Skip to content

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on

Issue 10 - Evidence

OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 23, 2001

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries met this day at 7:00 p.m. to examine matters relating to the fishing industry.

Senator Gerald J. Comeau (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: This evening we are continuing the study we had commenced on inland and northern fisheries. Our witness from Nayumivik Landholding Corporation is Mr. Allen Gordon, President; and from the Makivik Corporation, Mr. Geoff Klein, biologist. I would welcome both of you.

Our fact-finding group had a most enjoyable visit to your area in the spring, and we thank you for your hospitality. We were delighted to learn about the programs in your region. So impressed was our group, that we want to get on the record here in Ottawa what is being done in your area. I understand you had some interesting sessions today. I am pleased that they went well.

Do you have some opening comments before we proceed to questions?

Mr. Allen Gordon, President, Nayumivik Landholding Corporation: Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting us to appear before your committee this evening. It is good to see you again since we went to the site in June and released the "little fish" - the small char.

The Chairman: I was fortunate enough to be one of the people chosen to open a bag to release the little fish into the water. I look forward to going back and having access to some of that fish when it has grown and I can catch it.

Senator Mahovlich: Have you released any more?

Mr. Gordon: Since you were there, over time, we have release almost all of them.

Senator Mahovlich: How many have been released?

Mr. Gordon: Almost all of the 31,000.

Mr. Geoff Klein, Biologist, Makivik Corporation: We kept back 8,000, and then we grew them and then released them.

The Chairman: I understand that you have a videotape you would like to show the committee.

Mr. Gordon: Yes. I think the video will give you a good idea of what we have done. It is amateur footage which was mostly taken by me. Actually, my wife and I were still editing it a half hour before the jet took off yesterday, so bear with me. This is not a professional videotape. We do not have the resources and funds to produce a nice, fancy video.

The Chairman: That is not a problem for us.

Mr. Gordon: That is how we have been working for the last few years.

The Chairman: We certainly appreciate the valuable work that you people are doing in that area. It shows the commitment that you have to what you are doing.

Senator Watt: Would the showing of the videotape be your introduction?

Mr. Gordon: Absolutely. I could keep the volume off and explain as it is playing. I think the presentation will take about 15 minutes.

(Video Presentation)

Mr. Gordon: Some of you were at the site. This video will give you an idea of what we have done. The fish passage here, or "fishway," is as a result of dynamiting. We are looking at its lower section. The people you see have been involved in the project: Peter Adams from Makivik, myself, and the engineer who designed the fishway. The pool we just saw is where the char used to stop. They could not go further up because the two waterfalls.

The blasting took approximately two weeks of work. As you can see, we had no heavy equipment. It was all done by hand.

At the upper part of the channel, you can see that a lot of rocks have been moved around. The second obstacle was a six-foot-high waterfall that char could not go up. Char are known to be able to jump only four feet up a waterfall. The two waterfalls that presented obstacles were, respectively, nine feet high and six feet high. We made channels on the sides of those falls to make the lakes above accessible. Various organizations participated in the first phase, which was to make the passages.

In this part of the video we are trying to show you what was involved. Our friend, this lonely muskox bull walked by daily for the six weeks we were there.

Two compressors were flown down from the village by helicopter. However, because we had no heavy equipment, no loaders, for example, the channels were cleared by hand. That took several weeks.

Senator Mahovlich: Did you not blast?

Mr. Gordon: We first dynamited, and then we had to clear the debris. The men would go through a couple of pairs of gloves a day, because the rocks had sharp edges that cut them. We used sandbags to block the channels when we were clearing them. You can see where we have blasted down the side and up. People in Kuujjuak always knew the char would end up in the area you can see, but they did not expect them to end up further up.

Senator Watt: Why could artic char not reach the pool we see?

Mr. Gordon: It is because the ice would get so thick in the winter.

The work we have done is approximately one mile from the saltwater Dry Bay. I am pointing to Ungava Bay. Senator Watt has a cabin in this area, and I have one further down. I am showing the bakeapple berries we have in the area.

In 1999, after blasting and within a week of clearing some rocks, we installed a counting fence to find out how quickly char would, indeed, use the fishway. We counted 92 char in 11 days. They had started to use the channels immediately.

Senator Watt: Was that in the first year?

