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View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:03
I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 30 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 on 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. For those participating by video conference, when you are ready to speak, click on the icon to activate your microphone and please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your microphone should be on mute. For interpretation, you have the choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French, and I'll remind everyone that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
I'd now like to welcome our witnesses for today.
From the Atlantic Groundfish Council we have Kris Vascotto, executive director. From Bait Masters, we have Mark Prevost, president. Wally MacPhee, who is vice-president, is joining as we speak. From the Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen's Coalition, we have Leonard LeBlanc, professional adviser. From Ocean Choice International, we have Carey Bonnell, vice-president, sustainability and engagement.
Can we say before we start that, if we are interrupted by a vote, we will plan to do it virtually on the phone and then when we all get it done we can continue on so that we are not so long?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay. That's perfect.
We'll begin now with Kris Vascotto from the Atlantic Groundfish Council for opening remarks.
Please go ahead for five minutes or less.
Kris Vascotto
View Kris Vascotto Profile
Kris Vascotto
2022-06-21 11:05
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
On behalf of the Atlantic Groundfish Council and its members, I would like to thank the committee for the invitation to appear on this important study.
The council represents the greater than 100-foot groundfish enterprise allocation holders in Atlantic Canada. Members harvest over 45,000 tonnes of wild groundfish annually, supporting thousands of jobs at sea and on shore. Member enterprises are critical to the rural and coastal economy in Atlantic Canada.
The AGC coordinates Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certifications and fishery improvement projects for many fisheries. These programs provide premium market access by providing evidence that these fisheries are managed sustainably and supported by high-calibre science advice.
The primary goal of DFO science is to provide advice to inform transparent decision-making by the minister. Work conducted by DFO scientists is vetted and translated into stock management advice through the Canadian science advisory secretariat. The CSAS peer-review model is the envy of fisheries science processes internationally. When functioning properly, it delivers balanced, transparent and verifiable advice. While individual reviews may have challenges, this is not indicative of broad failures of the directorate. The AGC believes CSAS is well suited to its core purpose.
Our concerns with departmental science are directed at the inputs necessary for success and focus on fundamental fisheries science. Improvement requires attention to key areas, including stakeholder involvement, survey reliability, balanced investment, stock assessment capacity and objective peer-review processes.
Including industry and other stakeholders in the science review process is key to robust outcomes and broader acceptance of science advice. Industry brings a unique historical and current perspective often unavailable to departmental scientists, ENGOs and academic representatives, all of whom are experts in their own right. Industry participation creates an environment that leads to further co-operation and collaboration among these groups. Given that the data used in science assessments is often collected by industry, our inclusion is a necessity, and disallowing this participation will result in significant lost knowledge.
Delivery of information via complete scientific surveys is a necessary component to the provision of robust science advice. The capacity of the Canadian Coast Guard to reliably deliver the necessary platform to collect this information has been challenged by a combination of aging vessels, deployment scheduling and new vessel failures. Multi-year gaps in survey coverage are now becoming the norm. This has undermined DFO's ability to ensure that information collected on new vessels is comparable with those of the past, jeopardizing decadal time series.
Poor research vessel fleet management leads to less certainty on stock status, unknown stock trends and increasingly erratic advice. Fixing this problem must be a priority.
Core areas necessary for good fisheries management, including stock assessment science, have been overlooked or remain underfunded. Recent staffing efforts focused on populating new programs have resulted in a drain from existing ones. This means more vacancies in key stock assessment positions and gaps in analytical capacity.
Concurrently, DFO has increased the reliance on these same under-resourced work units. Legislated requirements and highly technical stock assessment frameworks mean stock assessment scientists are now being tasked to do more with fewer resources. Priorities are routinely dropped and shifted to accommodate new requests. Balanced investment is needed.
Becoming a proficient stock assessment scientist requires years of training, which is offered at a limited number of postgraduate institutions. Some skills can be learned over years of on-the-job experience and with mentorship from existing experts. Creating an environment where institutional knowledge can be passed to the next generation of stock assessment experts should be fostered by the department, alongside employee retention strategies to keep newly developed expertise in stock assessment positions.
CSAS reviews are often populated by personnel from within the local work unit, creating an environment of positive reinforcement and precluding fulsome review. External reviewers are increasingly difficult to identify, because of time demands, limited expertise and a lack of compensation. This creates an environment of cursory reviews as opposed to the scrutiny envisioned by the CSAS structure.
Input received by the department from reviewers during the assessment process can be challenging to record and action, because of significant delays in providing documents for participant review. Improved rigour of the CSAS process can be achieved by providing financial compensation to reviewers and improving the timelines for the review and posting of the materials arising from CSAS processes.
Stock science advice has a level of uncertainty, which is considered and incorporated when harvest management strategies and harvest control rules are developed through advisory and science processes. Once agreed, these harvest control rules provide future predictability on quota change and future harvest decisions.
With increasing frequency, ministerial decisions are departing significantly from this process, promoting arbitrary reductions in the absence of established scientific process or support. This must be addressed.
We ask that you consider the key recommendations presented in our submitted brief, as we feel that they are integral to improving the development, communication and utilization of scientific advice.
