Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee for the invitation to contribute to your study on the Oceans Act's marine protected areas. My name is Rodolphe Devillers and I am professor of geography at Memorial University. I have been a scientist for about 20 years, specializing in geographic methods that can help understand and manage our oceans. One part of my expertise is the design of marine protected area networks, making me one of very few academic experts in this field in Canada.
I have worked in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for over 10 years. I am involved in the MPA network design in the Newfoundland region, and I led the technical team that conducted the analyses for the design of the MPA network in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
Several Canadian marine scientists, including doctors Natalie Ban, Isabelle Côté, Daniel Pauly, and Boris Worm, have already made their statements to this committee and have clearly demonstrated that MPAs, when designed correctly, are known to be very effective tools to protect our oceans. The past 20 years of scientific research confirmed the benefits MPAs can provide to the protection of marine ecosystems, but also people and the economy.
Working for over a decade in a province that suffered dramatic economic and social crises largely due to overfishing, Newfoundland, I do strongly believe in the key contribution MPAs make to support healthy oceans and their sustainable use. When talking about MPAs, I use the definition provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, the only internationally recognized definition for MPAs and the one that will be used by the United Nations to assess Canada's progress towards the Aichi target 11. I assume this is also the one supported by this committee, as it was adopted by vote by all IUCN members including Canada at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in 2008 and has been used in many DFO documents.
I am thrilled by the energy this government is putting in to meet Aichi target 11. From the mandate letter of to , to the ENVI committee report released in March, to the position taken by Canada at the United Nations ocean conference last week, Canada is now moving in the right direction. As a scientist, however, I feel I have a duty to warn you that, if Oceans Act MPAs keep having low levels of protection, the upcoming Canadian MPA network is unlikely to bring the benefits the government and Canadians expect.
Many scientific studies have documented reasons why MPAs can fail to provide expected benefits. Those reasons include not placing them at the right locations to avoid sites of higher economic interest, making them too small, providing levels of protection that are too low, and also failing to review MPAs when new scientific evidence is made available.
All of those issues apply to Canada Oceans Act MPAs and greatly impact their ability to be effective. Bolder actions will be rapidly required to create an effective MPA network. For this reason, 15 of the most respected Canadian marine scientists, including me, sent a letter yesterday to ministers and summarizing our concerns and calling for action.
We made four key recommendations. The first one was that the Oceans Act be amended to include minimum protection levels for MPAs, similar to terrestrial parks, such that activities known to impact marine ecosystems are excluded from MPAs and from other effective area-based conservation measures. The second recommendation was that DFO restructure the way it integrates science advice to require a systematic scientific assessment of proposed areas and management plans before new MPAs are established.
The third recommendation was that the government be more open and transparent about the effectiveness of existing MPAs, the ongoing MPA network planning process, and how scientific data are being incorporated to evaluate different conservation options. The last recommendation was that DFO acknowledge that the 10% Aichi target is an interim measure and set broader and more effective conservation targets beyond 2020, including a mechanism to allow for adaptive management of existing Oceans Act MPAs.
I have in the past decade been involved in a number of processes related to MPA designation, and I would like to focus the rest of my testimony on the role science plays in the Oceans Act MPA decision process. DFO science has some of the most brilliant marine scientists, I know. While this government does not muzzle its scientists anymore, I would argue that it too often fails to listen to their advice, or even worse, it does not request such advice.
I will focus on some key issues that I see.
First, DFO science has gaps in terms of expertise. While strong on fisheries science, there is to my knowledge no single research scientist at DFO with expertise in socio-economic questions or conservation planning, expertise that other similar international agencies, such as NOAA in the U.S., CEFAS in the U.K., and lfremer in France, have developed in the past decade. Such science is critically important to support policy in marine conservation, but also for sustainable fisheries management. I recommend DFO science diversify its current expertise by hiring research scientists specialized in those fields. One of the negative outcomes of this gap in expertise for the MPA design process is a lack of peer review of socio-economic data that would be similar to the one done with biological data.
Second, the role of science is currently compartmentalized to specific stages of the MPA network planning, resulting in MPAs that have been at some point informed by science but may not be scientifically sound at the end of the process. Let me take as an example the Laurentian Channel MPA that is to be announced in the next few weeks, or actually it’s going to be next week. My research group has studied the past 10 years that led to this MPA and discovered that science played little role beyond the initial identification of the area. Changes to the AOI, the area of interest, boundary that resulted from stakeholder consultations have been characterized by a complete absence of any scientific confirmation that those changes would not compromise the ability of the MPA to meet its conservation objectives.
