Interventions in Committee
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Kathleen Cooper
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Kathleen Cooper
2015-06-18 15:48
First of all, to tell you about the Canadian Environmental Law Association, we're a non-profit public interest organization specializing in environmental law. We're also a legal aid clinic within Ontario. We provide legal representation to low-income individuals and vulnerable communities.
Then we have law reform priorities, and in setting our strategic priorities, one of those is environment and human health. In deciding within that large topic how to set priorities, we take a population health approach, the same as Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and public health agencies everywhere do. You set priorities by focusing on issues where large numbers of people are potentially or directly affected or where you have serious outcomes.
You can't get much more serious than a known carcinogen where there's strong science. Radon, as I'm sure you're going to hear later as well, is in a class by itself compared to most other environmental carcinogens. That's why we've focused on radon.
I'm going to speak today to a report we prepared last year, “Radon in Indoor Air: A Review of Policy and Law in Canada”. I believe you've been circulated the media release that was issued the day we released the report. That's all I was able to have translated given the time pressure of meeting with you today.
We canvassed policy and law across Canada at the federal and provincial levels and looked at jurisdictions and roles. We focused on public buildings and building codes, looked at other relevant provincial policy and law and the associated common law, and made a number of recommendations, but I'll focus today on just the recommendations we made with respect to the federal government.
Overall, our findings were that Canadians need better legal protection from radon. We found a patchwork of inconsistent and mostly unenforceable guidance.
For the federal government, we found that really important leadership has occurred, and Kelley Bush from Health Canada will provide some details on that for you today, although we definitely made recommendations for more that can be done. At the provincial and territorial level, where actually most jurisdiction lies, we found a wide range of laws that need to be updated or that contain gaps or ambiguities. There's very limited case law, which points to the need for improving a law or for law reform. I won't get into detail on what's been done at the federal level on radon, although the report does, because Kelley will be doing that for you later on.
Just in summary, under the national radon program there has been very valuable research, testing, and mapping of high -radon areas. The guideline for indoor radon was updated in 2007. The national building code was updated with respect to radon provisions, there's a certification program for radon mitigators, and there has been a national campaign to urge the testing by Canadians of their homes. It's recommended that every home in Canada be tested.
We recommended, to build on that important work, that there really is a logical next step here. Through the work of the Green Budget Coalition this past year, we recommended a tax credit for radon remediation. We recommended that the Income Tax Act add a tax credit for radon mitigation of up to $3,000 for individual Canadians, so long as it's done by a certified expert under the national program. That was not included in the budget, although we think it's still a very good idea. We had some very positive response from the federal officials we spoke to about it.
We also recommended that there be clearer messaging about radon, and that we use words like “radiation” and “radioactivity” because they are accurate and are what people understand more in terms of the risks of radiation and radon. We also recommended that there be better data sharing nationally between the federal government and the provinces and territories in terms of the testing that's done, along with the sharing of information that's paid for nationally, and that information be available publicly.
In terms of recommendations for federal action as well, we note that the David Suzuki Foundation report that came out just last month says the World Health Organization has recommended a lower level of 100 for indoor radon. Currently, our federal level is 200 becquerels per cubic metre. We definitely supported that recommendation and recommend that the federal government reduce the indoor radon guideline to 100.
The other two areas I want to touch on that are relevant to your investigation here have to do with the Canada Labour Code and the need to update it as well, and also the need for improving the uptake across Canada of the naturally occurring radioactive materials guidelines, the NORM guidelines. I'm going to speak to those two areas now.
Under the Canada Labour Code, there is the only legally enforceable limit for radon in Canada that's broadly applicable, but it's only for federally regulated workplaces and it remains at an outdated level of 800 becquerels per cubic metre. We think it should be brought down to the federal reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre to begin with, and we think that level should come down to 100 becquerels per cubic metre. On the updating of that level, apparently what was going to happen in 2015 now sounds like it's going to happen in 2016, so it would be great if your committee recommended speeding up that process.
