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STANDING COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES AND OCEANS

COMITÉ PERMANENT DES PÊCHES ET DES OCÉANS

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Monday, February 21, 2000

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[English]

The Chair (Mr. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.)): I'll call the meeting to order.

The first witness for the afternoon is Dan Edwards, from the West Coast Sustainability Association.

Dan, I think most people on the committee know you from previous experience. Welcome.

For committee members' interest as well, I handed a letter around this morning from Minister Dhaliwal, who dealt with some of the issues that were raised by Dan and others when they were in Ottawa in November. I haven't read it myself. I just got it this morning.

Dan, the floor is yours.

Mr. Dan Edwards (President, West Coast Sustainability Association): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm speaking specifically on the Oceans Act. I have a short presentation. I'll try to get through it in the seven minutes that I have.

The West Coast Sustainability Association is an aboriginal and non-aboriginal non-profit association formed in 1994 to promote sustainable fisheries and sustainable fisheries-dependent communities within the Nuu-chah-nulth area of the west coast of Vancouver Island. That's basically most of the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Our association was built on principles of sustainability, which recognize the interdependency between the human community and the surrounding ecosystems. Many of these principles were derived from the philosophy of the Nuu-chah-nulth people, which recognizes the interconnectiveness of all things, and the principle of issak, or respect.

We also derive principles of sustainability from the land-use battle over the Clayoquot and the sustainable development strategies for this area under the direction of Dr. Prescott Allen.

Other sources of inspiration include the CORE process struck in British Columbia to develop a multi-sectoral approach to resource use.

The west coast of Vancouver Island region is in crisis. Although surrounded by the wealth of the sea, most of the communities within the region have been disenfranchised from this wealth with the implementation of harvesting and licensing strategies that have no rural development basis. These strategies are for the most part market-driven policies in line with the globalization agenda that does not recognize the social, economic, or cultural needs of local and indigenous communities. Although these policies are very much ideologically driven from a well-recognized corporatist conservative agenda whose social engineering mantra is economic efficiency through downsizing, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada continuously states that it's not in the social engineering business. The reality is that the massive licencing changes over the last five years tell a different story.

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Since the development of the Oceans Act and a national policy stating that all agencies must work from principles of sustainability, the mandate of DFO is now supposed to be much broader than management and protection of fish. They are required by legislation now to recognize how their policies on licencing and fish management affect the broader community and the ecosystem. The basic legislation that defines these principles is found in the Oceans Act.

The West Coast Sustainability Association's strategy for dealing with this situation is to build structures that are in line with the evolving national policies concerning oceans. For this reason, we were very interested in the development of the Oceans Act and provided input into this act whenever we had access. We also built most of our structures to conform with the ecosystem principles found within the act.

Our association, in partnership with HRDC Canada, WED, DFO, Fisheries RBC, the ministries of aboriginal affairs and fisheries, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Bullitt Foundation, and many others entered into a building process involving communities and the environment.

The two main projects are the development of a policy board for the region that would promote the building of an area-based aquatic management board for the Nuu-chah-nulth west coast region, and the development of programs and projects that would continuously connect the ocean-based economic activities of the region with the policy development.

In the first part, we helped facilitate several workshops in the region, which culminated in the development of the Regional Aquatic Management Society. I've passed out a newspaper that gives some idea of what that society is all about.

This society consists of a partnership among the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, the regional and municipal governments, and several fishing sectors that do business within the region. The society is presently helping to negotiate the development of an area-based aquatic management board, in partnership with the federal, provincial, and Nuu-chah-nulth governments.

The federal government has recognized this process now as a national pilot based on the principles of co-management that are presently elucidated under the Oceans Act, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, and the federal policies concerning co-management.

On the project development side, the association has been instrumental in supporting the development of several projects that are connected to sea resource development: salmon enhancement projects and habitat restoration projects, through partnership with Fisheries RBC and DFO; new fisheries development, including mackerel and tanner crab; and the development of monitoring and evaluation of traditional fisheries, such as an experimental troll fishery, as part of what we do.

Through the development of a conservation trust, through financial help from Community Futures, we are building criteria for developing sustainable fisheries for the region. We also do projects connected to revitalizing the small communities within the region through community beautification projects.

We have also been involved with many of our partners, including RAMS, the NCC, and the regional governments, in mapping and inventory projects and database and inventory projects that are regionally based. These initiatives are partnered with the AFS program, with the stated intention of developing community management capacity that will eventually be supported by the surrounding resource.

The organization has also been heavily involved in resisting processes and policies that we believe are breaking the fundamental policies of integration and ecosystem management, and over the last five years these processes included a number of developments.

First is the Mifflin plan, which created huge disenfranchisement in the region by splitting the region into three different licence areas and by promoting the consolidation of the wealth of the industry into a very few large, integrated companies.

Second is the development of groundfish individual quotas, which resulted in the destruction of the small-boat trawl fleet and the consolidation of this resource into a small number of vessels. We fought that particular process for three years. It took four months to destroy that small-boat fleet once the process was in place.

Third is the development of a mackerel licence process at the local communities.

Fourth is the development of a ZN licence, that's a rockfish hook-and-line licence, which was a consolidation that had no regard for the long-term sustainability of the resource in the region. That particular consolidation happened on January 4 of this year.

Fifth is the attempt to develop fishing plans and training programs through narrowly defined industry rump groups that are not connected with the region in any substantive way. That process is now underway this morning, right now at DFO and at SFU, just down the road here.

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Sixth is the development of a national and provincial aquaculture policy without recognizing that those in the region—and there are quite a few fish farm sites in the region—must be front and centre in the development of everything from siting requirements to environmental controls and employment issues.

Seventh is the development of an AFS program that cannot reach its goal of self-funding infrastructure as more and more resources continue to be locked into corporate consolidation.

Eighth is a buyback program that has literally wiped out the rural fleet in the region—and this has happened since 1996. There are now a total of 71 salmon licences held by those who live in the region. To give you a graphic example of that, 7,000 Nuu-chah-nulth people live on the west coast. There are historically about 200 to 500 fishermen in that region; they now have a total of 12.

Ninth is the development of a U.S.-Canada treaty in 1999, which was done without proper input from the B.C. first nations, the provincial government, or stakeholders, and which allows massive catches of Canadian fish in Alaska while the adoption of a weak-stock management regime in B.C. is shutting down all our ocean fisheries.

Tenth is the development of a weak-stock management regime in 1996—this was done without consultation with industry—and a consequent red-zone fisheries management scenario that was determined by public opinion polls.

Eleventh is an appointment process to important fisheries processes such as the Pacific Salmon Commission that favours those who do not criticize existing government policy direction. Recent changes to this structure have left in it only four out of 24 people who have any historical background in the process.

Twelfth is the development of a $400-million coho response package that was set up without proper consultation with industry, and which has put forth delivery systems that are very difficult for the industry to access. One of my other jobs is to try to develop programs in communities to try to access that money, and it's incredibly difficult for people within the industry to find any way to get help from that program.

Thirteenth is the Fraser River 1999 collapse, which the department originally stated was a natural disaster, but as soon as the communities asked for disaster relief, they were told this was in fact a good-news story because they got fish on the spawning grounds, effectively ignoring the fishing communities' cry for help, except for $2 million in returned licence fees. The loss to the B.C. communities from the collapse of this run was estimated at $480 million.

All the above situations have occurred within the last five years, despite the following mandate elucidated in the Oceans Act:

    AND WHEREAS the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in collaboration with other ministers, boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, with provincial and territorial governments and with affected aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other persons and bodies, including those bodies established under land claims agreements, is encouraging the development and implementation of a national strategy for the management of estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems;

In light of the examples I've listed above, it is obvious that there's a disconnection between the stated intentions of the Oceans Act and its implementation. The root of the problem appears to be the continuation of policy implementation that started, as far as our research has indicated, with commitment by government to follow through on a policy recommendation made in 1979 by the Economic Council of Canada to privatize the sea resources through the development of individual quotas.

Many Canadian economists have supported and encouraged that development. Our research has shown that this development has significantly ignored the full-cost accounting methodology that it's supposed to bring to bear on how fisheries policies impact on all values—social, economic, cultural, and environmental. Therefore it has also ignored the principles inherent in the Oceans Act.

The federal government has stated that the development of an aquatic management board for the west coast of Vancouver Island as a pilot board, in line with the policy direction set out under the Oceans Act, will happen in the year 2000. It's supposed to be done, hopefully, by the end of April this year.

Our association has been supportive, as well as instrumental, in the development of that board. I have outlined our association's concern that unless there is actual integration from habitat restoration through the U.S.-Canada treaty, the development of such a board is not in line with the policy guidelines.

The government cannot have it both ways. It cannot legislate principles of sustainability under the Oceans Act while at the same time promoting narrow-based sectoral processes to define public policy.

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The examples I have used outline where integration over the last five years has not happened. Policies and programs that have been enacted, which make integration more and more difficult, must be stopped. To this end, many aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities have approached Minister Dhaliwal and asked for the development of a multilateral, multi-sectoral policy forum in British Columbia to deal with these issues. He has assured me that this process will soon be underway.

We recommend to the standing committee that you fully support the implementation of the multi-sectoral policy forum for fisheries, both province-wide and the regional processes we're building at the present time.

Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you, Dan.

Who wants to start? John Duncan.

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Ref.): Hi, Dan.

On the west coast aquatic board area—I've lost the name—you're saying the federal government has recognized it as a national pilot and it's going to be implemented. Your commitments are for the year 2000. I'm assuming that at some point the federal government did more than offer those opinions. Did they help to fund some of the things that needed to be put in place in order to create that?

Mr. Dan Edwards: Presently we're in those negotiations with the federal, provincial, Nuu-chah-nulth, and other sectors in the region. They've provided some project funding that's connected to the development of that board. They've also funded the facilitation needed to get the board up and running. Mr. Craig Darling has been hired by the department, and they pay his salary.

There's also a commitment to find funding that's part of the negotiation process, from a number of different sources. The kinds of partnerships we build in the region are not just with DFO, but with HRDC, WED, and so on, and we're looking at that kind of a funding opportunity.

Mr. John Duncan: So as part of that, regarding this conservation trust you're talking about, when it's called “trust”, that has the connotation that this is a pot of money, only the interest of which is drawn off. Is that an incorrect interpretation?

Mr. Dan Edwards: Not in this case. The conservation trust is more of a resource trust. It's an identification of what resources are there. There's no specific money attached to that trust at this time.

Mr. John Duncan: Okay.

You kind of tapered off in talking about the buyback program, the 7,000 NTC people. I want to confirm, they now have 12 licences. Is that what you said?

Mr. Dan Edwards: Yes, it's between 12 and 15 licences. It's not absolute. That's salmon licences, and I think they're all troll licences. I don't think there are any gillnet licences left. Or the same licence that was held or two same licences were bought out in the last round.

Mr. John Duncan: Can you explain what happened with the ZN licence consolidation, the raw cuts? That's unclear to me.

Mr. Dan Edwards: The situation is that a number of halibut quota holders have been told they won't be able to fish unless they find some way to deal with their by-catch. What they did was form a small subcommittee, which is trying and has somewhat succeeded in allowing ZN licences to be stacked onto halibut fishing vessels. So you have a situation where you have a 20-foot rockfish licence now being allowed to be taken and put onto a 60-foot vessel with a certain quota attached to it.

