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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on

Issue 20 - Evidence

OTTAWA, Tuesday, June 4, 2002

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries met this day at 7:15 p.m. to study issues related to the fishing industry.

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


The Chairman: Traditionally, this committee invites the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to appear before us to allow him to share his vision with us and tell us what direction he intends to guide his department in. We are most honoured to have the Honourable Robert Thibault with us.

For those who do not know him, Mr. Thibault was elected in the riding of West Nova in November, 2000. His first ministerial appointment was to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The minister is also my member of Parliament, and if I may say so, an old friend. Therefore, I am very pleased to receive him here tonight.

I would ask the minister to first introduce his colleagues, and then to make his presentation, following which there will be a question period.

Mr. Robert Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans: It is a pleasure to be here tonight to present my priorities as Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.


When I received your invitation, I was pleased to respond favourably. I am looking forward to a good working relationship with the Fisheries Committees both of the Senate and of the House.

Let me take this opportunity to introduce myself. I took on the responsibilities back in January, having moved over from my previous duties as Minister of State for ACOA.


It is with special pride that I appear before you as a Nova Scotian — the first federal fisheries minister from that beautiful province in more than 65 years. I grew up in a small coastal fishing community and have a first-hand knowledge of the link between the strength of the freshwater and ocean sectors and the communities they serve.


My vision for these sectors is shaped by priorities, including sustainable fisheries management, the sustainable development of our oceans and fresh waters, and safe and accessible waters. These priorities also contribute to a number of objectives that the federal government set in its most recent Speech from the Throne, objectives such as a healthy environment, trade and innovation, and strong and safe communities. In my view, the ingredients for success include modern governance structures, a solid science foundation and strong marine infrastructure, all of which DFO is providing.


Your committee is a well-respected voice in my department. Your recent reports on aquaculture and freshwater and northern fisheries have given my department much food for thought.

In fact, our decision to provide Nunavut with 4,000 tonnes of the new turbot fishery in NAFO Division O-A stemmed in part from your recommendation that our newest territory be given fair access to our Atlantic fishery.

We will be providing an official response to your recommendations in the near future. For your continuing interest and advice on issues like this, I thank you.


Today, I should like to talk about how DFO is meeting its objectives and cooperating with a number of stakeholders, governments and communities across Canada.

The first broad activity for DFO is fisheries management. The fishery is a staple of our coastal and inland economies and a staple of my department's work. DFO's role in the fishery is as important as ever. We continue to develop, implement and enforce strict harvesting strategies for Canada's fisheries based on a wide range of factors, including science and the needs of fishing communities.

As you know, we are also finding ways to improve our fisheries policies. On the East Coast, the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review is nearing completion. Working with the provinces and stakeholders, we are developing a new policy framework that will give us clear direction and a strong set of principles to guide decision making in the future.

On the West Coast, the New Directions series of policy initiatives will help us develop stronger policies in the salmon fisheries. We have already announced our policy on selective fishing. We look forward to making more progress with respect to an allocation framework for Pacific salmon.


Managing Aboriginal fisheries is also a key activity for my department. Through the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy program, DFO is committed to facilitating Aboriginal involvement in the fishery, and to do so in harmony with the commercial fishery on both coasts.

Moreover, we are continuing to move forward on our program to implement the Supreme Court Marshall decision. In the time ahead, this work will help ensure a strong, inclusive fishery that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities alike can benefit from.


We are busy on the international fisheries front, finding ways to deal with the problems of foreign overfishing. As you know, we recently closed our ports to the Faroese and Estonian fishing fleets because of their non-compliance. Our determination to deal with this serious problem has already met with progress. I should like to report that, only last week at meetings in Russia, officials from the Faroe Islands personally informed me that their fishing practices were in error and they were willing to change their ways.

However, we still firmly believe that the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO, needs to be strengthened. My officials and I are now working with our provincial and industry partners to prepare our case for NAFO's annual meeting this September.


As you know, Canada's wild fishery is now being joined by the aquaculture industry as an important economic engine. My department is working to give this industry the tools it needs to be successful, while ensuring that our regulatory obligations are being met.

The $75-million Program for Sustainable Aquaculture, announced in 2000, gave us the balance we need. And today, we are building on this base with an actual plan and comprehensive policy framework aimed at increasing the public's confidence in aquaculture and enhancing the sector's ability to compete internationally.

By now, you have received my department's detailed response to your report. I welcome any further comments and advice you have as we build on our success so far, and guide this promising young sector to further success in the future.


In fact, aquaculture is a good example of how we can find room for innovative economic opportunities for our aquatic spaces. In other words, how can we develop these spaces sustainably? Indeed, our oceans are becoming busy places. On both coasts, we are seeing communities making the most of new and innovative economic opportunities such as tourism, recreation, aquaculture, and oil and gas development. My department is playing an important role in helping Canada to capture these opportunities and helping them to grow in a balanced and environmentally sustainable way.

Striking this balance is the goal behind our Oceans Act. The act is leading to some fundamental changes in how our oceans are managed. So far, we have moved forward on 21 integrated management pilot initiatives that involve a wide variety of stakeholders and all levels of government. Over the coming year, we will see further action in improving how we manage our oceans through Canada's Oceans Strategy — a plan to better manage and protect our oceans.


We are also working on a number of freshwater issues. For instance, I know that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development recently appeared before you to discuss her report on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin. My department is working to act on the report's recommendations, and to do so with our partners in the federal and provincial governments, and in the United States.

And cooperation also figures prominently in our work to protect fish habitat. We continue to work with stakeholders and levels of government to ensure these fragile habitats are strong, healthy and protected over the long term.


Our third key activity involves making our waters safe and accessible. Clearly, the range of services provided by the Canadian Coast Guard is key in this regard. In fact, the Coast Guard plays a role in just about every aspect of my department's work, providing a strong federal presence on our waters. As a fully integrated part of DFO, the Canadian Coast Guard is an important and well-respected member of Canada's marine community, providing a civilian fleet, maritime expertise and a widely distributed shore infrastructure — all ready to deliver services and respond to emergencies. The vision of the Coast Guard as an operationally ready, national institution providing maritime safety services and support to maritime commerce in the marine and fresh water environment is one that I believe will stand the test of time.

While DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard do not have a mandate for maritime security, central agencies recognize DFO's contribution to the enhancement of marine security, particularly after September 11. In last December's federal budget, DFO received $15 million over three years, with $11 million allocated to the Coast Guard. We will continue to work closely with Transport Canada and other federal organizations to find ways to keep our waters secure.


Like the Coast Guard, DFO's world-renowned Science Program is another pillar of my department's work and another critical success factor. All of the decisions we make as a department need to be based on the best scientific advice available. In particular, both the ecosystem and precautionary approaches are important parts of the decision- making process for both our fisheries and our oceans.

Also, as our governance approaches evolve, we will be working more closely with our partners and with stakeholders to develop and interpret the scientific evidence. That is why keeping this program strong in the years ahead is so important. We are currently undertaking an assessment that will help ensure the priorities for DFO's Science Program have been identified, and that the resources needed to continue providing this advice have been made available.


As you can see, DFO is making many strides to ensure that in the years ahead we keep delivering the services Canadians have come to rely on. The objectives I have outlined today will help strengthen our oceans industry and contribute to a number of commitments the Government of Canada has made to Canadians.

I am very proud of the important contribution and high level of service my department provides to Canadians. My ultimate goal, honourable senators, is to leave the department stronger than I found it and to work with you to do so.


The Chairman: Thank you, Minister. You touched on quite a few subjects that will certainly interest the members of the committee, and I am confident that they will be up to the task of asking for more details and more information.


Senator Robertson: Minister, we look forward to working with you. As someone from the East Coast, it is a pleasure to have one of our own people involved in fisheries issues.

In your remarks, you referred to the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review, AFPR, which is nearing completion. My question relates to the access of the allocation process. I have been advised by a number of people on the East Coast that the perception exists that the process is tainted because the minister has absolute discretion in that process. Obviously, because you, Mr. Thibault, are new to the portfolio, the comment does not apply.

However, to eliminate the perception that decision making is political — and this is what I am being told on a regular basis — I should like to know your view with respect to an arm's length allocation board. Would you be comfortable with an arm's length advisory board? How do you feel about an open appointment process to the board so that industry and communities could nominate members?

Mr. Thibault: I would have difficulty with that. It is true that, under the act, the fisheries minister has a great deal of power, until he or she tries to use it. Then, it becomes more restrictive.

There is a strong organization in Atlantic Canada and on the Pacific Coast of people who are aware of the options that I may consider when making these decisions, what decisions have been made in the past and the historic evolution of the distribution of resources. We do use advisory committees such as the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, FRCC, which represents fishers from the communities. They receive advice from scientists and they consult with fisheries organizations and communities to make recommendations to the minister. There have been times when the recommendations have not been followed, but generally speaking, the recommendations are well respected and are followed quite closely.

The problem with allocation boards is that they also become political and someone will try to control them. They will make decisions but the communities may sense that they have been left out of the decision-making process. If there is political oversight, I answer to the public, as do all the members of the House, and I make my presentations before the committees and before this committee. The transparency is there for me to respond. A full-time allocation board would not necessarily have the same transparency, and the decisions they would make could have a great impact on the social and economic development of communities, provinces and regions.

The decisions for communities to elect such a board would become a cumbersome process. What are the limits? How far inland do you go? Is it just the narrow coastal strip of the community? Is it just the unions? Is it just the processors? It would become a cumbersome process to do that equitably. Through the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review, we are ensuring that we have good, collaborative community discussions and transparency about the way we will make decisions in the future.

Senator Robertson: If I may summarize your answer, you do not intend to change the process. Is that correct?

Mr. Thibault: We are in the midst of the Atlantic Policy Fisheries Review, and that is a change in the process in itself. The final decision, even if it remains with the minister, is such that there is still a transparent process attached to the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review, if you understand how the minister makes the decisions. That very fact is important because it limits the arbitrary manner in which people may think the minister would make these decisions.

Senator Robertson: Some of us would like to see a more arm's length arrangement, I am sure. However, I will accept your explanation as stated. I should probably return to this issue once the review is completed because not all is well with that policy. I know you support it and I understand that. However, there is a sense of alienation. Transparency is always good — and I am not sure I agree with your comments about transparency.

On another matter, I wish to refer to an issue that both Senator Comeau and I raised in the Senate months ago in respect of the price slump experienced by Atlantic salmon farmers for about one year. The price in New York fell to approximately $1.60 before Christmas; it has now recovered to about $2.35. I understand that Chile has cut back on its production, for which the federal government deserves some credit and I appreciate that. Disease has struck the Chilean fishing farms; however, the good news is that lower supply and higher demand have strengthened the price.

You may recall that during the price slump the industry was in discussion with your department in respect of an aid package, an insurance program against future price devaluation, a program similar to that which exists, for instance, in agriculture policy. Although the industry now is recovering, there are those of us who believe that it is a good time to consider long-term planning and policy development, if you are to move in that direction. Have you considered moving in the direction of some kind of insurance to provide a degree of comfort for those fish farmers?

Mr. Thibault: We are considering it, and are working with the provinces and the private sector on the aquatic animals health program, which would assist in the cases where disease devastates a farm. It would also assist in promoting good aquaculture.

As far as a price stabilization program, there has not been much discussion. I had some discussions with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. I began those discussions when I was the ACOA minister, to try to assist them by helping them not to make repayments until the price levelled off or increased. We have been working in those areas. There was nothing within my departmental programs with which I could subsidize production. That would have meant going to government to see if there was a possibility of another kind of program for them. It never went that far because, as you said, there was some recovery in the market.

I had discussions with Norwegian officials, where they have a huge aquaculture operation. They have investments in Chile and on the West Coast. Like us, they too were concerned about the Chilean price and the apparent dumping on the market. However, it is true that Chile can produce at a lower price than we can because of the mean temperatures and other environmental conditions. It is always a challenge, but we are developing a mature aquaculture industry that can produce at reasonable costs.

Senator Watt: I wish to deal with an issue surrounding the achievement award received by Mr. Allen Gordon from former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc.