In terms of the NORM guidelines, these are guidelines that were prepared by a federal-provincial-territorial committee. We interviewed occupational health and safety inspectors across Canada and found a lot of confusion and uncertainty about workplace radon rules or whether the NORM guidelines apply. In fact, they apply to every workplace in Canada. In any indoor space that is a workplace, including the room in which you are sitting, those guidelines apply.
However, it's a reactive, complaint-driven system. Inspectors get few or no complaints because there is a lack of awareness, so they don't take enforcement action. Also, some inspectors didn't think that radon was an occupational health and safety issue at all. They said that enforcement action was unlikely because the only agreed-upon levels for radiation are those for radiation-exposed workers. That is just not accurate, so we've made recommendations in response to that situation.
Turning to the recommendations we made with respect to the Canada Labour Code, as I've mentioned, it should be brought up to date swiftly. It's out of date by many years and still at that level of 800 becquerels per cubic metre.
With respect to radon, we recommended that the federal-provincial-territorial radiation protection committee, which deals with far more than radon—it deals with a whole manner of radiation exposure issues—convene a task force for occupational health and safety inspectors across the country so that there is clarity and there is a more generalized consistent application of those NORM guidelines to ensure worker health and safety. The consequences of that inconsistent application are that you're going to have uneven worker protection across the country and the possibility that people are overexposed, both in the workplace and in their homes, if they happen to be unlucky enough to have high radon levels in both of those indoor locations where they live and work. Related to that, we made a range of recommendations about provincial labour codes, which I won't get into.
In another area of occupational exposure, with respect to radon mitigators, we also recommended that CAREX Canada, who you're going to hear from later today, undertake, with the Canadian national radon proficiency program, research and dosimetry monitoring for radon mitigators so that we can make sure their workplaces are safe as well.
Just to recap on the findings in this report and to recommend to you to take up some of these recommendations in your deliberations on this topic, we found a need for greater legal requirements rather than guidance in this area for several reasons, including the need to underscore the seriousness of the problem and to support public outreach messages by the federal government and by other organizations who you're going to hear from today, including the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment.
Also, there's a need for legal requirements to require testing in public buildings and to ensure public access to that information. As well, there's the need to correct that inconsistent response among both the public health and the occupational health and safety inspectors and to provide them with tools to take action with respect to radon. As I mentioned, we found limited to no case law under either statutes or common law. We also found that improving the law or law reform is a better remedy than costly and situation-specific litigation to resolve radon problems.
Then, as I mentioned, there's a need for specific federal government action, including updating that federal guideline and putting in place a tax credit to help Canadians undertake radon mitigation when they have high levels, updating that Canada Labour Code, and ensuring the NORM guidelines are applied.
We've calculated the health care savings from prevented lung cancer deaths. If all homes in Canada were mitigated to the level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre, you'd see more than $17 million a year in savings through prevented lung cancer deaths. It likely would be double that if you were to reduce the level to 100 becquerels per cubic metre. Then, of course, anyone who works in cancer will tell you that the indirect costs are five times higher than the direct costs, so a lot of savings are possible there, along with the avoidance of the pain and suffering associated with lung cancer.
Jean Boudreault
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Jean Boudreault
2015-06-04 11:56
I think those two contexts are different. The problem that we see in the Maritimes—I am talking about New Brunswick and Nova Scotia—is much more dramatic than what we experience in Quebec.
In Quebec, our rivers are almost natural. The water is pure, the salmon habitat is in very good condition and our rivers' production is excellent. So we don't see the same threat to salmon as in New Brunswick or elsewhere. I think there is a way to keep the activity in its current form.
The catch and release measures apply to adult salmon, the large salmon. When we talk about small salmon, the grilse, you can always catch them in Quebec. By the way, more and more people release them back in the water. In that sense, we prefer a voluntary approach to a legal approach.
The question was not asked this morning, but I'd like you to note that when you buy a salmon licence in Quebec, there are seven stamps. Anglers are able to catch seven salmon, big or small. Of course, there are 15,000 anglers, but not all of them catch seven salmon every year. Most of them take one or two.
