Evidence of meeting #26 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was farms.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rebecca Reid  Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Kristi Miller-Saunders  Research Scientist, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Jay Parsons  Director, Aquaculture, Biotechnology and Aquatic Animal Health Science Branch, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Simon Jones  Research Scientist, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Andrew Thomson  Regional Director, Science, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:45 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

Well, I think we need to be strategic in where we put our money, because there is not enough money in the world to do every single restoration project people may wish to see. The challenges are overwhelming and intense.

You've heard talk about the impacts of climate change on fresh water, on temperatures, on flows. Those are all very significant problems. Can we make improvements? Absolutely. But can we fix everything? It's here that you need to be strategic about what provides the best bang for the buck.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Bragdon.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

You've gone a little bit over.

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

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Thank you, Chair.

I want to follow up on the question from MP Hardie and to a lesser extent from MP Bragdon.

Ms. Reid, why have past practices of DFO failed to restore commercial salmon?

4:50 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

Well, there are many challenges facing salmon. There are any number of impacts on their survivability. It's not just harvest; there's climate change, there are impacts upon habitat. They encounter any number of ways that cause their decline.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Okay, but we've known that for a while. We've known the impact of civilization upon the habitat. We have known—at least those who accept the fact—that the climate is changing, that the ocean is warming. We also understand, from the testimony given by Dr. Miller-Saunders, that a lot of the viruses—in fact, I was surprised when she said the majority—are naturally occurring. The impact of fish farming would appear minor and on that side.

Then I'll go to my next question, because it doesn't appear there's one specific area of past practices that has failed. What's your advice, to use your words “strategic investment”, for ensuring that the substantive amount of money that has now been targeted towards this industry.... Where strategically should it be placed?

4:50 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

That's really what we want to do when we create the governance structures and put the advisory processes in place: to be strategic about where to spend the money.

It's not that all populations are in decline. We have examples of salmon populations improving, and those—

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Which ones are those?

4:50 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

Well, some of the chinook populations are in good health, for example. There are a number of examples. We have, though, some very significant challenges that impact upon some of those stocks. You have climate change, you have warming water conditions, urbanization, habitat, development. You need to basically bring people together to set the priorities and start to work away at these problems.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

You're the senior person in DFO on the west coast. What is your recommendation, to those people you're going to bring together, going to be?

4:50 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

My recommendation is that we will achieve a lot more by working together in partnership, by setting priorities together and by agreeing on the broad outcomes we want to accomplish.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Do you have a mindset on what the priorities should be?

4:50 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

Well, I've given you four categories in which we should make efforts, including habitat restoration for sure. We also need to do some harvest transformations, and we need to make sure our governance pieces are—

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

To follow up on Mr. Hardie's point, which he was correct in, we do not want to be reinventing the wheel. That's why my question was: do we know what has not worked in the past? If we're not really clear on that as a governance body, it will impact where we're going to make these strategic investments. You're right that it's a large budget, but every budget is finite.

We do not want to reinvent the wheel in areas where there have been no successful results in the fisheries. With that particular view, can you assure this committee that we won't be reinventing the wheel and will target and use the money wisely, as in your statement? Where would the key targeted areas be?

4:50 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

We fully intend to use the money wisely. We are extremely pleased to have this level of support to protect wild Pacific salmon. It's an extremely exciting opportunity, and we take very seriously our responsibilities to deliver value for money and ensure that as we set priorities, we're not reinventing the wheel.

We are moving forward with what we know, and we're leveraging what's already in place and available. We're also taking advantage of what we know, looking for opportunities to make a big difference. There are lots of different places to work, and I think there are tons of conversations we need to have to really create the best plan.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Morrissey.

We'll now go to Mr. Blanchette-Joncas, for two and a half minutes or less, please.

April 26th, 2021 / 4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Ms. Reid.

Ms. Reid, if you don't feel comfortable enough to respond, your colleagues can also respond if they wish. I'd love to hear from them, as well.

My question is about first nations. We haven't heard much about the role that first nations should play in salmon conservation.

What role do you think first nations should play in salmon conservation?

4:55 p.m.

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

Rebecca Reid

We view the role of indigenous people as absolutely critical to any plan and strategy that we develop. We have a number of governance processes already in place that will help levers that work. For example, there is the Fraser Salmon Management Board, which was recently created for the Fraser River. A large number of indigenous groups are working together on it for the good of Pacific salmon.

We do intend to work with indigenous groups to talk to them about what sort of advisory process they would see as effective and helpful in supporting the conversations we need to have about where to put the money and how to set priorities. We view those conversations at a government-to-government level as critical to the success of this strategy.

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Thank you, Ms. Reid.

Dr. Miller-Saunders, what is your opinion about the role of first nations in salmon conservation?

4:55 p.m.

Research Scientist, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders

First nations are critical because they are on the ground and have years and years of history witnessing the changes we are studying today. My program is working extensively with first nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island and in the Broughton Archipelago. We hope hoping to utilize their history of knowledge to better understand where we need to focus our efforts in understanding stressor and historic patterns in population.

From what I can see from a scientist's perspective, there has been a lot of activity in the department to more fully integrate first nations in the interpretation of the work we do, both in the field and in the consultations. I see it as a very positive move forward for the department and its relationship with first nations.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Blanchette-Joncas.

We'll now go to Mr. Johns, for two and a half minutes, please.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Dr. Miller-Saunders, we've heard a lot today about the cumulative effects of climate change, disease and pollutants on wild salmon. With so many things going on, can your program offer any insight into which factors are playing the biggest role and which could be mediated through some kind of intervention?

You talked about your FIT-CHIP program. Can you elaborate a bit more on this work and what is needed to move forward with it?

4:55 p.m.

Research Scientist, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders

Sure. I really do believe that the FIT-CHIPs will give us the new resolution that we've never had before. Previously, we could go out and measure temperatures, and we could go out and measure environmental conditions, and we could surmise that they might be impactful on salmon. The FIT-CHIPs actually offer an opportunity to look at the salmon themselves and allow the genomic signatures of the salmon to speak for themselves. We can actually tell when the salmon is experiencing thermal stress: not just that they're in a high-temperature area, but whether they're actually feeling the stress of the environment.

The point of the FIT-CHIPs is to better understand the interconnection between different kinds of stressors and diseases. If you can understand whether they're cumulative, which means that they're additive, or they're synergistic, which means that they could be multiplicative so that you have one stressor and you have another stressor and they're 10 times more powerful when they're together, when you have that kind of information, you're able to ask what would happen if you just removed one of those.

We can't remove all of the stressors, but if we can target the stressors that we can mitigate and we can understand how they interplay with each other, we can be better informed as to what strategies we can take to reverse the declines, to actually develop a measure to increase survival substantially.

The other thing they allow us to do is identify the habitats that are most impactful in terms of stress: Where is the stress hot spot occurring? Then we can target our mitigative actions to those areas. I know that we've done a lot of work in freshwater systems, and I cannot emphasize enough that the early marine rearing environment, where many of our stocks spend up to a year, is also critical and that we need to be looking at what we can do there.

5 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Can you talk a bit more about the science of the increased survival of hatchery fish in relation to that?