Mr. Chair, thank you.
Thank you for inviting us, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, to appear before you today.
I'm the commission's legislative liaison, and with me today is Dr. Marc Gaden, the commission's communications director. Together we're here to provide you with a brief overview of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and to present our budget request.
It's good to begin with why the Great Lakes are so important, not just for Ontario but to all Canadians. They are a binational treasure and a top economic driver for the country. Aside from their environmental significance, they provide thousands of jobs, and the economic impact of the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes basin reverberates nationally. We cannot underestimate the environmental and social impacts of the lakes, nor should we minimize the connections between the lakes and the area's indigenous communities.
The fishery is worth more than $8 billion annually, and this doesn't take into account the economic multiplier impact of the lakes, be it in tourism, trade or many other economic and social or environmental benefits. History tells us that if we are to preserve these advantages, we need to be collaborative.
More than one treaty fell apart because Canada and the U.S. could not agree on how to tackle our shared problems, but by 1954 governments finally moved past these rivalries and ratified the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries as a treaty. That treaty created the commission and gave us three primary duties: one, to formulate and drive a science program upon which to base fishery management decisions; two, to help the management agencies work together, as divided governance had led to inconsistent regulations, parochial actions and a race to the bottom; and three, to formulate and deliver a sea lamprey control program. The sea lamprey is an invasive predator that is incredibly destructive to both the fishery and the economy.
The commission ended the cross-border bickering that resulted in constant conflict and a collapsed fishery. The commission created a scientific understanding of the fishery and how to address problems and, most noteworthy, it reduced lamprey populations by 90%. This work has facilitated restoration of that $8-billion fishery.
Our treaty is premised on cross-border partnerships and a pledge by both nations to fund the commission's work. A funding formula, which both nations agree to respect, does exist, and for the sea lamprey program the U.S. pays 69% and Canada pays 31%. For science and cross-border coordination, our two nations have agreed to share all costs equally. The U.S. has fulfilled its funding commitments, but Canada has been behind for many years.
To meet this funding formula, Canada should be contributing $19.44 million annually, compared to our actual contribution of $9.54 million, which amounts to a $9.9-million annual shortfall. Canada's funding deficit places the commission's work and our relationship with our treaty partner at risk. This underfunding means that Canada is shortchanging lamprey control, contributing nothing to the commission's science mandate and providing nothing to our efforts for cross-border co-operation and other programming.
To remedy this, I would urge the committee that Canada's commitment should be brought into alignment. For the budget under discussion, we propose that Canada contribute $13.15 million, to be increased to $19.44 million by 2022. The latter figure will bring the two nations into alignment and reflects funding that is very important to maintaining and improving the fishery. It would also allow the commission to devote full attention to sea lamprey control. Current research tells us that we're underfunding sea lamprey control by 25% and therefore not taking full advantage of what the fishery offers. It should be noted that a failure to adequately fund control measures could allow populations to rebound and threaten fish stocks.
With additional funds, we would devote more attention to research that is very critical to sound fisheries management. We would devote more attention to our mandate to help agencies work together and to communicate our work to those who will put it to real-world use. This would allow us to better prepare for challenges, such as those posed by the Asian carp.
With additional funds, Canada would, for the first time in more than a generation, meet our treaty commitment. Details, including budget tables, have been provided to the clerk and are available from me upon request.
Let me end with a brief note about a machinery-of-government change that is in the works. The commission believes that we should again fall under GAC's umbrella and not DFO's, as we are an international treaty organization with a binational mandate. The commission needs a political partner that can sit with the U.S. State Department if past successes are to continue. We're in discussions on the subject and we are optimistic.
In closing, the fishery is important culturally and economically and is well worth this small investment.
Our two nations have a long-standing mechanism in place to manage this binational resource. To be frank, it works, though the lack of Canadian funding has raised eyebrows in Washington for years. We have a 65-year track record of success. The $8-billion-a-year fishery is proof of that. We hope this committee can help us move forward in a way that will benefit both nations and the resource that we are tasked to protect.
Thank you for having us here. I would be happy to answer any questions.