Mr. Gordon: Yes. We obtained these results within a week and half of opening the channel. I am pointing at char going up the fishway.

Senator Watt: They did not waste any time.

Mr. Gordon: We placed monitoring equipment in the fishway to learn about the length of the char using the fishway.

Senator Watt: What size were they?

Mr. Gordon: They were averaging 30 to 35 centimetres.

Mr. Klein: That was in the middle of the season. At the beginning of the run, we saw some very large char, all spawning sizes, of 45 and 60 centimetres. In the beginning of the run, they were all small, 30 to 35 centimetres. At the end, a few large ones came through. One was 70 centimetres.

Mr. Gordon: Although it is mostly char, a few brook trout and whitefish have also gone up the fishway. We had one sucker.

The video is showing an aerial view of the channels.

Although this part of the film is poor quality, one can see a char about to enter the fishway using the recently built channel. The year is 1999.

The view is now of the channel on a cloudy day. We noticed that char tend to go up on such days, probably for protection from predation. That day most char used the run in the early afternoon.

Senator Watt: Did they use it during or after a high tide?

Mr. Gordon: We noticed them enter the run a couple of hours after high tide.

Senator Watt: Do they rest in that pool before going up the run?

Mr. Gordon: Yes, most likely they are adjusting from salt water to freshwater. Some of these are spawning sizes. You can see some are quite large.

The Chairman: How old are the fish we can see?

Mr. Klein: The smaller fish are five or six years old, and the larger ones are upwards of 15. Some may reach 20 years.

Mr. Gordon: We now have a hatchery.

Senator Mahovlich: Why do you need a hatchery if the char go up the fishway and spawn?

Mr. Gordon: Development of a large population will take too long. As we saw, there are only a few spawning sizes.

To stock our hatchery we go to Finger Lake, 85 miles from Kuujjuaq, near the village of Tasiujaq where the population has generously given us approval to obtain eggs. We obtained 35,000 eggs last year, the first year of the hatchery operation. This fall we received approval for 100,000 eggs and, ultimately, took 109,000 eggs. After the eggs are taken, the fish is released, not killed.

(Video Presentation Paused)

Senator Watt: The farming of Artic char seems to be getting off the ground down south. Do you know how and when and with what authorization people are taking the eggs to the south? Do you know who is involved in that?

Mr. Gordon: Are you asking about eggs taken to the south from our area?

Senator Watt: Yes, I am referring to eggs taken from anywhere in the Arctic to the south.

Mr. Klein: As far as I know, nobody has taken them from Nunavik. Personnel from a company known as Icy Waters arrived unannounced in George River. They indicated they were there to obtain eggs. The George River community would not give them permission to take eggs. They then went to Labrador for eggs. We were informed that they spent a million dollars there for only 6,000 eggs.

We had to attend Guelph University to learn how to raise char. There we were informed that only three genetic stocks of Artic char eggs are in use in aquaculture. One stock originated from Tree River in the Northwest Territories. The other two are from Nauyak Lake, Nunavut.

There is a real demand for new brood stock. Artic Char are very popular in the south for aquaculture, because they can be grown to such high densities.

The Chairman: I understand that Artic char is not native to southern climes.

Mr. Klein: That is true.

The Chairman: Are these Artic char being introduced in southern climes?

Mr. Klein: No. They stay on farms. They are being grown in ponds.

The Chairman: They are not being introduced into the ocean at all?

Mr. Klein: No.

The Chairman: Is it possible that a grower could release unwanted stock into the sea and that they could start living in southern waters?

Mr. Klein: I would be surprised if such fish would survive.

The Chairman: If Artic char were dumped into rivers and other inland bodies of water, might they start breeding, as was the case with Atlantic salmon farmed on the West Coast? It was said that the salmon would not be able to live in B.C. waters, and apparently they are now breeding in those waters.

Mr. Klein: That is true. We do not have any data that indicates that Artic char could not survive.

The Chairman: Is there a possibility that a new, exotic species, Arctic char, could be introduced to southern waters? Do you know of any precautions being taken by governments to keep these fish out of our rivers?

Mr. Klein: I do not believe there is such a possibility. I am certain legislation is in place that disallows such stocking.

The Chairman: Are you familiar with it?

Mr. Klein: I am not.

The Chairman: Atlantic salmon came to be farmed in British Columbia, without our knowing whether or not such farming was authorized. It just suddenly happened.

