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POFO - Standing Committee

Fisheries and Oceans


Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 8 - Evidence - April 24, 2012

OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 5:55 p.m. to study the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

Senator Elizabeth Hubley (Deputy Chair) in the chair.


The Deputy Chair: Honourable senators, I call the meeting to order. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the meeting of this Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. My name is Senator Hubley. I am a senator from Prince Edward Island and I am the deputy chair of this committee. Before I introduce the witnesses before us, I would like to invite the members of the committee to introduce themselves.


Senator Poirier: I am senator Rose-May Poirier, from Saint-Louis, New-Brunswick.


Senator Raine: Senator Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia.

Senator Poy: Senator Vivienne Poy from Toronto, Ontario.

The Deputy Chair: Today the committee is beginning a study on the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. In the coming months, the committee will hear from participants from the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, including government representatives, lobster fishers, seafood processors, conservation experts, industry associations and commercial lenders. The perspectives of these individuals and groups will provide the committee with the evidence that speaks to the current strengths and weaknesses of the lobster fishery, along with emerging threats and opportunities.

I am pleased to welcome as part of this study our first panel of witnesses. From the Fundy North Fishermen's Association, we have Maria Recchia, Executive Director, and Sheena Young, Program Director. From the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, we have Melanie Sonnenberg, Project Manager, and Bonnie Morse, Project Coordinator. From the Fundy Weir Fishermen's Association, we have Peter Holland, Manager.

On behalf of the members of the committee, I thank you all for joining us here today. You have the floor and the senators would like to ask you questions after your presentations.

Another senator has joined us, so I will ask her to introduce herself.

Senator Cochrane: My name is Ethel Cochrane, and I am from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Maria Recchia, Executive Director, Fundy North Fishermen's Association: I will be giving most of the presentation, but then we will all be available to answer questions. Very likely, I will let my colleagues answer most of the questions so they have a chance to speak as well.

Together we make up what is called the Traditional Fisheries Coalition of southwestern New Brunswick. We have been working together for many years. It consists of our three fishermen's associations and also Connors Bros. Ltd., which is the sardine factory where we live. Connors Bros. Ltd. apologizes they could not attend today.

I know that you are studying lobster, and we will speak primarily about lobster. However, it is difficult for us to only speak about lobster when we talk about the fishery because our fishery in southwestern New Brunswick is special in that it is truly a multi-species fishery. Our fishermen fish for lobster, scallop, groundfish, herring, shrimp, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Some also dig clams and pick periwinkles. This is vital to our communities because having all of the different species available to our fishermen means they can move from one species to another; they do not have to focus only on one. If there is a problem with a species, they can still fish. That has provided the resiliency we have in our area.

We still have fishermen with their sons, grandsons, nephews, wives and daughters on the boats and taking over the boats; the next generation is still there. Our fishermen's associations have members who are 20 years old and members who are in their eighties. We are lucky to still have that.

For that reason, I will slip into talking about herring and some of the other species as we talk about lobster. I will talk mostly about one particular issue. However, I will say that there are two issues that we see as quite significant threats to the future of our lobster fishery.

The first one that I will touch on is proposed changes to the owner-operator policy by DFO. This has come out through a recent document on modernizing the fishery. There is now an extremely large coalition of fishermen's organizations from all across Canada that is working together on this issue. The owner-operator policy, I am sure you know, is really the backbone of the inshore fishery. Without that, we fear the fishery could become a very corporatized, industrial fishery, which is not the picture of the lobster fishery, especially in our area; it is still a family-business, small-boat, independent- operator fishery.

There are many of us who could answer questions on the policy if you have some later on. I am sure you will hear more about it throughout your study.

The issue that we really want to focus on — the other threat that we feel is very significant to the lobster fishery and other fisheries — is the use of pesticides by the salmon aquaculture industry.

The salmon aquaculture industry in our country really developed in southwestern New Brunswick, where we are from. We have been coexisting and accommodating the salmon aquaculture industry for the last 30 years. It is vital to our communities in the same ways the fishery is vital to our communities. There are a lot of jobs in our communities in aquaculture, as in fisheries. We have families who have members working in both industries. Jobs are really important to us. What is most important to us is that these two industries can coexist and flourish together in our area.

The pesticide-use problem that we have stems from something called sea lice. Sea lice are tiny little crabs that are parasites on farmed salmon. They can cause significant problems to the salmon and can eventually result in disease. Sea lice have become a significant problem in the industry, and we are told from a variety of scientists and others that the problem with sea lice really comes when you have an awful lot of fish in a small area. It is an unnatural situation.

In the last three years, we have had a horrible problem with sea lice because the water has been warm. Normally the water is cooler and the sea lice do not become as much of a problem as they are now.

In order to kill the sea lice, the industry is using pesticides that are designed to kill crustaceans. Lobsters are crustaceans, as are shrimp and krill. The pesticides also affect mollusks, like scallops and clams. It is our opinion that in an area where there are so much crustaceans and mollusks, it is not appropriate to use these pesticides.

The reason the issue has become urgent is because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, with Health Canada, has proposed new regulations that will govern the use of pesticide by the aquaculture industry. When initially proposed, the regulations were called the proposed Fish Pathogen and Pest Treatment Regulations. There is quite a controversy, a lot of it coming from the fishing industry and the environmental community, around the proposed regulations. They then changed the names of regulations to the Proposed Regulatory Regime to Manage the Release of Aquaculture Substances. It was called Fish Pathogen and Pest Treatment Regulations and is now called Proposed Regulatory Regime to Manage the Release of Aquaculture Substances, which is a much more benign name.

Our biggest concern with these proposed regulations is that Environment Canada does not have a seat at the table and is not part of the decision-making team when it comes to approving new pesticides under these proposed regulations. Right now, Environment Canada has an advisory role. It is a very informal process compared to what it will be if these proposed regulations come into force.

I want to tell a little story about Environment Canada and pesticides to illustrate why we feel Environment Canada needs to be at the table. This is the story of AlphaMax, which is a pesticide with the active ingredient of deltamethrin. Some of the reports that we had sent ahead involve this. In particular there is a scientific report by Fairchild that studies the effects of AlphaMax.

AlphaMax was proposed by the salmon aquaculture industry in the Province of New Brunswick to be approved for use. The aquaculture industry is saying they need a suite of chemicals in order to fight sea lice. They are finding that sea lice are becoming resistant to the chemicals they have been using and so they need more of these toxic, chemical pesticides in order to not create a system of resistance.

We are often told by the salmon industry that these pesticides are used in other countries in rotation all over the world and that they are very safe and there should not be a problem in using them here. There is one key difference; there is one way that Atlantic Canada is unique. It is the only place in the world where we have a very lucrative, productive lobster fishery right alongside the aquaculture industry. Everywhere else in the world where there is a big aquaculture industry, there is no lobster fishery. For that reason alone, we feel that the use of these pesticides is inappropriate in this situation.

However, they did apply for the approval of AlphaMax, which is considered super toxic as far as pesticides go. The fishing community and the environmental community were opposed to the use of this chemical. Environment Canada advised against approval of this chemical. Due to all of the concern, the Province of New Brunswick commissioned a study on how the AlphaMax impacts lobster. They placed lobster in lobster traps in the water near salmon sites, released the chemical, and found that no lobster was impacted in any way — none died, became ill or were damaged.

When we were told about this study, the fishermen in the room said, "How do you know that the lobsters were actually subject to the pesticides?'' because we have tides of 29 feet in our area and the currents are running all the time like a river.