As you know, in the Arctic there are many challenges, not the least of which is the growing number of people depending on the renewable resource bases. Many of these challenges position people to take advantage of the opportunities; however, at the same time, the negative factors of the high cost of transportation and goods often delay implementation of worthwhile projects.

Minister, is your department in a position to help the enhancement projects that are administered by landholding corporations in my small community? There are two, actually. One is to enhance the ability of the Arctic char to spawn up river and into the lake system, thus increasing their numbers. The other is to enhance the habitats of certain rivers that do not have full potential in terms of Arctic char, to ease spawning up the rivers, establishing ladders and things of that nature.

Can your department fund some of those projects?

Mr. Thibault: At times, we can work in partnership with organizations like the Makivik Corporation, using existing programs, expertise and funding from other organizations, like the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, for example, or with the provinces and territories. I believe all of those things can be discussed.

We also make allocations. I do not know if your community has a northern shrimp allocation, but we have used those in the past. Communities can use revenues from allocations to invest in projects such as those you are speaking of, which will be economic generators in other areas. I do not know the specifics, but I am hopeful that I can visit your community this summer. My schedule gets tighter every day; however, I would be interested in pursuing that further.

Senator Watt: My prime concern at this point, because they are having difficulties in moving ahead, is making these things happen. The capital requirement is what is needed now, because the existing building is not suitable. We need new infrastructure to march ahead, taking into account the requirements being highlighted by other communities also. It would be good to establish at least a contact person within your department, to examine what could be done from your department in Nunavut, to move the dialogue along between the two groups. That would be my recommendation.

Mr. Thibault: Ms Ruth Danzer, who is with me today, will get in touch with you after the meeting.

Senator Watt: The other issue I want to address has been around since 1993. The Regulations and Statutory Instruments Committee, which is a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons, has been dealing with this issue. From what I understand, previous ministers delegated authority to the chiefs to issue permits to fishermen and things of that nature. Are you planning to operate along that line, minister?

Mr. Thibault: Yes, the joint committee made a report to the Commons, which we will be responding to very shortly.

You are talking about designating fishers under the communal licences. The committee took exception to that part of it, suggesting that the way we are doing it is beyond our legislative mandate under the regulations.

The advice that I have received is contrary to that; nonetheless, we are considering the preparation of regulatory changes that will address that specific issue. The regulations will give me the authority by Governor in Council to issue a licence to a community, and either the community or I can designate who exercises that right.

It is no different, in my opinion, than what we are doing with the corporations that are fishing or what we are doing in many cases with communities and families. The owner of the licence does not go out on every trip; he designates somebody to fish the licence. Where we give northern allocations to communities, they designate the company that is going to fish that quota. In order to keep peace in the family, and in respect of the committee, we will be bringing it under the regulations so that it is clear to everybody.

Senator Watt: How the matter was deal with in Burnt Church was unnecessary. In order to avoid a struggle between the two groups, as this issue of the practice that has been used by the other ministers is sensitive, I am pleased to hear that you will be looking at this very seriously. I am not saying it should be repealed or disallowed, but it is too sensitive just to take the word of what the committee has put forward. It is of sufficient importance that it should be well thought out before any big move is made on that end of it.

Mr. Thibault: What I think is important to understand is that the regulations have not been disallowed. They remain in force; they are completely legal. We have 90 days to respond to the committee, and we will be making some changes to the regulatory process.

As to other concerns, we have said that we will deal with those by making some amendments to the act. We will maintain stability in the fishery, and we will permit the use of communal licences that respond to the Aboriginal fishing strategy as well as the Marshall decision.

Senator Watt: My colleagues, the Aboriginal senators, were alarmed to discover at this late stage that this was undertaken without our being informed of it. It is my hope that the next time constructive work is being done on this matter our involvement will be sought, because we may have the answers to the problems.

Mr. Thibault: I will take your advice.


Senator Meighen: Tonight, I would like to ask you a two-part question on a subject that concerns me, and as you may be aware, concerns many east coast communities in this country, and that is the fate of wild Atlantic salmon.


Wild Atlantic salmon, as you know, is in a pretty precarious situation in terms of survival. The main factor is mortality at sea, which may be temperature-induced. Nobody is quite sure.

I should like to get your comments on two areas: habitat and the interaction with the aquaculture industry. I will make it clear that I think both can, and should, survive and prosper.

As far as habitat is concerned, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development told us when she was before the committee that only one of the eight strategies that form the federal fish habitat policy, which was adopted and written in 1986, has been implemented. There is some doubt about whether your department knows — I say this not necessarily as a criticism but as a statement of fact — whether it is progressing towards its ultimate objective of gain in fish habitat.

We he was before us not long ago, Stephen Chase, from the Atlantic Salmon Federation, told us that fish habitat programs are being delivered in all provinces west of Quebec. He noted that a fish habitat policy and program would greatly benefit wild Atlantic salmon, not to mention other important species on the East Coast.

The first matter is to ask for your comments on habitat protection policy. If I am not mistaken, there was a large infusion— and I do not begrudge it — of cash on the West Coast to assist in habitat improvement. To the best of my memory, we have not had a similar infusion on the East Coast. What can we look for from you, Mr. Minister, in terms of fish habitat improvements?

Mr. Thibault: The funding for the East and West Coasts is a bit of a misnomer. The downturn happened on both coasts. Both areas got a lot of restructuring money from all sorts of federal government programs.

On the West Coast, salmon was the commercial fishery. They chose to invest much money into that fishery. If I remember correctly, they put $30 million into a trust fund that they operate to lever other funds from other organizations and institutions to do habitat management.

On the East Coast, we have done some habitat restoration, some funded by Fisheries and Oceans. A few years ago, we did some habitat restoration through ACOA.

There is no doubt that there is more work to be done, and in that regard I look forward to entering into discussions. It is one of the priorities that I hope to work on in the next year.

The private sector has approached me and said that they are willing to participate. Some of the provincial governments have indicated that they are willing to participate. The Atlantic Salmon Federation is always a great partner and leader in those areas. They do much excellent work. I think we can put together a package.

It is easy to always point to the federal government. There is work for everyone in the areas of habitat and breeding grounds. There are problems at sea. There is predation.

