Welcome back, everybody. Happy 2018. I hope this is going to be a wonderful, fruitful year for you all professionally, and personally of course.
We're continuing our study of the Oceans Act's marine protected areas, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2).
On the docket today, we have our witnesses for the first hour, and for the second hour we're going into committee business. Someone mentioned that we might need more time with the witnesses—we have three here today. If it's okay, I'll extend the 9:45 ending time a little further, maybe even up to 10 o'clock, if necessary.
Could I get the permission of the committee to do that?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Committee business should probably take less than a full hour, so we can extend it as we see fit.
Welcome back, and as we said, we're continuing our study.
I want to thank our witnesses here this morning. We have Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. Thank you for travelling to be here with us today—a fair distance I might add. Welcome to winter, by the way.
My apologies to the translator. I'm a speed-talking Texan with an accent and a time limit. I'll try to do my best.
Thank you for the opportunity and honour of testifying before you today on this important topic of marine protected areas, or, as they're often referred to, MPAs.
I have been much involved in the topic over my fifty-year career. I spent half of that career in resource management and the other half in academia. My experiences with marine protected areas have spanned both, which has provided me a unique perspective. My goal is to share with you in the short time available some of what I have learned in the hope that it will benefit future development and management of MPAs in Canada. I am both honoured and humbled to testify before you today. I was initially inclined to politely decline, as I cannot see what a marine biologist from Texas could possibly contribute to the benefit of one of the great maritime nations in the world, an acknowledged leader in ocean management and conservation. I do have some experience within the broader Gulf of Mexico, but that seems farther from here than in just distance.
During my tenure as a fisheries manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife, one of the world’s largest non-federal conservation agencies, I established dozens of MPAs. Most were to protect nursery areas for commercial species, but not all. I established a network of MPAs designated as state-scientific areas. The primary purpose was to protect special habitats. I also established one of the most controversial MPAs ever proposed in Texas. While I have never established any MPA that banned recreational fishing, I did establish one that disallowed the use of powered craft. In Texas, perhaps only gun control would have been a more controversial issue. I was successful because of the process I had developed during my tenure at TPWD, which I called “adaptive regulation”, a bow to the adaptive management principle on which this rule-making process was designed.
The process was based on the premise that taking no action was not an option, that a regulation based on the best available information with clearly stated and defined objectives would be put in place. The process included commitments to an active and ongoing process of review with regular monitoring of agreed metrics, consultation with stakeholders, timely review of the regulation before our approving commission, and a sunset provision that required positive action by that commission to sustain the MPA. We eventually were able to sunset that MPA because the state legislature adopted a law based on what we had learned in that MPA process protecting seagrass statewide over several million acres.
There are two important lessons from this story. First, we had developed a model for creation and management of MPAs that both environmental and fishing stakeholders trusted and supported. We made sure that the fishing industry, both local and national, was part of the stakeholders who were regularly consulted. That gained us wide political support. Secondly, because of that trust, we had the support of anglers and industry to eventually pass legislation, the first of its kind in the Gulf of Mexico, to protect marine habitat over vast areas. This would not have been possible without that broad stakeholder support.
Further development of MPAs in Texas was all but eliminated by what has happened in California, beginning with the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999. The controversy surrounding the establishment and subsequent implementation of the MPAs resulting from that act effectively removed the tool from many a fisheries manager’s toolbox, including mine. That controversy ignited angry and vocal response from both commercial and recreational fishers because they were excluded from that process and, according to many accounts, consistently misled by the process.
MPAs can be an effective management tool, but when they are used to advance a specific agenda, like the elimination of fishing, rather than as a science-based management tool, the negative consequences may echo for years. Some uses of MPAs in fisheries management are straightforward, like protecting spawning aggregate sites and nursery sites, examples of how I have mostly used such designations. Other subtleties of fisheries biology and ecology demand more careful assessment and clearly defined objectives for the successful creation of an MPA as a fishery management tool. While there is not enough time to debate the efficacy of MPAs as an effective strategy over the full range of fisheries management, I would quote from one relatively recent peer-reviewed study by Buxton et al, published in 2014, to illustrate my point.
