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POFO - Standing Committee

Fisheries and Oceans


Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 6 - Evidence

OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day, at 5:58 p.m., to study the regulation of aquaculture, current challenges and future prospects for the industry in Canada.

Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: I am pleased to welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. My name is Fabian Manning, a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am chair of this committee. I would like to apologize for being a little late. The Senate is still sitting so we had to seek permission to sit this evening. We are short several members, who may be joining us later.

Before I give the floor to our witnesses this evening, I would invite the members of the committee to introduce themselves.

Senator Wells: I'm Senator David Wells from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine from B.C.

Senator Enverga: Tobias Enverga from Ontario.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen, New Brunswick.

Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak from Ontario.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Sandra Lovelace Nicholas from New Brunswick.

Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.

The Chair: Thank you. The committee is continuing its study on the regulation of aquaculture, its current challenges and future prospects for the industry in Canada.

We are pleased to welcome our witnesses here this evening. I understand you have some opening remarks. Please introduce yourselves and proceed with your remarks.

Eric Hobson, President, SOS Marine Conservation Foundation: Thank you, Mr. Chair and Senate committee members, for this opportunity to appear before you today. My name is Eric Hobson. I reside in Calgary and I have a cottage on Vancouver Island. I am president of the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation, a professional engineer and a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors. I am co-founder of Northridge Petroleum Marketing, which was sold to TransCanada Corporation and MetroNet Communications, which ultimately merged with AT&T Canada. I am a founding shareholder of over 50 companies.

My success in business has allowed me to establish the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation to help protect and conserve B.C.'s wild salmon. I have donated a significant amount of my personal wealth and countless hours of my personal time to this cause. I do this because of my love for the ocean, which comes from my many childhood summers spent fishing near Vancouver Island with my father and grandfather, and I want to fish with my grandchildren.

The SOS Marine Conservation Foundation is a charitable foundation organized around its Solutions Advisory Committee — a broad coalition of business leaders, entrepreneurs, engineers, financial and legal professionals and philanthropists. SOS works collaboratively with scientists, First Nations, salmon farmers and environmental groups to apply a solutions- and business-oriented approach to marine conservation challenges. I believe the clerk has provided you with a backgrounder on the foundation and the members of its Solutions Advisory Committee.

From its inception, SOS has proposed a three-point strategy: In the short term, improve open-net pen farm management with an emphasis on the health and mitigation of impacts on the most critical and threatened wild salmon. In the medium term, create a more transparent and accountable regulatory regime for finfish aquaculture. And in the long term, catalyze a made-in-Canada, world-class, closed-containment aquaculture industry.

In light of the minister lifting the moratorium on marine finfish aquaculture expansion in B.C. and regulatory developments, I will focus my remarks today on the creation of a more transparent and accountable regulatory regime.

Briefly, before I do that, I want to acknowledge the Government of Canada's significant investment in the feasibility assessment of land-based, closed-containment aquaculture.

As you know, after his exhaustive inquiry, Justice Cohen recommended that serious consideration be given to the potential risks to Fraser sockeye salmon created by the aquaculture industry. He called for no expansion of the industry in the Discovery Islands while the potential impacts are thoroughly examined. Furthermore, when asked why he limited his concerns to the Discovery Islands area, he stated that his mandate was restricted to Fraser sockeye.

The federal government clearly has a broader mandate to protect all wild Pacific salmon, and the only responsible course of action is to extend these recommendations to include all fish farms along wild salmon migration routes, out or in.

We provided the clerk with a document titled the ``Cohen Report Card.'' Progress on the recommendations contained in the report has been woefully inadequate, leading us to file an environmental petition with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

I am not a scientist, but I know that major concerns were raised during the Cohen inquiry over the infectious salmon anemia virus. There is no known vaccine for ISA. To understand what this could mean to B.C. coastal communities, I encourage the committee to study the 2007 ISA crisis in Chile. Since the Cohen inquiry, evidence has also been mounting regarding the prevalence of several other viruses associated with aquaculture. I encourage this committee to hear directly from the coalition of scientists that participate in Simon Fraser's University's Speaking for the Salmon series to learn about this first-hand from independent scientists.