It seems more than just a coincidence to me that we have a problem with salmon when we take into consideration all the acid rain rivers in Atlantic Canada. If we look at those rivers with no acid rain, the fish are in better condition. In fact, there numbers are increasing in some rivers. Environment and habitat are major contributors to the problem. Forestry, agriculture, mining and road building play a role also. We must take a holistic approach. We must form partnerships with a lot of players, and there must be a long-term view. I will do my best to ensure that the federal government is a participant. We are doing much in partnerships now, especially in science.

Senator Meighen: That is encouraging. The Atlantic salmon is, of course, a sport fishery now. There are no more commercial fisheries, except for salmon farming. There is no commercial fishery for wild salmon. The economic input generated by the sport fishery in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec is absolutely staggering. Anything you could do along those lines would be welcome, I am sure. I would encourage you not to wait until every last partner is on board to have the perfect holistic approach before acting, because it will take a long time to get everybody on board.

Let me move to another subject, if I may. I had thought to ask whether you thought there was an inherent contradiction in the mandate of DFO between the protection of the wild fisheries and the promotion of aquaculture. Perhaps you will have an opportunity to talk about that on another occasion.

In your statement this evening, you said that recently we closed our ports to the Faroese and Estonian fishing fleets because of non-compliance. That appears to have enjoyed some success, based on conversations you had overseas. If closing the ports to these fleets does not bring about the desired effect, what is your next step?

Mr. Thibault: Closing the ports is one element.

Senator Meighen: If that does not stop the illegal fishing or the overfishing, what will you do?

Mr. Thibault: It is important that we keep things in perspective. This matter is getting a lot of media play because many Newfoundlanders are in the fishing industry. They keep pointing to the fish being taken illegally as holding back the rebuilding of the stocks.

In 1995, there was the turbot skirmish. At that time, no country was respecting NAFO regulations. NAFO would establish quota. Every country would establish quota above NAFO quota. They would overfish using incredibly small mesh nets. When we arrested the Estai, we discovered very fine mesh nets. That was par for the course; most fishers were doing that.

If memory serves me, we had 26 infractions two years ago and 25 last year. We discover these infractions because we have observers on the boats, we use satellite tracking, and we implement aircraft and dockside monitoring. It is a concern, but it is nowhere near the problem that it once was. We want to make sure that the situation does not get worse, that in fact it gets better. We want better regulations within NAFO and better conservation measures. We want to measures that permit reasonable commercial harvest in the species that are abundant enough to permit that while protecting bycatch of species under moratorium or at the low end.

Prior to closing the ports, Mr. Chamut and I made a presentation at NAFO; however, we did not get the changes that we wanted. I believe the decision was made before everybody got there, that they knew how they were going to vote on Canadian proposals. However, they did take the points raised by the Canadian delegation very seriously, and subsequent to that there has been a much better effort by most NAFO members. Many of the NAFO members are very good. Some were recalcitrant. There have been measures by some of the recalcitrant nations to improve their practices.

It was not a pleasure to close our ports to the Faroese and Estonians. It hurts our communities where they were doing business, and it hurts those countries. We cannot concern ourselves too much with the size of the country. It is the size of the fishing effort that concerns me. With the Faroese, we have had great negotiations. They have laid charges against their boats. They will be meeting with our officials soon to discuss what they are willing to do to ensure Canada that they are following the regulations. Subsequent to that, I hope we will be able to open the port.

We have had some discussions with the Estonians. Other countries that I discussed this element with in Russia last week have agreed to have discussions with some of the harvesters that were operating under Estonian flags.

I think there are good signs. We cannot expect that NAFO will change quickly. It is an international treaty organization with 18 members. It is not something that can be manoeuvred quickly, but we have to continue to inch it in the right direction.

Senator Adams: I have several questions. You told us that your department has approved a quota of 4,000 metric tonnes of turbot this year for Nunavut. A couple of weeks ago, I met with some officials from your department to discuss the quotas to be allocated to Nunavut. As you know, the new Government of Nunavut has only been in existence for three years. Prior to that, the former territorial government handled fisheries through its economic development department. The wildlife management division of the fisheries department of the Government of Nunavut now oversees the fishery.

The fishing communities of Nunavut have organized themselves so as to deal with the turbot quotas. I am thinking particularly of Pangnirtung, Broughton Island, Clyde River and Pond Inlet. Formerly, the fishers in the communities had inadequate equipment, but they have worked with the Baffin Fisheries Coalition to solve that problem. They worked with officials from your department and allocated some of the quotas to certain fishing companies outside of Nunavut.

I understand that the community of Pangnirtung was allocated 600 metric tonnes of shrimp and 700 metric tonnes of turbot. Turbot fishing in Pangnirtung is mostly done in the wintertime. They do not have the equipment to do it in the summer. They will probably be lucky if they catch about 300 tonnes through the ice.

Since your department is responsible for any policies that deal with Canadian fisheries, I want to point out that over 60 per cent of Canadian coastal waters are offshore Nunavut. The remaining 40 per cent is divided among the other provinces and territories. That means that fishing is very important to the future of Nunavut.

As you know, the ice conditions this year have caused problems for the fishermen; the fishermen of Nunavut have only filled about 6 per cent of their quotas this year. You say you are going to announce a quota of 4,000 tonnes, but the reality is that the fishers of Nunavut will only take about 6 per cent of that quota.

In the summertime, they do have some equipment and they can do longline fishing or drag fishing, as was done in the old days in Newfoundland. They may be able to contract a ship to help them. As it is right now, we have quotas worth $30 million in fish that are not being caught and the people in the community do not know how they will get the money they need to buy equipment to take advantage of these quotas in the future.

Mr. Thibault: We do not have development funds in that respect for buying vessels and equipment. There is a possibility the provincial governments sometimes do it. I do not know what the territory has in that respect.

There is also the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. They have an economic development fund that they might be able to access to assist. They can also use some of the royalty money you are generating to invest in capacity. That has been done in the Labrador Coast. They have used it to be able to get vessels as well as plants and to get involved in other species. Those are elements that you might want to consider.

Senator Adams: I do not know exactly how much the Baffin Regional Council has but I do know that, with $500,000, you might be able to hire 20 staff or something like that or you might be able to put it towards new equipment.