Depending on where you place those lobsters, they may or may not get the plume of pesticide. Nonetheless we were told it is all clear, the lobsters all survived. It is not a problem. Therefore AlphaMax was approved by Health Canada through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, by DFO and the province. Environment Canada was very displeased with this. In fact, there was so much concern that DFO scientists went on site during the first AlphaMax treatment with a dye and did a dye dispersion study. They put a dye in the water with the chemical. They put tarps around the cages, released the chemical into the tarps, and in this case with the dye so the water was coloured.

When the treatment was finished they released the tarps, and the dye and pesticide flows out into the water. When they did that, the colour of the dye showed exactly where the pesticide plume was going. Environment Canada also showed up unannounced with a boat full of live lobsters. They followed the dye and put the lobsters in the plume; some on the bottom, in the middle, on the top. They went several kilometres out from the cage site. Every single lobster died. Some of them took three days to die, but every single lobster died. At that point, Environment Canada issued something called an Inspector's Direction regarding the deposit of deleterious substances, which is a pretty stern warning to cease and desist whatever it is you are doing. They issued it to individuals working in government who are responsible for approving AlphaMax. As a result, conditions were put on the AlphaMax approval that they could not do tarp treatments and only do contained treatments. After a few months the approval expired.

If Environment Canada was not there doing that work, I expect we would still have AlphaMax in use today. I am telling this story because clearly DFO and Health Canada do not have a clear enough mandate of environmental protection when it comes to these pesticides. DFO has a dual mandate of both promoting the fisheries and the aquaculture industry and managing. They talk an awful lot about conservation and do a lot of conservation work, but the dual mandate makes it difficult to take a clear stance for the environment. Health Canada's primary mandate is human health. Environment Canada is the only one that has a primary mandate of environmental protection. For that reason we would like to see Environment Canada in a decision making role when it comes to approval of aquaculture pesticides.

These new proposed regulations do not have that kind of a role for Environment Canada. There is no formal role and will not be a formal role for them. They may still be considered advisers as they are now. This is causing us great concern.

I will add one thing: The lobster study where they said all the lobsters were fine was rescinded after Environment Canada did their work. The chief scientist on that study admitted publicly at a meeting that the study was flawed.

At this point, our feeling is that these proposed regulations on the release of aquaculture chemicals must not pass. If they do, we feel that the future of the traditional fisheries, which are the lifeblood of our coastal communities, will be endangered. As senators, you have a lot of influence and we are calling on you to perhaps ask for a study on this, speak to your colleagues, inquire of the relevant ministers, or anything else you think you may be able to do to learn more about this issue.

We are looking for better, responsible management that uses the precautionary approach — which is the foundation of the Oceans Act — whether it is using pesticides or just managing the aquaculture industry period. The aquaculture industry is very important to our communities. We do not want to lose jobs. It is important to the families of the fishermen as well. We need to see a well-managed aquaculture industry that does not work to take away from what the fishing industry has. We need two healthy industries side by side. Given the rich nature of our ecosystem — rich in crustaceans — and the importance of the lobster and scallop fisheries and others, we need to come up with solutions that allow for a more environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry.

There is probably a lot more salmon in our area than there should be to have a healthy population without needing to resort to pesticides. We have sites very close together. If you stand on the shore and look out, it is not difficult to see four, five or six full sites with mini-cages in each. There is not enough separation between sites and too many fish on sites.

I will close there and hope you have some questions for us. We appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and are so pleased you are interested in this issue.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much. Would other panellists like to comment at this point about the work you are doing or on the subject matter this evening?

Peter Holland, Manager, Fundy Weir Fishermen's Association: I would like to speak a little about on the herring weirs that I represent. I gave out a couple books so people will understand how they work, their function and how a sustainable fishery has been around for the last 200 years.

The use of pesticides is very detrimental to our industry because the main feed of juvenile herring that come into the Bay of Fundy — we catch them there — is krill, which is susceptible to the toxic chemicals used to kill the sea lice. The sea lice become more predominant because there are more salmon. We are not talking wild salmon; we are talking aquaculture salmon. However, because of sea lice and the treatments and husbandry used around the sites since the 1970s when the industry started, as well as the encroachment of the different sites, our weir industry has gone down and down.

Herring is one of the main feed sources for the lobster fishery, so we are trying to have a symbiotic approach. The book we have passed out gives you a general idea.

The Deputy Chair: We have had three senators join us.

Will you take a moment to introduce yourselves?

Senator Oliver: I am Don Oliver, a senator from Nova Scotia.

Senator MacDonald: Senator Michael MacDonald from Nova Scotia, or Cape Breton.

Senator Patterson: Senator Dennis Patterson from Nunavut.

Senator Poy: Thank you very much for your presentations.

This question can be answered by any of you, but Ms. Recchia mentioned the involvement of Health Canada in pesticides used in the salmon aquaculture industry. If they use AlphaMax, a substance that kills lobsters, would it not kill humans as well? I am just trying to link the two. If it is that toxic, then farmed salmon would be just as toxic, would they not?

Bonnie Morse, Project Coordinator, Grand Manan Fishermen's Association: It is a much lower level of toxicity for crustaceans than for humans. The usage approved by Health Canada is below the toxic level or the level that would harm humans. They were confident there would not be an impact on human health.

When they talk about acceptable risk, we do not have a clear understanding from them how they determine what an acceptable risk in the marine environment would be. While I am confident there would not be an impact on human health, I am not as confident that the impact on the marine environment is being looked at as closely.

Senator Poy: Would that not depend on how frequently we eat salmon? Many of us do eat a lot of salmon, so would the health effect be cumulative?

Melanie Sonnenberg, Project Manager, Grand Manan Fishermen's Association: There is a certain protocol in terms of allowing the fish to clear themselves before they are brought to market so that human health is not compromised in the marketing of the fish. That is all taken into consideration by Health Canada when they allow an approval to go forward.

Senator Poy: Can you explain how the fish clear the pesticide?

Ms. Sonnenberg: They simply do not feed them and they are not treated with the chemical for a certain amount of time, sometimes up to six months.

Senator Poy: Are they supposed to be cleared of the chemicals?

Ms. Sonnenberg: Yes.

Senator Poy: I have a question regarding sea lice. Are there sea lice in wild salmon? To what extent are they impacted by the sea lice when they are in the wild?

Mr. Holland: In the cage system you have all your fish — 25,000, 30,000, 40,000 fish — in one cage, which is a feast for sea lice. It draws them. In the wild you have fish swimming around by themselves in the ocean so they are not drawn to the individual fish.

Going back 20 years, as a sports fisherman, when I would catch a salmon near the mouth of a river and it would have one or two sea lice on it, and I would say, "There is a nice, healthy fish.'' It is just out of the salt water with a few sea lice on it. When it gets up the river a little bit, the lice would fall off.

In the area we are in, sometimes you get enough sea lice on the fish to kill them.

Senator Poy: It would actually kill the fish?

Mr. Holland: Without the treatments, it will kill them. You have to understand that fish are not necessarily treated once with this chemical or peroxide or another substance that I call toxic. Through the process that they apply for the medicines, fish can be treated up to 13 times in their life cycle. It is not like one bath and that fish is free of sea lice. It is a rigid process given through Health Canada for the medicine. They are allowed to use that medicine three times on that fish, but they might use a number of other medicines that would max out to the 13. When we are talking about that many times, you are starting to see how heavy the sea lice infestations are.

Through this, certain medicines will attack certain parts of the life cycle of the sea louse. They could put a peroxide bath to it and that takes the adult off it but it does not harm the eggs or the juvenile sea lice. If they use another one, over and over again in an area where our fishermen fish for the herring, lobster, crab and shrimp, after some of the tests we have seen from Environment Canada, which has been excluded to a certain amount now, that plume of water when they are done releasing it goes miles.

