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Evidence of meeting #7 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 habitat.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Siddika Mithani  Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Claire Dansereau  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Marc Grégoire  Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Balfour  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Kevin Stringer  Assistant Deputy Minister, Program Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Bevan  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Conservative Fredericton, NB

Obviously, it must have slipped my mind.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

I understand, Mr. Minister.

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Conservative Fredericton, NB

But perhaps I can defer to Mr. Grégoire on that one.

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Marc Grégoire

Yes, thank you very much, Minister.

First of all, as the Minister said, it's pretty clear that we wouldn't do this if we thought it would result in a safety issue. The reason we're doing this is not only to save money but also to improve coordination in those centres. For anything you try to improve in life, there is a cost. We have to do a business case to see if it's worth investing in. In this case, there's a really good business case, because we contend that we will save approximately $1 million in ongoing costs versus an approximate cost or $600,000 to $700,000 for the initial investment. That includes reallocating the space, to install new work stations at both Trenton and Halifax; to reorganize the phone lines; to train the people who will work at those sites; and some other relocation costs as well.

If you do any kind of cost-benefit analysis, you would normally want to have savings, or a positive cost-benefit outcome, over five or six or seven years for such a big move. In this case, the savings are accruing with a year.

I assure you that all of this was done within the coast guard's budget. We're not borrowing from science or anybody else in the department to do this, again because of the very small amount of investments that are needed.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much.

I hope you're right. It's somewhat difficult to understand why you wouldn't need search and rescue in Newfoundland, but you responded to my question.

I would also like somebody to elaborate on the edge project. There is a great problem in fishing herring off the coast of Prince Edward Island. There are no catches. This was a project that I did not agree with.

How did it work? Do you feel that it had any effect on the stocks off of Prince Edward Island?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Conservative Fredericton, NB

I'll let Mr. Balfour speak specifically about the edge program, but I know there are some concerns in the herring fishery, not only around Prince Edward Island but the Bay of Fundy as well. There's a decline there as well.

I'll let Mr. Balfour speak to that.

4:10 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Balfour

As you noted, the pilot project that was carried out this spring was focused on the prospect of the herring seiners being capable of fishing fall-spawning herring in the spring. In a pilot project in the previous year, they had some success in doing so. The allocation they had for fishing in the pilot counted against their quota for fall-spawners. And if they had taken any spring-spawning herring, that would also have counted against their quota for spring herring.

It was a well-monitored project. There were observers on board the vessels; there were hail-in/hail-out requirements; and it was supervised such that if there were landings, they would also have been monitored at dockside. As you have pointed out, they were not able to encounter herring this year. In some measure, that's likely because of the inclement weather they encountered. But it was strictly and closely supervised as a project.

The results of the assessment of the project will be brought to the Small Pelagic Advisory Committee later this fall for a discussion and determination as to whether this pilot project will proceed into next year.

It was all in aid of providing an opportunity for these license holders to be able to fish quotas they've been assigned within conservation stipulations, but allowing for another opportunity to locate where concentrations of herring might be found, and in a way that would be respectful of other fishing gears and the interest of others who depend on herring.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Your time is well over, Mr. MacAulay.

Thank you, Minister. I know your time with us went quite quickly, and I know that the members have many more questions they would like to pose. However, I know you have other engagements you have to attend. If you find an opportunity in your schedule to come back to this committee, you would certainly be welcome, I'm sure. The committee members will always welcome your time here.

Do you have any closing comments at this point in time, Minister?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Conservative Fredericton, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to give you an idea of the direction we're looking at moving the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in, recognizing that change isn't easy but that it sometimes has to be done. Hopefully, I'll have the support of the committee.

In some instances there may be issues that you would like to study; or, if the chance were available to us, there may be issues that I would want you to take a look at as a committee as well. I'd appreciate working in cooperation with you over the course of my time as the minister of fisheries.

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Minister.

As I said earlier, the officials will remain with us for the rest of our time together here today.

We'll take a short break while the minister departs.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

We will resume our meeting.

Once again, thank you for agreeing to stay with us for the rest of the meeting.

Monsieur Toone.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

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

Thank you.

Thanks for staying. I have a question regarding oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Corridor Resources is planning to undertake some exploratory drilling for oil and gas at the Old Harry site in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. People in the neighbouring communities are quite concerned about the impact this drilling might have on fisheries, and tourism, and their way of life, frankly.

I'd like to know how the department is planning to fulfill its obligations regarding the protection of fish stocks, especially species at risk, within the context of oil and gas extraction in the gulf, which has a five-province regulatory structure—in fact, an unharmonized five-province regulatory structure.

Perhaps you would answer that question. Thanks.

