Evidence of meeting #140 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was lobsters.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Bernie Berry  President, Coldwater Lobster Association
Pat O'Neill  Interim Executive Director, Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association
Andrew Pershing  Chief Scientific Officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Arnault Le Bris  Research Scientist, Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland
Alfred Fitzpatrick  Independent Owner-Operator Fish Harvester, As an Individual
Melanie Giffin  Marine Biologist and Program Planner, Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association
Bobby Jenkins  President, Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association

4:15 p.m.

President, Coldwater Lobster Association

Bernie Berry

I think, if we went back to that—I'm assuming you're saying there would also be a reduction in the number of lobsters on the bottom—it just wouldn't be good for the local economy or the fishermen or whatever. If we returned to LFA 34, which is all I want to speak to, and to where and how much we landed in, say, the 1970s and early 1980s, unless we changed our whole method of marketing lobsters, it would be pretty detrimental.

Right now, I think our average catch per licence-holder in LFA 34 is somewhere around 50,000 to 53,000 pounds per licence-holder. That's on average. If you go back 20 years, it was probably in the low 30,000s. So it wouldn't bode well if you had such a dramatic drop, if I'm understanding you right, unless you did some kind of enhancement on the marketing where you achieved a much higher price for quality and stuff like that. That could somewhat offset the downturn in catches, certainly, but it would be very concerning if over a certain number of years the lobsters returned just to where they used to be, in 50 fathom and shoaler. That would simply be an indication that something was awry.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Okay. In other words, we've heard a lot of speculation that this change in their distribution patterns could be related to climate change or ocean temperature warming. Some of that isn't necessarily a bad thing for your industry, I take it.

4:15 p.m.

President, Coldwater Lobster Association

Bernie Berry

No. So far we've been on the beneficial side of the environmental changes—for now. Moving forward from here, we could see some effects that might not be as beneficial, but so far we're reaping the benefits of warmer water. It's led to a larger percentage of lobster larvae surviving, and more favourable conditions. So far it's been okay; it's where we go from here.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you.

I'll pass the rest of my time to Mr. Calkins.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Thank you, Mel.

Is there anybody here who can speak to the growth rates or maturity rates of lobster in regard to water temperatures?

4:15 p.m.

Research Scientist, Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Dr. Arnault Le Bris

I can take that.

We did a study three years ago on the effect of temperature and potentially fishing on the change in size and maturity. What we think is that when it's warmer, lobsters grow a bit faster. Then they tend to mature at a smaller size and have smaller eggs. This is as a consequence of temperature. It can also be as a consequence of fishing pressure. If you get very high fishing pressure, you tend to remove larger individuals in your population. Then you get only smaller individuals with faster growth rates and smaller size and maturity. Temperature and fishing can lead to smaller size and maturity, which ultimately leads to lower egg production in your population.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Potentially: yes, that makes sense.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you.

We go now to the NDP.

Mr. Johns, you have seven minutes or less, please.

April 10th, 2019 / 4:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'll start with you, Mr. Pershing. Can you speak a little bit about how and why Canada should work with the U.S. on the migration of lobster and snow crab?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Scientific Officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Dr. Andrew Pershing

There are a couple of ways to think about that. One is that I don't feel we have a great understanding, probably, of the stock structure of lobster. Right now, some of the eggs that get released from lobsters in Canada will drift into the U.S. The U.S. probably has an interest in making sure that the stocks of lobsters in Canada are healthy, because that will potentially fuel some of the recruitment in our region. There's some oceanographic modelling that backs that up.

On the other side, as we're talking about these species shifting northward as waters warm up, the genes that are necessary for a lobster to survive in warmer water are right now in the lobsters that are living in U.S. waters. So Canada, I think, has an interest in making sure that the U.S. lobster stocks are healthy, because those will be some of the genes that your lobsters will rely on in the future.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Do you think there's enough being done there?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Scientific Officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Dr. Andrew Pershing

That's a great question.

I'm not an expert on the policy discussions that are ongoing right now. I do know that lobster is a unique fishery in this region and it does seem to be very well managed.

You can pick up a lobster, measure it, and throw it over the side, and you know it's going to survive in a way that cod that comes up in a net is not going to. There is more you can do around managing lobsters.

I was really heartened to hear the folks from P.E.I. talking about how they're thinking about changing the size limits, with the idea of trying to take a proactive step to making sure they're building some resiliency in that population.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Le Bris, what are your top recommendations for ensuring that the Canadian lobster and snow crab fishery survives and thrives into the future?

