Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the invitation on behalf of the recreational fishing industry. My professional background is as a biologist in criminal law. I'm here on behalf of the folks you see listed here in my presentation. They are the board of directors for the recreational fishing industry in this country.
It's a little difficult to explain all of this in 10 minutes, but I'll do my best. I'll go through my slides quickly, so please read along as we go.
We are the largest constituency for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, for that agency. If you ask eight million Canadians if they fish, the answer would be “yes”. Those are our customers, mainly middle-class Canadians, coast to coast, who like to go fishing and take their kids, families, and friends.
We're a significant economy in this country, as well. Federal stats say it's an annual $9-billion economy. We also influence a number of other economies that are partnered in this, if you will. They are listed here in my presentation.
We also have commonality between our retailers in the hunting, trapping, and target shooting area, and government policy and legislation. These are the fundamental basics upon which our industry thrives, and the related industries, as well. To put it pretty simply, without fish, people don't need much fishing tackle and people don't go fishing. The importance of a sound science-based policy is critical to the management and sustainability of our business.
We come from a pretty proud history across the North American continent, with over a century of successful examples and leadership from people from the fishing and hunting community. This even extends into the concept of parks and protected areas first advanced by our ancestors, if you will, in the fishing and hunting community. It has become today the most successful example in the world of fish and wildlife management: the North American model of conservation. Nowhere else on the planet has the successful populations of fish and wildlife that we enjoy in Canada and the United States.
That's changing, though, and it's been changing for some time. The stage is set for these changes to happen. You can see here in my presentation the threats we've been experiencing for going on 20 years now, and I'll explain why we see them as such.
Most importantly, I have here in my presentation the arbitrary national protection targets that, as far as we can tell, have no real basis in site-specific, independent science. This is what we have been confronting on the North American continent now for quite a period of time. When protection zoning is brought forward, we ask, “Protecting them from what? What's the scientific evidence? What's the hard evidence? Is recreational fishing a problem?”
Marine protected areas have a significant role in fishery management, but they're only one tool in the manager's tool box. That's changing, though. Presently, the change is one-size-fits-all. Successful fishery management has proven that many other prescriptions are successful—in fact, in some cases, even more successful than protected areas.
Dr. Larry McKinney at Texas A&M University managed fisheries for the State of Texas for 22 years. He is well respected across the scientific community in North America. I was discussing this with him a little while ago, and I asked him for a comment, which I've included in my presentation. I'll give you a second to read it.
There are over 300 marine protected areas in the Gulf of Mexico, all of which allow fishing.
In Australia, they've experimented with this for some time. There have been a couple of papers put out by some fairly well-known people in the science community that question the validity of the approach that's been taken. They ask if the prescription fits the ill. I only have them in English because they're proprietary and they're in a published document, so copyright prevents them from being translated. If anybody wants them, though, I have copies.
This is essentially how we see the situation from the recreational fishing industry. It's the North American model of science-based resource use that's under assault. It's been happening for quite a time.
It began on the east coast with the opposition to the seal hunt. It evolved from there with efforts against trapping, against hunting. The Ontario spring bear hunt campaign, some of the best management science on the planet with bear population, yet it was overturned and it has extended now into fishing. This is how these things are being promoted: the claims of dying oceans and no fish. In fact, we have some of the healthiest fish populations on the planet on this continent and in this country, and they're not here by accident. They're here by management based on science.
What do California and British Columbia have in common? This goes to the PNCIMA process, and I understand that this committee is pretty familiar with PNCIMA. This is California back in 2008, a healthy economy, lots of people fishing, 60,000 jobs, but when the process began for the Marine Life Protection Act there was no consideration for recreational fishing, and the state was broke. You all remember the crisis there. The environmental groups went directly to the government with money to influence the outcome, and it did. This is how it played out.
From our friends in the sister organization, the American Sportfishing Association, the money went to the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, was managed, then went directly to the State of California process. This is how the American Sportfishing Association saw the example.
These are the people who supported it, the organizations. The only option considered was closures, no-take zones, permanent no fishing, no extractive use of any kind. That was the agenda.
This is an example, the central coast of California, and the impact was significant. Even though it looks on a map as though it's not that big an area, anybody who fishes knows that fish don't live everywhere. They are in certain prime habitat. It targeted prime habitat areas, over 40% of the best sport fishing areas in state waters out to the three-mile limit, and the impact on the economy was significant.
The boating industry and the vehicle industry had an even greater impact in a negative way. Gordon Robertson is one of the most respected people in the United States when it comes to fisheries issues, and I'll share this comment with you that he made about that process in California.
How is this relevant here? It's the same timeline. Fisheries and Oceans Canada brought the Marine Life Protection Act process to Canada. Our industry was not invited. Here it is again, a year later. You can remember the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation that managed the money in California. Here they are again, setting the template with Fisheries and Oceans for Canada.
We wrote to the minister on this and she wrote back and promised that we would be engaged. This was 2009. We're still waiting for that to happen, seven years later. The promises made to us were never kept.
Here's a press release from Fisheries and Oceans Canada talking about the money. Notice the common connection to the funding in California. This is the rest of the press release and is exactly like what happened in California, money going directly to British Columbia employees and the province. This information is all from the DFO website and this is the influence here. You can see some common names to the California process as well.
This is how the template works. The money goes into the initiative. In many cases there is purchased science, scientific opinions, which aren't the same as hard science in the field, of course, scientific data, and it influences the outcome. This is just one example of the money and how much money has been involved in this, basically from their own website.
There's a lot of money coming out of California, influencing the Canadian process. DFO designed the plan, and it has continued apace. Even though they backed away from the funding model, under the direction of the Prime Minister's Office, the plan has continued apace.
There's no involvement from our industry. We haven't been invited. Our participation has been declined. We've asked for copies of the memorandum of understanding. We were refused. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, and I think former prime minister Stephen Harper's comment here is appropriate and fits the situation very well.