The importance of robust science has never been higher. We are in a period of profound change in the marine environment, driven by the large-scale forcing of climate change. Reliable scientific advice is key in ensuring that the oceans of tomorrow, while different from those of today, will remain a sustainable source of the low-carbon protein needed to feed a growing world.
We thank you for considering our input and welcome any questions or comments.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:10
Thank you.
We'll now go to Mr. LeBlanc for five minutes or less, please.
Leonard LeBlanc
View Leonard LeBlanc Profile
Leonard LeBlanc
2022-06-21 11:11
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. With my family tree having Canadian Mi’kmaq and Métis, I would like to recognize today as being National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Mr. Chairman, it's a pleasure to appear before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, as I have done previously on different occasions. My name is, as you mentioned, Leonard LeBlanc. I was a harvester for 36 years, and president of our association for over 40 years. This past March, I stepped down as president of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen's Coalition, but remain as an adviser.
During all these years, I've lived through different life cycles of science. Harvesters used to view science as a tool to control their participation in the fishery and their livelihood. There was little trust in science. If we go back in history, there was a time when fishermen were not permitted to attend meetings with DFO; only buyers were allowed. These things change, doors open and here we are now. I am here to state before you that history has evolved and changed for the best interests of all.
In my early years as president of our association, I took it upon myself to study the management of the fisheries, and quickly realized that science could be a valuable asset to advance positive changes in all fisheries and ensure sustainability.
I'll give you a brief description of my thought process. When I was fishing lobster in the eighties, we could barely make enough revenue to qualify for EI. After the cod moratorium, we quickly realized that we needed to have a greater say in the management of our fisheries. We spent over a year looking at changes that we could implement to increase our lobster landings and revenue.
A committee was brought together, which included Pictou Landing First Nation, the provincial government and DFO management and science. We built our own management plan, entirely based on science, which allowed the harvesters to be more involved in science and to build a better relationship with it. The result was increasing the minimum carapace size and reducing our fishing effort to increase egg production. We expanded the carapace size by a total of 15 millimetres over time, which was a significant increase. However, because harvesters were involved in the science process, they knew that this was what was needed. Harvesters are now having their EI clawed back, which is not a bad thing, and our fishery is far more sustainable than ever it was before.
DFO science has improved over time. Some of us have been selected as external experts in scientific peer reviews. The Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, of which I am the managing director, is working collaboratively with DFO on a five-year scientific exercise to study a scallop buffer zone marine refuge area. It's figure one. This area was used in the calculation of the marine protected area.
This project aims to increase the monitoring capacity within Canada's marine refuges to fill in critical knowledge gaps, so that effective conservation measures can be implemented to protect our marine environment. This is an example of a mutually agreed-to process by industry and DFO, which would not have happened in the past.
In addition to this massive project, the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board collaborates with DFO on many other science ventures, including a salinity and water temperature study, lobster recruitment research, a lobster moult cycle project and much more. DFO must take into consideration the capacity that the fishing industry can add to its data collection. Science is now our strongest ally. Without it, this fishery and industry would only be a small fraction of what it is today.
In conclusion, DFO must have sufficient financial resources to conduct its work. Previous governments have devastated DFO's science budget. This cannot happen again, because the fish, the fishermen, the economy and the environment will lose. DFO's decision to close the herring and mackerel fisheries this spring without a science-based rebuilding program bewildered many in the industry. This fishing community must be further integrated into the process.
Thank you for the invitation.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:15
Thank you for that.
We'll now go to Mr. Bonnell for five minutes or less, please.
Carey Bonnell
View Carey Bonnell Profile
Carey Bonnell
2022-06-21 11:15
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
Ocean Choice International shares the standing committee's keen interest in science at the DFO. Ocean Choice is a family-owned and operated Newfoundland and Labrador seafood company started over 20 years ago by brothers Martin and Blaine Sullivan from the southern shore, an area of the province with deep roots in the fishery.
Today, Ocean Choice is a global seafood company with extensive harvesting and processing assets throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and Atlantic Canada. Our success relies both on the inshore fishery, buying and processing raw material from approximately 1,900 independent harvesters, and on the offshore fishery through company-held quotas. Through this, we employ over 1,700 people from over 300 communities.
We are focused on employing best practices to reduce our environmental impact. We use modern processing and harvesting technology and innovative fishing gear to improve our sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint. For example, in 2020, we launched the only “green class” designated vessel in the Canadian groundfish fleet.
We are responsible for delivering wild, low-carbon, sustainable protein to the world, and it's certainly our responsibility to make sure it's available for current and future generations. Over 90% of our harvest is covered by the gold standard Marine Stewardship Council's sustainability certifications for certified fisheries and through fishery improvement projects. We invest in the collection of marine data for scientific research for DFO scientists. We fund an industry research chair in fish stock assessment at the marine institute of Memorial University, which has grown into a nucleus of training for next-generation stock assessment scientists for the department. This is really a great example of how collaborative research should be conducted.
