That's perfect. Thank you.
First I'd like to extend my gratitude to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for inviting the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association to appear before the committee this morning via video conference.
My name is Mike Melnik. I am the managing director of the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association, the CSIA.
The Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association is a not-for-profit organization that, as its name suggests, is comprised of Canadian companies and organizations that manufacture, sell, and promote products that help Canadians enjoy recreational fishing. From rod and reel manufacturers such as Shimano Canada to national retailers such as Canadian Tire, to television personalities such as Bob Izumi, the CSIA speaks on behalf of the recreational fishing industry, an industry that annually generates billions of dollars for Canada’s economy.
The health of our industry and to a degree the health of the economy relies on a sustainable, science-based fishery, open and free access to public waters, and a growing participation in the well-established Canadian heritage activity of recreational fishing. One of the keys to healthy recreational fishing is open access to the many quality fishing opportunities that exist in Canada. Without these opportunities, not only does recreational fishing suffer, but so do the related jobs and the economy.
The CSIA works hard to promote recreational fishing to Canadians through national fishing week each summer and throughout the year via mainstream and social media channels. Also, our association’s government affairs chair, Phil Morlock, represents the industry and the interests of recreational anglers on Parliament Hill. Mr. Morlock is a founding member of the Outdoor Caucus Association of Canada, which acts as liaison between the all-party Outdoor Caucus of Canada and the fishing, hunting, trapping, and sport-shooting industries.
We realize that this committee’s study includes a number of important issues. Because of time constraints today, I thought the best use of my opening remarks would be to focus on our association’s observations concerning the positive impacts of recreational fishing on Canada’s economy and on the physical and mental well-being of Canadians.
Over the past decade, the CSIA has produced two reports on the impact of recreational fishing to Canada’s economy. The most recent survey or report was released in 2013 based on the following sources: Survey of Recreational Fishing 2010 by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and also previous editions; Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; Statistics Canada; provincial and territorial government websites; Travel Activities and Motivations Survey 2007; and of course sources within the Canadian recreational fishing industry.
The CSIA’s 2013 economic report entitled “Keep Canada Fishing” concluded that approximately nine million Canadians, more than 25% of the population, fish recreationally. It also concluded that recreational anglers spend approximately $8.3 billion annually to support their passion, and as a result they create jobs in tourism, transportation, retail goods, boating, vehicle sales, and much more. We have provided the committee with digital copies in both English and French of our “Keep Canada Fishing” document.
As you will note in the document, we present the economic facts of recreational fishing in a fun, relatable format with a number of comparisons. For example, did you know that anglers annually spend on fishing as much as Canadians spend on beer, and more than is spent at Tim Hortons nationally? Did you know that more adult Canadians fish than they play golf and hockey combined? Or did you know that an additional 300,000 Canadians bought a resident fishing licence in 2010 compared with in 2005?
When compared with commercial fishing, in 2010 anglers spent slightly less than five times the total value of commercial fishing—$8.3 billion compared with $1.7 billion. It’s a fact: recreational fishing has a powerful and positive impact on the Canadian economy, and the good news is that participation levels are growing.
The recently released results of the Canadian Nature Survey by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Task Force on the Value of Nature to Canadians support our conclusions. In a 12-month period, the task force surveyed 24,000 adults over the age of 18. According to the results, 22%, or 5.5 million adults, stated that they participated in recreational fishing during the 12-month survey period. And 36% were women.
Also, each angler spent an average of 27.3 days fishing during that 12-month period. The last fact alone underscores that recreational fishing isn’t a casual activity that Canadians take up once or twice a year when on vacation. We believe it proves that Canadians are passionate about recreational fishing.
I would like to take a moment to address the physical and mental health benefits of recreational fishing. Through our national fishing week promotion each July, we are in touch with hundreds of thousands of Canadians through mass media, social media, and local grassroots events.
To illustrate the reach of national fishing week, allow me to share a few highlights from 2014. We had over 200 media outlets air or run our public service announcements free of charge. Over 100 media outlets held national fishing week contests in major, medium, and small markets. We gave away over 600 rods and reels, courtesy of our members, through media contests such as morning show radio contests or television talk show contests. We gave away 10,000 Catch Fishing books through local events such as fishing derbies and family events. In total we received likely at least, if not a lot more than, $3 million of in-kind exposure through print, television, radio, and digital channels.
