Members of the committee, our federation would like to thank you for having taken the time to listen to our comments for your study on recreational fishing.
My name is Michel Baril and I'm a biologist with the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs, the Quebec federation of anglers and hunters.
The Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs is a not-for-profit organization that was created in 1946. Our mission is to contribute to the development and perpetuation of hunting and sport angling as traditional, heritage and sporting activities.
Our general objectives are as follows: we represent the interests of sport hunters and anglers, we advocate for hunting and angling activities, and we promote them in order to ensure their continuity, we promote responsible behaviour from hunters and anglers, we cooperate with public authorities to create conservation and land management programs for the fauna, we cooperate with public authorities to establish fauna management plans that help governments reach their biological, social, and economic objectives.
Our federation now represents over 200 associations who have 125,000 members throughout Quebec. Two entities help us reach our objectives; Héritage faune and Sécurité nature.
Héritage faune is the federation's official foundation. It was created in 1980 and seeks to provide various streams of funding for land and aquatic fauna management projects, scholarships, and advocates renewal programs particularly in the field of sports angling. In 2015, it will fund 62 recreational angling renewal projects.
Sécurité nature was created in 1995. It is the federation's program for education. It offers courses for the Fauna, Safety and Conservation Education Program, also known as PESCOF, and coordinates 450 volunteer trainers who give the courses in all the regions of Quebec. It also drafts educational resources on conservation and the development of wildlife and its habitats as well as relevant open-air recreational activities. In 2014 alone, this program trained 20,000 people through the Canadian Firearms Safety Course.
Over the last few years, the federation has been involved in many sports angling development and promotion programs in Quebec. Amongst our more significant case files, there is the legalization of hunting and fishing activities. Consequently, at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2010 decade, the federation worked with other organizations to protect wildlife hunting and fishing, including sports angling.
In 2002, the Government of Quebec made consequential amendments to the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. Section 1.3 of the Act now states that: “Every person has a right to hunt, fish and trap in accordance with the law.” Section 1.4 states: “No person may knowingly hinder a person who is lawfully carrying on an activity referred to in the first paragraph of section 1.3, including an activity preparatory to such an activity.”
The federation also participates in developing sport angling, for example during our Fishing Festival, a three-day activity in June during which Quebeckers can fish without a licence. With its Héritage faune foundation, the federation delivers 62 subsidies to affiliates that organize training and renewal activities during this festival.
The federation also actively participates in wildlife management in Quebec and in Canada. In Quebec, it is part of the National Wildlife Round Table and the regional wildlife round tables that were created pursuant to the Act respecting conservation and development of wildlife. At the Canadian level, the federation works with the Canadian Wildlife Service on waterfowl management.
It is also a member of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. It is also part of the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel that was created in 2013 by the federal Department of the Environment. Mr. Pierre Latraverse, our federation's president, participates in this advisory panel himself.
I would now like to say a few words on the sport fishing management framework in Quebec.
Fishing on state land is managed based on different types of land: controlled harvesting zones, land that is managed by volunteer boards; outfitter operations operated by private companies pursuant to agreements with the government; wildlife preserves managed by the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec, otherwise known as Sépaq, a government corporation; and free land with no given structure that can be freely used.
Together, these regions offer Quebeckers a wealth of opportunities to go fishing, whether on free expeditions of a few hours or on multi-day trips to the most enchanting sites. In fact, one of the roles the federation has taken on is to highlight the importance of fishing as an economic engine.
In Quebec, as in the rest of Canada, fishing is an important factor in economic development. Each year in Quebec, roughly 565,000 fishing permits are sold. Here's an interesting fact: it was recently demonstrated that the economic impact of fishing is greater in more densely populated regions and that city centres also benefit from the economic spinoffs of recreational fishing.
The compilation of the results of studies carried out recently, including the 2012 Canadian Nature Survey, showed that there are roughly 735,000 fishers spread out in all regions of the province. Of that number, 500,000 go fishing every year. For the remainder, they go fishing at least once every five years.
