What I was saying is that we don't necessarily want a recreational fishery here. It's a food fishery. We do this for food. It's the same with respect to anything we hunt and fish in Newfoundland. It's done for food. I know this is called recreational, but we basically still hunt and fish for food. At least the people I represent do.
The cod fishery is like five tags per day, but for the length of the season, it's just not practical anymore. In our inland cod fishery, the number of cod that Newfoundlanders take out of the ocean is extremely limited.
We never ever sell codfish, never. What I'm suggesting to Ottawa, and to the powers that be, is that if someone is caught selling a codfish, you basically charge them. It's simple. We don't do that.
With respect to salmon, currently this is the only province in Atlantic Canada and Quebec where you can keep an Atlantic salmon to eat. We don't necessarily hook and release. Hook and release kills fish. They may survive the hooking and they may survive the releasing initially, but afterwards they die. If you hook and release fish, right now we have four fish per day that we can hook and release. Actually in some cases it's six fish. I can retain two and release four. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have hook and release only for salmon.
Our position is that if we can't hook and keep a salmon, then close the rivers. If the rivers are in that bad a shape and you can't retain a salmon to eat, then close it, period, no ifs, ands or buts. I have read in numerous studies that sometimes small fish, if they're caught within a small timeframe, can be released and some of them do survive. There's a website that shows you how to release salmon and that salmon can be released. It may go to the spawning grounds, but does it spawn? I have not seen any study that shows me that a released salmon will spawn when it goes to the spawning bed.
Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation will never support hook and release of salmon. Now, we have four tags on some rivers, and some rivers two. The river I fish has four tags. I've caught a lot of salmon in my day. I've been fishing since I was 11 years old. Four tags, I can live with that. We would like to have not an additional tag, but we would like to have probably a tag with a colour that's provincial. I know that's provincial now and you get jurisdictions mangled across the board. We would like to have an extra tag that can be put on a large fish but is interchangeable. If you don't use it for a fish over 63 centimetres, then you can use it for a fish under 63 centimetres. That's where we're coming from, fishing for fun. Initially, catching a salmon, hooking a salmon is fun. Landing a salmon is not a big deal.
I'll tell you now that I've been fishing since I was 11 years old. I can stand in the river and I can hook and release all day. Nobody will charge me with anything if I use a barbless hook. I can use a smaller leader. I can let the fish go. The fish can escape from me, no problem. I can hook all day and release salmon all day. It is not enforceable. Hooking and releasing salmon is not enforceable. Catching four fish a day, again I'll tell you, is not enforceable.
We've already asked for two licences, the way it is in Quebec, a hook-and-release licence and a hook-and-retain licence like the one we already have, but again, there's provincial jurisdiction. Nobody is willing to accept that. We're willing to go that far and see how many people would take up a hook and release licence. If salmon fishermen out there believe so much in hook and release, then give them a hook-and-release licence. Ask them to buy one and make it cheaper, if you want. There won't be any tags involved.
Seals eat salmon. I worked with DFO for a number of years. Seals do eat salmon, not necessarily in tremendous amounts, but they do eat salmon, and we do have a salmon fishery off the south coast, the only section of the south coast where COSEWIC has determined that the salmon is in dire straits.
Also on the south coast we do have aquaculture of wild Atlantic salmon, open-pen aquaculture. It has been proven that closed-pen aquaculture can be done. It may be a little more expensive but it can be done. From B.C. the fish are on the market. People are buying them. Closed containment salmon farming can be done. Just recently, the Newfoundland government, which monitors aquaculture on the south coast, gave an exorbitant amount of money to increase the production of open-pen fish farming on the south coast. We are suggesting that we have feasibility studies and pilot projects on closed containment on land. We can do those on the south coast. We can do them inland and we have a pilot project to do the same.
It is not rocket science. It is already done, yet we're pouring an exorbitant amount of money into open-pen farming and, guys, it doesn't work. Those fish are diseased. Also, you don't need any money. Basically, if the fish are diseased—they get ISA, which is a salmon disease—the federal government takes the salmon, kills the salmon, and gives you some money. So you're not losing anything. You don't lose anything.