This leads me to the focus of today: the state of fisheries science at the DFO. There is little doubt that the Government of Canada has significantly elevated investments in DFO science. However, we are concerned that these investments have primarily been to support ocean science—such as funding to support marine conservation targets, marine mammal research, etc.—as opposed to its capacity and expertise for commercial stock assessments.
While investment in ocean science is critical to monitor the health of our oceans, it is high-quality stock assessment science that ensures the sustainable and optimal utilization of Canada's fish stocks.
In our view, it is deeply disappointing that stock assessment science has not seen a comparable infusion of funding, even though demands for government-required rebuilding plans, as well as sustainability certification supports, have grown exponentially over this same time period.
Coupled with capacity challenges in science staff, alarming gaps are emerging in the DFO's multispecies fisheries vessel survey program, which provides the basis for stock assessment science. For example, in 2021, the entire multispecies spring and fall surveys were missed for NAFO divisions 3LMNO off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. This, coming off the back of a fully missed survey year in 2020 due to COVID-19, has resulted in two full years of missed data for a multitude of indices.
The 2022 spring survey for this area appears to also have been largely missed, resulting in, potentially, an unprecedented three-year gap in coverage, which is completely unacceptable.
The implications of this situation are massive for the Canadian seafood sector as these surveys are the basis for responsible fisheries management decision-making, resulting in reputational risk, undermining market access and sustainability certifications, and increased pressures to be even more conservative with management decisions, with an accompanying opportunity cost burden for industry.
Why the survey failures? Many reasons have been provided, ranging from COVID-19 to the aging Coast Guard fleet issues and missing calibrations with the new vessels in the fleet, but the results are the same: missing data.
We well know about vessel operational challenges. However, such challenges, while real, should be overcome by good planning on the part of the Canadian Coast Guard in managing these research vessels. It is also noteworthy that, throughout the pandemic, industry-led surveys continued to operate without interruption. These are surveys where oversight is provided by DFO science, but industry platforms are utilized for a variety of reasons, including operational and cost effectiveness.
A great example of a working industry-led survey is the Northern Shrimp Research Foundation survey, which, since 2004, has operated annually, on schedule and without delays or major disruptions at a cost well below what government can achieve.
As the committee continues to hear from stakeholders and as you develop your report on the performance of DFO science, I ask you to consider the following two recommendations.
First, government must immediately address the research vessel issues and actively plan to expand the use of industry vessels as a more reliable means of gathering much-needed data that drives good scientific advice and, ultimately, science-based decisions by the minister.
Second, I strongly urge the Government of Canada to make strategic reinvestments in fundamental fisheries science and, in particular, stock assessment modelling capacity. These are the underpinnings of fisheries management in Canada and are critical for the sustainability of our marine resources and the creation of more value from the blue economy.
Thank you for considering my input, and I welcome any comments or questions.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:20
Thank you for that.
We'll now go to Mr. Prevost for five minutes or less, please.
Mark Prevost
View Mark Prevost Profile
Mark Prevost
2022-06-21 11:20
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for inviting me to speak today. It is our understanding that we've been invited here to provide testimony as representatives of the fishing industry, and in particular as the manufacturer of an alternative bait for the crustacean fishery.
Bait Masters is based in Nine Mile Creek, Prince Edward Island. Through extensive research, we recognized that there was a high demand for an environmentally friendly bait product that was more cost-effective and sustainable in the crustacean trap fishing industry. Our concept came from our own experience working in the lobster fishery and having direct knowledge of the shortages of available bait due to the pervasive issues of declining pelagic fish stocks, the fluctuating cost of traditional bait, the waste of fresh bait due to spoilage and the messy preparation of fresh bait.
Assessing the size and scope of the bait industry for crustacean fishing is challenging. Industry participants and regulators all acknowledge the difficulty in collecting accurate data, as stated in the mackerel integrated fisheries management plan. The actual landings of mackerel are likely significantly underestimated, as mackerel used for bait is not included in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans official statistics. Current and traditional practices in the supply, distribution and sale of bait products have not lent themselves to accurate recording. We have estimated the size of the industry by combining the DFO-published information and what science and experience tells us about the amount of bait used to catch different species of crustaceans.
In Atlantic Canada, including Quebec, the DFO statistics for 2020 indicate that there are 8,749 lobster licences and 4,036 crab licences. Averaging out the number of traps per licence at 275—it ranges from 250 to 300—each trap uses a minimum of one pound of bait per trap. Multiplying by the length of the fishing season, Bait Masters roughly and conservatively estimates that the demand for bait in Atlantic Canada, including Quebec, is approximately 694 million pounds.
On April 30, 2022, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced the closing of the Atlantic mackerel and southern gulf spring spawning herring fisheries. The conservation and sustainability framework for Canadian fisheries and the integrated fisheries management plan indicated that mackerel stock has been at a critical level for the past 10 years, and the herring stock has been at a critical level for the past 20 years. Due to the current stock levels of mackerel, findings in audits by the Marine Stewardship Council have driven the need for actions that encourage and support improvement in mackerel fisheries management and mackerel stock assessment, and an imperative to identify sustainable alternatives to traditional baits.
Mr. Chair, this is hard for me. I'm probably the only guy who's going to be on a boat today, buying lobsters in fishing boats. I'm kind of struggling through this, but I'll finish it up here.