In 2012, fishers as a whole spent roughly 11.8 million days practising recreational fishing, which generated overall economic spinoffs of $1.2 billion. Broadly speaking, this amount can be separated into two types of spending: current expenses such as lodging, gas, permits, food, and so on, and spending on durable goods such as boats, equipment, vehicles, camping equipment, and everything else.
Walleye and brook trout are the most highly sought-after species and those which result in the greatest economic spinoffs. These two species are ranked even higher than moose, the large game sought after by the largest number of hunters. Walleye generates spinoffs of $360 million, while the brook trout generates spinoffs of $340 million. These two fish species alone represent half of the spending by fishers.
In passing, I would like to say a few words about ice fishing, which is a very popular winter activity in Quebec. Each year, ice fishing enthusiasts spend roughly $50 million on fishing certain freshwater species, particularly yellow perch, or on salt water species such as redfish.
Over the coming years, the recreational fishing sector will be faced with challenges. There is the problem of access to waterways, which is itself the result of two problems: the privatisation, for residential development purposes, of land bordering lakes, and the fact that municipalities reserve access to their waterways to their own residents. These problems are, however, difficult to resolve, and it is up to the government to demonstrate will to improve the situation.
That being said, the federation has successfully raised the awareness of the provincial government, which has committed to conducting an overview of the situation; to checking the legal component of the issue and, possibly, to producing an information guide for municipalities. On our end, the federation has tackled the issue from a different perspective by creating an Internet application, allonspecher.com, which is an interactive map that details over 1,600 places where there is public access to lakes, to rivers and to the St. Lawrence River.
Another challenge facing the recreational fishing industry in Quebec is the training of the next generation in sufficient numbers and interest. A recent study conducted by the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec clearly shows that younger generations, those who range in age from 25 to 35 and 35 to 45, from which the next generation must be trained, do not perceive fishing in the same way as their parents. Rather, these younger generations consider fishing to be a complementary activity to be practised during vacations or outdoor excursions. As a result, even if the next generation is trained in sufficient numbers, they may not always fish as regularly as past generations. This may result in Quebec having fewer days of fishing, and therefore reduce the economic spinoffs. This decline will likely be felt in the next five years.
To address this issue as well, the federation created an online tool with the objective of putting hunters, fishers and trappers in contact with each other. This site, Mentorat chasse, pêche, piégeage, allows members of the fishing community to contact one another. To sum up, recreational fishing in Quebec is a significant economic engine, but it is also an activity that is sought after for relaxation and outdoor excursions. To maintain its full potential, this resource may need to be protected, even though it is doing quite well on the whole, but the interest of Quebeckers for this activity must also be maintained.
Thank you, Mr. Baril.
First of all, I want to applaud all of the initiatives taken by your organization. You have wildlife redevelopment projects, some 125,000 members, you have trained 450 volunteer monitors, and I could go on.
It is truly impressive. This is in keeping with the other information that you have provided to us. Approximately 500,000 people a year come back to fish, and recreational fishing activities have direct benefits on the order of $1.2 billion in Quebec alone. That is very important.
For all these reasons, I would like us to look together into some of the problems we are facing in order to ensure the sustainability of all of these activities.
First of all, let us talk about the fish, or the elephant in the room.
In 2014, Quebec's ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques indicated that three times fewer salmon are returning to Quebec rivers than 30 years ago. In 2015, a decision was therefore taken by the Quebec government: to impose mandatory release on 14 North Shore rivers and two in the Lower St. Lawrence. It was the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs that took the decision.
The Quebec federation of anglers and hunters and the Quebec Atlantic Salmon Federation jointly signed a memorandum in 2013. This document dealt with the possibility that the federal government might add certain Atlantic salmon populations in Quebec to the species at risk list. I would like to know if in your opinion there is an imminent threat to Atlantic salmon in Quebec. What are the most significant threats? Do you have any solutions to suggest that might prevent seeing a decline in the resource in some of our rivers, or even seeing them disappear?