Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the 100th meeting of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in the 42nd Parliament. Pursuant to order of reference on Monday, April 16, 2018, we're studying Bill an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence.
Today for the first hour we have with us, from the Fisheries Council of Canada, Paul Lansbergen, president; from the Forest Products Association of Canada, Kate Lindsay, Director, Environmental Regulations and Conservation Biology; and via teleconference we have Bernie Berry, President, Coldwater Lobster Association.
Also with us today we have Cathay Wagantall from Yorkton—Melville. Thank you for joining us today.
We have the Honourable John McKay from Scarborough—Guildwood. Thank you for coming. I hear you say it's the centre of the universe, but I challenge you to come to Nova Scotia.
We will get started with our first witness today from the Fisheries Council of Canada, please. Mr. Lansbergen you have 10 minutes.
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this morning. Bill represents a significant modification of the Fisheries Act and will have long-standing implications for the sector and the health of our oceans and fish resources.
Before I get into specific comments on the bill, I would like to spend a few minutes to provide some context about the council, the sector, and the policy reality in which we currently find ourselves.
The Fisheries Council of Canada is the national voice for Canada's commercial fisheries. Member companies are processors who process the majority of Canada's fish and seafood production. Our members include small, medium-sized, and larger companies, as well as indigenous enterprises that harvest fish in Canada's three oceans and inland waters.
Canada is a global leader in sustainable fisheries management, with 80% of our Canadian wild seafood production, by value, being certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. This figure is in contrast to the only about 10% of the world's fisheries that are certified. The Canadian seafood industry creates 80,000 direct jobs, mainly in coastal and rural communities, and accounts for $7 billion in exports to 139 countries in the world. Our largest export markets are the U.S., China, the EU, and Japan.
The council is looking towards advantages created by such recent free trade agreements as those with South Korea, the CETA, and the CPTPP. Growing global demand for protein, including fish and seafood, points to more growth in Asian markets and elsewhere. In addition to trade opportunities, we have opportunities to realize more value from what we harvest today. A recent study has indicated that the sector is missing out on $600 million of additional revenue annually. These growth opportunities provide important context for my remarks today.
The most significant policy issue facing the sector is a concern about stability of access to the fishing resource. Recent actions and announcements from DFO have undermined the sector and therefore undermined the economic growth of Canada's coasts. Taking away long-standing licences and quotas does not respect past investment, has eroded the sector's confidence to invest, and could undermine conservation efforts.
This is not an issue for just one part of the sector. There are two reasons for this. One is that the concern is widespread. The second is that the supply chain is highly interdependent. For example, fish harvesters rely on their local fish processor to purchase their catch in order to bring their products to market. With the growth opportunities I mentioned a moment ago, we need to accelerate investment to extract more value from what we harvest and process. Much of this growth will only be realized by investments in new technology and practices. This and other growth opportunities won't be achieved in the absence of a clear and stable policy framework. Unfortunately, such is currently lacking in Canadian fisheries.
This concern also creates a lens through which the sector views Bill and the pending regulations, under new authorities provided by the bill. FCC views positively the habitat provisions that have been restored. These provisions have undergone significant consultation through the committee process. However, there are a number of other broad changes contained in the bill, particularly the new regulations, that could benefit from more thorough consideration.
Given the enabling nature of the bill, the council reserves judgment on the bill pending the development of the regulations authorized, which could take up to three years or more to be completed. Having said that, I would like to highlight three key messages. Our submission goes into more details and provides commentary on a number of the regulatory provisions, if you're interested.
The first is that FCC would like a better reference to the use of fisheries as part of the purpose of the act in proposed new section 2.1. As part of the 2017 consultations, we submitted the following:
|| ‘Sustainable Use’ has been the primary implied principle of the Fisheries Act since its inception, and this primacy must be maintained/strengthened in any revised Act; care must be taken that the introduction/drafting of any additional principles/purpose etc. not diminish this primacy.
It is not clear that this has been achieved in Bill . The first element of the purpose in proposed paragraph 2.1(a), “the proper management and control of fisheries”, is quite broad. Case law is clear that the minister can make decisions based on a wide range of considerations. The use of fisheries is missing in the current wording of the bill. FCC asked the committee to consider this, as participants in the fisheries sector and their communities rely on the economic benefits from Canada's fish resources. It is paramount that such use of our resources be sustainable. Failing to do so will only lead to economic hardship in the future and undermine the vital role this sector plays in Canada's coastal economy.
FCC submits for consideration an amendment to the purpose clause that would make explicit the sustainable use of fisheries as the primary purpose of the act. The wording we propose in proposed section 2.1 is that the purpose of the act is to “(a) ensure the sustainable use of fisheries; and (b) provide a framework for (i) the proper management and control of fisheries; and (ii) the conservation and protection of fish habitat, including preventing pollution.” This is in our submission. Essentially, we have inserted a new paragraph (a) and have moved the rest down.
My second message is related to indigenous participation and co-management. Bill provides significant new authorities relating to indigenous participation in and co-management of fisheries. Co-management agreements are authorized by the new proposed section 4.1 if provisions are deemed “equivalent” to provisions in the act. However, there is currently no legal test for equivalency in this context. Moreover, both the act and the bill fail to set any considerations that the minister or Governor in Council must—or may—consider when determining equivalency. This applies in terms of equivalency in provision and its administration or enforcement. Of particular concern is a potential for different management regimes across different fisheries, which could potentially negatively impact the sustainability of our fisheries resource.