We found that changes made to boundaries in response to fisheries industry requests resulted in up to 43% of species identified as conservation priorities being now left outside of the MPA. I hence strongly recommend that the role science plays in the MPA planning process be reviewed and that a scientific assessment of all proposed MPAs be required before those MPAs are designated. Such an assessment should be made publicly available in a DFO science report, and acknowledge explicitly the trade-offs made during stakeholder consultations.
My third point is that the characteristics of the MPAs being created, including their conservation objectives, boundaries, and levels of protection, tend to currently reflect what can be negotiated with stakeholders and not what is required to effectively protect those ecosystems. In addition, some of those negotiations are often done outside existing committees, sometimes in private meetings with regional directors, and are not documented. I hence recommend that all changes that can impact conservation objectives, MPA boundaries, and their level of protection be only discussed in meetings open to all stakeholders and be documented and made public.
Generally, Canada is aiming for quantity, while the quality of Canadian MPAs, including those to be announced, tends to be low and does not meeting peer-reviewed science recommendations. I clearly understand the complexity involved in those processes. Studying those trade-offs has been the focus of some of my work, but to be effective, the MPA network will clearly require much stronger levels of protection. Failing to do so is likely to provide marginal benefits in terms of conservation, but also in socio-economic terms.
Protecting our oceans has a price, but the benefits can greatly outweigh that by ensuring a sustainable use of our oceans. Much like climate change, the price of not acting now will keep increasing in the future, both economically and socially. I believe this government has an opportunity to really be a world leader in marine conservation and oceans management.
Thank you for the opportunity to present my view on the key challenges I see for the MPA network planning process. I look forward to your questions.
My name is Chris Sporer. I'm with the Pacific Halibut Management Association, which represents the majority of commercial halibut licence-holders on Canada's Pacific coast. I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak to you today as part of your study of the criteria and process being used to identify and establish marine protected areas in Canada.
What I'd like to do is give you a brief background on our fishery, show you five maps, and then make three key points.
Canada's Pacific commercial halibut fishery is dominated by small family-owned businesses and significant first nations participation. Approximately 25% of the 435 limited entry commercial halibut licences are held by first nation tribal councils, bands, organizations, and individuals. Vessels participating in our fishery range from 31 feet to 80 feet, but most fall in the 36- to 45-foot range. We're basically a small boat fishery.
The fishery is managed on an ecosystem basis as part of the groundfish integration program. Under groundfish integration, each vessel is fully accountable for every single fish it catches in both target and non-target species—so that's halibut and non-halibut species—regardless of whether the fish is retained or released at sea. It's all verified through a monitoring program that includes 100% at-sea monitoring and 100% dockside monitoring. This program ensures that total fishing mortalities—retained as well as released at sea—stay within allowable harvest limits and encourage fishermen to fish selectively. Today our fishery is as much about not catching other species as it is about catching halibut.
I'd like to say that we do support the international commitment and Canada's target of protecting 5% of our coastline by the end of the year and 10% by 2020, and we believe that commercial fishermen can and should be partners in achieving this goal.
The committee has heard from a number of witnesses, and we agree with the comments on the need for a science-based, evidence-based process that is collaborative, open, and transparent, but we also share the concerns expressed. On the Pacific coast, we are not seeing science- and evidence-based decision-making, transparency, or collaboration.
We also support reconciliation with the indigenous people of Canada, but we share the apprehension expressed by other presenters that the convergence of protected areas and the reconciliation looks like reallocation of the fishery resource by zoning without compensation.
These issues have already been raised by other witnesses, so what I'd like to do is focus on the five maps and our key points.
The first map shows crucial halibut fishing locations, using data from 2012-16. As you can see, the fishery takes place almost entirely in what is called the northern shelf bioregion. The red, orange, and yellow areas are the high-catch areas.
For the second map, the PHMA has added the main fisheries closures and protected areas that were in effect during 2012-16, which show that the fleet had already been displaced from some of those areas and had to move and fish somewhere else.
For the third map, the PHMA added the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs; you can see them on the map in pink. Those were designated in February of this year. The fourth map shows—you can see the polygon—the Scott Islands marine national wildlife area, which is intended for the protection of seabirds and is expected to be designated later this year.