That has caused a scramble for licences, an actual market-driven inflation of licences, and a locking in of the licences. So for halibut fishermen who are concerned, they won't be able to deal with their by-catch.

What that has done is lock out a lot of small-boat fishermen from being able to access those licences for shoulder fisheries. The short story is, if the process continues there won't be any ZN small-boat fishermen left in a couple of years.

Mr. John Duncan: Okay.

Finally, I want to go to your recommendation. So that I understand what the recommendation is saying, what is a “forum”?

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Mr. Dan Edwards: There are a number of different ways to develop forums, and right now that hasn't been identified. I've been told by the minister's office that they're about to hire Stephen Owen to develop that process, develop terms of reference and start the process of developing the forum.

Mr. John Duncan: I'll leave it at that, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Duncan.

Mr. Bernier.

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Bernier (Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, BQ): First, I would like to thank the witness for the brief he prepared and that I read while he was giving us an outline. I agree with him especially when he gets to the end of the list of developments that should have normally required more consultation and quotes an extract from the Oceans Act which says that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in collaboration with other ministers and agencies of the Government of Canada and with provincial and territorial governments, must hold consultations and encourage the development of a national strategy, I have just given you a loose translation of the act. The witness is absolutely right to refresh our memory on that matter.

Before asking my first question, I will make a brief comment. It is unfortunate that we should need an act to force ministers of the same government to talk between themselves. I am happy that your group took the time to come and tell us.

I generally agree with the message you had for us today but I would like a bit more information on point number seven dealing with the development of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy.

You said that this strategy cannot reach its goal of self- funding infrastructure as more and more resources continue to be locked into corporate consolidation.

I would like to know what you mean by that. It could be that you skimmed over it but I would like you to be more specific about why the AFS program is not good with respect to corporate consolidation. I was wondering more specifically what you think about the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy the way it is applied right now by the federal government.

[English]

Mr. Dan Edwards: Thanks for the question.

First of all, my understanding of the AFS program is that it was supposed to be self-funded after approximately seven years from various connections to the resource surrounding it and aboriginal communities that were connected to it, particularly AFS programs. Some of that infrastructure development is the hiring of biologists, the development of guardian programs, the type of infrastructure that's needed to develop proper management of sea resources in marine-based economies.

My understanding is that they haven't been able to reach their self-funding target in time. In the last five years, the amount of corporate concentration and the amount of downsizing that has occurred in licensing has made it very difficult for some part of the resource, whether it's herring or salmon or whatever resource, to be used as a way to self-fund. Right now, in salmon, for instance, with the 12 or 15 licences that are left, it becomes very difficult.

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The types of processes that have been put in place, such as for herring, where the overages go to a conservation fund that is outside the region, that isn't controlled from within the region, makes it very difficult in our region for some part of the revenue from that process to be used to fund the AFS program or the infrastructure. So there are a number of different programs like this that have happened over the last five or six years that have made it difficult for the self-funding mechanisms to kick in. And I think it's having to be refunded through government program development.

[Translation]

The Chair: Mr. Bernier.

Mr. Yvan Bernier: You say that we would need to refinance the program. You spoke mainly on the Oceans Act but the study of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy and aquaculture were also on the order of the day of our meeting.

I would like to hear a bit more about the workings of the AFS. Are you familiar with this strategy? I personally come from the province of Quebec and I have no reading of it in the field. If you are an aboriginal and non-aboriginal association, can you tell me how this situation is being dealt with, especially as it concerns the AFS as such? You say that there is not enough money but where could we find more funds? Should we get them from other fisheries that are already working well or from other Canadian pockets in the form of taxes? What are the relations between various fishermen, aboriginal or non-aboriginal? If you have information on that I would like to hear you talk about it.

[English]

Mr. Dan Edwards: That's a lot of questions.

First of all, the good part of the AFS that I see in the region has to do with the development of sound biological science and then the inclusion of the aboriginal community in the development of that database development in the region. From the perspective of partnership in the region, what we do as a society, and what the Regional Aquatic Management Society does, is we try to partner on the information that's gathered and on the development of harvesting and licensing plans into the future that will help all of us together.

It's been difficult, because the program started out as more exclusive to the aboriginal community and excluded the non-aboriginal community. But what the aboriginal community in our region has said to us, very clearly, is that there has to be a partnership for it to work. It cannot be done in an exclusive manner. So there's been a give and take on both sides in the development of a policy forum that will bring the native and non-native communities together to develop things that were presently being done specifically under the AFS, like the development of database and inventory development, biological assessment and harvesting enforcement issues, and stewardship processes in things like rebuilding salmon streams, that kind of thing. So there is a lot of partnership we do.

As far as where the funding comes from is concerned, I think there's a recognition that stewarding of resources is a commitment for which the federal government has responsibility and the provincial government has some responsibility. So some form of taxation is needed to help fund some of that, and other funding can come from the resources themselves where they are healthy enough to sustain that kind of resource tax.

The Chair: Mr. Bernier.

Mr. Yvan Bernier: No, it's okay.

The Chair: Mr. Stoffer.

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thanks, Dan, for your presentation. I couldn't help but notice, though, you left out any reference to oil and gas exploration and what your society thinks about the future of oil and gas exploration. There's a moratorium on right now, but it appears fiscal pressures upon the province may put more pressures to open up the oceans to exploration. I'm wondering what your views are on that.

Mr. Dan Edwards: We've done some work in that field. The most hands-on approach that we've taken with it is in conjunction with Alaska and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. We've had contact with the person who ran the spill clean-up in Alaska when it happened in 1979, or whenever it was. What they found is there was no state of readiness that was available to the structures that were put in place in Alaska. And what they've done since is they've taken a tax off the barrelhead and they've attached it to a regional management process in Alaska in the Valdez region to mobilize the communities to deal with everything from siting of oil and gas rigs to pipeline and spill response mechanisms.

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Although we haven't taken a stand one way or the other as to whether we're for or against oil and gas, we're definitely not intending to see oil and gas exploration in the region without a full involvement, politically, of the native and non-native communities in the region. That's what we're looking at right now.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: In your presentation you give a quote from the Oceans Act in regard to the minister. He's supposed to basically consult with everyone in regard to all aspects of the ocean. Yet you cite a quote in 1979 from the Economic Council that privatization of the sea resources were the way to go in terms of individual quotas.

Out east we have individual and transferable quotas and enterprise allocations. There's no question in the eyes of many fishermen and their communities that it was the privatization of a public resource. Can you elaborate a bit more on what's happening on the west coast in regard to the concentration of the salmon stocks, into whose hands and where it's going?

Mr. Dan Edwards: We're not sure where it is right now because the latest buyback just happened on the salmon resource, but it looks like one corporation, the Canadian Fishing Company, has approximately one out of every two fish in its back pocket essentially through either outright ownership of licences or in partnership agreements. Where that is right now after this latest buyback, we're not sure.

The official word from the department is that it's about 37% in the corporate concentration. But most seine-boat owners and skippers will tell you, on the seine-boat side in particular, it's much higher than that.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Dan, last but not least, everyone knows the incidents you went through prior to Christmas in order to get Mr. Dhaliwal and his department to come and listen and open up a transparent and open policy of consultation with your organization and many others. Can you please tell us what has happened since then on that prospect?

Mr. Dan Edwards: We met with the minister, I think it is two weeks ago now—Grand Chief Ed John of the summit and Chief John Henderson and myself. We gave him five recommendations that were supported by 32 aboriginal organizations in the province of British Columbia and a number of non-native fisheries organizations. They called for the development of independent consultation and consultative review.

We put four names forward to the minister: Frank Rhodes; Cunliffe Barnet, a retired judge; Milton Wong, the SFU chancellor; and Stephen Owen, who ran the CORE process here in British Columbia. It was at the provincial ombudsman, and the word I had on Friday was that they had approached Stephen and he was going to start the process.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Dan.

Are there any further questions?

On point number seven, Dan, on the corporate consolidation, do you have any documents we can go to on what's happened over the last ten years in that regard—

Mr. Dan Edwards: I don't have any with me, but I can get some.

The Chair: —where we can actually get that information—how many licences are out there, how many are corporate, etc.? We'd appreciate having that if you could get it for us and send it to the clerk.

Mr. Dan Edwards: Okay.

The Chair: The other question is on the Oceans Act. You don't say specifically in here if it is working or not working and what has to be changed to make it work.

Mr. Dan Edwards: I think that's where my recommendation comes in, that there needs to be the building of proper policy forums in order to make it work. It can't be done just by government.

This is why we're doing it at the community level. Our community is willing to come together and partner on a number of different projects as well as on policies, and the government facilitates that. That's what the Oceans Act is saying it has to do. What we need is support from the standing committee and from the federal government on the development of that process, and that's what we're hoping to see.

The Chair: Okay.

There are no further questions.

Thank you very much, Dan, for appearing before the committee again.

Mr. Dan Edwards: Thank you.

The Chair: We now have, from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Sabine Jessen.

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Sabine, welcome. The floor is yours. If you could keep it down to seven to ten minutes of original presentation, we'll have lots of time for questions.

Ms. Sabine Jessen (Executive Director, B.C. Chapter, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society): All right. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Good afternoon, honourable members. Thanks very much for the opportunity to testify today on your review of the Oceans Act.

I'll just give you a little bit of background about the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. We've worked for over 35 years with our 20,000 members and 10 chapters across Canada. We're Canada's grassroots voice for wilderness. We've maintained a strong commitment and involvement in marine conservation areas and issues throughout this time. For example, last year we testified on Bill C-48, which is now Bill C-8, the federal government's proposed Marine Conservation Area Act.

CPWS, as we're affectionately known, has been particularly active here on the Pacific coast in the development of policies and strategies for implementing government commitments on marine protected areas. We're working with local communities, industry, first nations, governments, and other stakeholders to establish marine protected areas here in B.C. Today I'd like to provide you with our perspective on Oceans Act implementation, especially as it relates to the marine protected areas provisions, and to emphasize that there is a need for a suite of federal marine protected area designations.

The Oceans Act stipulates that there are two roles for Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the general area of marine protected areas. They are the establishment of specific MPAs and the coordination of the development of a comprehensive network of marine protected areas in Canada's oceans.

As you are aware, there are three complementary federal programs for the establishment of marine protected areas in Canada's oceans. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, under the Oceans Act, can establish marine protected areas, which is what they're called under the act. Parks Canada has a marine conservation area program, which still requires the passage of Bill C-8, which I mentioned earlier. Environment Canada, under the Canada Wildlife Act, can establish national wildlife areas or marine wildlife areas, as well as migratory bird sanctuaries under the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

CPWS believes these three very distinct programs can together contribute significantly to the protection of marine ecosystems in Canada without any unnecessary duplication or waste of scarce public resources. I'd like to briefly mention what I see as the key differences in those programs and DFO's role in coordinating them.

Parks Canada plays a lead role in the formalized and systematic conservation of marine habitats. It has developed a systems plan and a longstanding policy for marine conservation areas that has gone through two national consultation processes. Large, multiple-use marine conservation areas will be established in each of Canada's 29 marine regions.

Marine conservation areas will provide opportunities for public education, awareness, and enjoyment and ensure the functioning of marine ecosystems while allowing for sustainable use. I would like to urge you today to support the timely passage of Bill C-8, as it moves through Parliament, to permit this important program to be fully implemented.

