Thank you, sir. I didn't hear that applause, by the way.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Chair: That's better. Thank you very much.
Sorry about that. That was a little bit of inside baseball. To our guests, Mr. Sopuck was able to convince the powers that be that this study is worthy of an east coast mission.
Anyway, let's move on with the study. First, we're going to ask for presentations from our groups. We have one group and we also have two people who are presenting as individuals.
From the World Wildlife Fund of Canada, of course who are no strangers to us—they have been here several times—is Paul Crowley, vice-president, Arctic program. Mr. Crowley, it's good to see you again. You staged an event yesterday. It was very nice, and a very good speech as well. With him is his colleague, Sigrid Kuehnemund, lead specialist for the Oceans program.
Also appearing, as individuals, we have Sally Leys, professor, Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta. I understand, Ms. Leys, you have a power point presentation for us as well, so we'll pull that up when we get to your presentation.
Finally, we have Rashid Sumaila, professor, Fisheries Economics Research Unit, The Institute for Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. Mr. Sumaila, it's nice to see you as well.
I'm not sure about your designations. Are you both professors and Ph.D. recipients as well? You both are. Dr. Sumaila, Dr. Leys, it's nice to see you. Thank you very much.
What we normally do is hear presentations of 10 minutes or less at the beginning, followed by a round of questioning.
We'll ask Dr. Sumaila to proceed for 10 minutes or less. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, I want to start by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to share some of our work and the work of colleagues around the world on marine protected areas. I specialize in the economics of the oceans and fisheries. We develop bioeconomics models. We do evaluations. We look at internal issues and policy issues like fishery subsidies and illegal fishing. In all of this our goal is to see how economics can integrate with other disciplines like biology to help us manage our fisheries into the future for the benefit of all Canadians, born and unborn.
I thought I should start with the economic benefits, because you probably have heard a lot about biological benefits. One of the key things we talk about in the economics literature is the insurance value of marine protected areas because, in general, we don't know everything about the ocean. There's uncertainty. There's risk. We make mistakes. The economics literature argues that it's good to put some of the oceans portfolio in a protected area in case of shocks and mistakes. Think of this as your retirement insurance. You don't want to put everything in one stock or in one class of assets; you want to spread them out to help you. Diversification is one of the reasons. The other one is resiliency. Papers are coming out. On June 5, we published a paper where we showed that protected areas could mitigate climate change effects if you have enough of them in your waters.
Many countries have done this because it enhances tourism values. Eighty per cent of Palau's waters is now protected and tourism values are just zooming because all the live creatures are there, whales and so on. That's another reason.
Finally, fisheries values is where I think we have a bit of an issue because there is a short-term cost to fisheries if you put in an MPA. Some efficient effort has to be made to move and change. This is where most of the resistance comes from. The literature shows that in the medium-term and long-term the benefits are quite high, higher than the short-term cost. The problem is how to deal with the short-term cost.
To give you one key piece of a report that came out from the Scottish government, recently they made a report about the potential socio-economic cost of MPAs before they implemented them. In March of this year they came out with a report looking at the consequences, and they found their fears of the cost of implementing MPAs did not come true. I can share the reference with you later.
How can Canada make progress in this area? I think we are around 1% or 1.5%, and the goal is 10% by 2020. Before I came here, I looked around the world to see which countries have achieved this and more. We have countries like the U.K., the U.S.A., Palau as I mentioned, and Chile have gone over 10%. How did they do this? I saw two types of strategies. One is to create large marine protected areas in remote parts of the ocean where there's little or no fishing. The other is there is a situation where you create small MPAs where fishing takes place. In the case of the first, that has turned out to be not difficult to do because you are not displacing people. You are not losing economic value. The U.S.A. is a good example of that. Both George Bush and Barack Obama did this. That is one strategy Canada could possibly use. In that case you can have a top-up, top-down approach. The government can find a place where they can say to do it, and there won't be much resistance.
In the second case, if you do small MPAs in fishing areas, you really need a bottom-up approach. You have to deal with the community, work with the fishers, find ways to soften their short-term costs so we can all get these high-level benefits later. We also see our leadership is really important. You have a leader who knows that the medium-term and long-term are better for the country and really pushes the nation to do it. Again Obama, the President of Palau, the Prime Minister of Chile, and the U.K. have done this, and they've been quite successful.