On February 25, Mr. Gillis advised this committee that, ``It will be an early activity for the department to do a risk assessment of the interactions between cultured and wild stocks on the B.C. coast.'' With the cutbacks to DFO science and changes in the department, we question whether DFO has the capacity to do the assessment that Mr. Bevan refers to. We also question whether government scientists will be allowed to participate freely, in light of the constraints they are currently under.

It simply does not make sense, particularly in light of Justice Cohen's recommendations, that the assessment of risk to wild salmon is not complete before there is a rush to expand this industry and to move from one-year licences to a multi-year aquaculture licence regime, as envisioned by Minister Shea when she spoke to you on February 25.

This is not consistent with the precautionary approach recommended by Justice Cohen, and it is not decision making grounded in science.

I also ask that during the course of this study the committee look carefully at the issue of transparency. Consider the following examples: We provided the clerk with a table comparing public reporting when aquaculture was under the jurisdiction of the Province of B.C. and now under DFO. There is far less transparency under DFO. For example, there has been no public reporting on disease since DFO resumed jurisdiction.

In October 2013, Minister Shea quietly lifted the moratorium on salmon aquaculture expansion, with the information made public three months after the aquaculture industry was informed of the policy change.

Applications to expand five existing sites were filed in January 2014. Tenure applications for two new marine finfish farms in B.C. were posted in March 2014 with a 30-day comment period.

While not in the Discovery Islands, the proposed sites are on the migratory path of Fraser River sockeye. To date, only extremely limited information, certainly insufficient to assess the suitability of the site for aquaculture, has been made publicly available by either the B.C. government or the federal government or industry.

With recent changes to the federal legislation, there will no longer be any environmental assessment or formal public review of new marine finfish aquaculture licences.

I agree with Mr. Bevan's February 25 statement to the committee that, ``Better science and better management will help us with social licence . . .'' The current approach provides for neither.

As a minimum, before any consideration of expansion of open-net aquaculture, we recommend that the following be carried out: First, there must be a full assessment of all existing, peer-reviewed, published science related to the interactions between farmed and wild salmon. This must include peer reviewed and published papers from DFO scientists as well as papers from non-DFO Canadian and international authors. Research shows that non-DFO sources account for more than two thirds of the 211 papers on the subject of aquaculture and interaction with farmed and wild fish. The assessment must also use a process that provides for strong leadership from both academia and government, and not one driven only by DFO managers.

DFO must comply with Cohen commission recommendation 25 to revise salmon farm siting criteria to reflect new scientific information, including the results of Genome British Columbia's Strategic Salmon Health Initiative, currently under way and being led by Brian Riddell of the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Kristi Miller of DFO. The revised siting criteria must be site specific and include consideration of cumulative effects.

No expansion of open-net aquaculture should be considered until the science-based risk assessment and review of siting criteria is complete. This will also provide the added benefit of completing the feasibility assessment of land- based aquaculture as a viable and more sustainable alternative.

There is a significant economic growth opportunity in aquaculture, and we are uniquely positioned in Canada to take advantage of this, but it cannot be at the expense of wild salmon and the marine environment. If the decision is strictly economic, then consider the 2012 report from BC Stats which shows that aquaculture contributes 1,700 jobs. By comparison, the rest of the fishing sector contributes over 12,000 jobs, and this does not include the eco-tourism industry. This is a lot of jobs to put at risk.

I also want to comment very briefly on the aquaculture regulations that are currently being developed under the Fisheries Act. Recently proposed regulations have been severely criticized. I would like to draw the committee's attention to the March 17, 2014, submission of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, which concluded that ``the regulatory proposal is unjustified, unacceptable, and contrary to the public interest.''

This approach to regulations directly contradicts Justice Cohen's second and third recommendations, which state:

2. In relation to wild fisheries, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should act in accordance with its paramount regulatory objective to conserve wild fish.

3. The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.

In our view, Canadians expect that science will be the primary basis for aquaculture regulation, and the law should require decision makers to base their decisions on science.

I close with a quote from Cermaq CEO Jon Hindar, from an article titled ``Salmon industry needs strong regulator'': ``We're not able to regulate ourselves. Every time you let loose, things go wrong.''

I will now turn it over to Catherine to provide details on the status of our assessment of land-based closed- containment aquaculture.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hobson. The floor is yours, Ms. Emrick.

