Evidence of meeting #17 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was capelin.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Timothy Sargent  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Sylvain Vézina  Regional Director General, Quebec Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Tony Blanchard  Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Adam Burns  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Harbour Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, thank you to the officials for being here.

I'll direct my questions through Mr. Sargent and he can determine which other department official may be best to answer.

Could you tell us what the stock assessment trends have been for capelin over the past number of years?

4 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

Tony, do you want to talk about that?

I would say though that this stock has been quite volatile, so I suspect what Tony is going to say is that it's difficult to tease out real trends from that.

Tony.

4 p.m.

Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Tony Blanchard

It's exactly what you said. It's been, particularly in 4RST, which we're talking about, a bit up and down, but nothing major up or major down. It's been up or down at a consistent level, I guess.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you.

What has the department identified as possible contributing factors to any upward or downward population cycles?

4 p.m.

Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Tony Blanchard

The major driver is environmental conditions. We can't pinpoint specifically which of those, but it appears that environmental conditions are the major driver in the capelin abundance.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

When you say environmental conditions, do you mean climatic and ocean temperature conditions, or other environmental conditions, such as predation and so on?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Tony Blanchard

It is all of the above, I would think.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Predation is one of those potential factors in there.

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Tony Blanchard

Potentially, it is. Probably the climatic conditions are more impactful.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

What work is the department doing to try to determine which factors may be more influential?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Tony Blanchard

Those are the things that are discussed during the science assessment each year.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Have those been discussed in previous years?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

What was identified in previous years?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Tony Blanchard

I think it was the water temperature for sure, food for the capelin, and those types of things. I don't have the specifics in front of me now to give you, but they were those types of things.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

What steps are available to the department to address declining trends or a low assessment?

4:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

Just to clarify, Mr. Chair, do you mean in terms of fisheries management measures or in terms of getting more data?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

What tools are available to the department to turn around a low assessment?

4:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

In terms of fisheries management, Mr. Chair, obviously we can adjust things like opening dates in an effort-based fishery. We can adjust TACs when there are quantitative limits. We can place restrictions around kinds of gear.

Those are all fisheries management tools that we have used in general, although not necessarily in this fishery or in all parts of this fishery.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Has the department ever looked at overall ecological conditions such as predator-prey ratios as part of the tools?

4:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

Our assessments are designed to look at environmental factors. As we have discussed, predation is a factor, so to the best of our ability we try to understand what the predation factors are. They obviously feed into where we think the stock is going and how effective our management measures will be.

April 13th, 2022 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you.

I want to change line a bit here. It looks like this entire management area is managed as one large zone. We have a couple of harvesters who are impacted and who would have a very small impact on the overall TAC or the fishery in general, yet their fishery is being restricted in their position.

I want to relate that to a different scenario on the west coast. Interior Fraser steelhead are on the brink of extinction. They come all the way up the Fraser system in my riding and up into North Okanagan—Shuswap. Other harvest fisheries are implicated or suggested to be maybe impacting those stocks, which are on the verge of collapse, yet those fisheries remain open.

Can you explain the difference in the two different management systems?

4:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

For the 4RST capelin, when we say that we treat it as one stock, that means the science is done on a stock-wide basis. We have one stock assessment meeting and we have one advisory committee that deals with this stock, but that doesn't mean a stock is managed in the same way for each of the sub-areas, if you like.

That's why, for instance, the weir fishery that we're all here today to discuss opens at a different time from the 4R and 4S fisheries, and of course they use different gear types. Even if we manage it as one stock, we have the flexibility to have different opening dates and a variety of approaches to the fish management.

The stock is really referring to the science part and the assessment of the stock, but the actual fisheries management tools can certainly differ, depending on local circumstances.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Arnold.

We will now go to Mr. Hardie for five minutes or less.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

You can hardly tell us apart, I know.

Through you, Mr. Chair, to Mr. Sargent, does DFO not have people on the ground in Madame Desbiens' riding to witness for themselves what the ice conditions are?