Mr. Klein: The salmon growers were saying continuously that there was no danger, and that Atlantic salmon could not outcompete the Pacific salmon. Now juvenile Atlantic salmon have been found in western watersheds.

The Chairman: It reminds me of the old saying: "It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature."

Senator Watt: Do you know of anyone who might be extracting those eggs from the char stock and transporting them to the south? It is a fact that this practice has been going on for quite a number of years. To my knowledge, no organized authorities are providing authorizations to such people. They are bootlegging. This is undesirable because these bootleggers are undermining a potential economic base for people in the North. That should not be tolerated.

Senator Cook: Are you saying that somebody goes to the North and, without authorization, removes these eggs?

Senator Watt: Yes. Small aircraft come practically every year to the George River area to do that. These occurrences have been monitored and identified by David Annanack and others. The people with the aircraft operate in secret, but what they do is fly into the area, take Artic char eggs from fish, and place the eggs in a container.

Senator Cook: Do these people then raise the stock? Do you know what happens after that?

Senator Watt: I have no idea where the eggs go.

Mr. Klein: The motivation to take eggs is huge. The Guelph people told us that for species that have long been established in aquaculture, like brook trout or rainbow trout, the egg cost is minimal. It is maybe 4 or 5 cents an egg. However, an Artic char eyed egg is much more valuable. Halfway through development, the embryo develops an eye which appears as a black dot. At that point the egg is very hardy, very robust. It can be shipped across the country in a styrofoam box with an ice covering for three or four days without problems. At this stage of development, Artic char eggs are worth as much as 28 cents each. A person who strips 100,000 eggs out of a fish has $28,000 worth of eggs. The expense of making the trip is quickly covered.

The Chairman: Senator Watt, we would like some further information from officials on this. Could you please write to the Minister requesting that his officials provide us with whatever information they have on the subject?

Senator Watt: I have another question that I would like to put to Mr. Klein. Do you know Geoff Power?

Mr. Klein: I do. He was in the video just shown.

Senator Watt: Mr. Power is a long-standing friend of mine. We have known each other for more than 30 years. I will contact him. We may want to bring him in as a witness, because he could provide some relevant information in the areas we have discussed.

Senator Cook: Do you police your own area to ensure that people cannot steal the fish eggs?

Mr. Klein: Policing is very difficult. There are 8,000 people in all of Nunavik, an area one-third the size of Quebec. Anybody with a little airplane can land where they want, undetected.

We do not know where the fish spawn. If somebody knows, they can just come in and nobody would be around to see them.

I understand, however, that there is an agreement with Tasiujaq that these genetics will never go south.

Mr. Gordon: We have a verbal agreement with the community to not send eggs anywhere without authorization.

Last January, when our eggs hatched prematurely, the Quebec government biologist asked that we send him half of the small fry to their Tadoussac hatchery. I adamantly refused. Our agreement with Tasiujaq is clear that this year we will not send eggs or small fry anywhere other than to lakes near our project.

(Video Presentation Resumed)

Mr. Gordon: At the Finger River, we go fishing at night with dip nets and flashlights. We catch as many females and males as we can, and place them in separate holding pens. The next day we strip them of their eggs.

I am indicating a method of counting and estimating the number of eggs.

Mr. Klein: We determine the diameter of the eggs on a little trough. We count out how many eggs cover 30 centimetres. A conversion chart tells us approximately how many that is.

Mr. Gordon: We transport them back to Kuujjuaq in little water jugs.

Sometimes we have to get more fish the next day because some females captured the night before have already spawned out, or they are not ready.

We are now looking at the Kuujjuaq hatchery. Another estimate of the number of eggs is taken here. The eggs are then placed in incubator trays. The man you saw is Gaétan Soucy from the Gaspé. He has been helping us.

The trays hold approximately 5,000 eggs each. You can see white eggs. Those eggs are dead. We spread the eggs out.

Senator Watt: How many weeks after that stage do the eggs hatch?

Mr. Klein: It depends on the water temperature.

Mr. Gordon: Our experts informed us last year that they were to be hatched in April. In fact, one night in the middle of January, when I checked, they had already hatched. The fish are seven or eight weeks old at the stage you can see on the film.

Mr. Klein: The date is March 5. They hatched out in mid-January.

