I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 23 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted on February 1, 2022, the committee is resuming its study of science at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021.
I won't go through all of the rules about COVID and wearing a mask.
For those participating by video conference, when you are ready to speak, click on the icon to activate your mike. Please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, please make sure that your mike is on mute. For interpretation, you have the choice at the bottom of your screen of English, floor or French. I’ll remind everyone that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
I’d now like to welcome our witnesses here for today, albeit by Zoom. As individuals, we have Michael Dadswell, retired professor of biology at Acadia University, and Alexandra Morton, an independent scientist. From Ecotrust Canada, we have Tasha Sutcliffe, senior policy adviser. From Watershed Watch Salmon Society, we have Stan Proboszcz, senior scientist. From First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, we have Mr. Robert Chamberlin, chairman.
I am informed that Mr. Chamberlin will need to sign off a little earlier today—only about 20 minutes or so—to attend another meeting. If members could direct questions to him first, if they have questions for him, it would certainly help out. Of course, witnesses can provide written submissions to the committee via the clerk.
Mr. Cormier, you have your hand up.
If I can, for a brief moment.... I don't want to take too much time.
Regarding what we talked about with the science study, I think the members will agree with me that we need to hear from witnesses throughout Canada. There are a couple of pressing issues. I've talked a bit with Mr. Perkins, Mr. Small, Mr. Morrissey and Mr. Kelloway regarding some decisions that were taken about shrimp, for example, and mackerel and herring.
I want to have some clarification from the clerk. Maybe we can make sure that at the next meeting, on June 2, we can hear from some of those witnesses. I think it will be good, especially regarding the situation with shrimp—there was a big quota drop this year—to at least have their view on it. For example, we could hear from the Fédération régionale acadienne des pêcheurs professionnels here in my riding, FFAW, some other associations and also maybe MFU.
I'm wondering if all the members of the committee would accept hearing from those groups at the next meeting. Don't get me wrong, witnesses on the screen. We love having witnesses from the west coast, but there are also some issues here and I would certainly like to have the opportunity to ask some questions to those groups.
I'm sure my colleagues around the table—Ms. Desbiens, Mr. Perkins, Mr. Small and my other colleagues—will want that to be moved up. I'm not sure when the clerk can fit those witnesses in, but if it is possible to have them on June 2, I hope my colleagues around the table will agree with me on that.
I'm done. If there are some comments, Mr. Chair, I'll leave it to you.
[Witness spoke in Kwak'wala
I've acknowledged you all as knowledgeable and respectful people. I'll give you my traditional name, which is Galagame’. I'm from what you may know as the Broughton Archipelago. The words I am going to share today are from my heart and on behalf of many, many first nations of British Columbia. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to present to you today.
I open my testimony to you by stating that the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance completely supports previous FOPO meeting presenters Andrew Bateman and Brian Riddell of the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Gideon Mordecai of the University of British Columbia. Their combined testimony outlines extremely well the absolute disaster that is the Canadian science advisory secretariat in relationship to the open-net pen fish farm industry.
CSAS as a peer review secretariat has zero credibility with the first nation members of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance. When one examines the CSAS process, this is of course no surprise at all. A so-called science peer review process that allows a proponent, which is a fish farm company; industry [Technical difficulty—Editor]; and stakeholders, which are industry associations; to participate from the beginning to the end of this process is utterly and completely lacking any measure of objectivity or credibility. Canada's environment, wild fish and citizens deserve far more from government.
CSAS is a shining example of the environment within DFO that needs to be meticulously analyzed and restored back to its original mandate—namely, the mandate of actually working to protect the environment and wild fish for Canadians. You would be hard pressed to find a single first nation in B.C. that would state that DFO is doing a good job in managing wild salmon in British Columbia. This is well earned, given that I cannot think of a single wild salmon run in B.C. that could be characterized as healthy or abundant.
Oft spoken about are the aboriginal rights that first nations have, recognized in section 35(1) of Canada's Constitution, the Sparrow decision of Canada's Supreme Court and the government's commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These three legal realities speak to food security. It has been said to me that 90% of B.C. first nations rely upon wild salmon. Again, that's 90% of 203 first nations. This means that wild salmon is far more than a simple menu choice. It is the foundation for culture and traditions, and of course a staple traditional food that is now becoming near impossible to attain for these purposes.
The decision that DFO minister will be making soon needs to be deeply guided by the legal realities of the Supreme Court of Canada and Canada's constitutional protection of aboriginal rights. Simply stated, this is a case of rights versus the privilege of a licence.
DFO has accomplished measures of agreement in B.C. with some first nations. I suggest that these will suffer in credibility and function if transitioning open-net cage fish farms, as committed to by this government and supported by all parties, does not occur. A recent poll of British Columbians demonstrates vast support for this transition.