These researchers studied the concept that spillover from marine reserves benefits fisheries, the premise being that not allowing fishing in a defined area would result in production of such excessive numbers of fish they would expand into adjacent areas, improving fishing all around the MPA. This is often a stated value of no-take MPAs. The researchers concluded that spillover benefits from reserves had been detected only “when the fishery is highly depleted, often where traditional fisheries management controls are absent.” They further concluded “that reserves in jurisdictions with well-managed fisheries are unlikely to provide [such] a net spillover benefit.” I believe that fisheries management in Canada would be defined as such a well-managed jurisdiction.
I've found that traditional fisheries management practices can achieve nearly any fisheries management objective within an MPA, unless the goal is simply to end recreational fishing. This view is consistent with that of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' policy statement on marine protected areas. That policy strongly advocates an open and transparent process that defers to the North American model of conservation as a guiding principle. The policy strongly advocates leaving fish use management to the experts while establishing MPAs. Resources agencies in all of Canada's provinces are members of that association.
I see many of these summarized tenets in Canada's MPA strategy and policy. I urge that they be followed. Those tenets and the association's policy recognizes that effective MPAs are possible without restricting low-impact recreational fishing, that working with the angling community and industry creates committed advocates to help sustain those conservation efforts.
On retirement of TPWD, I accepted the position of executive director at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. HRI is part of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi system, located at the head of the Laguna Madre on the Texas southern coast. Both HRI and I have been significantly involved with MPA issues using our Harte model of multidisciplinary research to develop science-based solutions to Gulf problems. We do believe that people are part of the environment and solutions to environmental problems must include people to be successful and sustained. Our ability to sort out science and policy issues regarding MPAs has been compromised by the controversy now surrounding them.
I hope Canada can avoid those missteps that we have experienced in the U.S.A., to what I believe is our continued loss. Marine conservation need not be divisive. Recreational anglers are conservation-minded, and they will support measures that they might deem not to be personally beneficial if they are presented with a sound argument and a consistent, transparent process. If time allowed, I could present numerous examples to illustrate that commitment, many of which I presented to the U.S. Congress in recent testimony on October 24, 2017, regarding the future of recreational fishing in our country.
In conclusion I would offer four recommendations for your consideration.
First, I would urge you to incorporate the tenets of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' policy statement on marine protected areas into any MPA development and implementation. It represents the combined wisdom and experience of some of the most successful conservation experts in the world, including those from Canada.
Second, where MPAs that exclude recreational fishing are proposed, they should be reviewed closely for their scientific merit, using a peer-review process that ensures an unbiased assessment. The recent history of agenda-driven actions in creating no-take MPAs makes this necessary to minimize potential controversy over what might be a sorely needed conservation measure.
Third, most fishery-related issues within MPAs can be handled with existing management tools and enforcement strategies. Perhaps as many as 80% to 90% of anglers, I have found in my experience, will follow rules on their own, if they know what they are and why they are necessary.
Fourth, ensure that your MPA process has a defined and meaningful stakeholder process that provides an opportunity for the input from recreational anglers and the industry they support. You will find them to be your strongest ally in conservation. When they are part of a transparent process in which their participation has an impact, they will make whatever sacrifice is needed to ensure success.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to appear before you today.
I've included within my written submission copies of the documents to which I referred. I'm certainly happy to answer questions as this evolves.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman.
It will be less than 10 minutes.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear this morning. This is an important study. It can inform how Canada continues to move forward to establish individual marine protected areas, as well as broadening its network of MPAs.
Before I begin my formal remarks, I want to quickly introduce myself. I'm new to the Fisheries Council and new to the sector. I started at the end of November, after 15 years in the forest industry. In my short time with the fisheries sector, I've seen some similarities between the forest industry and the fisheries sector.
