Good morning, everyone.
First of all, I'd like to apologize to our guests for the delay. We had an issue to deal with in committee business.
This is meeting 69 of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are studying the Oceans Act's marine protected areas.
Before we start, I want to introduce our witnesses. They are both joining us by video conference from the west coast, so it's particularly early for them.
Good morning—I mean that in the truest sense of “good morning”—and thank you for joining us at this early hour.
Kevin Obermeyer is chief executive officer for the Pacific Pilotage Authority, and Donna Spalding is director of administration for the Cruise Lines International Association.
Normally we ask that you provide us with a statement of up to 10 minutes. You don't have to take the 10 minutes, but you certainly can discuss the issue at hand and why we invited you. We'll give you each time, then we'll go to a round of questioning from our members of Parliament representing three parties.
I'll call on Mr. Obermeyer first, please.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I'm pleased to have been asked to join you for a brief discussion this morning about the use of marine protected areas in the management and protection of Canada's west coast.
As brief background on who we are, the Pacific Pilotage Authority is a federal crown corporation tasked with providing a safe and efficient marine pilotage system on the west coast of Canada. We supply marine pilots to all vessels over 350 gross tonnes. A pilot's primary duty is to take the conduct of the vessel while in compulsory waters and bring it from open water to alongside a dock in a safe and efficient manner. Pilots see themselves as stewards of the environment, and always have the safety of the vessel and the protection of the environment foremost on their minds.
The compulsory pilotage area on the west coast of Canada extends from Washington state in the south to the Alaskan border in the north, and includes all the waters of the Salish Sea and the Inside Passage. Basically, as a rule of thumb, if you extend every major point of land on the west coast by about two miles and join them all together, that's our area of jurisdiction. I have supplied a chartlet with these opening notes. Hopefully the committee can see it.
The advantage of such a large jurisdiction is that we have to be consulted on all new projects or significant changes in operation. This gives us the opportunity to conduct risk assessments and/or simulations—firstly, to ensure that a particular project is feasible from a navigational safety perspective, and secondly, to put in place mitigators if the level of safety required is lacking in some areas.
Over the past several years, the authority has been involved either directly or indirectly in the Pacific north coast integrated management area, or PNCIMA, which everybody knows; in a number of marine partnership initiatives, otherwise known as MaPPs; in the Scott Islands wildlife protection area; and in the glass sponge reefs marine protected area, just to name a few. In addition, there has recently been a Parks Canada initiative to institute a national marine conservation area in the southern Gulf Islands and the Haro Strait area. We were not consulted on this initiative at all.
There is an increasing need for a holistic coastal management system that is open and transparent and that meets both the environmental needs and the goals of international and local trade. For several years now, we have seen a multitude of initiatives being put forward by various groups and departments with very little interaction and synergy between those groups and departments. We were therefore gratified to see that the ministers' mandate letters contained a directive to work together on a number of initiatives.
The Oceans Act refers to Canada's promotion of the “integrated management of oceans and marine resources”. To us, the key word in this is “integrated”. This is really the only way to manage the various competing interests and protect the ecosystems. In our view, integrated means managing the ecosystems as well as the various human activities in the area, which of necessity should include commercial shipping.
The protection of the coastal environment is extremely important, and will only be achieved if there is a balanced approach with all aspects, including Canada's need to trade and keeping gateways to our international markets open. The ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert are the gateways to trade in Canada on the west coast and jointly handle more than 50% of the total trade in the country. As such, they need to be protected just as much as the pristine west coast environment. It is not as easy as some would think to relocate a transportation network.
Part of integrated management should mean conducting risk assessments on the marine traffic corridors, especially if there is pressure being brought to bear to move them as a result of the protection of a particular ecosystem. The assessment should include route planning that considers vessel manoeuvring characteristics, the nature of the geographic area, and the ability of vessels of a particular size to move safely in the new area. It should as well look at spill response planning and reaction times.
We fully expect that the oceans protection plan will include several new planning initiatives that will manage vessel movements, including the possible introduction of navigational corridors that take into consideration the concerns of coastal and indigenous communities.
In closing, I'd like to offer the following thoughts with regard to any marine protected areas under consideration.