The last point, specifically about the Oceans Act and MPAs in Canada, is I see no kinds of stipulations or deadlines, and this usually makes them slip. If we want this to work, we'll need to put in some deadlines to help the system to move toward achieving the goals.
It's difficult, actually, to go from community to community, even though that would be the best thing to do. If we want to have movement, we may have to have some minimum standards that can be applied to places and coasts around the country, and very quickly.
My final comment is about that paper I mentioned, published through PNAS, which found that to make this successful, to get the benefits, your MPAs have to be large. I know the big question is about how large. Recently Callum Roberts of the U.K. did a study where he looked at the whole literature. The consensus in the literature is about 30%—we are now looking for 10%—in order to achieve the benefits fully. It has to be well managed, of course. Paper parks don't work. It has to be there for many years, because fish don't grow in minutes, right? Most of them don't.
I urge you to keep this in mind as you help Canada create a policy for marine protected areas in the country.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. Good morning.
First of all, I believe it's World Oceans Day, so congratulations. I believe Canada started that, so it's an honour to be here on this day.
I don't actually work on marine protected areas. In fact, I've been studying the physiology of sponges in a marine protected area. I've read some of the statements from the previous witnesses to this hearing, so I believe perhaps the area I can comment on is the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound marine protected area, in which I work. In particular, I can comment on the science that goes into determining boundaries.
To provide some background on that habitat and that marine protected area, the first slide shows an image from the website of Fisheries and Oceans that indicates the locations of the three reef complexes on the west coast of British Columbia.
I've been studying glass sponges since 1991 and sponge reefs since 2004. Glass sponges are deepwater marine animals that are very unusual. They're unusual in many ways, not the least of which is that they have a pure glass skeleton—completely opal. Unlike corals, they lack nerves, but they have an electrical signalling system that makes them sensitive. This is my particular interest. The sponges filter water—a lot of it. They do this by using whip-like cells that suck the water through themselves. I give you this just as a bit of background as to the kind of creatures that are forming the habitat we're talking about. This can be seen: if you put dye on the wall of a sponge, it draws the water through itself.
They filter a lot of water. We generally say that a sponge filters 1,000 times its body volume each day, but that can vary. As with any pump, it's costly. The cost of balancing how much energy it takes to filter the water and how much energy it gains from the water is what I'm interested in, and this is what we need to know in order to understand why reefs can form where they are.
A single sponge like this one in Hecate Strait, which has an opening the size of a dinner plate, can filter 300,000 litres of water a day. That is six times the size of this water tank, which is 50,000 litres. That's a single sponge, and there are multitudes of these across the reef. We've estimated that where sponges are dense, they can filter the entire water column—170 metres—each day.
Of course, water moves, and new water moves in at each tide to replenish what they have filtered. Sponges extract bacteria from the water and excrete wastes as ammonia and as particles. The ammonia is reused by phytoplankton, and the particles are eaten. We call this an ecosystem function.
Sponges are stationary animals, and the reefs have thousands and thousands of sponges. In this video, you can see that the multitude of animals that make up this reef live among the sponges. There are rockfish, crustaceans, and huge numbers of different invertebrates. I've been working in other reefs, but in Hecate Strait in particular, we see rockfish in every single crevice. These are juvenile rockfish, so it looks like it's a very important habitat for juveniles.
The Hecate Strait reefs were an obvious target or area of interest for a marine protected area. They're globally unique. These structures are not found anywhere else in the world. They work as a nursery, and they have this ecosystem function of filtering water, but it still took many, many years for them to become a protected area.
They were first found in 1989. In 2009, consultations began to make them an area of interest, and in 2010, they were formed as an area of interest. In 2012, I was asked to join a trip to verify the areas where the reefs occurred. They had discovered potential new areas by mapping, so we travelled to look at this.
In 2013, I was asked if I would provide some evidence or science on the effect of sediment on the sponges. This spurred a collaboration between me and Fisheries and Oceans colleagues funded by pockets of money that were made available for these kinds of collaborations. We leveraged more money by getting NSERC-funded ship time grants to get out to the reefs. In the last four years, we've had two trips. I returned from the last one three weeks ago.
