Good morning, everyone.
I apologize for being late this morning. I rely on Ottawa transit; they were just slightly behind this morning—much like me.
We're continuing with our study for marine protected areas.
I want to thank the committee for indulging me on this one. I say this on behalf of Mr. McDonald. I hope we can do this. The one area of the country we haven't been to yet on the MPA study is Newfoundland and Labrador. Today we're not discussing that specifically, but we're going to use an example.
I want to welcome all the way from the town of Happy Adventure, Mr. George Feltham, who is from the Eastport region.
George, it's good to see you this morning.
From the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we have Mr. Robert Lambert, who is director, oceans management, Newfoundland and Labrador region. We also have Christie Chute, who is the manager of marine conservation programs.
Mr. Lambert, you have up to 10 minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the opportunity to be here today.
The Government of Canada remains committed to increasing the protection of Canada's marine and coastal areas from the current 7.75% to 10% by 2020. My role includes managing regional initiatives under this marine conservation agenda. To achieve this target, we will continue establishing marine protected areas and marine refuges to safeguard the health of our oceans for future generations.
I'm here today to talk about the Eastport marine protected area, which was one of the first Oceans Act MPAs established in the country.
During the early 1990s, harvesters in the Eastport area recognized serious declines in lobster. This decline was attributed to redirected fishing efforts following the groundfish closures known as the cod moratorium. In 1995, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council recommended that harvesters take measures to increase egg production, reduce exploitation rates, and improve stock structure, and that local stakeholder groups and management officials collaborate to sustain their resources. In response, the Eastport Peninsula Lobster Protection Committee was formed in 1995 to implement a conservation strategy for lobster on the Eastport Peninsula.
Based on some initial successes in this initiative, such as increased community involvement and v-notching to protect egg-bearing female lobsters, the committee developed a joint project agreement with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 1997 to close two areas of prime lobster habitat. Those were Round Island and Duck Islands. That was done under the Fisheries Act. This agreement also established the 400-square-kilometre Eastport Peninsula lobster management area, limiting access to lobster fisheries to the seven local communities.
In 1999 the committee approached Fisheries and Oceans Canada to establish these two closed areas as an Oceans Act MPA as a way to provide long-term protection. At that time, marine protection as a concept was still developing, and the department pursued this area in order to lay the foundation for future conservation efforts.
Following years of data-gathering and consultations, Eastport was designated as an MPA in 2005. The main conservation objective for the Eastport MPA is to maintain a viable population of American lobster through the conservation, protection, and sustainable use of resources and habitats within the area.
A science monitoring program has taken place inside and outside the MPA since 1997 to determine the size of the lobster population. This includes collection of data from commercial logbooks and at-sea sampling to determine catch per unit effort and size structure of the population. Catch per unit effort is an indirect measure of the abundance of a target species. A tagging program compares the average size of lobster inside versus outside the MPA. In addition, specialized traps have been introduced to monitor very small and very large lobsters. Future research will examine lobster movements and spillover MPA effects and will estimate egg production inside the MPA.
DFO has heard concerns with respect to the size of the MPA and its contribution to the conservation of biodiversity. The science monitoring program has shown higher abundance of large egg-bearing females and increases in mean size of both male and female lobsters within the population. It also continues to show a stable catch per unit effort both inside the MPA and in the surrounding Eastport Peninsula lobster management area.
The Eastport MPA continues to meet its goal of maintaining a viable population of American lobster and includes the participation of stakeholders in the management of the resource. To support effective management within the MPA, a management plan was released in 2007 and updated in 2013 in consultation with the Eastport MPA Advisory Committee, which is co-chaired by a member of the EPLPC and DFO. A third management plan will be released in 2018, covering the next five years.
Following the initial management plan release, annual service-level agreements were developed with the conservation and protection branch of DFO in order to increase patrols during vulnerable times of the year. As of 2007, additional patrols of the MPA were conducted. Compliance with the management measures in the Eastport MPA has been high due in part to the enhanced patrols and increased stewardship from the local communities and fishers.
Regular consultations have occurred with a variety of local stakeholders and other groups on the Eastport MPA. An annual general meeting of the Eastport MPA Advisory Committee and regular science-focused and public meetings serve a critical role in adaptive management of the MPA.
This community-driven MPA has brought fish harvesters, government, community youth, academics, and science together. As a result, there has been sharing of information and knowledge for better management of the area and its lobster fishery. Since the establishment of the Eastport MPA, we continue to become more knowledgeable on the marine environment and how marine protected areas and refuges can help play an important role in the department's ongoing conservation effort.