The closing of the mackerel and herring fisheries brings several issues into question. Sustainability of these two fisheries is critical for the long-term success of the crustacean fishery. The current data regarding stock levels are not accurate due to undeclared catches and the uncertainties in the scientific method of collecting the data, as indicated in both the mackerel and herring IFMP. Fishers needs bait, so they have looked for other sources, including importing mackerel from Norway and Spain and turning to other pelagic fish such as redfish. Is there a risk of impacting stock levels of other fish? Yes. What is the impact, economic and environmental, of importing fish for bait from other countries?
On bait regulations, Canada currently does not have any regulations regarding bait. There is no process for review, validation and certification that a species or product is safe for use in the ocean fisheries. There is no traceability of imported fish, so there is no understanding of the origin of fish.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources has a vigorous process to assess and validate bait used for fisheries. The review is conducted through a bait review committee comprised of scientists, and a qualitive risk assessment of each species and/or ingredient for a proposed bait is conducted. Additionally, a chain of custody for all species and ingredients is required once the bait is approved. This chain of custody is required to remain with the bait up to and including the end-user, which is the fisher. We suggest that such rigour be applied to bait in Canada.
On alternative bait, the crustacean fishery is a very traditional industry, maintaining practices that not only have endured the test of time, but have provided a livelihood and demonstrated success to those involved. Fishers are reluctant to change these practices, which in many cases have been passed down through generations. Bait is very much one of those traditions. It varies from fisher to fisher and geographic location.
To truly impact the stock levels of mackerel and herring, an alternative must be used to allow the rebuilding of the stock. The alternative must incorporate what the traditional fishers need without putting a strain on mackerel or herring or the introduction of a new species. To overcome generational traditions and practices, the traditional fishers will need an incentive to try a sustainable alternative bait. Their livelihoods depend on crustacean fishing seasons, and motivating them to change must be balanced with an offset to costs to minimize the risk to the fishers.
Thank you for letting me present today. We're not scientists, by any means, but we do have a deep understanding of the industry and the challenges we are facing. We know that we can be part of the solution.
We look forward to answering your questions and to the ongoing discussions.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:27
Thank you for that.
I'll just state, Mr. Prevost, that we're not interested right now in hearing from scientists. We want to hear from people in the industry like yourselves, so thank you again for doing this today.
We'll now go to our rounds of questioning.
Before I go to Mr. Perkins for six minutes or less, I will remind members to please try to identify who you want to answer the question. You'll make better use of your time.
Mr. Perkins, we'll go to you for six minutes or less.
View Rick Perkins Profile
CPC (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, witnesses, for appearing. We do appreciate it. We've had a balance of scientists—a lot of scientists—before the committee, but we also need to hear from those who are actually on the water and delivering this, because we believe there needs to be a balance. The minister needs both sides—at least both sides—in the decision-making process.
My first question is for Mr. Vascotto from the Atlantic Groundfish Council. I'm going to ask a question around a very specific issue.
On the Fundian Channel-Browns Bank area of interest—and for those who are watching, an area of interest is the last step before an area becomes a marine-protected area—according to DFO, that area encompasses important oceanographic processes and diverse sensitive habitats that provide shelter, feeding and nursery areas for a variety of commercial and non-commercial species. We know that's why. In particular, in lobster, for example, that's one of the two important breeding grounds for lobster in southwest Nova Scotia. It provides breeding for lobster from southwest Nova Scotia through New England—that and St. Mary's Bay.
Recently, only a few months ago, the minister announced that Facebook would be able to lay a fibre optic cable through that area, some of it on top because it's too hard to dig, and some of it buried right through that important breeding ground that is designated for a marine protected area. We know there have been a lot of science studies that show those cables have electromagnetic fields that could impact the migration patterns of lobsters, yet the minister allowed that to go through.
It seems like we're getting these contradictory messages from DFO. One says that we want to protect these areas, and the other says we're going to allow Facebook to drop a fibre optic cable right through a breeding ground for lobster.
I know that in response to this you made comments publicly, Mr. Vascotto, about the lack of consultation with the industry in doing that and on the terms around it. I'm wondering if you could take a few minutes to comment on that issue.
Kris Vascotto
View Kris Vascotto Profile
Kris Vascotto
2022-06-21 11:29
By all means, thank you very much for the question.
Really, this is one of those situations where the industry was directly contacted by a proponent who intended to put the cable down in the tail end of last year, which was 2021. This was never brought to our attention directly by the department. It was all done by a proponent on a last-minute basis.
We were actually one of the few groups that looked at this and said that we needed to engage in this. We directly engaged the proponent. We provided them with very clear evidence that, first, they were going through a potentially marine protected area, and that, second, they were coming directly through some very important fishing grounds of ours. We really had no idea what the implications of this were going to be. When we were initially contacted, we didn't know whether it was going to be sitting on top or going beneath and what the impacts would be to the values that were identified within that Fundian Channel area.
After this situation developed, we raised it with DFO in an advisory situation. We were promised to have some sort of consultation and discussion. That never actually transpired.