National fishing week was created 15 years ago by the former executive director of the CSIA, the late Rick Amsbury. I have been in the lead role of national fishing week since the beginning, and every year I receive hundreds of first-hand accounts from excited Canadians who have just gone fishing for the first time or for the first time in a long time.
This past summer our Facebook page was full of photos posted by parents, children, grandparents, and grandkids showing them smiling and laughing while holding a fish and, in some cases, one of the rods and reels they won through one of our media contests. Consider this just for a moment: all across the country for an hour or two, because of recreational fishing, all screens were shut off by thousands of people, allowing families and friends to spend time together in Canada’s great outdoors chatting, laughing, and fishing.
While this may be anecdotal evidence of recreational fishing’s health benefits, it has the power to bring families and friends together in the outdoors to talk, to laugh, to share, and to create lasting memories. I believe it is reasonable to conclude that recreational fishing is good for the body, mind, and soul.
I encourage you to visit our website www.catchfishing.com and our Facebook page, which is under Catch Fishing, to see the positive reaction we receive from Canadian anglers of all ages.
Recreational fishing is important to the economy. We believe it’s important to the health of Canadians and we, as the CSIA, are eager to work hard with like-minded individuals, organizations, government bodies, and universities to promote and protect recreational fishing.
Again I would like to thank you for inviting me and the CSIA to appear before the committee this morning.
First I would like to introduce myself. My name is Dr. Bruce Tufts. I am a professor at Queen's University. I'm a researcher. I teach fisheries biology, and my research area is fisheries biology. One of my areas of expertise is recreational angling. I've been at Queen's for over 25 years. During my entire career I've worked on different aspects of recreational angling and many of the conservation issues associated with that. I have recently written a major review paper in this area. So that's my background.
I have two important things that I would like to talk about today. The first one is something that points out the difference between commercial fisheries and recreational fisheries. One of the big differences between recreational fisheries and commercial fisheries is that the fish are caught individually. This means that anglers get an opportunity to select the fish that they're going to keep and they get an opportunity to select the fish they're going to put back. These days more anglers are putting back fish and releasing them alive than they are keeping them. While this may seem like a small difference, it's actually tremendously important, because it provides a foundation for sustainability. I think the biggest difference that I see between commercial fisheries and recreational fisheries is that, because of this process called selective harvest and live release of fish, recreational fisheries have the potential to be entirely sustainable, and many recreational fisheries these days are sustainable, which is in stark contrast to many of the commercial fisheries around the world.
This is the first thing I wanted to point out. I think it's extremely important. It speaks to the future of recreational fisheries in Canada and their potential.
The second thing that I wanted to talk about is a major review paper that I've written in the last year that talks about the economic impacts, conservation impacts, and social importance of recreational fishing.
Mike Melnik has talked about the economic value of recreational fishing in Canada, but one of the things I would like to point out as a scientist is that there's also tremendous potential to improve the economic value of recreational fishing in Canada. It's a sustainable activity. Whether we're looking at the east coast, looking at Atlantic salmon; at central Canada, looking at walleye fisheries and other inland fisheries; or other coastal fisheries, the steelhead fisheries on the west coast, all of these fisheries have issues that could be improved upon. There are numbers out there, such as those produced recently for Atlantic salmon, that show that, if the fishery was brought back to the peak levels of several decades ago, we could actually increase the economic value of those fisheries by, in the case of Atlantic salmon, 50%. So a value like $128 million, which is the value of the Atlantic salmon fishery, could be increased to almost $200 million by improving the fishery.
If we're looking across Canada, we see other situations, many of them where we could improve the economic value of the recreational fishery. In inland Canada we still have commercial fisheries for species such as walleye. It's been shown that in every instance, when you compare the numbers for the value of fish to the commercial fishery, you end up with less than a dollar a pound or a few dollars a pound. When you look at the value of those fish from an economic standpoint to the recreational fishery in the Canadian economy, the values are more like a hundred dollars or several hundred dollars a pound for those fish. The numbers are staggering. There are orders of magnitude differences between the value of a fish towards the recreational fishery versus the commercial fishery.