You mentioned the 0A quotas for 4,000 tonnes. Has a new quota also been established for the 0B area with regard to turbot? Maybe your officials could answer that question.

Mr. Thibault: Your share there is 27 per cent of the quota, or 1,500 tonnes.

Senator Adams: Is there a shrimp quota in the 0B area?

Mr. Thibault: I do not have those figures with me. Perhaps Mr. Chamut knows. Relatively soon, we will be releasing the northern shrimp allocations plan. When I say ``relatively soon,'' I mean that it could be a couple of weeks or three or four weeks.

Do your communities have quota in that area now?

Senator Adams: We are concerned about that 4,000 metric tonnes you mentioned.

Mr. Thibault: Right now everybody is fishing so there is not a huge —

Senator Adams: Your department and the coalition at Baffin have to work together. Local people cannot catch enough fish to fill the quota, so we should look to other companies to fill the quota.

Senator Mahovlich: Our largest seafood market is the United States. Recently, the U.S. passed a law requiring seafood sold in retail outlets to be labelled by country of origin and as either wild or farm-raised. In your opinion, will these developments in the United States affect our seafood exports and should we adopt similar labelling requirements for our aquaculture products?

Mr. Thibault: Most of our aquaculture products are already labelled as farmed. That is a Canadian Food Inspection Agency requirement, I believe. It would fall under the purview of CFIA and the Department of Health Canada, because as food products they would have to be labelled to be sold in Canada.

In terms of what we export to the United States or to any other country, we adapt to the regulations at the border, and that is administered under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. When they inspect, they make sure it meets the requirements for that country.

Senator Mahovlich: Last month, my wife and I purchased some President's Choice coho salmon. Would that be commercial coho salmon from the Pacific?

Mr. Thibault: There are very few commercial coho operations. I do not have the exact number. I believe it is coho that is farmed in British Columbia. However, the vast majority of the farmed salmon is Atlantic. It tends to do better in the farm fish market.

Senator Mahovlich: I have no preference, but my wife prefers coho salmon.

Mr. Thibault: There is a wild coho fishery in Alaska. There are some indigenous salmon strains that are raised in British Columbia, but very few. The majority of it is Atlantic.

Senator Mahovlich: What does the future hold for wild coho salmon?

Mr. Thibault: I see a positive future for all salmon, especially on the West Coast. People have been working at conservation measures for a long time. It is difficult to say exactly which ones will have more trouble than others.

Some of the fisheries are rebuilding very well. Community organizations in the fishing industry have done a lot of good work. We have been working with them in conservation practices and habitat restoration. In some cases, there were breeding and hatchery programs that assisted. Sometimes there is a question as to whether having too much hatchery product in the water aids or not.

Senator Cook: You say that one of your priorities is sustainable fisheries management. I am waiting to see how that will unfold. I am a Newfoundlander. Watching the collapse of the northern cod was traumatic. We saw 30,000 people leave, and we are still feeling the effects of that today. Had we had a sustainable fisheries management that was real in every sense of the word, I do not think that would have happened to us as a people. Like you, when you say salmon is salmon, if you go into a store in Newfoundland and ask for fish, you will get cod. We call it fish.

I want to go back to what Senator Meighen put on the table. He talked about research being one of the implementation strategies of the federal fish habitat policy that was written in 1996. I am looking at research to see if we can ensure that what happened with the cod will not happen again, because we do not know what happened to that cod, do we?

What research does DFO have to protect that busy place that you call an ocean, to ensure insofar as possible that that will never happen to us again?

Out of the aquaculture study, a number of trigger points led us to the study that we are doing now with respect to habitat. What is happening? What is going on in that busy place that you refer to? I am looking for answers from the point of view of research in your department.

Mr. Thibault: I will come to research quickly, and I will touch on a couple of other points. We have four major research facilities at Fisheries and Oceans. We work collaboratively with the marine institute in Newfoundland. We also work with university sectors, the corporate sector, and internationally. I visited an institute that is doing work on the oceans and habitat. It is a huge ecosystem, and it is going to take a long time before we understand it all, if we ever do. It is important that we have partnerships and that we focus our energies. We do a lot of work on freshwater, and we do a lot of work on the East Coast in different areas. I think there is still much to do.

We cannot do everything that we would like. There are financial constraints. Two years ago, we increased by $300 million over three years the amount of money going into research because we had substantial reductions in the 1993 period, or shortly after that, under program review.

We are trying to do much more collaborative work with other departments. Our government has invested billions of dollars in research capability and in science in this country, either through CFI or through university research chairs. We are producing great science in the country. We might be able to tie into that. The area of expertise of our new deputy minister is intergovernmental and science. We hope to be able to improve on what we are doing.

As far as whether we will ever see the cod collapse again, we have recognized where we went wrong; we understand what happened. The first thing we did wrong was to extend the 200-mile limit. I was studying fisheries management at that time. I remember the whole focus being on building a huge fleet to maximize the jobs we could get out of that huge resource that was now under our control. We fished and fished and had big plants, but we brought it down.

After it was brought down and people were not making as much money, ``underutilized species'' was the buzzword, and we invested in that. We got the all the capelin, herring, squid and silver hake and many other species. Not all the species were underutilized. The cod utilized them. They were part of the ecosystem.

We now do a few things differently. We use quota management rather than a competitive fishery, which had created an overfishing effort. It was endemic. The other thing we use is a precautionary approach. I take criticism, as does the department, because people say we need a bigger quota. If we err now, it is on the side of the fish, so we try not to go over our quota.

We are implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, so we look at each species in relation to another as well as the habitat. That is a very difficult concept to implement. We are working towards it. We are having discussions on international collaboration on the ecosystem approach because most other mature jurisdictions want to go in that direction. It is complex, as you know, because of the complexity of the resource, the changing climatic conditions that are cyclical. Every 10 or 15 years you have changes in the conditions and the ecosystem. There are many complexities in managing, but we can never again look at the single species or trying to maximize job creation. We must look at sustainable development, reasonable management and have a good solid business-based fishery that is viable so that the tendency to overfish is reduced.