While scientists have documented the benefits of individual MPAs such as Eastport, the site selection process for MPAs is evolving. In recent years, potential MPA sites have been more informed by science—such as the consideration of ecologically and biologically significant areas—and future MPAs will be identified in the context of marine protected area networks.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and I look forward to your questions.
Well first of all, good morning, and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Standing Committee on Fisheries.
My name is George Feltham, and I have been a fish harvester for 34 years. My family has been in the fishery for over 200 years. One of the things we have survived on over the years has been diversification in the fishery, which has led us to be able to be here today.
Even though lobster is small in our area, it's very important to the annual income of harvesters. With the importance of the lobsters to our annual income, we saw the biggest decline ever, in 1993, in our lobster population. Some of it was overfishing, some of it was environmental, and I guess the problems go on as in any other fisheries.
We saw the need to alleviate some of the pressure on the lobster population, so the fishermen themselves got together, with co-operation from DFO, from enforcement and from oceans, and came up with the closed areas that we have. The areas were picked and put there by fish harvesters, and verified by science after. The reason I stress that is because harvesters have a lot of knowledge of the oceans, of the ocean bottom, of where the fish are too, and where the fish congregate.
One of the things is that I get sort of annoyed when people are talking about MPAs.... And I'm a strong supporter of MPAs, because I believe that MPAs can work, but it has to be done for the right reasons. They've got to be there to serve the people. One of the things we lose sight of quite often is where the terrestrial is or where it's marine. The ocean is a big place, and everyone had the concept that you can go anywhere in this big place and fish. That is so false. You just can't go everywhere. There are prime areas where you can go and fish, and there are areas where you can go and never get a fish. It's not so big as you think.
One of the things we did, to relate back to our MPA, is we mapped the fishing activity that's taking place. We can't be blindsided today, because our activities have changed over the last number of years.... We have to go back where we traditionally fished. We moved from a groundfish to a shellfish, going back to a groundfish again. Our traditional fishing activity has to be taken into account.
If you go around and ask people whether we should develop an MPA, everyone out there would say yes. But when you say you're putting it in their backyard—or my backyard— then they don't want it. There's a price that people have to pay, and when we put our terrestrial parks in place, we never recognized the local people, the local users. As a matter of fact, the local parks, to this day and age, in my back door, are crucifying the people who live within and next to the boundaries, with no recognition. Even though we have 200 years of history there, we're not recognized.
My point here is that on a going-ahead basis, things are going to change. If we put an MPA in place, changes are coming. Fisheries change, everything changes. The number one thing is that the primary user groups have to be consulted and have to have a say in establishment of any MPA. Not only do we have to have a say, but we have to have an input in where it goes, in management.
That's what happened in Eastport. We were lucky. We had good people in DFO, good people in enforcement, in oceans, who were going to sit down and work with the people and the communities. It didn't happen overnight.
Some people will look back and say, “But it's small. It's small.” But to get to where we got to, we have to go through the same process as if they took in half of the Atlantic Ocean. You have to consult more people. We had to consult communities that were 50 to 70 kilometres away from us, because their licences had the right to fish in our area, and what we were proposing was taking away that right.
We had to look at how we could minimize the impact on our industry and our community. You can't just take 50 or 60 harvesters out of a little community like mine and throw them to one side. Our communities would die. We have to make sure that, whatever effect MPAs or parks have on that community, the direct stakeholders are looked after.
The other thing we have to be careful of, and it was a selling point for the Eastport MPA, is that when we started this process, no one thought about recreational users. All of a sudden we had a battle that this couldn't go ahead. If we're going to protect the environment, then we have to get everyone out of there.
What we want is to create a pristine area where science alone can go in and do work on the most natural basis that it can. When we're creating MPAs, we cannot allow one user group in and another user group out. If we do, we're doomed for failure. Right from the beginning we're doomed for failure.
For our MPA enforcement, yes, we get enforcement from DFO, and once in a while they drop by. We're in the location, and one area is close to Parks Canada. Yes, they drop by sometimes, but 90% of the enforcement was done by the fish harvesters themselves because they believed in what they were doing. That's why. They created it; it came from the grassroots. They believed in what they were doing.
I had more statistics on what we did, but I had to change my presentation because I didn't think you wanted to hear the statistics twice.
I think there's a lot to learn. I think people should sit down and look at what we did and the co-operation we had with enforcement. We convinced fishery officers in enforcement to come to our meetings and sit down to put it all on the table beforehand, before they went crawling around the rocks with cameras and everything else, trying to get someone to do this or that. We laid it on the table; they laid it on the table. That was the co-operation we had with the departments.
I guess I'll close there.
Well done. Thank you, Mr. Feltham. As always, we appreciate it.