At the end of the day, we received a notice by telephone on a Friday afternoon from somebody in New Jersey that the cable was being installed in the coming weeks. When we reached back to the department on this, we were led to understand that this was because of some international regulations governing the way these communications cables are laid outside of 12 nautical miles.
What we found really quite interesting about this situation was what you brought focus to, which is what was going on in the Fundian Channel. They were able to avoid further scrutiny on this cable that was going through the Fundian Channel because the mitigation measure that was offered was to lay it across the top of the bottom, as opposed to doing any sort of destructive habitat work of sinking the cable underneath the sediments, where it would be protected from incursions due to gear effects, whether it be mobile gear, longline drift or anything like that.
At the end of the day, we were left on the outside, not really understanding how this activity was being permitted to happen or what the impacts were going to be to those conservation values that they had identified in establishing this area of interest that will inevitably become a marine protected area. We also really didn't understand what the impacts were going to be to our actual fishing activities.
This is very similar to somebody laying an extension cord across your driveway and telling you that you'll be responsible for it if you happen to run over it. That was especially troublesome for our members, who are actively fishing, processing groundfish and shipping them to customers around the world.
It was really a bit of a miss on our understanding in terms of what the impacts of the actual program were going to be, what our overall sectoral involvement was to potentially either help guide this cable to be outside of an area of interest—we're working with the department to try to establish an MPA for this—or move it away from our fishing ground, where members are actually out fishing today.
I hope I was able to address your inquiry, Mr. Perkins.
View Rick Perkins Profile
CPC (NS)
You did. Thank you very much.
I have a little bit of time left, so I'll ask one supplementary question.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:33
I have your time paused, so you won't lose it.
I have to ask for unanimous consent to continue since the bells are ringing. I see the lights flashing. I thought that's what I asked for at the beginning at the meeting, but somebody is telling me in my ear that I still have to ask for it.
You have 26 seconds left, Mr. Perkins.
View Rick Perkins Profile
CPC (NS)
That includes the answer.
My quick supplementary question, because I have many more questions, is that I understand that the department had a letter of advice to the companies involved as to what they had to do to mitigate those measures. I haven't seen it. DFO has refused to release it, as I understand. Have you seen it?
Kris Vascotto
View Kris Vascotto Profile
Kris Vascotto
2022-06-21 11:34
No. I have not seen it. I'm aware of the contents, which included basically.... The challenge was that there might be damage to sensitive benthos by burying, so the solution was to lay it on top in those areas.
View Rick Perkins Profile
CPC (NS)
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:34
Thank you, Mr. Perkins. Your time is up.
I will remind members that it's a 15-minute bell. We all agreed earlier that we'd vote from where we sit. When the vote is actually called, we'll get to it.
We'll go now to Mr. Kelloway for six minutes or less.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here.
It's an important study. The chair mentioned earlier the importance of hearing from scientists and also of hearing from people who work in the fishery. Your evidence and your testimony has equal weight and is so important. We're appreciative of it today.
My questions will be directed towards Mr. LeBlanc. I'll call you Leonard, if that's okay.
Leonard, you talk about the importance of science in your testimony. I want to go back to an important topic for everyone around this table—for the Atlantic region and the west coast as well—in relation to pinnipeds and establishing a strong foothold in terms of having it be a viable industry. Can you walk us through some of the things we need to be doing now in terms of making progress very soon and also some of the pitfalls we need to avoid, from your perspective?
Leonard LeBlanc
View Leonard LeBlanc Profile
Leonard LeBlanc
2022-06-21 11:35
Thank you for the question, MP Kelloway, or Mike, if I can call you that.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
Leonard LeBlanc
View Leonard LeBlanc Profile
Leonard LeBlanc
2022-06-21 11:35
We've known each other for a while. I think you're probably referring to seals and the overpopulation of seals in Atlantic Canada.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
That's correct.
Leonard LeBlanc
View Leonard LeBlanc Profile
Leonard LeBlanc
2022-06-21 11:36
That's something we have witnessed over many years, with the population getting bigger and bigger.
I think there's a need to have a science-based approach to start with. You need that. You need to establish markets for the product you're going to bring ashore. You may even expand into the medical field, because I think the Maggies were doing a study on possibly using the valves. They're probably better than the pig valves they're using now. You probably need to invest more money in that and see how viable it is.
Overall, the fishing industry must be included in the plan from the outset, because if it isn't, you'll be missing an important link. Every speaker who has spoken so far talked about the link of industry to science, and there's a need within this industry.
Action needs to take place, and it needs to take place soon. We need some action on this population that is taking over other species.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
Staying with that narrative, in terms of collaboration.... You talked about it in your opening statement with respect to the five-year study on scallops and how that's working. I'll get to that in a minute.
In terms of that collaboration, can you unpack...? We use words a lot around here, like “collaboration” and “co-operation”. In terms of collaboration with fishers to make significant movement forward on creating a viable, strategic, outcomes-based, rural economic boom for Atlantic Canada, what does that look like?
What would fishers want to see in a collaboration?