Senator Cook: A lot of money was made on the sale of female capelin. Given the fact you have done a fair amount of research and put a lot of dollars into it, I think it is fair to say that if you have some evidence-based information that will help us in this study of habitat, together we may understand just what is happening there and see whether we might come to a decent conclusion to bring about a good, sustainable fisheries management. Any information that we could have would certainly be welcome.

Mr. Thibault: Certainly. We will add that to the list of documentation to be made available, as well as expertise that you may might want to call upon.

Senator Phalen: Minister Thibault, a couple of weeks ago we had representatives here from the Atlantic Salmon Federation. At that time, I had a chart with me. Although I do not have it available tonight, I think I can ballpark the figures.

The chart indicated that in 1996, I believe, there was something like 110,000 days fished in Cape Breton. In 1998, there was something like 107,000 days fished. In the year 2000, it dropped from somewhere between 11,000 and 12,000 days fished. That is a significant decrease in the amount days fished on the rivers.

I am from Cape Breton. In other parts of Nova Scotia, there is a problem with acid rain in a number of the rivers; however, as far as I can determine, no study has been done in Cape Breton in respect of acid rain.

Mr. Thibault: There have been some studies done and the acid rain situation is much better in Cape Breton than in southern Nova Scotia.

Senator Phalen: Therefore, it is not acid rain that is causing the huge decrease in the amount of fish.

Is your department considering a program for the sport fishing that is so affected in Nova Scotia, and particularly in Cape Breton?

Mr. Thibault: That is part of what I was talking about earlier in regard to getting a partnership approach, working with provincial governments and communities, environmental organizations like the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the provincial government, industry, and putting a program together for salmon in the Atlantic area. I will be working towards that. I do not know exactly what it will look like. In some areas, it can be different from others. There are good signs, however. We have had signs this year in salmon of the amount of returns going up on the Miramichi, the Restigouche and I believe the Margaree, as well as the La Havre. Where we are having the biggest problem is the Bay of Fundy stocks because most of those stocks go up rivers that are affected by acid rain.

Is it just that? I do not know. When we look at the charts of the rivers that experience acid rain, we find them on the western and southern sides of Nova Scotia where they all drain mostly towards the Bay of Fundy.

Senator Phalen: I understand what you are saying, but the statistics do not back that. When it drops from 107,000 days fished to something like 11,000 days fished, someone knows something. They are not fishing because there is no fish. You indicated Margaree. Unless there is an increase this year, there were not that many fish in Margaree last year. There were fewer fish in the Baddeck River and Middle River. All of these rivers had some fish, but the drop in every one of them is significant.

Mr. Thibault: I am not saying that it is healthy or there are great conditions on the Margaree. I am saying that the amount of returns had increased. I believe the Margaree was included in the figures we received. It is certainly not where it was before. There are many environmental reasons.

I do not know that this had an effect, but if you look at the last 20 years on Cape Breton Island, when we had the spruce budworm problem, there were huge areas of deforestation. That must have an effect. If you have that much deforestation it must have an effect on the environment, on the rivers, on the spawning grounds. If you damage those spawning grounds, your returns decrease. You cannot look at any one element in isolation. I do not think it is sport fishing. There was the commercial fishery but that has gone for a while. I believe many elements have contributed to the problems we have.

Senator Phalen: The Margaree River was one of the better rivers in the country at one time. Is there any consideration being given to reopening the hatchery or supporting the hatchery on the Margaree River?

Mr. Thibault: It is not something of which I am aware. It is certainly something that I can review, however. There have been discussions on the number of hatcheries. In some areas, we have able to have communities take them over. I do not know the state of the Margaree hatchery. I believe it has been transferred, has been but I can verify.

It has been divested to the community.

Senator Hubley: I have a question on your science program. I was looking for an overview as to where the scientific work was taking place. I believe you answered that it does take place in different marine centres across the country.

We are all concerned about climate change. We may be looking at climate change as causing problems. In the fishery, has your scientific information identified areas where they suspect climate change had an effect on the fishery? I was thinking, as an example, of Prince Edward Island, where there was an early outbreak of domoic acid in the mussels this year. I do not know what the final reason given for that, but it had to do with the amount of ice, the temperature of the water and things of that nature. We think immediately of climate change. Is that something your scientific program would be addressing at this particular time?

Mr. Thibault: We participate. Some elements are handled by DFO and the Department of Environment, other departments handle other elements, and we work internationally with other institutions. It is of great concern. It is something that is important to understand.

To define the exact impact of climate change on the oceans and the fishery is something like getting a legal opinion. If you put a hundred lawyers in a room, you will have a hundred opinions. With the science of climate change, there is no doubt that there is a greenhouse gas effect, there is no doubt that there is global warming, there is no doubt it is having an impact. Every time I read an article or participate in a discussion, I hear different opinions.

The other thing that is also difficult is that our knowledge or understanding of climate change is relatively recent. It would be what we would have in data in the last 20 or 30 years, and that would be internationally.

We know there are decadal shifts in the ocean temperatures and currents. Every 10 years or so we have effects, like El Nino and others, that occur. It is not a static environment. There are currents, winds, storms, and many effects that change things around in the ocean. Therefore, to point to global warming or climate change or another element as being the cause, there is no doubt it has an effect but we do not yet know the exact effect.

I have heard arguments that climate change or global warming could actually warm up the North Atlantic waters in our areas, because as the polar icecap melts there is an increasing amount of melt water, which is as cold as water can be, that is added to the ocean at a faster rate than normal. I do not know whether that is true or not, but it is not something I would have considered to be an effect of global warming. It is one argument I have seen put forward.

Senator Jaffer: I appreciate your comprehensive report, and I am willing to give you a lesson in basic fishing with respect to B.C. fish.

I must commend you for talking about the Aboriginal fishery strategy as you did on page 2. As you know, this is a big issue in British Columbia. I also sit on that committee, and you heard our debates. I will not repeat them.

In that committee, a number of MPs have stated that there will be issues in British Columbia this year around this strategy. I appreciate your speaking about harmony and the Marshall decision. Those are words that mean a lot to me. I will share this with the MLAs that I write to about this, as well as your comprehensive report.

May I ask you to look at page 2 and the last sentence:

In the time ahead, this work will help ensure a strong, inclusive fishery that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities alike can benefit from.