If we go to the west coast, there are also examples where, because of fishing practices, we have unselective harvest or unselective bycatch of species like steelhead. In other salmon fisheries, steelhead are an unintentional bycatch and are killed when they could have tremendous economic value if they were left in the recreational fishery.
I'm not going to get into any more examples, but all across the country, if we dig and look in detail, we see examples of where we could raise the economic value of recreational fisheries, and they are also a sustainable activity—very important thoughts for the future.
Another thing I want to point out is that in our recent review paper we looked at the conservation impact of anglers and the fact that, in many ways, anglers' dollars and anglers' time support science and conservation efforts for fisheries across the country. They're not just benefiting sport fish, they're benefiting habitat and ecosystems, which has benefits for non-sport fish species as well. Anglers become the main drivers of the conservation efforts that affect all of our aquatic ecosystems. That's one important point.
Another important point is that anglers' dollars, and in many cases efforts through logistical support, drive a lot of the science on aquatic species and aquatic ecosystems. We looked at the number of publications on sport fish and aquatic ecosystems versus those on non-sport fish. The numbers are hundreds and thousands of times higher for studies on sport fish. In many cases the dollars from those studies come from anglers' licence fees, they come from anglers' contributions to non-government organizations, and those studies are supported by volunteer time of anglers. That's a huge impact on science.
The last thing I want to talk about is the social benefit. In scientific circles these days, and in the scientific literature, there's something called nature deficit disorder. As we become more urbanized as a planet, and as a country, many people become so disconnected from nature that it's been described now as a disorder. As Mike Melnik pointed out—and we talked about this in our paper—the enjoyment that youth have going out learning what it is to catch a fish not only takes them away from their computers and their other electronic devices at that time; it also then provides a connection with aquatic resources and with nature that will be very important in the future. If we're going to look after aquatic environments, it's anglers and the young stewards who are coming along who will be the ones to put up money and effort, and to make sure those aquatic resources are defended.
That's the end of my talk for today.
Thank you to the witnesses.
Mr. Melnik, Mr. Tufts, I can totally relate with some of the points you made in terms of the positive impact that recreational fishing has on the economy, has on mental well-being, and has on our society. I picked up my BlackBerry, and the picture I have on the backdrop is a picture of a fire on a beach in Gambo in central Newfoundland—I'm an MP from Newfoundland and Labrador—with an orange sky, the best kind of sky, in the background.
Whenever things get a little stressful, whenever people like Mr. Sopuck speak here at committee—
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Ryan Cleary: —I open up my phone and I go back to that moment in Gambo in central Newfoundland.
On a serious note, I take at least a week, seven days, even in an election year, with my two sons, and a tent, and an axe, and a truck. I go to central Newfoundland, 20 miles in the woods, and we just connect. There are no cellphones. Even if you did take them, they wouldn't work. So I can relate. I think it's fantastic.
I have a serious question for both of you gentlemen. It is about the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and what more it could be doing to support the recreational fishery in Canada. What more could it do? What is it not doing? What are the weaknesses? Specifically, what more could federal Fisheries and Oceans be doing to support the recreational fishery in Canada?
Thank you for the question. I'm glad Dr. Tufts is here to talk more about the scientific side. I'd like to just address the promotional side of recreational fishing.
That $3 million that we receive in kind from the media—and we're talking CTV, national media, local media, radio, television, print, social media—is generated by our association on a $50,000 budget. We do it all. I joke about it every spring; I get on my hands and knees and I beg the radio stations, the TV networks, magazines, Sun Media, Postmedia, to please give us some ink, some air time to promote recreational fishing.
We're happy to do it. We believe in promoting recreational fishing. But I think it would be nice to see some government funding to promote recreational fishing, whether it's through our association or on your own, through the DFO or through tourism, whatever the department may be. I don't think we do a great job of that in this country.
We need to tell more stories like the one you just told about the picture on your BlackBerry, the personal stories about how fishing has affected us positively, not just economically, not just because of dollars and cents but because of that family connection. I remember taking my three kids fishing for the first time. I didn't do any fishing. I was untangling lines and putting worms on hooks and taking fish off. But man, we had a blast. Those memories are things that will last forever and ever. But people don't think of fishing as the number one thing to do when they're looking at the options. I think we need to do a better job of promoting it.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I welcome the witnesses, very much so. Coming from Prince Edward Island, I well understand the importance of the commercial and the recreational fisheries. They are both very important.