Sustainability is paramount to both sectors, and in both cases Canada leads the world, in many respects, in terms of third-party certification of sustainability.
The most obvious discrepancy or complication with the fisheries sector is that fish move around and trees don't. With that highly technical comment, and in the context of my two fellow presenters, I should point out that my background is economics and not science.
I have given the clerk a written submission. I apologize for not having it completed in time to either translate it ourselves or for the translators with the committee to have it, but it is there if you would like to look at it for further information.
The Fisheries Council of Canada has been the voice of the fishery sector since 1915. We have members across the country on three coasts and inland waters—all small, medium, and large companies, as well as indigenous enterprises. We process the fish, and some of our members also harvest the fish.
The primary concern of the fisheries sector is how Canada balances the desire for conservation with the socio-economic benefits that we derive from our precious ocean ecosystem and our fish resources. While we have that conversation, we must also remember that Canada is helping to feed the growing global population and demand for protein, and fisheries is a sustainable source of that protein.
The recommendations I wish to make on behalf of the Fisheries Council of Canada recognize and build on the existing elements within the processes to establish individual MPAs and the broader network. However, the driver for our recommendations is really to enhance the effort we make to strike that appropriate balance between marine conservation and the socio-economic benefits.
This will become a more difficult struggle going forward, and it will require more effort by all parties: by the government, industry, and other stakeholders.
My first recommendation is to use science-based decision-making, which recognizes the role of the fisheries sector in sustainable fisheries management and in contributing to a healthy ocean ecosytem. As you well know, DFO's approach to sustainable and responsible fisheries management is science based. It applies the precautionary approach. It addresses ecosystem considerations and is risk based.
On top of that, as I mentioned earlier, Canada is a global leader in the adoption of third-party certification of sustainable fisheries management. The Marine Stewardship Council, which is the gold standard or leading standard, is what we use. As of 2014, although this might be a little dated, two-thirds of Canadian landings were from fisheries that were certified under the MSC label. That represents almost all major stocks and about 80% of the food produced by our fisheries.
This is in the context that only about 10% of the world's fisheries are certified, so this should be a point of pride for us. I'd like for you to think of us as a partner in conservation, not an adversary.
My second recommendation is to incorporate the socio-economic considerations, which recognizes the economic importance of our sector and other users. The Canadian seafood industry creates about 80,000 direct jobs, mainly in coastal and rural communities, and accounts for nearly $7 billion in exports. The industry has a significant presence in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, followed by BC, Nunavut, and some freshwater fishing concentrated in Manitoba and the Great Lakes. Our members are often key employers in their communities, providing jobs and creating an economic base for other local businesses.
Looking more globally, the OECD views the ocean as a new economic frontier. The Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers agrees with this statement, in quoting the OECD in its June 2017 report on Canada's network of marine protected areas. Dominic Barton, the finance minister's adviser, also believes that agrifood can be a source of significant economic growth for Canada, and fish and seafood is part of that growth opportunity. Where things get challenging is when a specific fishery is impacted by an individual MPA. The impact on individual operators, whether an independent fisherman or an offshore company, gets very real very quickly, and finding that win-win is important.
Our third recommendation is to take a flexible approach in selecting the right conservation tool for the situation, regardless of whether it's under the Oceans Act, the Fisheries Act, or some other authority. This flexible approach is needed to meet the range of conservation and protection objectives while allowing for sustainable use. While MPAs may have a role in protecting unique features or high concentrations of sedentary corals and sponges or representative marine biodiversity areas, there is emerging scientific evidence—and I think Dr. McKinney alluded to this—that MPAs can be a blunt instrument. In the conservation and management of commercial species, we have more effective fisheries management techniques and tools, whether altering gear configurations, seasonal adjustments, temporary rotational or longer-term closures, or other measures. We can look at many things.