Would you please elaborate on what you mean by that?

Mr. Thibault: We have had decisions from the Federal Court that affect the East Coast. On the West Coast, we have had decisions on the food fishery that have caused concern. We also have native communities living right on the resource that were not participating in the fishery. Through the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy, we tried to get them participating in the fishery, getting a reasonable livelihood, having economic interest from that fishery, in that instance, food, and ceremonial purposes in some others, and also getting an interest in understanding the methods of conservation and their participation. They understand it well, but we wanted their participation so we could have a co- management approach and achieve unity between traditional fishermen and new entrants in the industry. I think we will all be stronger. We cannot have a strong country or regions if you have a poor community and a rich community or a community getting access to some of the resources and the community next door having no access to the resources, and we have had that situation for some time.

In some areas, we are forced to react because of decisions of the court, but I think they are things we should have done, and we were doing them. The Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy predates the Marshall decision. We have bands in Newfoundland that have been developing their capacity based on Aboriginal fishing strategies and based on the Marshall agreement. I have met some native communities from British Columbia who quite a few years ago, in Roméo LeBlanc's day, were developing their fisheries with assistance from the federal government. They have had problems since because of the downturn in salmon, but I think aquaculture, commercial harvest, participating in co-management and participating in enforcement are possibilities.

Senator Jaffer: I am from referendum country, where there is a lot of discontent, sadly, between the two communities. There is a misconception that Aboriginal people are benefiting, which is not true, as we all know. I have seen your department's pamphlets and brochures. May I suggest a pamphlet or brochure on the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy? You may have one and I missed it. Especially in British Columbia, it would be helpful if people could really understand what it is. I would suggest that, especially in the community papers around Delta and Tsawwassen, or the coastal towns, you could send out a column on exactly what you mean. This was music to my ears when I read it, and I commend you for circulating this.

Mr. Thibault: Certainly we will look at what we have, and if there are areas that we should be improving, we will.

You commented about members of the committee indicating that there could be problems in British Columbia. It disappoints me to hear that type of language because sometimes that can incite problems. It can incite disobedience. One member of the committee that went out after the report to Parliament was made indicated that the regulations had been struck down. That member knew quite well that they had not, that it was a report to Parliament permitting time to report back to the committee and to make the changes, and he is trying to create some sort of problem, some sort of void, so people will think there are no regulations.

The Chairman: Some time ago, in response to a question from the Right Honourable Joe Clark in regard to foreign overfishing and his request that this issue be brought up before the G8 summit, you responded to the question and made the following comment as a part of your response: ``The government will do what is good for fish, not like the previous government where decisions were taken for political purposes and ruined our fishery.''

I found that a rather interesting comment. It might merit out consideration as members of Parliament. This committee is always interested in ensuring that controls are in place, and if bad decisions within the fishery are made, we should ensure that it never happens again.

Would you care to elaborate which fishery the previous government had ruined?

Mr. Thibault: I pointed to the previous government because it was a member of that government that was asking me the question, and Question Period is always a lot of fun. I think you can look at the general way that we were managing fisheries until the collapse.

I remember as a municipal administrator and as president of the board of trade of my community writing to the minister of the day in presentations that the advice he was getting from the department and from his science was wrong, that we could fish more on Georges Banks, that the fishermen had been telling us that and they had been fishing there for 50 years and they understood it better than anybody else. Unfortunately, in too many instances, government responded to petitions and increased the quotas in areas where they should not have.

The Chairman: Which fishery was, in fact, ruined? I am looking for specificity.

Mr. Thibault: Northern cod.

The Chairman: Is it the department's position or the minister's position that it was political decisions that ruined the northern cod?

Mr. Thibault: I think there are a thousand potential answers. There is climatic change. There is international fishing. Undoubtedly, the building of the resources to the amount we did and not having an ecosystem approach and a whole bunch of problems created it. I mentioned earlier that we thought it was a panacea that we could harvest a whole lot of fish and create jobs. We did not think it was a finite resource. We never considered for a minute that we could bring that stock below a critical mass where it could not quickly replicate itself.

The Chairman: It was not necessarily the previous government but previous governments.

Mr. Thibault: Yes, administrations.

The Chairman: If we were to date back to the start of the problems, it might date back to 1982-83 with the extension of the 200-mile limit. We had the Kirby task force, which created the element to increase the offshore trawler fleet because we were going to have a sustainable 400,000 tonne fishery of northern cod in the offshore, and the 400,000 tonne included both the inshore and the offshore. It dates back to 1992, if I am reading it go correctly.

Mr. Thibault: Those would be some of the elements. Also coming out of the Kirby commission, though, was the fact of transferable quotas and its elements, which have been a very good management tool and are part of the solutions now.

You cannot point to one thing and say that has been the cause. Senator, in Saint Mary's Bay, there were lots of plants operating with herring. There was an unlimited supply. There were plants on the Bay of Fundy as well as Black's Harbour. It was huge. After a while, when we started fishing with seiners, we were taking much more herring out. Nobody thought that resource was finite. The ecosystem approach, the prudent management or precautionary approach, is an element that we look forward to.

The Chairman: The direct response is that it was a plague on all previous governments and not one specific government.

Mr. Thibault: It was fine until 1984.

The Chairman: One thing that has often bothered me is that, in July 1992, when the moratorium was placed on northern cod, the northern cod stock, the biomass, had been going down year by year for a number of years. We were not even fishing our TAC at the time. The numbers continued to go down even after the moratorium was put in place. That seems to suggest that overfishing could have been a problem, but that there were other factors involved; not only were political decisions being made or possibly bad science decisions but there were many decisions. One of the things that bothered me quite soon after the moratorium and when the numbers continued to go down was that we cut back on research. That research could have told us or narrowed down the range of causes that could have brought down the collapse of the northern cod. We did reduce the research money to find out what it was. Am I on the right track?

Mr. Thibault: There are a couple of points. One is the problem itself. When you have a fishery that cannot catch the TAC, when they cannot find the fish to catch the TAC and the fish are not at the plants to process, it is obvious that there is a problem. However, we had a hard time owning up to it.

There were cutbacks in research; there is no doubt. Those cutbacks were reinstituted. However, the research would not have created the fish.