First, any decisions to designate a particular area must be made based on factual scientific information, and not as a result of pressure by a particular community or interest group using the process for their own agenda.
Second, the use of technology should be embraced and utilized as a means of addressing specific issues of concern and for the protection of a species.
Third, we must ensure that the integrated management process is fully inclusive and addresses environmental concerns, indigenous and community concerns, as well as the need to ensure that Canada remains an international trading nation with access to the international market through the ports system.
Fourth, all relevant departments must work in an integrated manner in the planning process as soon as an area is considered for designation. There have been failures in the past as a result of federal departments operating in silos. While I do not believe this will happen again, given the various mandate letters, it needs to be kept in mind.
Last, I want to mention that the ports are vulnerable to U.S. competition now more than ever. Any deterioration in our level of service as a result of increased costs due to an MPA implementation could be utilized to erode the Canadian competitive advantage.
Thank you for the invitation to address you. I appreciate the opportunity.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for allowing me to address you this morning.
My comments are provided from the perspective of the member lines of the Cruise Lines International Association, and more specifically us here in Vancouver, where we manage, across Canada, North West & Canada. We represent the geographical areas of Canada, Alaska, Washington state, and Hawaii. In this role, we are afforded the opportunity for consultation and the ability to offer comment on a wide range of similar scenarios in various areas. Currently we have 13 member cruise companies, with 28 ships sailing on the west coast and 27 ships sailing on the east coast of Canada.
Collectively, the economic benefit of the cruise industry and its passengers was $3.2 billion in direct and indirect spending in Canada in 2016, providing 23,000 jobs and paying just over $1 billion in salaries and wages.
Protection of the environment, both coastal and ocean, is one of the most important considerations for the member lines of CLIA. They support the objective of cohesive planning and management approaches that protect important resources. This outlook goes hand in hand with the environmental objectives of our member lines, and ensures that their guests can enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the Canadian coast. The importance of recognizing the need for a balanced approach ensures a predictable and stable business environment, which is imperative as decisions and management plans are made and developed.
Within the current focus of western Canada, we have been involved in past consultations related to the MPA network objectives for the northern shelf bioregion. We recognize the importance of the goals to protect Canada's oceans, coasts, and waterways to ensure that they remain healthy and in place for future generations. Through these consultations, we have come to understand the objectives of the principles for developing and implementing a sustainable management plan, although at times in the past we have seen the process appear to be fractured and without synergy across relative departments.
Our member lines' policies and practices toward environmental regulation and stewardship meet and often exceed those of the regions they visit. The cruise lines have participated in the development of regulations with the Canadian federal government around the use of advanced technology in areas including recycling and solid waste management, waste-water treatment, and the use of low-sulphur fuels and emission purification systems to improve air emissions. This represents a small number of the initiatives employed by the cruise lines to protect the important ecosystems where they sail. We believe it is imperative that plans or decisions are based on factual scientific information, the availability of technology, and consideration of the challenges that the lack of this planning would bring to bear on the operations of our member lines.
We are encouraged by the coordinating objectives of the oceans protection plan, and see it as the opportunity to develop integrated, holistic coastal management plans that are open and transparent, bringing together a range of relevant stakeholders and governments to collaborate and develop practical and actionable plans. We believe the integrated management of oceans and marine resource planning, including marine protected areas, is an important initiative to manage sustainable human activity and conditions to support the continued economic benefit of the cruise industry in Canada.
I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning. I look forward to any questions you might have.
Thank you very much, and welcome. I hope the weather remains good out on the west coast. We had that nice downpour of rain there for a few days to lighten the load a little bit. I'll be on my way out on Friday to take in some things.
The intent of this study is to really examine the criteria for setting up a marine protected area. This is the essence of the motion that our colleague Mr. Arnold put forward a number of months ago. Looking at the world through your lens, what do you feel should be the criteria when government looks at setting up a marine protected area?
We'll start with you, Mr. Obermeyer.
When we look at marine protected areas, certainly one of the things we think about is having zones, either across the entire area or at least in part of it, where there is no activity, period. In other cases, certain activities can take place, such as fishing at a certain depth, and certainly for the passage of larger vessels such as the ones you two represent.