I also want to assure you that from the understanding I have, this is what we're here for: tough questions. This is not a promotional event. This is an event to find out just how we can improve the situation. That's why I, on this committee, pushed so hard to make sure that this study moved forward and that we heard from people like you.
On the information we've received, I certainly did not know some of it. Some of it is quite important, and perhaps some of it is not so important. You indicated that they spend more on the recreational fishery than at Tim Hortons or on beer, which is somewhat interesting.
Mr. Melnik, you indicated in your presentation that it's important that it's a science-based fishery. You mentioned open access opportunities. I'd like you expand a bit on that. I agree, certainly, that it's a science-based fishery and that open access is vital, but I'd like you to elaborate further on that.
I think the issue that Mike is speaking to, a tremendously important issue around the globe these days, is that one of the solutions that people are putting in place, and governments are putting in place to protect the world's fisheries, is protected areas. There are many areas now being developed around the world that are protected from fisheries so that areas can recover. But I think the big misconception in that area for a lot of people is that they don't understand the distinction between commercial fisheries and recreational fisheries. This is one of my areas of expertise.
Commercial fisheries have a long history of overharvest and some habitat issues, things like that, and in many cases they're not selective. Protected areas make a lot of sense to provide areas where there's no commercial fishing. However, as my research on live release has shown, there is no threat from recreational fisheries. You can release fish alive, you can decide which fish to release, managers can decide that for you—which species, which fish, which sizes of fish—and this is where the importance of live release and selective harvest and sustainability comes in.
When you have protected areas that are being proposed, and some approved, around the world, it really doesn't make a lot of sense to protect them from recreational fisheries in a lot of cases. I think this is one of the big misconceptions, because the general public doesn't always understand. To them, fisheries are fisheries, so protected areas should protect all fisheries. But if you understand the science—and this I think is where Canada has been doing well so far—if you're going to have protected areas to recover fish stocks, it makes a lot of sense in the case of some commercial fisheries but it doesn't make sense to have areas where there's no access for recreational fisheries. For recreational fisheries you can still have the economic value, but you can have a sustainable fishery anywhere you want it, because most fish can be released, or all fish can be released, and it doesn't impact on the numbers of fish in the population.
In the case of Atlantic salmon, it's a complex issue. I think this gets back to the idea that we really need scientists—and we need some scientists mandated, in my opinion, by government—that are trying to work on some of the important issues to bring back Atlantic salmon stocks. There's a lack of understanding of what's going on with Atlantic salmon in the ocean. I think most people agree that there are serious problems going on in the ocean for Atlantic salmon and that this is affecting the numbers that come back to the rivers in eastern Canada. There are many potential reasons why that's occurring. People have suggested aquaculture in open net-pens. There are many other possibilities. But we need, first of all, the science to understand what the issues actually are—which is missing—and then we need the funding to provide the solutions.
I think in the past one of the problems that we as humans have had is that we tend to go to the first quick fix. In fisheries, a lot of the time the first quick fix has been to just provide more hatcheries. Many studies have now shown that hatcheries aren't always the solution and that, really, if you don't understand what the problem is and if you don't fix things like habitat issues, then hatcheries won't solve the problem. In fact, they may cause more of a problem.
With Atlantic salmon, I think we need the science to understand where the issues are, and then we need efforts. For example—here's a subtle difference—instead of a hatchery simply pumping more fish into a river, in some cases around the world these days we have hatcheries that are preserving particular genetic stocks, strains of fish that are particular to certain rivers. We could do that, for example, on the east coast of Canada, trying to keep those genetics around, trying to use those then as a base to provide fish to go back to the rivers that they were native to, and keep the genetic diversity we have until we figure out what the problems are.
From that I think you can see that there are more complex issues that really require full-time Ph.D. scientists working on those problems.
Thank you very much. My name is Robert Huber. I'm the president of the Thames River Anglers Association here in London, Ontario, Canada.
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for inviting us to participate in this committee session. Hopefully we have some ideas and some perspective that will help with the goals of this committee.