According to the Ahousaht case in B.C., bilateral negotiations of what the fishing right means in practice are unacceptable. DFO does not represent the interests of other sector participants, such as commercial or recreational fisheries, and these interests must be included. The FCC believes there needs to be a clear process for involvement of other impacted stakeholders in co-management negotiations and a process in place to avoid a patchwork approach to the management of a resource that undermines overall sustainability.
In the same case, the crown testified that it is willing to use the allocation transfer program and the Pacific integrated commercial fisheries initiative to increase indigenous participation in fisheries. Moreover, Madam Justice Humphries stated:
||Canada takes the position that access under PICFI and ATP is relevant to the access provided under the right, in particular because reconciliation is achieved through voluntary relinquishment of licences by commercial fishers. It is not necessary and is unhelpful to the principles of reconciliation to move to involuntary relinquishment of licences by the commercial sector.
Unfortunately, this is not the approach that has been taken in the surf clam fishery. A lack of clear criteria and policy has created a climate of uncertainty and instability in the fisheries management. The FCC strongly believes the government needs to adhere to a willing buyer, willing seller policy, as it has done historically.
My third message relates to the many regulations authorized by the bill. FCC looks to how these regulatory provisions can contribute to greater stability of access and thereby instill confidence to invest and support conservation. At the same time, FCC has cautions in terms of the government's ability to anticipate how the sector will evolve over time—quite frankly, I don't know if anyone can. Smart regulations will provide flexibility to accommodate the ongoing evolution of the sector.
FCC hopes this legislation and its subsequent regulations will provide a clear and stable policy framework that will facilitate and enable the fisheries sector to be prosperous long into the future. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the government and parliamentarians on the details of the bill and subsequent regulations.
With that, I welcome any questions you might have. Thank you.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide our perspective as you review Bill . I am here today representing the Forest Products Association of Canada, or FPAC.
FPAC is a voice for Canada's wood and pulp and paper producers nationally. Canada's forest industry employs over 230,000, and operates in over 600 communities from coast to coast. FPAC members manage forests on over 90 million hectares of land across Canada. This is primarily done on provincially managed land. All FPAC members are third party certified to one of three independent certification standards—the Canadian Standards Association; the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, SFI; or the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC.
The forest sector engages in planning for sustainable land use. We develop long-term forest management plans that include aquatic and terrestrial habitat and biodiversity objectives utilizing stakeholder input, science-based approaches, and engagement with local communities and indigenous communities.
When we appeared in front of this committee in December 2016, we spoke to the robust provincial regulations that forestry operations must comply with as well as the third party audited certification regimes that all FPAC members are certified under.
Specific to Bill , I would like to identify current amendments that we notionally support, and identify a number of current amendments that will require further consideration.
To begin with, FPAC is supportive of the provision to empower the minister to establish advisory panels. In particular, we encourage these advisory panels to have individuals or organizations that have experience as proponents. In addition to a formal advisory panel, I would suggest earlier informal multi-interest advisory capacity in the development of the regulations and policies.
Second, FPAC is supportive of “agreements” as referred to in proposed subsection 4.1(1). Our strong recommendation is that equivalency agreements are pursued and recognized between provincial governments, indigenous governing bodies, and DFO to provide for more efficient and effective implementation of the regulations. This will require DFO to prioritize the development of regulations in which equivalency with other jurisdictions could be assessed in the short term, prior to coming into force. Provinces have continued to revise and standardize their own laws, regulations, and guidance for fish and fish habitat over time. We believe this would support efficient and effective policy implementation.
Third, FPAC supports and encourages DFO to recognize robust standards and codes of practice, as referred to in proposed section 34.2(1). Our member companies adhere to regulatory requirements under provincial and federal laws, and in addition employ practices—referred to as best management practices or standard operating procedures—to avoid or mitigate harm to fish and fish habitat. This due diligence that the forest sector employs towards fish and fish habitat has continued to be in place pre- and post-2012. In fact, our standards and operating procedures with respect to fish and fish habitat have continued to improve through the implementation of environmental management systems, forest certification, and evolving provincial regulations.
The vast majority of the work or projects that the forest sector engages in near fish habitat are watercourse crossings—culverts and bridges. New innovations and continual improvement inform our standard operating procedures. For example, in the 1990s and early 2000s, through partnership work with DFO and the development of the operational statements, forest companies have widely transitioned to using such new technology as clear-span bridges for fish streams. These crossings have much better environmental performance than the older technology used previously, 15 years ago.
FPAC, professional foresters, and professional biologists working within our member companies and provinces continue to work with technical experts, such as FPInnovations, the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, and partners like Ducks Unlimited, on implementing best practices. These practices address sediment and erosion control, culvert and bridge design and maintenance, integrated road access, and the maintenance of hydrologic and aquatic ecosystem function in areas where we operate.
We strongly encourage DFO to work with us to establish and recognize existing codes and standards with robust effectiveness monitoring programs, such as forest certification, to recognize the practices that avoid harm to fish and fish habitat.