I attended a recent DFO ministers round table for this transition. The framework questions to guide discussions were entirely predictable and offensive. Frankly, they represented a buffalo jump of a predetermined outcome. This opinion was expressed very clearly by all the first nation chiefs who attended, demonstrating further the need for substantive change within the DFO to remove science from management so that the minister can enjoy clear information and recommendations that are unbiased and not continue to have government direction consistently undermined by DFO staff.
This was abundantly clear in the recent Mowi court decision on DFO Minister Jordan's decision for the Discovery Islands, where the director of aquaculture stated, which I will paraphrase, that she had no idea that not issuing the fish farm licences was being considered. This is preposterous, as I know for a fact that Ms. Allison Webb attended many of the first nation consultation sessions with Discovery Islands first nations, which I was part of. Not issuing these fish farm licences was spoken of at every consultation session.
Previous FOPO reports, and both federal and provincial government commitments to UNDRIP, call for greater involvement of first nations in the management of wild salmon in British Columbia. This is also found within the previous DFO parliamentary secretary 's “what we heard” report pertaining to developing and implementing the transition of open-net cage fish farms from B.C. waters. This needs to occur.
For today's topic of CSAS and science, first nations can play a clear and objective role in this effort. One outcome of the Broughton fish farm LOU, which I helped negotiate—and of course it is the first time Canada witnessed the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—was the building of a genome lab housed at the Okanagan Nation Alliance hatchery.
This prepares first nations to accomplish science that is leading edge with an outcome that is focused solely on identifying disease and pathogen threats to constitutionally protected food security. True arm's-length resourcing for this lab could be invaluable to safeguard severely depleted wild salmon and escape the environment of DFO as a captured regulator of the fish farm industry. The environment, wild salmon, first nations and the citizens of Canada deserve far better than what we are experiencing today.
When I was part of the consultation process for the Discovery Islands, the first question that I asked Jay Parsons was about the CSAS process itself. I asked him about the proponents of science and about industry and about stakeholders. This elicited about a four-minute speech non-answer.
I've worked on salmon farming issues for almost 16 years for Watershed Watch. I believe this case study illustrates an unreported suppression of science by DFO to protect the salmon farming industry at the risk of wild salmon. My written submission includes evidence, e-links and context. It can be found on watershedwatch.ca.
In 2012, the independent Cohen commission made strong recommendations and reversed the burden of proof onto DFO to show that salmon farms are a minimal risk. To paraphrase recommendations 18 and 19, they concluded that salmon farms in the Discovery Islands may be a risk to wild sockeye salmon. Unless DFO can show they are of minimal risk, they should be removed by September 30, 2020, or sooner, if evidence arises. I was on the steering committee of the first five CSAS risk assessments.
Did DFO change the risk assessment plan midway to avoid inconvenient science? There are at least two DFO website references that state that more than nine risk assessments were planned. When DFO, including Jay Parsons, held a press conference on September 28, 2020, to reveal their evidence of minimal risk, we learned there were only nine risk assessments. Assessments on sea lice and cumulative effects weren't done. Did DFO change the plan?
In July 2015, DFO's Dr. Jones and Dr. Garver began lab studies on the effects of salmon lice on sockeye and the cumulative interactions with IHN virus. This research was published in science journals in 2019. The two studies made conclusions pertinent to Cohen's recommendations 18 and 19. They found that “infection with L. salmonis caused a profound physiological impact to Sockeye Salmon”. They also concluded “that the reduced survival in co-infected sockeye salmon resulted from the osmoregulatory consequences of the sea lice infections which were amplified due to infection with IHNV”.
DFO appears to obfuscate and cherry-pick science and misdirect Canadians and news media away from inconvenient science and precautionary action. When you go to the DFO media release of September 28, 2020, then to the link entitled “Work to support recommendation 19” and then to “Scientific research on sea lice”, logically this would be the place to objectively and transparently list all the research to conclude that sea lice are of minimal risk.
Let's look at that link closely. Look at the “Sea lice on wild salmon” section. This appears to link to DFO research projects, but no external studies are listed. One paragraph in the “Sea lice on wild salmon” section generally encompasses a sockeye and sea lice research project. However, it talks about it as if it is still in progress. No findings are included in the paragraph. When you click on the research abstract link under this sockeye project that appears to be still in progress, it goes to the wrong project. The correct DFO link describes a completed 2010 project and findings of significant negative impacts on pink, chum and sockeye from sea lice.
An ATIP includes a January 2017 statement from DFO's Dr. Ian Keith to Adrienne Paylor. How can DFO science not share with their health management counterparts that they have data including that sockeye are the most susceptible species of Pacific salmon?
Another ATIP from October 1, 2020 includes questions from a Canadian news reporter to DFO and includes Timothy Sargent. They ask to see the information DFO relied on to conclude that sea lice are of minimal risk. DFO responds to this question with two e-links, and neither direct the reporter to the Jones and Garver sea lice, IHN virus and sockeye research.