So we would like to review the number of stamps. However, there is a small problem and I think this is a good place to talk about it this morning. In the transfer of the salmon stock management between the federal government and provincial government, one aspect was forgotten: the stamps. The forestry, wildlife and parks minister does not have the legal ability to change the number of stamps per licence. That still falls under federal authority, so under Ms. Shea. However, the power needs to be delegated from that level so that the Quebec minister has that ability.
Right now, we are working with the office of the federal minister and the office of the provincial minister to try to establish a single channel, or a fast lane to be able to deal specifically with this aspect. By 2016, we want to be able to reduce the number of stamps by 50% and to perhaps have three or four stamps. We will see what the anglers are ready to accept. We would therefore have a direct impact on the number of catches in our rivers. Right now, we are stuck because of the political circumstances and we are not able to do anything about it.
Jean Lévesque
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Jean Lévesque
2015-06-04 12:17
Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting us to your committee.
My name is Jean Lévesque. I am the president of the Association des pêcheurs de Lac St-Pierre. My colleague, Marcel Bouchard, is also a member of our association.
The Association des pêcheurs du Lac St-Pierre was created in response to the decision by the Quebec Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (forests, wildlife and parks) to impose a five-year moratorium on fishing yellow perch. The anger was so great that after only two weeks, we had more than 1,000 members. For the first time, a democratically elected organization represents and provides a voice to professional, sport and commercial fishers, outfitters, fishing centres, retailers, traders and service providers, municipal officials and regional associations. We currently have almost 1,900 members.
Over the following winter, the Association des pêcheurs du Lac St-Pierre worked with its members on a study of the number of catch and releases per fishing licence for the following species: walleye, yellow perch, pike and eelpout. This information was used exclusively to develop a daily measurement of the impact of ice fishing on the resource, as well as to measure changes in the numbers of certain species in the entire lake. You will find the document in the package we sent you.
Lac St-Pierre is an extraordinary lake. It is large but not very deep and favours abundance of every kind. Fish, ducks, mammals of all sizes and clean water were part of everyday life. The quality of this environment made it an extremely rare treasure that must be conserved.
Total ignorance of the necessary precautions to prevent a deterioration in quality resulting from the discharge of grey, and even black, water from factories and municipalities. Negligence in monitoring discharges from ships using the St. Lawrence, not to mention the refineries in East Montréal. And then the federal Minister of Defence shamelessly decided to use this environmental gem as a dumping ground for shells.
Something like 400,000 projectiles of all sorts were fired into the lake. More than 8,000 of them are potentially dangerous because they were loaded with explosives but not discharged, or they were defective. These were simply noted in a registry. Today’s laws call action like that criminal, and liable to severe penalties and even imprisonment. Officials are proud to announce today that they recently recuperated 80 shells. At that rate, they will complete the recuperation process by the year 4975.
Next came a period of erosion along island shorelines and the banks of tributaries. The causes are known: agricultural drainage is one, as is failure to respect and enforce the basic regulations governing commercial navigation and pleasure crafting. A typical pleasure craft today causes as many waves as a lot of large ships. Those responsible are not reprimanded, much less punished. The main consequence is the obstruction of river mouths, reduced current, and the accumulation of polluted sediment, creating a dream environment for cyanobacteria.
In the 80s, a new “necessity” was born. This was to unblock rivers as early as possible in the spring using the famous Coast Guard hovercrafts. Of course, cottages and homes that had been built in the flood zones were protected. This practice brought disastrous consequences, however. The Lac St-Pierre flood plain, as its name suggests, needs these spring floods to eliminate decomposing vegetation in bays and river entrances. As a result, bays that were once attractive to wildlife are being lost, having rapidly filled up in the last 10 years. Glaring examples include Lavallière bay and St-François bay, which are both in a pitiful state.
The commercial and artisanal fishery practised on Lac St-Pierre in the 40s, 50s and even 60s was easily tolerated by the lake at the time, and had no consequences for fish populations. Then along came the demand for sturgeon, particularly smoked sturgeon, and with it, high prices. The Americans discovered the north just beyond the border, and the wonderful finesse of yellow perch, especially filleted. And so it began: bigger boats, more powerful engines, much larger nets for greater capacity, and fishing on the spawning grounds where catches were easy and abundant.