It depends what stage we are in. In the summertime it can be a lobster nursery area where the female lobsters go because there is warmer water there with all the eggs. You are not just wiping out one lobster, you are wiping out history. They have done different tests on our lobsters. They have found dead ones in the traps and action has been taken. We are not talking about the juvenile lobster because it takes lobster on the East Coast about eight years to become marketable size. People are not seeing those lobsters. We are not seeing what is happening in the next eight years. We are seeing those mature lobsters that are caught in traps coming up dead.

Senator Poy: Are lobsters, herring or krill they affected by sea lice, and can sea lice kill them, too?

Mr. Holland: Sea lice do not attach to a lobster or shellfish.

Senator Poy: What about herring?

Mr. Holland: They might have one on them, but I have never seen in the salt water a sea louse on a herring.

Senator Cochrane: You say that, but I know that I have had codfish and have seen sea lice. They do attach themselves to the cod as well.

Mr. Holland: Sea lice are part of the life in the oceans. It is the congregation of them that we are dealing with.

Yes, they probably do. You are more than likely right. I am from Newfoundland, too. I do not see too many codfish nowadays.

Senator Cochrane: We used to have codfish quite a bit and we would dry the codfish. When the codfish was dried, on the flakes we could see the sea lice. They were dead at that time. They were there in their stomachs.

Mr. Holland: The sea lice are not affecting the fish internally. They will be on the outside and will bite on to the fish toward the head or down, and enough of them will slow the growth or could kill the fish without treatment. That is on the outside.

Senator Cochrane: There was no treatment used in those days.

Senator Poirier: Would you say that the pesticide is your number one concern right now for the future of the lobster industry?

Ms. Recchia: Maybe we can each answer that from our associations. We just had a large meeting of our lobster committee in my area and the room was packed. We had the largest turnout we have ever had for a lobster community meeting.

There are many issues in the lobster fishery now. The price is low; the cost of fishing is very high. There is the owner- operator issue and all the issues people were talking about.

Our fishermen, our members in the area where I live have said to me that this is our number one issue. If we do not address this issue, we fear for the future of our fisheries.

Ms. Sonnenberg: In our organization, I would echo what Fundy North has said. Two years ago, our fishermen gave us a mandate to make this our number one priority, making sure we are heard. I want to echo words that Ms. Recchia said, that we want to be able to coexist in the industry but we have to look at the long term. One of the problems that exists for us is that since the aquaculture industry started, we have no baseline data from those years. We have operated in a vacuum without having good information. Therein lies the problem for a lot of the debates and discussions we have had over the past few years. For our organization, all the things you will hear in the coming months are concerns, but our organization has identified this as the number one priority. Certainly, the owner-operator is taking it on more and more in terms of its importance because fishermen fear for that kind of change and what it will do for the coastal communities as we watch this unfold.

Unfortunately, we have had the chance to see it in other fisheries where the owner-operator has been abandoned in favour of corporations owning the fishery, and that has not worked out well for our coastal communities.

Lobster is the backbone of most coastal communities, as you are well aware. We are fearful about that, but for us locally in southern New Brunswick, this is the priority.

Senator Poirier: We know lobster is Canada's number one seafood export. One of the reasons we are doing this study is to hear about the future of the lobster industry.

In the types of pesticides that are being used, which obviously seem to be having an impact on the lobster fishery and others out there, do you know if there is any research that has been done to see if there is a type of pesticide out there that would help the problems that need to be helped but at the same time not endanger the other species? Is anything being looked at? Are you aware of any research in that regard?

Ms. Recchia: The answer depends on who you speak with. The aquaculture industry has a very strong lobby. They tell us all the time that these pesticides are not harmful and are used so many places in the world. They say things like, well, the lobster fishery is doing well so how could it possibly be a problem?

I will say that in our area the fishing industry has fought hard against all pesticides. Every time a new one has come in, we are there at the table. Between that and Environment Canada's work, we have been able to — we do not have nearly as many pesticides used in our area as are used in other parts of the world. From our perspective, any pesticide designed to kill a crustacean is inappropriate in our environment. That said, we hope there are other solutions.

Senator Poirier: The reason I say that is because in my local area, Lac Després had no fish. There was nothing in it and people swam there many years ago. Over some years, someone dropped fish in there. I am trying to remember if it was pickerel. I do not remember the name, but the lake was getting so populated that the fish were going up the streams. The danger was that they would affect the salmon population in the Miramichi area. If I remember correctly, the department had a Texas company come in to address the problem of the fish in the lake and to not damage anything else. Now they are surviving. That is why I was wondering if other research is out there.

You also mentioned that you feel it would be excellent for Environment Canada to be at the table with DFO and Health Canada. Have you made that request?

Ms. Recchia: We have made that request. We will be meeting with Environment Canada while we are here in Ottawa. I am not clear as to why Environment Canada is not fighting a little more strongly to be at the table on this issue. We hear things second hand and do not really know the situation. My son says there were some hard feelings, that there was a bit of a jockeying for power and position with these regulations. Would they be fish health regulations or would they be environmental protection regulations?

Environment Canada, I understand, wanted them to be environmental protection regulations. DFO and Health Canada were leaning towards the fish health regulations. The way they are being represented, they are fish health regulations.

Ms. Morse: One of the issues we have had all along on this file is that it is complex, with three federal departments trying to determine who is responsible for what and how they share or do not share the management of this file in some instances. I think there needs to be agreement going forward whereby everyone has a clear outline of their roles. I am not sure that has always been clearly defined and I am not sure it has been in these new regulations either.

Senator Poirier: When you make your request, do you make a request to the Department of the Environment to join the other two departments, or do you make the request to DFO and Health Canada for Environment Canada to be with you?

Ms. Recchia: We have done both. We have participated in all of the public consultation processes. We have also had additional meetings and consultations that we have set up ourselves on these regulations. We have both written and oral testimony on record for every single conclusion there has been on this.

Senator Poirier: Out of curiosity, because we just finished a study on the grey seal, do you feel the grey seal has any impact on your lobster?

Ms. Sonnenberg: Presently, we are seeing the grey seal population on the rise in the Bay of Fundy. I am involved with other fishing organizations which, 10 years ago, when they started talking about it on the eastern shore, we were oblivious but understood there was going to be a certain evolution of the population growing, given some of our experiences with other things. We did pay attention to it, but now we have a lot of grey seals showing up in places we have never seen them before.

What I hear from fishermen on the water, some of our weir fishermen are seeing them turn up in weirs, and they are mammoth creatures, as you know. Some of the traps are being affected, but we are not seeing it at the level that you heard about during the hearings with some of the fishermen in terms of gear in the groundfish fishery and so on. We are just starting to hear about those reports, not as consistently perhaps as in other areas. Certainly, as the population continues to grow and go unchecked, yes, I fully expect it will become a preoccupation for us, because we only have to look out around the Nova Scotia shoreline to see what the impacts have been and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Senator MacDonald: Thank you all for being here this evening. I have to confess, when I came here to learn about lobster tonight I was not expecting to talk about sea lice and pesticides. Again, it brings to mind how much is involved in this stuff, and I would like to learn more about this.

I came in halfway through your presentation, but I am interested in this AlphaMax and the role of DFO and Health Canada. I assume they approved the use of it, but then Environment Canada came in and ran a test with it. Who brought them in? How did they come into the mix?

Ms. Recchia: Environment Canada was sort of on this file. Once AlphaMax was proposed, it raised a lot of red flags within Environment Canada, I think because it is classified as super toxic. Through an MOU with DFO, Environment Canada does all the monitoring and enforcement of section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, which is about deleterious substances going into the marine environment. That is their mandate on this.

I know that Environment Canada was at several meetings with DFO and Health Canada and expressed strongly their concern and their advice to not go forward with Alpha Max.

