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

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Is there any schism between the fishermen who primarily fish in the benthic zone and those who fish in the pelagic waters, given the fact that a marine protected area would, in theory, provide more refugia for the benthic zone and create an area of high productivity and good fishing immediately surrounding the marine protected area, and would not necessarily have the same positive effects for pelagic or sunlit fisheries?

9:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Fundy North Fishermen's Association

Maria Recchia

What we have found in the research from around the world that we have read on this is that MPAs have to be extremely large to have the spillover effect you're discussing. None of them in the Bay of Fundy would be large enough for that. Even in places where they are that large, those places are finding that the increase of activity around the MPAs from kicking all the fishing out is causing some problems too. The spillover effect is something that, in theory, was expected to happen, but it's not panning out in most of the MPAs around the world.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

I see. That's very interesting.

I used to be a national park warden, so for me a marine protected area is simply an aquatic version of a national park. I think that in theory the concept is great. Like you said, if the park isn't large enough, natural systems don't have the ability to have their full effect.

I'll give you an example. There used to be a herd of caribou that migrated through Jasper National Park where I was a warden. That herd is no longer viable. As a matter of fact, it's not even present anymore. Some would argue that because of their migration route they were killed due to habitat loss outside the park boundary, but the reality is that most of those caribou were lost because wolves, grizzly bears, and other predators had ultimate protection inside the confines of the national park. As a matter of fact, if you go to Jasper National Park, go to town if you want to see an elk or a deer, or if you want to see a wolf, go outside of town—you might be able to find one there.

How do your fishermen feel about predator control inside a marine protected area, should these marine protected areas come to pass?

9:50 a.m.

Executive Director, Fundy North Fishermen's Association

Maria Recchia

In the ocean, things really move. Most of the species we were talking about are migratory. Even lobsters migrate huge distances in our area. Something like scallops are going to stay put. The predators are going to be moving in and out, though.

Personally, I think our fishermen would much rather see a more robust management system where we're keeping out the really destructive industrial practices. Even in the fishing industry, the advantage to the sustainable fishing practices, the low-impact ones.... Then I think we'll have a healthy ecosystem all around and allow for the migration through areas that they need to go through.

However, we don't really have that. We have all kinds of industrial activities in the area or coming into the area at any time, whether it's oil and gas or shipping oil through. Tidal power is a big concern for us. We are in the main migration quarters, which is where they want to put it in our region. I think a more robust management of the marine space in general would be much preferable to a patchwork of MPAs that—

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Ms. Recchia. Thank you very much, I appreciate that. Sorry to cut you off, but we're way over time, and I'm going to extend this whole thing by five minutes.

I want to thank you very much. Actually, the fact that we ran over time is a testament to your testimony.

Thank you, Mr. Smith, Ms. Recchia, as well as Ms. Mitchell. We appreciate your joining us from St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Colleagues, we'll take literally two minutes. Thank you.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Welcome back, everybody.

Colleagues, if you noticed, there's a pattern emerging here that takes us over time on occasion. I'm going to stretch this by five minutes each meeting simply because I think it's equitable. Here's what the formula looks like right now. If you want to split your time, here's what's happening.

The first four questions of the first round are being asked fully and completely, that's fine. In the second round, I'm going to go with two questions. Given that we only have an hour, that seems to be about the best we can do. What that provides is 14 minutes for the Liberals, 12 minutes for the Conservatives, seven minutes for the NDP. That is the best I can make it with the number of witnesses we have and the time that we have within an hour. I say that because this is why we're stretching this meeting beyond five minutes, because I want to get that equitable formula in. There is another committee after, so you get the idea.

Nevertheless, in our second round here today, in the second hour of today's meeting on Bill C-55, joining us by video conference from Vancouver we have Linda Nowlan, who is the staff counsel at the West Coast Environmental Law Association, certainly a group that is no stranger to this committee; and from the International Union for Conservative of Nature, joining us here in Ottawa is Stephen Woodley, who is the vice-chair of science and biodiversity for the World Commission on Protected Areas. I hope I got your titles correct.

You get up to 10 minutes for your opening remarks. You don't have to use the whole 10 minutes for your opening remarks. We're going to start with Mr. Woodley.

Mr. Woodley, you have up to 10 minutes, please.

9:55 a.m.

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

Thank you very much for the chance to be here today and the invitation. I work with the International Union for Conservation of Nature on one of the commissions, the World Commission on Protected Areas.

I think you all know about the IUCN, so I'll spare you a long introduction to it. I'll only say that it is a unique institution and it has government members and NGO members. Canada is a member, and DFO is a member, recently returned actually to the IUCN.

We welcome this bill to amend the Oceans Act and facilitate the creation of new marine protected areas in Canada. It's good news. We have a few recommendations to strengthen the act.