Environment Canada's MPAs provide for the protection of wildlife and migratory birds, with a focus on marine birds. They also provide important areas for research related to the species they are designed to protect. The marine protected areas established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada under the Oceans Act are likely to be smaller sites relative to marine conservation areas established by Parks Canada. They'll focus on the conservation and protection of important features or species, including fish and other marine species and habitats, as well as endangered species and unique habitats.

For example, here on the west coast we have two very unique sites that are currently the subject of MPA pilot projects by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and that are quite a bit offshore. They are the Bowie Seamount and the Endeavour hydrothermal vents, and they're very unique environments in the offshore area.

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In summary, all federal programs are part of a government commitment to establish a network of marine protected areas in Canada's oceans. While the Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada programs focus on addressing a specific need to resolve particular resource management problems, the Parks Canada program is intended to provide a finite but representative sampling of the various marine environments found in Canada's oceans. To date, I think the departments seem to be working well together to achieve the common objective of establishing a network of marine protected areas across Canada and are certainly striving to avoid any overlap or duplication in their programs.

I'd like to just turn now to a few issues we have in British Columbia around marine protected areas. While good progress has been made in coordination among the federal government Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, and Parks Canada, there has also been very good coordination with the provincial government agencies that have responsibility in this area. In fact, I would argue from my knowledge of such initiatives across the country that really the level of cooperation that has been achieved between the federal and provincial governments has actually been unparalleled. This is in the face of the political acrimony you've seen over fisheries and other issues. However, we do have four major concerns that need to be addressed.

First, momentum has really slowed over the past year. In August 1998 the federal and provincial agencies actually did release a joint marine protected area strategy. It outlines a common vision and objectives for marine protected areas on this coast. Unfortunately, a revised strategy that has considered the extensive public input received has still not emerged.

Second, the strategy lacks clear action plans and timelines for implementing a representative system of marine protected areas by the year 2010, which is the stated goal of the strategy. We have been hearing from many communities along the B.C. coast who are interested in putting MPA proposals forward, but to date there is no process for government to evaluate and consider these proposals and initiatives from communities. There's no indication of when such a process will be ready to go and how it will be implemented.

Third, there is a need for minimum protection standards for all marine protected areas. The federal-provincial initiative here in B.C. has identified the need for minimum protection standards, which include non-renewable resource exploration and development, dredging, and dumping. Those activities would be excluded in areas that are designated as marine protected areas. However, there are a couple of critical activities we think are missing from the list, and these are bottom trawling and fin fish aquaculture. We believe these activities are incompatible with conservation objectives of marine protected areas and need to be excluded in all areas that are designated.

We are concerned that Fisheries and Oceans Canada national MPA policies don't include any minimum protection standards. These policies must be reviewed to incorporate the prohibition on the activities I've just listed.

A fourth issue relates to an issue that marine scientists around the world have been stressing, and that is the importance of including areas that are closed to all harvesting in a network of marine protected areas. Fisheries and Oceans Canada policies, both regionally and nationally, need to explicitly acknowledge and implement harvest refuge, or no-take areas, as part of the overall network of marine protected areas that are established in Canada's oceans.

Fifth, while we are pleased that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has launched four MPA pilot projects on the Pacific coast, we are concerned about the slow progress in actually achieving them. I would say this applies to the other pilots that have been announced in other parts of Canada. Here in B.C., while the public process to evaluate Race Rocks, which is one of the pilot sites, seems to be working well, I think progress on the others is really lagging and needs to be stepped up if the public is going to have confidence that this program is going to be maintained. This would really demonstrate that Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Government of Canada are actually committed to this program.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada also has an important role in a number of MPA initiatives in British Columbia. Two of these, Gwaii Haanas and the southern Strait of Georgia, are being led by Parks Canada. We are also encouraging the provincial government to increase the protection afforded to their more than 100 marine parks and ecological reserves. We hope Fisheries and Oceans Canada will work cooperatively on that process.

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I'd like to conclude by saying that marine protected areas are increasingly being used around the world as one tool to conserve marine biodiversity, but Canada continues to lag behind in this area. We have the tools we need. We have those federal designations and, on both coasts, we have provincial designations as well. But we need to get on with actually using them and actually protecting some areas on the coast if we're going to halt some of the threats to marine species and ecosystems.

Thank you very much for this opportunity. I'd be happy to answer questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Sabine. There's a lot of stuff there.

Mr. Duncan.

Mr. John Duncan: There is a lot of stuff there.

Your publication does set out that there are several agencies involved in these protection or conservation areas. Do you have any concerns about that, about the multiple agencies?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: As I was trying to say in my brief to you today, I don't have those concerns. Each of the programs has a very specific purpose, and together, I think, they will contribute to the kind of network of marine protected areas that we'll need. The agencies are working well together to define how they're going to work together and, as I mentioned, particularly on this coast, to be coordinated in their approach and to use those tools where they're most appropriate. If I could make an analogy on the terrestrial side, we have national parks, provincial parks, national wildlife areas. We have a similar suite of different kinds of protected area programs that work well.

Mr. John Duncan: When we were reviewing Bill C-8 or whatever it was called before that—

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Bill C-48.

Mr. John Duncan: Yes, Bill C-48. One of the things that was criticized by some, certainly by me, was the fact that the municipal level of government had no standing in terms of the review process. There's no legislative enabling of the municipal level of government, in terms of recognition, as having any standing at all in whether or how an area is determined. I thought I heard you kind of espousing the same thought process. Am I incorrect in that or am I somewhat correct?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: From my perspective, no, I think local communities and local levels of government are absolutely critical to making these programs successful. From what I've seen to date, the federal government departments are working with those different levels of government to implement these programs.

Mr. John Duncan: But without any legal standing, the federal government just basically does what it pleases. The net result is that without any legislative standing the municipal government is in an unfair position. That was the point, certainly, that I took, and that's the point some municipalities took in their presentations on that piece of legislation as well.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: From my read of Bill C-8 in terms of all of the different pieces of legislation that are available to establish marine protected areas, that one in particular makes a number of specific references to the involvement of local communities and other levels of government in a way that I haven't actually seen articulated in the other pieces of legislation, the Oceans Act included.

Mr. John Duncan: It does make reference, but none of it is binding on the federal government in any way.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: I agree that it's not in there.

Mr. John Duncan: Thank you for that.

The Chair: Mr. Bernier, do you have any questions?

Mr. Yvan Bernier: Not yet.

The Chair: Mr. Stoffer.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you, Madam, for your presentation and for this very colourful book.

Earlier today we had a presentation by the seafood alliance. They say, about the environmental sustainability, that “in principle” they support MPAs as long as they have “access to environmentally sustainable commercial seafood harvesting and farming industries”. In their booklet they say that “MPAs can improve the economic base of coastal communities by enhancing the sustainability of commercial and sports fisheries”.

• 1405

I'm confused. When an MPA is created, do you want to see any fishing in that MPA at all, or would you like to see some sort of sustainable fishery ongoing in that MPA?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: We're not averse to having some sustainable fishing occur in a marine protected area, although we do also see the need within the network to have some areas that would be totally closed, depending on the conservation objectives you're trying to achieve. We don't see that all marine protected areas would be closed to all fishing.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Has your organization actually met with the seafood alliance?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Not with that individual group. We've met with other individual fishing organizations. We're working more at a community level on individual processes, individual sites, and working with local fishermen.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: My last question is in regard to working with the aboriginal communities up and down the coast. Are they in favour of what your organization is trying to do? They're obviously looking at the economics of the fishing issue as well as protecting habitat for the various species.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: I'd say that there are still mixed feelings in the first nations community, so I wouldn't want to say...

There are some people like the Haida, who are very interested in seeing the marine conservation area established in Gwaii Haanas. Others are more cautious and would like more clarity from the protected areas strategy—the federal-provincial strategy—on this coast as to what specifically their role will be in that. Through the aboriginal fisheries commission, I think they gave some very detailed comments and recommendations about what their role might be and how they might work with the different levels of government and other organizations, to be involved in a way that would give them some comfort that their issues and concerns are being taken into account.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Can you give me any kind of correlation of MPAs that have happened around the world, in, say, Washington or Australia, as to what they had to go through or any problems they had that we could relate to B.C.?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Yes, and I can actually send you a summary. One of the things that we did do was to bring over a couple of people from Australia, including a former fisherman who was involved with the Great Barrier Reef. He was a fisherman when the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established, 25 years ago now. He was involved with the process that they've gone through to bring the fishermen in.

They didn't do a good job, when they first put it into place, of working with the fisherman. There are different processes that they've established to bring those concerns forward and to work with the fishing community to make that marine protected area work better. They've come up with a number of different councils and advisory committees and with different structures to deal with those kinds of issues. They've had over 20 years of experience in trying to deal with them.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Would it be possible to get that information to us?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Yes, I will send that to you.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Stoffer.

Mr. Assadourian.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian (Brampton Centre, Lib.): Thank you very much.

I have to say that this is a fantastic book. I see by your name that you contributed to the writing of it.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Yes, and even a few photos.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Good.

For the last two weeks, and even today, we've received conflicting reports, today from two men, with stakeholders of the fish-farming industry on one side and the aboriginal people on the other side. Even this morning we had an aboriginal witness saying that when you have a fish farm in the ocean—the net—the droppings from the fish will pollute the bottom of the ocean and will kill marine life. On the other hand, the industry says that currents, because of where they're located, will take away everything else and dissolve it in the ocean and there is no effect or a very small effect that can be ignored.

From your point of view, being impartial... You're not making money or losing money on fish farming; you're an impartial person. From your point of view, which one is closer to reality? We're trying to help in the situation, but we're getting conflicting reports. Even this morning one person said that when they send the species to industry to be analysed, they get lost and they can't even get the results. He claims that they poison the bottom of the ocean. I mean, how could you claim that when you have no proof?

From your studies, your research, which one is the most accurate description of the actual situation? My second or supplemental question is this: If there is such a thing that's called “damage to the environment”, which one of the three kinds of fish farming would be most friendly to the environment?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Our organization hasn't done its own research on aquaculture. A number of other environmental organizations here in British Columbia have done a lot of work on that issue.

• 1410

For example, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Georgia Strait Alliance have really been spearheading the work on that issue. We relied on them for the information we used to assess this issue and we share with them some of the concerns about the droppings and the impact on the local bottom habitat in the fish farms, the issue of escapes—that is, introducing into the marine environment exotic species that can escape and have impacts on local species. There is also the issue around the use of acoustic deterrent devices and their impact on marine mammals and their use of their normal habitats.

Based on those concerns, then, we'd have to agree with and support the groups in their recommendation for closed containment systems.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: As far as you can see, the most friendly situation would be to have closed containment on the land, right?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Yes.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Can we have copies of the David Suzuki Foundation's report on this issue?

The Chair: We have it.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Yes, I'm sure you would have that.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Thank you.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: You're very welcome.

The Chair: Mr. Cummins.

Mr. John Cummins (Delta—South Richmond, Ref.): I have appreciated your comments here today.

Now, I don't have any problem with this notion of marine protected areas, as other presenters have agreed today, and I would agree with the principle of it. But my concern—and it was a concern that was expressed, as mentioned earlier, by a group that appeared this morning—is that you have these marine protected areas, you have marine conservation areas, you have Environment Canada planning to introduce species at risk, and you have a provincial land use coordination office with this central coastland and resources management plan, with all these agencies fighting for turf in an area that, in my view, is under the purview of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I wonder how that makes the job easier in protecting marine environment.