As far as them coming and putting the lobsters in the water when the treatment was going on, I think that was a surprise to everyone there. That was the good work of the enforcement branch of Environment Canada.

Senator MacDonald: What year was this? Do you know when this was?

Ms. Morse: October or November of 2010.

Senator MacDonald: It was fairly recent.

Ms. Morse: Yes.

Senator MacDonald: You were talking about baseline data. Do you have anything empirical on the West Coast, or can you compare it with farming on the West Coast?

Ms. Sonnenberg: There are certainly some similarities. Some of the knowledge that the industry started out with on the East Coast was transferred out, but certainly the situation out there is somewhat different. They have, of course, gone to a different regime in terms of management because the province stepped away from it and DFO took it back under their mandate. In New Brunswick, DFO has a role but the Province of New Brunswick also has a role as well. There is an MOU that exists between the department of fisheries and oceans, the Province of New Brunswick and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. They play a part in the legislation, the site allocation, some of those issues, whereas out on the West Coast DFO is responsible for all of that now. That changes the way things are handled.

Senator MacDonald: Again, I am not an expert on this, but I would assume the ecology in the Gulf of St. Lawrence would be somewhat different than the West Coast of Canada when it comes to tides.

Ms. Sonnenberg: When we talk about the Bay of Fundy, yes, they are unique. We are world renowned for our tides.

Senator MacDonald: Are the salmon farms on the East Coast in the Bay of Fundy or the gulf, or both?

Ms. Sonnenberg: The concentration of them presently is in the Bay of Fundy, on the southern New Brunswick shore. There are some that exist on the Nova Scotia Bay of Fundy shore in small concentrations, and now we will see them in Shelburne and will hear about them on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia.

Senator MacDonald: I have heard about them already from friends of mine around the St. Mary's River.

Ms. Sonnenberg: I am sure you have.

Senator MacDonald: There is a real fight going on about this stuff. The more I read about it, the more I realize why that is.

Ms. Sonnenberg: Certainly in Newfoundland there is a presence there that is growing.

Senator MacDonald: You mentioned there was no other place in the world where lobsters were used. Is there a place where crustaceans were around there? Are there other places in the world where this stuff affected crustaceans?

Ms. Recchia: There is no other place in the world where salmon aquaculture coincides with a crustacean fishery like the lobster fishery or a shrimp fishery or that sort of thing, although we have heard from British Columbia. There are some prawn fishermen there who contacted us and said they have had catches with a high percentage of dead prawns in them that they suspect may be due to aquaculture pesticides.

The big salmon growing areas would be Norway, Scotland and Chile. In those places, there is no crustacean fishery right alongside. Some of them may have crustacean fisheries, but they are in other regions. They are not side by side.

Senator MacDonald: You mention that you want the industries to coexist. You have a number of people in both industries. You also reiterated or made the argument that there are too many of them and they are too close together, and these pesticides are getting too strong and have to stop. I am sure they will come back and say it will kill their industry.

What is the halfway point here? What is the solution? If your solution is to put them out of business, which is what they will say — I am not saying you do not have a valid argument — and you say you want to keep both industries going, yet your solution will put them out of business, what do we say to them when they come to the table next week with a completely different argument?

Ms. Recchia: That is the $50,000 question. I will let other people speak, too. I just want to say a couple of things.

It is a difficult question. We do not want to see any jobs lost from our communities. They are rural communities. There are not a lot of things for people to do if they are not working on the water. However, the way the industry has been managed, things like using these pesticides, is fairly short-sighted to me and it is aimed at maximizing profit above all else. That is problematic, of course.

I personally believe there is a place for salmon aquaculture in our region. It might not be as large an industry, or maybe it is an industry that specializes in growing truly sustainable seafood, not just calling it sustainable salmon but something that is truly sustainable.

In today's world, tags on food like "organic'' and "pesticide-free'' are very important to people, and I know you can get a higher price for them. There are some places, like Ireland, for instance, where they have an organic salmon industry where they do not use pesticides. There are several places in the world where there are large separations between sites. There are areas where we live where the water is very warm and sea lice are a huge problem. Maybe that small spot is not the right place for salmon; maybe it should be somewhere else.

I think a lot of negotiating can happen, and there are specialists who know how to solve this. I will mention that in the industrial agriculture world, many people have said you cannot grow food organically on land on a large scale. Look at today. You go into the grocery store and there are all sorts of organic food available. I think there is a way to do it.

Senator Patterson: I very much appreciate the presentations and your willingness to acknowledge that both aquaculture and the traditional industry are providing important sources of employment. I think our challenge, as my colleague just said, is trying to figure out a way those can coexist.

I would like to pursue the concern you have about the process of developing the new regulations on pesticides or release of aquaculture substances. Could you describe it for me a bit more, please? I understand these regulations are in the proposal stage and the consultation stage. What is the status of those consultations? Who is involved?

Ms. Morse: DFO just completed the pre-gazette, as I think it is called. The regulations are just being written. They have not gone to gazette. There was a discussion document on their website for comment almost two years ago. At that time, as our Traditional Fisheries Coalition, we asked to sit down with DFO to talk about the intent of the regulations, how we could feed into the process and try to understand what it was they were hoping to accomplish and how this could impact our industry. Unfortunately, we did not have that meeting for reasons that we are not completely clear about.

For us, it has left us a bit in the dark about where we are going with these regulations. Now, of course, when we are starting the formal process, it inhibits how we can feed into it.

One of our frustrations all along on this file has been that the aquaculture industry is seen as the stakeholder, but because we are sharing the marine environment, we believe we are stakeholders as well. We have not always had that same level of input that the other stakeholders may have had.

Senator Patterson: You are now in the formal process. Could you describe that to me as well? I understand you feel you are on the outside, but what do you know about it?

Ms. Morse: Not a heck of a lot, to be completely honest. I am new to how the regulatory process works. I know we are in the initial stages. There was a notice in the Canada Gazette last November that it was the intent to develop the regulations. At to where we go after the intent before we get to gazette, I am a little shaky on how Canadian law actually works, to be honest.

Senator Patterson: I am sure we can find out, and I think we probably will.

Ms. Sonnenberg: At other government agencies with which I have been involved, the consultation process can be quite open and easy to engage. In this particular instance, I would not call it easy to engage. I would not call it easy to be heard. I think I would like to add to what Ms. Morse has said.

One of the reasons for regulations is so that we can circumvent the Fisheries Act. What we are doing today is not acceptable under the rules we have under sections 32, 35 and 36(3). They are not acceptable behaviours if we are to interpret the act strictly as it is written. Every time we bring it up, the only word that comes to mind is we are being stonewalled because we continued to say, "How can we make this work if we have one act running this way and then we hive this off?''

It is not as transparent as some of the other experiences I have had. When we have asked the question of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which has been the lead on this, they are not forthcoming on how the process will unfold, and I largely believe it is because they would prefer that we were not engaged.

Senator Patterson: I guess it is the lawyer in me, but you spoke about the management of aquaculture and the issue of separation, which seems to be a practice followed in other jurisdictions but perhaps not in your region. You described a shared management regime in New Brunswick, if I understood right.

If we were to agree that the issue of separation should be reviewed in light of these problems you have described, is there an integrated board? What is the management regime? Who is in charge, or is that clear? Whom would we approach to recommend review or reform?

Ms. Recchia: I can try, and then maybe you can jump in.

Senator Patterson: We will ask these questions probably of the governments involved, but I would be interested in your views, and I hope I am not being too technical. I would be interested in your perceptions.

Ms. Recchia: I want to make sure I understand the question. Are you asking about the management of aquaculture, period, or specifically about pesticides?

Senator Patterson: The management of aquaculture; specifically the separation issue you described.

