Good morning, everybody, and welcome.
We have a few new people this morning as far as our colleagues are concerned. I want to say welcome to Phil McColeman from Brantford—Brant and to Dave Van Kesteren of Chatham—Kent—Leamington.
Of course, Mr. Stetski from Kootenay—Columbia, we welcome you again, sir.
That being said, for the benefit of our new colleagues, it was agreed that pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee undertake a study in reference to the mandate letters of both the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to examine the criteria and process being used to identify and establish marine protected areas, with the objective of ensuring the criteria and process are aligned to: a) achieve the intended benefits of MPAs; b) assess social, economic and environmental impacts of the MPAs; and c) ensure all traditional uses and values are duly considered and respected in the criteria and process for identifying and establishing MPAs.
We are planning to do a site visit later this month on the west coast, as well as to the Northwest Territories, and in the fall we will be travelling to the east coast, we hope.
Welcome to our witnesses this morning. We have four witnesses, so we're going to run for what may not be the full two hours, but we're not going to break this up in any way.
I want to say a very early good morning to Dr. Natalie Ban, assistant professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria. Thank you for joining us this morning.
From the BC Seafood Alliance we have Christina Burridge, executive director; Bruce Turris, executive manager, Canadian Groundfish Research and Conservation Society; and someone who is no stranger, from the BC Commercial Fishing Caucus, Jim McIsaac, managing director. It's good to see you, sir.
As many of you know, we do 10-minute presentations from each group. I understand that Ms. Burridge and Mr. Turris are doing one 10-minute presentation.
First we'll go to Dr. Ban on the west coast for 10 minutes or less.
Good morning. It's an honour to have been invited to present to you today.
I've been working on the science of marine conservation for the past 14 years with a focus on the design of marine protected areas, or MPAs. Most of my work has been in British Columbia, but I also spent four years in Australia and have been involved in other countries.
I would like to make five key points today. I will follow up with a written submission that will include the peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting my points.
My first point is that there is documented scientific support for the biodiversity benefits of strongly protected MPAs. A study in 2014 showed that the conservation benefits of MPAs worldwide increase exponentially with the accumulation of five key attributes: that they're no-take; well enforced; old; large; and protect whole ecosystems that are isolated by deep water or sand.
Most of these global studies, including that one, include many tropical MPAs. Often the question is whether these same concepts apply in our temperate or Arctic waters, and the answer is yes. A study in 2009, focused only on temperate marine ecosystems, also found higher density, biomass, and species richness in fully protected MPAs compared with adjacent exploited areas. Thus, science has illustrated the effectiveness of fully protected MPAs for biodiversity conservation, which is their primary purpose. There are many other tools to assist with fisheries management, although MPAs might be able to help.
My second point is that some of the recent work, including my own, shows that MPAs that permit varying levels of extraction, fishing and other activities, are less effective at biodiversity conservation than fully protected areas. More specifically, in a study that I led, we considered the added benefit of MPAs at increasing biomass of fish. A no-take area such as IUCN categories I and II, for those of you familiar with that, are as effective as they can be, so let's assume compliance. We'll call those, for the sake of argument here, 100% effective.
We then were examining the benefits of MPAs over and above conventional fisheries management, so considered unprotected areas as having zero additional benefit, giving us a range between zero and 100. We found that MPAs that allowed some extraction, so IUCN category IV limited extraction, were about 65% effective compared with 100% for the no-take areas. Areas that allowed quite a bit of extraction, so IUCN category VI, were on average about 25% effective. In other words, MPAs that allow extraction are less effective, not only because of the actual fish or other things being taken out through extraction but because everything is connected within marine ecosystems. The whole ecosystem is affected.
Fully protected MPAs are therefore needed so we can understand the impact of fishing and other activities on marine ecosystems. At present in Canada, we only have about 0.1% of the ocean in fully protected MPAs.
My third point is that education, compliance, and enforcement are crucial to obtaining biodiversity benefits. A recent study found that MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects that were 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity.