It seems to me it's ripe for a jurisdictional dispute, and any type of clear direction is going to be tough to manage.

I mean, take just Environment Canada, with species at risk. Well, we saw the minister acting to protect fish this past summer in a very extreme way. The legislation is already there. It's a matter of, I guess, tickling it in the right place to make it work.

Do you not see that this multiplicity of jurisdictions that seems to be coming forth is going to be problem rather than a benefit?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: I haven't integrated my thoughts around the species at risk legislation and how that will fit in on the marine side, but to date, in terms of the programs I've seen and how they're fitting together, I think it can work out fine.

For example, the system that Parks Canada is suggesting they're going to be establishing is large, zoned marine protected areas that, like national parks, will provide for use and enjoyment by people and be able to provide interpretation and information to people. It will provide an on-site presence and a type of public awareness that a number of the other sites are not really set up as well to do. So I think they really are more complementary than conflicting.

In terms of the provincial role, well, there is some provincial jurisdiction. One of the things we also have to acknowledge is that on the marine side it is a slightly more complex environment in terms of the jurisdiction over the marine environment. While DFO does have control over the water column and the offshore areas, the provincial government does control the seabed and the inland waters and has control over marine plants and some other issues. Constitutionally, then, we can't really get away from the fact that the federal and provincial levels are going to have to work together.

Here on the B.C. coast we do have 100 sites already that have some protection for the marine environment, so we're coming into this with that already in place. Certainly some challenges will come up as to how this all fits together, but as I also mentioned, on the terrestrial side we seem to be able to make it work. The different levels of government have a number of different protected area programs, and they're used where they're most applicable. I think we just have to continue to force each agency to be very clear about where they are going to place their sites and where their priorities should be.

• 1415

As a member of the public and representing an advocacy organization, that's certainly one of the roles I play as well.

The Chair: Mr. Duncan.

Mr. John Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair.

One of the things that was also brought up during earlier presentations was the fact that the way we use our marine environment changes over time, considerably. There's no such thing as a full inventory, and we can't predict the future.

One example that's almost a given in an industrial context concerns the technology changes that have occurred in the extraction of oil and gas in the North Sea. That has led the nations in that area to consider the risk acceptably low, and that's a thriving industry. If the technology was still 20 years old, then it probably wouldn't be an acceptable risk.

My question, then, is that given this context—the unreliability of our inventory and not knowing what will occur in the future—do you view the creation of marine protection areas as a one-way street?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: I'm not sure what you mean.

Mr. John Duncan: Well, can you “de-create” marine protection areas?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: We would like to see areas established as marine protected areas for the long term. I'd actually like to go back to your point about changing technology, increasing technology. Basically, the change in technology on the fishery side has actually made areas that perhaps naturally would have been de facto marine protected areas just because they weren't accessible, for different reasons, to the fishing industry. They provided that reserve-type protection on a more natural basis because our technology wasn't capable of getting into those areas.

We're losing those on an increasing basis. I mean, scientists around the world are saying that we need to have at least some areas that we set aside, that we don't touch, or that we treat differently from how we treat the rest of the oceans. We can't get away from doing that, partly because of the uncertainties and because we don't know what's going to happen in the future. That's why we do need to establish these areas.

The Chair: Thank you.

Very short, Peter.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: If an MPA is set up and oil and gas exploration goes ahead, what type of buffer zone would you like to see around an MPA to protect it?

I ask that because we on the east coast had the Sable Island concern, where they said they'd give us a buffer zone around the island. Two years later they changed the code of practice and were actually on the island doing seismic work.

To protect an MPA, you'd have to have a buffer zone around it. I'm just thinking about the ramifications if exploration goes ahead. How close would you allow them to an MPA, or has that study been done?

Ms. Sabine Jessen: I haven't seen anything that would say definitively what kind of buffer zone you would need. Here on our coast the conservation organizations are looking for a continuance of the oil and gas moratorium. We're not in favour of seeing that lifted.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Okay.

The Chair: I want to come back to this business of MPAs, MCAs, and then Environment Canada's approach. That means we have Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada, and Environment Canada all involved. Several witnesses have questioned how this could actually work.

As a committee, we have enough trouble just dealing with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and I see real complications here in terms of having the three work together in a way that will work. You don't.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: I haven't seen it so far. For example, Parks Canada has very clearly defined that they are going to have one site at the most. Sometimes one site will cover more than one of the 29 marine regions they've identified where they're going to try to represent the different habitats. I've seen it with Environment Canada. They already have a number of national wildlife areas that do have a marine component set aside. For the most part it's been birds, but they have some other interests.

• 1420

So far I'm not seeing a lot of overlap or conflicts there. Parks Canada has a well-defined program, but I think what we need to see from the other federal agencies is that kind of look to see where they should be implementing their programs and where the other agencies have an interest. I think it can be done. They just need to be proactive and organized about it.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Sabine. Thank you for your information.

Ms. Sabine Jessen: Thank you.

The Chair: The next witness is John Radosevic, who is appearing as an individual. I can never pronounce your name right, John.

Mr. John Radosevic (Individual Presentation): You just need some practice.

The Chair: I've had a bit of practice over the years.

Welcome. The floor is yours, John. You know the process as well as anyone.

Mr. John Radosevic: Not quite as well as anyone, but I have been here before, and I do thank you for the opportunity to speak again.

I understand that you have a copy of our policy on fish farms in front of you. We don't have much time. As I understand it, these presentations are pretty short. So I just want to focus mainly on one key point that is important to all of the issues you have before you, namely, the aboriginal fisheries strategy, the aquaculture industry, and the Oceans Act, as well as other items that are not on the agenda, including the emergency transition, which is really at the top of most people's agenda in this industry these days. As you're aware, there's an unmitigated economic disaster as well.

I'm not going to get into details about the AFS, aquaculture, the Oceans Act, or anything else, except for one issue, and that is a similar focus to that of the Auditor General, who recently issued a report to the effect that DFO has no strategic plan. The point I'd make today before this committee is that without a strategic plan, you cannot develop a proper farm fish policy. You will not be able to develop a policy on aboriginal fisheries or an acceptable Oceans Act.

I have given you the resolution, and it goes into details. But I'd like to just stop and talk about aquaculture for a moment. To give you an example of what I'm talking about, you have an aquaculture industry that's part of a $900 million a year industry here in British Columbia. That figure hasn't dropped below $900 million in export value since 1993. The fact that there has been no strategic plan to place fish farming and aquaculture in their proper context has led, I believe, to a view that fish farms and aquaculture are there to replace other fisheries. That is damaging to aquaculture. It is also a devaluation of the other fisheries we have so many of in British Columbia.

I'd like to give another example. We've always supported the settlement of land claims. We support most elements of the aboriginal fisheries strategy, but without a strategic plan to ensure that the communal right to fish is observed, as the Sparrow decision said, and that non-aboriginal rights are protected, you end up with pilot sales and a pilot-sales aspect to the aboriginal fisheries strategy that we cannot limit. You end up with individuals profiting over the community and most non-aboriginal participants in the industry disenfranchised and broke, along with some serious divisions in both aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.

I'm going to keep my remarks very short and try to answer some questions.

This committee must realize and DFO must be made to realize that balkanized planning—that is, dealing with every issue separately with no proper advisory process—cannot work. I want to remind the committee of the Attorney General's remarks when he characterized DFO's processes as dysfunctional, lacking clear goals, not being inclusive, not being accountable, etc. Unless we change that, neither we, the people who are affected by fisheries, nor you, the politicians who are responsible to the people of Canada for fisheries, will control the agendas either for fish farms, the AFS, or the Oceans Act, nor will those objectives be met in an all-inclusive or integrated way. The bureaucrats will control it, and we will not have democratic law-making in this country.

• 1425

I want to conclude by asking, just where is DFO's economic agenda? We believe this committee must strongly recommend that DFO immediately commit to a strategic planning exercise that is independent, open, and inclusive and determine how to rebuild the confidence in our future in this industry; how to get the most value out of our fisheries, including fish farms; and how to achieve our social equity goals and our economic efficiencies, all within the context of conservation and sustainability.

I believe DFO needs a new mandate. We've had Mifflin. Things are arguably worse since Mifflin. We cannot continue to do things such as trying to control capitalization in this industry by overcapitalizing it. I believe obsessing on fleet reduction to the exclusion of some of these other important items, including the ones you have on your agenda today, is failing to get the most out of a very valuable resource to the people of British Columbia and to the people who are involved in the fishing industry.

Therefore, my point to you is that before we go farther or before we even continue some of the programs we have in front of us on some very important issues, we need to know that there's going to be a proper strategic planning process and that these things are going to be fitted into an overall plan, so that people can understand and support it rather than being at each others' throats and rather than being in a situation where we can't develop an industry that's so important to us here in this province.

The Chair: Just before I go to Mr. Cummins, how would you see that taking place, John? You hear from people who are consulted to death, and yet the thing doesn't seem to be coming together. So how would you structure that to come together?

Mr. John Radosevic: I think you probably have more than one option in terms of how to do that. The only option you do not have is to continue to do it the way DFO has done it.

I referred to the remarks of the Auditor General. I say that if at the very least we don't have an independent process that has the attributes of being open and inclusive, then you cannot bring...

[Editor's Note: Technical difficulty]

That's the problem. We've had answers brought to DFO's attention, but they have not been acted on or could not be acted on because the intent of the processes has been hijacked.

The round table is the most prominent, but there have been other processes. I think two or three have been mentioned to me, including the Fraser River Basin Council being used as some kind of facilitator. There are a number of good individuals who could be asked to have an independently facilitated process where the resources are available to bring the proper people to the table. I think the answers will flow from the industry and from people who depend on the resource and have the resource's interest at heart.

The Chair: Thanks, John.

Mr. Cummins.

Mr. John Cummins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, John, for your presentation. I couldn't agree more with your notion that what's needed is some idea of what the department intends for fish in this province. Certainly it's tough to determine where they want to go with their management schemes and what the next step is going to be.

That being said, you were with us when we were talking with the previous witness, and you heard me reference the presentation from the Seafood Alliance this morning. We were talking about the marine conservation areas, this new Environment Canada act they're talking about for species at risk, the provincial coordination body, all of these things. It seems to me what we have here is a flattening, if you will, of the management structure where we're getting away from the notion that there's a minister in charge of the fisheries resource. We're saying that there's a responsibility over here and one over here, and you begin to wonder who's in charge. That's the impression I'm getting from that.

• 1430

Do you share the concern about the development of the marine conservation areas and marine protected areas—not that we don't agree with the notion—that spreading the authority out for that with Parks Canada, and so on, will create a bigger problem for us than it's going to solve?

Mr. John Radosevic: We've always been concerned about watering down the authority of management for fish, at the same time as being concerned about the processes DFO uses to manage. We have been on the verge, on more than one occasion, of saying DFO has lost its moral right to manage fisheries.

Having said all of that, there has to be centralization of management, to the extent that management is possible. I don't object to some of the other agendas, and our organization is working now with some of the environmental organizations that are interested in marine protected areas and the Oceans Act. We believe the industry has to embrace some of the concepts, but we have to be sure and have confidence that when we get into these things it won't be another hijacked process.