By the way, Mr. Feltham mentioned terrestrial rules. I think what he's referring to is that Eastport is adjacent to Terra Nova National Park. They're essentially surrounded by Terra Nova National Park. He has terrestrial rules and he has the MPA as well.
That being said, thank you to our witnesses for their statements.
Now were going to go to questions. However, committee, can you indulge me? Do you mind if I ask a very quick question, only because I know the area very well? I think this is a question for Mr. Lambert and Ms. Chute.
Around the time of the Eastport announcement we made at the Legion in 2005, there was also talk of an MPA around the community of Leading Tickles. That didn't work, and it didn't go ahead. Does anybody have an idea as to why that didn't go ahead?
The size of the actual Eastport MPA is 2.1 kilometres. It's around two islands, so it's a relatively small area.
Science has been done through the tagging program, as mentioned, about how much lobsters move around inside and outside. It has shown that lobsters don't move a tremendous amount—that is, individual lobsters—but as Mr. Feltham points out, the increase in the size of lobsters basically means that for the lobsters inside that small MPA, the larger the lobster, the more eggs they carry, and the stronger those eggs are. As those eggs are released, they get carried with the drift and then they drift out.
Recently, science has expanded the areas that are being looked at, because that was one of the things that came up during the discussions about the science being collected: that it would be good to have more areas studied, if you will, outside—
We have a number of management tools in place now through the department.
You didn't really define “fishermen”. I'll speak on crab for a minute. When we harvest crab, we don't have soft-shell crab. We harvest all hard-shell crab. We don't harvest any females. We harvest all males; all the females are put back. Water temperature plays a major role. We can do all the management we want, and if we have the wrong water temperature, we're not going to be able to correct that.
It's unbelievable that when conservation measures are in place when it comes to crab you have a decline in your crab stocks from fishing activity. I know that plays a role.
On cod, science and fishers are at a headlock when it comes to cod, but measures are in place. You're right about stepping outside of the fish because it all takes place in one place. You fish and you have prime fishing areas, including corals. The ecosystem is all balanced there, and it has to be balanced. People accept that when it comes to certain species but they don't accept it when it comes to others, so we have to be careful.
We can do what we like, and if we don't harvest in a way, if we don't watch who and what is harvesting, then all our measures are in vain. As a fisher, I take offence sometimes. Back in the early 1980s our seal population was estimated at three million. The last figure I heard was that it could be as high as 11 million. Just do the figures. That's an eight-million seal increase. They don't eat hamburgers. They eat fish, and the capelin fishery is one of the ones that comes under attack. The capelin fishery is very important. Seals primarily feed off capelin but no one will every say that the seals are depleting the capelin stocks. They say it's the fishermen depleting the capelin stock, but we take roughly 1% of that stock.
I don't know if I'm answering your question or not.
Thanks, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witness for being here.
Mr. Lambert, I understand you're going to be here for the next hour, so my questions will go to Mr. Feltham while he's here.
It's really refreshing to have a witness like you, with a distinct knowledge of the area in question, so thanks for being here. That's quite a feat. I come from a family with a long line of people in agriculture, but we haven't been in it for 200 years. That's pretty significant.
You have talked about the consultation or lack thereof. What was your experience, Mr. Feltham, when it came to that consultation? I ask because we've had a lot of fishermen who have come to us and said that basically they are information sessions. They are not really consultations.
Can you elaborate on what your experience was?
You're going to be excited to learn that I really don't have a formal presentation, but I thought I'd take just a couple of minutes, to allow for more questions. I thought I'd take a couple of minutes to explain our makeup today. Brett and I are with the resource management program here at headquarters, so national policy, because we weren't exactly sure what area of the country you might want to focus on in your questions.
As you know, Mr. Lambert is from the Newfoundland region in the extreme east, and Mr. Thomson is in the west. Hopefully, if you have questions that are east and west, we can try our best to answer them for you. We have six administrative regions within DFO, so we don't have them all represented here. If there's a technical question for one of the other regions, and we don't know the answer, we'll get back to you.
Additionally, we have Mr. Lamirande with us. As he mentioned, he's responsible for the indigenous program at DFO here. Again, depending on the nature of your question—we understand the topic is commercial indigenous fishing—if it's more on a broader policy issue, Mr. Lamirande can perhaps answer. We'll be farming the questions around a bit, if you don't mind. We don't really all have individual views. We're just trying to facilitate the best way possible to respond to questions that your members may have.
That is it, sir. Thank you very much, and I should have said we are very pleased to be here.
There are a couple of benefits. One, as was mentioned earlier, is about conservation but also about ensuring sustainable fisheries and development as we move along. Each MPA is unique. The MPA in the Eastport area, which Mr. Feltham spoke about this morning, had a defined objective of trying to increase the spawning biomass of lobster to ensure that there's a sustainable fishery in the areas immediately adjacent to it.
