It is a nice day today.
I first want to apologize for the delay. These things happen, of course. We were able to get a room in the same building, which makes it that much easier. We've missed about 25 minutes, but we'll hear from both groups and have two rounds of questioning.
As a reminder, this is the last day of our questioning before we delve into a discussion of our recommendations. After that, of course, we'll have the report finalized.
We'll start with Randy Jenkins, the acting senior director, integrated resource management. We also welcome Brett Gilchrist, acting assistant director, fisheries national programs.
The people you see this morning are no strangers to you, because they've been here before.
Will one or two of you speak? Just Mr. Jenkins.
You have up to 10 minutes, sir. Please proceed.
Good morning, everyone. It's great to be back again after such a short absence. As you recall, on this Thursday past we discussed commercial indigenous licensing. Today is the fisheries management side, so you're stuck with us again for a bit.
I'd like to start by saying that for the fisheries management component, our contribution to achieving Canada's targets is largely through the other effective area-based conservation measures, or the creation of marine refuges. We use Fisheries Act tools to evoke various closures for certain aspects of oceans, whether we're protecting the ocean bottom or there's a particular species of fish, or some combination thereof.
In that capacity, we have been quite active in helping Canada achieve in December the 5% target for marine and coastal protection. We've had several high-profile or good examples of where we've had a lot of engagement with the fishing industry, communities, and indigenous groups. For example, the Disko Fan conservation area in the eastern Arctic, Baffin Bay, would be a good example of where we're protecting not only the corals but also the narwhal feeding source.
From that perspective, we'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have today. I would also point out that, as you're aware, the next session will include be Oceans Act professionals and the persons who are leading on the MPA component. If there are any specific questions on MPAs or something beyond what we would normally be covering as fish managers, certainly they would be more than happy to answer those questions for you.
With that, Mr. Chair, thank you for welcoming us back. We'd be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
I guess it depends on the objective of the closure.
In the case that we heard last week, the Eastport example, where the objective was to try to increase the biomass of lobster in a very finite area to benefit the communities that are alongside, a total closure or ongoing closure would allow the reproductive animals in that area to reproduce and their spawn would spread throughout the ecosystem and benefit the fishers who were alongside. At the same time, in terms of fishery management actions, and not necessarily directly related to the closure, the department took other measures so that only certain fishers could fish in the area. Those were the ones who were adjacent to the coast, so there was a double angle.
Maybe I'm not understanding your question well, but to take a west coast example of what's effective, if we look at the offshore Pacific seamounts and vents as an example of a closure, we're primarily protecting the bottom. Therefore, any bottom-type fisheries would have to be close to obtain the objective of the closure. However, at the same time, for surface fisheries such as tuna fishing, there's no reason in the world why tuna fishing can't continue.
We try to zero in on what we're trying to protect and minimize the impact that would have on the fisheries. If we're protecting bottoms and corals, then fisheries that don't impact the bottom, in theory or in reality, can still be allowed to continue, whereas those that do, won't.
When you're talking about a management measure in localized areas particularly—maybe they don't work as well in large offshore areas—if you have a fishery going on that impacts the bottom currently, and that's the activity we wish to stop, it is possible that a similar fishery could continue, or a fishery for that species, as long as there's a switch to gear that's less harmful to the environment.
Brett, do you have any other example to add?
Good morning. You'll have to excuse Mr. MacDonald, who has to leave around 10:15 or 10:20 to act in support of the minister.
Good morning and thank you for inviting us today. We appreciate the opportunity to come back before you and support your interest in the government's efforts to protect the three oceans.
We have made significant progress since I was here last April, and we thank you for the hard work that you put into , and look forward to your MPA study report.
When I was here on April 4 last year, I outlined DFO's approach to meeting our target, as mandated by the in 2016. Our five-point plan has been the driving force behind our collective achievement, and I would like to take the time today to share them with you.
Since 2015, we have moved from 0.9% of protection of the coastal and marine areas to 7.75% as of December 21, 2017. The success brings us well beyond our target of 5% by the end of 2017.
The breakdown of that 7.75% protection of marine and coastal area is as follows: 11 Oceans Act marine protected areas; three national marine conservation areas; 51 marine refuges, also referred to as “other effective area-based conservation measures”, or other measures; and a suite of areas protected by the provinces.
Through hard work since 2015, we have established the following increases in marine protection. DFO has added a total of 5.12% through three new ocean MPAs: Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam in the Northwest Territories, in November 2016; the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs in B.C., in February 2017; St. Anns Bank in June 2017; and 51 marine refuges, or 4.78% were added.
In addition to the work by DFO to establish Oceans Act MPAs and marine refuges, other protected areas have been established by Parks Canada. I'm referring here to the Tallurutiup Imanga, or Lancaster Sound, national marine conservation area established by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and also provincial governments.
The federal MPAs and marine refuges are found across our bioregions, and we are guided by science-based decision-making in identifying areas of our oceans that require protection due to their significance. This achievement would not have been possible without the hard work of our regional counterparts, provinces and territories, and indigenous partners and stakeholders who have worked with us to identify areas of protection.
With the current protection in place, there are an additional 129,000 square kilometres of protection to be put in place to reach 10% by 2020. Our approach of achieving the final amount is to continue to advance the five-point plan and utilize other ongoing activities.
To achieve our interim target of 5%, we worked to designate areas already under way and identify existing and establish new other measures.
In 2018, we will continue work to designate previously identified areas by finalizing the proposed Laurentian Channel and Banc des Américains marine protected areas, or MPAs.
Work has already begun to protect large offshore areas such as the Offshore Pacific Area of Interest, which was announced in May 2017, as well as additional areas possibly in the High Arctic and Labrador Sea.