4:20 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

Certainly there are other bodies, other government agencies and organizations, that would manage the whole of the regulatory side of oil and gas exploration in the gulf and elsewhere.

Our role would be to ensure that fish and fish habitat are protected, somehow, through that exploration. It's done on a case-by-case basis. I'm not sure about the particular case you're talking about now, but in any case we would do an analysis of the impact on the habitat and the potential impacts on fish. There would likely be, if any government agency at this point felt it were a necessity, or if the law allowed for it, an environmental impact assessment done. It depends. Each case follows similar steps, and we do the same kind of work, involving analysis on a case-by-case basis.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Mr. Donnelly.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

On the subject of marine protected areas, or MPAs, Canada committed during the recent Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to the conservation of 10% of its marine areas through the establishment of “ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas” by 2020. But Canada is making very slow progress on this international commitment. Currently, less than 1% of Canada's oceans are protected and at this rate of MPA establishment Canada would meet its commitment by 2064.

In the House the other day, I did ask the minister this question about fulfilling the 2012 obligation, and he confirmed that it was on track. I wonder if the department could comment on Canada, as we see it, being so far behind. How are you on track in committing to this 2012 agreement?

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

The numbers are somewhat different. If I remember correctly, the 2012 commitment is to have six marine protected areas by then, and we're on track for that. The 2020 commitment is a different set of numbers and includes much more than just our department. If you look at the map, you'll see that there are many MPAs or conservation areas being protected.

As for whether or not we're at 1% or 9%, I'm not sure. I don't know if Siddika or Kevin has more information on that, but we're certainly continuing to do the work.

October 6th, 2011 / 4:25 p.m.

Kevin Stringer Assistant Deputy Minister, Program Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

I might add that a number of international agreements speak to different types of numbers. One of them said that we were going to have 12 in place by 2012, one spoke of 10%, and one spoke of MPA networks.

What we can say is that there has been an exercise to try to bring together all of the different jurisdictions that are protecting different parts of the ocean and the Great Lakes. One of the commitments was to establish an MPA network in each country; and at the meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, they approved in principle the MPA network.

Through that exercise, we've identified to date 802 separate parts of the ocean that have been protected and that we believe will meet the international requirement for MPAs. So we have our MPAs, the ones that are already established and the ones in the areas of interest process that is ongoing now, which we're hoping to have done for 2012. But we also have what Environment Canada has done, what Parks Canada has done, and what other provinces have done.

In addition to that, we're also doing an exercise with our department, but also with others, to identify fishing areas that have been closed. Those areas might not meet the requirements of the international definition of an MPA. An enormous amount of work is under way to try to meet as many of our obligations as we can and to be as comprehensive as we can.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

I appreciate the answer. I just find it hard to understand—with the commitment being so far behind, the lack of resources, the cuts that are coming, plus our pulling out of PNCIMA—how it's going to be possible to make this commitment and to move in a positive direction in terms of marine protected areas.

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

If I may, I'm not sure there's agreement that we're so far behind. I think in some ways it's a matter of definition, and we're certainly continuing to work on this. And we have not pulled out of PNCIMA; we have changed the scope of planning. It had been reaching a level of detail that was not even possible to do within the timeframe, nor would that have been useful to do. So it was brought back up to a higher planning level to ensure that work continued. So we have not pulled out of PNCIMA.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Donnelly.

Mr. Leef.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you, senior team members, for coming. It's nice to have you here. I'll bring you out of Atlantic Canada for a little bit and take you way up north. I'd just like to get your views on the Yukon chinook salmon fishery.

I had an opportunity to meet with first nations stakeholders in the Yukon this summer. There is some serious concern there, with some calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to produce a cumulative impact assessment report in conjunction with the United States. I'm just wondering if you're aware of that or if you can share any information with the committee with respect to what might be going on with the chinook salmon in the Yukon.

4:30 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Balfour

The reports we've had on salmon returns this year indicate that escapement targets will be met in the Yukon River systems, and there has been the opportunity for some commercial, recreational, and aboriginal subsistence fishing on those stocks.

It is a situation that is somewhat reflective of the situation throughout the range of salmon in British Columbia, where we're seeing returns within the those predicted for the cycles, albeit in some instances low compared to averages.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

This is more just a bit of messaging, I guess, but beyond just being a significant food source for them, the chinook salmon are a critical cultural element to the Yukon first nations. They are a method for them to share stories and teach and to have essential family time, including protecting their language. As well, the Yukon River salmon enhance the environment and feed other species like grizzly and wolf, which are a significant species in a wild and healthy Yukon.

I'm just wondering if it is your understanding that efforts to enhance Yukon River salmon actually end up enhancing a large number of other aspects of the Yukon River region.

4:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

I would say in general that would be true of most fish species, so I can't say in particular for that one. But as a general principle, yes.