Senator Mahovlich: Do you change the temperature of the water as the fry develop?

Mr. Klein: We do not change it intentionally. The water temperature is a constant three degrees in winter. When the ice breaks, the temperature drops because of snow melt. It then rises. It did not exceed 12 degrees all summer.

Mr. Gordon: Our first release was in early June. We gave the honours to the mayor of Tasiujaq to release the first bag of little fish in Stewart Lake. Another view is taken underwater by an amateur diver. Some of fish in this view seemed to be in shock. They just floated down. Quite a few, however, swam between the rocks right away. I saw some footage where the fish were eating within minutes of being released.

I am really pushing this because I love to go fishing. We have to go great distances by helicopter because there are no char near Kuujjuaq. My friend Peter Duncan takes me out char fishing with his helicopter every spring. We would like to have char near Kuujjuaq so we can fish them nearby. This picture shows the traditional spear, a "kativak." This picture demonstrates how char is caught today. I have used an old hockey stick, in two pieces. We hope our children will be able to practice what we do.

(Video Presentation concluded)

Senator Mahovlich: Does the federal government conduct scientific research on char in the Arctic?

Mr. Klein: I think the research has been cut back. A woman in Winnipeg whose first name I do not know, a Dr. DeMarch, I think, used to do research into Arctic char husbandry in the early stages, but I believe her funding was pulled.

All that is being done now is to compile a genetic database. Federal government biologists collect char from across the Arctic to study how the different stock interrelates. I do not know of any other federal research.

Senator Mahovlich: I have read that anadromous stocks have a very high growth rate in seawater. Are there any saltwater fish farms?

Mr. Klein: There are none near Kuujjuaq. We have ice in winter, so we cannot do cage aquaculture. That technology is a phenomenon used south of the Gaspé.

Senator Mahovlich: Is open water need year-round?

Mr. Klein: Open water is needed before you can have cage aquaculture. In Iceland, people do something called "sea ranching." The fish are not confined, and are not fed with antibiotics. The fish are not grown at a high density, just to a size where they can go to sea. When the fish come back, the growers strip their eggs.

To make that economical, you need certainty of about a 10 per cent return of the fish that go out. It might be possible for us to obtain an estimate, but not with the funding we have at hand.

Senator Mahovlich: Do hatchery-raised fish released into the wild have any negative effects on the genetic composition of the gene pool.

Mr. Klein: Not in our case. We do not really know where the char we have in Dry Bay come from.

Mr. Gordon: The fish come from the Tasiujak area.

Mr. Klein: That is likely the stock that is caught in Kuujjuaq, but there are no char stocks near Kuujjuaq. That is the impetus for our project.

How many kilometres would you say char swim?

Mr. Gordon: Char are known to move around during summertime. Different stocks along the coast mix in the summertime, as they feed and fatten up.

It is a known fact that they do not necessarily go back to where they were born.

Senator Mahovlich: Different stock may return to your lakes.

Mr. Gordon: Absolutely.

Mr. Klein: Larger fish may move up to 70 kilometres from their home systems in summer.

In all likelihood, the fish that we see in summer in front of Kuujjuaq likely come from that stock. We are therefore not polluting the genetics at all because we are taking the fish from the same stock. We are not bringing them in from Labrador or Nunavut.

The Chairman: I would like to introduce a new member to the committee tonight. It is his first time in attendance. Please welcome Senator "Jigger" Phalen. His first name is Gerard. As we were discussing with the witnesses earlier, with a name like "Jigger," obviously you should be a member of the Fisheries Committee. I welcome you to the committee.

Senator Phalen: Thank you.

How long is the char in the river before swimming to saltwater?

Mr. Klein: It depends on, again, the temperature and the productivity of the system. Basically, the fish will swim to saltwater when it reaches a length of 12 to 15 centimetres, when it is capable of smoltifying. Before that length, I do not know why they do not go to sea. They may not be capable of the hormonal changes required, or perhaps they cannot forage. However, the fish remain in lakes until they reach that size. If the lake is unproductive and very cold, growth could take five or six years.

When Mr. Gordon was first conducting research, we found that char in those lakes would go to sea after three or four years.

Senator Phalen: How long do they stay in the sea?

Mr. Klein: They stay only for the summer.

Senator Phalen: Do they come back in?

Mr. Klein: They have to.