Ms. Recchia: The separation —

Senator Patterson: You said if the —

Ms. Recchia: Oh, between sites.

Senator Patterson: If they were farther apart.

Ms. Recchia: I think the Province of New Brunswick would primarily make the determinations. The industry would apply for sites at certain locations and the government of New Brunswick would approve those site allocations.

Senator Patterson: Are the pesticides DFO-led?

Ms. Morse: The application for a pesticide is made by the Province of New Brunswick to Health Canada. Health Canada draws on information from DFO, Environment Canada, the province and anyone else they may feel would have applicable information.

The conditions of the registration from Health Canada go back to the Province of New Brunswick, because they have the actual authorization. Those conditions are enforced provincially, both by the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, and the provincial Department of the Environment in New Brunswick. It is a very complicated system to try to follow.

Senator Patterson: Thank you.

Senator Cochrane: Regarding the group of witnesses we have here now, are you one organization or are you from separate organizations?

Ms. Sonnenberg: The Traditional Fisheries Coalition is a group made up of groups. It is an umbrella force in southern New Brunswick. We came together years ago when we could see that aquaculture was having a detrimental effect on the weir industry, we came together to reach out to government to talk about the issues surrounding that. From that, there became a clear issue of our lobster fishery being compromised from actions being taken, which Ms. Recchia spoke about with the AlphaMax and other things.

Therefore, we brought the group back to the table and reignited the process to come together. We have worked closely together since 2009 to bring these issues forward, get them on the table, and try to get some clarity and understanding around some of the things that are facing us and some of the things happening in the ecosystem that seem to be running out of control and out of our reach.

Senator Cochrane: Do you have a spokesperson or chair for your group?

Ms. Morse: We are ad hoc. We shift it around, depending on the topic and someone's area of expertise.

Senator Cochrane: Who did you make the request to in order to have Environment Canada become involved?

Ms. Morse: Each of our organizations has written a letter expressing our concerns about the proposed regulations. Those letters have all gone in to the ministers of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Health Canada and Environment Canada.

Senator Cochrane: Here I go again: I will offer a suggestion, but do not mind me because I am always doing things like this, especially to my own children. It might have been better if you had amalgamated your whole group and all of you signed the letter and sent it that way. Would that have more force do you think?

Ms. Sonnenberg: We do those sorts of things. I was discussing this before you folks showed up.

One of our issues is that it is a resource issue for us. Fisheries organizations tend to be underfunded. That is the same old story for everyone. Do not get me wrong; we are not unique. However, we are underfunded and have been unable to tackle the issues we are being asked to take on through the downloading of all sorts of initiatives we see happening day after day in government. We have not been able to have a focus and a funding mechanism, which is what we require. Given the workload that has come with this file, we have all been so focused on trying to bring it to the forefront that there has not been any time to address some of those issues.

You are quite correct: There is more power in us collectively signing letters, and we do that. However, we also often follow up individually from our organizations to ask for things as well. Yes, we are together as a coalition and we are requesting it, but we are also doing it on behalf of our organizations. Perhaps our viewpoints or vantage points are a little different, so our own organizations might allow us to say it a little different way.

Senator Cochrane: Did Environment Canada give you a specific reason as to why they did not want to get involved?

Ms. Recchia: We have heard a few things from our local Environment Canada office. We have heard quite a lot about it. Before coming here, a few weeks ago, we as the Traditional Fisheries Coalition requested a meeting with the Minister of the Environment, which was declined. We also requested a meeting with his three assistant deputy ministers, which was also declined. We are meeting with someone from Environment Canada this week but not at those high levels.

I am concerned that Environment Canada is sort of taking this lying down. I think they have been left out of the process and they are not fighting it. That is very discouraging to us because Environment Canada has done an absolutely wonderful job locally, protecting our fishery and the marine environment. I am not fully clear as to why Environment Canada in Ottawa is not making a lot of noise about this.

Senator Cochrane: My advice is to keep it up. You cannot give up right now because this is your main source of food and livelihood for the people of New Brunswick.

I do know that lobster prices have fluctuated over the last number of years. Last year was terrible. I know back in Newfoundland, they only got $3-something per pound for it. It was just awful. As I understand it, in many areas, fishers do not know the price they will get this year until the season opens again, which is terrible.

Can you tell me if there is a minimum price that fishers need to get for lobster to make it financially viable just to fish?

Back in Newfoundland, our season is only six weeks. I do not know how long it is in New Brunswick. I do not know if it is the same or not. They need to have a price so that they can break even and pay for boats, fuel and so on.

Is there a minimum price that a fisherman will need in order to break even?

Ms. Sonnenberg: There is always a break-even point. All lobster districts are unique in how they are managed, the times for their seasons and so on.

There is a group presently that, since 2008, has started to get legs. It is the Lobster Council of Canada. That group is working on those sorts of issues now to look at how to get a price structure in place that is solid, that the industry at all levels can benefit from. It is a very complicated structure we have, from the time the lobster comes on the boat until the time we see it either on a plate in a restaurant or in a grocery store. We are working on that, but different areas require different things based on the kind of fishery they have.

If you were to ask us in our area if there is a break-even point, yes, there definitely is, but that could change tomorrow based on the fluctuating fuel we see. The prices every week can be different — it can be higher or lower. We are at a point now where we would expect that the spring fishery is just starting. Hopefully inventories are low and you would fetch a better price, but as more and more fishermen come on line, this is the complication we are trying to work through.

It may be beneficial to have a representative from the council come and talk about some of the work being done in terms of trying to find a mechanism that suits everyone based on the complications of the industry.

Senator Cochrane: What about my friend from Newfoundland? Do you have something to say about all of this?

Mr. Holland: It would depend on the lobster district you are in. For example, the season in the Magdalen Islands just opened up. At the first of their season, they catch the bulk of their lobster. They are getting a lot right now.

The price in southern New Brunswick is around $6 right now. However, our season in district 36 has just opened up for April 1. The water is cold. We do not have the migration of lobsters there at the time, so people are going out and not catching a lot of lobsters. The lobster fishermen are going out later in the season when the water warms up and the lobsters migrate into that part of the Bay of Fundy. That makes it more profitable for them, so they are catching more lobsters on their days out.

The break-even point you are looking for would depend on whether you are catching a tonne a day or 200 pounds a day. It is hard to give that. As it was just said, there is a group trying to figure those things out and where best to go for that. Right now I can tell you the price is around $6.

Senator Cochrane: They were about $3 last year.

Mr. Holland: They were also about $3 in our area last year.

Ms. Recchia: It is only $6 because very few districts are fishing. Once they open and are catching lobster that is when the price goes down. It is high right now but we do not expect it will stay that high.

Mr. Holland: We consider it big to get the lobster fishermen out there for $6.

Senator Cochrane: I will continue the effort with Environment Canada because there seems to be a problem with the lice issue. Vancouver had a problem a few years ago with lice in their salmon. They came before the committee and they had pictures of it. The sea lice were prominent in the stomachs of the salmon. I do not know if they have overcome the issue. It might be worth having a discussion with them.

Ms. Recchia: We are part of a large umbrella group in Atlantic Canada that is working for aquaculture reform. It consists of the fishing industry and environmental community. There is also another similar coalition in British Columbia and we have phone calls once a month. We have been engaged with the environmental and fishing communities on both coasts on this issue.

Senator Cochrane: You can mention that to them as well.

Senator Poirier: On the environmental issue, you mentioned you had a good working relationship locally with the environmental department. Is that the provincial department or the federal department?

Ms. Recchia: Federal. It is Environment Canada.

Senator Poirier: If you have a good relationship locally would it not be a possibility to approach through them? They would perhaps have an avenue of an open door to speak to who you need to, or get them to help you organize some kind of connection.

