Good afternoon, everyone.
Before we get started, the bells are ringing, but we have about 21 or 22 minutes before the actual vote. I was wondering if we at least could hear the presentation of the witnesses for the seven minutes. Then we'd go to the vote and come back. That way, we'd be ready to go with the questioning if everybody's in agreement to that.
We'll hear the presentations first, then we'll suspend to go and vote, and then we'll come back. Okay? All right.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are continuing the study of aquatic invasive species.
Today we have with us officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans: Philippe Morel, Assistant Deputy Minister, Aquatic Ecosystems Sector; Hélène Marquis, Executive Director, Fisheries Protection Program and Major Projects; Brent Napier, Chief, Enforcement Programs; and, Simon Nadeau, Senior Adviser, Ecosystem Science.
You may make your opening statement, for seven minutes or less, please, when you're ready, Mr. Morel.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We're following up on where Mr. Napier is, but during the vote we will find him and make sure he is here when you come back.
I'm very pleased to be here with my colleagues to conclude your discussion on aquatic invasive species.
As you know, Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognizes aquatic invasive species as a serious national threat that can negatively impact Canada's ecosystems, economy and society. They can harm fish, fish habitat and use of aquatic resources, for example, fisheries, aquaculture or even the recreational fishing industry. They are also the second leading cause of decline for species at risk. AIS of public interest across Canada include zebra and quagga mussels, four species of Asian carp, European green crab and various species of invasive tunicates.
The department is the federal lead on managing AIS in collaboration with provinces and territories. The aquatic invasive species regulations came into force in 2015 under the Fisheries Act to provide tools for federal, provincial and territorial action and partnerships, setting significant expectations regarding Canada's collective ability to manage AIS. The AIS regulations list over 160 aquatic species as prohibited or controlled in Canada according to geographic conditions and complement other federal legislation intended to prevent AIS introduction, such as Transport Canada's ballast water management and control regulations.
To facilitate collaboration and coordination among federal, provincial and territorial governments, Fisheries and Oceans Canada co-chairs the national aquatic invasive species committee under the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has long been involved in addressing the threat of aquatic invasive species. In 2005, the department began implementing the invasive alien species strategy for Canada. Half of the funding for this initiative was allocated to the sea lamprey control program, while the remaining balance supported the development of regulatory policy as well as science activities, including research, regional monitoring and priority biological risk assessments.
In 2017, the federal budget allocated $43.8 million over five years and $10.6 million annually thereafter for national AIS activities, including the establishment of a new AIS national core program, renewal of the Asian carp program and support for the sea lamprey control program. The AIS national core program's mission is to implement the AIS regulations and act on scientific and other advice according to four international AIS pillars, which are prevention, early detection, rapid response, and control and management. The program will focus on pathways and vectors of AIS spread rather than individual species, as it is a more efficient and cost-effective approach.
Key activities undertaken by the department include the development of training material on the AIS regulations, a national response strategy and regional response strategies; regional early detection, monitoring and control programs in high-risk areas or for high-risk species; implementation of tools and procedures for authorizing habitat modification, the deposit of deleterious substances and licensing fishing for AIS; and, various education and outreach initiatives.
To establish a national presence, aquatic invasive species national core program funding was allocated to each of the department's regions. Resources have been dedicated towards high-risk pathways, vectors and areas based on sound scientific and other advice.
Provinces and territories with international borders have identified importation as a major vector for the introduction of aquatic invasive species into Canada. However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada's enforcement resources for the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations are low. For this reason, the aquatic invasive species national core program will fund seven new fishery officers to be deployed in the central and Arctic and Quebec regions by 2020-21, aligning with the priorities outlined in 's mandate letter to protect freshwater resources in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and Lake Winnipeg basins.
Addressing the threat of AIS is a shared responsibility across federal, provincial and territorial governments. For instance, some provinces and territories are the lead for freshwater AIS, while the department leads for marine. However, the AIS national core program is not equipped to fund provincial or territorial activities, as this is not our role.
