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FOPO Committee Report

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Mr. Rodney Weston
Chair Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans
House of Commons Ottawa
Dear Mr. Weston:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to respond to the 2nd report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled Condition of the Eelgrass Beds in James Bay, March 11, 2009.

The Government recognizes the concerns presented to the Standing Committee by the Chisasibi Nation of James Bay, and has given serious consideration to the report and its recommendations on research into the effect of environmental changes on eelgrass beds, and the establishment of a program of research and monitoring of the James and Hudson Bay ecosystems.

Considerable relevant scientific information on changes in the James Bay ecosystem has already been collected by federal and provincial agencies, the Chisasibi Nation, Hydro-Quebec and others, particularly in relation to declines in eelgrass distribution and abundance, changes in numbers and movements of migrating waterfowl, changes in the salinity of coastal waters, and altered flow patterns of rivers flowing into the Bay. As a consequence, it is prudent to review and evaluate the information currently available, to identify specific needs for appropriate monitoring and research.

Therefore, the Government proposes that a science assessment be undertaken, in which current information on ecosystem changes on the east coast of James Bay would be collected, reviewed and interpreted, and potential causes for these changes and linkages among them assessed. This process would be undertaken by Environment Canada, and would include scientists from other government departments and pertinent provincial agencies, corporations, academic institutions and the Chisasibi Nation, together with members of coastal Aboriginal communities who would contribute complementary traditional knowledge.

This science assessment would assess the effects of changes in the aquatic ecosystem of James Bay on the abundance and distribution of eelgrass and waterfowl, and clarify needs for further research and monitoring. It would identify opportunities to improve the status of eelgrass and waterfowl populations in James Bay, and to ensure the continued availability of these natural resources to residents of local communities.

The Government wishes to thank the Committee for undertaking this review of matters relating to the condition of eelgrass beds in James Bay. The report and its recommendations represent a valuable contribution to the Government's efforts to understand the complex interactions in the James Bay coastal ecosystem.