4:20 p.m.

Research Scientist, Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Dr. Arnault Le Bris

I think Fisheries and Oceans Canada, more and more in collaboration with industry—which is a very good thing—is doing a good job at estimating how many lobsters or snow crabs are in the water.

I think, in terms of a science gap, that we don't really fully understand the impact on the ecosystem. For example, on snow crab, we don't know the impacts of cod and other predatory species. It's the same for lobster. I don't think we have a good sense of the impact of predation on baby lobsters. Think of the striped bass coming from the Miramichi River and its impact on baby lobster.

I think we have to try to understand a bit more how the species is affected by the ecosystem—the number of predators, the variety of predators and the food. We think temperature is a big driver for lobster and the baby boom, but what if it's a change in the plankton, in the lower food chain, that actually explains why there is better survival? We are starting to understand that a bit, but we really aren't doing enough to try to understand the ecosystem and the interaction between the environment and the species.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

A lack of whole-of-ecosystem approach is what you're talking about.

4:20 p.m.

Research Scientist, Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Dr. Arnault Le Bris

That's what I'm talking about, potentially.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. O'Neill, could you tell me what your top recommendations for the study would be? What would you would like to see as the top priorities and as an outcome?

4:20 p.m.

Interim Executive Director, Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association

Pat O'Neill

Thank you for asking, but I think I'll defer to Melanie Giffin and Laura Ramsay, because they're the scientific people we have. Also, Mr. Jenkins has 40 years of experience fishing on the water. I think they'd be better.

4:20 p.m.

Melanie Giffin Marine Biologist and Program Planner, Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association

I do agree with Arnault's comment on understanding the ecosystem better.

I know in one of your previous sessions there were discussions with Matthew Hardy regarding the lobster collector project.

To the gentleman from Maine with regard to the conversation about collaboration, I would mention that this Friday we have a collaborative meeting, between Canada and the States, about those larvae collectors, the number of babies we're seeing, and possibly some of those ecosystem changes that Arnault has brought up and why we might be seeing differences in different areas. I think we do a great job in collaborating on that aspect.

In terms of monitoring, I do support looking at things from an ecosystem perspective. I think we need to understand what's happening with our larval lobster and whether it is a change in the phytoplankton. We have the shift now, with the north Atlantic right whales being here. There is some evidence to support that those larval lobsters are feeding on some of the same types of copepods that the north Atlantic right whales are. That kind of goes to show why we might have a boom happening in our larval lobster in P.E.I., where we've seen some of the highest numbers in terms of baby lobster out of any area that's done it. That may be closely related to the fact that those north Atlantic right whales are here feeding on the same type of thing.

I think understanding the ecosystem as a whole and monitoring the temperature...although we can't do anything to prevent the changing temperature. We need to have the knowledge and be aware of what's changing and how those changes could drive a shift in our fisheries.

From my perspective, those are two of the main components. I don't know if Laura has anything to add to that.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I'm going to ask a quick question.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, how will fishing in deeper water impact the fishing and costs of the fishing?

4:25 p.m.

Independent Owner-Operator Fish Harvester, As an Individual

Alfred Fitzpatrick

For the area that I fish, there isn't really a big issue. We're fishing from small boats relatively close to land. If you are in a bigger operation in different parts around Atlantic Canada and you have to fish in deeper water, then presumably you're going to need a bigger vessel, have more fuel costs and need a bigger crew. It would hurt your bottom line.

There's not much else I could say to it.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Is there anything you want to add in terms of what you'd like to see as the top recommendation?

4:25 p.m.

Independent Owner-Operator Fish Harvester, As an Individual

Alfred Fitzpatrick

When we talk about an ecosystem approach, we talk about the same thing with a lot of species in Newfoundland, such as crab and cod. Whatever fish we're involved in, we have to start looking at the bigger picture.

I'm probably going to say an unpopular word here. If we're not going to look at the whole ecosystem, which includes our impacts on it, such as seismic activity on the offshore.... We are noticing a big decline in the phytoplankton and zooplankton, and that affects the capelin, which affects the food chain as a whole. Also, seals are the bogeymen in the room. Nobody wants to talk about that, but from my perspective as a person who's on the water, seals are having a big impact on the ecosystem as a whole, lobsters included. Seals like shellfish just as much as we do.

That's it.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Johns. Your time is up.

We'll now go back to the government side to Mr. Morrissey, but before that, Mr. Johns, I have to ask you to take the chair, which I have to vacate.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Gord Johns

Mr. Morrissey, you have seven minutes.