The Thames River Anglers Association itself was formed in 1986 as a hands-on environmental group made up of volunteers and governed by a formal constitution with bylaws. Every member of the Thames River anglers is active in their advocacy for the health of the Thames River itself, the watershed, and its inhabitants through a variety of fisheries-related projects and education.
It has been our experience that encouraging ecosystem-focused stewardship directly correlates to improving recreational fishing activities. Our motto is, ironically, “Dedication Today, for Tomorrow”.
In my planning for this, we took a close look at the economics of fisheries within southwestern Ontario, and there are some interesting things about it. The Ontario fisheries themselves are a very important part of our cultural history and contribute very substantially to the economy locally. Over 41,000 person-years of employment are driven through the industry itself. There are more than 1.2 million resident and non-resident anglers who contribute nearly $2.2 billion annually to the Ontario economy for fishing purposes. The driving force for Ontario's tourism industry and a key economic component in many communities is fishing, particularly in northern Ontario, where there are 1,600 licensed tour operators generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually. There are also 1,200 commercial bait-fishing licences that are issued annually, with $17 million in direct sales of live bait. These numbers are from the Ontario provincial fish strategy, titled “Fish for the Future”. That's where we got that data.
We built our perspective on this around what we call four pillars of improving fisheries. The first two pillars are habitat and protection of species. We feel that there needs to be a more authoritative oversight to both protect environmentally sensitive habitat and maintain and improve fisheries that attract tourism and provide cultural and/or recreational benefits to the community.
In particular, we'd like to see the provincial and federal governments take on more financial and legislative support that would be helpful to remove, for example, recreational dams and weirs that actually harm ecosystems, and evaluate and consider decommissioning others that do not serve a specific flood control or are no longer deemed cost-effective to taxpayers for hydroelectric generation.
The Thames River, where we base most of our work, is one of the most species-rich rivers in all of Ontario, with over 90 species of fish and many aquatic species that are listed as threatened, endangered, or of special concern. This includes 12 fish, six reptiles, and seven mussel species.
We have a dam here called Springbank Dam—not to be confused with the projects in Calgary—built back in the early 1900s. It served a historical recreational purpose to create a reservoir for rowing. It was repaired in the early 2000s using federal and provincial funds but failed the first time it was operated in 2008. Since that time it has been left open. The entire ecosystem has gone through a dramatic recovery, but currently there are plans to actually repair the dam and re-establish that impoundment, which in effect could threaten all that has actually been improved. For example, while the impoundment is in place—while the dam is operational—E. coli levels have been found to be over 55 times higher than the provincially acceptable levels within that reservoir that it creates. This is sourced through the Trout Unlimited Canada technical report that was published in April 2007.
The next part is what we consider our advocacy and how we work with different levels of government and other agencies. In 2008, as part of the ecological framework for recreational fisheries management, Ontario was divided into 20 fisheries management zones. The Ministry of Natural Resources also created regulatory specific tool kits for the 15 most popular species. As a result, each zone would establish an advisory council, create a fisheries management plan, and amend the fisheries regulations under the Fisheries Act based on the plan. This would then include monitoring and assessing the zone on a regular basis, then amending the plan to include management actions, if necessary, based on those results.
Our region is called fisheries management zone 16. Prior to 2008, when these changes were made, over 30 million walleye were caught in Ontario by anglers, making it the most targeted species of fish in the province. For some strange reason, we never had an advisory council formed for our region, which resulted in decisions being made without adequate stakeholder involvement. That resulted in both lost fishing opportunities and economic fallout. For example, the walleye season itself was closed each spring since 2008. A slot size base-limit system was put in place. This has had a very direct impact on both anglers and the businesses that are directly affected by that fisheries activity. No follow-up monitoring has been completed, and no species-specific tool kit was created for walleye even though they're the most popular fish that's targeted.
Any effort that can be made to follow through on these commitments would have a widespread benefit to southwestern Ontario's angling community along with the businesses that rely on those recreational opportunities.
Our last element is young anglers and education. We feel strongly that encouraging youth to learn and participate in fishing is a rewarding outdoor physical activity. It educates them and their parents on responsible stewardship practices. It cultivates our next generation of volunteers, business owners, and future legislators. It is one of the most absolutely certain ways that we can ensure future economic growth in the industry.