Talk to me about the vessels. What is the age of the fleet right now? What technologies or advancements have come along, particularly with respect to noise, wake, and some of the other things, and even the use of depth sounding equipment? All of these factors could disturb populations like our southern resident killer whales and other groups. What is technology doing in your industries to reduce your footprint?
The technology being used is going to go across the entire gambit, because we get some very old ships that are still safe and still meet all the requirements and transportation regulations, but they are not as technically advanced as some of Donna's cruise ships.
With respect to the noise, it will vary significantly from ship type to ship type. The cruise ships, as an example, have a lot of Azipod vessels. They are electrical and have smaller engines producing electricity that powers a podded system. It's much quieter than an older bulk carrier, with a very large single-propeller engine, coming in to pick up grain.
It will vary. Right now, there is a voluntary study going on in the Haro Strait area and the Georgia Strait where these things are being measured.
All of the industry has been participating at very high percentages to try to get a true sense of what we are dealing with.
Thank you to our guests. I am a B.C. member of Parliament, so I know that it's early for you there.
I know both organizations very well, coming from the transportation industry formerly and having worked with both organizations in terms of the promotion of trade and tourism opportunities for Canada.
I'll direct my first question to you, Mr. Obermeyer. In your presentation, there were a few points that you would like this committee to consider in putting forward our study. On the first point, you said that “any decisions to designate a particular area must be based on factual scientific information”, and should not be the result of, I believe the words were, outside “pressure” by a particular community or by special interest groups that were working on “their own agenda”. I'm wondering if you can expand on that.
Yes, absolutely. Thank you.
The west coast seems to be a little different from coasts across the country. We have a lot of communities that are building up around coastal areas such as the southern Gulf Islands. As an example, we have had anchorages in those areas for over 50 years, but as the gentrification of these areas takes place and we have more population moving in, people are organizing themselves—in very well-organized groups—and they are opposed to certain activities taking place in what they call their “backyard”.
I understand where they're coming from, but what we need to do is ensure that if a group or a trade is moved out because of pressure from groups like these, it really needs to be based on scientific information and not just because they don't like to see a rusty ship sitting in their backyard.
Okay. I really appreciate that comment.
I'll go to the other comment, and this again is to both of you.
Mr. Obermeyer, you mentioned, and I'm glad you did, domestic versus international, because our large ships follow the international shipping lines, and for domestic there is really no.... I mean, there are paths that they follow, but they're under a lot less strict guidance.
You both mentioned competition. Ms. Spalding, you noted that your carriers, and Mr. Obermeyer, you noted that your customers have opportunities to go south of the border. Canada always must remain a trading nation as well as have our tourism opportunities. Would you say that every consideration must be given in terms of, as we move forward, being very careful as to the steps we take, because both organizations and industries could choose to go elsewhere?
Good morning to fellow British Columbians. I'm on your time zone; I just got in this morning too. Thanks for joining us today. It's great to see you and to hear your important feedback.
My question is going to be about marine debris and ocean plastics and the significant impact they're having not just on MPAs but on all coastal British Columbians and coastal people and our oceans. We know that the UN and the European Commission and the World Economic Forum all recognize the urgent need to radically design the way we use plastics. Certainly this has an impact on MPAs.
I'll start with you, Donna. Perhaps you could talk about the cruise industry and what actions you're taking to mitigate the single-use plastics and waste going into the important sensitive ecosystems that we cherish.
Thank you, Mr. Obermeyer.
Thank you, folks. With time dwindling, it looks like this may go over time, so I hope I get your permission to do this. We have time for two more questions, one to the Liberals and one to the Conservatives, to round out this meeting.
First of all, do I have everyone's permission to carry on with the two remaining questions? It will run a few minutes over our time.
Okay. Seeing no objections, we'll go to Mr. McDonald.
You have seven minutes, please.
Thanks to our witnesses for being here at such an early time of day.
I have a couple of questions. On the east coast, as you know, we have had deaths of about 12 or more right whales. I know that has affected your industry. We know that going forward this is not going to go away, due to different reasons. We have large mammals getting injured, and maybe smaller ones that we may not even know about. I guess we haven't determined exactly what the cause of death was, but we know that some of them may have collided with the larger vessels.
To Ms. Spalding, has your industry proposed any solutions, or technology, or anything that can mitigate the harming of those species?