Suddenly, stocks began to decline. Techniques were improved and catch sizes maintained, and the alarms were ignored. In the 80s, surveys and studies began to be conducted with sports fishermen, while statistics from commercial fishers were provided on a voluntary basis. But the quality of the fishery continued to decline. Commercial fishermen reported that spring fishing for yellow perch in streams, holes and river entrances, where this species traditionally reproduced, was no longer producing results.
It became necessary to fish further offshore to be successful during a period that had previously been so easy.
What are the causes of the destruction of these special places? The main one is well known: the complete transformation of agricultural practices around the lake. Rather than growing fodder or straw cereals, the trend is now corn, rotated with soybeans. The requirement for ethanol, production orders and attractive selling price destroyed our traditional agriculture in favour of industrial agriculture. This required pulling out all the stops: excessive drainage, elimination of ditches, use of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and chemical fertilizer, and so on and so forth. Yield per acre of “modern” land has been improved to at least double what it was 20 years ago. Farmers haven’t done anything they weren’t allowed to do. The blame lies with managers who looked the other way for fear of demands from the powerful well-known union. Too bad for the environment, the fish can go somewhere else.
That's when provincial officials responsible for the environment, wildlife, fisheries, food, and so on, finally wake up. Late as usual, because the tradition in Quebec is to react, but not to act. And so the fishery is more strictly regulated, but the studies show no improvement. Licences are bought back and 80% of the pressure from the commercial fishery reduced with the same results. Fishing is banned during the spawning season, but nothing changed. Despite dramatic opposition, a community wildlife area is imposed on sports fishermen. Finally, miracle workers have been found; they will save the lake, the fish and the fishery. This absurdity is costing us fishermen several thousand dollars a year for absolutely nothing.
Archaic regulations are put in place, such as minimum length. In fact, fishermen were told to keep the largest mature brood stock and to put back the medium and small ones, even if the risk of mortality is very high. Many believe that the opposite should have been proposed. These measures did absolutely nothing to improve the situation. In fact, a wildlife area has no place in an open body of water such as the St. Lawrence River, where there are so many obstacles to local wildlife management and where there is not the capacity, budget, authority or commitment to address the real environmental problem in Lac St-Pierre. The then minister was completely fooled by the promoters of this concept and in fact gave us the impression that he wanted rid of the hot potato that Lac St-Pierre had become in its lamentable state.
So, studies are ordered, luminaries are hired at great expense and further studies are requested on specific topics. Was it so they could be told what they wanted to hear? We will never know, but we do know that this so-called expertise was used to punish the guilty, the fishermen. It’s so simple: no more fishing. Too bad for the local economy and the economic impact of this decision. But there is a but: first of all, the ministry does not even think about its creation, the wildlife area, before taking such decisions, it just goes ahead. And the decisions are admittedly useless. Then it is reported that scientific studies are predicting the collapse of fish stocks.
I mentioned earlier that I have been fishing the lake for over 50 years. I have never fished in places where the devices to measure and capture have been installed over the years. Want to know why? Because those places are just not worth it. Yellow perch are very selective about their living environment. But I have never seen this equipment in favourable locations. Why? It’s a mystery. The scientists are too busy, too full of themselves and far too capable and knowledgeable to consult those who went to the school of nature and who know at least as much as anyone else about the environment they have been spending time in for many years. Do you not believe that such cooperation would have been helpful?
In a document published when the moratorium on fishing for yellow perch was announced, the ministry itself states that there are multiple reasons for the deterioration of the lake’s habitat, including climate change, the low water level, the favourable environment for bacterial growth and the overpopulation of cormorants, which consume a lot of yellow perch. This is proof that they were well informed about the situation.
Why did they not act when there was still time? Nowhere in their statements is there mention of overfishing, or even fishing. Yet the only action was the panicked closing of the commercial fishery, as well as the sports fishery, which contributes even more to the economy.
In response to my question during an informative meeting last spring on the guarantees that this measure offered for improving the situation, the answer was “none, we do not know.” But they penalize anyway; those “responsible” must be punished, even if the ministry admits openly and in writing that they are not responsible.