While I'm on the topic of forestry certification standards, I will state that relevant requirements within the certification standards speak to protection of riparian areas—areas adjacent to permanent waterways—the protection and maintenance of sites that are biologically or culturally significant, the use of ecosystem-based management practices, and the development of long-term research and monitoring programs focused on biodiversity.
Now I would like to identify a few components of Bill that we believe require further consideration or clarification, as they pose potential concerns with regard to how they may be implemented.
The first is the amendment referred to in proposed subsection 35.2(1) on ecologically significant areas. Although we notionally support the identification of such areas, we want to see science, knowledge, and agreed-to processes developed to identify such areas.
The second is a general concern with the capacity of DFO to implement and enforce potentially expanding provisions while developing aquatic health baselines and monitoring cumulative effects moving forward.
We also want to identify the significance and challenge of climate change impacts, and would hope the department builds an understanding of watershed changes due to climate change. There may be other federal departments, such as Natural Resources Canada, that can contribute significant knowledge and expertise on climate change impacts, as well as adaptation practices. We recognize an increase in DFO funding announced recently in the 2018 budget, but we encourage the committee to consider the scope and ability of the department to implement the proposed act. We are hopeful that DFO will receive the necessary support to conduct this type of cumulative effects monitoring.
In summary, we encourage the and department to draft regulations that would enable equivalency agreements. We encourage the minister and department to establish multi-interest advisory capacity in the short term and to develop and recognize codes and standards. There is an opportunity for government to recognize the continued research and implementation in improving BMPs and in adapting practices on an ongoing basis, as well as the robust indicators and effectiveness monitoring programs established through third party audits.
We encourage that appropriate transition time and instruments be thought through to ensure that responsible proponents have a clear process identified while the necessary regulations and policy are developed.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide feedback on this important topic.
I welcome your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to present today in front of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
My name is Bernie Berry, and I am President of the Coldwater Lobster Association, which is located in southwest Nova Scotia. Our association represents lobster fishermen who ply their trade in lobster fishing area, LFA, 34.
LFA 34 is the most lucrative lobster fishing area in Canada. LFA 34 has approximately 970 licence holders, and the landings for the 2016-17 season hover around 50 million pounds. Landed value is in the range of $350 million to $370 million, and this fishery is MSC-approved as are all Canadian lobster fisheries.
The lobster fishery in southwest Nova Scotia is the main economic influence on the economy in the region. The strength of the lobster fishery in southwest Nova Scotia comes from the fact that the vast majority of licence holders are independent. This leads to the spreading and sharing of the wealth that is harvested from the sea. The stock is very strong and plentiful because of the stewardship that fishermen have demonstrated over time.
For these fishermen, and the communities they support, continued independence of the fishermen is a must. The lobster licences must remain in the control of these small independent business owners, the fishermen themselves. This will allow for the continued success, not only of the lobster fishery but also of the rural communities. The licences must remain independent to support the next generation of lobster fishermen, and to allow them to have the opportunity to continue the success of the previous licence holders.
Coldwater Lobster Association believes one avenue to achieve this is through the Fisheries Act. The owner-operator, fleet separation, and PIIFCAF, the acronym for preserving the independence of the inshore fleet in Canada's Atlantic fisheries, could and would be enhanced by making all these policies part of the regulatory regime and/or a condition of licence.
The result of an initiative like this would be the elimination of corporate infiltration into the lobster sector. The policies would now be regulations, and the penalties could be more substantial and applied in a timelier fashion for the instigators trying to circumvent the regulations. If properly designed and installed as a regulation, decisions could be made on a case-by-case basis at a regional level, and possibly an area level of DFO enforcement.
An area that is not covered very well in the Fisheries Act is the potential of foreign ownership of fishing licences and fish-buying licences. As the rule now applies, companies that have Canadian fish-buying licences for various species of fish must be 51% Canadian owned and controlled.
Unfortunately, this is not monitored or overseen very closely, and any good law firm can disguise the true ownership of these companies. This leads to foreign control, not only of a company but the quota and access to numerous Canadian fish stocks. The profits and benefits from a Canadian public resource are siphoned off to individuals and boardrooms abroad.
Coldwater Lobster Association believes that the benefits of fishing licences should flow to the harvesters who hold the licences and also to their coastal communities. The product caught by the fishermen, once on land, should also be used to enhance the economic viability of these rural communities.
A problem that is not being addressed is the generational turnover of fishing licences to a new set of young entrepreneurs. The main difficulty that is being encountered by the potential new independent licence holders is obtaining financing.
With the success of the present independent licence holders, the value of fishing licences has increased substantially in the last couple of decades. The average age of lobster licence holders in LFA 34 is approximately 55. Almost half the licences in LFA 34 will possibly change hands in the next 10 years for various reasons. The new entrant needs financial help in acquiring these valuable lobster licences to kick-start their career as a new entrepreneur in the community.
Coldwater Lobster Association believes that in order to have a smooth transition into the next generation of fishermen, it will take a collaborative approach from the federal government and some of its departments, such as ACOA, DFO, Industry Canada, the provincial government through its fisheries loan board, and chartered banks along with the industry itself to come forth with a suite of options for the new entrant to choose from to obtain financing.
Any type of backlog or slowing of this transition from the older generation to the new independent small business owner will have a dampening economic effect on the industry and the communities it supports.
