Evidence of meeting #59 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 funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Annette Gibbons  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Mario Pelletier  Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Niall O'Dea  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Richard Goodyear  Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Christine Sing

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

I think that's a very interesting idea and a worthwhile one, MP Hanley, that I will explore further.

I did go to someone very knowledgeable in my own personal network about why we are finding the U.S. fishing in pooled stocks when Canada has shut the fisheries down. My understanding is that the precautionary approach that is built into the Fisheries Act does require us to be more precautionary than the approach that the Americans are still taking, which is based on maximum sustainable yield.

My view personally is that the American fisheries science and assessment process needs to catch up to the precautionary approach, and that has been the core of my conversations with Dr. Spinrad. I also raised that at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon last June; at COP15 in Montreal, which was about biodiversity, including in the oceans; and at IMPAC5 in Vancouver last month.

I have been raising this as something that I aspire to see, which is a parallel precautionary approach with U.S. partners in these stocks, and the idea of a specific summit is an interesting one, I think, and we'll explore that, so thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Hanley. Thank you, Minister.

We'll now go to Madame Desbiens for two and a half minutes or less, please.

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to return to our elver fishers. They have been telling us that they've agreed to give up a share of their quota in exchange for compensation. They did so unilaterally and lost 14% of their quota without receiving any compensation. I would simply like to add this information to what my colleague said. This debatable situation is causing concern among the fishers, and I understand them.

On another topic, we received quite a few people at our office who told us that they have a variety of complaints about the Canadian Coast Guard. Those who have complained have not yet received a reply and have been waiting for two years already, and in some instances for seven years. A number of them are experiencing extreme hardship and I understand them.

How can such lengthy delays be explained? I see that several million dollars will be spent on dealing with litigation. I was thinking that it might be about this matter. Why should it take so long to settle Canadian Coast Guard grievances?

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

First of all, with respect to the elver fishery, I need to make an important correction. We reallocated the quotas in proportion to the fishers' quotas, and not the quantities landed. This redistribution is the same for everyone. The preferred method is willing buyer, willing seller, but when it is impossible to sell at market prices, that's not a reason that can be used to avoid allowing first nations their quota. It has to be allowed, whatever the circumstances.

I'll ask the Coast Guard commissioner to answer your second question.

11:45 a.m.

Mario Pelletier Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Thank you for the question, Ms. Desbiens.

I'm not fully informed of the situation, but I believe that the meeting you requested is being arranged.

I'm not aware of all the issues, and we can't discuss specific cases. I can, however, assure you that I believe relations with the unions are extremely important. We maintain very good relations with our unions.

We're trying to deal with the cases as quickly as possible. Some of the complex ones included a grievance, a complaint, and something else. As these investigations have to be conducted sequentially rather than in parallel, that could be the reason for some of the delays. We have review committees to ensure that our approach is consistent throughout the department.

I'm in favour of dealing with such issues quickly. I'm committed to doing that.

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Thank you.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you, Madame Desbiens.

We'll now go to Ms. Barron for two and a half minutes or less.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Lisa Marie Barron NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister.

As you know, in 2019 this committee put forward a report on west coast fisheries sharing risks and benefits based on a beneficial licence model for west coast owner-operators. Sound recommendations were brought forward to this government as a result.

I recently attended, along with my colleagues Mr. Hardie and Mr. Arnold, a conference in Victoria: the Fisheries for Communities conference. We heard from fishers—indigenous and non-indigenous—processors and researchers on the impacts of the consolidation of west coast fishing licences into the hands of large, wealthy corporations, whose profits siphon funding and resources from coastal communities and local fishers. We heard, as one example, the impacts on Prince Rupert. This used to be a fishing hub, and still is, but many of the resources and amenities for commercial fish harvesters are no longer available.

I have asked this before, Minister, and I want to ask again, because I'm not seeing the implementation of the recommendations from this report. I want to ask you when we'll move forward with licensing policy reform that prioritizes local fishers and coastal communities instead of propping up corporate and speculative-investor ownership of fishing licences and quotas.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

This is a very important project. I will reassure the member that we have already conducted preliminary consultations with industry associations, based on the committee's report on the west coast fishery. We've consulted with the First Nations Fisheries Council and fishery advisory boards and we're finalizing our approach to further consultations, because this matter is very important and affects a great number of people and businesses.

In the meantime, we've been making progress on some other related fisheries recommendations in that report. One is a national beneficial ownership survey to identify who owns what on the west coast; this is now going through final reviews and will be made public soon. We're conducting technical work to improve the accessibility of licence and quota data. We released a comparative analysis of the Atlantic and Pacific licensing policies in 2021, because that's relevant. We're also planning to improve our socio-economic data collection and transformation and conduct an analysis of DFO Pacific-region policies, practices and terms of reference for establishing commercial fishery advisory boards.

Once we get a better handle on data gaps, we'll better understand—

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you, Minister.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

—the issue and path forward.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you, Ms. Barron.