There was a lot of smoke and mirrors when it came to the subject of cormorants. Ministry employees undertook a slaughter of 600 nesting cormorants, mainly on the islands, and analyses of the stomach contents indicated that 60% was composed of perch aged about two years. During the migration period from mid-August to late September, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 cormorants at Lac Saint-Pierre. We therefore estimate that about 30 tons of two-year-old yellow perch are consumed by cormorants annually.
Given all the other factors that reduce the yellow perch's maximum reproduction, this excessive predation will not permit the recovery of perch stocks. In our opinion, it is critical that there be an even more intensive slaughter than in 2012 to control and reduce this predation. Before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up reproduction areas, we should first systematically reduce the population of cormorants. It's ridiculous that Quebec is unable to take the bull by the horns when it comes to resolving problems.
Fishing is permitted at either end of the lake without a size restriction. The only restriction is a general limit of 50 yellow perch. Studies have shown, however, that yellow perch from Saint-Nicolas near Quebec City go upriver as far as Lac Saint-Pierre, so we can certainly assume that those downstream do as well.
About four tons of adult yellow perch are caught annually. There is a quota of 10 per day per licence, generating badly needed economic spinoffs of $4 million for the region. The specialists and researchers are unfortunately not able to see the absurdity of this.
In conclusion, we have witnessed a game of ostrich, with authorities burying their heads in the sand as the water pollution rate reached intolerable levels in the lake, as National Defence used the lake as if there were no communities or people around it, as agriculture was completely transformed, as construction was permitted in most of the flood zones around the lake, as the essential spring flooding was prevented, as the population of cormorants—whose numbers double every two years—was maintained, as we inherited substandard wildlife management, monitoring and protection mechanisms, and so on.
Is it too late? It's never too late. Just look at the spectacular results achieved in the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie. We want to have it, though. It isn't absolutely necessary to spend astronomical amounts every year to achieve our purpose, but we have to want it and we have to ensure the cooperation of all stakeholders and users.
Penalizing without guarantee of success will not earn the favour of fishers for their willing cooperation. We have to be convinced that helping the environment can reap political rewards. We have to convince our fellow citizens so they will elect politicians who care about the environment. The same politicians have to use the authority delegated to them to command obedience from their employees, who were not chosen by the taxpayers.
View Ryan Leef Profile
View Ryan Leef Profile
2015-06-04 12:56
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of our witnesses today.
Part of the purpose of our study is to expose some of the things that I think all of you gentlemen have clearly articulated today, which is a clear understanding on the part of the fishing community, outfitters, and organizations like yours that not only have the knowledge about what's going on in the fisheries ecosystems, but also invest your time and your financial resources, your volunteerism, and technical expertise into vibrant and healthy fish stocks.
On that point, thank you and congratulations. I hope there is some measure of success for all of us in undertaking this study, us, and that Canadians more generally will understand and appreciate the value of your organizations.
My first question will be for Mr. Lévesque and Mr. Bouchard. You noted, and if I've written this correctly, the damage of pleasure crafts to the river mouth and the reduction of currents leading to an increase in cyanobacteria in the area and, as you just mentioned, some of the migration of yellow perch. You also spoke a fair bit about the cormorant populations and a cull in that respect.
I see some overlap here between provincial responsibilities and federal support. I'm wondering if you can talk most specifically about some solutions around how to deal with the pleasure craft issue and the other things that lead to an increase in cyanobacteria. In other words, what solutions would you propose that would fall under the federal mandate to assist with improving the water pollution conditions in Lac Saint-Louis or Lac Saint-Pierre?
Marcel Bouchard
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Marcel Bouchard
2015-06-04 12:59
First and foremost, it's necessary to recognize that the federal government has the final say over laws and regulations that govern fisheries. We can't figure out why the province is able to make laws and regulations that would normally have to be approved by the ultimate fisheries authority, in other words, the federal government. How is it that the province can put in place such archaic regulations, regulations that don't make sense or contribute to the solution?
