Good morning, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and fellow panellists, if you're out there in cyberspace somewhere.
On behalf of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, one of the largest and oldest conservation-based organizations in Canada, with 100,000 members, supporters, and subscribers and 725 member clubs across Ontario, I'd like to thank you for the courtesy of inviting us here today to comment on an important topic of interest to millions of Canadians.
Hunting and trapping along with angling are considered heritage activities in this country and are recognized as such under various pieces of federal, provincial, and territorial legislation. At its beginning, Canada was a staples society based upon hunting, trapping, fishing, and forestry. Participation in these activities defined the country and continues to make an important contribution to the social, cultural, and economic fabric of Canada today for aboriginals and non-aboriginals alike.
Hunters come from all walks of life. They are judges, lawyers, business persons, dentists, doctors, mechanics, even politicians.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Greg Farrant: Participation in hunting continues to grow. Over the last decade the Ontario hunter education safety program, which we administer on behalf of the Ministry of Natural Resources, has trained over 250,000 new hunters in Ontario. Of particular significance is that the proportion of females and youth taking the course continues to increase. In fact, according to the 2012 Canadian nature survey, almost eight million Canadians hunt, fish, or trap, more than those who play golf and hockey combined.
Hunting, trapping, and fishing represent an annual contribution to the Canadian economy of $13.5 billion. When the $1 billion from guides and outfitters and the $700 million in sales generated by the fur industry are factored in, the overall contribution from the outdoor community rises to $15.2 billion annually.
Hunting and trapping generate economic prosperity. The purchase of goods and services associated with these activities impacts on many sectors of the economy. In fact, in the last two years, Canadian Tire, recognizing the growth of these activities, invested $10 million in expanding sections of 170 stores across the country with products associated with hunting.
For many communities across this country, this economic contribution keeps them afloat even in hard times. Recreational hunting and fishing tourism alone injects over $1 billion annually into the economy, provides job opportunities, and supports hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses from coast to coast to coast.
In most jurisdictions the millions of dollars generated by licence and permit sales support conservation programs and projects, either through vehicles such as the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation in B.C., the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund in Saskatchewan, the wildlife reinvestment program in Quebec, or through mechanisms such as the special purpose account in Ontario, where licence sales contribute over $70 million of the $95 million annual budget for fish and wildlife in the province.
Hunting, trapping, and recreational fishing also have an enormous upside in terms of tourism-related opportunities. A 2006 study entitled, “Sport Fishing and Game Hunting in Canada”, carried out by the Canadian Tourism Commission, examined the recreational activities and travel habits of Americans in particular. Not surprisingly, it turns out that with regard to U.S. tourists, there's a huge upside when it comes to hunting in this country. For instance, over the period 2004-05, 9.2 million adult Americans went hunting while on a trip to Canada. An additional 32.1 million came here to fish. Clearly, Americans know what we already do, which is that this country is home to some of the best outdoor opportunities available anywhere. This in turn opens the door for significant revenue generation and employment opportunities for a wide range of businesses and communities across the country that cater to the hunting, trapping, and fishing communities.
I know in recent days that some members of Parliament have questioned why this committee should be seized with an item related to hunting and trapping. Putting aside the place of these activities in the history of our country, the heritage and cultural perspective, and the massive economic contribution made by hunters, trappers, and anglers, perhaps I can provide another perspective on why this issue is relevant to this committee. Quite simply, hunters, trappers, and anglers are leaders in the conservation of our natural resources. In fact, they were among the first recognized conservationists in North America dating back to the late 1800s. At a time when commercialization of wildlife was destroying species at an unprecedented pace, hunters, trappers, and anglers stood up and cried, “Enough”. Leaders such as Wilfrid Laurier and Theodore Roosevelt, supported by hunters, trappers, and anglers, viewed conservation of our wildlife not only as a matter of national concern, but as a matter of national relevance. Hunters, trappers, and anglers sought to improve the worth of the two countries and recognized that prudent, wise use of natural resources and conservation of wildlife were signatures of progressive leadership.
How they managed at a time when vast areas of the country were still unoccupied, when an abundance of natural resources still existed, and when, by today's standards, there were relatively few people on the land, to create a movement that focused on conservation of our resources was a remarkable sign of leadership and vision. What resulted was the creation of the North American model for wildlife conservation that continues to govern management of wildlife resources in North America today.