The rockfish conservation areas, or RCAs, in B.C. are illustrative. A student of mine studied compliance with RCA rules amongst recreational fishers in B.C.'s Strait of Georgia, interviewing more than 300 recreational fishers. About 25% of people admitted to fishing illegally within RCAs. The main reason for this non-compliance was lack of knowledge. About a quarter of recreational fishers had never heard of rockfish conservation areas, 60% were unsure of where RCA boundaries were, and less than 1% knew the rules of all the prohibited and permitted gear within RCAs. Most had never seen an enforcement officer. So outreach and education are essential for successful MPAs, and enforcement officers need to have the resources to do their jobs or these areas will not actually protect biodiversity.
My fourth point is that strong science exists about the design of MPA networks, including both ecological and social considerations. To date, MPAs in Canada have been established as single areas. Moving from establishing single MPAs to networks of MPAs is the best chance Canada has to meet its targets. It will also make for ecologically more effective MPAs.
This is the approach that is being taken in the northern shelf bioregion in B.C. There is a further opportunity to accelerate the MPA implementation process because of the prior planning in the region through the marine plan partnership, which has done much of the work that's needed, including acquiring data, running some technical analyses, and getting the support of first nations, the B.C. government, and many stakeholders.
A network of MPAs is different from a single MPA, because a network can represent the suite of different habitat types and biodiversity. In other words, every known species and habitat should have an example included within an MPA, ideally in three or more different sites, which we call replication. A network of MPAs should thus be designed so that individual MPAs are connected for species that move.
There have also been advances in the tools to design MPAs to allow for some of the potential impacts and other social considerations. For example, some decision support tools can help to meet the biodiversity objectives while minimizing potential impacts, such as those for the commercial fishing sector.
The design of the stakeholder engagement process is also really important. Stakeholder support for MPAs results in greater compliance, and hence more effective biodiversity conservation outcomes. Thus, a legitimate, transparent process is particularly important. As adjustments to proposed MPAs are made through consultations and engagement, it is crucial to check the revised boundaries of MPAs so that the biodiversity objectives can still be met and checked out with the science.
My final point is that there is an unprecedented opportunity to use MPAs to work towards reconciliation with indigenous communities. While I do not speak for the first nations that I collaborate with, I want to share some of my observations.
There's grave concern about the state of the oceans and a keen interest from indigenous communities to use MPAs to engage in marine management. Joint management of MPAs, or co-management, which means sharing of power equally, is seen as one opportunity both to revitalize the cultural practices and to recover culturally important species.
The planning towards a network of MPAs in the northern shelf bioregion is a great step in that direction. Any Oceans Act or other MPA needs to consider first nation rights and cultural priorities, including their food, social, and ceremonial—or FSC—fishing. If done in partnership with first nations, MPAs can provide ecological conservation, cultural conservation, and food security, and can play a role in reconciliation.
Let me illustrate the need for marine conservation through two culturally important species for first nations on the central coast. This is from research that I did in partnership with the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, which comprises the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv first nations. In these studies, we interviewed knowledge holders about the changes they've seen to these species in their food fishing.
The first is the yelloweye rockfish, a long-lived groundfish that lives to be about 120 years old and doesn't start reproducing until about 15 years of age or older. They're quite sedentary. The big, old female fish produce the greatest number of and most successful young. Thus, the size of yelloweye rockfish is a good indicator of their population status. The knowledge holders we interviewed saw about a 50% decline in the average size of the individuals that they caught before the 1990s to now. Declines were observed to have coincided with the start of the commercial groundfish fisheries.
The second example is that of Dungeness crab. This is a fishery that's generally considered to be sustainable at the regional level; however, indigenous fishers have been observing declines. The central coast first nations did an experiment in which they monitored 20 bays, 10 open to fishing and 10 closed, which unsurprisingly showed that stopping fishing increases the number of legal-sized males. DFO did not formally close those 10 bays, despite requests to do so, so the first nations used indigenous law to close them and did patrols to ask commercial and recreational fishers not to fish in them.
Our interviews indicated that people had seen a 77% decline in Dungeness crab since the 1990s. This means that there seems to be serial depletion of bays getting depleted by commercial and/or multiple recreational fishing vessels, to the detriment of the local people who rely on these species for food and for their culture. Thus, the loss of abundance of these species is not only a worry for biodiversity; it also threatens the cultural continuity and revitalization of indigenous practices.