The key is that we have to work with environmentalists, aboriginal communities, and non-aboriginal communities. We have to preserve our fish species, and the Oceans Act is probably the way to go. But before we give unqualified support for that, we need to know that there are proper processes, and at the end of the day, management is vested in the authority of the people of Canada, through the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or shared in some other clear fashion. But it must be very clearly focused on there being a central authority on fisheries management that has the interests of both fish and social equity at heart.

Mr. John Cummins: Thank you for that.

Point 12 in the handout you gave is that farmed salmon in stores and restaurants should be clearly labelled as such. In Alaska in the last little while there has been an effort to declare wild salmon an organic product, so it would be marketed in there as drug-free and a wholesome healthy product. I think the initiative may have been opposed somewhat by some of the land-based organic producers, and so on. Do you think that might be an idea the department could pursue to distinguish between wild salmon and farmed salmon?

Mr. John Radosevic: Yes. That's why it's there in the policy. I absolutely agree with that. I don't think I need to go into more detail, but I agree it's an important element.

The Chair: Mr. Stoffer and then Mr. Assadourian.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Boy, two points in a row by John Cummins, and I agree with him on both—this is a good day.

The Chair: It is an unusual day.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: It's an unusual day.

John, the impression I'm getting is you're asking for a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down style. Is that correct?

Mr. John Radosevic: I think the time has come. It's not just our request; it's clearly the direction given by the Auditor General, and we're relying heavily on that. We see in that report a real ally for trying to get at the bottom of some of the problems we've had. So the answer to that is yes.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: On point 11 you state, regarding fish farms, that there should be whistle-blower protection for fish farm employees. Have you received any anecdotal or written evidence to indicate that some employees have tried to come forward but may have been fired or shut up in other ways?

Mr. John Radosevic: The answer to that is both yes and no. We don't have any evidence of people being fired, but we've had quite a bit of evidence of people coming forward and saying “Here's what's going on, but I'm afraid to say something because I'm afraid of being fired”.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Is this fairly recent, or from years in the past?

Mr. John Radosevic: It's fairly consistent. I won't say it happens every day, but we often get people coming forward with stories about what's going on in those fish farms. They want us to take forward the information because they're afraid to do so.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: This is my last question for you. When Mr. Dhaliwal was appointed and said he wanted to put an emphasis on aquaculture, what did you or your union or organization think of that statement? Did it send shock waves through you?

Mr. John Radosevic: It sent shock waves through us because it wasn't part of an overall plan. There isn't a plan to say we're going to make these things safe. There isn't a plan to say how they're going to be integrated with the rest of the industry, which is still very substantial, despite the fact that salmon has come down in its overall percentage of the value of the catch.

• 1435

The fact is that we have a tremendous industry here. As I said, it's worth over $900 million. It has never dipped below that in seven or eight years, despite all the news you've heard, and salmon has gone down in value. But there is no sense of where aquaculture fits in that, or of how it can be made a part of the picture. As a result, politicians everywhere, and the public, think this is a panacea or magic bullet for lost incomes in the other part of the industry, instead of saying there are two industries there, aquaculture and non-aquaculture.

If aquaculture is safe and can be integrated, let's do it because it's part of the economic picture and it's not going to go away. But it's not safe and it's not integrated, so you again end up with this conflict, instead of the industry and people working together to try to bring the economic value to its full potential. Again, it relates to the lack of a vision and lack of economic planning; it leads to fear, etc.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. Assadourian.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Thank you very much.

Can you tell me if regulations governing farm fishing are provincial or federal regulations? Or are they just industry-driven regulations?

Mr. John Radosevic: Honestly, I don't know. There are some provincial regulations and there are some federal regulations. I'm not sure—

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Which ones would be federal and which ones would be provincial? I think within three miles is under provincial jurisdiction, right?

Mr. John Radosevic: I think all the environmental regulations are federal, and the enforcement side of things is federal. The licensing of plants, and so on and so forth, is provincial. But I'm not an expert in this field, so I don't know.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: So measure 14, which says “to ensure frequent net checks”, would be done by which department?

Mr. John Radosevic: I believe that would be federal, but I could be wrong.

The Chair: But what you're saying is that it should be done.

Mr. John Radosevic: It should be done.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: The reason I ask is that we were in one location just a little bit away from Campbell River, and we saw that they had two or three layers of nets. The gentleman was telling us that each net has a lifespan of ten years, but for the safety of the fish—so that they won't escape—they change them every seven years. As you go along, wear and tear is going to make the lines weaker and looser, so they can break away. A log might rip a portion of it, or seals might come and eat portions of it, or whatever.

What I'm saying is that it's in their own interests to make sure no fish escape from the nets, because they're then losing money. Am I right?

Mr. John Radosevic: There is a logic to what you say, but my comment is that we would prefer closed containment, and there needs to be proper development of that type of technology. I don't believe there is a way to make a net cage safe, because even if it's made with good web and good lines, as you say, there's tide, there's wind, and there's plenty of evidence that would seem to indicate that even with safe nets you're going to see a lot of escapes. Our concern is escapes, and I don't know where the legislation would fit.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: If I'm a fish farmer, I'm investing hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think he told us he has 200,000 to 600,000 fish. I have to make damn sure I protect that value. I'm not going to let it go.

Mr. John Radosevic: But they're not doing so. There are stories every day of escaped fish. The technology that you have with net pens is not up to the task of protecting the investment, either for the person who has the fish farm, for the public that wants to see the fish preserved and not see some of the problems, or the wild salmon that are at risk. The net cages don't work to protect salmon. They can't because they're not proofed against wind and tide and other environmental factors.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: How many escape situations do you know of from the nets in the last say ten years?

Mr. John Radosevic: I know nothing more than what you would know just by reading the newspaper. There have been a lot. We hear reports from environmental organizations that pay a lot of attention—the David Suzuki Foundation being one—and have enumerated many escapes. Our members also catch Atlantic salmon in their nets, and the numbers of those have increased. I don't know how many there are, but I know there are altogether too many.

• 1440

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: The reason I wanted to know is so I could ask you if you think technology has improved in such a way that escapes or broken lines are being seen less or have increased. Is that loophole being closed now?

Mr. John Radosevic: I don't think the loophole has closed at all. I don't think it can be closed with net cages.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: All right, thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Sarkis.

Mr. O'Brien.

Mr. Lawrence D. O'Brien (Labrador, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

John, I have a couple of questions. We've talked about this in a roundabout way, and I guess—

Mr. John Radosevic: Can I interrupt just for one second? I feel I haven't answered the question properly.

Our position on net cages is that they should be replaced with closed-loop technology over a period of time. There should be no new net cages allowed to be licensed, and even those that are licensed and are not actually in use now should not be allowed to be put into use. We're not saying net cages should be abandoned immediately or anything like that, but we are of the strong opinion that we need to move toward a closed-loop technology.

I hope that answers the question perhaps a little bit more fully. I'm sorry for interrupting you.

The Chair: Good, thank you for that clarification.

Mr. Lawrence O'Brien: I have a couple of points.

On streamlining the management regimes, whether it's the east coast, the west coast, central, or all of Canada, we hear many things about so many different management regimes vis-à-vis different stocks of fish and all the other impending jurisdictions, whether they be watersheds, provincial or other different groups, or whatever. It's a big maze, if you wish. We seem to hear more and more from a DFO point of view, but as we just heard a few minutes ago, we have three jurisdictions—Environment Canada, Parks Canada, and DFO—as they relate to certain protected areas.

From a DFO point of view, based on your knowledge—and you seem to be keenly interested, and you present yourself from time to time in trying to impact on public policy—where should we go from here as a committee in terms of making a recommendation to the department on trying to put management regimes in place that break things down in a more consistent manner? We have hundreds of management plans for the different species. Do you have a thought on that?

Mr. John Radosevic: God, I've belonged to so many DFO advisory processes in my time that I can't even think. I know it's a complex thing to manage.

In my experience, there was a time that DFO did a better job. The advisory processes were better advisory processes. We find that lately, in the last five or ten years, the processes have become more manipulated. The minister has lost control of his own processes, and his bureaucracy is not as focused on trying to balance the interests of the stocks, of the fish themselves, with the responsibility socially to communities and to the economics.

I think I delivered a paper to this committee at one time in the past and said words to the effect that you have to have sustainable fisheries, you have to have sustainable economics, sustainable conservation and sustainable social goals, each of which is important to the sustainability of the stock itself. We feel DFO has become unbalanced, whereas it was once far more balanced among those three essential elements.

What we need to have is a plan. The Auditor General didn't criticize the department's advisory processes lightly, I'm sure. It was a fairly scathing condemnation of advisory processes, and it mirrors what our experience has been and it mirrors how we felt when we read that.

• 1445

So I think that what needs to be done... When the department wanted its own way and when they wanted to manipulate through the round table process and get what they wanted and leave what most people in the industry wanted behind—pick the raisins out of the pudding, so to speak—they spent a lot of money on that roundtable process and they brought a lot of people together. And at the end of the day, you know what? There was pretty good agreement and consensus around that table as to what should be done and how it should be done.

I believe that properly resourced and with a new vision... This minister is a new minister, and he has an opportunity here, now, to do something that is truly visionary. We believe that the way you do that is you look back a little bit at what you've done in the past, and do another round table. I think it needs to be independently facilitated to give people confidence that we're not going to have just another process that's manipulated.

I think the answers are out there. I don't have them all, and I don't even want to try to articulate them. I want to be part of a process and help develop an industry of the future, rather than pretend I have answers here. I don't have the answers, but I believe that they exist in our collective wisdom. So I would start by a proper strategic planning process that's not open to manipulation, that really lets us get our desires and our hopes and our ideas out there, and helps DFO itself to devise its own plan. They don't have that now.

Mr. Lawrence O'Brien: If you were to rate for me in a one, two, three order the State of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska and put a mindset to the best regime and why, which one would you pick, and why?

Mr. John Radosevic: Well, the State of Alaska is owned by the fishing industry. The Province of British Columbia has no effect on the policy of fisheries. And I think the State of Washington is somewhere in between. I don't know. All I know is that what we have isn't balanced. It's not working.

Mr. Lawrence O'Brien: I'm an Atlantic guy. I'm from Labrador. So I understand Atlantic salmon from our side of it; I just don't understand Atlantic salmon from this side of it.

Can you tell me, John... I'm sure I could ask anybody in this room this question and they could probably answer it. How did Atlantic salmon get to be a factor in Pacific waters?

Mr. John Radosevic: Well, it grows faster, it's more docile. There are some physical attributes that are better for pen-raised salmon. So they've used those instead of indigenous species.

Mr. Lawrence O'Brien: How long ago was this? Ten years ago?

Mr. John Radosevic: Oh, I don't know. Roughly.

But that's not the concern so much. I mean, people might be surprised. I think we can't be overly concerned about the economic competition from farm fish, but I think we need to be concerned about the health implications for wild salmon, and we do need to know that farmed salmon is seen for what it is, not as some panacea. It has a value. It has a place. It can be safe, and there is a place for it. Obviously, restaurants like year-round fresh salmon. I prefer frozen sockeye steaks to an Atlantic salmon steak that's raised in a pen—I hope you don't take offence—but most people don't.

Mr. Lawrence O'Brien: I prefer wild, myself.

Mr. John Radosevic: So it's obviously got a value, and we recognize that. We're not saying take it away. We're saying regulate it and put it in its place so there's room and it's integrated with all the other fish species that make up the total value of the fisheries in British Columbia, which, again—I just want to keep saying this—is $900 million, and hasn't dipped since 1993.