This can continue to improve through educational programs available to schools; continued support for community hatchery programs like our own; and environmental initiatives that encourage volunteer efforts such as river cleanups, Yellow Fish Road programs, and other programs that through a variety of media, including social media and events, demonstrate how angling connects us to each other along with the rivers and lands that are such an important part of our heritage as a country.
My name is Dr. Darryl Smith. On behalf of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans regarding recreational fishing in Canada.
My background is as a long-time angler, volunteer, and advocate for responsible resource and land use planning. I am currently the Alberta Fish and Game Association provincial fish chair. My home is in the Peace River region of northwestern Alberta.
As a bit of background, the Alberta Fish and Game Association is the largest and oldest conservation organization in Alberta. It represents more than 24,000 anglers, hunters, and conservationists. At our core is the sustainable use of both our fish and our wildlife and the protection of the habitat they require.
We believe there must be a change in the focus of the direction we're presently going in to manage our fishery resource, if we are to see improvements in recreational fishing opportunities. There are two primary reasons for this concern. The first is societal and is related to the changing attitudes and choices of Canadians in what is, I guess, an increasingly urban society. The second is our failure collectively to deal with the cumulative impacts on the environment from all use, whether from recreation, agriculture, industry, urban growth, or infrastructure needs.
In his 1998 report Rising to the challenge: A new policy for Canada's freshwater fisheries, Dr. Peter H. Pearse stated that he was concerned not just to correct the deficiencies of the past, but to suggest the kind of changes we should be making to provide for the needs of coming generations.
Many of the recommendations from the report have been enacted, particularly in the area of regulation, management, and allocation of the fishery resource. But today the real determinant in the health of fisheries is maintenance of the productivity of the aquatic ecosystem.
Alberta is really a study in progress, as nowhere else in Canada are we seeing so many changes or impacts occurring societally, economically, and environmentally at the same time. I've been fortunate to travel right across this country, including through the northern territories, and the changes here, this having been my home since I was born, are quite amazing.
Today the reality is that the vast majority of Canadians live in urban environments. Alberta is no different, with more than 80% of its citizens now taking up residence in urban centres. A utopian viewpoint has developed, in that many residents have a very limited understanding of what fuels the economy or even where food comes from.
From a fisheries perspective, Alberta faces challenges due to a complex web of circumstances that set it apart from the rest of Canada. This results in a high risk to sustainability for many fish species. Despite the risks, there is no indication that other jurisdictions would have made radically different choices to balance societal, economic, and environmental pressures if faced with the same circumstances.
Regulatory change aimed at the angler is only effective where the productive capacity within the ecosystem is not compromised. The use of catch and release regulations to allow for stock recovery comes with real concerns. It has become a panacea and a front-line action that delays or masks other long-term impacts that must be addressed beyond angling. In fact, in Alberta they're about to say “Let's close down the fisheries” without addressing the fact that we have coal mines, forestry, and oil and gas development on the same landscape. Without having places to fish, it will be a real problem.
Catch and release has another dimension in that it transitions angling into solely a pastime. As angling becomes diminished, we perpetuate the myth that the fish on our table come from the supermarket. Compounding this is that urban settings have many competing leisure and lifestyle activities. Access to angling opportunity in such settings is often extremely limited. The relevance of angling and participation in the future should be of great concern to all of us.
Fish populations continue to decline. In Alberta the listing of bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, Athabasca rainbow trout, and Arctic grayling, as species that are either threatened or endangered, despite the fact that limited or no harvest regulations have existed on these species for up to 25 years, shows us that the necessary environmental stewardship across all government policies has not actually been effective. I guess the most disturbing thing is that numerous strategies and policies clearly show what the problems are, but we haven't fulfilled the actions necessary to achieve the objectives.
The vision of intensive and focused management where fish and their habitat are the priority across large geographical spaces that are simultaneously undergoing rapid change or development is an ideal, but it is really not based in reality. Trying to achieve this, as has been sort of the focus in Alberta, has led to the result that even most productive fisheries in this province are under threat. What I am proposing will be heresy to some in the scientific community who, like their urban counterparts, have become trapped in a utopian viewpoint.