There are a few things that could have happened in the case of cod. Definitely there was overfishing. That is undeniable. I do not think anybody would say that there was not. Why did the stocks not rebuild when fishing was slowed? Was it because we brought the biomass down to below a critical level where it could resustain itself rather quickly? Is it because nutrients were not available because all of the other things? These are questions that can be pondered for a thousand years.

Some will tell you, through the evidence we see from the European fleets, that there have been cycles like this in the past with climate, but never to bring it down to the level we have seen. Overfishing must be one of the major causes.

Senator Robertson: We have spoken about ratification and that we have not ratified because of the inspection process of suspect vessels. A representative from the department told me that. Are we getting closer to solving the problem so that we may be in a position to ratify?

Mr. Thibault: We are dealing with the European Union and other partners. The European Union joined the United Nations fisheries agreement on stocks. That would pave the way for us to join the United Nations Law of the Sea.

Senator Robertson: Are you satisfied with the inspection process now?

Mr. Thibault: The inspection process would be greatly improved once all the partners that are fishing within the NAFO area have signed the United Nations fisheries agreement.

Senator Robertson: In regard to the second recommendation in our report to you, on page 3, at the end of the first paragraph regarding the Auditor General's report, we were asking that the Auditor General do a similar audit on the East Coast to that which was done on the West Coast. You went on to say that the department has taken the Auditor General's recommendations seriously, has taken the necessary action to address the points raised, both in regard to the specific region and on a national level. Then you tacked on two words, ``where appropriate.'' Is there something inappropriate about the Auditor General's recommendations?

Mr. Thibault: I would have to review what the recommendations were, what we were able to implement, and the schedule of timing in which we could appropriately implement the recommendations as the resources become available. Sometimes elements change between the time that a recommendation is made and when the implementation time comes.

Senator Robertson: Perhaps after you have had an opportunity to scan that we might have a response to that. It would be interesting if that audit were done on the East Coast.

Mr. Thibault: I would be pleased to do so.

Senator Watt: The chairman was highlighting the situation in relation to the cod being overfished. It disturbs me when people talk about how the cod was affected and how the numbers went down due to overfishing. People do not take into account that we have one of the biggest contributors to that situation is the harp seal population.

Witnesses do not seem to take into account the fact that the fishery collapsed in the Arctic. Overfishing may have been a contributing factor, but I feel that harp seals were the major contributors to the collapse of the cod. We know they must eat something. What they have been eating is the cod. They only take the belly of the fish and take what they need and spit out the rest.

The harp seals are also starting to affect other species in the ocean. As you are probably already aware, Atlantic salmon is nowhere to be seen in my area anymore. Their numbers are depleting badly. I would say there is probably not a chance for the Atlantic salmon to recover in the future. What will we do about the seals? We must make a decision in regard to what to do with the seals. If we do not address that problem, they will continue to be a problem to this country. That probably applies to other countries as well. Here in Canada, the seals are starting to go into the river systems. What are they doing in the river system? We know what they do — they are eating. What is your response to that?

Mr. Thibault: The ecosystem approach is interesting to look at when you look at the question of seals. The chairman and I are from that little community on that bay.

I have seen written documentation of there being seals up the river. Down the river, you could see the traps where the natives would fish salmon. There were huge amounts of salmon, and the seals would go there. Lobster was so plentiful in the bay that they would use it for fertilizer. They would throw boatloads of smoked herring to the Caribbean. The local fishers could get all the pollock and cod they wanted to salt for themselves. There was no problem in the ecosystem and the seals were plentiful. Now there are no seals and there is no salmon. The herring is also down. The ecosystem is out of balance. There are still many lobsters, but not crawling along the beach as before.

Seals do not eat only cod. We have asked a panel of eminent persons to look at the seal population and their effect on the cod. They have made recommendations that we are reviewing carefully in light of the FRCC's call for a reduced seal herd or increased cod yield. When the cod was going down, the seals were down to less than 2,000. Seals now number upwards of 5 million, and there is very little cod. Hence, that growth did not happen on the cod. If it were the other way around, it would probably be that, as the cod goes up, the seals go up. I think there is other feed out there.

We have changed the way in which we have managed the seal population for two reasons: First, we see the numbers of seals growing too fast; and, second, the seal is a viable product this year because the market is good. We used to have the quota at 275,000 seals. In the last 10 years, I think there was only one year where the quota of 275,000 seals was reached.

We agreed to the risk-managed approach where we would let some communities go over their allocation with the understanding that we would come in at the end around the quota of 275,000. With the way the ice moves around, some of the communities sometimes cannot get their allocation of seals. We even let the season extend a little, knowing that we were a bit above the quota this year. We went to 307,000 seals as opposed to 275,000. However, we are still under what is considered a sustainable harvest when you look at what we did not catch in the other years.

We are reviewing the best scientific advice that we have. We will be looking at having a multiyear harvesting plan based on economic viability that will potentially lead to an increased quota on seals.

The Chairman: Minister, on behalf of the committee, I should like to extend to you our sincere appreciation for giving us so much of your time tonight. You have been very open and frank with us. We hope we can count on you attending here again in the future. It has been most enjoyable. You will note from the level of interest displayed by members of this committee that they have enjoyed themselves tonight. We have on this committee a very committed group of senators who have shown an extreme interest in fisheries and oceans related issues.

We did not touch on the question of oceans, and I wish we had. I know that you have a great deal of interest in the subject of oceans. I had a ream of questions that I was going to bring up on that subject, including the marine conservation areas bill, and how that will probably cause problems for the Oceans Act. That is a whole different subject. I hope we can look at that in the future.

Would it be agreeable, honourable senators, to append the response of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to our committee's report entitled ``Aquaculture in Canada's Atlantic and Pacific fisheries'' to our proceedings?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Minister, thank you for your kind comments about our report, Your comments were much appreciated by the committee members. Your comment read as follows: ``Overall, the committee's report is balanced and provides an excellent overview of many of the issues currently facing the aquaculture sector.''

I could not have said it better myself.

Mr. Thibault: I thank you for the work on that report, for the hard work you do, as well as for your attention tonight. I look forward to our next discussion including the Oceans Act.

The committee adjourned.

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