We'll go to the fifth map and what it shows. You could toggle back and forth between the fourth and fifth map just to show the change. This shows some but not all areas that have been identified for protection through other processes that excluded the federal government and fisheries, and that are now on the table for consideration as part of the northern shelf bioregion MPA network planning process. As you can see when you toggle back and forth, there is a significant overlap of these identified areas with commercial halibut fishing locations. If these identified areas were adopted—or even just some of them—it would devastate our fishery in some areas. It would mean the death of it.
I've shown you these maps and I want to make three key points.
The first key point is that, as you can see, commercial fishing only takes place in a few areas of the coast, and this is for economic fisheries management and safety reasons. Fishermen try to fish in productive areas where there's a high catch per unit effort, which helps them keep their costs low in terms of fuel, food, fishing gear, and monitoring costs.
At the same time, due to the management regime and the monitoring regimes we have in place, halibut fishermen can fish only in certain areas of the coast. They can fish only in spots where they can catch halibut while avoiding or catching very little of the other species and staying within the limits for those other species. Safety considerations are also a factor in the choice of fishing locations. Smaller vessels may be available to fish only at certain times of the year and in certain areas.
The second key point I'd like to make is that closing certain areas of the coast without careful consideration could displace fishing effort, with possible negative ecological impacts.
By the end of 2017, we will have protected 16.5% of the northern shelf bioregion. If additional areas are closed to fishing, the ecosystem approach that we've adopted in our fisheries management would be disrupted. Fishermen would no longer be able to choose their location based on the relative abundance of species, and the fishing effort would be displaced to other areas. Vessels would be forced from spots where they can catch halibut with little or no catch of other species and forced into areas in which they may encounter greater amounts of vulnerable or long-lived species such as Bocaccio or yelloweye rockfish, putting pressure on these less abundant and weak species. We are under very strict requirements for those two species, for example.
Further, if fishermen are forced from productive, high catch per unit effort areas to less productive ones, this means increased fishing time and the need to use more gear to catch the same amount of fish. If you increase fishing time, that means more fuel. That means greater carbon emissions. More gear means increased benthic impacts and the risk of bycatch, for instance, of things like seabirds, something that we've worked very hard in our industry to minimize.
The MPA process needs to take into consideration and evaluate the ecological consequences of displacing fishing effort, but it also needs to take into account all the sustainability measures that have been implemented to date. At present they're not being factored into the analysis.
The third key point I'd like to make is that closing areas of the coast to fishing without careful consideration could have significant social and economic impacts on indigenous and non-indigenous fishermen and their families and coastal communities. At present that is not being fully factored into the discussion. The federal government has committed to working with stakeholders to identify new areas for protection while minimizing socio-economic impacts.
To meet this commitment, there needs to be comprehensive analysis that needs to factor in the cumulative impacts of all of these protected areas, not just looking at each area in isolation but looking at the cumulative impact of protecting all of these different areas over time. When they're looking at displacing fisheries from an area, they need to look at this not just in terms of the lost revenue but also in terms of what it costs the fishermen and their families if they're having to move from productive areas to less productive areas, in terms of fishing costs, revenues, and the value being extracted from the fishery.
For the vast majority of Canadians, the commercial fisheries are the only way of getting access to wild seafood. We provide food to Canada and the world. We can have biodiversity and healthy, sustainable commercial fisheries that can continue to provide food. Protected areas, as many other witnesses have pointed out, are one of the management tools in the tool kit that can get us there, but we need to get them right and we need the right process to get there.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today.
I'm a retired marine ecologist, and I have an adjunct professorial appointment at the University of Technology in Sydney, although I live in Perth on Australia's west coast.
For the past 20 years, after a previous 20-year career as a marine ecologist in Australia's CSIRO, the national research organization, I have conducted research and given practical science support to governments, businesses, communities, NGOs, UN agencies, and aid agencies in almost all aspects of design and implementation of marine protected areas.
Much of this work has been focused in Australia and the Asia-Pacific countries. My experience ranges from, as we say, “'talking the talk” to “walking the walk” among the science and technical issues, across the full gamut of MPA problems. This of course includes Australia's two major coral reef MPA systems, as well as across to small, community-managed MPAs in the Asia-Pacific.