Thank you very much, Mr. Finnigan, for bringing this up.
The use of technology on cruise ships is far and away advanced from a lot of the other shipping. We have proposed to Transport Canada and DFO on both coasts the use of technologies and procedures that are already in place on the coast of Maine with regard to the right whales and in Alaska with regard to larger grey whales.
This involves apps and bridge watch, both of which watch for whales. There's also the use of hydrophones, which listen for the whales and translate that information up to a satellite and down to the ship, so that they know where the whales are and the whales can be avoided. The use of technology is the way forward in managing this resource that we all want to protect on both coasts, whether it's southern resident killer whales or the right whales on the east coast.
On the protection of whales, whether it's the U.S. or Canada, the specific instances we're discussing are very similar. NOAA is ahead of us. They are the ones who have put some of this infrastructure into place.
On the east coast in Maine, in the right whale sanctuary, there is a system of hydrophones that tell you where the whales are. That information is bounced via satellite, not only to the ships through an app, but to NOAA. When the whales are evident, then they can say to shipping, as we do in Alaska with the grey whales, “The whales are there today, and you need to slow down. This is what's in place.” Then, as they move away, the rules are changed.
I'll jump in first, then.
The Pilotage Authority and the BC Coast Pilots have been working with the coastal first nations groups for probably the last eight to ten years now. We explain who we are, what we do, and why we do it. It's also a bit of an education and a recruitment program. We do have very good relationships with many of the indigenous groups along the coast.
What I've found is that they are very supportive of marine pilots and what we do. We will act as a conduit. If there's a question or a concern about a particular ship in a particular area, they know who to call, and they frequently do. The relationship is sound and is working.
The only time I had some anxious moments was when the northern gateway was being considered. We had some very good debates around that issue.
To our two witnesses, thank you for your early start this morning.
Both of you, Ms. Spalding for sure, made a statement that decisions should be based on factual science. I agree with you that we need to know what it is we're doing, and why we're doing it, before we do something. But I want to draw your attention to a line in the summary of Bill with regard to the Oceans Act. It states:
||This enactment amends the Oceans Act to, among other things,
||(d) provide that the Governor in Council and Minister cannot use the lack of scientific certainty regarding the risks posed by any activity as a reason to postpone or refrain from exercising their powers or performing their duties and functions under subsection 35(3) or 35.1(2);
Does this raise a concern for you that the minister or the Governor in Council could implement changes, restrictions, or MPAs in an area without scientific reasoning to do so?
Mr. Arnold, thank you for the question. Without being critical, I think we've already seen that happen with regard to the right whales on the east coast. Transport Canada has indicated to us, as has DFO, that they don't have a lot of scientific data. We know that there are 12 whales who have met unfortunate ends this year. Many of those are entanglements with fishing gear, not necessarily ship strikes.
We respect the action that has been taken. Don't get us wrong for one minute. We work with it as much as we can. Our concern is for going forward. If we don't take the scientific data that we have, as little as that may be, and try to work with those people who actually are out there, the shipping companies, the ships themselves.... The use of technology and the use of monitoring by individual ships can add to that data, and we can mitigate some of those impacts.
When we get to an MPA on the west coast, it's a little different. We have some initiatives going forward on the west coast that many people do not agree with. They don't agree with them for their...because it's not what they agree with. We'll talk about oil tankers; just put it out on the table.
Things in shipping have changed drastically over the years. I remember 30-odd years ago we had a ship in Alaska that was a single hull and there was a horrendous oil spill. We don't have those ships here anymore. We don't have ships that dump waste that hasn't been treated. We don't have ships that dump garbage. Everybody is watching now. We see people on cruise ships taking pictures of things as they happen, and it hits social media. You can't afford to dirty the waters where you sail.
Thank you, Mr. Arnold. I have to stop you there.
We now come to a conclusion. We want to thank our special guests from the Pacific Pilotage Authority, Kevin Obermeyer, and also from the Cruise Lines International Association, Ms. Donna Spalding.
You were early risers this morning. We thank you for doing that and for helping out in our study.
To our special guests—, , and —thank you.
Colleagues, we'll see you on Thursday.
The meeting is adjourned.