Is this not obfuscation, cherry-picking and misdirection by some in DFO at the expense of precautionary action to conserve wild salmon?
Thank you very much, committee.
Thank you very much for having me here today.
For those who don't know me, I am currently an independent contractor, and I am here in one of my roles as a senior policy adviser for fisheries with Ecotrust Canada.
I have spent 25 years looking at ways to realize fair, sustainable and prosperous fisheries, and I believe that fisheries, as a renewable resource, can be well managed for environmental, economic, cultural and social objectives.
Since we are here on the subject of science I want to start by saying that, though I have engaged in many scientific pursuits throughout my career, I am not a scientist by trade and I have a deep respect for those who are. Today I am an outlier in that I am focusing on the role of social science in fisheries management and the issue with the lack of focus and capacity on this. My area of work is on the west coast.
Many challenges face Pacific region fisheries—climate change, competition for space and species, species at risk, market shifts—you name it. Science is instrumental for identifying, monitoring and resolving issues that arise from this complexity, but how do we prioritize scientific activities, build investment in these priorities and leverage our findings? We first must have a policy framework that includes clear objectives across the full spectrum of societal priorities, and we must have a framework for science that supports these.
The natural sciences are, of course, a critical and huge part of this, but practised in isolation it is not enough to get us where we want to go, just like focusing our economists solely on big-E economic metrics like GDP will not get us where we want to go.
Where do we want to go? What are we measuring success against?
For the most part, existing language is around economic prosperity and conservation, but for whom, at what geographic scale and at what timescale? Do we have consistent objectives around social and cultural outcomes and community well-being and health? I would argue that we could do much better at defining this, especially in the Pacific region where we are lacking in a comprehensive policy framework that identifies clear objectives with little to no direction given on social, locally economically relevant and cultural outcomes.
We do have a number of resources that identify key considerations for fisheries in Canada and many of them do touch on the socio-economic and cultural importance of them. In this committee's 2019 study on the subject of west coast fisheries, it was pointed out that key priorities of a sustainable fishery include the environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainable development and that there is a need for explicit socio-economic objectives and policies. Further, this study recommended that DFO collect socio-economic data to inform regulation.
Most recently in the report titled “Engaging on Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy—What we heard”, social equity, cultural and local economic considerations were raised many times as a priority, including in fisheries.
The latest Fisheries Act itself states that the minister may consider, among other things, social, economic and cultural factors in the management of fisheries, but how is the minister to consider socio-economic impacts and outcomes if we have no science to base those considerations on? There needs to be a way to provide both natural and social science and intersect these findings, not compartmentalize them.
It just so happens that we do have a start to this, as the Canadian Fisheries Research Network developed one. This 50-person team's six years' of research was published in two major peer-reviewed publications. The network recognized four pillars of sustainability—ecological, economic, socio-cultural and institutional or governance—and developed a full framework that articulates the scope and candidate objectives and values of these four pillars. This sounds like a great start.
Let me be clear. This is not an argument meant to alter scientific priorities to diminish necessary outcomes around conservation—quite the contrary. It is to ensure that where decision-making has the potential to achieve conservation outcomes and maximize societal benefits, this is enabled. The absence of this focus results in unnecessarily harmful policy, which can take decades to unravel.
Take the example of licensing policy outcomes in the sea cucumber fishery. In this lucrative fishery the lion's share of landed value is not going to the harvesters, but is being lost to, in many cases, non-local licence owners and fish companies leasing a licence, who land and sell their product and then pay the fish harvester a fraction of the fair landed price. Further, this species has the ability to provide high value in processing jobs and wholesale margins, yet this also is being exported.
Science can investigate issues such as this, compare scenarios around solutions for decision-making that achieve environmental goals and maximize societal benefits. We are in precarious times. We require new ways of doing business and innovation in our economic system that ensures we are contributing to a better quality of life for current and future generations, and promoting resilience in the natural and social systems we rely on.
This is ever-challenging in the face of disastrous events, such as pandemics and climate change impacts, which can bring our current system to its knees. We must be able to respond quickly and adapt in times of crisis. It is more crucial than ever to manage our renewable resources to this end. This requires a comprehensive multipillared approach to science and informed decision-making, but will result in a much stronger foundation on which to move forward in sustainable development.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experience with you.
The questions you pose are critical to Canadians because DFO management of wild salmon has failed to maintain the fish or the fisheries. Wild salmon must reach the open ocean, and salmon farms are a barrier to them. The problem is that, as salmon farms release unnatural levels of types of pathogens, wild salmon exposed to the farms breathe them in, and these pathogens come into direct contact with their bloodstream. Most wild salmon from the southern half of B.C. are currently inoculated with industrial aquaculture pathogens from Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg, and they become carriers.
Here are three examples of DFO actively avoiding appropriate response to this risk.