I'm happy to send in later, Mr. Chair, a personal biography and any other supporting materials you might like.
However, today, by way of opening the discussion, I'd like to introduce you to a couple of concepts I see as being integrating, and then draw your attention to three of the complex issues I have found to be remarkably common across my work in MPA management, irrespective of the size, location, cultural setting, or degree of development that might apply. I'm sure these and many others—and I've already heard some this morning—will be central to the matter of MPAs for Canada. For the remainder of the time, of course, I wish to participate in the Q and A session.
I should also say at the outset that I only have a passing familiarity with the MPA situation in Canada. I was involved briefly in 2015 with round-table workshops on MPA issues in B.C., which were organized by local stakeholders there. If there are questions about Canada-specific issues, I will probably have to abstain, Mr. Chairman.
In terms of concepts, the modern era of MPA design and implementation is based on what is really a simple but in some ways very technical concept, that of spatial optimization. This concept holds that conservation outcomes for species, ecosystems, and the other elements of natural oceans can be achieved by allocating various parts of the oceans to specific forms of management control. Some of these may overlap with each other. We've already heard examples this morning, but they range across the full gamut of human interactions with the ocean.
The process of optimization considers competing requirements for the same parts of the ocean and seeks to resolve the most efficient and effective outcome across those competing demands. This model of MPA design is the same used in many other areas of human endeavour, and is really based on decision science procedures that are simply adapted from use in other sectors. The success of this approach in the oceans relies on the availability of a transparent and inclusive process, the open engagement of all stakeholders and their interests, a clear decision framework, and a willingness for stakeholders to be bound into the collective decision outcomes.
I believe spatial optimization offers a very practical mechanism for stakeholders from all walks of life to engage in a technical process that is defendable and equitable, irrespective of their capacity to engage, and to have confidence that their own expectations are represented in a balanced approach to problem resolution.
I'll take a moment to turn to what I think are three common problems, from my experience with working to implement and design MPAs. The first of these is one that I call confused terminology.
There is a considerable amount of uncertainty invoked in MPA design and management through the use of technical terms that have poor or variable definitions and interpretations across geographic regions, languages, cultures, sectors, and even local contexts. This is not just a matter of a problem of semantics. Some terms actually do have multiple meanings across the different disciplines. Two obvious ones are the term “sustainability” and the term “objectives”.
This question is often confounded by a tendency to flexibly define and apply the terms for tactical purposes, often to service a narrow and specific mission-oriented stakeholder agenda, or to be expressed from a specific sectoral point of view. As a result, I advocate for the adoption and application of a clear framework of terms derived from decision science and analysis. For example, an outcome objective should always be expressed in terms that match the expected achievements of the MPA, such as you might recognize as conservation of species and ecosystems.
The second hurdle is the use of inappropriate underpinning conceptual models. Many of the concepts in the MPA debate are based on models and assumptions, some of which are well tried and tested. However, despite their widespread acceptance for some specific purposes, they may not have been developed and tested for the purposes of MPA design. The most obvious example of this problem is the concept of maximum sustainable yield. Whilst this and other related biomass yield concepts provide the fundamental parameters for fisheries management worldwide, biomass yield of any type is a management parameter that is not highly consistent with the conservation or protection objectives of an MPA or a network, no matter which IUCN management status might be applied. Maximum yield models are not the appropriate underpinning models to achieve the conservation outcomes for fish populations that are usually envisaged by MPA objectives.
As a result, fishing models are rarely appropriate as the main basis for determining scope, scale, and management controls for achieving the conservation outcomes of MPAs. MPAs must apply much higher standards than MSY for fish populations, and use criteria and metrics other than fish biomass yield to provide for the conservation of fish populations and their ecosystem's structure, function, and resilience.
The third hurdle is one that I define as using a decision analysis framework that's effective. After many long years in the theory and practice of MPAs, I have concluded that the science of decision analysis seems to offer the best prospect for achieving good outcomes for all stakeholders, including the ecosystems and the populations that are the target of MPA movements and interests.
In its most elementary construct, a decision analysis framework holds that there is a clear relationship between the setting of outcome-based objectives and defining how such objectives can or should be achieved through management intervention. Both the form of the relationship and the form of any consequent interventions can be derived from within the framework, including the establishment of performance assessment and reporting systems that have direct application for reporting on expected outcomes.