In that work, we did experiments to look at the effect of sediment on the sponges and found that when you resuspend sediment over the sponges, it does, in fact, coerce them to stop filtering, to stop pumping. It takes them about an hour to recover after each sediment burst. We also checked the predicted boundaries of the reef and we can say that, while they're very accurate from the multibeam, they do overflow by about 10%.
This slide shows the northern reef complex. The blue area on this slide is the area outlined by the area of interest in 2010. In yellow is the core protection zone, and in grey is the adaptive management zone. The area of interest, you can see, is slightly larger than the core protection zone. The core protection zone and the adaptive management zone come from the Canada Gazette and they come from the 2015 publication and have not changed. Clearly what's happened is the core protection zone is slightly smaller than the area of interest.
We have found that in the adaptive management zone, you potentially could have a trawling fishery, but currently it's closed on the precautionary principle. Since we found that sediment does affect the sponges, their filtering, it would seem that's an accurate supposition. We found that they stopped filtering when levels reached 10 to 40 milligrams per litre. That's a quarter of what's suspected to be or known to be resuspended by trawl fisheries, and we know from very thorough studies that trawl fisheries do elevate sediments up to 800 metres behind the trawl.
The adaptive management zone shown here is about 600 to 1,200 metres. There is no scale on this figure here, but with the blue line that you see, the distance between the blue and yellow is about a kilometre. What we're looking at is an area around this reef that is probably fairly good as a buffer zone if no activity were to occur in it.
Another thing to know is that in this reef we have a vertical adaptive management zone. That means fisheries are allowed to trawl above the reef at 30 metres, so mid-water trawling. In 2013, the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat reported that 13% of mid-water trawls had some benthic species in them that indicated the trawl might have touched the bottom. They weren't sure if those were transcription errors in the database, but 13% of 115 trawls is about 15 errors. The question would be that if the trawls did touch the bottom, considerable damage might occur.
I took the liberty of bringing with me a piece of the sponge that we collected at Hecate Strait, which I can show you to indicate how fragile these really are. I don't do this to say this is a very remarkable creature, it's just that a single trawl would definitely ruin this. We have done experiments to look at the recovery of the sponges, and they do not recover after five years. Again, the precautionary principle might be used.
I read some of the transcripts from the earlier witnesses and I understand that people felt there might not have been enough consultation and that the precautionary principle might not have been used perhaps fairly. I feel that if you look at the recording of the Canada Gazette it actually reports quite a considerable amount of consultation. What seems to be the case is that people may not be quite aware of all the science that has gone into the decision-making at each stage of making the boundaries. That seems to me to be quite a simple thing, because even I have trouble understanding exactly how these boundaries were formed.
It might even be simply a case of making the science and the decision-making available on a website and making the timelines in which those decisions were made readily available, as the minutes to these meetings are, so that people are very aware of those decisions.
To start off, I have a bit of information about World Wildlife Fund-Canada. We are Canada's largest international conservation organization. We have the active support of more than 150,000 Canadians, and we do work in unique and ecologically important areas so that nature, wildlife, and people thrive.
In the Arctic, WWF-Canada works to ensure the marine environment is healthy, allowing for sustainable use by local communities and providing a sustainable ecosystem for Arctic wildlife, including iconic species such as polar bears, Arctic whales, walruses, and seals.
Our conservation success in the Arctic relates to our collaboration with government, industry, academia, and Inuit communities, with an emphasis on understanding, respecting, and supporting Inuit cultural and ecological priorities.
WWF's long-time presence in the north, particularly in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories—we have offices in both Iqaluit and Inuvik—enables us to work closely with communities. We understand that without the support of the local communities, sustainable Arctic conservation is not possible. We also understand that conservation efforts will be undermined if they are surrounded by endemic poverty, so we work to ensure conservation efforts support community development in the north.
Today, on World Oceans Day, WWF-Canada is pleased to offer our perspective for this study being conducted by this committee. We bring a context from the 2016 “Living Planet Report”, a WWF report that tells us that our wildlife and their habitats are under increasing pressure from climate change and other human activities.
In the marine environment, many stocks—31%—that contribute to the global fish catch are now fully fished or overfished, with the main threats being over-exploitation and degradation of marine habitats. From maintaining sources of food to helping protect shorelines and biodiversity, MPAs can achieve so much.