Catherine Emrick, Senior Associate, Aquaculture Innovation, Tides Canada: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Tides Canada's mission is to tackle integrated environmental, social and economic problems in Canada. We know that smart solutions to these complex challenges are often more durable if they incorporate all of these elements. Land- based aquaculture is a good example of such an opportunity for our country; it has the potential to produce a healthier environment, stronger communities and economic prosperity.

In 2010 Tides Canada established the Salmon Aquaculture Innovation Fund to better understand the technical, biological and economic feasibility of land-based aquaculture as a means to better protect wild salmon and the marine environment.

In conjunction with Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Namgis First Nation, Tides Canada is a lead funder of their Kuterra project, contributing over $3 million to support the construction, commissioning and grow out of three cohorts of Atlantic salmon in that facility.

We also fund research into water quality optimization and waste management technology at the Taste of BC Aquafarm, the Freshwater Institute and the University of British Columbia's InSEAS research facility; and through a partnership with the USDA-funded Freshwater Institute, we offer technical, fish husbandry and project management support to land-based projects in B.C.

As the committee visited the Taste of BC project and heard about the Kuterra project during your recent trip to British Columbia, and I have provided the committee with a paper by Dr. Steven Summerfelt and Dr. Laura Christianson, outlining initiatives under way globally to extend the use of land-based recirculating aquaculture systems from hatchery and smoke production to food fish production, I'll keep my comments focused on what we've learned to date through our research projects.

The clear benefit of a land-based system is that it removes interactions between the farm environment and the marine environment, significantly reducing risk to both farmed fish and wild fish and allowing for the control and capture of valuable nutrient-laden waste streams, rather than burdening the ecosystem with the waste.

To support a transparent assessment of the opportunity, Tides Canada requires the Kuterra project and the Taste of BC project to be fully transparent and to disclose a wide range of performance metrics developed by a multi- stakeholder technical advisory committee. Regular project updates form the cornerstone of a series of Aquaculture Innovation Workshops, of which Tides Canada is a convener. These workshops facilitate the exchange of information amongst a broad range of stakeholders.

Let's get down to what we've learned to date about land-based recirculating aquaculture systems. From the grow- out trials at the Freshwater Institute, we know that Atlantic salmon will grow to full size in commercial densities in these systems in less time compared to open-net pens, with better feed conversion rates, without antibiotics, pesticides or harsh chemicals and with an excellent fillet yield, quality and taste.

The next step was to ''scale up'' these grow-out trials. In partnership with the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation, the Namgis First Nation obtained funding, completed the design, construction and commissioning of a commercial-scale module and began raising Atlantic salmon in their facility in March 2013.

From the construction, commissioning and early operations of the project, we now have a better understanding of site requirements. We have a design that significantly reduces energy needs for process flow and pumping, heating and cooling. We have the final capital cost of the facility, which I know you heard was quite a bit higher than we had originally anticipated, and we know where key opportunities are to bring these costs down for future modules. We know that a regular and reliable supply of eggs and smolts for introduction into the system is key to using the capital invested in capacity. We know that an experienced operations manager, marketing and financial management expertise are essential to success. Most important, we know that the fish tastes great and there is a strong market demand and willingness to pay a premium for these fish.

Over the next 12 to 18 months we expect to learn more from the ongoing operation of these projects. We will be verifying the fish performance, production planning and tank capacity utilization assumptions, which are all key to economic feasibility. We will be verifying the key operating costs, including feed, energy and labour. And we will be refining the design for commercial-scale modules based on what we've learned from construction and also from the operating data that will help us better understand capital and operating cost trade-offs.

In terms of the opportunity for Canada, this technology has the immediate potential to reduce conflict on both the West Coast and the East Coast, providing an opportunity to grow and, more important, diversify the aquaculture industry by focusing on a suite of high-value species raised in land-based systems. As the capital cost of the technology comes down, the transition to this technology for higher volume/lower value species can also occur.

British Columbia has a significant ``first mover'' advantage with low-cost hydro power, plentiful land and water resources in rural and coastal communities, and existing infrastructure to support the development of the land-based aquaculture sector. It also has proximity to the U.S. I-5 corridor market. The opportunity is not only in the production of fish, but also in the design, engineering and manufacturing sector.