If stakeholders can be motived to contribute freely and fully into a well-designed decision system, I consider that the many issues surrounding MPAs can be resolved into a few remaining highly intractable problems. Such problems can then become the focus of more detailed study and investigations to address the key uncertainties. Even then, there may be issues that remain but they will belong in the realm of politics, not science. Even then, though, science can well inform that debate. In short, trade-offs become explicit, and all parties, if they participate freely, become better informed about the detail and costs of such trade-offs.
The worst-case outcome is that trade-offs of competing objectives are made such that they do not allow substantive benefits for any of the stakeholder interests, and then the MPA system as a whole may become open to contest. The use of popular software optimization packages such as Marxan makes these spatial trade-offs tractable and subject to a number of basic requirements, such as spatial expression of objectives and attributes. I consider such decision support systems as the key element of any pragmatic and modern approach to resolving issues of design and implementing MPAs.
The more complex the EPA problem, the more valuable the decision framework and optimalization approach will prove to be.
Thank you for the opportunity to say these few words and hopefully highlight a few of the commonalities and issues. I'd be happy to take any questions that you might have about anything I've said.
We'll now go to our questions.
Colleagues, we don't have a lot of time. We have about 30 minutes, so we'll get through the first round. The second round is doubtful, but we'll see how this goes.
As we have two guests joining us by video conference, whoever your question is directed at, please say their names first so that they are aware they are being asked a question.
For our guests joining us by video conference, if you wish to weigh in on a certain issue that is asked to someone else, you could raise your hand to get the attention of the person asking the question.
Finally, I want to welcome our guest, Mr. Darren Fisher, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. Thanks for joining us on our study of MPA.
Thank you for the question.
I will say there are two types of process: designing a single MPA or designing a network of MPAs. They are slightly different, and I'm going to focus on the network because that's what we're doing right now.
I'm one of the few specialists who understands completely the mathematical process in Canada that we use and that is used by DFO to do those things. In short, we use a lot of biological data—some of them come from government, and some of them don't—to understand where species are. We also input a lot of socio-economic data, and DFO is selecting which socio-economic data come in. Typically, it's fisheries but sometimes it's transportation or oil and gas. It can be recreational and all that. The goal of the process is meeting biological targets. If we say we want to protect the health of this species, the process is aimed for the health of this species while minimizing the cost on the socio-economic side.
One caveat with that is how much we know about the socio-economic aspects. We know where people fish, what they catch, and what the value of this catch is, but we don't necessarily always know where it's landed, who is going to use it, and all that. There is a bit of uncertainty, but that's related to how good as the data is. On the biological side, no data is perfect. The international guidelines say that, if the data is not perfect, just move forward. Canada has much more data than most of the world's countries, anyway.
The short answer is yes. We measure quantitatively the impact on the socio-economic based on the data that are input in the process, which typically are the value of the catch. Every time a DFO region estimates and looks at that, they know exactly what the impact of this scenario will be on which industry, for which location, based on their data.
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
I'd like to start by thanking everyone on this committee for their hard work and for the relationship that we've been able to develop over the last number of months. Everybody on all sides has been very good about making sure that not only your riding issues are brought to the floor but also that we can work together on issues that affect the whole country. It has been a very positive relationship and I've enjoyed it greatly, so thank you.
Since the chair already introduced the staff, I'm going to move past that, but just know that there is a small army here as well, so if you have any specific details that you'd like to get into, we're well suited to get into the fine details.
I am here today to discuss the supplementary estimates (A). Specifically Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard are seeking Parliament's approval on $359.4 million for the following items: $166.7 million to maintain mission-critical services to Canadians, $145.5 million for the oceans protection plan, $32.2 million for the renewal of the Atlantic and Pacific commercial fisheries initiative, and $15 million to support negotiations on fisheries and marine matters.
Today, on behalf of the minister—and sends his regrets for not being here today—I am pleased to share that our government has invested approximately $3 billion into the core operations for Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard through budget 2016, budget 2017, the oceans protection plan, and following a comprehensive program review. With these investments, Canadians will soon see a noticeable difference in the services they receive from Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard. These important investments will improve the scientific evidence that decisions are based on, modernize aging infrastructure and IT capacity, renew efforts to restore habitat and rebuild depleting fish stocks, expand marine conservation and protection measures, create safer waterways for marine navigation, speed up response time for search and rescue missions, and strengthen our environmental response capacity.
