Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to respond to my hon. colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North on the important issue of the Experimental Lakes Area.
Through the deficit reduction action plan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, like every department, conducted a full review of its operations and is implementing measures to reduce the cost of operations and program delivery in order to eliminate the deficit and contribute to current and future prosperity.
As a result of this review, Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognized that it does not require whole lake or ecosystem manipulation, such as was being done at the Experimental Lakes Area facility.
However, we do acknowledge the unique opportunity that the facility represents for other researchers and we would welcome the opportunity to transfer the Experimental Lakes Area facility to another organization that can continue to manage the facility and ensure that it is available to other researchers.
The department is working actively to find another operator. Departmental officials are in discussions with various parties that may have an interest in the continued operation of the Experimental Lakes Area facility. A successful conclusion to those discussions will be reached as quickly as possible.
While the ELA will be ending as a federal facility, the department will continue to conduct freshwater research in various locations across Canada. Departmental scientists and biologists will continue to conduct relevant research that is essential to guide fisheries protection polices and regulatory decision-making.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has an active freshwater science program in many priority areas, including aquatic invasive species, species at risk and freshwater fish habitat. This past summer, departmental scientists and biologists were in the field conducting research on freshwater ecosystems in various locations across Canada where science advice is needed to guide sustainable development and enhance economic prosperity.
The department will continue to invest in priority scientific research, including environmental science. The department has recently launched a fund for research on aquatic ecosystems. The strategic program for ecosystem-based research and advice began funding aquatic research projects across the country this summer.
Furthermore, the department continues to collaborate with numerous other partners in freshwater science, including provincial governments, universities, non-government organizations and industry partners.
University networks, under the auspices of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, have been established to create synergies and fund aquatic science in Canada. These networks include: HydroNet, which focuses on ecosystem impacts of hydroelectric facilities; the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network focusing on marine biodiversity research; and the capture fisheries network program focusing on ecosystem health and productivity research in relation to fishing.
Results of these research collaborations are part of the scientific information that the department uses to develop policies and make decisions about our aquatic environment and fisheries resources.
We will continue to build scientific knowledge about our aquatic environment and fisheries resources to support long-term sustainability and conservation objectives in the most effective and cost efficient manner.