Evidence of meeting #8 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was fish.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Timothy Sargent  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Rebecca Reid  Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Nancy Vohl
Jen O’Donoughue  Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Were they not already at full capacity, Ms. Reid?

2:45 p.m.

Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Rebecca Reid

We've been working with the Freshwater Fisheries Society and Go Fish BC in Vanderhoof, as well as the Spruce City Wildlife Association and the Quesnel River Research Centre. They're all being utilized. We're working actively with them to make sure that there is room for the fish to support the enhancement activities.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

How much new capacity are we talking about this year?

2:45 p.m.

Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Rebecca Reid

I will have to look up the numbers for you. I could get back to you with specific numbers.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

I'd sure like to know that.

Minister, in your opening comments, you were asked by Mr. Arnold about your five priorities. I notice that fishing regulation changes and predator control weren't on your list. I hope that you'll take a look at that.

The Sport Fishing Institute and the sport fishing advisory board on the west coast are all talking about mark-selective fisheries in order to make sure that it's primarily hatchery fish that are retained. The sport fishing advisory board's report indicates that changes could be made to support the Fraser River stocks while still allowing more than adequate catches of those stocks that are not at risk.

Are you taking that report seriously? Are we going to move to mark-selective fisheries? If we're going to ramp up hatcheries in order to save some of the genetics of these populations above Big Bar—and you mentioned it in your opening comments—and we're going to be doing exactly what the Americans do, the Americans, I believe, mark virtually every fish that comes from a hatchery, while we do not mark every fish; I'm guessing that we mark about 10% of our fish, whether it's with coded wire tags or by clipping the adipose fin. If we're going to ramp up the hatcheries in order to preserve some of the genetic stocks, I hope we're looking at ramping up marking these fish. Can you clarify where that's at?

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Mark-selective fisheries are definitely something we are looking at. They are not the silver bullet, though, that's going to save the salmon stocks. There are also a number of questions that need to be answered around a mark-selective fishery before we can go ahead with it.

We are continuing to work with the groups. I want to particularly thank the Sport Fishing Institute for talking to me about this fishery and their ideas, which I think were very good. There are, as I said, still a lot of questions with regard to things like data collection, impacts on the wild Pacific salmon and consultations with first nations about a mark-selective fishery and how it impacts their fishery. There are a number of things that need to be addressed before we can move that way in a big way, but it is definitely something that we are looking at seriously.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Minister, you're aware that on the west coast in particular, a lot of lodges, outfitters and guides depend heavily on this resource. Last year's regulatory changes were particularly hard on these businesses and had an economic impact on them, now the closures due to COVID and the continuation of those regulations are compounding an already bad problem. When your assistant was at the meeting here a little while ago, he made a comment to suggest that the department's primary focus is dealing with the parts of the fish and seafood community that are directly in the business of basically commercial fishing.

Do you, Minister, believe that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should be actively involved in making sure that these lodges, sport fishing organizations and businesses are also at the table? Are they not part of the mandate of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Sorry, Mr. Calkins. You've gone way overboard.

Minister, if it's possible, if you don't get to answer this question, could you provide the answer in writing to the committee, please?

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Yes. Thank you.

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

We'll now go to Mr. Weiler for five minutes or less, please.

June 9th, 2020 / 2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate the opportunity to join the FOPO committee today to talk and ask questions about an issue that's very much top of mind for people all over B.C., but especially in coastal areas.

Like many other people, I've been following the regular bulletins on what's happening with Big Bar. I was wondering if you could mention why DFO chose to have these types of regular bulletins and if this is something that the ministry does for other projects.

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I would say that the regular bulletins have been extremely important for the people in the communities as well as for the people in British Columbia. As you are well aware, the salmon population is something that's critically important to B.C., not only as a fishery, but also as a culture, so keeping people informed about what was happening at Big Bar was something we felt was extremely important to do.

I don't know, Deputy, if you have anything else you would like to add to that.

2:50 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

Not much, but I'll say that of course we talk to the public about a variety of things that we do. Given the significance of Big Bar, we've done more communicating about the work we've done there over a longer period of time than I can recall in my time here.

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

I was very grateful for the opportunity to speak with officials a few months ago on the same topic, so I don't want to go back to measures that were happening before that, but I was hoping, Minister, you could explain a bit about the type of fish monitoring that's happening in and around the Big Bar slide site and what's being done to monitor the fish migration upstream.

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

We monitor for fish in two ways, above water and below. We use hydro-acoustic monitoring and sonar technology to count the number of salmon successfully passing through the slide. We also use radio tagging, which involves inserting a tag into the fish's stomach and attaching it to its back. The radio tag emits a signal, and it's detected onshore. That can give us a better idea of how many fish are going through.

I am going to turn that one over to the deputy as well, because it's quite technical.

2:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

I think, in turn, I'll pass that one to Rebecca, who has that at her fingertips.

2:55 p.m.

Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Rebecca Reid

I think that was a really great answer.

We do the tagging studies, and we have sonar to measure the fish as they pass through the site.

We look at the spawning grounds as well to see how many fish have made it to the spawning grounds. Similarly, in the spring, we look to see how many of the fry have emerged and how many smolts have come down. We do that to some extent as well.

We have a number of different methods to test and evaluate the number of fish in the area that are coming into the Fraser and leaving as well.

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

I read in a recent bulletin that there were a couple of salmon that have been identified near the site. I'm wondering when the salmon started arriving this year and how that has increased to today.

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

So far, only two chinook have been detected on site. That's not unusual, apparently, at this time of year. We're working hard to make sure we get the work done before the fish arrive. That was always a priority for us, to do as much as we could as quickly as we could before the fish arrive.

I don't know, Deputy, if there's anything else there that you want to add, but from my understanding, there have not been any fish arriving yet.

2:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

That's correct, Minister. I don't have anything to add.

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Given that there have been a number of delays this year because of very adverse weather conditions, what risks does this delay pose to the timeline for the fish arriving?

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

We're continuing to monitor for the fish as they come, and we're continuing to build the Whooshh system to get that in place as well as the natural fish passageway. This is, as I've said, an unprecedented slide. It's something that has needed all hands on deck since day one to make sure we can get fish through as quickly as possible.

We recognize how important it is to the communities in the area, as well as to B.C. and to the fish population, so we want to make sure we're doing everything possible. Of course, with putting in the Whooshh system, we have been faced with challenges because of weather and high water.

I'm not sure if there's anything else there, Deputy, that we wanted to add about some of the challenges.

2:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

I'll just say that particularly at this time of year, the water is quite muddy, and it's often hard to detect the fish. We do have a fish wheel there, though, that's helping with that. The Whooshh system is installed. It's ready to go when we start to see significant numbers of fish coming in.

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Has there been any fish mortality detected this year as a result of the blasting and other activities that are taking place at the site?

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I am not aware of any, but I would turn that one to the deputy.