Good day, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. My name is Barry Fordham. I represent the Newfoundland Federation of Hunters and Anglers. I'm a co-founder and public relations officer of this group. I feel both very honoured and privileged to have this opportunity to speak to you today about the recreational food fishery and representing my province, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Here in this great province of Newfoundland and Labrador the cod fishery represents a traditional way of life that keeps us tied to our historical roots. Our once abundant cod fishery supported a large rural population province-wide. Residents and their communities were independent and economically secure.
Cod has and always will be an important traditional food source to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishers are not simply catching fish for recreation, they are carefully processing it as part of their traditional winter food supply.
The cod fishery is also important because it provides a cultural bridge to pass on history, names, stories, events, and skills we feel are important for our youth to learn. They can share this knowledge with their kids, which will ensure our historical legacy is passed on generationally and never forgotten. You might say, “Forgotten? A crazy idea. That's absurd.” We feel this can be the case.
The example I will use is the commercial inshore fishery. Before the moratorium, the inshore fishery was mostly a family-based operation, where sons would fish with their fathers and grandfathers, and learn all the skills necessary to have the experience to strike out on their own. They were then able to teach their sons, thus ensuring the knowledge and skills were being passed down.
The inshore fishery has been closed now for almost 23 years. There has been a huge lapse of time that has passed, and at least three generations or more of experience, knowledge, and skills may have been lost to the point that if the commercial inshore fishery were reopened today, there may not be enough people to participate in it because of the loss of knowledge or interest.
After the moratorium was announced, in 1992, a black cloud of uncertainty fell over rural Newfoundland and Labrador. The federal government provided the fishers with monetary assistance for a period of time, but eventually people got restless and they began the emigration process for employment and a new life. Our once vibrant communities were beginning to become like ghost towns in some areas.
Then DFO announced a recreational food fishery for codfish, with laws and regulations such as dates and bag limits. There was a period of time when licences and tags were the system for a number of years, but this was eventually abandoned.
During the recreational food fishery, there is a high percentage of our population that participates in it. Our once seemingly ghost towns become vibrant once again. Old friends meet at the local wharves and there's hustle and bustle. Kids are listening intently to old stories, learning new skills, such as how to catch and process the fish, and making new friends. People are now planning their annual family vacations around these dates. Local businesses are profiting. It's attracting tourists in droves. Commercial fishers, whom we have the utmost respect for, are benefiting by taking tourists and locals alike out to their fishing grounds. This provides a huge economic boost to the provincial economy annually, especially at the gas pumps and local sporting goods stores.
One of the biggest obstacles to fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador is the weather, namely the high winds and seas that accompany them. It's so windy in Newfoundland and Labrador that it's a wonder we're not referred to as the Chicago province of Canada. This unsavoury weather cancels our fishing trips, which then results in a lost opportunity. Our fall season last year, for example, was a bust for the most part because of high winds, even though there was an extension to the season granted for a few days.
Our season this year is set to commence on July 18 until August 9, and then on September 19 until September 27, for a total of four weeks plus two days. The bag limit is five cod per person per day, with a maximum boat limit of 15 cod. Retention of mackerel does not affect our bag limit.
In some Quebec and maritime jurisdictions, the season length is open four, five, or six weeks that run concurrently. The bag limit is 15 groundfish per person per day. It is important to note that not more than five in this limit can be cod.
As well, there is a shoreline recreational season in the southern gulf region with a zero cod retention, but mackerel can be retained. This means if you fish from a boat, you can be no further than 50 metres from the shore. If you are fishing from the shoreline, most likely with a rod and reel, you cannot catch further than 50 metres. Good luck with that one.
The season opened this year from April 15 until October 4, for a total of 172 days. We, the Newfoundland Federation of Hunters and Anglers, want the season length extended and combined for several different reasons, keeping in mind that most people work Monday to Friday and may only have a Saturday or Sunday to participate.
The first and most important reason is safety. As I have stated, the weather plays a major factor here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishers are sometimes taking risks by journeying out in questionable weather conditions because of the lack of time. Some fishers are travelling out in sometimes questionable watercraft, which is an additional safety risk. There have been drowning fatalities during the recreational food fishery annually, as reported by the media.