That concludes my five points. I really thank you for the opportunity to present to you today, and I look forward to your questions in a few minutes.
Good morning, everyone, and thank you for inviting me here.
The BC Seafood Alliance is an umbrella organization whose 17 members represent about 90% of wild harvested seafood from Canada's west coast, worth about $850 million annually. Our members are associations representing all or most of the licence-holders in virtually every major wild fishery in B.C. That would include salmon and herring, which once were the backbone of the industry. Those have now been overtaken by the success of prawns, sablefish, halibut, geoduck, and other groundfish and dive fisheries. We are the most representative fisheries organization on the west coast, but our ultimate constituents are independent fishermen and businesses up and down the coast. These are the people who provide food to Canadians and to the world.
I want to talk a little bit about our fisheries first, partly because in reading through the blues, I've been a bit dismayed by the understanding of fisheries and fisheries management on the west coast. I'm referring to the assumption that what may hold true for fisheries in some parts of the world—say, overfishing, an increase in fishing footprint, wasted and unreported catch—applies in British Columbia. That's simply not true.
Conservation has driven our sector for the past 20 years. It has shaped the way it has developed and encouraged a pragmatic approach to stewardship that has really worked in market terms as well. More than half our fisheries by volume are in the marine stewardship council program. The MSC is the gold standard for independent third-party verification of sustainability. It works through an arm's-length third-party process. Only 10% of the world's fisheries have so far qualified for MSC certification. We're part of that. Most of our other fisheries are recognized either by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch or the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise as good choices for consumers.
By volume, almost two-thirds of our fisheries are managed under the Canadian groundfish integration program. CGIP integrates the management of 66 different species, seven different fishery sectors, and three gear types—that's hook and line, trap and trawl. The most important thing here is that under that program, a vessel is fully accountable for every single fish it catches, whether those fish are retained or released. That is verified through a monitoring program that includes100% at-sea observers, or 100% electronic monitoring, and 100% dockside monitoring.
Groundfish integration is recognized by the MSC as “one of the most rigorous in the world”, by Prince Charles' sustainability unit as a world fisheries success story, and by the David Suzuki Foundation as, quote, “among the best-managed fisheries on the planet”. It creates incentives for long-term stewardship of the resource and the ecosystem, encouraging fishermen to be highly selective in catching the fish they want and not weak or endangered species.
For example, our groundfish trawl fleet, working again with the David Suzuki Foundation and other conservation groups through a habitat conservation collaboration agreement, has frozen the trawl footprint. It has taken out 9,000 square metres of the coast, protected 50% of all habitat types, especially deepwater habitat, and it has instituted the world's first conservation bycatch quota for corals and sponges. Fleetwide, the quota for corals and sponges was set at 4,500 kilograms. In fact, it has been less than a fifth of that every year the program has been in place.
I'm giving you this information as context for the points that I want to make on MPAs. Let me be clear: we support the international commitment and the minister's target of 5% by the end of this year, and 10% by 2020. We believe we can and should be partners in achieving this goal, but we are becoming more skeptical that what's happening on the west coast meets the government's commitment to science, evidence-based decision-making, transparency, and collaboration.
Here is where we are on the Pacific coast, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada's most recent international reporting according to UN and IUCN rules. B.C. accounts for less than 8% of Canada's coastline, but currently we account for 28% of the total marine protected areas. We currently protect 3.2% of the marine and coastal area in B.C.
Newer areas just identified for protection this year, such as the Scott Islands, will take that to 6.3%. That's above the 5% threshold. Today I think there will be an announcement of a large offshore area of interest. If we assume that this will protect about 10% of the offshore, the total level of protection in B.C. by 2020 should be at least 13.2%—more than the 10%—and that's before we include other effective area-based conservation measures or new protected areas in the northern shelf under the Canada-British Columbia MPA network strategy. We're certainly ready to do our part in B.C., but we don't think we should be expected to shoulder more than our share of conservation requirements, and we really need to be part of the process.
Protected areas certainly are a part of the fisheries management tool box, especially for protecting spawning areas, habitat, and special benthic features. We've done our part in that too. Our groundfish fleet voluntarily protected the Hecate Strait glass-sponge reefs starting in 2001 until they were formally closed in 2003 and eventually designated as an MPA earlier this year.