Leonard LeBlanc
View Leonard LeBlanc Profile
Leonard LeBlanc
2022-06-21 11:38
I think it starts by having industry input on the protocol. That would be the basis of how we start. You bring industry together in one room, you talk and you formulate from that an action plan to proceed.
What has happened on too many occasions is that DFO wrote a protocol, wrote the standard and then delivered it to industry and said, “Here it is.”
We need to take a step backward and involve industry from the very beginning, so that everybody understands where each side is coming from. You could maybe bring in somebody from marketing to help at the same time, but you need to involve industry from the very beginning, not after the protocol is written and DFO has decided what the action should be.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
I'm going to give Mr. LeBlanc a break, and I'll go to Bait Masters, if I can.
Number one, thank you for doing this today. I know it's an exceptionally busy time for you, as you stated. I appreciated the presentation.
Can you tell us what the demand is like for your product now? The second part of my question would be, if you had a crystal ball—and I know you don't, but if you did—what's the future for alternative bait?
Mark Prevost
View Mark Prevost Profile
Mark Prevost
2022-06-21 11:39
The hope is that there's a good future for it. The recent quota reductions, particularly for the mackerel and the herring.... All that did was hurt us more than it helped us, because now the quantity of mackerel and herring in the freezers in Atlantic Canada is higher than it's ever been. The amount of export coming into Canada from Morocco, Japan and Spain is higher than it's ever been. There's going to be more bait in our freezers, and everybody knows there's an issue with cold storage in Atlantic Canada now, because of the influx of bait.
I don't think the quota reductions are really helping right now. Over time, they probably will.
I believe that, with a lot of the stuff coming into Canada, there's probably some danger of contaminated fish or, for example, radioactive content in some of the mackerel from Japan.
Once all that washes out, I think what will happen is that we'll look for the next best thing. Fishermen, me included, need bait to fish with. We'll end up putting the strain on another species. You could see, most recently here in P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, gaspereau is now the fresh bait of choice. There's no more fresh herring or mackerel right now, so gaspereau is being overfished. It won't take long. It will be two years before we have an issue with that.
I didn't catch the second question.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
I don't know if I have time. Do I?
I have no time. I'll catch you on the other side.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:41
It's gone way over.
We'll now go to Madame Desbiens for six minutes or less, please.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll continue with Mr. Prevost.
I'm curious to know if you have Quebec roots. There are a lot of "LeBlancs" and "Prevosts" in Quebec. We'll talk about that in another context.
Mr. Prevost, you talked about an alternative bait. I recently travelled to the Magdalen Islands, where I met with sealers. We discussed the possible implementation of a seal population management plan. They were concerned that seals would be harvested for hunting purposes only, rather than with full respect for the animal.
I was informed that there was a research process to turn residue from seal into bait. Once the seal meat and skin are recovered, the residue could make interesting bait for your fishing activities.
Can you tell us what you think about this?
Mark Prevost
View Mark Prevost Profile
Mark Prevost
2022-06-21 11:43
My Prince Edward Island French isn't that fast. I missed most of that. If anybody could redirect for me that would be helpful.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:43
At the bottom of your screen you can select floor, English or French. If you select English, it will be translated into your ear as it's being spoken in French here in the room.
Mark Prevost
View Mark Prevost Profile
Mark Prevost
2022-06-21 11:43
Rookie mistake.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:43
I will ask Madame Desbiens to ask the question again as short as possible and allow you to give an answer.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm not going to talk about your surnames this time. We'll talk about that later.
I recently met with sealers in the Magdalen Islands. They plan to increase the seal harvest, if possible, but only if the hunt is respectful and socially acceptable. They want to make the most of the animal killed by using every part of it. When the meat has been consumed and the skin used, the residue could make interesting bait for your type of fishing.
Have you heard of this? Can you give me your opinion on this?
Mark Prevost
View Mark Prevost Profile
Mark Prevost
2022-06-21 11:44
We've heard of it and we've been asked numerous times. We had a minister in here last week, the minister of rural development from Newfoundland. I believe it's worthwhile to investigate trying it in an alternative bait. Right now we're using 80% by-product in our bait sausages. We have proof of concept, and we're selling it so we can make money at it.
With the seal we don't know. We would have to grind up and test 10,000. Typically a field test is 10,000 sausages against 10,000 bait products the fishermen are already using. As far as lobster diet and crab diet goes, seal would work I would think. We're investigating.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
In any case, I am interested. As long as there is a risk of radioactivity with mackerel from Japan, I would prefer that the lobsters harvested here be caught with the residue from an animal that has been honoured beforehand by the concept.
I'll now turn to Mr. LeBlanc.
We're talking about better predictability that could benefit herring and mackerel fishermen, among others. They're asking DFO to provide more predictability in terms of financial or other compensation for decisions it has to make suddenly.
Should we suggest to DFO that it always provide for some sort of clearing bank when it has to make decisions quickly?
Leonard LeBlanc
View Leonard LeBlanc Profile
Leonard LeBlanc
2022-06-21 11:46
I'll answer you in the same language.
Personally, I think it's necessary when decisions are made on short notice. When DFO decides to close a fishery after very little discussion with the industry, it should compensate the people who totally depend on that fishery.