In 2016 we contributed to the environment committee study on protected areas. Much of that testimony is echoed here today. We recommend that the ENVI committee's findings, particularly recommendations 20 to 32, be applied to this Oceans Act study. What makes this study so meaningful is its timing, with the opportunity to influence the legislative review of the Oceans Act. The current process to create MPAs is long and arduous and needs to be streamlined to reflect existing realities.
Protecting and conserving the marine environment and biodiversity is critical particularly in the north, due to the role of Arctic waters in moderating the global climate, protecting marine diversity, and providing food security, income, and cultural identity for indigenous peoples and communities. In addition to Canada's commitment to protect 5% of the marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10% by 2020, WWF-Canada is pleased that Canada pledged to create a pan-Arctic marine protection area network in 2016 under the Canada-U.S. joint statement on climate, energy and Arctic leadership, including at least 10% of Arctic waters, and committing to “substantially surpass these national goals in the coming years”.
The Arctic offers great potential for marine conservation. Working at the community level, I can tell you what I have heard, which is that Inuit ask for more conservation and more control over development to ensure they maintain opportunities for sustainable harvesting. This is very important for Canada to hear. It's an incredible opportunity. For instance, the communities around Lancaster Sound have been voicing this message for over 30 years, as they wait for the creation of a national marine conservation area that will protect the area from oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
For the Oceans Act to achieve the intended benefits of MPAs and to ensure all traditional uses and values are duly considered and respected, we offer three key recommendations: create a marine conservation economy focusing on community benefits; recognize indigenous protected areas; and implement minimum standards for MPAs.
WWF-Canada commends DFO's efforts to solicit community voices for protection as communities in the north know best what should be protected. Inuit are holders of traditional and local knowledge that must inform the identification of these sites. We hear first-hand that northern communities want protection, and their expectations go way beyond what the government so far has put on the table. In the Arctic, almost all communities are coastal and depend on the bounty of the ocean for their well-being. They have a strong desire—and I cannot emphasize this enough—to ensure that their food sources are protected now and well into the future.
For conservation to succeed long term in a region where poverty is endemic, it must also provide community benefits. The four Inuit land claims agreements across the north of Canada were settled over a span of 30 years. They vary considerably with regard to the Inuit rights recognized in the marine environment, including the requirement to negotiate impact and benefit agreements for the creation of MPAs. This presents a challenge to the timely creation of MPAs in the north but also an opportunity to secure community, economic, and financial benefits.
While land claims have very differing requirements for impact and benefit agreements, a moral case can certainly be made that impact and benefit agreements should be negotiated to the highest standard across all four regions. We recommend that the Government of Canada create an equitable and transparent financing formula as well as high minimum standards for community management through IBAs across all four Inuit land claim regions. These should be negotiated well in advance and with representative Inuit organizations.
Long-term benefits should be secured to ensure progressive investment in community infrastructure, enabling communities to manage and develop from marine conservation, such as opportunities for long-term local management through community-based monitoring and enforcement.
In considering the Oceans Act amendment to modernize how we protect our oceans, the Government of Canada should consider including a new approach to marine protection—indigenous protected areas. WWF applauds the work of the ministerial special representative for the Arctic, Mary Simon, in her holistic road map for a new shared leadership model that provides a strong way forward for conservation in the north with its emphasis on establishing indigenous protected areas.
We agree with her recommendation to apply this conservation designation to the Pikialasorsuaq. The Pikialasorsuaq is a polynya, an area where water remains open through the winter. It's the most productive polynya in the Arctic, and it is shared between Greenland and Canada. “Pikialasorsuaq” is actually a Greenlandic word that means “physical or mental upwelling” and it's used to describe this incredibly rich polynya.
Placing more emphasis on IPAs as a protection mechanism would allow indigenous peoples to create and manage their own protected areas and contribute to marine conservation targets. When a clear expression of desire to protect a marine area is demonstrated by an Inuit community, a rapid process to deploy that protection should ensue, driven by the community itself and assisted by the Government of Canada. Inuit conservation management allowing for continued harvesting and community uses would be paramount. Monitoring, research, and enforcement would provide Inuit employment.
