Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Perhaps I should explain the relationship. I'm chair of the Sport Fishing Advisory Board, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' primary recreational fishing advisory body on the west coast, and in fact, is the oldest advisory body of DFO. It has been in existence for over 50 years and is a bottom-up organization with local committees in 23 communities, who send representatives to two regional boards, who in turn send representatives to the main board. I'm the elected chair of the main board. It's composed both of individual members and what one might call “institutional members”.
The Sport Fishing Institute is an institutional member, as is the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the Steelhead Society, and a variety of others. I also sit on the board of the SFI, and the SFI sits on my board. It's a fairly close relationship of organizations in British Columbia.
As background to my comments this morning, I do want to say that no part of government of which I'm aware—and I'm a political scientist by training—deserves as much credit as the Pacific region of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, for its diligence in consulting with those affected by its decisions, whether they be representatives of aboriginal, recreational, or commercial harvesters, or those championing conservation interests. Committees representing the sometimes divergent interests are consulted on the region's integrated harvest planning processes for salmon, groundfish, pelagic species, and invertebrates.
I have personal experience on the advisory boards for salmon, halibut, tuna, prawn, and groundfish, as well as the processes established to provide advice on the development of protected areas. It's in that capacity that I appear before you today.
I appear because I'm anxious to ensure that as the government proceeds with its promise to protect 5% of coastal marine areas this year, and moves on to protect 10% by 2020, it does so in a manner that continues to provide those affected by its decisions the opportunity to participate in the selection and designation process in a meaningful way, and does not encourage or facilitate end runs around transparent, knowledge-based consultation.
I offer two examples of what I mean. In my role as one of the three SFAB representatives on the Groundfish Integrated Advisory Board, I had the opportunity to provide input for the creation of the glass sponge reefs marine-protected area in Hecate Strait. A GIAB working group composed of commercial, recreational, and environmental interests worked long and hard to provide the department with a set of consensus recommendations. We were not initially successful in reaching agreement on the best way to protect these unique structures, while allowing fisheries to continue in ways that did not have an adverse impact. Two alternative proposals ultimately went forward to DFO's scientists and managers for consideration and analysis.
The department then responded with a compromise that seemed to be satisfactory to all interests, since no one at that consultative table opposed it, thereby satisfying the department's definition of consensus. The terms of that proposal were circulated in Canada Gazette, part I. At that point, however, one of the interests that had been part of the consensus chose to mount a web-based letter-writing campaign, which prompted the department to craft a substantially different set of rules for publication in Canada Gazette, part II.
Similarly, as a participant in the groundfish process, I was part of the process initiated by Environment Canada with respect to the protection of bird wildlife in the area of the Scott Islands, off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, by means of a national wildlife marine area. In this case, we were urged to put forward consolidated advice. We worked hard and achieved a consensus to support establishment of the conservation area on the assurance that it would not have an adverse impact on current aboriginal, recreational, and commercial fisheries. We were told by Environment Canada that current fishing activities would still be consistent with the purpose of the area. I note that the Scott Islands page on Environment and Climate Change Canada's website says that “Current scientific evidence suggests that no-take areas that prohibit all commercial and recreational fishing are not necessary to meet the conservation objective for the proposed Scott Islands...[national wildlife area].”
Unfortunately, despite the fact that it is clear that fishing activities have not impacted the birds' foraging species, such as euphausiids and sand lance, an effort is now under way to upset the original evidence-based conclusion and consensus. A web-based letter writing campaign has been aimed at imposing no-take zones on recreational, commercial and, presumably, aboriginal harvesters.
Against the background of these examples, I urge the committee to help both departments—Environment, and Fisheries and Oceans—to ensure that measures are in place to avoid having the consensus-based recommendations developed by formal departmental advisory bodies undermined by public relations campaigns. My sector wants transparent and evidence-based decision-making, although I hasten to point out that if government decides to begin basing its decisions on the volume of mail it receives, my recreational fishing constituency, which is composed of 300,000 tidal water licence holders in British Columbia, is more than capable of engaging in that kind of activity. We don't want to do that. We think it's the wrong approach, but if needs must, the devil drives.
That's the fundamental point I wanted to make with you today.
I do want to touch briefly on one other aspect of the process, which I think you need to be thinking about. That is that the planning process for these marine protected areas in British Columbia, and for other aspects of fisheries management, have incorporated a new paradigm on the west coast, and I suspect elsewhere in Canada. That is, the process begins with what are called by first nations, “tier 2” processes. That involves first nations talking to other governments, federal and provincial, and attempting to reach an accommodation, agreement and so forth. But in that process, the difficulty is that non-aboriginal Canadians don't become part of that discussion until after the tier 2 process has ended. What that means is that government, it seems to me, is put in an invidious position. If it wants to change the decisions it has made with first nations, it's then seen as betraying the good faith negotiations of the tier 2 process. On the other hand, from the point of view of those of us who were not in the room for tier 2, we are obviously not happy if we're then told, “Well I'm sorry, we reached this agreement.”
There is another way to do this, and I again speak as a member of a process in British Columbia aimed at bringing about pretty substantial change to the way we manage Chinook salmon. It's one of the most serious conservation management problems we face. In that case, that process began with a tier 2 process between first nations and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. At the suggestion of a wise first nations leader in Fraser Valley, Ken Malloway, who was co-chair of the process with DFO, the recreational sector, the commercial sector, and the environmental sector were invited to be part of the tier 2 process.
We've now been involved in that for about two years. It's going forward in a very satisfactory way, where people feel that they understand what's happening and are not being excluded from the process. I simply flag it here today as what I think is a preferred way to go forward, and one that takes into consideration all of these new marine protected areas on the west coast. I suggest that if we don't follow that kind of process, we're simply inviting unnecessary confrontation when decisions get made at one level and are then challenged or required to be modified at another level.
I thank you for your consideration today, and I am happy to answer any questions once my colleague has spoken.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.