In 1990, DFO Pacific Region Director General Pat Chamut wrote the director of trade policy that, “Continued large-scale introductions of [Atlantic salmon eggs] would eventually result in the introduction of exotic disease agents of which the potential impact would be...biologically damaging...and economically devastating”. He was right. The Norwegian PRV was in some of those 30 million eggs.
In 2013, Mowi told the Federal Court that they would be “severely impacted” if they were prohibited from transferring PRV-infected fish into their farms because their hatcheries were infected. While PRV is considered a disease agent everywhere in the world except British Columbia, DFO hid the science showing that PRV causes organ failure in chinook salmon, thus allowing this Norwegian blood virus to escape DFO regulations and spread into the Skeena, the Fraser and everywhere in between, and 95% of farmed salmon for sale in B.C. supermarkets is infected.
During the 2020 consultations between the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and seven first nations of the Discovery Islands on the renewal of 19 salmon farm licences, Dr. Miller-Saunders briefed DFO's director of science that young Fraser sockeye were being infected with the bacteria Tenacibaculum as they passed the salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, and these fish appeared to die. The director of science went and briefed the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association with this information but not the minister, even though the primary concern of the nations she was consulting with was the impact of the farms on Fraser sockeye.
In the third case, DFO staff know that sea lice in salmon are dangerous to young wild salmon, and they set a limit on the number of lice per farmed salmon in the aquaculture conditions of licence, but Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg farms are unable to meet this threshold.
On January 24, 2022, Mowi wrote to Rebecca Reid, director general, DFO, Pacific region, stating that the proposed changes to the conditions of licence “could have significant impact on...the...financial performance of Mowi's operations”. Specifically mentioning sea lice, they say that the pace of “regulatory change is outpacing our company's capacity.” Two weeks later, the draft conditions of licence contained the weakened requirement to produce a plan to reduce sea lice, with no requirement that the plan was actually successful. Mowi's letter is a statement that the salmon farming industry cannot survive regulations that protect wild salmon, and it's clear that wild salmon are not surviving without these regulations.
Here are my recommendations to your questions.
Issue conditions of licence that provide immediate and significant relief to wild salmon and clarity to the salmon farming industry. See my written submission for specifics.
Form a non-government board of scientists to monitor DFO's response to science.
Create a regional director of wild salmon, as per Cohen commission recommendation number four, and populate this division with the scientists who are developing the powerful genomic tools that pinpoint the choke points that are killing wild salmon to allow highly strategic response to reverse extinction curves.
Collaborate closely with first nations. Make this data open access, allowing the mathematical modelers who charted our path through COVID to inform the —if we do this, we expect these outcomes.
In closing, I just want to make sure you know that 36 salmon farms have been or will be removed by the 'Namgis, Kwikwasut'inuxw, Mamalilikulla, Gwawaenuk, Kwiakah, Klahoose and Homalco first nations.
I seem to be the odd person out here, being the scientist who used to be involved in DFO and who went to CSAS meetings all the time.
I'm a retired professor of biology from Acadia University in Wolfville, so I'm also the only person here from the east coast, rather than the west. For 55 years or so, I've been working on Atlantic salmon, sturgeons, lobsters, scallop aquaculture, the impact of tidal turbines on fishes, and freshwater ecology. I've worked for the Canadian wildlife service, the Huntsman marine laboratory, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans for nine years, and then I was at Acadia University for about 30 years. Through that, I've published about 255 papers, technical briefs and so forth.
I'm hoping I might be able to add a little bit to the context that's coming out of this meeting in terms of sea lice and salmon. That would be Atlantic salmon in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Pacific.
First, I'd just like to talk a little bit about my CSAS experience, seeing as how I was in DFO for nine years and they have approached me on other things. I have quite a background with CSAS.
Basically, my opinion is that the handling of different interpretations of scientific evidence and uncertainty in CSAS was a process that was one of my sore points while I was an employee of DFO, later a research scientist at a university and finally a retired fisheries scientist. I have found that differing opinions on data and conclusions that are contradictory to DFO policy and unsanctioned by CSAS are most often totally unwelcome and usually ignored. I can say that on the power of being in on at least 20 CSAS meetings, maybe, for different species and so forth.
My first one was in 1979 when I was a freshman working at DFO, basically. I participated in a number of meetings on the Canso causeway and what it might have done to the fisheries on the east coast of Nova Scotia—which was clearly a total disaster at the time because a lot of the lobster fishery had collapsed. I came up with some interesting scientific observations—which I thought as a scientist I was supposed to do—but when I brought them before the committee, I was essentially put down. They said, “Oh no, we don't agree with that.” It was stuff that came from other lobster fisheries in other parts of the world on how they recruit and so on.