The same organizations that represent hunters, trappers, and anglers are also among the leading conservation organizations in the country. Take my own organization, for instance. Over the last 20 years we've been engaged in the restoration of species in Ontario, most notably elk, wild turkey, and Atlantic salmon, all of which were teetering on the brink of extinction. Our invasive species program, the largest non-governmental program of its kind in Canada, works in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, DFO, and Environment Canada to prevent or control the spread of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. Our stream steward program works with local landowners and farmers to restore creeks and wetlands. Our classroom hatchery program, which is currently in 125 schools across southern Ontario—including five hatcheries at the Toronto Zoo—teaches kids about habitat and how important it is to preserve and protect our fish and wildlife species.
Take the example of similar restoration programs undertaken by every one of our affiliates and partner organizations across this country. In 1978 the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation created the Habitat Trust Fund, which to date has protected over 65,000 acres of habitat. Ducks Unlimited Canada has completed 8,880 habitat projects and conserved over six million acres of wetlands. The B.C. Wildlife Federation's wetlands education program was created in 1996 to restore, enhance, and conserve wetland sites across the province. In 1983 the Alberta Fish and Game Association had the foresight to see that critical habitat was disappearing at a rapid rate, and created the Wildlife Trust Fund, the province's first land trust. Today that fund includes over 80 properties that encompass 36,000 acres of important wildlife habitat. In 1988 the Manitoba Wildlife Federation established their own habitat foundation, the oldest privately funded habitat foundation to receive, hold, maintain, and manage upland and wetland habitat in perpetuity. Last but by no means least is Wildlife Habitat Canada. Since 1985 they have provided over $50 million in grants to more than 1,500 habitat conservation programs across Canada, funded entirely by hunters purchasing migratory bird permits and duck stamps. In fact, in a 2000 study, WHC undertook a national survey where hunters alone were found to have invested over $335 million directly to wildlife conservation.
What all of these organizations and efforts have in common is the fact that they are funded either in part or entirely by hunters and trappers.
In 2012 the OFAH, along with our colleagues at Ducks Unlimited and a number of large conservation-based organizations in both Canada and the U.S., hosted the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress here in Ottawa. This brought together 500 scientists, academics, federal, provincial, territorial, and state government representatives from departments on both sides of the border, conservation groups, and others who attended four days of seminars and presentations touching on every aspect of fish and wildlife conservation and every known species in North America. The results of that congress are still being acted upon today, including through the hunting and angling advisory panel, which was established shortly after the congress.
As one of two liaisons for the panel, a group that includes 25 of the largest conservation organizations in Canada and reports directly to the environment minister, we recently appeared before the federal, provincial, and territorial environment and natural resources ministers to speak to some of the same issues before this committee, which were clearly of interest to those ministers. The panel acts as a sounding board for government policies and programs impacting upon natural resources, and makes recommendations that focus on conservation and biodiversity, among others. Examples of current topics under discussion include wildlife diseases, aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, fisheries protection, enforcement, migratory bird regulations, and aquaculture.
This committee is also interested in the role of scientific research in wildlife management. One of the major tenets of the North American model of wildlife conservation is legal access for all and the use of science as the basis for wildlife management. The OFAH, and indeed all of the major conservation-based organizations in Canada, insist that the management of wildlife and fish populations must be based on science. In fact, all the organizations that I referred to a minute ago have created scholarships for university and college students to study fish and wildlife science.
Science does not provide certainty in all cases, but when an observation is made and confirmed many times, it becomes secure. Policy-makers need to understand that uncertainty will always exist, and some variations in scientific determination are to be expected, but it is not a reason to defer action.
Policy-makers must integrate the best available science with social and economic factors when developing policy. This requires collaboration between scientists and policy-makers like yourselves. There is a need to define what a science question is and what a policy question is. Get the science right first, and discuss the political and policy implications afterwards. Governments at all levels and of all political stripes like to say that they are for science-based decision-making when it comes to our natural resources, until scientific consensus leads to a politically inconvenient conclusion, and then governments resort to a backup plan based more upon popular opinion and emotion.
I'll close, Mr. Chair, by noting that we often hear the suggestion that hunting and trapping are of interest only to those living in the rural areas of the country, which quite frankly is bunk. For instance, in the city of Toronto, our organization has 14,170 members who are licensed hunters. This does not include those who hunt but do not belong to our organization. To parse it down even further, in the former city of Scarborough, there are currently 2,477 members of our organization who are licensed hunters, and again, these are just our members. These results are repeated in most urban centres in southern Ontario, serving to emphasize that hunting and trapping may occur in rural hinterlands, but in large measure the participants live and work in urban centres, and these activities cannot be dismissed out of hand as rural issues.