Ms. Recchia: We contacted them and asked them to help us get meetings in Ottawa. They were not able to help, though they did try. They are cheering us on. They really like to see higher ups here in Ottawa embracing this and fighting for it.

Senator Raine: I have a ton of questions actually.

I do not know the aquaculture industry in the Maritimes as well, but first, it is Atlantic salmon that is being farmed. Is there an issue with that salmon escaping and intermingling with wild salmon?

Ms. Recchia: Yes.

Mr. Holland: I will try and answer this. There is a study being done for the Atlantic Salmon Federation — I was a fisheries officer for 30 years with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and retired — headed up by at fellow named Jonathan Carr. He has been studying that interaction since he left university. He has been there at least 20 years.

They followed the genetics through the Magaguadavic River, and there was a fish ladder. They were taking scale samples off the salmon going over that. They have 40 years of DNA and can tell the parents of a fish that is going there today. He would be the ideal person to answer those questions.

Senator Raine: Who owns the salmon farms in the Maritimes?

Mr. Holland: Originally they were all privately owned. They are supposed to supplement the fishermen. There are small family farms of 30,000 or 40,000 fish killable per year. Those family farms have basically died out and there are two or three. There are three corporations now who own the bulk of them.

Ms. Recchia: One of them is very large and owns the bulk of them, Cooke Aquaculture.

Mr. Holland: Most of those ventures are companies from British Columbia and Chile.

Senator Ringuette: What are the pay rates for labour on the aquaculture fish farms?

Mr. Holland: It is above minimum wage. It is comparable to, let us say, working in the sardine plants or other businesses down there.

Ms. Recchia: It is not the same level of work as a fisherman, particularly the captain of a boat. However, even the crew is fairly low paying in the scheme of things. In my experience it is quite a high turnover of site workers as well. It is not consistent. Where we have the fishery it is a family business and your fishermen are not changing; they are the same people for the most part and it is a bit different that way.

Senator Raine: Again, how many fish farms are there in your region in the Bay of Fundy?

Ms. Morse: In southwestern New Brunswick, I believe 96 are licensed. I am not sure if they are all active in any given year. They have a three-year bay management system and about a third of those farms would be fallow in any year; they grow out for two years and then they are fallow. Two thirds are active at any given time.

Senator Raine: When were the first ones set up?

Mr. Holland: In the 1970s.

Senator Ringuette: How far apart are they? I understand that is determined by the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries?

Ms. Recchia: It depends on where you are. There are places where they are close together and crowded — like Lime Kiln Bay in New Brunswick — and there are other places where they are further apart. However, I would say that southwest New Brunswick is a lot more congested in their salmon farming operations than Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.

Senator Ringuette: Is there room for more?

Ms. Recchia: Not as far as we are concerned.

Senator Raine: They have been going since the 1970s — more than 40 years — so at what point did there get to be too many?

Ms. Morse: A couple were approved on the mainland shore, but the last real bulk of the new fish farms approved were in 2001. That was to cope with the three-year cycle with the fallowing. It is hard to say, "This farm was actually the tipping point.'' One of challenges is that when you look at the Bay of Fundy it looks like a big area. When you look at the ocean it looks like a big area. However, the aquaculture sites are vying for the same bottom that has been traditionally used by the fishing industry. They are in-shore, in sheltered coves where the lobster industry and scallop fisheries happen. A lot were placed on sites which used to have herring weirs, and we have seen the herring weir industry decline in numbers. I have been with our organization for 20 years. When I started on Grand Manan there were a number of active weirs and now there are not a dozen. It is hard to say when it actually got to be too much.

Senator Ringuette: It is a big challenge because I think everyone would like to see a sustainable wild fishery and obviously aquaculture is here. Do you think the dual mandate of DFO is working?

Ms. Morse: It does not appear to be from where we are, so far. There needs to be a larger separation between the promotion of aquaculture, the regulation of aquaculture and the enforcement of the rules around aquaculture. We have talked about some of the complications of how pesticides are approved. There are so many people involved that sometimes it makes it very complicated — even for the people who are supposed to be regulating — to know who is responsible and what falls under whose department. There needs to be a clear look at the areas of responsibility for each department.

Senator Oliver: I apologize that I was not here to hear your presentations, but what I have heard in terms of your responses has been most informative and very interesting. You have raised many interesting questions.

I would like to go back to the issue of sea lice. You have mentioned organic farming. I would like to know, apart from using pesticides, what are the organic methods that are being used to get rid of the sea lice that you can tell us about?

Ms. Recchia: I am certainly not an expert on this, but my understanding is that they are very low stocking densities, with not very many fish per pen, and very large separations between sites.

Senator Oliver: It will require more overhead and infrastructure on the part of the owners.

Ms. Recchia: Yes. I know, for instance, with the Irish organic salmon, the price point is very high, so they are making a lot more for their salmon.

Senator Oliver: Most organic things get a good price, but I was wondering whether there was any other particular organic method of getting rid of the sea lice, apart from separations?

Ms. Recchia: I know there are some kinds of green solutions that are being researched. My sense, though, is that the amount of time and money are very miniscule that are going into that sort of thing.

The note of caution that we give is that there are repercussions from some of those as well. For instance, one thing being researched is light traps that would lure the sea lice to the light traps to be captured. Light has quite an impact on herring, for instance, so wherever there would be a light trap or where there are lots of lights, herring will not go near them. That would be another deterrent or another problem that the herring weir fishery would have to address.

We would like to be part of the discussions around the green technologies, but my sense is that the aquaculture industry wants a suite of pesticides. That is the cheapest, most effective, most efficient, from their perspective, way of controlling the problem. The little bits of work they are doing on green technologies are a little bit of window dressing. That is my opinion of it.

Senator Oliver: Is there any kind of ointment, liquid or gel that can serve as a pesticide that is organic that you know of that is being used anywhere else around the world to kill sea lice?

Ms. Recchia: I do not know of it, but I am not an expert in that. I know that they are looking at gels that can remove the pesticide from the water. Instead of doing a tarps treatment in the ocean where everything just flows out, they have these well boats. They only have a few of them; they are quite expensive. It is a boat with a giant hold. They pump the fish into the boat, put the pesticides into the hold and treat them that way, and then they take the pesticide-laden water and put it back in the ocean. They are experimenting with a kind of a gel that they can put into the wastewater that will absorb the pesticide.

They are also experimenting with charcoal filters to take out the pesticides. Things like that are interesting and possibly promising, but they are miniscule projects that are barely funded.

Senator Oliver: Are any of you funding research projects or being involved in research projects in relation to sea lice in particular?

Ms. Recchia: We are not.

Senator Oliver: Are any universities, professors or scientists doing research on this problem of how to kill the sea lice without using pesticides?

Ms. Recchia: There are some universities and some government people working on it.

Senator Oliver: This is a committee doing a study, so in terms of things this committee can recommend, since sea lice is such a major problem and the use of pesticides is a big problem, what would you like to see us recommend?

Ms. Sonnenberg: If I could from my position ask for anything, I think that it would be that we take a step back, and management is the key word, that we look at the way we are managing the situation in terms of how our relationship is on the water and what is really going on because oftentimes we are in a position where we are dealing with government agencies who almost seem like they are in denial.

If we could ask for anything, we would ask that this committee look at these regulations being proposed right now that are on the table from where we are sitting. They are being designed for another industry. It is not what you have been tasked to look at today; but you look at it as it relates to this fishery that you have been asked to investigate. Ms. Recchia started off that way; it is our preoccupation. We have to be protected. We do not feel we have a large voice in the process. If I could ask for anything, that is what I would ask for.

Senator Oliver: That is helpful.

