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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

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Okay.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you.

Mr. Kamp.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, deputy, and officials, for meeting with us today.

As you know, I'm from British Columbia and so I've been following with interest the Cohen commission of inquiry, and I know the department has had a significant role and participation in that. I think I've heard it has provided 500,000 documents and emails. I don't know who's reading those, but that's a lot.

I know that officials, including you, deputy, have appeared before them more than once. Most recently your senior management team was there in September. The commissioner raised a number of issues with you, I know. One of them was the one that Mr. Sopuck raised as well. So let me maybe follow up with that and the whole issue of habitat and habitat policy. The minister referred to it in his comments as well.

My understanding is that the actual policy of DFO is for an overall net gain of productive capacity of fish habitat—which seems to be moving closer to what Mr. Sopuck had in mind—and that the policy anticipates achieving that by conserving existing habitat, restoring lost fish habitat, and developing new habitat, perhaps. That's the way I read the policy. It does also specify, though, that the way to reach that conservation goal—the conservation of existing habitat—is the no net loss guiding principle, which you were asked about, I think, by the commissioner.

So could you explain to us how of all that works? Some of us are often surprised by how the habitat policy is administered. It would seem sometimes that every bit of fish habitat is considered equal and, whether it be a hydro dam or a culvert under a farmer's lane, the same approach seems to be taken to it. So I'm wondering if that direction will continue in the future, or what you have in mind in this area when the minister talked about the need to modernize this 25-year-old policy.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

Thank you for the question.

Yes, this was an area that was covered at the Cohen commission last week. I think we all have the same desire, and that the desire is to ensure good outcomes for fish and fish production. I have to admit—well, certainly, it's my belief—that the policy as it's currently drafted doesn't necessarily get us there in all cases. It is old, dating from 1986. It was drafted long before other pieces of legislation came into place. So I and others do believe that it certainly requires our looking at it from the point of view of the outcomes we are trying to achieve, rather than establishing a set of rules as a starting point.

If we can establish the outcomes that we're trying to achieve, then we can set up the systems by which we can measure and monitor and ensure we're actually making a difference. Right now it's hard for us to do that, as has been stated by auditors general and everybody who has an opinion on the policy.

So what that looks like at this point, we don't know. Further discussion will be required.

5 p.m.

Conservative

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

I think we understand that every development has some impact on the environment and, often, on fish and fish habitat. Does the policy allow for productive capacity to be enhanced or perhaps created elsewhere besides on the footprint of the proponents' development? Whether that's possible, I'm not sure.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

That is an area we are exploring. It's an approach that has in fact been utilized even under the current policy.

We need to be careful, obviously, to make sure that what we're doing is thinking about the desired outcome. If the desired outcome is a certain species of fish and an ecosystem, then there has to be some link between the habitat that would be created and that species itself.

5 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you very much for that.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Kamp.

We'll go to Mr. Wilks.

5 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you very much.

I thank my colleague for letting me sit in for the last hour.

I have more of a comment than anything else. As you're probably aware, in 1964 the Columbia River Treaty was created for the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers; and in 2014, either Canada or the United States can give notice to either opt out and/or renegotiate the deal by 2024.

Fish habitat, specifically wild salmon, was greatly affected by the damming of both those rivers, specifically the Columbia River and at the Libby Dam in Kootenay.

First nations, particularly the Tla-o-qui-aht, Shuswap, and Okanagan, have had an interest in trying to reintroduce wild salmon, if they can, through the renegotiation of this deal that could come forward. And although I recognize that it's not your file--it's DFAIT's and others'--it is of historical value to the first nations to try to reintroduce salmon. I wonder if there is an opportunity for DFO to get involved in working with first nations and the Army Corps of Engineers to try to find some way to potentially reintroduce wild salmon.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

You saw me check at the table to see if anybody had an answer, and we don't have an answer.

5 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

I don't want to put you on the spot, but if you say yes, it's okay.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

It is an area we're looking at, even for other species, in other parts of B.C. I know that in the central Okanagan, there is some work happening there as well.

I'm not sure. I won't pretend to have an answer, but it's an interesting question. So thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you.

October 6th, 2011 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Wilks.