Mr. Lawrence O'Brien: Very quickly, I have one last point, and it's on the science of all of this. How do you feel about the science of the B.C. fisheries in relation to aquaculture and wild stocks and integration and all the other things?

Mr. John Radosevic: I think that science at DFO has been badly, badly undermined by budget cuts. Enforcement has been badly undermined by budget cuts. I think the science is far less, even though the people who are in the field do their best with diminishing resources.

The Chair: Thank you, John.

• 1450

John, to come back to the round table, you said “independent facilitated”. Do you mean by other than DFO, or by having a consulting firm or whatever do it? What do you mean there?

Mr. John Radosevic: I've heard that the West Coast Sustainability Association has put forward the names of some eminent people who can be trusted to run a process that is open and transparent and will, at the end of the day, have reports that are meaningful to the people who are giving them. I've heard there are people who are pointing at the Fraser River Basin Council as another organization that might enjoy some support somewhere in the industry that's not DFO.

Just because this issue of trust is so prominent now, you really have to do something different from just another DFO process, in order for people to have any confidence in it. That's not to say people are deliberately dishonest, but I think there's a tendency to mould the advisory processes of DFO to get out of them what DFO wants, as opposed to... I just think we have to get away from that.

Unless you ask me more questions, I won't get into any details, but there are many examples we could provide of that kind of activity by DFO.

The Chair: Okay. Thank you very much, John.

Mr. John Radosevic: Thank you. You'll never get my name right, Wayne, if you don't even get it spelled right on the card, you know.

The Chair: Is it not spelled right?

Mr. John Radosevic: No.

The Chair: I'll correct it.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Save it for when we get back to Ottawa.

If Mr. Radosevic could supply us with the names of some of those fish farm employees, perhaps they could call us. If their employment wouldn't be affected, it would be interesting to talk to them to see where they work, what their concerns are, and what they've seen.

Mr. John Radosevic: I'd be happy to help.

The Chair: We'd appreciate that.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: We could do that behind the door.

The Chair: Thank you very much, John.

The spelling came from the NDP, I'm told.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: No, it didn't.

The Chair: Okay. We will turn to the next witnesses, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. I believe there are four or five people: Stewart Phillip, Tom Nelson, Victor Isaac, and Ardith Walkem.

Welcome, folks. Is Victor still here? Is he coming up? I believe, Victor, we'll see you again.

Mr. Phillip, are you leading off?

Mr. Stewart Phillip (President, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs): Yes.

The Chair: Go ahead.

Mr. Stewart Phillip: Thank you. Shall we introduce ourselves?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Stewart Phillip: All right. With me is Ardith Walkem. She's from Spences Bridge, and is the legal in-house counsel for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Tom Nelson is from the Kwakiutl District Council, and Victor Isaac is from the Namgis First Nation.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is a political organization that represents indigenous people from across the province. Our primary mandate is to protect the aboriginal title and rights of our members.

The reason we have requested an appearance before you here today is because the continuing growth of fish farms and aquaculture operations threatens and infringes on aboriginal title and rights. Fish farms are of great concern to the membership of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs' membership unanimously passed a resolution expressing our united opposition to fish farms.

• 1455

Salmon and other marine resources provide the bulk of the diet for many indigenous peoples in this province. The oceans and rivers are the gardens in which aboriginal peoples harvest food. This is the reason aboriginal peoples are so concerned about fish farms. Any actions that threaten salmon or marine life threaten our health, well-being, and the livelihood of our peoples. Fish farms completely contaminate and destroy their immediate environment and threaten marine life and indigenous fish stocks.

All indigenous nations' territories include streams, rivers, or oceans. Each and every indigenous nation is therefore impacted by fish farms. Fish farms seriously and severely impact aboriginal lands and waters. Water is contaminated, poisoning salmon, shellfish, and other marine life. The immediate dangers include disease, destruction of habitat, and escaped farm salmon forcefully displacing other marine life, such as herring and oolichan, or colonizing indigenous salmon stocks.

Currently, within British Columbia there is a grave crisis in the fishery. The fishery has been totally mismanaged to such a great extent that there are fewer and fewer indigenous salmon available. Many species of indigenous salmon have become endangered and are on the verge of extinction. Fish farms will push the fishery further toward the brink of absolute extinction.

Salmon are a resource greatly treasured and shared by all indigenous peoples within British Columbia. They are born in one area, grow to maturity in another, and live their adult lives in ocean waters to return to the place of their birth for their life cycle to continue. Salmon bind all of our people together. When salmon are threatened, the livelihood and way of life of all indigenous peoples are threatened.

The right of aboriginal peoples to the fishery stems from the fact that salmon and other ocean resources have been and continue to be an integral part of the lives and cultures of indigenous peoples. In order for our aboriginal rights to continue to exist, salmon have to continue to exist.

Fish farms threaten the continued existence of indigenous salmon stocks and also other marine resources. I want to draw to your attention to seven separate areas in which farm salmon and aquaculture operations pose a danger to indigenous salmon stocks and all marine life.

Number one is disease. The high-density pens in which Atlantic salmon are farmed provide an ideal breeding ground for outbreaks of disease and infections. In order to control this problem, farm salmon are fed antibiotics on a regular basis. The risk of farm salmon infecting our salmon stocks is very high. This is particularly so given the open-net cages that are in use in British Columbia, which allow ocean waters to flow freely through the net cages, carrying disease, waste, and bacteria into ocean waters.

In Atlantic Canada and in other areas of the world, hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon have had to be killed because they became infected with diseases that could potentially infect us and our salmon stocks. We do not want this to happen here.

Farm salmon are fed antibiotics to fight naturally occurring diseases. The antibiotics can cause the diseases to mutate, and their mutant strains are released into ocean waters, exposing indigenous stocks. Viral, fungal, and bacterial infections have been passed to our stocks as a result of fish farms.

Shellfish have been found with a highly abnormal concentration of antibiotics. Our people who rely more heavily on shellfish have their health compromised because of the accumulated amounts of antibiotics that are ingested through shellfish.

And there is pollution. The effluent that is released by farmed salmon is staggering. The sewage from thousands of contained farm salmon, together with debris of feeding pellets and other toxic materials, is released directly into the waters our people rely upon for our food. Some clam and kelp beds that are located in close proximity to fish farms have become completely unusable because they are so contaminated by fish farm waste.

• 1500

A fish farm is equivalent to having an untreated and unregulated sewage facility on our shores. Pollution and effluent flow freely from the fish pens and cause more resident species of fish and marine life to disappear from the area as a direct result of the destruction of their habitat.

Oceans are the gardens that sustain the lives of many indigenous peoples. Ask yourselves, would you like this type of volume of toxic pollution to be released on a daily basis into your garden or food supply?

There is predation on young stock. Young herring and salmon are drawn to fish farm cages because of the lights that are illuminated at night. These young herring and salmon are eaten by the farm fish. In some instances farm fish eat so many of the young indigenous stocks that they have little need of additional food.

There is the problem of algae. Effluent from fish farms provides ideal conditions for algae to grow. Algae can kill indigenous stocks either by poisoning them through the production of toxins or through the deprivation of oxygen caused by massive algae growth. In addition, shellfish are vulnerable to the toxins produced by excessive growth of algae. Toxins from algae can contaminate shellfish, making them unsafe to eat.

There is the problem of drugs and chemicals. In addition to antibiotics, fish farms introduce a variety of other chemicals into the water. These chemicals poison the water and build up in the food supply. The drugs and chemicals include colourants to make the flesh of farm salmon red, and fungicides. These chemicals escape into the surrounding waters, potentially poisoning resident marine life and eventually poisoning our peoples as the chemicals accumulate in the food chain.

There is the problem of colonization. Farm salmon that escape from their pens pose significant risk to indigenous stocks. The salmon that are farmed in B.C. are not indigenous to B.C. waters. Primarily because they are easier to factory-produce, fish farms produce Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon are not true biological salmon but are genetically trout. Unlike genetically true salmon, Atlantic salmon can spawn more than once, and there's the possibility that they could live in our rivers and lakes for several years, producing more than one generation of young.

A primary concern of indigenous peoples is that the Atlantic salmon continue to escape from their pens and may begin to colonize and overtake the habitat of existing indigenous salmon. Over the past five years hundreds of thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon have escaped. There is no recovery system in place and no way of tracking what happens to these fish once they are loose in the ocean.

The province has assured us that the Atlantic salmon cannot spawn in B.C. waters. However, there have been numerous incidents where Atlantic salmon have already been found spawning in rivers on Vancouver Island. We have spoken to elders on the Fraser River system who have found numerous Atlantic salmon in their fishing nets migrating with the indigenous salmon to their spawning grounds.

Farm salmon can migrate with indigenous stocks into inland spawning areas. In British Columbia, Atlantic salmon have been found 100 miles up the Skeena River, over 250 miles from the nearest fish farm. On Vancouver Island, Atlantic salmon have been found in the Zeballos and Tahsis Rivers. Bearing in mind that one spawning Atlantic salmon can produce in excess of 4,000 eggs, the dangers are great that Atlantic salmon can displace our own already endangered and fragile indigenous salmon stocks.

There is the danger of displacement of herring, oolichan, and rock cod. Fish farms located near herring spawning grounds or the traditional habitat of oolichan and rock cod have caused these species to abandon their traditional areas.

There is aboriginal title. Those indigenous nations on whose waters fish farms are located experience immediate and destructive impacts. Traditional harvesting grounds, clam beds, herring spawning grounds, as well as the waters and the water beds are contaminated and poisoned. Any use of aboriginal title lands, including waters, requires the full and informed consent of the indigenous nations concerned. The provincial government has ignored the concerns and opposition of indigenous peoples on this issue.

The federal government has a responsibility for ensuring that all indigenous salmon and all other marine resources are adequately protected and safe. The federal government also has a fiduciary duty to ensure that aboriginal title and rights are fully and properly protected.

• 1505

Fish farms pose a very real and ongoing threat to the fishing rights of aboriginal people and to the aboriginal title of those indigenous peoples located on ocean waters. All indigenous nations that rely upon marine resources or salmon have their rights as well as their health jeopardized and threatened by fish farms.

The right to fish enjoyed by all indigenous peoples will be hollow and meaningless if indigenous salmon stocks become extinct and other marine resources are poisoned past the point where they can no longer safely be eaten by our people. Without fish there is no right to fish. Fish farms move salmon away from being a natural resource that is both precious and sacred to indigenous peoples and turn our oceans into factories that manufacture commercially cloned salmon for market.

When government authorizes any activities, they have a legal duty to ensure that these activities do not abrogate or derogate from aboriginal title of rights. It is clear that fish farms seriously derogate aboriginal title and rights, both with their threat to indigenous salmon and other marine life and the siting of fish farms on aboriginal title waters and lands of aboriginal people with the resultant pollution, denial of access to traditional marine resources, and harvesting grounds.

In the present case, government has not undertaken any serious study about the impact fish farms will have upon our aboriginal title or rights. At a minimum, fish farms reduce the ability of aboriginal title lands and waters to sustain indigenous peoples, reduce the economic benefit to indigenous peoples of those lands and waters, and will potentially halt or restrict any further access to the fishery through poisoning or displacing indigenous marine resources.