When I came in, I heard our representative from Newfoundland saying that it takes eight years for a lobster to become an adult, and what you are finding in some of your lobsters traps now is dead eight-year-old female lobsters. What I heard you say is that they are probably dead from the pesticides. I would like to know what you have by way of proof in the causation. Take me from the pesticide going into the water to this dead eight-year-old female lobster in your trap. What is the causation?

Mr. Holland: It takes eight years for a lobster in the Bay of Fundy to grow into a marketable size, male or female.

Senator Oliver: We are interested in the female.

Mr. Holland: Generally speaking, the females in the Bay of Fundy would be a lot older than that before they start egg-bearing. They would be 12 or 14 years old. They do not stop bearing eggs; they could be 100 years old and still bearing eggs.

A couple of years ago Environment Canada, doing their job, found after a pile of complaints during lobster season that fishermen were fishing around salmon aquaculture sites and the traps were coming up with dead lobsters. They did a pile of tests on those lobsters.

Senator Oliver: Who did the tests?

Mr. Holland: Environmental Canada did the tests. They also did tests on the fish on the sites.

Senator Oliver: Were the fish dying as well?

Mr. Holland: No. That is before the courts today. That is why we are saying Environment Canada is doing a good job. It was up to Environment Canada to do their investigation and forensic audits. They looked at books of certain companies. They have to be able to prove this in court; everyone is innocent. They are in that process right now. They were able to say they have a case here that will go to court and took it the Crown prosecutors, who agreed with them; otherwise, charges would not have been laid. They must have made some correlation between the lobsters dying in the wild and what was found on those lobsters and what killed the lobsters versus what was on those salmon. That was the proof of Environment Canada and where it is in court today.

Senator Oliver: We do not know if there is proof yet because the case has not been decided. If the case is thrown out, for one reason or another, then you will not have the proof that I was looking for. Right now it is more of a surmise. One lady was saying that she had an example of prawns in the West and the language was that they suspect that it may have been from a certain thing. A suspicion is not the kind of proof we need to make a case.

Sheena Young, Program Director, Fundy North Fishermen's Association: When you came in, Ms. Recchia had just spoken of a test they had done at an aquaculture site and they were doing a pesticide treatment, a tarp treatment at this particular site. DFO was there, as well as scientists studying dye dispersion within the water. Because of the Bay of Fundy tides, each cove is different. They were at this particular one. Environment Canada showed up unannounced with live lobsters. To be marketable in New Brunswick, they have to be eight years, so that is where the age came from.

Environment Canada put lobsters throughout the water column and on the bottom, and then I believe multiple kilometres — approximately eight — from the site, followed the dye plume and all of those lobsters died. That is Environment Canada with this Alpha Max. For a period during that time AlphaMax was given an emergency registration through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. What Mr. Holland was just speaking of was cases of illegal pesticide usage in the Bay of Fundy, which is different from what we spoke of today. We do have proof that the AlphaMax killed the lobster.

Ms. Recchia: I would like to say one thing about the eight year comment. I think what Mr. Holland was saying about that was that the pesticides kill the juvenile lobsters and lobster larvae much more readily than adults. One point we have often made is we do not see the juvenile lobsters because they can escape from the traps, the traps do not catch them. If there was a large kill of lobster larvae, it could be eight years before we see that in our fishery. That was another point.

Senator Oliver: I got that point, yes. Thank you very much.

The Deputy Chair: We do have a couple of quick questions on a second round. I would like to ask Senator Poirier for her question.

Senator Poirier: Again, out of curiosity, because we are studying the lobster, knowing it is the number one seafood export, yet we hear fishers often say they are not making enough money to stay in the business or are having difficulty recruiting new people to the fishing industry. Can you explain to us what the difficulty is that the fishers are facing to make ends meet in the lobster fishery?

Ms. Morse: I think it is a number of things right now. We talked about the low price that fishermen are receiving. A lot of our market is live market into the U.S., so as the Canadian dollar has climbed the exchange rate has not been in our favour as it was five or six years ago, which has impacted our price.

At the same time we are seeing the cost of fuel and bait is rising. I am sure you will hear that there is a trend of young people to move away from coastal communities. A lot of lobster fishery the crew is working on share, so they get a percentage of the profit. If you are not making as much profit, obviously the crew is not being paid as much and it is not as attractive to stay and work on boats.

We are very fortunate in our area, we still have a viable fishery and we have a lot of young people who are participating. We have not had the same type of impact. Certainly you can see some trend of that in some areas.

Senator Poirier: How much of an impact is the lobster fishery to your community?

Ms. Morse: I am from the island of Grand Manan. We have a population of 2,400 people. Over the last 10 years our average lobster landings have been in the range of $20 million for our island, so it is huge. It is the largest single driver of our island's economy.

Senator Poirier: Do you have one or two seasons for the fishery?

Ms. Morse: We have one season.

Senator Poirier: You do not have the spring and fall?

Ms. Morse: We start the second Tuesday in November and it finishes June 29. We have a long season. A lot of fishermen fish in shore.

Senator Poirier: That is just for lobster?

Ms. Morse: Just for lobster.

Ms. Recchia: They are unusual. We do not all have that.

Ms. Morse: A lot of fishermen will bring their traps ashore around Christmastime. They fish scallops January, February and March and then set the traps again April 1. There are some who fish further off shore in deeper water, and they fish through the winter.

Senator Poirier: What percentage of your fishermen fish year round; once the lobster is finished go to something else?

Ms. Morse: I have never thought about the percentage. Probably 30 per cent of our fishermen fish throughout the season. The rest are more in shore.

Ms. Recchia: We have a spring and a fall fishery. There are not many of our fishermen who only fish lobster and do not fish anything else. They fish a variety of things. Every single licence holder is fishing their lobster licence, they are fishing the full amount of traps allowed and fishing the full season in our area. Our landings are roughly the same as Grand Manan.

Senator Poirier: The deckhands and onshore workers, how financially secure are they, those who work in the lobster fishery?

Ms. Recchia: It depends on where you are and how they get paid. For the most part it is the share system, but we do have some communities where it is more common for them to be paid by the day. It is still primarily families, so there is a lot of kind of being involved in the whole business and sharing and building up to take over and that sort of thing. We do certainly have some crew members who are not family members, but there are an awful lot of family members.

The assumption is you come in when you are young as a crew member, you gain more experience and eventually you take over the boat. We still have a lot of that.

Senator Poirier: Do you have an idea of what percentage of the new fishermen are not handed down from family to family, who are actually new coming in?

Ms. Young: I would not be able to put it into a percentage, but I am also from an island community and I can say that over the last few years it has increased. The interest in the fishery, within our community, has increased. Some people who traditionally have not been fishermen have started to as a way of income in the communities, to survive and to stay within their communities. That is encouraging. As far as a percentage overall I could not say, but I would say an increase.

Ms. Morse: We have seen that as well. One of the things that has impacted young people's ability to enter into the lobster fishery if they are not coming through a family, in 1999 with the Marshall decision, when DFO started buying lobster licences, it increased the price of the lobster licences and it really put it out of reach for a lot of young people. We are seeing those prices start to come down a bit and I think it has made it more viable for them to enter the fishery.

Senator MacDonald: This is the beginning of questions I will be asking for the next few months. The price of lobster for the fishermen who catch them, I was in Japan and Korea this January in the supermarkets. The price of lobster may not have changed much here in the last 20 years, but it is certainly expensive over there. Someone is making money off of it. The people in the industry do not seem to be making enough off it, the people who produce the lobster and catch it. You mentioned so much of the lobster you catch in your area goes to the U.S. I assume, I do not know for sure, that most of that goes to the low-end market, like Red Lobster or something.