I should also mention that the FCC supports Canada's efforts in the international discussions to instil more flexibility in what measures are recognized as marine conservation in our international commitments. As I said, we recommend using the best measure regardless of whether it counts or does not count toward our international commitments.
I'll conclude my formal remarks and look forward to answering any questions you might have.
Thank you, and good morning, everyone.
I'm really pleased to be here today representing the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, also known as CPAWS. We're a national grassroots conservation charity, with 13 chapters across the country and a national office in Ottawa. We've worked for over 50 years to conserve Canada's public land and oceans, using the best available science to protect ecologically important areas for generations to come.
We have supported the establishment of many MPAs in Canada, including Gwaii Haanas, the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs, and St. Anns Bank. We were also involved in the passage of the NMCA Act. While we celebrate these successes, we also continue to advocate for effective protection of other sites, such as the Laurentian Channel, Scott Islands, and the Southern Strait of Georgia. We work with communities, indigenous people, scientists, other stakeholders, and decision-makers to find science-based solutions and to practise respectful advocacy.
Our 13 chapters are embedded in their local communities. We attend community events. We work with passionate community volunteers to inform and to engage the public in MPA planning and design processes. We work to give a voice to the public and to provide a platform for Canadians to share their views with decision-makers.
I have personally worked on MPAs for over 30 years and have been involved in all aspects of their establishment, from identifying candidate sites through to developing final management plans, and supporting monitoring and enforcement of sites once established. I have represented the conservation sector on numerous advisory committees for individual sites and have worked collaboratively on a variety of ocean policy issues.
MPAs are a tried and tested marine conservation tool. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, MPAs provide for the in situ conservation of biodiversity. A wealth of scientific evidence demonstrates that strongly protected MPAs protect vulnerable species, and help ecosystems and populations to recover and rebuild, and to produce more, larger, and more diverse communities of fish and other marine species. They can also produce benefits for fisheries, but only when they are well managed and strongly protected.
A recent global analysis of MPAs led by Dr. Graham Edgar demonstrated that the most effective MPAs are fully protected no-take areas that are well-enforced, large, mature, and isolated. The authors found that 59% of the MPAs they studied had only one or two of these features and showed no difference in biomass or diversity from fished areas. Numerous studies show that partially protected areas provide only limited benefits. They may help to prevent future degradation of marine ecosystems, but they are unlikely to support the recovery of populations.
CPAWS has also conducted reviews of Canadian MPAs, and we have found that less than 0.1% of our ocean is fully protected. This undermines their ability to provide the ecological and economic benefits that we're looking for.
Although there is an increasing body of science on best practices for MPA design and management, there are currently no protection standards for MPAs in Canada. Levels of protection can vary considerably, from fully protected no-take areas to partially protected multiple-use areas, to paper parks with little or no regulation of activities.
I'm currently here in Washington, DC, working with the IUCN to develop a set of international standards for MPAs that will be shared with IUCN member countries, including Canada, as well as with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The lack of protection standards for MPAs in Canada is a significant challenge to their designation and effectiveness. As a result, every single activity must be negotiated for each MPA, even when they may be in direct contravention of the conservation objectives for that MPA. This has affected the consultation process. It has dragged it out. It has increased conflict, and it has resulted in very lengthy designation processes for MPAs in Canada.
We support the recommendations by several scientists and conservationists who have testified to you and called for MPA protection standards. As I mentioned, protection measures in Canada's MPAs vary considerably. In St. Anns Bank, for example, there are measures to fully protect ecosystems from fishing in over 75% of the area, and all of it is protected from oil and gas. However, in the proposed Laurentian Channel MPA, the current proposal is that oil and gas activities would be permitted in 80% of the area.
Scientific studies, as was mentioned, have clearly shown that MPAs with weak protection will not result in conservation or economic benefits. Based on the evidence, we believe that protection standards should prohibit bottom trawling, oil and gas activities, and deep-sea mining. All MPAs should be managed to ecological integrity and include mandatory and significant no-take areas.