The limited economic benefits of factory-producing farm salmon cannot override our aboriginal right to the fishery and cannot erase the relationship we have had with the fishery for generations. As well, any analysis of the economic benefits of factory-produced farm salmon has to take into account the economic loss that indigenous people suffer and the loss to all British Columbians and Canadians should indigenous salmon become extinct.

Allowing fish farms to go ahead in our marine waters is like an acknowledgement of defeat on the part of the federal government. It would be like deciding that indigenous salmon stocks cannot be saved and therefore deciding to turn our oceans and waters into a factory for producing farm fish foreign to our waters.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs makes several recommendations to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Canada about the actions that are necessary in order to preserve indigenous salmon stocks and other marine resources from the dangers posed by fish farms. We urge the standing committee to take these recommendations seriously, as the health and continued existence of our salmon and marine resources are dependent upon the federal government taking action to halt fish farms in B.C. waters.

The first recommendation is that the federal government dedicate adequate resources toward the restoration of the indigenous salmon stocks and other marine resources in British Columbia.

The second recommendation is that the federal government, under its constitutional jurisdiction over fisheries and oceans, exercise its discretion to halt the development of any new aquaculture operations in British Columbia. The preservation of indigenous salmon stocks and other marine resources requires a policy of zero tolerance to fish farms on the part of the federal government. Other jurisdictions, such as Washington State, have recognized this fact.

The third recommendation is that existing fish farms be removed from locations that permit them to infringe upon aboriginal title and rights of indigenous peoples either because they poison local marine resources or because they deny access to traditional harvesting areas to indigenous peoples.

The fourth recommendation is that existing fish farms be removed from marine waters and transferred to entirely land-contained systems that do not have the potential to endanger indigenous salmon stocks or other marine resources.

Fifth is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada undertake a comprehensive review of the impact that fish farms and aquaculture have on the aboriginal title and rights of the indigenous peoples who rely upon the fishery and marine resources for our livelihood. This review should investigate risk to the aboriginal right to fish of all indigenous people. Fish farms and aquaculture operations pose a serious risk to the rights to fish of all indigenous peoples in B.C., both in marine and inland fisheries.

• 1510

DFOC should investigate economic and cultural losses suffered by indigenous communities as a result of fish farms. Indigenous communities suffer significant economic and cultural losses as a result of fish farms, including the denial of access to salmon, shellfish, and other marine resources because of the imposition and presence of fish farms and the contamination of traditional harvesting areas by the effluent released from fish farms.

DFOC should investigate the health risk posed to indigenous peoples by fish farms. Indigenous peoples endure greater health risk posed by fish farms because of the proximity of many of our communities to fish farms and also due to our dietary dependence and reliance on fish and other marine resources. The effluent and waste materials discharged from fish farms therefore has a greater impact on the health and well-being of indigenous populations. The health component of the review should include study of the cumulative impact of antibiotics and other chemicals used in fish farming upon indigenous peoples who rely so heavily upon fish, shellfish, and marine resources as a staple part of our diet.

DFOC should investigate the impact on indigenous salmon stocks and other marine resources of the Atlantic salmon that have escaped and will escape from existing fish farms. Hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon have already escaped from existing fish farms. This review must include a serious investigation of the incidents where Atlantic salmon have escaped, where they have been observed migrating with indigenous salmon stocks, and also where they have been observed spawning in B.C. rivers.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Phillip. You certainly didn't put that submission together over a cup of coffee. There's been a lot of work that went into it, and we appreciate that.

Mr. Duncan.

Mr. John Duncan: Thank you.

We've met before, in Penticton not that many years ago. Stewart, I welcome you to the committee.

I'd like you to clear up some confusion for me. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs' membership used to consist of those bands not a part of the B.C. treaty process. Is that still the case?

Mr. Stewart Phillip: I really appreciate the question. As you may or may not be aware, the B.C. treaty process is very badly failing those who have subscribed to that process in good faith. As a consequence, more and more communities that are in fact part of that process are turning to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs for advice and direction with respect to the predicament they find themselves in.

At the moment, the First Nations Summit is on the decline and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is on the rise.

Mr. John Duncan: In other words, there are now members who are theoretically still involved in the treaty process who are also members of your organization. Is that fair to say?

Mr. Stewart Phillip: I was watching the NDP leadership convention all weekend, and there's a significant crossover happening with people within the First Nations Summit. This is for those reasons that the treaty process hasn't delivered what it promised it would, and communities are looking for alternatives to have their rights dealt with and addressed in a far more timely manner than seven years of meaningless negotiations.

Mr. John Duncan: When I look at the aquaculture position paper I see that it's jointly attributed to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and to the—and I can never pronounce it right—Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council. Is there a reason why both names are listed?

Mr. Stewart Phillip: Ardith will respond to that.

• 1515

Ms. Ardith Walkem (Lawyer, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs): I think this particular issue is something that has unified indigenous people from across B.C. Whether or not indigenous people are in the treaty process or outside of it, I think there is a unity in indigenous communities on this issue. The right to fish and the protection of the salmon resource cuts across all of those other boundaries. For example, the union has worked very closely with the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council in putting together this position. It's one of those issues that doesn't really know those political boundaries.

Mr. John Duncan: So is it fair to say the Musgamagw are not currently a member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs?

Mr. Tom Nelson (Spokesperson, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs): I'm not really quite sure if they are at this time.

Mr. John Duncan: That's fair enough.

Mr. Victor Isaac (Vice-President, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs): Yes, we have some of the tribal council members within the treaty process, and some are without. As I said, there's growing concern about the lack of proper consultation and the treaty process going nowhere. We're finding more and more going to the union now. There are members from both, so that's what's happening right now.

Mr. John Duncan: I think it was important to establish that, Mr. Chair.

I have a couple of technical questions. On page 8 of the document there is a reference to the zero-tolerance policy of other governments, and it makes reference to Washington State. Surely that must be Alaska, is it not? Is that not an incorrect statement?

The Chair: Recommendation 2, you mean, John?

Mr. John Duncan: It's on page 8.

The Chair: Yes, I have page 8. Recommendation 2 says “other jurisdictions such as Washington”—

Mr. John Duncan: Yes. I think that might mean to be referenced to Alaska, because we just came from Washington, and they certainly have fish farms down there.

Mr. Tom Nelson: It was Alaska that didn't want to have anything to do with Atlantic salmon. They did put news out for us British Columbians to keep our Atlantic salmon in our own waters. I thought that was a farce, because the Atlantic salmon is not a British Columbian fish. They belong in the Atlantic Ocean. So they were telling the wrong people. Anyway, it's people who lost their Atlantic salmon.

Would you like me to go on about the Atlantic salmon?

The Chair: No. I think the point, Tom, is that it shouldn't say Washington State here, it should say Alaska, should it not?

Mr. Tom Nelson: Yes, it should have been Alaska.

Mr. John Duncan: Fair enough. I thought maybe there was something I was missing there.

The earlier presentation indicated that there are 37 fish farms on KTFC territory. This document indicates about 50, and I'm excluding the ones that have NF beside them. Am I somehow misreading the chart or the table?

Mr. Victor Isaac: These are existing licences where the farms are not in place yet, and there are existing licences where the actual farms are in place and running. So there's expansion like what Pat talked about earlier: in the KTFC the 100 feet by 100 feet was expanded to 200 by 200. The other ones are still in the making. They're planned to go ahead, but some of them aren't in place yet. So existing ones compared to non-existing ones—that's the point.

Mr. John Duncan: Okay.

• 1520

The Chair: Mr. Stoffer.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Folks, thank you very much for your presentation. It's very well done.

I can understand your appreciation toward the distrust of government, when the Pacific Salmon Treaty was negotiated without consultation with yourselves and when you have fin-fish farms placed in your areas without consultation.

We heard earlier that most aboriginal people will not eat or touch Atlantic salmon. Is that the same for your organization?

Mr. Tom Nelson: Yes. Do you want me to give you a little history on it?

Mr. Peter Stoffer: We probably don't have time, but generally—

Mr. Tom Nelson: One of the fish farms gave one of our people 12 Atlantic salmon to barbecue. He barbecued it the way we native people do it. It was there cooking away, and all of a sudden all the flesh fell off it. So he just grabbed the whole thing and threw it in the fire. He said he wouldn't even eat it if that's the way it's going to cook.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: I'm trying to narrow it down. If you want the fin-fish farms out of your territories and you want a land-based one, would you allow them to go into your territory, on your lands? If they can provide some sort of economic opportunity in terms of jobs, would you allow the farmers to go on your lands to deal with that?

Mr. Tom Nelson: Yes, under the treaty conditions, and I would like to see it go that route. Can I explain why?

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Yes.

Mr. Tom Nelson: The fellow over there asked the question about escaped Atlantic fish. They have not proven to me or to first nations people that they can stop these Atlantic salmon from escaping. I know for a fact that in Port Hardy they are still towing these pens full of fish. One year they lost $70,000, because it hung up on a reef and they lost the whole thing. Just recently they lost 30,000 Atlantic salmon again.

If they're going to try to convince us that they're not doing any harm to our waters, our rivers, they're really going to have to prove to us that they mean business. We know there's a lot of money to be made in Atlantic salmon, but I will not go along with it until they can prove to us that they will not harm our marine resources.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: This is my last question. I know you came here to discuss the fin-fish farms and that, but what about oil and gas exploration, in terms of the moratorium that's on there now? Has the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs gotten together to discuss that opportunity or non-opportunity in terms of exploration of the waters on the west coast?

You talked about what fin-fish farms do to the indigenous stocks and to the health of indigenous peoples, but have you given any consideration to oil and gas exploration, what it may do to the stocks—and of course what it would do to your people as well?

Mr. Stewart Phillip: Speaking for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, our involvement in those kinds of issues goes back to the Alaska pipeline. But I remember there was that west coast oil port inquiry many years ago, and the union was heavily involved in those hearings for those very reasons, concerns about the environment.

Our more recent involvement in the oil and gas issues was when we were up in the Treaty 8 area around Fort St. John about a week ago. Indigenous people and oil and gas exploration do not reconcile. There's always a great concern about the effects of energy and exploration and what that will bring in terms of a detriment to the environment and the wildlife. That concern is not restricted to the north. It's also along the coast and what not.

Right now, the concern is the fish farms. We listened to some of the other questions and debate around this table about the technology vis-à-vis the pens. No matter what style of pen you have, the effluent and the disease and what not washes into the surrounding waters. There's the issue of the 100,000 escaped salmon that is documented, but it's also the disease and effluent and what not that is polluting the ocean waters.

• 1525

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you.

The Chair: Victor, I think you want to make a point.

Mr. Victor Isaac: When you talk about the possibility of putting them on land, some first nations are interested, but among the Musqueam there's total zero tolerance. There are too many unanswered questions, too many possibilities of disease transfer, and the pristine clam beds and prawns and whale-watching outfits that are within the territories are all being affected because of these farms that are in place. There's the noise, things that scare the seals away. And the migration of the whales, which is for tourism, has been affected. Everything has been affected since these have come into this area. So there's a great concern for these things to be out of the Musqueam Tribal Council area.

Also, I want to thank the union for giving me a couple of minutes to talk here. One of the concerns I want to bring across today, and I didn't have the chance earlier, was Dhaliwal's talk the other day on providing employment for the first nations communities or the coastal communities that have been affected by fishing.

I went to talk to a fellow named Ted Needham to see exactly what was offered out there job-wise. He told me these jobs are for a young person. For $1,500 a month, you can work work two weeks on and two weeks off. So it's not really being of any benefit to the fishermen who are out of the industry.