Next, it reduces the opportunities that a fisher has, because not everybody has a boat these days. I can go see a friend who has just returned from fishing and ask if he can take my son and me out fishing. If he says he has another commitment, that results in another lost opportunity.
We also want the season extended and combined to give us equality, to make it similar to Quebec and the Maritimes. I'm not attempting to take anything away from them, but why can't our seasons at least run concurrent, like theirs do?
We would also like to see the shoreline recreational fishery in the southern gulf region introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador with the same zero cod-retention limit during the closed portion of the Newfoundland and Labrador recreational food fishery season. As lads growing up in an outport community, we were always fishing on the rocks or off the wharf. This was a favourite pastime. We learned fishing skills, how to tie a knot and catch and release a fish. We learned life skills and forged friendships. We have memories that will last a lifetime. We would like our youth to have that same privilege to experience what we did when we were young. If you were to walk on most wharves today, you might not even see a youth with a fishing rod. They're not allowed to fish during the closed season of the recreational food fishery.
That, gentlemen, is beyond ridiculous. We feel that by not having this season, our kids are missing out on one of nature's finest experiences.
The short season, factored in with time lost due to the weather, adds the extra pressure to get out for a few days to get the required five fish for the day. For my family's needs, we require approximately 40 cod. If I go solo, it would take me at least eight successful days. I may not be lucky enough; once again, it comes down to time, weather, and opportunity. Unless I have my own boat, I may not even be able to get enough fish to put away for my winter food supply, which is important to my family.
We firmly believe that by extending and combining the season, we would not witness an increase in fishers or days fished. Usually at the beginning of each season there is the traditional big rush. But fishers would get accustomed to the new season. We could choose the time that is safe and convenient for us instead of feeling rushed to get out fishing or to take chances on the weather.
As for claims of people catching too much fish if the season is extended, a recent report indicates that in the 2014 recreational food fishery, the total catch was approximately 1,500 tonnes. Compare that with the total overall catch of approximately 11,000 tonnes. Our own provincial government, through its own news releases, has petitioned DFO about the unfair treatment of Newfoundland and Labrador compared with our sister provinces concerning the recreational food fishery, to no avail. Federal fisheries minister Gail Shea, when interviewed on CBC's Here and Now—Newfoundland and Labrador the day before the 2014 recreational food fishery, admitted that she would be open to discussing ways to make the recreational food fishery safer.
I hope that both Minister Shea and you, this committee, are listening now. The time is long past due and the present is here. Now is the time to make things right for the future. This important decision could prevent another drowning fatality this year. As this is the last year of the 2013 to 2015 DFO management plan, grant us this extended combined season with the same bag limit that we have always had. Next year we can sit at the table and iron out an agreement that is acceptable, respectable, and makes common sense. Do this for our safety, our success, our heritage, our historical legacy, and for the respect that Newfoundland and Labrador deserves in our place in Canada, our country.
If I have any time left over I'd like to address an issue on the recreational salmon fishery here as well.
Thank you to the witnesses.
I remember back in 1992 when John Crosbie shut down the northern cod fishery. I was a journalist at the time, and one of the questions he was asked was whether or not, after the commercial fishing moratorium, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would still be able to fish for their tables. His response is one that I haven't forgotten. What he said was that if the day came that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians couldn't fish for their table, couldn't fish for their supper, the cod stock would be beyond saving.
The day came when Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were restricted from cod fishing for their tables, but now we can fish. But as you've both outlined, the recreational or food fishery—although I think you're both leaning towards the words “food fishery”—is restricted to a narrow period of time.
Gentlemen, what I can gather from both of you is that there are safety concerns in terms of limitations on when you can fish, and there are also food security concerns. Then there are also cultural concerns in terms of passing on fishing knowledge to future generations.
The bottom line on cod stocks is that they are still delicate. Mr. Samson, you brought up the fact that you don't believe in tags, and we don't have a tag system right now. I understand from my last estimate that 1,500 tonnes were caught in the food fishery last year, and 11,000 tonnes were caught overall between the food fishery and the commercial fishery, which pales in comparison to the 1.1 million tonnes of Atlantic cod that were taken from everywhere across the Atlantic and off the coast of Canada.
