Evidence of meeting #78 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 area.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tom Smith  Executive Director, Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia
Maria Recchia  Executive Director, Fundy North Fishermen's Association
Lois Mitchell  Designated Board Representative, Fundy North Fishermen's Association
Stephen Woodley  Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature
Linda Nowlan  Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both of our guests this morning for being here, especially Ms. Nowlan from the B.C. side. I know how early you have to get up, travelling from that area myself all the time.

I have just a little bit more on the bottom trawling. I've heard some describe it as similar to furrowing a field after the harvest in a mud area that really has limited rock, a lot of clay and mud bottoms, and that with trawling over a period of time, the area replenishes itself. Is it always a detrimental effect?

10:20 a.m.

Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Dr. Stephen Woodley

You're quite correct in that the impact varies depending on the benthic community in question. Most benthic communities have old-growth species on the bottom. These are things that don't pick up after five or 10 years. They take a long time to grow. They're nursery areas. They're biodiversity in their own right. It's bit like taking an air balloon and dragging it through the forest, and then picking out the deer from what you've hauled up. It's almost that type of analogy for many ecosystems. In many of the rich ones, we don't even know what we've lost, because—

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

However, not all....

10:20 a.m.

Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Dr. Stephen Woodley

However, not all. There are some gravel beds that are scoured and have a limited amount of benthic communities on them, where scallops are harvested, where arguably dragging the bottom certainly has some but less than other ecosystems for sure.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Okay. Thank you.

Ms. Nowlan, could I get your comments on that?

10:20 a.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Linda Nowlan

Again, I'll agree.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you.

We've heard a lot of conversation during this study, and again in our study on MPAs in general, about the benefits of large areas being a production area with spinoff effects that spread outside. What are your thoughts on the positive or negative impacts of that? We've seen that on the land base. Take as an example the pine beetle explosion in B.C., which really started out within a provincial park where logging was prohibited. It managed to continue to grow and spread outside the park. It devastated a lot of forest in B.C. and Alberta.

We're seeing aquatic invasive species coming into Canadian waters, such as the green crab. Should we be able to manage those areas and include activities to harvest predators, and so on, within those MPAs if they're found to be sinks or population growth areas for those problem species?

10:20 a.m.

Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Dr. Stephen Woodley

First of all, on the question of the pine beetle, you'd be hard-pressed to make the argument that the pine beetle erupted because it erupted in a protected area and spread outward. It was a massive eruption because of even-aged class distribution and, likely, climate change. Those were the drivers of the pine beetle in B.C., not that one area was protected.

On the larger question of whether some management activities should be allowed to occur in a protected area that has impacts on the broader landscape or seascape, the answer is yes. They should be allowed to occur, with lots of caveats on that, and it would depend. Look at Riding Mountain National Park where there's an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis. There has been really active management, and successful management, there to eradicate bovine tuberculosis from that national park.

You have to take it in context. You also have to remember that these are our benchmark ecosystems. These are where we understand processes occurring on our managed landscape.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Ms. Nowlan.

10:20 a.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Linda Nowlan

I'll talk about large marine protected areas. They have been shown scientifically to be really effective. To take the example of probably the best known MPA in the world, Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, it's about 330,000 square kilometres and it is zoned. It has different uses in different zones, but over one third of that area is “no take”, so you can't take anything out of it. It faces stress still, mainly from climate change affecting coral. However, it is possible to take a large area of the sea and designate parts of it as core no-take zones, and then allow activities in some of the other parts of the area but with a lot of caveats. I agree with that proviso as well.

We don't have too many really large MPAs in Canada at all. We have one under another act that is not before you right now. I can talk about Gwaii Haanas, if you wish, and Haida Gwaii, but we definitely need more MPAs that are bigger.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

What about the management of problem species within an interim or permanent MPA? How do we manage that? I don't see anything in this amendment to the Oceans Act that would allow those types of activities. Do we need that type of amendment to this act to allow the pre-emptive measures to take place?

10:25 a.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Linda Nowlan

If it's about removing alien species or taking steps in that regard, I think the minister already has the ability to do that. I don't know if we need a specific amendment, but I could look into that more.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Okay. Thank you.

We talk a lot about needing the science to know what's being protected, what's there. What would you say when we have science that indicates that human activity could actually enhance the balance or restore the diversity in an area, rather than absolutely no-take? If we had science that indicates that certain human activities could actually assist or improve the recovery of a species, what would you say?

10:25 a.m.

Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Dr. Stephen Woodley

I am not aware of specific examples of that in marine systems. I know a couple from terrestrial systems. The key question is that we want all of the ocean to be sustainable. Sustainability is our goal. There is no question that when we interact with these systems, we change them. Sometimes we like those changes and we call them better, and sometimes we don't and we call them negative.

Again, these protected areas, these MPAs, are benchmark systems. They are representative systems. They protect the rare stuff. Because we are so active on the rest of the oceanscape, it's hard to think of examples where we should also be doing this inside protected areas. They are protected for a reason, and there has to be a difference or delta.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Mr. Woodley. I appreciate it.

Mr. Donnelly, you have seven minutes, please.

November 23rd, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to both of our guests, who have provided testimony to this committee before, and specifically for their submissions on Bill C-55.