I'll give you a very basic example. When we're talking about farming, that is, of course, in the provincial domain, but when we're talking about shoreline erosion, especially along Lac Saint-Pierre as a result of navigation and pleasure crafting pollution, the issue is federal. Both levels of government clearly need to work together if the goal is to fix the problem at Lac Saint-Pierre. If that isn't the goal, all the government has to do is take a hands-off approach, since the lake is disappearing anyway. Within 50 years, Lac Saint-Pierre will be no more if we don't take the appropriate steps to save it. We're losing a real gem.
Barry Fordham
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Barry Fordham
2015-06-02 11:17
Good day, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. My name is Barry Fordham. I represent the Newfoundland Federation of Hunters and Anglers. I'm a co-founder and public relations officer of this group. I feel both very honoured and privileged to have this opportunity to speak to you today about the recreational food fishery and representing my province, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Here in this great province of Newfoundland and Labrador the cod fishery represents a traditional way of life that keeps us tied to our historical roots. Our once abundant cod fishery supported a large rural population province-wide. Residents and their communities were independent and economically secure.
Cod has and always will be an important traditional food source to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishers are not simply catching fish for recreation, they are carefully processing it as part of their traditional winter food supply.
The cod fishery is also important because it provides a cultural bridge to pass on history, names, stories, events, and skills we feel are important for our youth to learn. They can share this knowledge with their kids, which will ensure our historical legacy is passed on generationally and never forgotten. You might say, “Forgotten? A crazy idea. That's absurd.” We feel this can be the case.
The example I will use is the commercial inshore fishery. Before the moratorium, the inshore fishery was mostly a family-based operation, where sons would fish with their fathers and grandfathers, and learn all the skills necessary to have the experience to strike out on their own. They were then able to teach their sons, thus ensuring the knowledge and skills were being passed down.
The inshore fishery has been closed now for almost 23 years. There has been a huge lapse of time that has passed, and at least three generations or more of experience, knowledge, and skills may have been lost to the point that if the commercial inshore fishery were reopened today, there may not be enough people to participate in it because of the loss of knowledge or interest.
After the moratorium was announced, in 1992, a black cloud of uncertainty fell over rural Newfoundland and Labrador. The federal government provided the fishers with monetary assistance for a period of time, but eventually people got restless and they began the emigration process for employment and a new life. Our once vibrant communities were beginning to become like ghost towns in some areas.
Then DFO announced a recreational food fishery for codfish, with laws and regulations such as dates and bag limits. There was a period of time when licences and tags were the system for a number of years, but this was eventually abandoned.
During the recreational food fishery, there is a high percentage of our population that participates in it. Our once seemingly ghost towns become vibrant once again. Old friends meet at the local wharves and there's hustle and bustle. Kids are listening intently to old stories, learning new skills, such as how to catch and process the fish, and making new friends. People are now planning their annual family vacations around these dates. Local businesses are profiting. It's attracting tourists in droves. Commercial fishers, whom we have the utmost respect for, are benefiting by taking tourists and locals alike out to their fishing grounds. This provides a huge economic boost to the provincial economy annually, especially at the gas pumps and local sporting goods stores.
One of the biggest obstacles to fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador is the weather, namely the high winds and seas that accompany them. It's so windy in Newfoundland and Labrador that it's a wonder we're not referred to as the Chicago province of Canada. This unsavoury weather cancels our fishing trips, which then results in a lost opportunity. Our fall season last year, for example, was a bust for the most part because of high winds, even though there was an extension to the season granted for a few days.
Our season this year is set to commence on July 18 until August 9, and then on September 19 until September 27, for a total of four weeks plus two days. The bag limit is five cod per person per day, with a maximum boat limit of 15 cod. Retention of mackerel does not affect our bag limit.
In some Quebec and maritime jurisdictions, the season length is open four, five, or six weeks that run concurrently. The bag limit is 15 groundfish per person per day. It is important to note that not more than five in this limit can be cod.