The question for both of you is this. Unless you keep track of what's being caught, how do you know what's being taken? Again, cod stocks are in a delicate shape. How would you both respond to that?
I'd like to respond to that and agree with Barry. Most people are fishing for food. They're not fishing for recreation.
I salt some of my fish—still do. It's not necessarily healthy, but I do salt some of my fish and I leave them for the winter, and we have some fish in the fridge.
We're not asking for an exorbitant amount. For most of the people in Newfoundland.... You know, if you ask Newfoundlanders if they're going to give you anything, they'll basically tell you...if you ask fishers, obviously, most of them, the majority, 95% are going to tell you the truth.
Right now, it's mind-boggling. You can't simply go out in a boat and catch your fish. You have five fish per day, 50 per boat. We had a process years ago. We got rid of the tags.
I understand a monitoring system to some degree, but most people are going to tell you the truth. They're not going to tell you....
I'm saying that if people are out there catching codfish and selling codfish, DFO should basically mandate their employees to charge them. You don't sell fish. You catch fish. You eat fish. You keep fish for the winter. Some you salt, and some you freeze, and some you put in the fridge. It's not a lot. For me, it's 40 or 50 fish, maximum.
Mr. Chair, in response to the member, you're absolutely right, sir. It is very valuable here to the economy.
We cannot do anything about the winds. We cannot do anything about opportunities, but what is common sense, sir, for the federal DFO to do is to extend the overall season. By extending the overall season, sir, we are now allowing people to be able to choose when to go out and when not to go out.
Some people say, “Oh, you're going to extend the season. You're going to have every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there fishing in every kind of vessel, every day, all day long.” I've had some talks with other conservation groups, and we believe and feel if the season is extended.... Usually, as I said in my preamble, at the beginning of each season there is a big rush. Everybody has been waiting all year to get out to get a few fish, to experience what we always had, and to smell the salt sea, as we say. By extending the season, it now gives us more opportunity to get out there.
We believe there is not going to be a big influx of people out fishing. Maybe it would in the first week, sure. After that, when people get used to the new season, they're going to say, “I'm not going out this day. I'm not going out that day. I'm going to shoot ahead to one day next week.” Extending the season is promoting the safety to our provincial fishers and making it fairer and safer for everybody to get out and experience this wonderful joy we have here in this great province of ours, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Mr. Chairman, in response to the member, yes, there are outdoor conservation groups, fishing conservation groups with high integrity, such as, here in this province, SPAWN, the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland, out of western Newfoundland; the SAEN group; and, very infamous in Atlantic Canada, the Atlantic Salmon Federation. They have videos that promote the proper way of catching and releasing the different types of fish.
In my opinion, catch-and-release does work. It is the way of the future. It promotes conservation. It teaches our youth the proper ways to be doing things.
In our society today, we don't need to be out hunting and fishing so much for food. Hunting and fishing is very important here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but for the salmon themselves, what I have witnessed—and I've worked on a very famous river in Newfoundland and Labrador. If you say to anybody who is an Atlantic salmon fisherman “Eagle River”, they will practically shake at their knees. We've witnessed thousands of fish. There are various outfitters there who are talking about weeks on end of fishing, with thousands of fish being released, because it's such a magnificent river that holds such high numbers.
We don't see fish floating belly up going down the river. In the case of most sport people, if the fish is going to be released and it's done properly, the fish swims away. If the fish upon release is not doing well, we as ethical recreational fishers would retain that fish. There's no sense letting it go just to let it go to waste like that.
If there were a high mortality rate, then it would be more on public display, I believe. It would be in the newspapers. It would be on the TV. It would be everywhere, and you would see all of these fish floating downriver belly up. Well, guess what? We're not seeing that. That's why we think that catch-and-release does work. However, we at the Newfoundland Federation of Hunters and Anglers support the retention of a fish for the table as well. It's very important that people understand that.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. I'm representing the Nova Scotia Salmon Association. The association is a leader in the conservation and wise management of salmon and trout resources in Nova Scotia. The association is a province-wide organization that works with the regional DFO office, on both science and management, through the NSLC Adopt A Stream program, which it runs on behalf of all recreational anglers in Nova Scotia.