For some, a study of trapping and hunting may not have the same cachet as a discussion on climate change or on carbon taxes, although both of those issues are also of clear importance to the outdoor community. Wildlife does not exist in a vacuum, nor does it exist by accident. Given the contribution of hunting and trapping to our national identity, cultural heritage, and economic wealth, and the fact that hunters, trappers, and anglers put their money where their mouth is when it comes to on-the-ground conservation of our natural resources, I am very pleased the committee has taken the time to look at these issues.
Again, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to appear here this morning.
Thank you very much. My name is Duncan Crawford. I'm the president of the Prince Edward Island Wildlife Federation. I'm also on the board of the Canadian Wildlife Federation as a director at large, the P.E.I. Trappers Association, and I am the founder and president of the P.E.I. Archery Association. They are all intertwined. Given we're such a small province, it's not uncommon for people such as myself to be on multiple groups, committees, and boards.
Unfortunately, I never got to hear any of the previous presenters in terms of the information they are putting forth, but what I can do is give a quick rundown of the numbers for P.E.I., and it's a trend that is basically the same right across Canada.
If we look at the numbers of hunters, fishers, and trappers participating in this activity over the course of 30 years, we're down considerably. More recently, at least in the last five years, we're seeing steady and consistent gains. As Mr. Farrant just said, a lot of those gains are coming from youth and ladies in the sport.
As of last year, we had roughly 8,132 people contribute to the wildlife conservation fund. You have to buy this whether you hunt, fish, or trap, so it's a good basket to catch everybody in at least once, because we have a lot of duplication in other licence sales in that a number of people that hunt and trap also fish. We don't want to be counting twice. The WCF only collects once. Given the population of P.E.I., that gives you a pretty good percentage of the participation of people who hunt, fish, and trap relative to the total population.
That breaks down to roughly 7,000 angling licences sold last year. The trapping number is about 151 and the licensed hunter...or the hunting licences sold are just over $2,400. It's a little difficult to get perfect numbers because we do complimentary licences for overage, or seniors, and also for youth. Some of those things have been great vehicles to either keep or get new people into this group of activities or sports.
We have a very active volunteer organization. We collaborate with Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, and the forests, fish and wildlife division to put on the hunter's safety practical component. Last year we had almost 130 kids participate. We hire a bus company to transport kids from as far as three hours away in the western end of the province, and an hour away in the east, and we all descend upon the Charlottetown Trap and Skeet Club, which is about 15 minutes outside of our capital city.
They get to do their hunter exams online, and then the practical component is coming out to the Charlottetown Trap and Skeet club where the various conservation organizations, or troop, or clubs, etc., all get together. We break the kids up into modules and that counts as their practical component.
After that, each kid gets a temporary hunter safety.... If they don't have a parent or someone to take them, we pair them up with mentors. We have a lot of volunteers that mentor within P.E.I., and that gets young people out.
We're becoming an outdoor women workshop on a regular basis: east, west, and central. That's given us great gains in the interest of ladies in the sport.
As another consistent trend across Canada, we introduced the National Archery in the Schools Program three years ago, as OFAH did last year. We're seeing tremendous gains there. A lot of people get interested, and then they start asking questions about complementary activities like hunting, fishing, and trapping. It's a good vehicle if nothing else to broach the subject with young people.
We're seeing in the last couple of years about a 1.3% overall growth and just over 3% new hunter safeties any given year. A good percentage of those, probably 20% to 30%, are females. In our youth group at least one in three of the new kids coming in is female and that bodes well for the sports of hunting, fishing, and trapping in the future.
That's all I have to say. I welcome any questions.
Thank you for the question. I appreciate it very much.
You cited a couple of examples, so I'll refer to those first.
On the deer on Manitoulin Island, you're quite correct. It was a bad winter last year, and our DeerSave program had to contribute $10,000 to cut trails and whatnot to help save those populations.
Not to be overly dramatic, but the moose population in Ontario, and not just in Ontario, but in Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well, has crashed significantly in the last few years.
There are a number of factors as to why this has occurred. Unfortunately, the response of some governments, and I'll speak to the Ontario government, is to manage hunters rather than to manage for the situation and extraneous factors. Those factors include things like climate change, as you mentioned. They also include things like clear-cutting by forestry. Most predominantly, they include things like predation by wolves and coyotes and bears.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources does not seem to recognize that there are a number of things having an impact on the moose populations. It seems intent on regulating tags for the hunting of moose without looking at these other factors. There is a moose project right now that they're engaged in. We will be participating and have participated in it, to try to get them to understand that there are a number of factors—predation, climate, forestry, a whole bunch of things—that impact our wildlife populations. It's goes beyond simply saying, “Oh well, let's just cut the tags. Oh well, let's just cut the licences”, etc.