As well, there is a shoreline recreational season in the southern gulf region with a zero cod retention, but mackerel can be retained. This means if you fish from a boat, you can be no further than 50 metres from the shore. If you are fishing from the shoreline, most likely with a rod and reel, you cannot catch further than 50 metres. Good luck with that one.
The season opened this year from April 15 until October 4, for a total of 172 days. We, the Newfoundland Federation of Hunters and Anglers, want the season length extended and combined for several different reasons, keeping in mind that most people work Monday to Friday and may only have a Saturday or Sunday to participate.
The first and most important reason is safety. As I have stated, the weather plays a major factor here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishers are sometimes taking risks by journeying out in questionable weather conditions because of the lack of time. Some fishers are travelling out in sometimes questionable watercraft, which is an additional safety risk. There have been drowning fatalities during the recreational food fishery annually, as reported by the media.
Next, it reduces the opportunities that a fisher has, because not everybody has a boat these days. I can go see a friend who has just returned from fishing and ask if he can take my son and me out fishing. If he says he has another commitment, that results in another lost opportunity.
We also want the season extended and combined to give us equality, to make it similar to Quebec and the Maritimes. I'm not attempting to take anything away from them, but why can't our seasons at least run concurrent, like theirs do?
We would also like to see the shoreline recreational fishery in the southern gulf region introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador with the same zero cod-retention limit during the closed portion of the Newfoundland and Labrador recreational food fishery season. As lads growing up in an outport community, we were always fishing on the rocks or off the wharf. This was a favourite pastime. We learned fishing skills, how to tie a knot and catch and release a fish. We learned life skills and forged friendships. We have memories that will last a lifetime. We would like our youth to have that same privilege to experience what we did when we were young. If you were to walk on most wharves today, you might not even see a youth with a fishing rod. They're not allowed to fish during the closed season of the recreational food fishery.
That, gentlemen, is beyond ridiculous. We feel that by not having this season, our kids are missing out on one of nature's finest experiences.
The short season, factored in with time lost due to the weather, adds the extra pressure to get out for a few days to get the required five fish for the day. For my family's needs, we require approximately 40 cod. If I go solo, it would take me at least eight successful days. I may not be lucky enough; once again, it comes down to time, weather, and opportunity. Unless I have my own boat, I may not even be able to get enough fish to put away for my winter food supply, which is important to my family.
We firmly believe that by extending and combining the season, we would not witness an increase in fishers or days fished. Usually at the beginning of each season there is the traditional big rush. But fishers would get accustomed to the new season. We could choose the time that is safe and convenient for us instead of feeling rushed to get out fishing or to take chances on the weather.
As for claims of people catching too much fish if the season is extended, a recent report indicates that in the 2014 recreational food fishery, the total catch was approximately 1,500 tonnes. Compare that with the total overall catch of approximately 11,000 tonnes. Our own provincial government, through its own news releases, has petitioned DFO about the unfair treatment of Newfoundland and Labrador compared with our sister provinces concerning the recreational food fishery, to no avail. Federal fisheries minister Gail Shea, when interviewed on CBC's Here and Now—Newfoundland and Labrador the day before the 2014 recreational food fishery, admitted that she would be open to discussing ways to make the recreational food fishery safer.
I hope that both Minister Shea and you, this committee, are listening now. The time is long past due and the present is here. Now is the time to make things right for the future. This important decision could prevent another drowning fatality this year. As this is the last year of the 2013 to 2015 DFO management plan, grant us this extended combined season with the same bag limit that we have always had. Next year we can sit at the table and iron out an agreement that is acceptable, respectable, and makes common sense. Do this for our safety, our success, our heritage, our historical legacy, and for the respect that Newfoundland and Labrador deserves in our place in Canada, our country.
If I have any time left over I'd like to address an issue on the recreational salmon fishery here as well.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you very much.
So, you do not believe this activity takes place, or it's very limited in Newfoundland.
In your quite interesting presentation, you also indicated a lot of young people were not interested in the fishery. They have a lack of knowledge and do not know anything about the fishery. What needs to be done in order to bring back the interest of the young people?