Over the past year we have seen tremendous effort by the government to meet its marine conservation targets, including proposed amendments under Bill to the Oceans Act to establish interim protection for sites while they are being considered. Without these measures, harmful activities continue to damage ecosystems while the MPA is being developed. While freezing the footprint may prevent damage from new activities, it would not stop damage from existing activities, even when they have been scientifically proven to pose significant threats to known ecological values. For example, during the designation process of the glass sponge reefs MPA in B.C., scientists observed increasing damage from bottom-contact fishing gears, like prawn traps and long lines. The reefs are thousands of years old and may take hundreds of years to recover from damage, if they ever do. The glass sponge reefs were known to be at risk for 15 years before they were designated as an MPA. The longer an MPA consultation process takes, the more species and ecosystems remain at risk.
Over the past decade we've seen a global push to establish MPAs. Countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Mexico, Chile, and Palau have embraced large, effective MPAs. After years of slow progress, Canada is running to catch up to meet the international targets while we lag behind many countries in the world in MPA coverage. Most of our MPAs are small, and current protection standards have been weak.
Over the past two years Canada has increased protection from 1% to 7%, according to DFO numbers. We would point out, however, that this number also includes a large number of existing and new fisheries closures recently announced as “other measures”, rather than as MPAs, and less than 1% of these areas are fully protected, no-take areas. It's worth remembering that even if we protect 10% of Canada's oceans from all extractive activities, 90% still remains open to business. However, in in order to get there, Canada's pace and standards must change significantly if we are to protect our ocean ecosystems, and species like the southern resident killer whales on the B.C. coast and the north Atlantic right whales that rely on those healthy ecosystems.
The government's amendments to the Oceans Act are a good start, and we are pleased that your committee has added “ecological integrity” as a criterion for the establishment of MPAs. After years of advocating for these improvements, CPAWS is also pleased to see interim protections also incorporated and measures to support the prohibition of oil and gas activities. We're very pleased that has announced his intention to establish a ministerial advisory panel on protection standards for MPAs.
We are just beginning to catch up with the international community. Canada has an upcoming opportunity to demonstrate global leadership in ocean conservation during its presidency of the G-7. We urge the government to encourage G7 nations to adopt the 2016 IUCN resolution passed by 100 countries at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii that calls for the protection of 30% of ocean territories by 2030. Not only would this make good ecological sense, it would also make good economic sense. In its report on MPA economics, management, and policy, the OECD cites a recent global study by Brander et al, published in 2015, which calculated the total ecosystem service benefits of 10% coverage by MPAs at between $600 billion to $900 billion U.S., and found that the benefits of expanding no-take areas to 10% and 30% exceeded any costs.
With some improvements to Canada's MPA legislation, stronger protections, and more protected areas, we can ensure that Canada will be an international leader, and that Canadians will benefit from healthy and productive oceans for generations to come.
Thank you again for this opportunity. I'm happy to answer any questions you have.
Thank you, Madam. We appreciate that. Ms. Jessen, we'll come back to you during the questions.
Just as an explanation to our witnesses, in the round of questioning to follow, each party will get a chance. In the beginning, the first round will be seven minutes each.
Again, we do have someone who is joining us by video conference. I would like to remind my colleagues that if you're asking Ms. Jessen questions, you may want to say her name first so that she's aware that you are talking to her, because sometimes that can get a bit confusing.
Before I get into that, I would like to publicly send our best wishes to our dear colleague Mr. Todd , who is in the hospital right now recovering from surgery. What was found at the beginning of his gallbladder surgery turned out to be much worse, if you've seen the news. I'm just going to quote from a CBC news story where he said, “You can't help others if you're not well yourself.” I think that's good advice, not just for politicians, but everybody.
Todd, we wish you all the best and we'll see you soon, of course, and thanks for those wise words.
That said, we also have Mr. Liepert with us, who is filling in from the riding of Calgary Signal Hill. Is that correct?