We'll now go to Mr. Bragdon for five minutes or less.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Madam Minister, for being here today and taking the time.

First off, I want to ask this question out of the gate: Would you agree that coastal communities, fish harvesters and those whose livelihoods depend on the health and vitality of our fisheries and waters are, perhaps, very well positioned—if not best positioned, in many cases—to advise the government on proper policy and direction as they relate to preserving the health of our stocks?

Would you agree with that, yes or no?

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Yes, they are a very important component of the information we seek as we make decisions, because my main priority is to grow the fish and seafood sector on all coasts of Canada.

March 27th, 2023 / 11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Absolutely, Minister. I think we are hearing, from coast to coast, and from numerous harvesters, producers and coastal community stakeholders—those whose livelihoods and histories depend.... They have lived in these communities for generations. They want it to be there for future generations. All of us want there to be a healthy fishery and, obviously, healthy and clean waters.

One thing that has come to the surface, repeatedly is not new to our time here on the fisheries committee. It dates back to the early 1990s, around the time of the collapse of the cod fishery. I quote then-minister of fisheries Brian Tobin, who said at the time that there is “only one major player” still fishing cod: “His first name is harp and his second name is seal.” Whether it's on the east or west coast, we're hearing testimony, Minister, that is absolutely overwhelming. We have a huge challenge in the waters. Something is very discernible and detectable, and the science is definitely pointing to this. It is something that we, as a government, could address now: the pinniped challenge.

What, Minister, are you and your government doing to address the pinniped issue on both coasts?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Indeed, my goal is to sustainably grow the fish and seafood sector.

In terms of the member's question, I hosted a seal summit in Newfoundland last year that brought together indigenous peoples, fish harvesters, scientists and industry to explore ethical harvesting of seals that would utilize the entire animal and create more opportunities for Canadian seal products. I committed to more science on the part of DFO.

I will remind the member that we simply can't be reckless when it comes to seals. Reckless decisions would risk market access to critical importers of Canadian seafood, such as the U.S., and hurt Canada's reputation.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you, Minister.

No one would advise reckless action on this, but this issue is not something new to the table. It has been brought forward in reports going back to 1999 and 2002. Most recently, there was the Atlantic Mackerel Advisory Committee that took place in Halifax just this past March, at which we heard from DFO scientists as well as harvesters.

Overwhelmingly, the data is very clear. In fact, they found that the stomach content of grey seals in the summer, for example, was over 80% cod and herring. In the winter, we're getting statistics showing that as much as 47% of the stomach contents are mackerel. These are staggering statistics. The population at the time of the cod fishery collapse was 2.7 million pinnipeds in the water on the east coast; now that's approaching eight million to nine million pinnipeds that we know of on the east coast.

Do you not think that's having a huge damaging effect on fish stocks on both coasts? It needs to be addressed with immediacy and urgency.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

I would like to understand whether the member is calling for a cull of seals.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Minister, no one's calling for a cull. What we're asking for is that the minister listen to the key scientists as well as to the harvesters whose livelihoods have depended on this. Look at the measures that have been put in place for a meaningful harvest along the coasts that would be taken responsibly and in conjunction with what other allied nations have done. We know this is happening even along the coast of Washington state as well.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you.

That was the very purpose of having a seal summit. It was to have the harvesters, indigenous people and the product and market intelligence people all come together to discuss how we could increase the responsible harvest of seals as a sustainable natural resource.

I do understand that grey seals have an impact on our fisheries stock.

We are doing the science. Our department has a number of very modern approaches to ensure we are doing the science. The information collected helps us understand how seals interact with fish and are impacted by environmental changes. This is considered when fish populations are assessed.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

I think if—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Bragdon. You have gone over your time, actually.

I'm going to close out the first hour now with Mr. Hardie.

Go ahead for five minutes or less.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In order to keep us on time, I'll have just one question for the minister. It has to do with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. There are two issues that seem to be coming up continuously.

The first one is that Canada isn't funding its fair share of the commission's work. The second one is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans isn't committing the budgeted amount to the commission that you have authorized. That leaves the commission short of money to do what it wants to do, rather upset with Canada for not maintaining its share of the work and the funding, and some suspicions about DFO and its sticky fingers when it comes to the allocation for the commission.

I'll give you some time to respond to all of that.

Noon

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

First, I just want to confirm that I support the vital work of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in dealing with the invasive species, the sea lamprey eel.

I'd like to assure the member that the funding delivery process to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has not changed since its inception in 1956. I will say that there was a request for additional funding to bring our proportion to meet the additional funding put in by our partners, the United States, and in budget 2022 we allocated $45 million, which is over five years, and $9 million ongoing. The only thing that's changed in this agreement is that we have added dollars in budget 2022 to bring Canada's funding up to the proportion that was established in 1956.

We're now in full compliance with our treaty obligations. I'm proud to grow that commitment and also to be able to count on the great work that the department officials are doing in providing the in-kind science and operations to manage and minimize this invasive species.

Noon

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

You're convinced, then, that we are delivering the money that we are promising.