Nonetheless, in August 2018, Fisheries and Oceans Canada responded to western provinces' call for support by reallocating funds to non-government organizations to undertake activities to prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels in British Columbia. The outcomes of these initiatives are intended to be nationally beneficial and applicable. The department also hopes to leverage the new nature legacy fund to prevent and mitigate the impact of AIS on species at risk.
In April 2019, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development audited Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Canada Border Services Agency's aquatic invasive species-related activities from 2014 to 2018. The audit found that neither department had implemented adequate measures to prevent aquatic invasive species from becoming established in Canadian waters and recommended clarifying roles and responsibilities and developing strategies for various Fisheries and Oceans Canada activities.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada agrees with the recommendations and is actively working to address them. The department anticipates that it will be able to fully implement all of the recommendations by March 2022.
There are many other positive outcomes of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's AIS activities that were not reflected in the commissioner's conclusions, particularly for control and management. As the audit focused solely on prevention, it did not fully capture the successes of the Asian carp program and the sea lamprey control program. As a result of the activities of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in collaboration with provincial, non-governmental and indigenous partners, Asian carp have not become established in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes.
Meanwhile, through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working diligently with counterparts in the United States to control sea lamprey populations. The audit also did not capture the ongoing science support that Fisheries and Oceans Canada provides Transport Canada regarding the ballast water pathway, which will also contribute to the upcoming amendments to Transport Canada's ballast water management and control regulations.
Finally, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to make progress on its commitments to promote healthy ecosystems and build safe, secure communities towards a sustainable future. The department will continue to build relationships with provincial and territorial partners, as well as indigenous peoples and other stakeholders, to ensure a cohesive approach to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in Canadian waters.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the question.
If you look at it from a broader perspective, what you've mentioned is actually correct, but we also need to differentiate how the AIS activities in Fisheries and Oceans are distributed. Previous to budget 2017, all the funding for AIS was directed to the central and Arctic region for the Great Lakes program for the sea lamprey and for the Asian carp.
What was added in 2017 was the creation of a national program. The national program is the program that does the coordination work with stakeholders and provinces and territories on how to better manage species and prioritize them, and it's also the group that manages the regulations. For that program, the new money...because in 2017 what was done is that the Asian carp and the sea lamprey programs were renewed. They were B-base and now they're A-base. Also, part of the funding for the Great Lakes Commission was expired; that money was just reconfirmed.
For the national program, in terms of the way it's distributed, or will be, because it's a ramping-up program, the distribution of the money is quite equal between all the regions, although it's based on where the species are located. To give you an example, at headquarters we have three people on that national program, but we have one in Newfoundland, one in the Maritimes region, two in Quebec, two in the central and Arctic region, two in the Pacific region and two in the Gulf region. It's based on the number of species that they have to manage, more than an equal...because we're managing species; we're not managing the number of staff in an office.
In terms of the pathways, the best approach, I guess—because it's co-management across Canada: DFO and other partners, like the provinces and territories—is to partner with others and to join forces—it's such a big threat—in this knowledge, not only in DFO with the science research, but also in many provinces.
So, if we're targeting high-risk pathways and vectors, it is more efficient and cost-effective than focusing on specific species because they would often be coming using the same vehicle, I would say, in Canada.
What we're doing is looking at the regional needs and the specificity, and working with the partners in that region on what would be most efficient to put out there some advice and just some awareness of what to do and what to report to make sure that we're preventing the entry into Canada of those species.
Ballast water is one of those pathways that we discussed earlier, and we share responsibility for boat fouling, depending on the size and the function of the vessel. That's an example of shared responsibilities for controlling pathways in Canada.
There are various research projects that have been done by our colleagues in science specifically to support Transport Canada's work with regard to ballast water.
Those are some illustrations of how we can work on pathways rather than on specific species.