheries. Because of the fact that the political authority is diffuse in the Great Lakes basin, that means that the institutional partnership part of our vision is vital. If we want something to happen with fisheries, it has to be done on a consensus basis under a non-binding agreement. And as Mr. Lambe said, the instances when the states and the province have not been able to reach agreement—in this case he was referring to the allocation of walleye and yellow perch in Lake Erie—are extremely rare. We try to maintain a process whereby these decisions can be made, while at the same time respecting the sovereignty of the provinces and the states and the tribes to manage their fisheries.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Your group is specifically in charge of sea lamprey. Is anybody specifically in charge of other invasive species, such as Asian carp, or is that something that needs to be done?

4:20 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

It's an interesting question. That's a real challenge to answer in two minutes, but I was actually remiss in not explaining that a bit better. There is a shared jurisdiction between the province and the federal government in the Great Lakes inland fisheries management, and it's complicated, to say the least.

The primary federal department is Fisheries and Oceans, and within Ontario it's the Ministry of Natural Resources. There is some formality within the commission to recognize that. There's always one, and typically two commissioners, of the four Canadian commissioners who are Fisheries and Oceans people—usually senior people—and one of the other commissioners is an Ontario representative, usually the deputy minister of Natural Resources. Underneath the commission there are a number of committees that work day to day on the issues and so on, and they feed up to the commission. Those committees are populated by people from both agencies as well. The commission really does have good representation from the agencies that have a mandate within the Great Lakes.

As far as the responsibilities are concerned, it can be confusing. The federal government is responsible for policies and programs and standards under which fisheries are managed. The provincial government and inland Canada is responsible for the management of those fisheries, so they often do much of the science. They do the administrative part of fisheries management, such as licensing and so on and so forth.

Within the grand scheme of things, compared to traditional fisheries management, invasive species is kind of the new kid on the block, if you like. I think in North America in general, we haven't responded to that yet.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

So if prevention is critical, then it's—

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

I think you're done.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Can I ask this last question?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

If you're quick, very quick.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Okay, I'll make it quick.

Are DFO and MNR, then, the main ones responsible for prevention and preventative strategies on the Canadian side?

4:20 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

4:20 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

To follow up specifically to your question, there are two coordinating bodies that exist on the Great Lakes right now. One is a U.S. panel, which is orchestrated through the Great Lakes Commission, called the Great Lakes panel on aquatic invasive species. It serves to bring people together to exchange information.

With respect to Asian carp, there is a committee called the ACRCC, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. That is a committee that is headed by the Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, and the Council on Environmental Quality.

In fact, the administration has appointed a person we refer to as the “Asian carp czar” to oversee it. It brings together all of the states and the federal government agencies involved and tries to coordinate it. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission is the only non-government agency that sits on that ACR Coordinating Committee. I'm the only Canadian who sits on that committee, but I do not speak for Canada, unless the night before a meeting the Leafs beat the Blackhawks or something like that.

4:20 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

4:25 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Could I add one quick point to that?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

We're pushing it here. Sorry, Mr. Lambe, I have to move on.

Mr. MacAulay.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much.

I can understand the commission of advisers with the resolution, because I've been around here for a few years and the Fisheries Act has been discussed with my own party and other parties, and generally there was never enough discussion. We have great difficulty when there's no discussion, but that seems to be about where we are right now, dare I say.

Dr. Goddard, with regard to the St. Mary's River, if I understand correctly, you didn't completely clean it up, but you took about 90% of the sea lamprey out of there. Is that correct?

4:25 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Do I understand correctly that the conditions became a lot better for the sea lamprey to expand and that's really what caused the problem? I'd like you to elaborate a bit more on that.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

Sure. There were two things that happened. One was the creation of a bunch of spawning habitats, primarily for steelhead in the area, which turned out to be wonderful sea lamprey spawning habitat. The second thing was an overall improvement in the water quality that occurred in the St. Mary's River. The water quality prior to the late eighties had been a real impediment to sea lamprey effectively spawning in that area.

What the commission was able to do was to develop a deep water electrofisher. We could drop this thing down into the water column, shoot electrical current into the sediment, the larval lampreys would then swim up, and like a huge vacuum we would suck them up into vessels on the surface.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Can I ask, does that affect other species when you do this?

4:25 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

No, sir, that does not.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Okay.