To lead the way forward, we need a comprehensive development strategy that includes incentives to innovate to reduce capital costs and capture the value in the waste stream; market research to identify priority species for production; development of breeding programs to ensure a source of disease-free eggs and smolts for priority species and to ensure these are available to Canadian producers; a regional branding program — if you will, the VQA equivalent for land-based sustainable seafood; a made-for-Canada regulatory regime for aquaculture that provides Canadians with confidence that our environment is being protected, levels the playing field for new technologies that improve environmental performance consistent with the ``polluter pays'' principle specifically referenced in the last Speech from the Throne, and provides timely decisions and certainty for project proponents.

We need to educate investors and lenders about land-based aquaculture, as both a family farm and an agri-business opportunity, and build investment pools to help diversify investment opportunities and risk. We need to invest in training programs to support commercial scale-up and transition employees from the open-net industry. We need to continue to build our applied research capacity at Canadian institutions, such as the University of British Columbia InSEAS research facility and the Vancouver Island University Centre for Sturgeon Studies. Lastly, we need to develop incentives to transition open-net pen production to land-based systems.

Thank you for undertaking this important study and for this opportunity to appear before you today.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your opening remarks. There is much information there and I'm sure our senators will have some questions for you.

Senator Hubley, as our deputy chair, would you like to go first?

Senator Hubley: I'm Elizabeth Hubley, from Prince Edward Island. I certainly would like to welcome you and say what a wonderful trip we did have to British Columbia and how interesting it was to look at the aquaculture industry.

I did get those important final few messages, the transition from open-pen to land-based.

In some parts of Canada one of the things we found out is that there were certainly economic opportunities here for smaller communities, and that did appeal to us.

In some places our coastline will comfortably have what perhaps we feel would be open-pen, but certainly some areas would be better suited to land-based aquaculture fishery.

In your work and in your research, have you looked at both sides of the methods of fishing, or is it pretty well that you would like to see it all land-based?

Ms. Emrick: Thank you, Senator Hubley, for the question.

I think it really is a question of the science assessment and the review of siting criteria to determine where it would be appropriate to have open-net aquaculture. I also think it's important that we look at truly integrated planning for aquaculture that looks at the range of potential ways of farming fish and shellfish and determining, based on the science and based on locations and needs of the communities, the interests of the First Nations, that we consider the alternatives and look at it in a truly integrated way. That requires an area-based management approach that we are not seeing at this point. It is not a question of all of one type of aquaculture or another but of looking at the different options.

Senator Hubley: With respect to the integrated system that you mentioned, how do you see that coming together?

Ms. Emrick: Unfortunately, we don't at this point see an integrated approach to aquaculture management. I think the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has put out an integrated management of aquaculture plan, but it really does not approach aquaculture in any sort of integrated way.

Senator Hubley: Thank you very much.

Senator Wells: Again, welcome and thank you for your presentations.

Mr. Hobson, I have a question about the business of aquaculture. There is the suggestion of going to closed containment, which is, I think, admittedly more expensive than open pen because what the aquaculturist wants to do is not have to replicate what happens in the ocean if they can put the fish in the ocean. With the decrease in the business model, if you are going to spend more money and perhaps likely have less volume with closed containment or a land- based system, what would you say is the realistic option for the aquaculture industry in any transition application from open pen to closed containment?

Mr. Hobson: First, obviously, we built the pilot in order to test all of those assumptions, and in land-based closed containment, the business is very different from open-net pen farming. The capital costs are greater, but the density that you can run the plant at, in other words, the production from a unit, is much, much higher than in net pens, potentially as high as eight times per volume of water, so that you don't have the therapeutants and chemicals used in the production of land-based fish.

You can control all the pieces of the process, the temperature, the oxygen and the CO2 content associated with growing the fish. I think one person described it as creating the Club Med of fish for the fish, and if fish are not stressed, they eat and they grow quickly, which is what we've seen in the grow trials and the Freshwater Institute, and we've seen them also in our first cohort, which is about to come to market next week in B.C.

The business model is quite different, and the market is quite different because the market that is initially going to be satisfied with land-based product is an incremental market. The buyers are not buying the open-net pen product because of all of the impacts that that product has on the environment and the marine environment, so this is an incremental market that can be satisfied initially, and it's actually very large.