The association currently has 17 direct affiliate groups, with over 1,000 members, and works with a growing number of active river groups. Funding for this program comes from two main sources, the Nova Scotia sport fish habitat fund and the NSLC. The Nova Scotia sport fish habitat fund is a source of dedicated funding contributed by anglers via a levy on the recreational fishing licences. In Nova Scotia this currently comes only from freshwater licences, as there is no licensing for the coastal fishery. Those are some potential funds that could be directed toward the restoration habitat that Adopt A Stream is currently taking on. Other funding for projects comes from DFO's recreational fisheries conservation partnership program, which is fantastic, the fish habitat compensation through the Fisheries Act and HAT offsetting, and other corporate donations and support.
In Nova Scotia, salmon fishing is still a healthy contributor to local economies where rivers flow into the Northumberland Strait and into western Cape Breton Island. The recreational fishery in the province is worth an estimated $88 million, according to a 2013 study. However, the reality is that the issues surrounding wild Atlantic salmon are the same issues that are affecting our recreational fishery in the province. Healthy fish populations are the key to creating a strong and viable recreational fishery. Some of these issues include the loss and degradation of habitat and fish passage as a result of culvert work, dams, in-stream work, and poor land usage. Further impacts come from acidification and rising aluminum levels in our rivers and effects from open net pen aquaculture on the adjacent river systems.
Finally, one of the issues impacting our wild Atlantic salmon here in Nova Scotia is the cuts to DFO's staffing and funding, combined with policy changes over the last five years that have led to some of the offloading of conservation activities, such as training, advising, and other tasks on NGOs and programs like Adopt A Stream, local river associations, and volunteer groups who are taking on some of this work.
Without proper habitat and fish passage, the salmon and trout populations cannot grow to the levels needed to sustain an active recreational fishery in the province. Loss and degradation of habitat caused by poorly planned development, inadequate impact assessment, poor enforcement, and lack of expert resources are some of the key issues we need to address in order to overcome this. This could result in increased productivity and contribute significantly to the recovery of endangered salmon and trout in the province.
The NSLC Adopt A Stream program is currently involved in all habitat restoration work in the province. At present this includes planning, design, oversight, and offsetting administered by the program. In order to meet the province's habitat restoration design, watershed planning, and biological and technical needs, the program needs DFO as a partner. DFO needs to help us by redeveloping its habitat restoration expertise and allowing funding for staff to provide restoration design and expert advice to community groups and offsetting projects. This needs to be combined with long-term funding for the NSSA's NSLC Adopt A Stream program as the basis for salmon habitat and stock restoration implementation. We really need that partnership in order to make that effort successful.
All of Nova Scotia's rivers suffer from physical habitat problems that are limiting productivity for salmon and trout. Fish passage and habitat access is one issue that is currently limiting productivity. We have over 600 dams, fewer than 100 functioning fishways, and tens of thousands of culverts that either do not let fish pass, are partial barriers, or do not meet current standards for fish passage in the province. The NSLC Adopt A Stream program now is providing expert advice on culvert guidelines, developing fish passage mitigation techniques, which it's implementing across the province, providing advice on fishway repairs, and convincing landowners to allow the program to help them fix those when those fishways fall into disrepair.
DFO fisheries protection could use its enforcement powers to require owners of these fishways and culverts to comply with design guidelines and maintain these structures on their property. Regulatory backup and management decisions from the responsible department will give the NGOs the support they need to achieve success and increase fish passage.
The first priority when we look at habitat restoration is to make sure that the fish are able to reach the habitats that they need to complete their life cycle and become full-grown fish. Part of this is for them to be able to get up the watershed as far as possible and in order to do that, we need clear fish passage.
In addition, acid rain may be one of the single largest contributors to the decline of wild Atlantic salmon in Nova Scotia. In the southern upland, pH levels in the rivers have dropped well below those required for salmon rearing. Aluminum levels now exceed maximum levels for parr in some rivers and exceed maximum levels for smolt in most rivers in the region.