Also, when you're answering me, on the boat charters that go out, you're talking about the season not being long enough. Does that season also need to be extended?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
On the tourism or the boat charters that go out, if I understood you correctly, they can take a bag limit of 15. Also, the length of time, if I understood you correctly, didn't seem to be long enough. As well, this is a very important industry to your economy.
I understand how important it is, because we have a recreational tuna fishery in our area. I can assure you that stores, restaurants, gas bars, hotels, and everything benefit from this.
I would like you to elaborate on what needs to be done, or how the limit needs to be changed, in order to make this.... I know you can't do anything about the wind, but other than that I would think this is valuable to the economy in Newfoundland. How can it be improved?
Barry Fordham
View Barry Fordham Profile
Barry Fordham
2015-06-02 11:54
Mr. Chair, in response to the member, you're absolutely right, sir. It is very valuable here to the economy.
We cannot do anything about the winds. We cannot do anything about opportunities, but what is common sense, sir, for the federal DFO to do is to extend the overall season. By extending the overall season, sir, we are now allowing people to be able to choose when to go out and when not to go out.
Some people say, “Oh, you're going to extend the season. You're going to have every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there fishing in every kind of vessel, every day, all day long.” I've had some talks with other conservation groups, and we believe and feel if the season is extended.... Usually, as I said in my preamble, at the beginning of each season there is a big rush. Everybody has been waiting all year to get out to get a few fish, to experience what we always had, and to smell the salt sea, as we say. By extending the season, it now gives us more opportunity to get out there.
We believe there is not going to be a big influx of people out fishing. Maybe it would in the first week, sure. After that, when people get used to the new season, they're going to say, “I'm not going out this day. I'm not going out that day. I'm going to shoot ahead to one day next week.” Extending the season is promoting the safety to our provincial fishers and making it fairer and safer for everybody to get out and experience this wonderful joy we have here in this great province of ours, Newfoundland and Labrador.
View Patricia Davidson Profile
Mr. Fordham, thanks for being with us this morning.
Certainly we've heard some interesting comments and we've heard some comments that have been different from those we've heard from other regions of the country, and I appreciate that.
I have some very fond memories of going cod fishing many years ago in Newfoundland. At that time we also thought that we might do some inland fishing. I don't know what your rates are today, but I know for non-residents at that time, which was probably 25 years ago, they were pretty steep and so we didn't do that. But I do have some fond memories of cod fishing and certainly you have a beautiful part of the country and I enjoy it.
My riding is in southwestern Ontario and we sit on Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. Our area is quite different from the areas that you experience.
I want to talk a little bit about the food fishing days. I believe those were eliminated at one point and then they were brought back. Is that correct? Is that when the limits were initiated?
Barry Fordham
View Barry Fordham Profile
Barry Fordham
2015-06-02 12:00
When the moratorium on the commercial inshore fishery was called in 1992, the overall fishery was shut down altogether, both commercially and recreationally.
It wasn't really referred to as a recreational fishery back in the day when the commercial fisheries were on the go. It was more like a God-given right. We now see that it may be a God-granted privilege to be able to do it.
As for when the recreational fishery actually opened up, I don't have that statistic here in front of me, but it is open now.
View Patricia Davidson Profile
Moving on, then, from that, you said the season should be extended for many reasons and you talked about safety issues. Can you tell me why the season is set the way it is, why it's fragmented, why it isn't a continuous season?
Barry Fordham
View Barry Fordham Profile
Barry Fordham
2015-06-02 12:02
Mr. Chairman, in response to the member, I'll say on a positive note that we can't understand why for the life of us.
View Patricia Davidson Profile
Okay. Can you elaborate a bit more on the reasons you think it would be beneficial to extend it on a continuous basis and what timeframes you think would be good timeframes?
Barry Fordham
View Barry Fordham Profile
Barry Fordham
2015-06-02 12:02
Mr. Chairman, in response to the member, we would like to see the season extended to not quite three months. It would take in a lapse of time from sometime in July to sometime in September. It promotes safety, promotes fairness, promotes opportunity. It promotes our learning our history and culture again. It promotes families coming home for family vacations. It promotes youth education, and it promotes public education. My God, I could keep on going.
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