Mr. Speaker, I want to start by recognizing the good work the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam is doing, his continued dedication to the issues concerning aquaculture on the west coast of Canada, and his good work on the fisheries and oceans and Canadian Coast Guard committee.
I would like to assure him and all Canadian stakeholders that our government takes these issues very seriously as we continue to support the responsible development of a sustainable aquaculture industry in Canada. I also want to thank all my B.C. colleagues who took the time to speak with me and inform me about the aquaculture industry in their province.
The government is absolutely determined to conserve wild Pacific salmon and ensure that our wild salmon populations remain healthy for generations to come.
To show our commitment, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard went to British Columbia in August to announce that our government would continue to follow up on the recommendations of the Cohen Commission, which include tangible measures to conserve and protect wild Pacific salmon, measures backed by new investments in ocean sciences announced in budget 2016.
These new investments include research and monitoring in support of sustainable aquaculture and the improved health of fish stocks. We are hiring new scientists, biologists, oceanographers, and technicians to increase the monitoring of salmon populations, better predict where salmon mortality occurs, and increase our investment in fish health. This scientific data is used to inform aquaculture fisheries management and regulatory decision-making.
We have also held extensive consultations with first nations, environmental NGOs, and industry stakeholders on the choice of site for finfish aquaculture in British Columbia.
We are working on having assessments done of the risks associated with the transfer of pathogens between farmed salmon and wild salmon, taking into account the potential repercussions on the aquatic environment, when determining the optimal location and issuing the licence.
Bill C-228 seeks to relocate all the aquaculture finfish in Canadian waters off the Pacific coast to closed containment cultivation facilities.
Closed containment cultivation technology is still not technically viable. The only feasible possibility technically speaking would be land-based recirculating aquaculture systems, which are limited and not necessarily financially viable.
The bill addresses cultivated Atlantic salmon, but many other species would also be affected, including coho salmon, certified organic chinook salmon, rainbow trout, and black cod.
I would like to remind my colleagues that the aquaculture industry in British Columbia is already under federal regulation as a result of the 2009 decision by the British Columbia Supreme Court. The regulatory changes that were brought in at that time enable me to say with confidence that aquaculture in British Columbia is managed under a comprehensive and robust regulatory regime.
Measures are in place through regulations and conditions of licence to apply evidence-based thresholds and standards to manage environmental impacts. Moreover, the industry is required to report to Fisheries and Oceans Canada on all of its activities. Additionally, a new regulation requiring even more reporting on aquaculture activities was brought into force in 2015.
These regulations and reporting requirements provide a great deal of information about the management and implementation of aquaculture fisheries in British Columbia.
What does all the data, collected over the course of five years, tell us? Does it indicate that the problems with finfish aquaculture in British Columbia warrant the restructuring of the entire industry? In my view, the evidence tells a completely different story. In fact, the evidence shows an industry that has steadily reduced its environmental impact, mitigated the impacts it has had, and minimized its interactions with wild populations and their habitats.
Let us now take a closer look at these elements. Operators in British Columbia must produce reports on a wide range of technical regulatory requirements from the state of the environment inside and around open-net farms to the number of sea lice on the fish. Operators must report details of any escapes and all illnesses that affect their farmed fish.
Starting in 2017, the drugs and pesticides used by aquaculture operators in Canada, including British Columbia, must be made public. All aquaculture operators are now required to report the steps they take to mitigate the impact of their activities, and the results will also be made public.
Our country and our government rely on the best scientific advice to inform our regulatory system. We use data to make our decisions. We have no evidence that the environment is sacrificed in order to pursue the economic development of British Columbia's aquaculture industry.
With respect to the state of the environment under and around marine finfish aquaculture facilities, the regulatory requirements ensure that these sites are left empty if they exceed the established threshold and they cannot be cultivated again until levels return to normal.
Because of the potential impacts an escape of farmed salmon could have, aquaculture operators in British Columbia are required to report any escapes to Fisheries and Oceans Canada within 24 hours. Escape events are very rare. Interestingly, the largest escape happened when a storm damaged an experimental at-sea closed containment facility.
With respect to the health of farmed fish, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a list of diseases that have the potential to seriously impact aquatic animal health or the Canadian economy. Anyone who knows of or suspects these diseases is required to notify the agency.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada periodically inspects the health of fish in British Columbia salmon farms. Three incidents involving infectious diseases were reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over the past six years alone.
The presence of sea lice is another highly controversial fish health indicator, particularly in British Columbia. Even if the fish are raised in cages in a parasite-free marine environment, farmed fish can catch sea lice from contact with wild species.
To reduce the spread of these parasites, there is a regulatory limit of three lice per fish during the seaward salmon migration. Fisheries and Oceans Canada audits of the last migration showed that, on average, 96% of salmon farms were below that limit.
As a whole, Canada's aquaculture industry has an exemplary record. The Canadian environmental sustainability indicator shows that the compliance rate of aquaculture operations with Fisheries Act regulations was over 99% each year.
Based on the data, we believe that the regulatory regime is strong enough to ensure stable, well-paid employment for thousands of people living in rural and isolated coastal communities, as well as first nations, to promote an innovative, world-renowned aquaculture industry, and to protect wild populations and the aquatic environment.
Therefore, I stand in the House in full support of British Columbia's aquaculture industry as well as the aquaculture industry across the country, in support of our robust regulatory regime, in support of good jobs, and in support of the healthy and nutritious farmed seafood products that feed Canadians as well as people around the world. We recognize the potential of closed containment aquaculture, and as the industry evolves and grows, our government will continue to pursue innovation in salmon aquaculture.
I respectfully oppose this bill because I sincerely believe that we have a solid regulatory regime for aquaculture.