Lake Nipissing is another example in Ontario. It used to be one of the premier walleye fisheries in Ontario, or anywhere in Canada, as a matter of fact, and was worth huge tourist dollars. Well, the wildlife population has crashed completely. The response from the government has been to cut the number of fish that recreational anglers can take. They don't touch the commercial interests there. In fact, the commercial interests have indicated quite clearly that until the recreational fishing has stopped entirely, they're not prepared to even sit down at the table and discuss it, yet it's the commercial fishing that has destroyed the walleye.
There are a number of factors that governments have to take into account, and climate change is just one of them. The clear-cutting is great for caribou but not great for moose, for instance
Thank you, Mr. Sopuck, for the question.
As I said earlier in my statement before the committee, wildlife is not an accident, and healthy and thriving fish and wildlife populations are not accidents. They have to be managed. They have to be managed to protect them and they have to be managed for people's enjoyment, whether that happens to be birdwatching, hunting, fishing, or whatever activity you're engaged in. People who are in the field, such as anglers, hunters, birdwatchers, hikers, campers, or whoever, are people who engage in outdoor activities of all types. They are on the ground. They have the best experience because they see what's happening on the ground while they're taking part in these activities.
These populations clearly have to be managed. With deer populations, we hear people all the time getting upset, for instance, when they hear about a deer cull. Any time you engage in a cull is an admitted failure on the part of government, whichever that might be, to manage wildlife properly. That means you've let them get out of hand far beyond what the habitat can sustain in a given area and therefore you have to cut them back. People get outraged about this and say, well, isn't this horrific. The science behind fish and wildlife management is very precise. There are so many caring capacities for so many animals on such and such a property. When it gets beyond that, it then becomes to the detriment of people, the animals, and the ecosystems, because there are just too many on the landscape. They're either destroying the vegetation or they're unable to find enough food to eat and therefore they're going to starve to death. There is a delicate balance here, but it's not something that just happens by accident.
The Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario has statements in its policies that say hunting is the most valuable wildlife management tool they have available to them because it's managed, there's a tag system, there's an allocation system, and there's a reason that the numbers are that.
Ms. Hughes has raised a question about the moose population. Well, the reason there are cutbacks is that the moose population is declining, but you can't just simply look at that in terms of how to manage a resource or you're going to fail.
Thank you. Again, thank you, Ms. Hughes, for the question.
I'm not a scientist. I'm not a biologist. We employ 17 biologists at our federation for fish and wildlife, and invasive species, and land use, and other reasons. They'd probably be able to give you a more thorough answer than I can.
Certainly any time we see impacts on the environment, whether they're due to man-made effects, things like clear-cutting or dams or whatever, and other issues like weather pattern changes, obviously it's going to affect fish and wildlife populations, and it's a concern to us. In fact, at our conference last week we had Dr. John Casselman speak about the impact of climate change on fisheries.
Again, this is because I'm not a scientist. If I were, maybe I could comment better on this. The whole issue of climate change, there still seems to be a big debate on how much of an impact it has, how widespread it is, and what exactly it is doing on the ground. There seem to be two very divergent positions: yes, it's climate change and it's doing all these things, or no, it's not, and it's not doing all these things.
I certainly think it is one of several factors that has to be considered when you are creating public policy that deals with fish and wildlife, or natural resources in general. At the same time, we see governments making decisions on things as concrete as—again, that's no pun on that one because I'm talking about dam removal—for instance, the Black Sturgeon dam in Ontario, which is going to be removed, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources. We're saying yes, but when you take that out, you're going to allow sea lamprey full rein to get into water bodies where the dam is stopping them right now. Those sea lamprey are an invasive species and they're going to have a massive effect on the fishery.
Those are the types of public policy decisions that concern us just as much as climate change does, because their impact will be immediate, not 10, 15, or 20 years down the road. The influx of sea lamprey on a fisheries population, just as zebra mussels did in the Great Lakes, or as Asian carp might do if they ever get through the sanitary canal in Chicago and get into the Great Lakes, they'll decimate the fishery of the Great Lakes entirely if they ever get loose.
These man-made decisions, or man-made problems, are so immediate. I'm not saying climate change is not a concern because clearly it is. These other man-made decisions that are not based on science are just as problematic and tend to have very immediate repercussions on our natural resources. I think those are equal concerns.