When Kuterra, the land-based project in Port McNeill, did its marketing deal, it chose Albion Fisheries out of Vancouver as its representative, if you like, selling the salmon. Albion is Western Canada's largest distributor of seafood, and they do a lot of exports into the American I-5 market, as Ms. Emrick called it, and they do a lot of exports into Asia. What they found in pre-selling the production that we're going to start harvesting next week is that there is a significant premium that the buyers will pay for land-based salmon because of this latent demand that I just spoke of.

So capital costs are one thing. I think operating costs are going to be the same as the operating costs associated with net-pen salmon. Their grow-out period is at least a third, if not a half, of what it is in the net pens because of the ideal conditions. So the operating cost, the amount of feed you need to feed the fish, and the feed conversion ratios are much better because they are at an optimum temperature and they are stress-free. Put it all together in a business model, and I think you have a comparable business. One compares favourably to the next.

Senator Wells: With your Kuterra project, I know you are looking at the technical aspects and the organoleptic qualities of the finished product and your production processes. Is the business model or the business case for this also part of the Kuterra project?

Mr. Hobson: That's correct. In terms of the funding by Tides Canada, part of the Kuterra capital cost was that it is public information. All of this information, including the economic model, will be shared with the public.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you, welcome. I'm concerned about the diseases. What about the diseases compared to fresh fish and farmed fish? Which is more likely to happen? Which one would have more diseases?

Mr. Hobson: I'm not sure. Do you mean diseases in the fish or fish would die from diseases?

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Yes.

Mr. Hobson: The study that I mentioned, the Genome British Columbia Strategic Salmon Health Initiative, is looking at exactly that. They've taken thousands of samples of farmed fish, thousands of samples of wild fish, all up and down the B.C. coast, and they are comparing about 45 different pathogens, pathogen loads in both fish. I think they're also doing hatchery fish as well, so they have the third category in there. My understanding is that the first data from that analysis is going to be available this fall. That will answer the question. I can't answer it yet because the analysis is ongoing.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Once again, thank you for coming and apologies for the wait.

I've got a couple of questions. You have concerns with the siting of farmed salmon and the open pen. Can you give me what you consider an ideal site?

Mr. Hobson: I will give that a try. An ideal site for an open-net pen would be a fairly deepwater site. I think Marine Harvest, for example, when they were talking to you last in Nanaimo, suggested that the water can be as deep as 200 metres. That gives high oxygen content. Also, it needs to be sited in an area where there are good currents and lots of tidal activity.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I perhaps did not explain myself well. I meant an ideal site so that you would not foresee harm to wild salmon. I understand the others.

Mr. Hobson: I think it's maybe not as simple, but I would want to see a site where they had done a wild salmon survey, and that survey could be done real time, or you could ask the First Nations or the commercial fishermen or the locals in the area.

You have to look at both the out-migration and the in-migration. The out-migration from a mortality perspective is probably more important, because they go out as smolts in the spring. The smolts are very small. The pinks and chum do not have a scale load; they have not developed their scales yet, so they are very susceptible to parasites like sea lice. The coho and the chinook are more robust.

So you have to know what happens on the out-migration, and the out-migrating fish are generally near the surface. They go out by the millions, and they stay protected as much as possible; they don't want to open themselves up to predation, so they stay in the bays and river estuaries longer.

The research we have partly funded has been what happens during the out-migration when these smolts pass the salmon farms. We've done that in the Broughton Archipelago, the Discovery Islands and the Clayoquot Sound area, which are the three largest concentrations of open-net pens in B.C.

The in-migration is not nearly as important, if you like, because the fish are big. They're returning to the rivers. They generally have some lice on them. You've probably seen the wild salmon; they have lice on them. But as they enter the rivers, the lice die in the fresh water. They have a natural process of getting rid of the lice before the out- migration occurs in the spring.

So I would definitely want to see a smolt survey of some kind to get an idea of just how many fish are passing that particular location.

Then there are other impacts — the benthic impacts to the bottom and all the other things you have to study. But from a wild salmon perspective, I think the smolt out-migration is the most important step.