Most of the science on MPAs has looked at warm-zone coral reefs, where fish are tied to place, usually in areas where fisheries management doesn't work very well. In such cases, there's strong evidence that MPAs, including large no-take zones, really do work. By contrast, the science suggests that in MPAs in such areas as New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., Canada, Iceland, Norway, and even large parts of the EU, all countries with good management systems, biodiversity goals are best served by strong fisheries management, particularly enforced harvest control roles. In these jurisdictions there's evidence that MPAs simply displace fishing activity and concentrate it detrimentally in other locations, often decreasing, not increasing, biodiversity. This makes ecosystem-based management harder to achieve while increasing dependency on foreign fisheries that are not as well managed as our own.
On the west coast, we're not seeing a lot of evidence-based decision-making. It's beginning to look like political decision-making. The exact boundaries of fishing limitations around the Hecate Strait sponge reefs were a consensus recommendation from a multi-stakeholder group that included the ENGO community. This went to Canada Gazette, part I. Those boundaries were changed by the federal government in response to push-button responses from the ENGO community.
We're kind of seeing the same thing with the Scott Islands. More than 10,000 automated push-button responses from ENGO websites apparently outweigh the science, analysis, and considered consensus recommendations from the advisory committee, which included many of those same ENGOs. This is not how you do evidence-based decision-making, and it's not how you do collaboration. It just blows up any chance of effective collaboration, compromise, and consensus.
On the west coast in particular, we're also apprehensive about the convergence of protected areas and reconciliation. This looks rather like reallocation by zoning without compensation. I'll be clear: we support reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of Canada, but whether it's protection, reconciliation, or both, it can't be on the backs of commercial fishermen and their families, at least one third of whom are indigenous themselves. Fishermen on the west coast, the family businesses in both harvesting and processing that have diversified, adopted cutting-edge practices and technology, and developed new markets and new products, are at risk here. You are all charged with scrutinizing the policy and approach on protected areas. We ask you to do exactly that and to not be swayed by views of fisheries and fish management that apply to other places in the world but not to B.C.
The threats to our oceans are real, but they come from oil and gas exploration, the prospect of seabed mining, and ocean acidification, not fishing for food. Large no-take fishery zones will not help deal with these problems. We are partners in the 5% and 10%, and will always be ready to protect special features.
Closing large areas to fishing off the west coast does little for biodiversity, little for conservation, little for the men and women up and down the coast who work in our sector and who are middle class or aspire to the middle class, and little for the health of Canadians, who deserve access to local, sustainable seafood.
On the west coast, we believe we can have both biodiversity and healthy, sustainable fisheries. Indeed, we have been working with the ENGO community to try to sketch out what that might look like so that we can indeed continue to provide food for Canadians and food for the world.
I really appreciate the chance to speak to you. If I can leave you with one message, it would be this. It's the livelihood of fishermen, my members, that is at stake here, and we need to be part of the process, engaged in looking at exactly where these MPAs will go and reducing the impact so that we can continue to do our job.
Thank you very much, everyone.
Thank you very much for the invitation to speak.
As for my background, I commercial-fished for 25 years. Commercial fishing paid my way through university, where I studied physics and mathematics. I'm not a fishery scientist or ecologist by background, but through the commercial fishery I got involved in conservation. For the last 25 years I've been involved in conservation. You might ask why. It's because as a commercial fisherman, I think it is really important to conserve so that we can use our marine resources—not lock them off from future generations, for nobody to touch forever, but for use.
I chair a commercial fishing caucus on the west coast. There are 13 different organizations that are part of it. It's open to independent commercial fishermen and fishing organizations to participate in marine planning. We've been involved in marine planning on the west coast on a number of different fronts—the PNCIMA process, the integrated planning process, the west coast of Vancouver Island governance board, and several MPA processes, including the glass-sponge reefs, the Scott Islands, the Gwaii Haanas, the NMCA at the bottom end of Haida Gwaii, the Bowie Seamount, and a couple of other ones.