Senator Phalen: Do they migrate between lake and sea yearly?

Mr. Klein: We think so. Nobody really knows if they migrate annually, or every two years, or over longer periods. Research data from Norway suggests that these fish went only two or three times in their lifetime, and that was based on a 20-odd year-old fish. It is thought, in general, that they go annually.

Senator Phalen: It appears that those studies are not complete.

Mr. Klein: Research is expensive and there is not much interest in it. I am interested to know where they spend their time because I want to know how susceptible the fish are to capture, either in the lake or the ocean.

It is based on the strontium-calcium ratio. Strontium is much richer in the ocean. Calcium is much richer in the lakes. Both elements go into building a hard structure in the head, the inner ear, of the fish called the "ear stone," or "otolith."The ratio can be useful in determining age. The otolith has growth rings, like a tree. We use an electron probe to go from the centre of the otolith to its outer edge. As well as telling the age of the structure, laser ablation will produce a spike when a lot of strontium is present. Then you know the fish has gone to sea.

Senator Phalen: Have studies been done to determine that the fish do not come back to the same river?

Mr. Klein: Those are probably tagging studies. I do not know what the technology was. I have read that mostly in summary data.

Senator Phalen: Is it known for a fact that these fish do not return to the same river?

Mr. Klein: Unlike Pacific and Atlantic salmon, which may be found within a metre of where they were born, Arctic char move around a lot more. This mixing may be due to the nature of the changeable habitat. It is so risky to live in the North, that you need a search strategy to find another system in case a waterfall blocks your system one year.

Senator Cook: Do you see this project ever developing a commercial market, or do you just see it as a medium to provide food and recreation for your community?

Mr. Gordon: It depends on the stock. If char become abundant it may become commercially viable. The James Bay agreement permits our community unrestricted trade for cash. Thus, some communities may deplete their char stocks in another 20, 30 years with rapid population growth. Commercial availability is possible if the habitat is very productive.

Senator Cook: Would you consider a sport fishery a first step toward this end, people coming north to fish char in the river system?

Mr. Gordon: Only a few outfitters offer char fishing. It is certainly possible that an outfitting camp may be developed in our lakes.

Senator Cook: Am I correct that there is a viable char fishery on the northern Labrador coast from Goose Bay north?

Senator Watt: Yes, there is.

Senator Cook: The Eagle River offers up a lot of Arctic char. A lot of sports fishermen go there. It brings jobs into the area.

Senator Watt: They go to places in Labrador such as Hopedale and Makkovik.

Senator Cook: Do you have any way knowing if those fish come to visit you or not?

Mr. Klein: Those ones are probably too far. After a few generations, maybe they can hopscotch across.

Senator Cook: They could come across the Torngat.

Mr. Gordon: Eighty-five miles to the north, where we obtain the eggs, there is an outfitting camp. That is why it is easy to get the eggs. A landing strip and lodges are right there. The spawning site is at walking distance from the outfitting camp. The people there have been very willing to help us out. In fact, I believe a world-record char was caught at Finger Lake, a 32-pounder, in 1972.

Senator Cook: To the north?

Mr. Gordon: Right at the site from where we take the eggs.

Senator Cook: Is that site 85 miles north of Kuujjuaq?

Mr. Gordon: It is that distance from my village.

Senator Watt: It is on this side of Labrador.

Senator Cook: It is on the Ungava Bay.

Mr. Gordon: It is on the west side of the bay.

Senator Cook: Is the camp run by a local outfitter or by someone from the south?

Mr. Gordon: No, the outfitter is in partnership. Tommy Cain used to be the mayor of Tasiujaq for many years. Senator Watt knows him quite well from the early years of the political movement. He has been the camp owner since 1972.

Senator Watt: Is he in a partnership now or does he have sole ownership?

Mr. Gordon: He is in a partnership now.

Senator Prud'homme: I am not a member of the committee, but I have much interest in the First Nations, from my friendship with Senators Watt, Adams, and others I have met over the years.

I understand you speak Inuktitut. I apologize for using another language. My language is French, but I will choose English, a neutral language, for my question.

May I thank the preparers of these very good notes. These questions should be put to you and the answers noted. Those would be of great value to the committee.

One question is of great interest to me as a Canadien-Français. Is there any financial support from either the federal or the provincial government? Is the management of anadromous Arctic char the responsibility of Quebec? How would you describe the relationship you have with the province?