Similarly, in the inner Bay of Fundy, salmon are listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act. Currently the DFO biodiversity centre is maintaining the genetic stock in the region. This needs to be supported until reasons for the loss in this area can be better understood and until mitigation actions can be taken to help us increase those pH levels and restore fish stocks in that area.
If we are to counteract the effects of acid rain in Nova Scotia and return our rivers to productive sites for salmon and trout fishery, there needs to be a commitment to long-term funding and support for liming projects focused on the watersheds with the highest value. In the 2013 southern upland recovery plan, DFO identified 13 rivers that would be prime candidates for liming in that area, and it would really help us bring those populations back to life.
The West River acid mitigation project is managed by the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and is currently the only large-scale liming project under way in Nova Scotia. This year it celebrates its 10th year of liming and has demonstrated that liming can have a positive impact on Nova Scotia's rivers. Liming on the West River alone has restored the brook trout fishery in the area and raised the salmon smolt count from 2,100 in the beginning to 10,000 per year over that 10-year span.
Proper habitat, acceptable fishways, and water quality are all important factors in restoring wild fish populations and contribute to the creation of a sustainable recreational fishery for Nova Scotia.
In addition to the environmental factors at work in Nova Scotia, open net pen aquaculture has been demonstrated to have a major effect on the adjacent rivers and is a contributor to the overall decline of wild Atlantic salmon. The impact of escapees, disease, and parasites from aquaculture sites have significant impacts on wild fish. This occurs through things such as interbreeding and the spread of disease and parasites to fish which have already been weakened in rivers where acidification has damaged the fish population and contributes to the overall increased mortality due to those impacts that we're getting when we have those big aquaculture sites in our oceans.
In order to protect our wild fish, enforced regulations need to be put in place to protect the coastal ecosystems against the impacts to salmon, trout, and other critical marine species such as lobster and other species that are in that ecosystem and to make it all work nicely to grow our salmon and fish populations. This should include zoning to protect rivers on the southern upland. They are already severely damaged by acidification. In Nova Scotia the Doelle-Lahey report that was released last year provided some very comprehensive recommendations for how those risks could be mitigated. The NSSA fully supports the implementation of those in full with support from DFO. It's the only way that we make those regulations actually stick.
Successfully addressing these issues would result in increased productivity and contribute significantly to the recovering potential of endangered populations. The Nova Scotia Salmon Association and affiliates are working to address these concerns, but more substantive gains in conservation and restoration requires the increased involvement and commitment through a DFO partnership with the NGOs to truly affect the wild fish populations in Nova Scotia in a way that will allow us to restore and maintain a recreational fishery.
We need to put the fish first. We need to take a comprehensive view of the issues and employ management techniques that address all the stressors. Only then will we see a strong and positive response in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Chair, the Sackville Rivers Association is a not-for-profit, volunteer-based, community group concerned with the health of the Sackville River watershed. The SRA's mandate is to protect and where necessary restore the river and environment of the Sackville River watershed. The Sackville River flows for over 40 kilometres before discharging into Halifax harbour. The 150-square-kilometre watershed contains 13 lakes, many wetlands, ponds, streams, and feeder brooks. The population on the watershed is currently over 60,000 and increasing daily.
The Sackville River is a historic Atlantic salmon river. In the mid-1800s, a salmon hatchery was established at the mouth of the river and was closed in the early 1960s due to deteriorating water quality and diminishing salmon returns caused by development in the watershed.
The SRA, in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, participated in a stocking program to restore the Atlantic salmon to the Sackville and Little Sackville rivers, which was stopped in 2013 due to budget cuts. SRA has continually counted Atlantic salmon since 1989. In 1996 we counted over 750 adult Atlantic salmon in the Sackville River.
The SRA uses the wild Atlantic salmon as a biological indicator of water quality, a canary in the mine. If we can keep the salmon in the watershed, all species of fish can live in the river. The Sackville River is used extensively by recreational fishermen, and by commercial and aboriginal fishers.
If the youth of today are our future, we need to educate and encourage them to go fishing. We need to promote recreational fishing in Canada much better than we are doing. Our youth know how to shop in a mall and play electronic games, but they do not know how to catch a fish. We must get our youth into a more active lifestyle that includes the outdoors and fishing.