What we're suggesting is that the focus must shift to the few remaining intact and productive aquatic ecosystems. This is not about orphaning other systems, because they will still be managed under the best practice philosophy of the past and the landscape approach. What it will ensure is that at least refuge populations are established as we rethink our approach to dealing with cumulative effects.
The policy and direction changes required to deal with cumulative effects include the following: develop watershed-based land use and water management plans; apply the highest level of protection to riparian and littoral zones; develop habitat banks; establish offsetting requirements for all developments, including even those that are a result of urban expansion; establish compensation programs for landowners to maintain habitat; provide effective and non-competing program management across all government agencies—DFO, provincial, municipalities, right across the board; and put a total emphasis and commitment on prevention of impacts, compliance monitoring, and remediation enforcement of current standards.
I don't think we see a problem with the standards that exist; it's just that we're not using those standards the way we should be. Essentially this means that habitat protection, restoration, and enhancement become a priority in the way we approach fisheries management in the future. The current model revolves around single-species action plans with little visibility when we have other competing priorities. Without healthy aquatic ecosystems that maintain their productivity, fish populations, whether naturalized or native, are at risk.
This brings us back to the area of relevance of angling in the future. Dr. Pearse in his report lists no fewer than nine recommendations to increase the public participation of anglers in fisheries management. In Alberta, the angling constituency has largely been shut out of playing a role. We must focus on our increasing urban demographics to ensure that people have access to fishing opportunity in their communities supported by policies and programs that preserve our angling heritage.
The decision-making process has become overly bureaucratic and often extends over multiple years. Anglers' viewpoints appear lost and of no importance. The frustration level among anglers is at a boiling point, particularly in this province. Anglers deserve to play a role in policy development and priority setting if we are serious about the future of our angling heritage.
It's not just about integrating policy across all levels of government; it's also about integrating the needs and priorities of anglers and fish into this policy. Essentially, without habitat that maintains its productivity there will be no fish or anglers. I ask you, are we prepared to make such a trade-off?
Mrs. Patricia Davidson: We have a new chair.
The Vice-Chair (Hon. Lawrence MacAulay): You do have a new chair.
Mrs. Patricia Davidson: Thank you.
The Vice-Chair (Hon. Lawrence MacAulay): Thank you, gentlemen, and welcome.
First, to Dr. Smith, you indicated, if I understood correctly, the lack of education where people don't really understand, probably, where our fish come from and where the fuel comes from. I believe you indicated that closing the fishery is not really the answer to the problem that's afoot. Possibly, if I understood you correctly, there's a bit of a problem with what's going on in the province of Alberta and across the nation as far as the regulations are concerned. Let's say there's sediment into the waterways that's hurting the fishery production. You indicated that all fish could be under threat, if I understood you correctly. I'd just like you to expand on that.
As well, you indicated that possibly the standards that are in place are not adhered to. The committee would like to hear you elaborate on that. I want you to indicate not only whether they are not adhered to but whether there are enough regulations in place.
Thank you to Mr. Huber and Dr. Smith, our guests today.
I want you to know that you are a part of a very important process. This fisheries committee and committees when they work are really the glue between people and their interests and government policy. What we have seen is that the recreational fisheries partnership program, which is very much a focus of our discussions today, raised by my colleagues from all parties and by us, came about because individual members of Parliament, notably Mr. Sopuck and other members of this committee, lobbied to get the program put in place. What it attempts to do is take the concerns raised by you, and by people whom you know and work with, and put them into policy.
Dr. Smith, I want to get right to the heart of a concern that I see commonly raised in my role as a fisheries committee member and a west coast member of Parliament. I represent the riding West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. You made comments about fisheries officers' smaller footprint on the ground in Alberta.
Just a couple of days ago, we heard a completely different philosophical bias from anglers in Manitoba, who expressed the view that you couldn't have a fisheries officer on every foot of waterway. You need some level of enforcement, but the stronger promotion of habitat comes from enabling the anglers and the recreational community to—I'll quote Shakespeare—take up arms and, by opposing, end the harms and prejudices to the waterways.
Can you comment on that? In your world, where would you put the resources? Would you put them into fisheries officers? Would they bring back the streams, or is it the recreational community that is best able to do that?