I think that would be necessary.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
I really like your pedigree—pardon the expression. I really like the experience you have acquired during your 36 years as president of your organization. You must have seen all kinds of things. You remind me a little bit of my father. I don't want to make you feel old, but I'm referring to all the experience you have in the field.
We can all see that there may be a provision that will lead us to strongly advise DFO to take into account the realities on the ground. In this sense, you spoke earlier of science as an ally, but you said you needed openness, and therefore better communications.
Do you think it is possible, in the short term, to ensure that communications are more effective between DFO science and the people on the ground, both in your region and elsewhere?
Leonard LeBlanc
View Leonard LeBlanc Profile
Leonard LeBlanc
2022-06-21 11:46
Yes, discussions on science could take place right away. There's no need to wait. In the case of the herring and mackerel fisheries, DFO wants to have discussions in the fall. In my opinion, that's too far away. When a fishery ends, meetings should be held without delay. The time allowed for discussing certain subjects should be limited.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:48
I'm sorry, Madame Desbiens. Your time has gone over.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:48
I did allow an extra minute for the question that Mr. Prevost didn't hear, or get translated.
We'll now go to Ms. Barron for six minutes or less, please.
View Lisa Marie Barron Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses who are here today. It's really valuable to us in this study that we hear this information, and we appreciate all of the statements and questions that are being answered today.
My first question I wanted to ask is for Mr. Prevost.
Again, thank you for being here. You spoke a bit today about there currently not being a process for review, validation and certification that a species or product is safe for use as bait in the crustacean fisheries. You also spoke about the importance of the chain of custody to remain with the bait right up until the time it's in the hands of the fisher, and also referenced the Maine Department of Marine Resources as a good example of that chain of command that occurs.
I'm wondering how you think the lack of understanding of the origin of the fish that's being used as bait impacts our ability to sustainably fish. Do you have any thoughts around that?
Mark Prevost
View Mark Prevost Profile
Mark Prevost
2022-06-21 11:50
It's a good question. Thank you.
We manufacture an alternative bait, so there are ingredients in it.... It's all fish, but some of the ingredients that are being used now, I guess in alternative baits, regularly wouldn't pass the conditions required by the Department of Marine Resources. I think as fishermen start switching to alternatives there's a danger in.... We do the risk assessments and the studies so that we know we're not going to negatively impact the biomass or the lobster...or that we're going to give something to a lobster that somebody's going to eat.
I also think, with proper chain of custody, it avoids a lot of the undeclared catch or any of the cash stuff that goes on and whatever happens. There's a lot of product coming and going for cash, and it takes care of that, which helps people track. DFO, if they want accurate stats, they need to have an accurate recording of what's being sold and what's being used.
For some of the custom baits, the first thing we do before we introduce a species for bait is that we'll put it through a risk assessment so that we know it's safe for the biomass and it's also safe for human consumption if the lobster is eating it and then somebody is eating the lobster. That's what I think. Something like that's important for Canada.
View Lisa Marie Barron Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much.
My next question is for Mr. Bonnell.
We've spoken a lot about the importance of stock assessments and the vessels required to conduct the stock assessments. One point you touched on was the investment in a green class designated vessel. I'm wondering if you could speak a bit more about how DFO has involved fishers in a transition to a greener fleet and expand on what that designation actually entails.
Carey Bonnell
View Carey Bonnell Profile
Carey Bonnell
2022-06-21 11:52
Yes. Thank you for your question.
That's the newest vessel added to our fleet, the MV Calvert, which is our largest factory freezer trawler operating in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. It has been an industry process that has really driven that exercise. With a new vessel build, you have the opportunity to do things the way you want to do them and to follow best practices. It's kind of difficult with existing vessels in the fleet—modifications are more challenging—but when you're starting from scratch, as we were, you want to put in all the modern technologies.
I think, based on our estimation—I'm trying to recall the numbers now—compared to another vessel of a comparable size, with a green class designation we save about 2.5-million kilowatt hours of energy per year and have about 500 tonnes of saved fuel per year. Think about the reduced greenhouse gas emissions and think about the reduced costs. Given the cost of fuel right now, that's a major consideration. It has everything from LED lighting throughout the vessel to automated technology on board the vessel and clean exhaust technology. It's state of the art in terms of everything that's available that we've installed on this vessel, and we're quite proud of it. We're quite pleased with it, and as we go through a continual fleet renewal over the coming years, we'll be looking to do the same thing.
This is one step in a multistep process that we look at as a company, ranging from vessels to obviously working with DFO on stock assessment science and trying to advance best practices there, to marine bioprocessing and waste utilization. We are an industry that I would say is generally continuously looking at ways to do things better, to do things more environmentally sustainably.
I would say that fish as a protein source is already among the lowest carbon sources of protein you'll find globally, but we continue to look at ways of doing it better and doing it more efficiently. Some of that is driven by industry. Some of that is driven, obviously, by government, and some by ENGOs, but moving in this manner along the spectrum of sustainability is a responsibility that I think we all bear and we're all pursuing. I think that's a fair point.
View Lisa Marie Barron Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you. I love hearing about this. It's a great step in the right direction.