We could start at the end and finish at the beginning. Do you have a good relationship with the government of Quebec?

Mr. Gordon: Yes and no, in a sense. To go back a bit, when we started this whole idea of the project, a biologist from the Quebec government helped us quite a bit.

You asked about funding. We first did a feasibility study on the idea of a hatchery at the old municipal water plant. We hired a group to do a study, and we received partial funding from Minister Chevrette's' office. As well, a Quebec government biologist and a technician and some organizations helped us in the project.

The federal office of regional development for Quebec also assisted us with the feasibility study, which was funded by various organizations.

Senator Watt: Was the funding only for the feasibility study?

Mr. Gordon: Yes.

Senator Prud'homme: I am always interested to know how harmonious the relationships are between you people and the government of Quebec. I am at ease with the notion of saying to the Quebec government: Hey, you do not treat people like this. On the other hand, if the relationship is getting better and better, I will encourage them to go forward and not stop.

Mr. Gordon: In general, this project is quite small. I am not really involved in the bigger political picture. The project is specific to our community at the moment, although it may have other implications across the North later.

There was a breaking off of help from the Quebec government last February because of the premature hatching of our small fry. The provincial biologist told us to dump the fry in the wintertime because, he said, we did not know how to feed them and our facilities were inadequate. At that point we told him, "Goodbye," and said that we would take it from there. We have been on our own ever since.

Mr. Klein: I think they are still mad at us.

Senator Prud'homme: When you say "they" I always like to be specific so I know whom to call. I am an old man, so I can call.

Mr. Klein: It was someone from Wildlife and Parks. The previous year we had wanted to use an in-stream incubator. This year the department gave us 5,000 eggs to incubate. The site that was selected by the provincial biologist froze solid in the winter, and the eggs all died. We went back to Wildlife and Parks and requested 35,000 eggs for a hatchery. These eggs hatched out earlier than was expected. The department told us all the fry would die; that fish won't eat at those cold temperatures; and that we might as well dump them. They added that that was their official stance; that they had consulted their experts and knew all the fry would die. We told them we could not dump the fry because the Tasiujaq community would think we were incapable of running a hatchery.

We looked up Arctic char culture on the Internet and found a site in Alberta. The Alberta government had been running projects to assist farmers with a second income. Farmers could obtain juvenile char from a government pond to grow them. We called the Alberta government and they indicated they would be glad to give us advice, and they said that growing young char was not difficult.

However, we received the most help from the University of Guelph which has an aquaculture centre. We were told it was not difficult to grow char and that, if we came down, they would give us a short course on how to raise the fish.

Later, the provincial biologist called us back and asked us what we had decided to do. We repeated that we would try to raise the fry, even though he had told us they were would die. When we mentioned that we had gone to the University of Guelph for help, he became upset. Apparently, he believed language was an issue, and that we were running to English Canada. He is not talking to us. He no longer works in the North. There is no longer a provincial fish biologist in the North.

Senator Prud'homme: I had heard something of this situation. I did not drop in by accident.

Mr. Klein: The situation was ugly.

Senator Prud'homme: I mean what I said, and I say what I mean. Sometimes I see hostility developing between individuals, experts or civil servants, of which the government is unaware. It does not reach the top, but major difficulties can arise out of the dislike of bureaucrats who insist that they must make the decisions. From there, the relationship deteriorates to the point where it becomes impossible.

I go to Quebec City once every five weeks for three days. I sit in the gallery and I read these questions. It does not matter to me which party a member belongs to. To be frank, I no longer care. I am independent now, but my heart is still liberal. Conservatives may be offended to hear that.

The Chairman: I am offended.

Senator Prud'homme: I appreciate your frankness. We will see each other again. How do you say "thank you" in Inuktitut?

Mr. Gordon: "Nakurmiik."

Senator Prud'homme: "Nakurmiik."

The Chairman: "Nakurmiik."

One long-term concern of this committee is the level of research being undertaken in support of industries that have to do with the enhancement and protection of our fish stocks. The need for such protection became glaringly obvious when we did the aquaculture study. It is a repeating theme everywhere.

As I was listening to your presentation tonight, you mentioned that little research is being done to learn about a species of fish that is an important source of food for the Aboriginal communities of the North. Arctic char is on a par with caribou.