Coldwater Lobster Association appreciates the time the committee has afforded our organization to speak on this very important issue, and we hope to be back in the future, because the lobster fishery is evolving quickly and there are numerous challenges ahead that will need to be discussed with all involved.
Thank you again.
I don't think we can take that approach now. There's been too much water under the bridge. What you're talking about is basically what goes on, for example, in the main lobster fishery, where the government owns the licence and when the gentleman is ready to retire, it's just given back to the government and a new entrant is picked through almost a random draw. Unfortunately, that's not the system we have, so I don't think we're going to replace that, for various reasons.
A lot of the people who are in the fishery now are the reason this fishery is worth so much. They've worked hard. For most of the fishermen now, these licences are part of their retirement package. So you'd have to address that on both sides, not just with the people getting in but also with the people getting out.
I think the key is that, at least for the young individuals, if all the parties involved—as I said, federally, provincially, and the industry itself—come up with some sort of a plan to get the young guys into..... The big stumbling block, I guess, is the down payment or the money up front and stuff like this. Most of the younger gentlemen wanting to get into it are 25 to 30 years of age, and that's a steep.... I'll speak only for LFA 34. To get a down payment for an outfit that would include a boat, licensing, and gear in LFA 34, you're going through the chartered banks, and they require 25% to 30%. That amounts to about $300,000.
Mr. Donnelly, I think that unfortunately B.C. took a different approach...or the federal government actually took a different approach back in the seventies when they announced the owner-operator fleet separation. It restricted it to the Atlantic coast and didn't include the west coast. Unfortunately, over time, I think there has been a loss of independence on the west coast. I think it's going to be a hard slog to get it back to a majority of independently owned out there, because it's so ingrained now in corporate quota-owned fisheries, and stuff like that.
That's what we're trying to guard against on the east coast here. There are some fisheries that are quota based, but the main fisheries, like lobster, crab, and some of the smaller ones, are still independent. That's why we're trying to fight to keep it that way, because we think it's the only way to go in the future to enhance our communities.
Again, for the young gentleman out west, I think it's going to be doubly hard. They're going to have to overturn a regime that's been in place for 30 years, the quota regime, and people owning quota who are not on the water, or maybe not even in the province, and stuff like that. I wish him the best, but they're starting from a very, very negative position.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning to all the guests.
Mr. Lansbergen, I'm going to focus my questions your way and preface this by suggesting we to get together offline and have a deeper discussion on some of the issues.
This bill sought to change an approach taken by the previous government, which focused on the commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fish. The fish that were important to those sectors were the ones that would be most protected. There were a lot of people who thought that the habitat needed more attention, which is one of the things we've brought back in this.
I think there's an analogy here to the communities. On the west coast, we're dealing with the economics of it. We have economies of scale, but I think we may have reached a tipping point where we're actually dealing with cartels out on the west coast. The impact on communities appears to be negative and troubling.
I wanted your comment on some research done on the change in landed value from 2000 to 2015. This research was done by the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters. In Atlantic Canada, the landed value of their catch went up by 59% from 2000 to 2015, and the actual landings were lower in 2015 than they were in 2000. In Alaska, the change in landed value over that period was 84%, with the amount being landed about half that percentage, but it was an increase. In British Columbia, however, the landed value has gone down by 4% over that time, and the amount being landed has also gone down.
Why, in your opinion, is the B.C. industry underperforming compared with its neighbour and its counterpart in eastern Canada?
Welcome back to our second hour. We now have with us , member for Thérèse-De Blainville, and , from Charlottetown.
Welcome. Thank you for joining us for the next little while.
We're going to move on to our presenters for the second hour.
We have, from the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Nick Lapointe, Senior Conservation Biologist, Freshwater Ecology, and David Browne, Director of Conservation. We also have, by video conference, Chris Bloomer, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, and Sonya Savage, Senior Policy Director of Regulatory Affairs. By video conference, we also have the Seafood Producers Association of British Columbia, with Chris Sporer, Executive Director, and Christina Burridge, Executive Director of the B.C. Seafood Alliance.
We're going to get started. For the first 10 minutes, we have the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Will you be splitting your time? Okay. Whoever is starting your 10 minutes can go ahead.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the invitation to appear before committee today.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation supports much of what is proposed in Bill , including support for the requirement to rebuild fish stocks, and strong support for the provisions that deal with modifying commercial fisheries to address impacts to marine mammals or marine biodiversity. However, our focus today is on the habitat provisions.
In our testimony before this committee in October 2016, we emphasized what we see as the goals of the fish habitat provisions: to protect fish habitat, to restore past harms, and to compensate for future losses.
With respect to protecting existing fish habitat, the act goes a long way to achieving strong protection. We are very pleased to see the creation of a public registry in the proposed amendments, though its scope should be expanded. In our opinion, Bill falls short on strengthening the fish passage provisions. We would like to see fish passage as a mandatory requirement with provisions for exemptions. Bill C-68 also falls short on dealing with minor works that cause harm. We will go into this in greater detail.
On the restoration of past harms, we are pleased to see the inclusion of language around habitat restoration, and to hear the say before committee that Bill will create a positive obligation for the department to work to restore fish habitat. To this end, net gain should be established as the goal of the fish habitat protection provisions. The strengthened requirements around offsetting will also contribute to restoration, especially if this is guided by watershed-level goals.