We had to write the papers to go into the CSAS report and the technical report publication. My paper was directly opposed by the lobster biologists and managers at DFO. I was in a different unit, actually. I wasn't in the management unit. Literally, when I published a paper in a technical report, they put a page at the end of it saying they disavowed having anything to do with it. Anyway, that's my start with CSAS.
The funny thing is that, as time goes by, scientific opinions change. The present DFO lobster group now accepts my original hypothesis as to why the Canso strait and eastern coast lobster fishery collapsed, and they are using it in their management decisions. How about that?
A similar process took place while I was working on the development of tidal power while I was still at DFO. This would be in about 1979, 1980 or 1981. I had a research group that was looking at the Annapolis River in Nova Scotia, which was up for having a test turbine put in. Anyway, when I went into the CSAS meetings on that.... First off, let me say that, as a scientist, I spent about six months researching what hydroelectric turbines do to fish, and it's not a very pretty picture—lots of mortality.
Here they were. They were going to put this big huge turbine in the Annapolis River, and it was going to affect all of the fish populations, as far as I was concerned. I was again completely ignored. I was probably the only one who knew how fish turbines kill fish and so forth at the time, and what happened? Jumping forward to the present, 35 years later, they finally closed the Annapolis turbine down because it was killing all the fish in the Annapolis River. Guess what. Originally I was in the meeting and said, “Don't do it”, but anyway, they don't seem to listen very much.
The final example I want to give you is Atlantic salmon in the Atlantic Ocean. I just finished writing a paper on this entitled “The Decline and Impending Collapse of the Atlantic Salmon Population in the North Atlantic”, and that is what's happening.
Virtually all the big rivers that had over 100,000 Atlantic salmon fish runs are now collapsing in the Atlantic Ocean. I brought this up in 1998 and 2000 to the Minister of Fisheries at the time, and I told him that I thought that IUU fisheries were causing the problem, that Japan, Denmark and probably other nations were out there taking Atlantic salmon in the open ocean before they could come back to the Atlantic rivers.
You don't have this problem so bad in the Pacific ocean because you have a very good organized fisheries group there that does surveillance, so they are keeping the Japanese and the other people, Chinese, in check to a degree and allowing the fish runs to remain quite good. In places like Alaska, you're having more problems than in B.C., and I understand that completely.
What is happening in the Atlantic Ocean is that rivers like the Miramichi River, the River Foyle in Ireland, which had a huge salmon run, and now the Tana River in northern Norway, which also had a 100,000 to 200,000 fish run, have collapsed, and they are all closed to fishing, not only commercial but recreational.
Here in 2000, I was telling the Canadian DFO minister about this, and it was going through a CSAS meeting. I wasn't invited, but in the end, they told me I was foolish and so forth and so on, and they didn't agree with my conclusion.
As an example, in Nova Scotia where I live, there used to be about 100 Atlantic salmon fishing streams. Now only three are open to recreational fisheries and, of course, the commercial fishery was closed in 1984.
Thank you to all our witnesses for their opening statements.
We'll now, of course, move to questioning, but before I do that, I want to recognize Ms. Elizabeth May, the MP for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who has joined us on Zoom. I'll put in a little plug for her. I'm sure, if anybody has a few minutes to spare, she'd like to get in some questions. If she were here in person, she'd have her hands out asking for that, so I thought I'd throw it in.
We'll first go to Mr. Perkins for six minutes or less, please.
I'll remind members to identify who the question is for so you don't lose your time staring at the screen.
Start when you're ready, Mr. Perkins.
No, I don't think anybody, including DFO, is actually monitoring it.
Basically what happened is that, through negotiations, they were able to close down the west Greenland inland fishery, to a large degree, and give it a quota. Unfortunately, the same salmon that go up the coast of west Greenland and then come down through the Labrador Straits and out into the area off Newfoundland, between Newfoundland and Greenland, were outside the EEZ zone, the economic limits, and there's absolutely no surveillance by NASCO.
NASCO, really, the North Atlantic salmon commission, is a joke. They haven't done one lick of surveillance since they took over in 1984.
Basically the problem that was happening in Greenland, where all the scientists agreed.... The Greenland fishery was going to collapse the salmon stock. Just move down the way, a little farther south, and everybody went right back to fishing salmon without any big problem. Between 1985 and 1990, the salmon stocks in the Atlantic Ocean dropped by 55%. Since then, it's just been a continual tail off. I think what's happening is.... If they miss any salmon in that area, then they go and try to get some more off east Greenland, which is in the middle of nowhere, as everybody knows. Nobody lives up there. Anybody can do pretty much what they want. The IUU fisheries are just hammering the place.
The only big river left with a really good salmon run, up until 2020, was the Tana River in northern Norway and Finland. It just got closed for fishing this year because of the collapse of the wild stock. It won't be long before there's no Atlantic salmon stock left in good shape, period.
Very briefly, sea lice are very easy to study, because they change their body shape every few days, so you know where they get on the fish. I studied them in the Broughton Archipelago since 2001.