Urban rivers must be highlighted, enhanced, and protected, so that the increased population now living in nearby cities can have access to recreational fishing. It is our youth who are the ones we want to have out fishing, and by doing so increase the future of the recreational fishery, and not have them hanging around their rooms and in malls playing electronic games. We need those urban rivers protected.
Due to a lack of access to wild Atlantic salmon eggs for our educational fishery program in schools for grades 4, 5 and 6—teaching about 500 children a year—we had to start using speckled trout eggs. This limits the effectiveness of the program. DFO has to change its policy and provide salmon eggs for this valuable education program.
We are desperate for a marine recreational fishing licence. This licence would cover shellfish, groundfish, striped bass, shad, grass prawns, and smelts. It is estimated that over 8,000 people alone spend over $5 million a year on marine recreational fishing, just for striped bass in the Bay of Fundy.
How do you manage a fishery with no catch data, no fishing network information? The licence would provide funding information for studies, habitat restoration, species management, and science. This would also be consistent across Canada, as British Columbia now has a tidal waters fishing licence.
Set DFO free to go to sea. Coastal and marine ecosystem changes must be studied and DFO must be given the resources to focus studies that would determine why salt water mortality for wild Atlantic salmon is happening, what ecosystem changes are occurring, and recovery actions needed to be implemented to stop this mortality. DFO must be allowed to do at-sea research to find and stop the black hole.
It's clear, so it must be clean. Wild fish need good water quality. Acid rain may be the single largest reason for the decline of wild Atlantic salmon in the 73 Southern Upland rivers in Nova Scotia. Due to the lowering of the pH and raising aluminum levels in the rivers, to overcome the negative effects of acid rain, Environment Canada and DFO should partner to lime the rivers that are affected in the Southern Upland on an ongoing basis.
At least 13 rivers of the Southern Upland are totally unsuitable for spawning or rearing based on the acidity and aluminum levels. This affects over 10 million square metres of wild Atlantic salmon habitat. Liming must be started and carried out to return these rivers to full production. The liming project at West River, Sheet Harbour initiated and maintained by the Nova Scotia Salmon Association for the past 10 years on a shoestring budget must be taken over and operated by both Environment Canada and DFO.
For example, in Norway and Sweden, over $20 million a year is spent on liming rivers with a five-year payback from increased tourism. We live next door to 400 million tourists or fishermen. Many would come here if we had fish and promoted fishing correctly.
Another problem is, who looks after acid rain? Is it DFO or is it Environment Canada? This must be straightened out and resources provided to correct the problem, not just studies.
In 2007 there was an escape of aquaculture fish, farmed fish, rainbow trout. Several of these fish showed up in the Sackville River, hundreds of kilometres away. Rainbow trout is an invasive fish species here in Nova Scotia. What are DFO and the province doing allowing invasive fish to be raised in open net sewer pens where escape is possible?
DFO is a promoter of the aquaculture industry and the regulator at the same time. This is a conflict of interest.
DFO is mandated to protect endangered wild Atlantic salmon, but they do not use the precautionary approach when there isn't science to prove an activity is safe. Recently the Nova Scotia government gave the aquaculture industry $25 million. DFO should give NGOs in Nova Scotia a similar amount to save the wild Atlantic salmon.
The volunteer is doing what he can where he can. Of the more than 550 watersheds in Nova Scotia, with 73 rivers known to have salmon, containing over 78 million square metres of Atlantic salmon habitat alone, this habitat is not just for salmon but for all fish species and must be protected and restored where possible. In-stream work required to address habitat issues is part of what will be required to reverse the declining population trends. This work is now being done by volunteer groups. In Nova Scotia there are about 25 groups actively doing in-river restoration. We need more groups and resources for those groups.
Thanks to the Province of Nova Scotia, the recreational fishing licence habitat stamp program, which funds a NSSA Adopt a Stream program every year, great work is being done to restore the fish habitat in Nova Scotia rivers. This program must be supported by DFO by funding an equivalent $1 million a year, or by matching dollar-for-dollar from the province's habitat stamp.