This committee has already heard that just under 1% of Canada's marine territory is protected today. In terms of quality, not all sites offer the same level of protection that benefit habitat species and coastal communities. Only about 0.1% qualifies as highly protected, meaning that no fishing or other extractive industries such as mining or oil and gas development are allowed. Many of our protected areas are small and they are not actively managed. WWF-Canada recently conducted a survey that tells us almost nine in 10 Canadians consider that 1% is way too low and that eight in 10 Canadians support minimum standards for MPAs, opposing commercial activities such as oil and gas, and industrial fishing within the boundaries of MPAs.
While we do want to reach marine protection targets, we need to ensure that this protection is meaningful. The goal should be not only to get to 10% but to choose the right 10% through proper siting. MPA networks provide a foundation of sustainability by systematically selecting sites that operate synergistically at various spatial scales and with ranges of protections to reach ecological goals more effectively than individual sites can alone.
We should not lose sight of the need for networks in the race to get to 10% by 2020. WWF-Canada supports the development of an MPA network in the western Arctic bioregion, but also urges Canada to initiate the development of an MPA network in the eastern Arctic.
Minimum standards set in advance for all MPAs are key to effectiveness. Minimum standards can also help develop co-operative management and co-management frameworks with indigenous communities and within land claim regions. Setting standards before sites are selected can improve certainty for stakeholders, including indigenous communities, and can speed up the consultation process.
In the Lancaster Sound area, communities have been asking for protection for over 30 years. Why should it take 30 years? Our tools need to be adapted to adjust to that and speed up this process.
In particular, northern communities have expressed the desire that no seismic activity or oil and gas development take place within marine protected areas. Canadians certainly don't expect to see oil rigs in areas that are considered conservation areas.
The Laurentian Channel, for example—this is not in the Arctic—is a proposed MPA site that will allow oil and gas exploration development in over 80% of its borders if it were designated today. This oil and gas activity would pose a series of risks that are not compatible with the objectives of an MPA.
Thank you, Mr. Crowley.
Folks, we want to welcome our guests here today.
Joining us is Sylvie Boucher, from the riding of Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.
We also have Julie Dzerowicz, who is from the long-named riding of Davenport, one of the most treasured neighbourhoods in Toronto. My own bias is included there, I admit.
We have Wayne Long, from Saint John—Rothesay, also.
Thanks for joining us, folks.
I do want to say happy World Oceans Day, as was pointed out earlier by our guests, and I would be deeply regretful if I did not say happy birthday to Mr. Ken McDonald. I saved the best for last, Ken.
That being said, let's move on to something else, the reason we are here, of course.
We will have a round of questioning. These will be seven minutes for the first round, and five minutes for the second round.
Mr. Hardie, you're starting first, for seven minutes, please.
Thank you to all our witnesses for being here on World Oceans Day and talking to us about this important topic of how we protect our oceans and achieve the target of 10% by 2020.
Dr. Sumaila, I'll start with you. You talked about economic benefits. You referenced small-scale, community-based fisheries. We heard on Tuesday in the committee about competing world views, for instance, the current paradigm that we're in versus, I'll call it, the new modern, emerging, sustainable world view, or that other world view. We've been discussing the idea of balance of economics versus environment and what that balance might look like.
We've just heard from WWF in terms of the state of global fisheries, and I think you have statistics about how so many fisheries are in decline, overfished, or at capacity.
The question is, how do we manage to make this shift? You talked about the short-term impacts of MPAs. How do we move in that direction, given our current world view and recognizing that, yes, maybe we have to change, and maybe we are out of balance? How do we move in that direction when we have fishermen who have to pay their mortgages?
It's like any investment program. When you are in serious imbalance, like we are with the fisheries, we need to take drastic action. Drastic action means that society has to be willing to invest, one way or the other, in order to get us back in balance.
Our analysis is showing that if we are able to put in marine protected areas, to bring in sustainable management, we'll get lots of benefits in the future. We do have numbers for this, showing that the problem is how to move from here to there. This is where people like you come in. In the rebuilding, for example, see that there is enough money to compensate fishers to help them to adjust to the short-term costs while we move society to the higher-level benefit. We're talking about billions of dollars.