I want to make that clear, because I have done some inquiring and investigating to see exactly what jobs were available. There are some. A relative of mine who sold out under the business fishing industry is running a packer for the farms, and he tells me there are escapes every day. It's a common, everyday happening, and he's on the grounds every day.

One of the things that happens is that the nets are chewed up by the propellers when they're loading. They go too close to the nets, so the propeller chops it under the water. This is happening all the time. He tells me these things because he works on the site every day.

So there are all kinds of problems with it. There are escapes, disease transfers. These things are happening all the time. As John Radosevic said earlier, people don't want to say their names or come up, because they're scared of being fired. But it is happening, and to hear this firsthand just adds to our concern.

Plus, there are the employment lies. I watched CPAC the other night when he was on there, and he talked about employment for the coastal communities. It's totally wrong. It's not giving any. It may be good for existing welding companies, or existing net companies, or restaurants or something like that, but the coastal community fishermen aren't going to benefit at all, because there's no real job attached to it.

It's $1,500 a month, two weeks on, two weeks off, and he told me it's for a single person. In other words, don't even apply.

The Chair: Mr. Nelson, you want to make a point.

Mr. Tom Nelson: I'm going to talk about Atlantic salmon again. I'm not going to be long.

In my lifetime, I've lived in Port Alice, and I've reported over and over the dead herring that have been washed up on the beach. I was told at the time, that always happens. Then when Utah Mines came into our sound, they promised us they would never pollute Quatsino Sound. I lived there most of my life, with my grandparents, and I did see a big change in that area. The clam beds in which we used to dig and capture our crabs was right in a bay where Utah Mines were, and we were told never to go back there again because all the shellfish, and so on, were polluted.

What I'm getting at about Atlantic fish farms is I've talked to DFO over and over again, and they told me they will not harm our environment.

Even one of the fish farm managers in Campbell River told me, what is it going to take to prove to you first nations that we are not harming the shellfish, polluting it? I told him it's very easy. I said all you farmers have to do is dig up the clams in that area and invite us to come and watch you feast on those clams. He told me he can't do it, because he has to have it tested. So what does that tell you?

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Anyway, the decline of the salmon has gone too far. Conservation must be extended. That means restoration. You can't dam rivers and have salmon. You can't pollute rivers and have salmon. Clean water doesn't mean anything to salmon unless they can get to it.

I read an article yesterday on Iceland. I wish that fellow was here. In Iceland a fellow wanted to go and fish in the river, and what did they tell him? They said “Did you treat your fishing gear before you came?” The young fellow said no. So they had to put it in a formula, in a solution, to protect the Atlantic salmon river against disease.

So what protection are we going to get against diseases and the harm the Atlantic salmon fish farms are going to do to us?

The Chair: Mr. Sekora.

Mr. Lou Sekora (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Lib.): Yes, they have disease among the farm fish. We've heard from scientists, from doctors, and there seems to be a whole lot we're hearing today that there are so many chemicals and so many antibiotics fed to these fish. They want the doctors to produce something that for the whole year would be about the size of an egg.

I think there's a lot of fright and a lot of scare being put into what's happening with the salmon. At least that's what I'm seeing when I'm listening to what's happening.

I don't see any reason why this doctor and the scientist would be coming in here and lying to us about this product that they use a lot more.

Secondly, if farm fish are that bad, I wonder why the provincial government's pushing it to have it more and more open.

Mr. Tom Nelson: They blame each other, the feds and the province.

Mr. Lou Sekora: No, I'm talking about the provincial government, who had a moratorium and now they lifted it. It wasn't the federal government that lifted the moratorium, it was the provincial government that lifted the moratorium. Why?

Mr. Tom Nelson: Because there's money involved. It's just like any other thing. Look what they did to Utah Mines. They said they would never pollute our inlet, and they did.

Mr. Lou Sekora: Okay.

Mr. Tom Nelson: And we're afraid of what they're going to do too.

Mr. Lou Sekora: Okay. My last question. You say that the growth of fish farms and aquacultural operations infringe on aboriginal title and rights. What do you mean by that?

Mr. Tom Nelson: Where all the fish farms are... I'll let Ardith answer that.

Ms. Ardith Walkem: I want to answer your first question first.

I guess you've had a doctor in here and you're asking what's the concern. The doctor tells you there's this much effluent or something being released in the water. But I want you to know... And this has happened, for example, in the Fraser River with respect to mercury poisoning that's been found in fish. They tell us if you're just an average British Columbian, an average Canadian, the amount of chemicals isn't going to damage you, because the average Canadian or the average British Columbian doesn't eat that much salmon, doesn't eat that much shellfish.

You have to realize that indigenous peoples eat a lot more fish. We're very much more dependent upon the salmon and upon the marine resources. So what might be an acceptable level to your average Canadian to us becomes toxic and becomes poisonous. I know that your doctor didn't look at that, because those studies... The accumulation of these sorts of chemicals in the food chain hasn't been investigated in its impact on indigenous peoples, who are far more dependent upon those resources.

The other issue is how does it infringe on our aboriginal title and rights. With respect to title, this is really a very, very big issue, because these farms are sited on the waters. For example, we have two people here who are Kwakiutl, and farms have been sited in their waters without their permission. What happens is the sewage from those farms is released directly into the waters, those chemicals are released directly into those waters. They've said already that the clam beds they rely upon are shut down. So the economic value of the lands and waters of the people is lost when those resources are poisoned.

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The other thing that the union thinks is really important is that it also has an impact on the aboriginal right to fish of all indigenous peoples, even inland, in the interior, nowhere near the ocean. For example, we've had an elder from Lytton, 300 miles up the Fraser Canyon, find Atlantic salmon in his net. You might wonder what's the big deal, but maybe you've heard of knotweed, or other weeds, for example, that have come over from Europe and are causing really big problems because they're starting to overtake fields and such. We have the introduction of foreign species.

Well, we're having a foreign species introduced in B.C. waters. Atlantic salmon are not indigenous. And the right is threatened, because if these things get into our waters there is a very real possibility that they could start to spawn there and overtake the indigenous salmon species. They have been found very far upriver, and that's a very serious concern, I think, to all indigenous people.

Mr. Lou Sekora: I have one last question. The fact is that you can detect disease in farm fish, but in the wild there are also diseases but there's no way of detecting it as readily as you would on a farm. Would you agree with me on that?

Ms. Ardith Walkem: I think one of the biggest dangers, for example, is you might have a naturally occurring disease in both farmed and natural populations, but when you feed these fish antibiotics what happens is that the bacteria mutate so that they can live despite the antibiotic. We see this happening in human populations. Doctors are telling us we have to decrease reliance on antibiotics because we feed humans so much antibiotics that—

Mr. Lou Sekora: But you're talking about farmed fish, and I'm talking about the wild.

Ms. Ardith Walkem: Yes. So what happens is that there is very great potential, with all of the antibiotics they are fed, that you are causing strains of bacteria to mutate, and those mutant strains are being released. If it's a naturally occurring disease, the wild stocks may have developed some form of immunity or way of dealing with it. But when that bacteria mutates and it's released into the environment, then the wild stocks don't have built-in facilities to deal with that.

Mr. Lou Sekora: Thank you.

The Chair: Sarkis.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: I have a question for you, Mr. Chairman. Can you tell me if we have any Atlantic salmon fish farming industry?

The Chair: On the east coast?

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Yes.

The Chair: Yes, we do. Lots of—

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: How do you deal with the escape of the fish?

The Chair: It's not a problem there. We will be doing a tour on the east coast as well, Sarkis.

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: Right, that's what I want.

The Chair: Do you have any other questions?

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian: No thanks.

The Chair: Okay. No further questions?

Thank you, folks. Mr. Phillip, do you want a last word?

Mr. Stewart Phillip: Yes. The question about salmon escaping on the east coast is a no-brainer question. So what if they escape? They're indigenous to the Atlantic and that's their habitat. It's a senseless question.

On the matter of what you believe and don't believe, I wouldn't be sitting here if I were to take the word of one person. I'm a liver cancer survivor, and there were a number of doctors I listened to, not the first one. If I had simply listened to the first one, I wouldn't be sitting here.

You can bring all kinds of science into this room and you can bring science in here that's pro-industry, that's for fish farming, and they could tell you anything, and you would probably love to hear it. But there's also the other side of the coin, which I would hope this committee is prepared to listen to and not come in here with pre-determined notions of the issue.

The Chair: I have to say, Mr. Phillip, that certainly we're prepared to hear all sides of the issue, and we certainly have. We're not going in with blinders on, I can assure you of that.

Mr. Stoffer, a quick point.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Mr. Phillip, just for your point of information, I come from the east coast, and we have very grave concerns over the aquaculture fin-fish farms in the Bay of Fundy and the pollution they—

The Chair: We not going to debate east coast and west coast at this time, Peter.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: No, but I just want to let Mr. Phillip know that the concern is equally as great on the east coast, and we will be travelling there to ascertain those concerns as well. We thank you for your presentation.

• 1540

Mr. Stewart Phillip: The other point I wanted to bring up was I'm from Penticton, and the Okanagan Lake kokanee stock totally collapsed because scientists who shouldn't have been listened to brought Mysis shrimp into the Okanagan Lake system, thinking that it would enhance the stocks. In fact it destroyed them, because it became the main competitor for the same food. So these issues need proper scrutiny.

The Chair: We would agree that they need proper scrutiny. Okay, thank you.

Our last point then goes to Victor, and then we've got to close, because we're starting to run late. Go ahead.

Mr. Victor Isaac: On the rights and title question, there's a grave concern for first nations on a lot of those things. When you pop 40 or 50 farms on sites where they used to pick medicinal plants and things like that, and do prawn fishing and crab fishing and other harvesting in those areas, it's a grave concern on rights and titles, because it has totally affected the way of life for those first nations in that area. So there are lots of things that come into play on this, and that's just one of them.

Tom has one more thing.

Mr. Tom Nelson: I do want to ask a short question here, and I'd like an answer.

You know, they introduced Atlantic salmon on our coast here, and everybody chuckles and everything else about when we raised that issue about Atlantic salmon, about the diseases and everything else. I know that they have problems in the east and in Norway and all of that. Why can't you all gather up the information and bring it to us and let us know what their problems are and then make sure it does not happen in our British Columbia waters?

Thank you.

The Chair: I think, Mr. Nelson, that's what we're trying to do, gather up what information we can. As has already been said, there are many, many sides to the issue. We're trying to figure it out for ourselves. We'll report to the minister on aquaculture, on the aboriginal fisheries strategy, and the Oceans Act in due course. The government will take those recommendations into consideration in its determination on where to go.

Mr. Tom Nelson: Then they should shut down the Atlantic salmon fish farmers in our area until you get all of the information, before they totally wipe out our wild stock in all of our rivers.

Thank you.

The Chair: We've heard your point of view.

Thank you, folks, for coming.

Our next witnesses are from DFO. It will be an in camera session. I want to take a five-minute break before we start it. We'll be in camera, meaning that there will be only members and committee staff and one staff for each member if they're here. That means that everybody else is excluded from the hearing.

A voice: How come the DFO gets in camera?

The Chair: Let me explain that to you, ma'am. We've had DFO at other public hearings. This is with enforcement personnel only, and we're trying to find out what's going on on the water.

[Editor's Note: Proceedings continue in camera]