My name is David Burden. I'm the regional director general for the central and Arctic region. I have with me this morning my colleagues: Dave Gillis is the director general of ecosystems science here at headquarters; and Blair Hodgson will answer all the tough questions related to resource management in the Arctic.
Good morning everyone.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to help the committee as part of this discussion on Canada's northern and arctic fisheries.
I will make my presentation in English, but we will be able to answer your questions in both languages, as usual.
As this is the start of your study, we've put together a rather comprehensive deck for you that covers the five elements that you'll notice on slide 2. The first and most important one for anything related to our management in the Arctic is on the governance.
The northern land claim process has gone on for decades and has resulted in areas set aside for the benefit of traditional users.
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was the first agreement signed back in the 1970s—1975 to be exact. There followed a series of others, as you can see, across the north. The most recent agreement was the Eeyou Marine Region Agreement in 2010.
There are some areas shown that are as yet not covered by finalized agreements. For example, in the Northwest Territories around Great Slave Lake, negotiations are ongoing with the Dehcho on the east side of Great Slave Lake.
The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement covers the largest surface area. It was signed back in 1993. Land claims have greatly influenced the way we decide and deliver our programs and services in the Arctic.
The land claim agreements created fisheries and/or wildlife management boards. In Nunavut, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board deals with both fisheries and wildlife species and issues. In the Inuvialuit Final Agreement in the western Arctic, it's the Fisheries Joint Management Committee that deals with matters related to the fisheries.
The boards are typically described as the main instruments of fisheries or wildlife management in the settlement area. The co-management regime created by the claim basically insists that the government operate in ways that we don't see traditionally in the south. It makes for an integrated approach with our co-management partners. The way we do business is by consensus. In the past the government would have done this work on its own, unilaterally.
The land claim agreements insist that there is shared decision-making. This ensures, of course, that opinions are heard in a consultative process and that the decisions integrate traditional knowledge as well as our core science background knowledge. Having the beneficiaries part of the decision-making process makes it relevant to the circumstances for them, and it has added the benefit of giving ownership and community support for the decisions.
Turning to slide 5, fisheries play an important role in the lives of many northerners. The largest commercial fisheries in the north are located in the eastern Arctic, in the Davis and Hudson straits in Baffin Bay. In Nunavut, the main species harvested are Greenland halibut, or turbot, northern shrimp, and Arctic char.
The estimated value in 2005 to the Nunavut economy was $12 million to $14 million annually, and around 300 seasonal jobs were created. The potential landed value in 2007 for shrimp and Greenland halibut, for the Nunavut share, was approximately $55 million, and that would be if the entire quota were harvested. At this point in time, they have not been able to catch their entire quota. Commercial sales of Arctic char in Nunavut are estimated to bring around $1.2 million annually to the economy.
If we turn to slide 6 on the NAFO sub areas, Greenland halibut stocks are part of the shared stock between Greenland and Canada. While there's no formal agreement with Greenland for this fishery, Canada has traditionally claimed 50% of the overall total allowable catch.
The NAFO Scientific Council provides us with TAC recommendations on an annual basis. The commercial TAC currently is at 13,510, which is fish by enterprises based in Nunavut, Newfoundland, and the Maritimes.
The 0A TAC is provided exclusively to Nunavut through a special allocation to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board on behalf of the Nunavut Inuit. The division 0B fishery includes harvesters from Nunavut, Newfoundland, Labrador, northern Quebec, and Nova Scotia. In addition, there's a 900-tonne competitive fixed gear quota, where four Nunavut enterprises have nine of the 22 licence validations.
Respecting Nunavut's special allocations, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board provides suballocation decisions and recommendations to the minister for his approval. These adjacent fisheries are seen as economic development priorities for the Government of Nunavut and aboriginal groups. Nunavut's share of the adjacent Greenland halibut fisheries has grown over the past decade from 27% to 70% of the available quota. Nunavut interests continue to advocate for an 80% to 90% share of their adjacent resources.
In 2005 a separate management area was established inshore of the Cumberland Sound, with a 500-tonne total allowable harvest, and it is exclusively fished by the Nunavut Inuit.
Turning to slide 7 and looking at shrimp, shrimp fishing in areas 1, 2, and 3 is accessible to the 17 offshore licence-holders. As well, there are special allocations to Nunavut and Nunavik.
In 2011 industry received MSC certification for shrimp fisheries in the north. The SFA 1 TAC has been set at 11,333 tonnes for the coming fishing season in 2013. SFA 2 and SFA 3 are domestic stocks. In December of 2012 the minister approved shrimp management changes for SFA 2 and SFA 3 effective for the 2013-14 season. These new SFAs were put in place for management purposes of the total allowable catch. They are based on two distinct science survey assessment zones, one in the east and one in the west, and are distributed to the new management units as per the fixed sharing arrangement approved by the minister.
The decision-making process and sharing arrangements between Nunavut and Nunavik are still being worked on, and we hope to have that resolved in short while.
Current landed value for shrimp is just under $3,000 per tonne. If Nunavut fished all of its available quota, the landed value would be in the area of $32 million.
Turning to slide 8 and the central part of the north, Arctic char plays an important role in the nutrition and social and cultural aspects of the northern community. It fosters continuation of traditional culture and lifestyle, provision of traditional foods, and local self-sufficiency. The nutritional and cultural value of Arctic char cannot be adequately and effectively replaced by southern foods.
In Cambridge Bay, the Arctic char fishery is the largest in Nunavut. It typically accounts for more than half of the commercial harvest of char.