I've been involved in a number of the issues associated with this. Here's what I want to cover today. I want to talk about the value of biodiversity and the value of our oceans, ocean issues globally, best ocean management, the definition of MPAs, differing MPAs, differing objectives between MPAs and fisheries, and lines on the map.
First, the ocean is what makes this planet. It is the most important feature on this planet. The average temperature of our ocean is 3.5°C. The average depth is 4,000 metres. It provides half of our oxygen and 25% of our protein on this planet. It is essential for life on this planet. Protecting our ocean is a priority, obviously.
We have a number of different issues facing the ocean. Christina mentioned a few of them. These include climate change, pollution, the amount of plastics going in there, the IUU fishing, and the oil and gas and energy sector. We're facing a number of different issues competing for space in the ocean.
How best do we manage the ocean? Beth Fulton, one of the top modellers on the planet, gave a presentation a couple of years ago when I was in Australia. She identified the main ways for managing the ocean. You can do nothing; you can manage by single sector; you can manage in time and space in that single sector; you can add other dimensions, economic and social, in that single sector; or you can do integrated management.
The best way to manage our oceans, given the global drivers on our planet, is integrated management. That's what the Oceans Act attempts to do, attempts to line up for Canada. We've attempted doing that in a number of different spaces in Canada. We had Canada's oceans strategy in 2005, which tried to focus on five different areas, PNCIMA being the one on the west coast. The fishing industry bought wholeheartedly into PNCIMA to try to do integrated management on the marine space in the west coast.
We have the Royal Society of Canada's review on biodiversity. It identifies four key things for sustaining marine biodiversity. The first one is ecosystem-based management. That is exactly what PNCIMA attempted to do on the west coast—to define ecosystem-based management and implement it in that region. This PNCIMA plan has sat on the shelf for three, four years now. It was just approved, but there are no resources, nothing behind it. That is what Canada should be doing on its oceans.
This next graphic shows the value of fisheries on the Pacific. The dark areas are the most valuable per hectare on the Pacific. This is taken over a 15-year period, 1996 to 2010. If I broke this down and showed you this across every year, these areas would change. If I showed you this across different fisheries, these would change by fishery every year. They change by year, but you can do this, and you can average it out and everything like this. It shows you some of the hot spots.
The red areas identify the key areas right now where we have marine protected areas, or the Scott Islands, in this case. It's just gone through the Gazette, part I. Those areas are important for fisheries, and we're going to add way more space. If you look at the value, you see this is just looking at the economic value of fisheries. Fisheries bring way more values to communities on our coast. This graphic comes from a study from two years ago identifying the tangible and intangible values that fisheries bring to communities. When you just measure the economics of fisheries, you're missing all these other values that aren't counted, which fisheries bring to communities. These are important for our coastal communities.
This study, which was done in 2012, identifies the differing objectives between MPAs and fisheries management. MPAs and fisheries management have a bunch of similar objectives. About 70% of objectives for MPAs are very similar to fisheries management objectives. They differ in about 30% of objectives.
The main objective for fisheries management is food security. It's an imperative for this planet that we use our oceans to provide food. By locking off marine areas to that, we're endangering that.
This report identifies two main international definitions of MPAs. One is from the FAO. The FAO defines an MPA as “any marine geographical area that is afforded greater protection than the surrounding waters for biodiversity conservation or fisheries management purposes”. We have hundreds and hundreds of MPAs on the Pacific that qualify under the FAO definition. The 184 MPAs, the rockfish conservation areas on the west coast, qualify as MPAs under FAO. We've had them for 15 years. We have way more in place in the Pacific that are FAO-defined MPAs. They don't qualify as IUCN MPAs. They do not have the required legal framework for IUCN, but we have them locked off for all different kinds of fisheries in space and in time, on the west coast. This is a huge challenge for fisheries going forward, with all of those not counting.
This is a workshop we were involved with. We worked with the ENGOs on the west coast to find some common ground between fisheries and MPAs. We identified that the two diverging interests are science knowledge fields. We invited international fisheries scientists and ecologists to come together and discuss MPAs and fisheries.