I don't think you answered this question: Are there any barriers that you're seeing for others in being able to go down this road you're taking to ensure that your vessels are greener and more sustainable?
Carey Bonnell
View Carey Bonnell Profile
Carey Bonnell
2022-06-21 11:54
The key barriers on the vessel side, if that's the specific question, are that it's very difficult.... I lived in the space. I worked in academia before coming into industry, and I ran an organization called the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation for a number of years as well. It's very challenging to modify existing vessels in the fleet. Whether it's an inshore vessel, an offshore vessel or a middle-distance vessel, the costs involved in modifying vessels to be greener and more sustainable are very challenging.
There are things you can do, obviously, to get more efficient, but when you're starting from scratch, when you're going through fleet renewal and building a new vessel, you have the option to look at, in the inshore sector, a length-to-beam ratio that's more appropriate to ensure a streamlined vessel in the water to cut down on fuel costs. You can look at bulbous bow designs. You can look at reducing sulphur emissions. There are all kinds of things that you can look at doing with a new build that are kind of difficult with the existing fleet.
Where industry is moving to renewal...and I should say that there are programs out there. I mean, if there's one area.... You asked for what the Government of Canada is doing, and obviously there are programs like the clean-tech fund. That's available right now coast to coast to coast is my understanding. Industry can avail itself of that to look at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on vessels, in plants and throughout the value chain and the supply chain. Expansion of programs like that would be quite valuable to continue to help industry down this road to look at possible cost-sharing for some of these improvements where the costs are prohibitive and to take on sector-specific initiatives to help advance this agenda. I think the maintenance and continuation of programs like the clean-tech fund, as an example, would be quite beneficial.
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2022-06-21 11:56
Thank you, Ms. Barron. We're a bit over time.
We'll go to Mr. Arnold to see if we can get his five minutes in before we have to take part in a vote.
View Mel Arnold Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses today.
This study is one that I put forward to examine how the Department of Fisheries and Oceans prioritizes resources and develops science studies and advice for the department, how the results of the science study are communicated to the minister and Canadians, and how the minister applies data and advice provided by the department and other government departments in ministerial decisions.
Mr. Vascotto, I'll start with you.
On June 2 at our meeting here, Melanie Giffin of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association told the committee that her association has not always been invited to participate in the DFO science and science advisory processes. In the past when the association made a request for a seat at the table, it has been denied even a seat as an observer during that process. In her view, there is a lack of interest by DFO in hearing what fish harvesters have to say.
Considering that harvesters see changes in the marine environment before DFO scientists, Mr. Vascotto, in your opinion, how should fish harvesters' knowledge be integrated into the CSAS process?
Kris Vascotto
View Kris Vascotto Profile
Kris Vascotto
2022-06-21 11:58
Thank you very much for the question. This is one of those issues that is near and dear to all of our hearts.
Industry members are able to bring forward a unique position. I look around at the list of witnesses we have at this meeting today. They are actually able to bring observations that are outside of the standard, whether those be DFO research vessel surveys or some sort of external viewing through a satellite image of chlorophyll or things like that. They are observing things on the water.
Bringing these people into the CSAS process is incredibly valuable because they're able to discuss and present this information, which trained scientists can then take and actually formulate advice from. When data is being presented that might not necessarily match the interpretation from the fishery, context can be provided [Technical difficulty—Editor] fishery.
We recently had a CSAS process whereby they were discussing bycatching and bycatch patterns. Because we were able to include industry members that had experience in that fishery, they were able to point out that some of the data being presented was incorrectly pulled from a database. It was leading to very inappropriate examples of where bycatch was being encountered, what was being encountered and at what rates.
By allowing the industry—
View Mel Arnold Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
I have a whole series of questions, so I have to try to move on, if I can.
How would you say that academics and environmental non-governmental organizations collaborate with fish harvesters in the science projects?
Kris Vascotto
View Kris Vascotto Profile
Kris Vascotto
2022-06-21 11:59
We collaborate directly with them. We often work directly with DFO science if they require some additional information, whether it be length-weight relationships being derived from a plant or gonad samples being taken from our vessels.
With the environmental non-governmental organizations, we also try to collaborate where we have a common interest or goal in mind. Sometimes this can be challenging because some people come to the table with different perspectives.
I'll keep it short for you. Thank you.
View Mel Arnold Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
How difficult is it for you to evaluate whether a particular DFO management decision or policy has been evidence-informed?
Kris Vascotto
View Kris Vascotto Profile
Kris Vascotto
2022-06-21 12:00
Thank you for the question.
We look at the decisions as they come out. We also have as evidence the CSAS reports that are being produced, which can tell us what our projected stock is going to do and what factors are involved. They actually provide that clear advice to the minister, which is translated through the groundfish advisory or those resource advisory committees.
When a decision comes down that is outside of those key areas or key recommendations, then we begin to ask questions about how this was developed and what the basis of it was. Sometimes we come up mystified; other times there is a real rationale. We just need to be able to understand it such that we can gain the greater industry buy-in.
View Mel Arnold Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
What industry inputs are most absent from the DFO science process?
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