Mr. Gordon: It is second only to caribou.

The Chairman: Do you think that government officials, either provincial or federal, will come in regularly to conduct more research?

Senator Watt: May I partially respond to that. In terms of food source availability, char is the second food source that we have after caribou. I do not think the community wants scientific researchers coming in. We already have various organizations that can do the research.

Our communities have a close attachment to the species. We understand the species and are close to an understanding of how they behave geographically. As was mentioned earlier, stocks do not necessarily return to a previous location. Some winters, some lakes seem to have many more Arctic char than other lakes. That may change in the next year. By monitoring these population shifts, the communities become more knowledgeable about the behaviour of the species in the lakes and in the ocean. We can even describe how far the char travel from the mainland to open water.

If a scientific person were brought in who had not developed geographic knowledge of the area and of char culture, I believe that the communities would be spending money unwisely.

I suggest that, whatever our recommendation might be concerning funding for scientific purposes, there are organizations like Mr. Klein's, created some years ago, which are probably doing a lot of research.

Funds are always needed. We do not necessarily need the resource people from the south, but we do need money.

Senator Cook: Senator Watt, are you saying that you have sufficient expertise to develop this project?

Senator Watt: I will let Mr. Gordon answer that to see if he is satisfied with the expertise he has around him. If he can tell one of the biologists from the government of Quebec to take a hike because he was not provided with the proper information, I believe he has the grounds to make that statement and that decision.

The Chairman: Mr. Gordon now has the trust of people who could provide him the material if he obtained the brood stock for the hatchery. Mr. Gordon, you would have the credibility, because of your track record rather than as a scientist.

Senator Watt is saying that you need to have local people doing this because they have knowledge of the area.

Senator Watt: Should Messrs Gordon and Klein require specific expertise in certain areas and can consult various organizations about whether to develop the expertise internally or to seek it on the outside, I believe they are quite capable of making that decision.

Mr. Gordon: That is exactly what we are doing now. We can do certain things now, locally. For instance, on a daily basis we can monitor the hatchery. When it is time to get the eggs, however, we like to have Gaétan Soucy help us. He is slowly training us. Then, for the rearing and feeding of the little fry, we get advice from Guelph. Mr. Klein Is a biologist. I do not want to speak for him, but he too is learning what it takes to raise little fish.

The Chairman: I understand that Senator Mahovlich has some friends in research at Guelph University as well. Perhaps your friends there could lend a hand?

Senator Mahovlich: I really commend you both on taking the initiative. When we went up to Ungava Bay and Kuujjuaq we were most impressed with your accomplishments. I hope everything goes well for you. I have been looking forward to going up again to see how things are developing.

Senator Prud'homme: Ultimately, is Minister Chevrette the minister responsible? Is another ministry in Quebec involved?

Mr. Gordon: Mr. Chevrette is responsible for that department, I believe. He visits the area often to fish because he, too, loves fishing for char.

The Chairman: I believe you are right in saying that it is Mr. Chevrette who would be the provincial counterpart.

Senator Prud'homme: I was annoyed to hear the comment in Ottawa that the problem was a bureaucratic one. It never reached the top. You have not complained openly, as you just did.

If there is no one else standing by you, I will be your friend. If I say I will do something, I will, but sometimes we do not know what that something is.

Thank you for showing us how small difficulties sometimes grow out of proportion.

Mr. Gordon: I would like to add that we did not make the difficulty grow. Our problem with the biologist was with him only, not with his superiors. We have a very good working relationship with the people above him. This problem has not been damaging to us.

Senator Watt: We were so impressed with the presentation made by our witnesses on our visit, and that is why we invited them to come to Ottawa.

Mr. Gordon: We do have skeptics, as with any project. In the beginning, just after high school when I worked as a researcher at Makivik Research, I tried to push for this. I had not been elected back then. In 1985-86, we met with two biologists from Makivik, and the project was shot down at that stage. The two biologists assumed that, even if we succeeded in make a fishway, the fish would never use it on their own. How wrong they were. Within hours of finishing the fishway, fish were using the channels.

We were also told that, if the little fish were hatched too early they would die. We were told that we did not know how to feed them and that, since our feeding trays were made out of aluminium they would not survive. Obstacles keep coming our way, but we keep on going, and so far we have done okay.