Within this area of interest, the Offshore Pacific Seamounts and Vents marine refuge, which is more than 82,000 km2 and represents 1.4% of protected oceans, was announced to quickly protect the most sensitive areas. Upon designation of the Large Pacific Offshore MPA, this marine refuge will be included within that area.
Our focus is also on the development of MPA networks in five priority bioregions. These networks will identify areas in need of protection by 2020, and those that will be prioritized for future protection.
We are also continuing to identify existing "other measures" and establish new other ones using the science-based guidance and criteria developed by DFO.
Thus far, to identify "other measures", an inventory of more than 1,000 existing fisheries area closures has been assessed against our five criteria.
First, the measure must be spatially defined with a clear geographic location. Second, the measure must have a conservation or stock management objective. Third, the measure must contain at least two ecological components of interest, which are habitat and species of regional importance that uses that habitat. Fourth, the measure must be long-term, either in legislation, regulation or clearly intended to be in place for at least 25 years. Fifth, the ecological components must be effectively conserved, with no human activities that are incompatible with the conservation objectives.
Our criteria were developed based on science and in consultation with the provinces, territories, indigenous groups, conservation organizations, scientists, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
The location, management approaches, and size of future measures will be determined in consultation with our partners and stakeholders.
This week in Montreal, Canada is hosting an international workshop on other measures for the Convention on Biological Diversity. This is an opportunity for Canada to align these criteria and guidance with international processes.
Lastly, as you are aware, Bill , an Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, is proceeding through the legislative process. Once Bill C-55 comes into effect, interim protection MPAs may be established in an area where more time is needed to consult with stakeholders and gather science to finalize a long-term protection approach.
In addition to following our five-point plan, other concurrent initiatives that will contribute to our efforts to identify and establish MPAs and other measures to support co-governance efforts with indigenous people will be pursued.
DFO's approach to establishing MPAs and other measures is aligned with the whole-of-government reconciliation agenda. For example, DFO is working with other federal departments on a whole-of-government approach to Inuit impact and benefit agreements for federal MPAs. Our department is also working with these partners to identify and coordinate federal government contributions to the development of ongoing management of MPAs in the Arctic consistent with the emerging Arctic policy framework.
As we work toward and beyond the 10% objective, extensive scientific peer-reviewed processes will continue to provide the foundation of our decision-making. We continue to improve coordination with indigenous peoples and the use of local knowledge to inform broader understanding of marine protection.
As well, consultation and engagement continues to remain a core principle as we rely on provinces and territories, indigenous organizations, and other stakeholders to identify and establish protections. DFO sees this as a collaborative effort that needs everyone on board to ensure that the protections established are meaningful and effective.
As I mentioned before, DFO is conscious that protecting our oceans is a long-term but necessary investment in renewing our marine natural capital to support future generations and a balanced ecosystem. We are laying the foundation to advance broader ocean management to better manage our ocean resources for an ecologically and economically sustainable future.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to provide an overview of our progress to date and our approach moving forward with MPA establishment in Canada.
I look forward to your questions.
I can start, and perhaps Ms. Chute can finish with regard to more specific elements of the establishment of the conservation objectives.
As Mr. Jenkins mentioned earlier this morning, when we were identifying the other effective area-based conservation measures to help meet the 5% target, we looked initially at areas where there had been closures under the Fisheries Act. Obviously, the fishing industry had already been making a contribution to marine conservation, but it just wasn't necessarily being counted because there weren't any criteria to count them as other measures.
The haddock box, which we're now calling the Western/Emerald Banks conservation area, was one of those areas that we looked at. Through the several phases of consultation we did with the fishing industry, as well as with first nations, the Province of Nova Scotia, and others, the conservation objectives were changed and updated such that it wasn't just about protecting haddock anymore; it was also integrating some of the new information we had with regard to the benthic environment. As a result of the information we received from the fishing industry, as well as the new science, we updated the conservation objectives, and then we also looked at how we would delineate, much as with the previous example, the areas that would count towards the target, with the areas that would be incompatible because of, in this case, scallop fishing, which affects the bottom. That's the history of that particular one.
With regard to the correspondence you're referring to, that's the perspective of the department. We did work very closely with the fishing industry, but they may have a different opinion on what the conservation objectives ultimately became.
I'm not sure if Christie wants to add to that.
Thank you again, Ms. Chute and Mr. Morel, for being here.
I want to touch on what Mr. Finnigan asked about, namely decisions being based on politics versus science. I would ascertain that when the decision is made to protect our oceans or whatever, of course that's a political decision. I'll use the Grand Banks as an example. When the Grand Banks were being overfished and the fishers were telling everybody, “Look, it's depleted here. Our catches are way down. There's a problem. We don't know what it is yet, but there's a problem,” a political decision was made to put, I believe, an interim moratorium on it until they figured out what to do. That is where science comes in.
I'm okay with that political part of it. There is a time for political process, but, ultimately, I am convinced, because no information I have from any witnesses has made me change my mind that when it comes to the amount or when or where we protect or implement an MPA, it's not all based on science. It's based on some number that somebody grabbed out of the air. I just want to clarify that and what have you.
I asked the previous witnesses and they said to refer my question to both of you. I saw a map that has all of the northern shores of Lake Ontario, around Toronto, and Lake Erie, between there and Windsor in the St. Clair River, pencilled in for protection. Both of those shores have fisheries that have rebounded so terrifically it's amazing. Especially in Lake Erie but also in Lake Ontario, they are catching 40 plus-pound salmon there, etc. Could one of you tell me why that area would be a possible MPA when the fishery has never been better?