These are our takeaway messages from this. It was identified that MPAs aren't going to solve the major problems facing our oceans. MPAs are only one tool in the tool box. When you have well-managed fisheries, exactly as Christina has said, MPAs will reduce the yield, so you have to reduce your TAC in the outside area if you're going to continue to manage the fisheries with MPAs that are closed. Any kind of benefit you're going to get from MPAs to fisheries is going to take 20 years plus.
These were international scientists who came to these conclusions at this forum. The Seeking Convergence document is available if you want to go through it.
Another finding there is that you need good process to get good results. We've just gone through two processes, the one with the Hecate, and now the one with the Scott Islands, where you're getting this last-minute button-pushing to impact the collaborative agreements that were moved forward there.
If that's how we're going to do it, then we're going to get that as well. We're going to be doing the same thing. Forget about the collaboration. What I hear from the minister and the government is that they want to collaborate. If you're going to make decisions other than that, then we're going to take different ways to go forward with this.
This is a great book, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. In here he talks about the park service and he talks about the boundaries and giving an area to the park service. This is terrestrial. Putting a line around an area doesn't mean you're going to protect biodiversity. All different kinds of things impact biodiversity. For example, in the park services in the United States, 42 species have gone extinct inside the boundaries. You don't protect biodiversity just by putting lines on maps.
Essentially 60% of our EEZ is in the Arctic and is essentially a de facto MPA. That doesn't protect the biodiversity in the Arctic. What protects the biodiversity in the Arctic is what we do on the rest of the planet. In the 1970s, when we were looking for a reference site for pollutants, we went to the Arctic and we put up all different kinds of monitoring there. We found that the Arctic was one of the most contaminated places on the planet, and we have virtually nothing there. So why is that? It is because of the coupled system. The atmosphere is coupled with the marine, with the ocean, and it's driving pollutants there. We have to be more cognizant instead of just drawing lines on a map if we want to protect biodiversity.
Governance and leadership are key. These are my takeaway messages. The collaborative process will lead to durable results. If you don't want to have durable results, do what you're doing with Hecate. You have to build a collaborative rationale for protection so we're all on the same page and we all understand why we're adding extra protection.
We need to engage stakeholders from the start, not bring stakeholders along at the end. We have to set outcome objectives, and the process should fit the objectives. We should build tools to fit the process and get the place and the scale right for that.
Right now on the west coast we have 10 or 12 different MPA processes. It's impossible for the fishing industry to engage in all of these in a kind of comprehensive way. We need a place where we can sit down and set some of these overarching objectives. If we don't do that, it's just going to disintegrate into a mess. It won't be durable going on. We need a way to bring all available knowledge into these.
This is what was passed last year, the global targets from IUCN calling for 30% protection by 2030 in highly protected MPAs and other affected areas. If that's what we're going to do in Canada by 2030, the fishing industry is going to be a fraction of what it is today. I would say that right now we are hugely under-fishing our marine space. There are places right now on the west coast where we have a 10-tonne target for shrimp, and we've taken a million pounds out in one year, with four guys or five guys fishing that. We're not doing that now.
Under the terms of union between Canada and British Columbia, Canada would take on protecting and encouraging fisheries in British Columbia. I don't see that happening here.
That's me done. Thank you.
It's great to be here. I'm not a member of this committee, and I have tell you, too, that I don't know a whole lot about fishing. I bought a fishing boat this spring, for the first time. My riding is Chatham-Kent—Leamington, which has the largest freshwater fishing port in the world. I feel I have at least some right to be here, I guess, in that respect.
But I have to tell you, I'm the average Canadian, and I too am repulsed when I see these pictures. I think you have a little bit of a problem with just perception, and let's face it, the world is mostly perception.
Mr. McIsaac, I appreciate what you said about the runoff. I didn't know that—all these things we don't know—but when I see pictures of deep-bottom trawling, I do wonder why we are doing that.
Dr. Ban, you mentioned something that I had never thought about, the fact that there are different levels, with young fish, what we'd call baby fish or baby crabs or something. I would suspect that they rely on the fish that are being caught—this is just an assumption—and the bits and pieces that drop to the bottom; that's what they eat. If those big guys are gone, then the little guys can't eat.
These are all things that we start to pick up, as the Canadian public, and then we start pushing those buttons. That is our perception.
So why do we do bottom trawling at all? Why is that allowed?