Other MPAs have other conservation objectives. Some are to protect sensitive benthic areas, corals and sponges. Some have species that are being protected.
When you say “the people”, I would suggest that, yes, it's for all the people, but people have different objectives themselves. Obviously the objective of the fisherman in terms of what an MPA benefit might mean to them would be different from perhaps that of a biologist, and certainly from the animal kingdom, the species of fish. There are different benefits for both.
I'm not sure that we can categorize a particular group of people. When we do our consultations and outreach, certainly we like to get input from all peoples, regardless of what their interest in the area is: the general public, the fishing industry, indigenous groups, academia, everyone who would have a benefit.
I'll end it there. I don't know if one of the other colleagues would like to add to that.
I could add a bit of perspective.
Over the years we've learned, and science is teaching us, that all these measures that we put in place, whether they're MPAs or management measures, and so on, are not necessarily restricted to individual boundaries. In other words, it's a more global issue. While you might have an MPA in this area, it also might impact another area farther up the coast in another region, or perhaps in another country. That's why the focus now, as we progress, is changing from some of these smaller, very targeted MPAs to what's known as an MPA network. That's exactly the reason for that, the connectivity.
As we do that, as we heard this morning, the consultation piece is very important. As we go out and are talking about putting different protections in place, it's very important that we get a cross-section from everybody—fish harvesters, ENGOs, academia, and the general public—before any decisions are made, so that we have well-informed decisions.
In answer to your question, “the people” is basically as broad as you want to make it. It has an impact on people very locally, but it also has an impact on people globally.
Monitoring and enforcement obviously are very important parts of any management measures when you're talking about prohibition, closed areas, and that type of thing. A lot of the areas we're talking about now for MPAs are large areas that are offshore and so on, and some people have some concerns about that.
As a department, we currently have the resources and the technology to monitor enforcement in these areas, such as air surveillance programs. We have quite a bit of experience with that on the east coast. We will have more areas to monitor, but it can be done. There may be more resources required. As we establish MPAs that's always a consideration, if there's more money required for enforcement. The actual technology is there, so vessel monitoring systems, aerial surveillance, and those types of things are available now.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and to our witnesses, thanks for being here.
I just wanted to expand on what Ms. Jordan just asked about consultation. With all due respect, gentlemen, you never really answered her question. We know that you consult with various groups or you're supposed to.
Mr. Lambert, a few minutes ago, you made a comment that there needs to be widespread consultation and yet, as Ms. Jordan mentioned, we hear that fishermen have complained about it occurring right in the middle of lobster season. It's like having the same kind of consultation for farmers about harvest, right in the middle of harvest.
I'm not going to ask you to respond because you didn't answer her question, but it's obviously a problem. It's one thing to say you're going to do a proper consultation, but you actually have to walk the talk.
I want to switch gears. When it comes to MPAs, do you feel your process to create an MPA is totally based on science? Or do you think they should be based on science?
Well, I'd like that produced if there is. I would carry that out farther, that if they're just based on international commitments, those aren't based on science. Those are based on political reasons.
We had a witness here on Tuesday, Dr. Larry McKinney, who works out of Texas A & M. He has been involved in a lot of MPAs in the Gulf of Mexico and others, and I asked him about an approach that involved establishing MPAs just based on protecting a certain percentage of the ocean. His answer was, “To be looking at percentages, no, I think that's not an approach...I certainly would not do that, just setting a certain percentage aside.”
Here's a guy who's been involved in very successful MPAs, and I would urge you to follow up. I don't just take his word for it. They have been very good at what they're doing, and none of them have banned recreational fishing. He doesn't believe that in most cases.... They've restricted it and what have you. With regard to an earlier witness we had today from Newfoundland, it was kind of along the same lines. You protect something, but you don't necessarily totally eliminate the harvest in or around it.
Would you believe that, in general terms, recreational fishing has far less chance of overfishing or depleting stocks versus a commercial fishery? I'm not trying to attack commercial fishery. I have a lot of it in my riding as well, but in general terms, would you agree with that statement?
Thank you, Mr. Hardie. That is exactly on time, like the former broadcaster that you are.
Mr. Lambert, Mr. Lamirande, Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Gilchrist, and Mr. Thomson, by phone, we want to thank you all. Thank you for getting up at this ungodly hour, Mr. Thomson, and helping us out. In addition, of course, we also thank Mr. Feltham, in the back, for helping us out in the first hour.
Mr. Lambert, I mentioned the proposed Leading Tickles MPA. I was wondering if you could provide us information as to why that did not get off the ground, or at least some of the details around that.
Go ahead, Mr. Arnold.