Senator Stewart Olsen: You said you have research as to what happens when the smolt pass the open-pen farmed salmon. Can you tell us what you have found?

Mr. Hobson: Lots of studies have been done on that.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Just an overview.

Mr. Hobson: The overview is that as they pass farms, mortality goes up, because they can take only one or two lice per fish before they either die or become crippled and subject to predation. Over time, usually fewer and fewer smolts get through some of the areas where there are high concentrations of open-net pens.

If you go to our website, I think you would see a number of independent, peer-reviewed and published research studies on that subject.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I know you're not marketing experts, but do you see a continuing demand for wild and farmed salmon? Supposing we went to the larger closed containment or more open pens, so that you produced a lot of salmon, how do you see the market?

Mr. Hobson: The market is very large. In B.C., it's fairly large domestically, but the big market is in the I-5 corridor, which is the area between the border and San Diego. I don't think B.C. would ever be able to produce in total the amount of salmon that area consumes on an annual basis.

Senator Stewart Olsen: We heard that it's a very cheap way of producing protein once everything kind of gets done. There is new research on closed containment and open pen, and I would think the wild salmon would continue to have a market.

Mr. Hobson: Absolutely.

Senator Poirier: On the marketing issue, can you tell me what percentage of salmon is farmed right now compared to the wild salmon that's on the market?

Mr. Hobson: Do you know, Catherine? I know roughly what the farmed salmon number is: It can be as high as 80,000 metric tonnes a year in B.C. About 85 per cent of that goes to the U.S. market primarily — so 65,000 tonnes or something like that.

But I don't know what the wild figure is.

Ms. Emrick: I just want to comment briefly. From talking with Albion Fisheries, which is the distributor for the Kuterra project, I think they felt very strongly that the market for wild salmon was quite different than the market for farmed salmon. The question whose answer we're uncertain about is whether a market would prefer — certainly the highest preference would go to fresh wild salmon. We're not sure where the trade-off is between fresh farmed and frozen wild, which is out-of-season wild salmon. That would be an area we would want to look at in terms of market research.

Senator Poirier: Is the price similar, or is one more expensive than the other?

Mr. Hobson: It depends on how much gets produced. The wild fish has been commanding quite a premium over the farmed fish. The wild fish is then the premium product. We're hoping the land-based will be in the middle somewhere between wild and the open-net penned fish.

Senator Enverga: You stated in your briefing document that you protect B.C. oceans from the negative impact of open-net salmon farms. Is that the main purpose of your study?

Mr. Hobson: That's correct.

Senator Enverga: And you list sea lice and pathogen identification and transmission as major environmental risks?

Mr. Hobson: Yes.

Senator Enverga: Can you indicate the extent of the damage of those things to the wild salmon stock? How does it relate?

Mr. Hobson: I can't quantify that number for you, but the Cohen commission studied or tried to study as part of the Fraser River sockeye study what affects the sockeye salmon going up the Fraser River. My quotes were from that study, and I talked about the recommendations that he made. He saw there were impacts from the open-net pens, and he saw there were impacts for other reasons.

Ms. Emrick: I want to comment that I think that's a really good question, and it is the reason why that risk assessment needs to be done — the one that Justice Cohen put forward and recommended be done right away. We need to take all of the science and really understand the risk.

Justice Cohen concluded that the potential harm posed to Fraser River sockeye from salmon farms is serious or irreversible. As a result, he recommended that the science assessment take place.

Senator Enverga: You're saying we still need to do a lot of studies?

Ms. Emrick: There is a lot of research available, but the research hasn't been brought together, assessed and integrated. Ultimately, it should flow into siting criteria.

Senator Enverga: You mentioned in the notes supporting decisive action. What is that for, or is that the study itself?

Ms. Emrick: Sorry, could you —

Senator Enverga: You mentioned something about having to do decisive action.

Ms. Emrick: Decisive?

Senator Enverga: Yes, decisive action. We just wondered what kind of decisive action you mean that we should do. Maybe study the whole situation further? Is that what you're saying?

Ms. Emrick: I think that the two pieces that we would look at, at this point, are the science assessment and the review of the siting criteria. The SOS Marine Conservation Foundation undertook a series of research studies. That research has been done, and now there is that research and other research that's been done by a range of DFO scientists, other Canadian scientists and international scientists. That increasing body of evidence needs to be put together and assessed.