Fisheries are really important, if you think globally. The reasons some of us are working so hard for sustainability are many. Number one, we take about 120 billion tonnes of fish a year out of the ocean. If you convert that to the number of mature cows, just to make you realize, that's about 120 million mature cows. I'll call them fish cows, if you like, that we pull out of the ocean each year, which is more than all of the cows we kill on our farms. We employ about 260 million people. Many are young people who will have no jobs, so imagine the security problems that we'll all face.
We need to invest. When I say we, the public and private sectors need to invest, soften the blow to our fishermen. I have a lot of sympathy for fishermen, because they are important. They are people, just like the rest of us. They need to keep their lives going. But we need that investment to move this to a higher level for everybody.
In the interim, I did do the math on the environmental performance of oil and gas installations. This is from the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. In 2015-16, for hydraulic oil, there were three spills of less than one litre. There was one spill of 11 to 150 litres and no spills greater than 150 litres. For diesel fuel, there was one spill of less than one litre. For condensate, there was one spill of less than one litre.
That's it. That's the total amount of petroleum product released—so-called spilled—from these installations off Nova Scotia. That is miniscule. That's why I asked for quantification. These generalized statements about “this being the effect of this” and “scientists say” are not helpful and not useful. It does not help us with the program we're trying to carry out here.
Again, I would urge all witnesses to refrain from making generalized statements and would ask that they quantify everything as much as they can.
I have a “gee-whiz” statistic. Off the east coast, there were 64 billion litres of oil shipped in 2006 and there were 430,000 litres spilled. That works out to 0.00067% of 1%. That's the number. So, generalized statements are not helpful. The design of an MPA has to be specific. The rules and regulations and the terms and conditions are extremely important because those terms and conditions will affect people's livelihoods. With the collapse of oil prices in Canada, the economies of eastern Canada and indeed western Canada are under serious threat. Much of what the environmental community says is that we should shut this stuff down, as if it's no big deal. It is a very big deal. I would urge you to quantify things as much as you can.
One of the witnesses earlier talked about highly migratory species and that MPAs are not really helpful for migratory species. Obviously, salmon is one of the most prominent examples. Salmon move through a coastal area. It's not necessarily a spawning area. It's a feeding area they use from time to time, and then they go someplace else.
How would an MPA help that salmon population, if it was designed the way that I think people want an MPA designed? I'll ask Dr. Sumaila that.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank all my colleagues for welcoming me here today. Happy birthday, Ken.
Thanks for the excellent presentations.
I come from a downtown Toronto riding but I lived in Vancouver for a year. One of the things that Davenportians really care about is the environment, and they care about climate change.
We're trying to select the MPAs on the west, in the north, or on the east coast. I had a colleague who used to visit the north quite a bit, and she would interact with a number of the indigenous peoples up there. They would say that the world has changed significantly for them. They see almost annually how climate change is impacting their habitat.
Mr. Crowley and Ms. Leys, if you happen to have something to add, in our selecting MPAs and our even coming up with a governance model or even trying to figure out the right model for monitoring, how is climate change going to impact how we're going to select the area?
For the economics of the ocean, climate change adds a high level of unpredictability. How would you say that we need to incorporate what we're learning around climate change impacts in our selecting the areas and the monitoring? If you have any advice on that, I'd be grateful.
In the motion, there is one extra word I inserted after “Selkirk”, namely, “Manitoba”, so make sure that is noted in the minutes.
I want to call to everyone's attention that this affects my riding directly. It really impacts Manitoba, especially Winnipeg. The Coast Guard station at Gimli and the Coast Guard stations at Selkirk and Kenora really do serve the public. A lot of people have secondary residences on Lake Winnipeg, and Lake of the Woods at Kenora, and they enjoy boating, enjoy the waters.
I'd like to make sure everybody is aware, first and foremost, that Lake of the Woods is an international waterway. It occupies parts of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba and the State of Minnesota in the U.S. This is an international waterway, and the Coast Guard is there to provide support to the RCMP and to Canada Border Services Agency in the transit of people back and forth over the lake. In Selkirk and Kenora, the Coast Guard stations are responsible for putting out navigational aids, including markers of difficult channels, rapids, and other hazards in the waterway.
The Red River and Lake Winnipeg are both recognized as federal navigable waters. The Coast Guard stations in these locations have been there for over four decades, and the Gimli Coast Guard station provides very important safety provisions as well as search and rescue services for people on the lake.