Finally, regarding compensating effectively for future harms to fish habitat, we are seeing broad agreement in testimony before this committee that Bill does not create a comprehensive legal framework for dealing with small projects, and that the act needs to be applied consistently and appropriately across all works that cause harm. To quote Mr. Pierre Gratton of the Mining Association of Canada on the cumulative effects of small projects, “these stresses cannot be addressed by focusing the department’s attention on a few mining projects.”
I would just modify that to say: a few major projects. Mr. Gratton stressed the need to address all works with residual harm, and he highlighted forestry, agriculture, hydro, and municipal works.
Small projects are the crux of the act. Successive governments have struggled to provide a regulatory and policy framework to Fisheries and Oceans that effectively and appropriately deals with the harm to fish habitat resulting from small projects. They are a major—if not the major—cause of fish habitat loss across Canada on a cumulative basis.
Several witnesses have brought up the example of works that clear shoreline vegetation, or the works of farmers and municipalities in routine clearing of drainage infrastructure such as ditches, channels, and retention ponds, as problematic areas of regulation. They have suggested that all of these activities in all locations do not require oversight, beyond guidance via a code of practice. We would disagree that such a blanket and hands-off approach can prevent significant impacts from such a wide range of activities.
I want to be clear that we agree that a code of practice with no requirement for compensation is appropriate for many types of water bodies and many types of activities on farmland or municipal land where harm can be avoided. But we have the science to classify water bodies and activities. We know that the department could specify which locations and which works do result in residual harm and do require oversight and compensation, in order to move toward a policy goal of net gain. In these cases, we argue that the act does not contain the tools to regulate and manage HADD from small projects.
I’ll ask Dr. Lapointe to go into more detail.
We've heard so far under Bill that large projects will be managed either by permits as designated projects or by authorizations, and we support this. We've also heard that low-risk projects will be regulated by codes of practice, and we support this as long as they fully avoid harm, which DFO has clearly stated is the intent.
For example, CEPA is speaking next, and if a pipeline is placed under a stream using a horizontal directional drill without disturbing the stream bed, this should fully avoid harm and seems like a suitable candidate for a code of practice. But this still leaves out a third class of projects: the countless small projects that do cause harm, and it's really unclear how they'll be managed. We're deeply concerned that DFO intends to include projects under codes of practice that actually do cause harm, and this harm won't be compensated for.
Take stream crossings, for example. It's been suggested that properly designed stream crossings don't cause harm as long as they pass fish, but any biologist will tell you that blocking fish passage isn't the only harm caused by stream crossings. If we take the example of a culvert, there's infilling on each side of the culvert. If the culvert has a closed bottom, then it eliminates habitat in the middle of the stream. Then, of course, there's riparian habitat loss on both sides, which occurs basically for any stream crossing.
A culvert example is on the small end of the scale in terms of small projects that cause harm. Other examples of bigger projects that aren't currently addressed under the Fisheries Act include the expansion of wharves, piers or jetties, extending shorelines, and channelizing streams. Definitely anything that infills aquatic habitat leaves residual harm and needs to be compensated for because right now, when you put all of these projects together, the cumulative effect is a significant problem.
How are small projects that harm fish currently managed by DFO? Flat out, some aren't. Proponents self-assess and might not choose to even notify DFO even though there is residual harm. If they do submit a request for review, DFO's now established formal triage thresholds are based on perceived habitat importance. For example, proponents can destroy up to 100 square metres of “important” habitat or up to 1,000 square metres of low-quality habitat without triggering an authorization. What counts as important or unimportant is entirely subjective. It's definitely not based on science at this stage.
If the project is small enough, the proponent is given a letter of advice on how to proceed. The problem is that this letter is an extra-legislative mechanism. The projects aren't tracked, the conditions of the letter are not enforceable, and no compensation is provided for the residual harm of the project.
What do DFO scientists think about this? A group of them, led by DFO's chief scientist, published a peer-reviewed paper and concluded that to achieve no net loss, all projects that are not authorized need to result in zero death of fish or zero residual harm to habitat or an improvement to habitat, and this is not currently the case.
Ken Minns, a retired DFO research scientist, concluded that under DFO's current approach to managing small projects, the continued net loss of productive capacity appears inevitable. Under this framework no net loss is really slow net loss.
Again, currently under the proposed framework projects that avoid harm will be regulated by codes of practice and those that cause HADD will still require authorizations or permits. What's going to happen to the small projects that cause residual harm? Either letters of advice will still be issued and residual harm will still accumulate, something that's flat out unacceptable to anyone who cares about fish habitat, or thousands of small projects are going to require authorizations. I assume when I say that some of you, and certainly our industry partners, are thinking, “God, these guys want DFO to authorize everything”. Trust me, that's not the case. Authorizing all these small projects would create a massive bureaucracy. It would create delays, uncertainties, costs, and liabilities for proponents, and it would really only produce questionable environmental benefits. A whole bunch of tiny one-off offsets are unlikely to address the real restoration priorities that we have in Canada. There are definitely better ways to solve this problem.
One solution is to set up an alternate permitting process for small projects, where proponents can register online and receive a permit automatically—no delays, no uncertainty. The permit conditions would have to be enforceable. They would have to require that proponents first avoid, then mitigate harm, following best management practices, and this process would have to be accompanied by random audits to ensure that proponents are accountable and evaluate the effectiveness of the system. Overall, this would definitely be more efficient and it would allow DFO to assess cumulative effects, but we still need to address the residual harm from these projects.