When the previous minister, Bernadette Jordan, prohibited restocking of the Discovery Islands farms, because of where the companies were and their production schedule, last spring, all of the farms in the narrow channels of the Discovery Islands, namely Okisollo and Nodales, were empty.
When I went down there, the sea lice levels had absolutely plummeted. Instead of getting up to nine lice per fish, there were two lice, total, on 50 fish, and the condition of the fish was remarkable. These little pinks and chums were perfect. Their eyes were black. Their bellies were round. Those pink salmon will be returning this year, and I'm predicting that south of the Discovery Islands some river is going to get a lot of pink salmon back because of what Minister Bernadette Jordan did.
I was part of the team for the Homalco First Nation, the Tla'amin Nation and the Klahoose First Nation, so I can speak about the input from them within the consultation processes.
There was absolutely no support for the fish farm licences to be renewed. The understanding and then the opinion of the CSAS process was foundational to that position. When you consider that the nine science papers that came out of CSAS were the DFO's response to Cohen recommendations 18 and 19, we now have verified and seen just the clear lack of objectivity in the analysis and delivery of those nine science papers.
Minister Jordan made the correct decision, because the nations that I was working with were very clear about the concerns they expressed in consultation with the first nations of the Fraser River, because we were discussing migratory salmon. Knowing that the impacts from fish farms in the Discovery Islands have a long reach well up the backbone of British Columbia, this represents an infringement of aboriginal rights.
As I understand it, all seven nations that were consulted were opposed to fish farms being in operation, but since then, a couple have changed their opinions. I'll leave that to you to surmise why that occurred.
I honestly think that both have to happen. I think that DFO has to have a watchdog at this point, to make sure the science is getting through, but unless it's happening inside, I don't see how the minister is going to be properly briefed.
We, in British Columbia, currently have the leading scientists on studying the health of wild salmon, and these are the young scientists who are now working with Dr. Miller-Saunders. The power of that science is unparalleled. The fish can speak to us. Using the triggers in their immune system, we can find out exactly what is going on. If this data was brought to the minister, she could learn, “If we remove this, this is likely to happen”. Once you do that, you can go back and check the immune system of the fish again and see if it worked.
I don't understand why we have this big, aggressive, powerful aquaculture management division in DFO and nothing to counterbalance it with the wild salmon. I've looked for the person in charge of wild salmon in DFO and there is nobody, which is astonishing. Aquaculture is thriving. Wild salmon are collapsing. It's pretty clear that they need advocates within DFO.
Some examples of the socio-economic data that I feel are really important to inform decision-making could be categorized in different ways. One example when looking at economics, which is brought up regularly, would be the equitable distribution of benefit. It's a crucial indicator around how economics are benefiting and who they're benefiting.
In terms of social, there is the ability to access resources, diversity and occupation, community relationships, cultural leaders, traditions and knowledge, and preservation of heritage sites. As examples in health, there are indicators around physical and mental health. In governance, there's transparency, access to information, engagement and voice. In physical assets, there are things around the level of community infrastructure.
There are a lot of different ways that social science can be networked under a suite of categories. Very quickly, when you start to look at this broader range of societal, intended outcomes, it can inform decision-making. Another example that I—
I'm sorry for interrupting you, Ms. Sutcliffe, but our time is limited.
Thank you for your answer. It gives us a good idea of the situation.
Along the same lines, Ms. Morton, I'd like to talk to you about predictability.
I'll give you an example. In eastern Canada, that is to say in Quebec, the decision was made to put an end to herring and mackerel fishing altogether. Mr. Robert told us that this was to be expected.
How can predictability be improved given the draconian decisions being made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?
Is there any science or scientists who could provide more details so that fishers, who are currently suffering from this decision, can better anticipate the consequences of such measures so that they can get support to redirect their type of fishing?
The Broughton Archipelago fish farm LOU with the Province of British Columbia was a shared recommendation and some shared decision-making that implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which of course the federal government has committed to do as well.
One outcome was the genome lab. DFO created many hurdles and speed bumps for us to do the testing that was in the agreement through the genome lab in Nanaimo at the Pacific Biological Station, so we put together a proposal to build a genome lab that doesn't have those kinds of impediments to the outcomes of the chosen science that we wanted to pursue. As a result of that, the genome lab is built in the Okanagan Nation Alliance hatchery. As far as I understand, this past year has been about training and capacity, because it's far more complicated than just putting a sample in and pushing the green button.
We're at a place now where this is going to be ready to be functional. In terms of objective science, which clearly is not present within CSAS, the DFO and the stated path of federal and provincial governments to work with first nations on wild salmon, this is an clear opportunity that the government must embrace to advance many of the commitments. Most importantly, it's objective science that can then guide decision-making.