These new resources will do more than just replace programs that have been lost in years past, as our oceans today face new threats with climate change, including flooding, droughts, and severe weather storms on every coast.
Our economy depends on safe navigation through waterways and ports that are busier than ever before. Our government has new priorities pertaining to reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people, working with municipal and provincial partners, and becoming global leaders in sustainable development.
The new investments will help DFO and the Coast Guard build the programs and services that Canadians need into the future. We know how much Canadians value DFO and Coast Guard programs. We understand how important these services are to Canadians. On the minister's behalf, I want to assure you that we are committed to maintaining those services related to Coast Guard's presence in inland waterways, that the Coast Guard dive team will remain at the Sea Island base, and that all elements of the salmon enhancement program will continue.
With significant, new investments in DFO and the Coast Guard, we will, in fact, be enhancing search and rescue services on all coasts and working with community partners on a number of ecosystem restoration projects. As you know, there are more demands on Canada's oceans and coastal areas than ever before. It is therefore vital that Canada have a plan in place that protects our oceans in a modern and advanced way and that ensures environmental sustainability, safe and responsible commercial use, and collaboration with coastal indigenous communities.
In order to meet these objectives, announced a $1.5-billion national oceans protection plan last fall. I'm pleased to report that DFO, the Coast Guard, and other federal partners are making steady progress on key elements of this plan. For example, from a Coast Guard perspective, we are increasing search and rescue capabilities by investing in seven new lifeboat stations, four in British Columbia and three in Newfoundland and Labrador. A 24-hours a day, seven days a week emergency coordination capacity has been created within existing regional operation centres in Victoria, Montreal, and St. John's, complementing the new 24-7 emergency coordination capacity with the national command centre in Ottawa.
We are purchasing and installing emergency tow kits on 25 of the CCG's large vessels and leasing two new vessels on the west coast with the ability to tow large commercial ships and tankers.
We are creating four primary environmental response teams, which will strengthen the Coast Guard's on-scene capacity during marine pollution incidents. We are partnering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary to expand its network of over 400 search and rescue volunteers who engage in environmental response. We are also partnering with indigenous groups, coastal communities, and the private sector to ensure a faster and more efficient response to marine pollution incidents.
We are strengthening the Coast Guard's marine communications and traffic services centres to ensure uninterrupted communications with mariners.
The Canadian Coast Guard's efforts to deal with abandoned, derelict, and wrecked vessels, such as the ongoing operations related to the Kathryn Spirit and the upcoming work to be done to the Farley Mowat, speak to the organization's commitment, and that of its partners, to ensuring that such vessels of concern don't pose immediate risks to public safety or the marine environment.
This level of commitment will be enhanced by the oceans protection plan. Our government will continue to work in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous organizations to support the cleanup of smaller vessels that could potentially pose risks to Canadian coastal communities, while implementing a robust polluter-pay approach for future vessel cleanups.
In addition to this work, we have created a national, $75-million coastal restoration fund, which will be used for the preservation, protection, and restoration of marine environments and coastal habitat over the next five years. DFO scientists are undertaking a science-based review of three endangered whale species in Canada: the North Atlantic right whale, the St. Lawrence estuary beluga, and the southern resident killer whale. Online public engagement will be available soon. Harbour authorities, along with other eligible recipients, will have access to $1.3 million under DFO's small craft harbours program for the removal and disposal of abandoned and wrecked vessels from federally owned commercial fishing harbours.
Our government is committed to the long-term health of our oceans. In order to deliver on the minister's key priorities and commitments, a historic $1.4 billion is being invested in DFO and the Coast Guard over the next five years. Just to be clear, that is on top of the oceans protection plan. This will help shore up a number of key program areas, including an aging Coast Guard fleet; a wide range of communication towers, buoys, and maritime radars; search and rescue training; sustainable fisheries; conservation and protection activities; and the physical infrastructure and information technology the department needs to carry out its mandate.
The latest investment in DFO and the Coast Guard will also provide the resources required to support sustainable fisheries management, which includes the development and update of integrated fisheries management plans, or IFMPs. This will help address some of the concerns that were expressed by members of this committee and by the Auditor General. It will enhance DFO's capacity for conservation and protection, while investments in infrastructure and information technology will give employees the facilities and tools they need to do their jobs.