There are several ways to do this that would be better for fish habitat than individual offsets. Big proponents might simply be able to use credits from their own existing habitat banks under the new habitat banking framework, but that leaves small proponents and private landowners out in the cold.
These proponents need to be able to purchase credits from existing habitat banks. For that, we need an amendment to enable third-party habitat banking, or DFO could collect a fee in lieu of an offset and pool these fees in a dedicated fund similar to the environmental damages fund. This could later pay for meaningful, high-priority restoration projects in the same service area, but again, an amendment is needed to enable this tool.
Finally, it might be even be possible to include specific requirements for compensation activities for some project types in the permit conditions, or possibly under codes of practice, as long as these conditions were enforceable. These recommendations are outlined in our brief. We also support recommendations made by Ecojustice on this issue.
Generally, though, we’re open-minded to any alternative solution that solves this problem, and need to emphasize that this is the primary modern safeguard that needs to be established under Bill .
Good morning, everyone.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide additional comments on this bill. I represent the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.
I have some quick comments. Over the last two years, CEPA has committed fully to participating in consultations, discussions, and round tables on the government's review of the Fisheries Act, CEAA 2012, NEB modernization, and the Navigation Protection Act. CEPA provided over 200 pages of submissions and practical recommendations that were intended to help to achieve clarity and certainty and restore trust in the regulatory system for all stakeholders.
Throughout the process we have advocated for legislation that would be founded on science and fact-based decision-making, and we have leveraged the considerable and established expertise of the National Energy Board. We sought legislation that would achieve clarity, certainty, and predictability, while avoiding duplication.
Before I speak to Bill , CEPA would like to reaffirm that we remain extremely concerned about the changes put forward in the impact assessment act, Bill , and we emphasized our concerns at the standing committee studying that bill. We have recently provided the government with detailed recommendations on amendments to the bill and we hope that changes will be made.
With respect to Bill , our concerns are less profound and mostly related to details that are simply unknown at this point. We recognize that the proposed amendments in Bill are essentially a return to the pre-2013 approach to fisheries regulation, with added elements such as gender analysis, indigenous traditional knowledge, and community knowledge.
The effect of these potential changes is to increase regulatory burden, complexity, and uncertainty. The impact will very much depend on the approach to implementation. To put it another way, the mischief is in the details. Numerous regulations need to be developed, including the designated project list, timelines, habitat banking, and how authorizations or permits may be amended, suspended, or cancelled. These regulations will require significant consultation with stakeholders and at this point the details are unclear. We need to understand how Bill will be implemented. This includes an understanding of how advisory panels will work, the public registry, cost recovery, time limits for authorizations, habitat banking, and how gender analysis works within the context of the Fisheries Act.
We need to understand what groups and organizations could be considered an indigenous governing body, and we need to understand under what circumstances equivalency provisions will apply. We don't know how indigenous traditional knowledge will be considered and weighted. We simply do not have any clarity on any of these issues.
Although we have many questions, I would like to use the remaining time to focus our comments on four areas of concern that are of the highest priority to the pipeline sector.
First, there is the designated project list. Bill contemplates different processes for major projects than for smaller, routine projects. This, in and of itself, can be positive, allowing for more streamlined procedures for routine projects that have minimal impacts and known mitigation practices and upon which there is a large body of best practices that have been employed. However, we do not know what will be on that list or how it will be developed. Therefore, we strongly suggest that this legislation should not be passed in Parliament without the understanding of what the designated project list regulation will look like.
Second, we are concerned about how standards and codes of practice will be implemented. Proposed section 34.2 of Bill allows the minister to establish standards and codes of practice that may provide formal guidance for small routine projects. We consider this to be positive, if implemented in a practical manner. For more than 60 years, CEPA member companies have operated pipelines across the country, currently operating approximately 119,000 kilometres of pipelines, and they have constructed thousands of watercourse crossings. Because of this history, the environmental and socio-economic effects of building pipelines are well understood, and over the years best practices and standard mitigation methods have been developed and implemented. Having standards and codes of practice are of utmost importance to our industry. We require certainty and predictability during the permitting process. The codes of practice can provide that. Without codes of practice, our industry could be buried in time-consuming, uncertain approvals being needed for low-impact activities.
We are encouraged by the recent work done in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and scientists to prepare watercourse-crossing guidelines for pipelines. The guidelines, known as the fish and fish habitat impact assessment tool, could be one of the first standards referenced under the new legislation. In addition to input from DFO, the science underlying this guideline was reviewed by the Canadian science advisory secretariat using the highest, most rigorous scientific standards. The model used to prepare this guideline could be used by other industries.
Third, in terms of amending, cancelling, and suspending authorizations, a third area of concern is related to section 43. This section enables regulations to be developed whereby the minister or any other member of the public may request an amendment, suspension, or cancellation of an authorization or permit at any time. The rationale for this provision is unclear, and it creates uncertainty where there should be certainty. CEPA strongly suggests that this provision be removed from the legislation.
My fourth point relates to the National Energy Board, or the future Canadian energy regulator, and the role that the new CER will play in Fisheries Act authorizations.
