Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to speak to you as part of this consultation.
I am the president of FQSA, the Fédération québécoise pour le saumon atlantique, a non-profit organization that has been around for over 30 years and that represents all parties involved in salmon in Quebec. The federation's mission focuses on everything relating to salmon, including its conservation, its protection and its enhancement.
Our presentation today will touch on three points: the economic importance of Atlantic salmon in Quebec, the management and enhancement of stocks, and the aquaculture of salmon in Quebec.
Let's take a look at the economic situation of salmon in Quebec. In 2012, expenditures of Quebec fishers generated $573 million and $160 million in tax revenue for the governments, in addition to creating over 9,000 jobs. With these economic inputs, Atlantic salmon represents over $35 million in GDP and tax revenue, and maintains over 400 jobs.
For Quebec's salmon regions, salmon generates $26 million in revenue. Salmon is the species that provides by far the most significant daily benefits, which is due to the amount of daily expenditures observed. It generates $730 a day on average, which is 10 times more than bass, which ranks second when it comes to Quebec revenue.
In terms of managing and enhancing stock, I would like to make a small correction. In 1984, Quebec adopted the river-by-river management approach as the principle for managing its salmon rivers, unlike the federal government, which adopted a uniform management system by imposing catch-and-release for all large salmon throughout the Atlantic provinces. Under that principle, every waterway is fished based on its own characteristics. The implementation of such an approach is inevitably more complicated than the federal government's approach and requires a certain number of preconditions.
It should be noted that Quebec is at an advantage because a lot of its salmon rivers are small in area. So in all likelihood, they contain few different stocks. A large part of them are under very tight control owing to the organizations to which government authority has been delegated for the administration of recreational fishing and resource protection.
At one time, fishing season didn't open until the appropriate authorities felt that a river could support having a certain number of salmon caught, and salmon control was ensured by general application measures regarding the fishing season and daily and seasonal catch limits. The only possible choice for those salmon resource managers was to open or close fishing based on the status of stock in a given river.
Catch-and-release opens up the possibility for fishing without removing stock or catches geared toward a certain population segment. Catch-and-release is increasingly widespread in Quebec, and the majority of salmon fishers use this practice. For a number of years now, the FQSA has promoted among all salmon fishers in Quebec good approaches for practising catch-and-release. In this context, the FQSA feels that catch-and-release in one form or another is one of the preferred ways for managing salmon populations.
As we can see, the current river-by-river management approach enables Quebec to monitor the development of returns in real time and to order catch-and-release, if necessary, during the season, as it did in 2014 on the FQSA's recommendation. In the context of low salmon returns in 2014 and as a precaution, the FQSA resolved to maintain mandatory catch-and-release of large salmon for all Quebec rivers, with the exception of those in northern Quebec, until a new Atlantic salmon management plan is in place.
The FQSA is greatly concerned about maintaining salmon populations, and is in favour of using management approaches that will ensure the survival of this species while permitting sustainable economic development.
As for creating salmon habitats, the FQSA is currently managing a program to enhance North Shore Atlantic salmon habitats to compensate for the residual impact on the various salmonid species of moving the hydroelectric development from the Romaine River.
In 2011, the Quebec ministry for sustainable development, the environment and the fight against climate change, Hydro-Québec and the FQSA signed a co-operation agreement to develop, implement and manage this $10-million program over 10 years. Under this program, Atlantic salmon was designated a priority species because of its great ecological and socio-economic value on the North Shore.
This program includes five objectives: first, contributing to consolidating and expanding Atlantic salmon populations; second, creating or improving the production of Atlantic salmon habitats; third, acquiring the knowledge needed to plan and follow up on the performance of projects; fourth, protecting the salmon resource; and fifth, encouraging the participation of local communities and river management organizations.
One of the features of the program is that it can fund up to 100% of the costs for projects, which fall into four categories: major projects, community projects, scientific projects and projects for the maintenance of major facilities. Aside from the fact that it can fund up to 100% of projects, the program has generated additional investments to the tune of 30% by proponents and other funders. In addition, through these investments, the development potential of salmon populations is 10,000 salmon a year.