Moving back to the east, on slide 9, and to Greenland halibut, the ice platform harvests over the winter have varied over the years due to the varying ice conditions that we find from winter to winter. Peak landings were seen this past year, with 304 tonnes landed so far this year. This fishery is starting to wind down as we're getting to the end of April and into May.
The fish plant is paying fishermen a rate of about $1.30 a pound. Efforts are under way to continue to explore the development of a small vessel open water fishery to fully utilize and exploit the 500-tonne total allowable harvest.
Harvest of commercial Arctic char takes place in both winter and summer; however, the char harvested in the summer has a higher economic value. Accessibility due to proximity and weather—and that's proximity to markets and weather issues—to these water varieties, as well as market demand, dictate fishing efforts from year to year. Peak summer landings for char were seen in 2004 and 2005 at about 24 tonnes, but in the summer of 2012, the char landings were reported to be at about 14 tonnes.
The fish plant in Pangnirtung employs between 20 and 45 people, depending on the season. Of course, as you'll know from our previous discussions, the Pangnirtung small craft harbour will be opened in the summer of 2013.
On slide 10, we're looking to the Northwest Territories.
I'm sort of bouncing back and forth here. I apologize for that.
The Northwest Territories commercial fisheries are primarily based on whitefish, lake trout, pickerel, walleye, northern pike, and inconnu. The commercial fishing operations in the Northwest Territories are primarily carried out on inland and freshwater lakes. The largest and best example, of course, is the Great Slave Lake fishery. All fish are sold or marketed by the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation on behalf of the local fishers.
I'll give you slide 11 as a reference to the examples of the zones for the commercial fisheries on Great Slave Lake. While we're in the west, we'll talk a little about the fisheries in the Yukon—again, similar kinds of whitefish, with some salmon, the chinook and chum varieties. But the bigger fisheries in the Yukon would be the recreational fisheries, which make up about 85% of the freshwater fish harvest. They have the highest residential participation in Canada, at 20%, and bring in about $23 million per year to the local economy.
On slide 13, looking at subsistence fisheries, we can't underestimate the importance and value of these fisheries to the local communities. They provide a way of continuing the traditional lifestyles, supporting their culture, supplying considerable protein, and contributing to local self-sufficiency. The byproducts for marine mammal harvesting are also of economic importance. When I talk about that, I'm talking about things like walrus tusk and narwhal tusk, which are used for arts and crafts and have a considerable value in both the domestic and international markets.
Looking at science in support of all this, there are a number of elements that we've identified on slides 14 and 15. The department is also engaged in several other types of scientific activities that are linked to this. One interesting study that's under way is the study of the marine ecosystems in the offshore areas of the Canadian Beaufort Sea. This ongoing study is providing many insights into the marine species that live in these waters as well as other elements of the ecosystem, such as the benthic communities, the oceanography, and water column structure. This will provide an important baseline in the pre-development phase in the Beaufort Sea, and it is adding greatly to our knowledge and understanding of how the Arctic may or may not support commercial fisheries in the future in the high western Arctic.
Climate change is also expected to affect northern areas more than other areas. The department has a number of studies that are under way to better understand the possible effects and to consider adaptation to them. The extent of sea ice loss in the Arctic is monitored by many agencies around the world, and Canadian scientists are playing a key role in that. Other studies are monitoring the change in species distribution, phytoplankton growth, invasive species, and the development of ecosystem models to guide adaptation change.
Not mentioned on the slides, but critically important to our work in the north, is the work that's being carried out by our Canadian Hydrographic Service. Clearly, enhanced Arctic charting is a priority. As we see increased shipping and transportation patterns in the Arctic, we're looking at new technologies to allow us to advance our work in that area.
Wrapping up, I'd like to talk quickly about some emerging fisheries. There's a Cumberland Sound 500-tonne quota. This past winter has provided some of the best fishing in recent years. There's a wish, as I mentioned earlier, for others to explore using a summer fishery with gillnets and longlines. This is something that has pros and cons. There are some folks who are a little concerned—or a lot concerned, I guess, is probably a better way of saying it—about possible entrapment and entanglement of marine mammals such as whales. We have to balance and find the best way with our co-management partners to exploit that fishery, if we advance on it, in a sustainable way without impacting marine mammals.
There's also been some work, mostly exploratory, on shellfish populations. Some localized clam, mussel, and scallop populations have been identified, but both the supply and the economics of a venture in that requires further work with our co-management partners. Crab exploratory work in the Hudson Strait, off Nunavut, has failed to find significant quantities of any type of crab that would be available for the commercial market.
There's also been some work on an exploratory kelp fishery in the western Hudson Bay, but that has not developed as yet into a commercial venture.
There are, however, undiscovered inshore turbot and shrimp opportunities, and we're hoping the stock assessment work that's under way will help reveal and exploit those opportunities for northerners.
The second last slide I have is related to opportunities. We talk in our region and in the department about the emerging fisheries in the north. We need more science, we need to continue our work in that area, and we need to work with our co-management partners and the Government of Nunavut specifically to ensure that the economic possibilities of these fisheries are exploited for the use of the local communities.
I'll end with some of the challenges. From the science side, we're talking about an area where the resources are unknown, where the population estimates are dated, and where stock assessment work is difficult and very costly to undertake. That's why we do a lot of this work in cooperation with other partners in other jurisdictions.
Resources are always a challenge in the north. We have financial as well as human resource challenges of doing business in the Arctic. Last but not least, there is the issue of infrastructure. The oceans are the highway of the Arctic, and the infrastructure to support that is critical to exploiting the fisheries for the benefit of northerners.
Mr. Chair, I think that will be a good place for us to stop. I hope I've not taken up too much time. We'll have some interaction on what is really of interest to the committee.