In terms of the question that was given to Alexandra Morton—who our family knows as Gwayum'dzi—about a manager for wild salmon, we need one. We need a first nations role there because of our constitutionally protected rights and because of the special place we have in this country. It would be fundamental to reconciliation and foundational across British Columbia.
Thank you to all the witnesses for appearing today. We've heard very interesting testimony throughout this study.
I want to bring us back to how this study's motion was worded so we're focusing on where we really need to get our testimony for the final report. The study motion was dealing with how DFO prioritizes resources and develops scientific studies and advice for the department, how the results of those scientific studies are communicated to the minister and how the minister applies that advice in ministerial decisions.
I'll start off with Mr. Chamberlin, if I could. Pardon me if I don't pronounce your traditional name, Galagame', properly. It's very nice to hear that.
Mr. Chamberlin, in recent months, we've seen the emergence of coalitions of salmon farm operators and indigenous partners. These coalitions are arguing that indigenous partners have the authority to decide whether salmon farms operate in their communities or not. We're also hearing from some of your testimony today the effects on wild salmon, fish or salmon through their entire migratory route.
In your opinion, how should the Government of Canada approach the scenario where indigenous rights for different first nations appear to be at odds?
When we think about first nations, lands, decision-making and consent as the government pursues this, it would be fine and wonderful if the impacts remained site-specific, but clearly they don't. This being the reality and the fact associated with migratory wild salmon, the government is now in a position where it would definitely need to hear first nations' perspectives on consent, but they must also be balanced with what impacts occur that are an infringement of aboriginal rights across the province.
Many times in consultation, many first nation leaders have heard that the government has made a decision contrary to what's been presented in consultation for the greater good, for the greater benefit of Canadians. That, as sorrowful as it is when it occurs, must come into play in this discussion, because the impacts of the Fraser River salmon writ large, not just sockeye, are occurring where the fish farms are operating in Discovery Islands.
That is what I think the Crown needs to do: Balance the impacts and the number of nations' rights that are being infringed upon, against the few jobs and the very small number of first nations that are supportive of this industry. Let's not lose sight of that.
That new coalition started out at 17, and then they misrepresented a number of nations, including mine, and I think it dwindled to a list of eight or nine first nations that are supportive.
I'm going to start with an assertion. Having sat in on these hearings about science in DFO, they're consistent. I want to thank all the witnesses. The witnesses we had May 5 were also consistent. What we see relating to science in DFO and the aquaculture industry is not incompetence, not scientific illiteracy, but deliberate and dishonest efforts to block science, keep a minister in the dark and advantage the industry.
I put this to Dr. Mordecai when he testified May 5: What could possibly be the motive? He said there was a conflict of interest. DFO has a responsibility to promote this industry and, at the same time, to regulate it.
I wanted to ask Alex Morton this. Rather than add layers of new voices, like a director of wild salmon, which I support, if there's rot, don't we want to cut the rot out? Don't we want to figure out how to get rid of the conflict of interest, so that we're not constantly trying to chase real science and get it in front of a minister whose department should provide that minister with real science?
Thank you, Alex Morton, for your heroic work.
I absolutely agree. I know where the rot is because I have ordered thousands of pages of conversations between DFO employees, but a lot of the worst players have left. It's very interesting. After the Discovery Islands decision, for example, Allison Webb left. The lead veterinarian left. The director of science left.
The ones holding the ball now are riding the coattails of a long history of deception of the B.C. public. I feel that they should be reassigned to perhaps move the industry onto land. Perhaps if the aquaculture management division.... They may be afraid for their own survival at this point. It makes me so angry that this extraordinary science, which we are paying for as taxpayers and which is being developed in DFO, has been locked in a room, with tape put over the mouths of these scientists. It is a huge disservice. I would imagine, for example, that if our current director of aquaculture would say, “Hey, stop dealing with the net-pen feedlots and get this industry into tanks”, she might be very effective at doing that.
The lack of honesty within the department has become so pervasive that I'm not sure they really even understand that the lights are on and we can see what is going on. For them to downgrade the conditions of licence when Mowi currently has an average of eight sea lice per fish in Quatsino and the limit that is considered safe for wild salmon is three, and when the aquaculture management division wants to allow this to continue.... We can see where this is going, and if we don't control it right now, we will lose our wild salmon.
Also, I'll say a huge thank you to Madame Desbiens. I'm more than happy to take this time.
I want to ask Ms. Morton my next questions.
Ms. Morton, I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to be saying over and over again the same things, based on science, based on information and based on what you're seeing first-hand with your own eyes, and to be here again repeating the same information. My hope is that we can finally start seeing some action, some changes and some positive movement on this. Thank you for your perseverance and for your ongoing work in this area.
I was hoping that you could share with us a little bit the importance of wild salmon, not just as an important species in itself, but in looking at the impacts on the entire ecosystem and how those wild salmon are essential as one part of the surrounding ecosystem and our environment.