Currently, there is only one program of this type in place in Quebec, and it is not enough to meet the demand of the North Shore region alone. The needs in terms of managing the habitat of salmon rivers in the regions of the Gaspé Peninsula, Lower St. Lawrence, Charlevoix and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean are also very great and present a good potential for population development. There are about $15 million in investments needed to enhance salmon habitats in these regions. These massive investments to improve the quality and availability of habitats would certainly make it possible to consolidate and develop our Atlantic salmon habitats, as shown by the current program to enhance Atlantic salmon habitats on the North Shore.
A second program has been put in place as part of realizing the development of the hydroelectric complex on the Romaine River. The program has an envelope of $20 million over 20 years. A corporation was created to manage this program. The FQSA is the agent and is therefore providing all of the administrative services for the corporation. The purpose of the project is to regenerate a salmon population in the Romaine River.
I will now talk about salmon aquaculture.
In countries that raise salmon in cages, the practice has led to heated discussions between industrial producers and environmentalists. Although Canada produces fewer farmed Atlantic salmon than Norway or Chile, it is still the third largest producer of this species in the world, with 8% of global production. These marine cages are concentrated on the west coast and on the east coast, mainly in the Bay of Fundy, which borders the shores of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Given environmental issues like the local pollution of marine environments and the biological impact, including the spread of parasites and disease, and the genetic pollution of wild populations related to escapes, such farming of wild salmon populations and salmonid populations, in general, are banned.
In a resolution, the FQSA is asking the government to impose a moratorium on all new projects for farming salmonids in marine cages; to exercise better control over existing marine cage farming facilities; to put in place an environmental and economic audit for all production sites; to gradually reduce the number of salmonid farming sites farming using marine cages; and to establish and implement a program to convert marine cages to land farming facilities, as is done in various U.S. states, including Virginia.
Following these statements, the FQSA sent letters to federal government authorities, but we have not had an answer yet.
In Greenland, Atlantic salmon fishing is mainly a cottage industry, using small boats and mesh nets. Since 1998, and under a NASCO agreement, no commercial fishing or exports are allowed. Fishers can keep their catches for their own personal consumption or sell them in the local market or to restaurants to support their community, which is often isolated.
Since Greenland's inhabitants have an historic right to catch salmon and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, or ICES, has approved a catch of 20 metric tons, we cannot question this practice.
For the past decade, we have seen an increase in the number of salmon being caught in Greenland. In 2014, these catches amounted to 58 tons. The FQSA strongly questions the monitoring of these catches. The Government of Canada, through its presence on NASCO, should ensure that the harvest set out by ICES, namely 20 metric tons, is maintained and that the reliability of results provided by Greenland are as well.
Given that Canada exploits the natural resources of the North Atlantic under certain conditions, as does Greenland, it would be worthwhile for the government to initiate negotiations with Denmark and Greenland outside of NASCO on this particular issue. Diplomatic and socio-economic solutions could be considered to reduce the pressure on salmon stocks on Greenland's shores. It's important to know that fishing in Greenland directly affects Quebec's salmon populations.
Lastly, I will speak about the capacity to improve recreational fishing.
Salmon fishing is a public right that belongs to the entire Quebec community. The management model for recreational salmon fishing in Quebec is fairly unique in North America, both in how it biologically manages salmon stocks and socio-economically. The socio-economic component is unique in that it means that community and private bodies can offer salmon fishing, but that it remains a public resource. However, the social changes occurring in Quebec, particularly the aging population, are having an impact on salmon fishers.
The four important characteristics of the salmon fishing sector are as follows. First, the resource is in a precarious state, but it helps maintain an attractive economic activity. Second, fishers are aging, and although they are faithful, we are seeing signs that their numbers are dwindling. Third, the network of service provides is dualistic, meaning that a few businesses are flourishing, but a very large number of them are just getting by because of insufficient resources. Fourth, the salmon fishing industry is itself mature because of the state of the resource, but the increasing acceptance of catch-and-release makes it possible to keep fishing a worthwhile activity.
For a few years, we have seen an increased interest in fly fishing in Quebec. This interest, combined with a greater practice of catch-and-release, should help the salmon fishing sector to remain sustainable and possibly develop based on Atlantic salmon populations. To benefit from this interest, ad campaigns should be organized to maintain and develop the economic contribution generated by salmon fishing in Quebec, especially in a number of remote regions.
Finally, greater access to the funding of projects, including the program to enhance North Shore Atlantic salmon habitats, would allow for greater salmon production and for significant economic benefits for Quebec's regions.
Thank you very much.