Ms. Sonnenberg: I will guess that some would go to that market, but I think you will find that a lot of ours is exported out of the United States and goes to Europe and Asia, and more to Asia. The Asian markets for the lobster industry are becoming bold and strong. We see a lot of potential growth there. While they are crossing into the United States, they are being shipped out from there. Definitely the whole scene is shifting rapidly now in terms of exports.

Senator MacDonald: There are two things. It is the market to which you are shipping it to and what they are willing to pay. As Mr. Holland mentioned, it is quiet right now, so when the few people go out they get $6 a pound, but when the catch goes up they get $3 a pound. There is obviously a correlation between supply and demand. Try to convince lobster fishermen to set less traps and catch less lobster overall and they will fight you.

Ms. Sonnenberg: You will hear that over and over from different players in this industry. It is important to remember that you can catch lobster at a certain time. It is not available to catch, and perhaps for some areas it is impossible. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence you do not catch lobster in the wintertime.

The system we have in the lobster fishery across Atlantic Canada, again I use the word "complex'' and I do not want to sound repetitious, but it is. To just take it and peel it away at face value is almost impossible, which we have learned through some of the last few years looking at the marketing issue since 2008 when we saw a real drop in the price. There was panic in the industry, and part of that was the dollar coming up for sure and the global recession that we saw unfolding before our eyes.

When we go back to your comment about being overseas and seeing those prices, a lot happens from the time that lobster leaves a vessel and goes out through the distribution chain. It is complicated. It is well worth looking at. We as harvester representatives have concerns about how that plays out and how we get a percentage back that is perhaps more profitable than what we see today. These again are the issues we are studying in the lobster council and trying to grapple with collectively in the industry. It is a huge issue.

Senator MacDonald: I have a lot of friends in the lobster fishery. I grew up in a community that has always had a big lobster fishing element to it and it still does. Without taking sides, I am convinced that lobster fishermen have been underpaid for their product for years and a handful of people are making a fortune. There must be a better way. We need to keep the money in these communities and keep the industry viable.

I spite of all the problems, the other thing is that it is our most valuable fishery. We have to maximize what we can get out of it for our communities because there is so much pressure on our small communities to survive, particularly with the groundfish fisheries gone. I am looking forward to this study very much to see if we can find some way to leave more money in the communities.

Senator Patterson: It was your idea, was it not?

Senator MacDonald: It was one of mine.

Ms. Sonnenberg: It is certainly something we would support. Since 2008 when the bottom really dropped out, it has been a preoccupation for everyone to see the industry be paid rightfully.

I can remember in 1991 or 1992, we were talking about a $2.75 lobster, and last year we saw prices at three and a quarter. This does not even equate when you look at the kind of gear we are using now, the kind of equipment people have invested in and the price of the licences that have increased exponentially. However, because the people who are invested in the fishery believe in their communities and the fishery, it has kept us going and it has gotten us over, hopefully, the rough patch for the time being. That investment in communities is paramount to the success of why this has continued, and people did not just walk away from it. People who live in these coastal communities believe in them, they will stick by them but they have to have the help you are talking about.

Senator MacDonald: The reason some of the people I know are able to make a half decent living is they are so good at what they do. They are the best. They work in those traps and get them ready in the spring. They have it down to a system. They know what they are fishing. They know what they are going after. Their fathers and grandfathers did it. They have this chain of knowledge that comes with who they are. If they did not, I could not imagine going out there green and trying to make a living; it would be pretty tough.

Senator Raine: That is a very good segue because at the beginning you started by saying you were concerned about two issues, one being the pesticides, but the number one that you mentioned were the DFO changes to the owner- operator policy. Can you explain exactly what the policy is today and the changes they are proposing and highlight your fears?

Ms. Sonnenberg: In the late 1970s, at the time, Roméo LeBlanc saw fit to put a policy in fleet called the "owner- operator and fleet separation policy'' because there was a lot of uptake from larger companies buying into the fishery and controlling a certain amount of the access. In doing that, they were starting to see, even in the 1970s, the erosion of small coastal communities. From there, the owner-operator policy was formed. What that means is you own it; you operate it. It is simple. It makes for a very clean ability for communities to go forward because independent in-shore fishermen are able to go out and make a living, and those spinoffs go far and wide into the community.

Through the modernization initiative that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is embarking on, which we started to hear about last year, about this time, a lot of changes can be made that would benefit us. One of the rising costs has to do with red tape and regulation. We are overburdened with red tape.

One of the things about which there is not even a subtle hint any longer but a clear messaging is that the owner- operator policy is not mentioned. It is absent in the documentation, and it should not be.

Groups have come together. I do not want to use the word "coalition,'' but a group of fishing organizations has come together because we believe very strongly in it, and we have seen what it will do when we get away from owner- operator. It is the end of fisheries as we know them, and the lobster fishery has demonstrated itself for years under the management regime we work under. We have a trap fishery. It is a competitive fishery, but there are certain rules in place that manage that fishery and allow us to go forward and be successful. We have. In the Bay of Fundy, our lobster has been very good.

What you are talking about is a consolidation down into the hands of the few, and those few are corporations is how it generally turns out in most stories where you see a fishery go by way of a corporation, and the dynamics of the monies are very different.

We saw it in the herring purse seine fishery in our own community. When I moved to Grand Manan in 1981, we had nine purse seine vessels, all independently owned with maybe seven crew, something like that. They eventually went to a quota fishery. The fishery was reduced down; therefore, quota was a commodity. The people who could afford it, which were the companies, bought those quotas over time, and pretty soon we lost nine vessels.

Ms. Morse: We have one left.

Ms. Sonnenberg: Right, we have one left at our wharf, at our community, but those jobs are gone. When you see that kind of a loss in a community of 2400 people, the impacts are far-reaching.

Then there is a redistribution of where people go and what they have to do. Do they stay or leave? All of those things become very important in the discussion of owner-operator.

Therefore, for us, owner-operator in the lobster fishery is the backbone of our fishery. It has worked this way successfully for years, and any ability for an uptake by corporations in the fishery will simply be the demise of our coastal communities as we know them and life in rural Canada as we know it. That sounds dramatic, but it is not. For us, it is very real and very frightening. Our messaging is clear. It has to stay. We can talk about all kinds of things in terms of modernizing, but that policy must stay.

Senator Patterson: There have been recent federal programs in support of the lobster fishery that you may know of, such as the Community Adjustment Fund lobster initiative, or the Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures. I do not know who comes up with these phrases.

Were those programs helpful? If they were, what was the best aspect of them? If they were not helpful, where were the flaws?

Ms. Morse: Our district did not participate in the Atlantic lobster sustainability monies. The funding available for us based on lobster catches was 25 per cent, leaving us with 75 to 80 per cent of the remaining funding to come up with. For a non-profit organization and an industry facing financial difficulty, coming up with that amount of money was challenging. Quite simply, that is why we did not participate.

Ms. Recchia: Our district did participate, and we also found it extremely challenging. We have two of the ALSM grants, and we had to come up with 80 per cent of the funding. That severely limited what we were able to do. The only way we were able to do it was by partnering with universities that already had some funding, so we are doing research.

It is certainly helpful to our association to be able to have this funding. We are doing a lot of capacity building work for the association, and mostly we are doing a lot of research. We are also doing a project involving retrieving lost lobster traps so they do not endanger the environment and keep fishing.

It was extremely difficult to manoeuvre through that process to actually get any funding. I believe that our association is the only one in the whole Scotia Fundy region that successfully got that funding. It was not available to many people.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much. On behalf of all members of our committee, I would like to express our thanks to you for being here this evening and actually being the first witnesses for this study on the lobster industry. You have brought valuable information, and I believe you have created many questions and given us some answers. Thank you for being here and have a safe trip.

(The committee adjourned.)

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