Yes. Trying to understand what DFO was doing in terms of salmon farms was a very frustrating, long experience until I started accessing their actual emails and could understand what was going on.
There are long chains of emails where DFO biologists are trying to figure out what happened when there were die-offs on salmon farms. This has particularly been happening in Clayoquot Sound and also in Nootka Sound, the west coast farms. What the industry wants it to be is that they died of a plankton bloom, but when you go back through the conversation, there's evidence, for example, of novel pathogens. There's alarm in scientists. There are scientists saying they want to access that farm and test those fish, but those conversations are cut off. The final report is that the fish died of a natural plankton bloom.
At the moment, DFO is prohibited from attending a farm during a mortality event. The industry says that's to stop the spread of disease, but their own staff are coming and going on these farms. DFO has to be on those farms. This cannot be through a group that is tasked to promote aquaculture. That has to be taken right out of the equation.
In my view, the way the aquaculture management division has handled salmon farms has not only destroyed our wild salmon runs; it has also destroyed the aquaculture industry. If the regulations had been built to protect wild salmon from day one, we would probably have the leading land-based aquaculture industry right now. We would also have our wild salmon stocks.
I'll go to you, Professor Dadswell, for my next question. Seeing that you're on the other side of our country, on the east coast, it's good to have you here this morning. My question for you is kind of what I spoke to Bob about in terms of what potential aquaculture projects could work with a sound basis in science.
With that question in mind, I've reached out to different countries, and before I even.... I don't want to lead you in my comments. Do you see other countries doing aquaculture better than Canada? If so, which countries are they? What are they doing differently?
I know that's a big answer for two and a half minutes, but do your best, Professor Dadswell.
Thank you for your question.
When I consider that the provincial and federal governments have both made commitments to fulfill reconciliation, to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this to me is that evolution. We must not wait for the great big silver horse to come riding in with reconciliation in tow. We must find opportunities that present themselves to begin to implement meaningfully what that co-governance and shared decision-making can look like.
I think if we do this when opportunities arise, we are going to be able to demonstrate to Canadians that there is nothing to fear about first nations being in a consent-based, shared decision-making model, and that we can and, by and large, have fought to protect the environment and to have stronger environmental considerations in a wide range of different industries.
I believe that the global community is now crying out for and demanding greater environmental protection. In terms of salmon, this is an opportunity where, if the Government of Canada and the provinces were to implement this by creating some measure of roles within their system to engage with first nations—someone who has the respect and knowledge—this would facilitate the discussion. When you're talking about 203 first nations, you're talking about a lot of leadership, lots of different local concerns, but the global concern can be incorporated within the federal and provincial governments with some measure of first nation advisory roles.
I would say, all of the above. It's quite a systemic issue, and the issues arise not the least from a lack of capacity and resources in the department. Even from the natural sciences side, certainly there are a lot of critiques on there needing to be more investment in stock assessment, for example.
Certainly I think capacity and resources to effectively develop a scientific framework, such as the one I described, is necessary, and always a challenging hurdle, but I think there are some fundamental approaches and thinking within the department that underscore culture, if you will, or maybe it's even training around what science is, and even what socio-economic science is. I've had very intelligent, good scientists within the department explain to me that what the department considers a socio-economic analysis, for example, is what I would actually refer to as a very shallow economic analysis. It doesn't go into enough detail on the basic economics around distribution of benefit, coastal community impacts, incomes, for example. I think there's a wholesale need to rebuild, really, the approach to science in DFO.
I'll think about some more clear recommendations around that in my written submission, because I think that's a really good question and I have a team of people who probably would be eager to contribute to it as well.
I should also emphasize the need for independence and transparency in that process.
I want to talk about Atlantic salmon, which you touched on earlier.
As I was saying, I love angling on the river whenever I have free time. As you know, we have beautiful rivers in New Brunswick, including Miramichi, Restigouche and Nepisiguit, which is where I fish.
You said that there was a significant decline in Atlantic salmon. You talked mainly about the Greenland fishery. I know that agreements have been negotiated to reduce the number of tonnes of fish that people involved in commercial fishing can catch.
Are there any other factors playing a role in the decline of Atlantic salmon?
You mentioned illegal fishing, but aside from that, is there anything else that is preventing the expected return of salmon to our rivers?
As Elizabeth May said, there's been deliberate dishonesty within the science in DFO, so open the windows and doors and let in the science from the outside.
Right now, with DFO science, some of it is an extreme outlier—failing to recognize the impact of sea lice, and the impacts of Tenacibaculum and piscine orthoreovirus.
Furthermore, you need to build a pathway in DFO—a conduit, a highway—between science and the , because for Miller-Saunders to go and brief the director of science during consultations with first nations, and for that director to take that information to the B.C. salmon farmers and warn them, but not take it to the minister, that should red flag a serious problem in the flow of science within DFO.
It's an internal-external thing that has to happen, because it's so major right now.