Mr. Woodley, I'll start with you, if I could. We were talking earlier about the spillover effect in protected areas. You also referenced the idea of adding a management purpose to the act. I'm wondering if you could talk about both of those things, the purpose and the spillover effect—and you have touched on this—and add to that the complication of particular activities. I'm thinking specifically of fishing and how often that can be contentious. We just heard from representatives, fishermen and associations, on the east coast, and they seem to be in favour of certain amounts of protection but concerned about protecting where they can't fish.

You made reference to a spillover effect of a protected area, but there seems to be an issue of scale. The fishermen were saying, the larger, the better, and spillover effects happen more effectively, but you were providing examples of smaller protected areas still giving this spillover effect.

How do we balance all this? How does the government balance and come to a decision? We are even hearing, to add to that mix, about changing ocean conditions. It seems like a lot of change is happening. I know one thing the fishermen want. I spoke to a number of fishermen yesterday, and the Fisheries Council of Canada. The one thing they want is certainty.

How do we provide certainty in a very changing world, provide the purpose you're talking about, as well as look at whether the spillover effect works?

10:30 a.m.

Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Dr. Stephen Woodley

That's a big question with many parts. If you went back to the history of the haddock box, when it was first established as a no-take area, it wasn't a very popular measure. Now I think you would be hard-pressed to stop it from being a no-take area, because it's so popular.

The literature on spillover effect is pretty messy. There are some clear examples where it works, and some clear examples where it doesn't work. It's pretty messy scientifically.

It's pretty clear it works for many different kinds of species, and sometimes it works for surprising species. There are small enclosures in the gulf islands off California, where you get really surprising spillover effects. People said it would never work for that species because it's a migratory species, but you see spillover effects outside these rather small protected areas.

There is no uncertainty that it's a changing and dramatic world. If you look at the elements of sustainability: social, economic and ecological. The ecological part of that is the most brittle. The social one is the most highly adaptive. We've changed on a dime with changing economic conditions. Fishers have been good at doing that for a long time. In the Bay of Fundy, they're fishing lobster now where they used to fish herring weirs.

I know it's hard to be displaced and I recognize that significance, but I think there are benefits to fishers in having marine protected areas. I wouldn't be arguing for it so strongly if there weren't. There are real benefits in managing oceans sustainably.

I don't know if that's a good answer to your question, but—

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

It's helpful. I think it's still going to prove difficult for the government to make decisions using this legislation, which is an interim measure, as pointed out, that could increase uncertainty, but the overall effect is that we're trying to provide certainty in the long run.

Also, your comment about the science being messy certainly doesn't help. It's a difficult challenge. You also pointed out, rightly I would say, that if you look to the past, we're not doing a good job of managing our oceans. We have to do better. We have to do something different.

You gave a number of specific recommendations. Have you submitted those in writing to this committee, or could you?

10:30 a.m.

Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

You have, great.

Ms. Nowlan, you've submitted very specific recommendations, and thank you for doing that. That's extremely helpful. I think your testimony, your summary, was excellent. In your submission you talked about minimum standards, public support, public reporting requirements, indigenous law, co-governance, and enforcement.

In the two minutes that I have left, could you highlight anything from that, that you want to speak to? I was quite interested in minimum standards and public support.

10:30 a.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Linda Nowlan

Polling by WWF shows that a really high proportion of the public supports this strong protection. I think the numbers are in the 80% or 90%. The poll was from last year.

In the legislative history of this act, when Minister Tobin, Captain Canada, brought it in, he spoke about minimum standards. Seventeen years ago, a B.C. scientist working for DFO talked about minimum standards that were going to be in the B.C.-Canada agreements. This has been going on a long time. We need to get it in the law.

In terms of certainty for industry, this is a great way to do it; put a prohibition right in there, the same as we have in another marine conservation law. Just make it clear that in that small part of the sea that we're calling protected, you can't do certain things. I think that's the best way to get certainty.

I understand quite well that the purpose of this law is to create this new interim marine protected area ministerial order. That's because we've had this law for 20 years, and we haven't done a very good job of implementing it. We've heard repeatedly.... We've heard from the Royal Society of Canada expert panel on sustaining Canada's marine biodiversity from 2012, that this was a real problem. We've heard in two commissioner of the environment and sustainable development reports that this is a big problem.

We know it's a problem. That's why the government promised to change it. The interim MPA power in the new bill is great, but we're just saying, why not take one step further and create this certainty that we want, and stop this really long process of negotiation over each particular area? People have been consulted. They're aware of which areas are really productive and viable, which can provide benefits to fishing and provide benefits to coastal communities in the long term.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia provides $6 billion of economic benefits each year to Australia.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you very much, Ms. Nowlan. I appreciate it.

Ms. Jordan, you have seven minutes, please.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for appearing today.

Mr. Woodley, first of all, you mentioned members in IUCN. You said it has government members and NGO members. Are there any other stakeholders in terms of industry?

10:35 a.m.

Vice-Chair of Science and Biodiversity, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Dr. Stephen Woodley

There are some industry associations associated with the IUCN, but the members are only NGOs and governments. At the last World Conservation Congress, there was a third house opened, and that's for indigenous communities.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

With regard to indigenous communities, we've talked a lot about what makes an MPA successful, and one of the things is a no-take zone. Can we in Canada actually enforce a no-take zone with our indigenous fisheries?