In 2013, DFO and NEB signed an MOU, and that gave the NEB responsibility for initial review of Fisheries Act authorizations for NEB-regulated pipelines. Under the MOU, the NEB will assess the potential impacts on fish and fish habitat for pipeline watercourse crossings, and determine whether mitigation strategies are needed. If there are serious impacts, the NEB informs DFO and DFO will then review and be responsible for any authorizations, just like any other application. However, the NEB does the initial work to determine whether there are impacts. If there are none, the project applicant does not have to make a separate application to DFO.
Essentially the process triggered by the MOU avoids having two departments perform the same assessment. It avoids the duplication that drives more costly processes with long timelines. We are encouraged that Bill enables the sort of MOU that is currently in place with the NEB and DFO. To this end, CEPA recommends that the current MOU between the NEB and DFO be maintained.
In conclusion, CEPA recognizes that keeping water bodies and fish habitat protected is of utmost importance to Canadians, including pipeline operators, but we must also maintain a regulatory framework that provides clarity and certainty, avoids duplication, and further builds on the wealth of technical knowledge and best practices already in place to achieve our desired outcomes and ensure Canada's competitiveness.
Thank you very much. I look forward to questions.
Thank you very much, everyone. We really appreciate the chance to be here. I'm going to start and then Chris is going to follow.
I'm here for the B.C. Seafood Alliance. That's the most representative fishing organization on the west coast, mainly representing commercial fishermen up and down the coast in virtually every major fishery on this coast. Chris is here for the Seafood Producers Association of B.C. That's the largest processor organization on the west coast. His members are big players in salmon, herring, groundfish, and many specialty products. If you like, we're two sides of the same coin. Our members are the people who bring food to Canadians and to the world.
We are broadly supportive of the habitat provisions. These were subject to very thorough consultation. We have four points we would like to make about the non-habitat provisions. We want to propose an amendment to the “Purpose” section. We want to make some comments on changes to indigenous participation and co-management. We want to make some comments on the confidentiality of traditional knowledge, and we want to close by emphasizing that stability and predictability in licensing policy and the management framework are essential to all participants in the industry, including indigenous peoples.
In terms of amending the purpose, in our view the current text does not provide a purpose. It only provides tools. The purpose itself needs to be defined as it is in, say, the New Zealand Fisheries Act and in other common property jurisdictions. We propose that proposed section 2.1 should read, “the conservation and sustainable use of fish and fishery resources through the proper control and management of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish habitat, including preventing pollution.”
Moving on to indigenous participation and co-management, the right to manage fisheries resides in the minister and cannot be downloaded to others except in very clearly defined ways. Parliament should be careful that it is not giving unconstitutional powers to the minister to delegate management to indigenous organizations. A patchwork of separate management authorities for fisheries on the west coast would be disastrous for conservation and the use of the resource by all Canadians. There must be a single manager.
Further to that point, the recent Ahousaht et al decision on the west coast confirms that while the nations have a right to fish and to sell fish, that right applies only in a very narrow area and is not unrestricted, not exclusive, not industrial, and it does not provide a guaranteed economic baseline. The judgment also says that bilateral negotiations of what the right means in practice are unacceptable. That's because DFO does not represent the interests of the other sectors such as commercial and recreational fisheries, and those interests must be included.
The judgment also says that voluntary relinquishment—that's willing buyer, willing seller transfer of licences—is the best means towards reconciliation in the fishery, and it stresses that reconciliation is a national endeavour, not only to be borne by the commercial fishing families, and that it cannot be achieved without the involvement of all interested parties.
Indigenous participation in the west coast fishery is already strong. We expect it to grow, and that's a good thing. Roughly one-third of all licences are held by indigenous individuals or organizations so any changes to fisheries management or licensing policy will affect them as well as others.
We do have concerns about the confidentiality of any traditional knowledge. We believe this needs to be narrowed, especially in the light of the Ahousaht et al decision. The recent decision by the minister, based on confidential bilateral negotiations to suspend the central coast herring fishery in the interest of reconciliation, despite the recommendations of peer-reviewed science, cost communities up and down the coast about $12 million for what would have been a two-day fishery.
Lastly, with regard to stability and predictability, the tabling of enabling provisions regarding licensing policy and social policy has already been destabilizing with millions of dollars of investment on hold on both coasts. It's scaring young people out of the industry or making them question whether they want to enter.
Without secure access, there is no incentive to invest in new vessels, new gear, new markets, or new products. Worse, there is no incentive to invest in the resource, and many of our fisheries contribute $1 million or more, for each fishery, to DFO science every year.
Unlike the habitat provisions, these changes to the act were made with minimal consultation, and in our view, have been rushed through with little opportunity for input.
I will just close by saying that fishing interests must be fully and comprehensively engaged in the development of regulations.
I'll pass it over to Chris.
We know you have heard many things about B.C. fisheries, but it is important to understand the context, and what we would like to do is provide that context.
I sent six slides over. I don't know if the committee members have been shown them, but when the committee members do get a chance to look at them, they'll see that the differences between landed values in Atlantic Canada and Pacific Canada. It shows the fisheries in the two regions are very different. In Atlantic Canada there are fisheries that have landed values in excess of $500 million. In contrast, the most valuable fisheries on the Pacific coast are in the range of $30 million to $50 million.