I have a couple of questions and maybe even a comment before we move on. I think all members have had a chance to ask some questions.

With respect to the minister's comments about reforming habitat management within the department, I want to echo some comments from my colleagues. I don't come at it from a scientific standpoint; I come at it from a political standpoint.

Mr. Stringer, I believe your comment was that stakeholder feedback was mixed. I can assure you that the feedback I get is not mixed; there tends to be a lot of frustration with the policy and practices. From my point of view, the focus seems to be more on stopping development--that's the public's perspective--than on helping the developers comply with the policy.

I don't know if there needs to be a change of focus in how you approach this, because that's the feedback I get within my office as a local member of Parliament. I have people coming to me who are completely frustrated with it. It seems as if they hit a roadblock, more than anything else, when they deal with officials. Obviously, I get a little more of an enthusiastic response, if you like. People come into my office and talk about how enforcement officials are over-the-top in some of their practices and whatnot. I try to work with the officials to get to where you need to be. If there were more of a focus on helping them comply with the policy, I think the policy would be much better received—and it would make my job a lot easier, as well. Maybe that's what I'm looking for more than anything else.

Also, the minister talked about $1.7 billion of landed value from the fishery. I was surprised that only 10% came from groundfish. That point caught my attention. One of the questions I had was whether aquaculture was included in that $1.7 billion figure.

I see Mr. Balfour shaking his head. Is it not included in that?

5:05 p.m.

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

David Balfour

That's another $1 billion.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

That's another $1 billion.

My question was going to that. It wasn't all that many years ago that I heard a presentation on the world seafood market that noted, I believe, that 60% came from the traditional fishery. At that point in time, 40% came from aquaculture. I'm not sure if that has changed dramatically since, because I know that the trend was taking it in a different direction, and it wouldn't be very long before it would be completely reversed.

I know that you now have responsibility for aquaculture on the west coast. How has the department's focus changed to adjust to meet that change in the dynamics we're seeing in seafood production?

5:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

There's no question that the ratio has changed. In fact, aquaculture is beyond the wild fishery at this point. We have to remember, though, that in aquaculture we're not just talking about fin fish aquaculture; there's an awful lot of shellfish and molluscs, and all those. There are really big P.E.I. mussels, for example, and others. So we were involved across the country as a department, even before we took over as the regulator in British Columbia. We have a significant role to play, not as a promoter of aquaculture—that's not our job—but in making sure that....

One of the key areas that we constantly have to focus on is the relationship between aquaculture and the wild fishery. On the east coast, you can imagine that we have to be very careful of anything we might do for fin fish aquaculture that might have an impact on lobster.

So we are involved at many different levels, and will continue to be so.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

I'm aware there's shellfish as well within the aquaculture industry. Obviously, within your landed value, shellfish plays a major role here. I'm just wondering if that's where the world trends are going for seafood production. I'm wondering what you are doing as a department to get yourself to that. Or are we staying behind? When I say “staying behind”, I mean are we as a nation continually trying to look at things the way they used to be, rather than trying to focus on where they should be or are going?

5:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

I wouldn't say we're staying behind. We're very alive to the question, shall we say. As you know, it's also a very lucrative industry and we need to ensure that a lot of the development work happens by the industry itself. We have had some funding programs that are cost-shared to some extent—or at least help to start up certain things—but it's very important that industry take on some of these costs themselves.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much.

We're going to move to a three-minute round because of time constraints.

Mr. Donnelly will start off.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We've recently obtained some information that indicates the department wants to cut resources for monitoring and regulating fish stocks. We also understand that DFO wants to move all fisheries to a multi-year cycle, as opposed to it being re-evaluated yearly. I'm wondering if you can comment on that, if it is the case.

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

No, that's not the case. It's not the case that we want to move all fisheries to a multi-year cycle. There's certainly room for us to move to a more multi-year system for the various fisheries in which almost no cycles happen; but there are others that require significant attention on a yearly basis, and that would certainly continue.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Are you moving any fishery that's normally evaluated on a yearly basis to a multi-year cycle?

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

Yes, I think we actually announced that in the summer.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

What kind of implication or impact do you think that will have on the management of those fisheries?