The Chairman: When we visited you at your home and your place of business, you indicated that you only had the resources and time to do the enhancement of the interesting project you showed us. When we asked if other communities wanted to try the same kind of project, you indicated that there was an interest, but you just did not have the resources yourself to do it. Are the communities still looking at the kind of enhancement that you are doing?

Mr. Gordon: Yes. Kuujjuaq is fortune to be a bigger community and we have more resources available than other, smaller communities.

The Chairman: Is there a way to assist other interested communities to enhance their streams and rivers?

Mr. Gordon: First, each community needs a driver. I consider myself the driver of this project.

The Chairman: Yes.

Mr. Gordon: If other communities just talk and no one steps forward to drive the project, nothing will happen.

Second, you need community support, which we have had from the community. The municipality and different organizations in town help us out.

Are other communities interested? Yes. A few weeks ago, the mayor of another village further North asked me if we could donate 4,000 eggs next spring. They have few char there. I suggested to him that he should get his own project going. I told him that we were trying to stock our own lakes and that we did not have enough eggs for others. I told him that I would like to help him, but that I hoped he could start a similar project.

The Chairman: Is there a possibility of you becoming a driver for all the communities and getting somebody to take over your position in your own community?

Senator Watt: Money is what is needed.

The Chairman: Do you think you could drive it for all of these communities? I am just considering the potential. I was very impressed with the amount of resources that you had and the kind of work that you people were doing.

Mr. Gordon: I have considered that. Perhaps the Makivik Corporation would consider creating a position for someone who would be directly involved in driving other communities. Makivik has undertaken major projects, such as caribou commercialisation, sometimes with a lot of funding. However, sometimes projects have not taken off.

However, this is a simple community project that does not require much money. It is practical, and it has very good potential.

The Chairman: Yes, I agree.

Senator Mahovlich: It still has got a long way to go too.

Mr. Gordon: Yes.

The Chairman: But what you are saying is that it needs more resources.

Mr. Gordon: It definitely needs seed money.

The Chairman: Mr. Klein, you mentioned sea ranching earlier. Is sea ranching not, in fact, what you people are doing right now?

Mr. Klein: Yes, you are right, except that we do not kill the fish. In sea ranching the fish are stripped of their eggs and then harvested for market.

The Chairman: What you are doing is sea ranching without actually killing the fish.

Mr. Klein: Yes, we are doing that in a way. We hope to be able to pull the eggs from our own system and not continue our dependence on Tasiujaq. Once we develop a spawning stock, we will no longer have to go to them.

Senator Mahovlich: In the lake system that fishermen are using now, how many miles of lakes can they access?

Mr. Klein: We have a map.

Senator Mahovlich: Are all the lakes connected?

Mr. Klein: Yes. They are all connected, up to two miles away from the community. In 1984, Geoff Power was hired by Makivik to explore all around Nunavik to see which systems had potential to enhance the char stocks by improving access to the sea. This area was the one he identified as having the highest potential of all of them because of the extensive lake system.

Senator Mahovlich: You still have a long way to go there.

Senator Watt: I guess we are almost at the end.

The Chairman: We are almost at the tail end.

Senator Watt: We had a good meeting this morning, Mr. Chairman, with the representative from Fisheries and Oceans. I think he will be a good contact person. It remains to be seen if he will come up with some of the things that we highlighted and that he suggested he could do within his department. He is also prepared to coordinate as much as possible with the other department, and even the subdepartment that they have, the various responsibilities that they have. I think Mr. Gordon made a good contact this morning and hope it will prove fruitful for their project.

I would conclude by saying that this project needs seed money to do the necessary scientific research. Our report should state that Mr. Gordon's small organization has been quite successful, despite starting with next to no funding. It has built the project up to the stage where a number of young Arctic char have been released. It remains to be proven what will happen to the small stock released. I think it will soon be evident, maybe even this coming winter.

The Chairman: Very good. On behalf of the committee I want to thank you both, Mr. Klein and Mr. Gordon, for appearing before us tonight. I know you had to travel quite a distance to get here. Judging from what I have heard, your comments at this meeting were not only useful here, but they will be useful elsewhere, and I am specifically referring to DFO. I am pleased that we were able to help out in that way as well.

I would also thank you for the warm reception you gave us when we visited both of you in your home community.

The committee adjourned.

Back to top