Perhaps the time is right for a new green fund. Perhaps a habitat fund could be created where offsetting funds for all fish habitat losses could be placed to help the volunteer groups restore our rivers. This fund would be overseen by the present NSSA Adopt a Stream program, which is already up and running. Population viability analysis indicates that relatively small increases in either freshwater productivity or at-sea survival are expected to decrease extinction possibilities for Atlantic salmon, especially in the Southern Upland rivers of Nova Scotia.
While a freshwater productivity increase of 50% decreases the probability of extinction within 50 years to near zero, larger changes in at-sea survival are required to restore populations to a level above their conservation requirements. Acidification and barriers to fish passage in rivers are thought to have reduced the amount of freshwater habitat by over 40%.
What happened to the wild Atlantic salmon when it reached the culvert? It got hung up. With an estimated 100,000 culverts or more in Nova Scotia watersheds and the fish passage failure rate of 50% to 80%, many millions of square metres of salmon habitat are inaccessible to wild Atlantic salmon. More inspections of culverts are required by more DFO inspectors and actions taken to correct issues, not just to inventory the losses.
This is and will be an ongoing problem until all culverts are installed correctly. Contractors should have to pay a fee or offsetting levy for the habitat destroyed to be used for stocking, liming, and for restoration of Atlantic salmon and other fish stock habitats. Small-diameter culverts authorized under guidelines now do not have to fund offsetting work. This must be changed.
We need a Nova Scotia habitat credit bank fund, possibly funded by installation of culverts, that would allow developers to put money into the fund so they can get on with their projects and not unnecessarily be held up, delaying economic development. Those moneys collected could then be used to restore lost habitat and to lime rivers.
In addition, like a carbon credit, NGOs could sell their restored square metres to the developers at $40 per square metre, and then use this money to further restore Nova Scotia rivers and damaged habitat to increase recreational fishing in Nova Scotia. Currently, DFO does not allow this habitat banking approach.
The present DFO RFCPP is a very good program and should be expanded and increased. Well done, DFO.
DFO must start a river ranger guardian program.
What did the Atlantic salmon say when it hit the 50-foot concrete wall? “Dam.” It's estimated that just in Nova Scotia rivers, five watersheds are impassible due to barriers that hit the tide and another 25 contain total barriers...upwards of 31 million square metres of habitat.
Grandfather clauses for dams must be removed, and all dams have been solved upstream, downstream [Inaudible—Editor]. DFO has lost most of its hatchery capacity. The eight hatcheries are down to just two. We need more hatcheries.
The recreational fishery in Nova Scotia is worth $88 million. By not having these 550 rivers full of wild salmon and other species, we are removing millions from the federal economy due to decreased tourism.
In 1994, DFO and Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries carried out a research program. The cost of the lost Atlantic salmon habitat on Brierly Brook at that time was found to be $40 per square metre, for all species. The same study said that every Atlantic salmon caught was worth $536. Every day we're losing additional square metres of habitat. This means a loss of millions to the economy of Canada and Nova Scotia.
The present Atlantic salmon conservation fund is good, but it should be increased to $50 million, which will help other river groups in six provinces.
Finally, to quote Don MacIver, a retired Environment Canada scientist, “think globally, act locally”.
Thank you both for your presentations this morning.
I'm Jack Harris, MP for St. John's East, and I'm sitting in today for Robert Chisholm. He's asked me to sit in because he had to be at a funeral in the riding. I do have some questions, though.
First of all, let me say that I'm extremely impressed by the knowledge that you bring about the activities in your area, and also in bringing the voice of conservation and restoration to the debate. I am also extremely encouraged in hearing that there are solutions to this problem of the degradation of Atlantic salmon.
In fact, the numbers that were put forward by you, Ms. Negus, about the increase in the number of salmon over 10 years, from 2,000 to 10,000, by the activity of liming, obviously gives an optimism to the success that can take place if efforts are made. Thank you for pointing it out to us.
Mr. Regan, you mentioned some numbers at the end.
Could you expand a little on the economic value? You talked about the restoration of the Brierly Brook. Is that one of the Sackville rivers that you're working on? Would you be able to say what the value is of the restoration of the Sackville rivers within your bailiwick, your jurisdiction? Is there some study that's been done or some numbers you can extrapolate as to the economic value?