Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is great to be here with all of you again. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you all today.
First of all, I would like to acknowledge that I'm coming to you from Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kma'ki, the traditional unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq people.
Joining me are several of my officials, including Timothy Sargent, the deputy minister of Fisheries and Oceans; Dr. Niall O'Dea, senior assistant deputy minister, strategic policy; Jean-Guy Forgeron, senior assistant deputy minister for fisheries and harbour management; Rebecca Reid, regional director general, Pacific region; Arran McPherson, assistant deputy minister, ecosystems and ocean science; Alexandra Dostal, assistant deputy minister of aquatic ecosystems; Hugo Pagé, assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer; and Andy Smith, deputy commissioner, shipbuilding and material.
Given that this is my first appearance since budget 2021 was tabled in the House, I would like to talk about some of the investments that are specific to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Today I will discuss the budget and focus on the key themes of conserving and protecting our marine resources and supporting coastal communities and economies. Over the next five years, DFO and the Coast Guard will receive significant investments that will allow the department to continue its important work in these areas.
I will also be happy to take your questions on the topic of Pacific salmon.
Our government knows that the health of our oceans is intrinsically linked to the health of our economy and the health of our people. One way we can conserve and protect our marine resources is by establishing a network of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. MPAs are proven to be a way to help aquatic species, habitats and ecosystems recover from human-induced stresses such as overfishing, natural resource extraction and pollution.
When our government took office in 2015, less than 1% of our oceans were protected. Today that figure stands at almost 14%, with a goal of increasing this to 25% by 2025, working towards 30% by 2030. To help Canada meet its ambitious marine conservation targets, budget 2021 earmarked $976.8 million over the next five years. This investment will be used to expand our network of MPAs on all three coasts by working closely with indigenous, provincial and territorial partners and local communities to better protect and manage vulnerable areas. Ultimately, this work will benefit the broader marine environment, coastal communities and local economies.
Budget 2021 also signals a strong federal response to address the serious decline of Pacific salmon on the west coast. Despite extensive conservation measures in recent years, climate change and threats caused by humans, including deteriorating habitat; contaminants; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; changes in how land and water are used and international fishing pressures have negatively affected Pacific salmon at every stage of their life cycle.
Currently, 50 different Pacific salmon populations are being considered for listing under the Species at Risk Act or are pending assessment by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The reasons are numerous, complex and incredibly concerning. When unforeseen events such as the Big Bar landslide occur, the risks to vulnerable salmon stocks are magnified even further. Bold, sustained and coordinated action is needed to stabilize, protect and rebuild Pacific salmon for the communities that depend on sustainable fisheries and the ecosystems that support them.
Last April, as many of you know, our government announced a historic investment in Pacific salmon. This unprecedented $647-million investment is the single most transformative investment the government has ever made towards saving salmon. It is aimed at stopping the declines now, while helping to rebuild populations over the longer term. Our government will be taking a collaborative approach that focuses on strengthening partnerships with provinces and territories, first nations, industries, organizations and others who are already doing so much to protect and conserve salmon.
We must bring key partners to the table and identify and prioritize actions to support healthy salmon. I know this investment comes on the heels on the committee's study on this important issue. I want to thank the members for their work on this file. I look forward to hearing your recommendations. I'm confident that this investment will provide a coordinated response to help the recovery of Pacific salmon to support the many communities, harvesters and businesses that rely on the health of these stocks.
Mr. Chair, budget 2021 will give my department the financial means it needs to meet our marine conservation targets, address declines of Pacific salmon and protect aquatic species at risk. It will also provide the Coast Guard with additional funding to prevent and mitigate environmental incidents on the water through an extension of the emergency towing vessels located on Canada's west coast.
Budget 2021 will also help coastal communities build back better and stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes investing significantly in small craft harbours.
In 2019, the commercial fishing industry had landings valued at almost $3.7 billion and employed more than 45,000 workers. Even during the hardships of the past year, fish and seafood were among the largest single food commodities exported by Canada. Budget 2021 includes $300 million to repair, renew and replace infrastructure at small craft harbours over the next two years. This will help shore up the future for the industry by providing safe, functional harbours while at the same time creating well-paid jobs for Canadians.
We are also strengthening our commitment to marine safety for indigenous coastal communities by ensuring that communities can get the boats and equipment they need to keep people safe in local waters.
Mr. Chair, these investments in coastal communities are a down payment on our future that will pay dividends in the months and years ahead for Canada while the world recovers from this global pandemic.
Whether we’re talking about conserving and protecting our marine resources or supporting coastal communities and economies, all of this work is interconnected. Ultimately, budget 2021 is an investment in Canadian families and communities. These are investments that underscore how our nation’s economic prosperity and the long-term health of our environment can and must go hand in hand.
As minister, I’m confident that the funding I outlined today will position Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard to deliver on key priorities that contribute to a stronger maritime economy, healthier oceans and more resilient coastal communities.
Now I’m pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.