The industry has experienced some profound change over the past 30 years. In inflation-adjusted terms, the landed value today is just over half of what it was 20 years ago. Landed value has fallen from an annual average of about $720 million to $385 million. The commercial salmon and herring fisheries are now a fraction of what they once were. Salmon, for example, used to generate 48% of the total landed value but today accounts for only 17%. Groundfish and shellfish fisheries have grown in importance and today account for 34% and 37% of total landed value, respectively.
Looking at the salmon fishery, commercial salmon landed weight and value have declined over time. Landings have dropped by 69%, while value has dropped by 81%. We have seen changing ocean conditions and reallocations to first nations in-river fisheries and to the recreational fishing sector. That has reduced the amount of salmon available to commercial harvesters. At the same time, conservative management has been adopted, and harvest rates have been reduced, from 70% or 80% to 30% or 40%, as we move to protect weak stocks.
These reduced harvest levels, combined with increased competition in world seafood markets, particularly from Alaska and farmed salmon production, have resulted in reduced annual landed values, declining by 81% compared with what we saw in the early 1990s.
The roe herring fishery shows a story similar to salmon. Lower ocean productivity and conservative management have reduced harvests. This fishery, before management changes to bring in more conservative management, used to significantly exceed allowable harvest limits, but these new management measures introduced in 1997 have done a better job of bringing harvests in line with allowable catch limits. These reduced harvests combined with the collapse of the Japanese “bubble” economy—Japan is basically the only market for this product—have resulted in a significant reduction in the value generated from this fishery, an 88% drop from what was seen in the early 1990s.
Moving on to the groundfish fisheries, groundfish has also seen a decline in landed weight as more conservative management has been adopted. Our groundfish fisheries have moved, from fisheries where overharvesting occurred and there was rampant at-sea discarding and misreporting of catch, to fisheries today that have 100% at-sea monitoring and 100% dockside monitoring and full accountability of all the catch, regardless of whether it was retained or released at sea.
These management changes, while they have provided significant conservation benefits that have resulted in a reduced harvest, have allowed more value to be extracted from the resource. Harvesters are now able to provide the market with year-round or almost year-round fresh product instead of frozen product. They are extracting more value from a pound of fish.
Turning to the shellfish fisheries, these have also seen a decline in landed weight, and again it is due to adoption of more conservative management. Their landed value has actually increased. Management changes in the dive fisheries, similar with what we have seen with groundfish, have allowed more value to be extracted from the catch, and the spot prawn and crab fisheries have developed new markets and grown in importance.
On the Pacific coast we have moved to more conservative management, which has significantly reduced harvests and, therefore, also the value of the fisheries. In the past these fisheries were unsustainable. We were overharvesting—
I'll take a crack at it first.
I think if you look at a lot of fisheries, where they started from there was significant overcapacity in the fisheries, so there was overharvesting and poor economic returns. For instance, in the early 1990s, among salmon fishermen who were only focused on the salmon fishery, 75% of the fleet, according to DFO reports, was basically making negative economic returns.
The industry's made changes also because of safety. Racing for the fish means vessels may be forced to fish in inclement weather, so these changes have led to industry and fishermen coming forward and saying, look, we want to change; we want to look at different ways of doing it. That's how the fisheries evolved over time. It's evolved more recently to address things like bycatch.
With respect to competing on world markets, we are a price-taker in world markets. We are a high-cost volume producer. Our biggest competitor is Alaska, just to the north of us. They catch the same fish, produce the same products, and sell them into the same markets. We have to be competitive with them or we will lose those markets.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Again, thank you to our witnesses, both here in person and by video conference.
I want to continue a little bit with the line of questioning of my colleague Mr. Morrissey regarding the owner-operator issue within the fishery.
I come from Newfoundland, as far east as you can get. Our fishermen are lobbying, or whatever they do, to make sure owner-operator exists and is managed properly. Right up to the FFAW, which is the union that represents all the fishers in the province, they want it included as well because it's so important to the sustainability of the fishery, as it is community-oriented and a benefit to the community.
We heard from at least five young fishers from the B.C. area here at committee in the past couple of weeks, and each one of them had a problem. You're entrenching owner-operator on the east coast, but you're leaving them to their own means on the west coast. They said the issue of trying to get into the fishery was very difficult, very expensive to get a quota, but they can fish a quota for somebody who sits on the 32nd floor of an office tower somewhere and only get a fraction of the value of that quota. In listening to what you're saying, the fishery is different and is owned by corporations. Everybody has a corporation. The fishermen in Newfoundland have corporations as well, but the individual quota is in the fisherman's name. He sets up a corporation. When he sells his catch at the end of the day or week, it's paid to the corporation. He takes his paycheque and the crew take their paycheques from the corporation. It's done, as you say, for tax purposes.
Why wouldn't that work on the west coast?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I just wanted to pick up on my colleague, Mr. Morrissey's question to Ms. Burridge about representation of the B.C. Seafood Alliance.
Ms. Burridge, you mentioned you represent most of the seafood producers on the west coast. I'm wondering about the 5,800 crews, the 4,500 shore workers, the 2,300 vessel operators, the 26 first nation commercial fishing enterprises, the 325 processors, the 2,325 licence holders, the more than 100 first nation fishing communities, the more than 150 coastal communities, and the 65 fishing organizations, including labour and species and gear. Would you say you represent a majority of those folks?