The first is to use an internationally accepted definition of MPAs, and put that in the act. The IUCN has spent a lot of time defining what a protected area is. It has a definition that has wide global currency, which defines a protected area as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”

As I said, this definition is globally recognized. It was voted on, including by Canada. It applies equally on land or sea. The definition is equivalent to the one used in the Convention on Biological Diversity. Given the widespread currency of this definition and the fact that Canada has already agreed to it, our suggestion is to use this definition in the bill for MPAs.

There is other value in doing this. We report on our protected areas system through the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and we report to a system that is jointly managed by UNEP and IUCN, according to this definition. There's real value in doing that.

The second point is, after we have a definition of “protected areas”, we need a management purpose. I think this is lacking in the act. What are these places being managed for? Establishing a management purpose allows us to measure whether we're being successful in that management purpose.

Other organizations, including Parks Canada, including the United States' national park system for their land as well as marine parks, use the term “ecological integrity” as a management goal, so you know what you're managing for. It's an ecosystem-based approach. It's measurable, it's science based, and it's been shown to be applicable to a range of different ecosystems.

We could easily take the definition out of the Canada National Parks Act and adapt it to the Oceans Act as follows: “Ecological integrity means, with respect to a marine protected area, a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its marine region and likely to persist, including abiotic”—or non-living—“components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.”

If we have that as a management purpose, the additional suggestion is to add a clause—and this would be consistent with the Canada National Parks Act—to say that maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, should be the first and overriding priority of the minister when considering all aspects of the management of marine protected areas.

This just clarifies a “nature first” protection role for marine protected areas, as it does for other kinds of protected areas. It's unambiguous and clear.

The final point I wanted to make is that it's important to provide clarity on the permitted activities within marine protected areas, and I know you've been debating this since you started this committee, including this morning.

A point I'd like to make is that marine protected areas provide benchmarks. When we manage the oceans or the land, it's an experiment. We say, “If we do this management action, this is what the likely outcome will be.”

A basic scientific idea is that you need a benchmark for your experiment. Marine protected areas or protected areas on land provide a scientific benchmark so that we can understand the impacts of our management. It's part of a larger sustainable management system.

As well as playing this key role in fisheries management, MPAs conserve representative ecosystems and rare ecosystems. They can do a range of things. They protect fish nursery and there are countless other benefits. Just before the break, I know you were talking about the spillover effect. The spillover effect is real. It's true that it comes more from larger protected areas, but there is demonstrated spillover from smaller protected areas. On the east coast, if you look at the haddock box, which isn't yet a marine protected area but is another effective area-based conservation measure, the best place to do haddock fishing there is right outside the haddock box. The catches, because of the spillover effect, are phenomenal.

At the last World Conservation Congress, which is IUCN's meeting and where resolutions are passed, there was a resolution passed on industrial activities in protected areas. I'm going to read this resolution because I think it's relevant here, and suggest it could be included in the language. The IUCN resolution, also passed by both the government house and the NGO house, said:

Calls on governments to prohibit environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development in all IUCN categories of protected area, and to take measures to ensure that all activities are compatible with the conservation objectives of these areas, through appropriate, transparent and rigorous pre-emptive appraisal processes, such as international best practice environmental and social impact assessments, strategic environmental assessments, and appropriate regulation....

This resolution applies to all categories of protected areas on land and sea. I'll note there are certain categories of marine protected areas that are open to locally based benefit fishing, but it prohibits large-scale industrial commercial fishing, seabed mining, and oil and gas extraction.

To conclude, in the current management systems that we employ we're trying to do sustainable development on the entire ocean, not only within protected areas. Protected areas are part of a sustainable management solution for the larger ocean. We've been generally failing to do sustainable development on our oceans. We've had declines in biological diversity and productivity in ocean ecosystems. Global fish catches have declined consistently since 1989. This downward trend is projected to continue.

In Canada, despite DFO having some great scientists, we know that 45% of Canada's fish stocks can't be determined because of lack of data. We know that only 24% of fish stocks are considered healthy. To move to an era of successful ocean management, we need to be brave in charting a new course, and well-managed protected areas are a bright beacon on that course.

Marine protected areas are globally recognized—there's no debate about this—as being key tools to protect important habitats and representative samples of marine life, and they can assist in restoring the productivity of the oceans to avoid further degradation. However, in order for them to work, they must be well managed, well designed, and well protected.

In closing, the IUCN-WCPA strongly asserts that MPAs are a necessary part of oceans management. Let's get this Oceans Act amendment right so MPAs can play a role in conserving Canada's ocean ecosystems and help support Canada's $6.6-billion fishing industry.

Thank you.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Mr. Woodley.

Now we go to Vancouver and Ms. Nowlan for up to 10 minutes, please.

10:05 a.m.