Before closing, I want to mention that the historic investments being made across DFO and the Coast Guard will result in the hiring of approximately 900 new staff, who will help deliver our ambitious mandate. DFO is working hard to accommodate this growing workforce.
Mr. Chair, this year Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, but this is also a milestone year for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whose heritage dates back to Confederation. While steeped in history, DFO is at the forefront of shaping Canada's domestic and global responses to very modem challenges. The historic investments I spoke about today will help ensure that Canada remains a world leader in all matters related to our oceans.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Given your move to rewrite the Fisheries Act, I would like to provide just a bit of background into one of the reasons that our government changed the old Fisheries Act.
In 2009, the Auditor General wrote a report evaluating the fish habitat management program, entitled “Protecting Fish Habitat”, which asserted that DFO could not demonstrate that it adequately protected fish habitat, and by extension the fisheries. A simple reversion to the old act is certainly no guarantee that habitat will be protected.
I'd like to now go to the government's response to our Atlantic salmon study. It's a decent response, with two grave omissions, in my view. Recommendation 13 of our Atlantic salmon report talked about us wanting DFO to support a grey seal harvest program to reduce seal populations to enhance the recovery of wild salmon. Grey seals are known to be significant predators. Seals were not mentioned in the government's response.
Also, recommendation 14 was that Fisheries and Oceans Canada allow a significant increase in the harvest of striped bass by the recreational fishery by lengthening the retention season and increasing catch limits where striped bass populations warrant it, which of course is at the Miramichi.
I have documentation here that talks about the social unrest that occurred in Miramichi because the season was closed for three weeks during the spawning season when it had never been closed at that time before, according to the documents I have. People were very angry and upset. I'm curious as to why the department completely disregarded the science on striped bass and our report, which strongly recommended an increase in striped bass harvest, and through the regulations you put in place, caused great unrest in that community, so much so that it affected a major fishing tournament.
Can you explain why you ignored that recommendation?
Thank you to the panel for appearing today.
I had another question, but I'll comment on the striped bass. Being from Miramichi everything happens four hours before the west coast, so I'm going to give you an update on that. The striped bass tournament was a great success. Over 2,000 people came. It's great for the economy.
Having said that, I was at a rally there with probably a couple of hundred people, and I addressed them on the striped bass issue. The department has expanded the fisheries and the catch you're able to take this year. Is it enough? I don't know. A lot of people will debate that it's not enough. However, their concern, and that was part of my other question, is more the consulting process that takes place. There are means of consulting online and they also meet with different groups. But the people on the river who have been there for a long time feel they are not always part of the process. Again, I can defend science any day, but there are questions on how they came up with that number. I think that's one area where I believe we could do a little better.
I went fishing myself and I caught my limit of striped bass and I released some. It's a great thing, but again, we also want to protect the salmon on the river.
If I may move to another subject, it is small craft harbours. For the last 10 years, some harbours in my area have been really neglected, even in the management aspect. I have one right now in Pointe-Sapin where the fall lobster fishery is threatened because the harbour hasn't been dredged or maintained over the years. We're now facing a shortage of time to be able to do that, and some 40 lobster fishermen may.... I don't know where they would dock their boat. It's a long way to the next one. Right now, there's a stench in the community because of the algae that's built up.
We were talking about the resource allocation. Are we allocating more resources to be on top of that? It's very important. This is a very lucrative fishery for that small community, and we're facing a time crunch on that one particularly, so maybe I could ask you to comment on that.
I want to start by saying that I was disappointed when we found out the couldn't make it here, with all due respect to those who are here and to the parliamentary secretary for being here. Originally I was very disappointed that the minister wasn't going to be here. We have tried continually and have had very little success in bringing the minister to speak to this committee.
I'm even more disappointed now when I see the news story just now that the minister is out announcing that they're going to reduce the time frame around protecting these marine protected areas and basically establish them and then begin the consultation.
We've heard time and time again during our study of the MPA process from witnesses who continually said that the most effective and most co-operative manner of establishing these MPAs was when the discussion with the stakeholders began first, to identify the area that should be mapped out as an area of interest, and then going forward with laying out the areas.
To see that they're going to be hammering down these areas first, and then beginning the discussions is.... I guess I'm lost for words having seen the news story, but now we know why the minister isn't here today.
I wonder if the parliamentary secretary or staff can advise us why this direction has been taken, that government knows best, DFO knows best, and then they'll talk to the stakeholders.