A lot of you may not be familiar with Lake Winnipeg, which is in my riding. Lake Winnipeg is an inland ocean, and its waters are very dangerous. It responds to wind and often has waves six to 10 feet high. People have perished on the lake as recently as a couple of weeks ago. We have to have Coast Guard there to provide safety to our commercial fishers. There are 23 small craft harbours on Lake Winnipeg that fall under the purview of DFO. There are over 1,000 commercial fishing families who earn their living off that lake. Northern communities are served by the lake's commercial fishing businesses, and during the summer all their freight, all their goods, come in from the lake. There are lake freighters that move all their goods. Until recently, even ferry services were still going on the north basin.
There is a need to have Coast Guard support for that type of civilian movement as well as for recreational boaters. We're talking sailboats; there are yacht clubs up and down the south basin. We need to make sure that those people have the required level of safety.
The Gimli station has just started to benefit from a reinvestment program announced in 2015. Over $2 million has already been spent on the construction of two new buildings. A third building is now under way; the foundation is poured, and they just have to erect it. Its purpose is to provide storage facilities for fuel, for navigational markers, boats, and accommodations for the Coast Guard staff who are flown in for respite from other areas of Canada. We have to make sure this money is not just thrown away.
It is my understanding that both the Kenora and Selkirk stations may be closed as of today, with the buoys still out there. There have been no communications with the RCMP or provincial governments about who is going to pick up these services and how they're going to be delivered.
Finally, I'd just note that situated at 17 Wing Winnipeg is 435 Squadron, which is made up of search and rescue technicians for the central region. Their area of responsibility extends from the U.S. border in central Canada, through Manitoba, and right up into the Arctic. Those SAR techs train on Lake Winnipeg twice a week, either diving or jumping in. Canadian Armed Forces protocol is that a SAR tech cannot train unless there is Coast Guard search and rescue within one hour of where they're conducting their training. If we lose search and rescue out of the Coast Guard station in Gimli, there will no longer be training done from 17 Wing. Everyone will have to be moved to Comox in British Columbia.
Therefore, I'd ask that everyone support this motion to ensure that we get the proper briefing and understanding of why the government wants to make these cuts.
Mr. Chair, I want to add my comments to the call for at least a stand-alone meeting. I think it's absolutely critical that we have at least one meeting to address the issues brought forward by this motion. I think Mr. Bezan has clearly spelled out the impacts of the Coast Guard cuts on Manitoba and Ontario.
To add to Mr. Arnold's comments about the loss of the dive team in the RRU on the west coast, I'll just add my comments about the loss of the salmonids in the classroom program. Over one million students have gone through—one million students in 40 years—and this program is being eliminated. I have heard, and I know many B.C. MPs have heard, as Mr. Arnold is saying, from teachers, from students, from parents, and from stewards right across the Province of British Columbia how upset they are with this decision. That's one small program of the salmon enhancement program that's being affected here.
We have the dive team, which is a completely specialized unit in the Coast Guard. It goes in for recovery. I know there's been talk of other federal agencies like the RCMP being able to pick up the slack or the city dive squad being able to do this. The RCMP goes in for recovery. The unit of the Coast Guard has specialized equipment and training to prevent deaths. It goes in there to prevent deaths. Mr. Arnold referenced the incident that happened, I believe, in the early 2000s, in 2001, in which a car went into the Fraser River, on Sea Island. It was right by the Coast Guard base. Of course, they had already cut the dive team. The Coast Guard was right there, on the incident, with the submerged vehicle. The occupants most likely were alive. However, they couldn't go in because they didn't have the specialized unit. They had to wait for the RCMP dive team to come. It took over an hour, and, of course, it was a recovery. They were extracting bodies at that point.
There was a huge outcry. Mr. Dhaliwal was the minister at the time. The community was outraged and let him know that. He was the minister, and the decision was reversed. Now, 15 years later, we're looking at cutting exactly the same thing. Have we not learned from a past mistake?
I agree with Mr. Arnold and Mr. Bezan. We need at least one dedicated meeting. I don't think, to Mr. Hardie's point, we can cover it under supplementary estimates, for which we have so many other issues that we have to talk about.
I fully support this motion. Thank you.