Linda Nowlan Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Thank you, and good morning. I'm happy to see you again. It's pretty dark out here. It's early in the morning. It's been about six months since I testified to you about this very subject.

I'm really pleased to be here again to celebrate all the action on marine protection of the past six months, to talk about the good features of Bill C-55—which we support—and also to go through key points from our written brief that outline ways to improve the bill even more so that your government will leave an even greater lasting legacy for marine protection.

As you have our brief, I won't go through it in detail. I'm going to highlight some key points, and I would be happy to answer questions later.

As you know, the oceans provide every second breath we take and are essential to who we are as Canadians. Our history, culture, diet, transportation networks, recreational activities, and spiritual beliefs revolve around the ocean. Yet cod, the lifeblood of so many of your communities, have still not recovered, 25 years after commercial fishing was halted. Wild salmon are in danger on both coasts. Whales are dying in alarming numbers, and moratoria are in place for too many previously commercially fished species.

We want to celebrate the leadership of the government because marine protected areas, as you've just heard, are one solution, which this bill recognizes. The bill has some very good innovations, like the interim marine protection area designation, freezing the footprint of activities in the areas, and especially, a timeline to make sure we can designate areas a lot quicker than we currently do.

Bills like this don't come up very often for amendment, so now is the time to improve our flagship ocean protection law even more while the global momentum on oceans is so high, as we saw with the UN meeting in June on oceans, the Our Ocean conference in Malta, the upcoming leadership of Canada on the G7 with the blue economy theme, and while Parliament is looking at the details of the best feature of ocean protection law.

Our brief outlines very specific recommended amendments with legislative language to strengthen the bill even more, and the main area of improvement is on these minimum protection standards. This was a key message from the workshop we held in June in Ottawa with many government members, experts from different countries, and representatives including stakeholders from all three coasts, the IUCN, first nations leaders, and industry representatives.

To be effective, MPAs must be truly protected, and that's why we need these minimum protection standards. Your government is on top of the quantity issue for marine protected areas and has made a lot of progress. Now it's time to address quality of protection. Your government's environment committee made a unanimous recommendation about this topic in its recent report on federal protected areas—recommendation 26.

Our brief recommends a number of amendments to enshrine standards in law. The law is currently very inconsistent. As you've heard and will probably continue to hear, people are astonished to learn that oil and gas exploration, undersea mining, and damaging fishing activities are all possible in the tiny fraction of the sea that we call marine protected areas. That's why an unprecedented 70,000 Canadians, members of the public, spoke out about one of the proposed new MPAs, Laurentian Channel, and said that we need to keep harmful activities out of these areas.

Right now, the act creates inconsistent protection standards. We did send an expanded version of our brief to all of your offices this week, and appendix 2 of that brief has a chart of all the MPAs designated under the Oceans Act, and lists which activities can take place. You will see that there are a lot of activities allowed, and some of them are harmful. That really shouldn't happen.

These are straightforward amendments to achieve the goal of minimum protection standards, and there are precedents that exist now already in Canadian law that can be transferred into the Oceans Act. Now is the time to do that. We point particularly to the outright prohibition in the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and its section 13. The environment committee unanimously recommended that this should happen. We hope your committee can also make this proposed amendment.

You may be told that these simple standards prohibiting damaging activities can't go into the act because of legal barriers, but I'm here today to tell you that it's both possible and straightforward to make these amendments, whether for oil and gas in all parts of Canada or for bottom trawling in fishing. Our brief has details on these legislative options.

Requiring the ecological integrity of MPAs to be the top priority for designation and management is an easy and straightforward amendment—we've just heard from Stephen Woodley about this—and we also recommend it and the legislative language from the Canada National Parks Act.

Both the 10-page brief you have before you today and the longer version we sent to you sets out language for these standards. You have the power to make this happen right now. We don't expect the Oceans Act to come up for amendment again very soon. Right now really is the time to get it right.

We also recommend an amendment to increase accountability by amending section 52 of the act to require an annual report to Parliament on how many MPAs are designated and whether they're meeting their conservation objectives. We already have such a reporting obligation in the Fisheries Act. We have a sort of strange one in the Oceans Act, which requires a one-time report, which already happened, but not regular ongoing reporting. This would be a good amendment to make.

We commend your government's commitment to reconciliation, and our brief sets out a number of proposed amendments related to indigenous rights, jurisdictions, protected areas, and co-management. We recommend that you engage on a nation-to-nation basis with first nations on these amendments.

In conclusion, Australia is famed for its Great Barrier Reef, Ecuador for the Galapagos, and the U.S.A. for marine protected areas like California's Monterey Bay, Alaska's Glacier Bay, and all of Hawaii's amazing undersea wonders that are protected. Here in Canada, we want our marine areas to equally be a source of pride for all Canadians and bastions of nature's wonders unaffected by industrial activities. From our seamounts to our glass sponge reefs, to our whale breeding grounds, we're blessed with rare wild places that deserve the best protection we can imagine and the strongest laws to make that happen.

You have the power to again make the Oceans Act a world-leading law by enshrining minimum protection standards. I think we all want our grandchildren to experience the wonder of nature and our blue planet.

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about proposed amendments or any other matters in our brief. We strongly support this bill as do many of our colleagues in the conservation sector, and we are working to encourage you and your colleagues to make it even stronger.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you very much.

Mr. Hardie.

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

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to the guests for being here.

I think we have to reel this conversation in a little bit, because we're talking about Bill C-55. Really, what it's all about is the authority for a ministerial order to be issued that would designate an interim MPA and prohibit certain activities. We're dealing with something we think might be sensitive. We would not necessarily have all of the science ducks in a row, to say yes, for sure, this, that, and the other. In fact, the language in the bill specifically says that the minister can act even in the absence of conclusive scientific information.

The other thing, which seems to have escaped quite a number of people who have appeared before us so far, is that this bill would allow activities that have been under way for at least the last 12 months to continue, or alternatively, to compensate activities, particularly oil and gas extraction, if we decide in this interim order that we want to prohibit those activities from continuing.

I want both Mr. Woodley and Ms. Nowlan to be thinking about this on an interim basis, absent all the science, and tell us, now, what you think the minister should be thinking about and who the minister should speak with before he comes in with an interim order that would sunset within five years.

Mr. Woodley, we'll start with you.

10:15 a.m.

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

Dr. Stephen Woodley

Thank you.

My understanding is this bill provides for interim rapid protection of areas, which will lead to longer-term protection.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

May lead....

10:15 a.m.

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

Dr. Stephen Woodley

Yes, it may lead to longer-term protection, but an interim order will never be issued without any information. We understand that the area's value is to be protected for some reason. There may be high levels of uncertainty, and there are always high levels of uncertainty when it comes to nature and certainly marine areas, so I think we have to assemble the best available information. That includes scientific information, of which there is a considerable amount. It includes knowledge from fishers, which is vast, and traditional knowledge as well from the indigenous communities.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Ms. Nowlan, what should the minister be looking for before issuing an interim order? I emphasize that it may have to come in the absence of conclusive science, if that even exists anyway.

10:15 a.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Linda Nowlan

I'll give you an example. Out here in British Columbia, up on the north and central coast, we have the marine planning partnership, or MaPP area, which you've heard about before. There are 102,000 square kilometres that have been under study for more than a decade by all levels of government and for millennia by first nations, who all have their own marine use plans. Over half of this area is designated as an ecological and biologically significant area using international criteria.

The science is there. The consultation is there. It's in a huge area. I think the minister could go right to that area and make some ministerial orders for many of the proposed protection management zones in that area, which have been the subject of study and consultation for so many years. There are places all over Canada where that information exists, so that's where the minister should go. I think there's ample information out there on which to base these orders.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

One of the things we've heard continually is that, whether it's an interim order or a full-fledged marine protected area, certain destructive industrial activities shouldn't be allowed to take place, and everybody points a finger at oil and gas extraction. For the purpose of an interim order like this—I want to play off something that Mr. Calkins introduced in the last round of witnesses—would you both consider bottom trawling to be a destructive industrial activity?

10:15 a.m.

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

Dr. Stephen Woodley

Yes. I think there's a considerable amount of published information to show that bottom trawling is a damaging activity.

10:15 a.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Linda Nowlan

Yes, I agree, and it's interesting to note that in New Zealand over 30% of its exclusive economic zone is closed to bottom trawling, just as one example of the many places in the world where this activity is curtailed in protected areas, not all over the sea but in protected areas. Yes, it's a damaging industrial activity. The IUCN recognizes that, as Mr. Woodley said.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Woodley, you spoke about having a management purpose in mind. Again, thinking of an interim order, what the previous government, in looking at protection, earmarked for protection were commercial stocks, stocks that could be commercially viable, to keep them commercially viable. Is that far enough or would you go further than just looking at commercial stocks?

10:15 a.m.

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

Dr. Stephen Woodley

Protected areas can do lots of things. They can protect many different aspects of nature, including stocks that we harvest now or maybe stocks that we may harvest in the future, but the important thing is that we're protecting ecosystems. The suggestion to use ecological integrity as a management end point, and really a planning end point, is so that we get these areas right, so that we actually are protecting areas that are going to have a high chance of persisting through time. It gives us a planning tool and a measurement tool in setting these things up.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I'll have a quick comment from Ms. Nowlan, and then I'm out of time.

10:20 a.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

There you are.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, folks.

Now we'll go to Mr. Arnold for seven minutes, please.