Senator Enverga: The CEO of Kuterra Limited Partnership said, in testimony to this committee, that there are no negative impacts on the local marine environment. Are you suggesting that there is still an environmental impact from land-based closed-containment facilities?

Mr. Hobson: I think it's certainly minimized. I wouldn't say that there are no impacts. Obviously, you have to clear a site and have a site to put your facility on. In terms of the infiltration basin, for example, which is used to dispose of the dissolved solid stream, that's a local pond where that discharge then migrates through the soil there back into the aquifer. The waste is collected and, in the case of Kuterra, it's trucked to the sea soil facility in Telegraph Cove, which is about 5 kilometres down the road, and is made into an organic fertilizer product. I think nothing gets back into the ocean from the farming of salmon in closed containment on land.

Senator Enverga: Do you have anything else to say about that?

Ms. Emrick: It prevents any interactions between the farmed and wild fish, and it also gives you the opportunity to control and manage waste in a way that you can't in an open net.

Senator Enverga: When you do land-based fish farming, do you have a problem with sea lice or those kinds of pathogens?

Mr. Hobson: None whatsoever. It's fresh water or slightly brackish water that comes out of the production wells, so it's not sea water. It has no lice in it.

The Chair: I just want to advise senators that when we finish this section, we will go in camera for a few moments before we leave.

Senator Raine: One of the challenges we face as a committee is that we're getting conflicting discussions of science and science that is being done or isn't being done. I haven't read Justice Cohen's report cover to cover, but I've certainly had a look at the recommendations, and I'm aware that it was a very long and intense commission and hearings.

But I would like to read you something and ask you to comment on it. This is from a scientist, who said:

Justice Cohen's conclusion about potential harm was a speculative hypothesis that was not based on information that he received from medical professionals. From my perspective, this conclusion is based on a general principle that we all live with every day with little concern. We all have a basic understanding that disease can amplify whenever susceptible hosts congregate, i.e., daycare centres, schools, airports et cetera, but we do not shut down those places because we know that the potential for harm is minimal and reasonably managed.

With that as a little background, you mentioned the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is good, but, if we make every decision based on trying to eliminate all risk, we can get trapped in making bad decisions. Are you looking at the precautionary principle with the idea that we have to get rid of open-pen aquaculture because there is some risk, or would you look at it as to what is an acceptable risk?

Ms. Emrick: I can't really comment on the response that Justice Cohen's analysis was speculative. I'm not a scientist. I don't have that kind of background.

I think the fact that there is so much research out there and that that research hasn't been brought together, analyzed in a transparent way and presented to communities and decision makers in a way that everyone accepts as being a thorough analysis is the root of the problem. A lot of research has been done. I don't think people feel comfortable that it has been assessed by a group of both independent and DFO scientists that have credibility with the community, and I think the time needs to be taken to do that. That needs to then inform siting criteria because we will have a better idea of where farms, individually and cumulatively, can be sited, and we just don't have that. I think a significant amount of evidence on disease was presented at the Cohen Commission. There has been no reporting on disease, outside of DFO, to independent scientists since then. We don't know what's happened over the last couple of years on farms. The fact that that information isn't out there is as much of a problem as the analysis of the information.

Senator Raine: My understanding is that the results are being posted on DFO websites, so I have different information than you do. We'll have to look into that because I think it is very important to find out. You're maintaining that, since it was transferred to DFO, there has been a moratorium on giving transparency and information to the scientists and to the public?

Ms. Emrick: We provided a table to the clerk that I'm hoping you received that compares reporting of information under the jurisdiction of B.C. and under the jurisdiction of DFO, and there is significantly less transparency. From the researchers, we've been advised that there has been no release of disease information since DFO resumed jurisdiction and post-Cohen.

Senator Raine: I'm reading here:

During this time, additional scientific research will be conducted and a disease risk-assessment process will be completed. In the interim, licence holders are required to submit fish health data to the Department which is posted on to DFO website.''

Ms. Emrick: The information that I have is that it is not posted.

Senator Raine: I'm not going to pretend to be an expert. Maybe you are an expert on this, but we'll have to look into that again because this concerns me. The other question I would like to ask both of you is this: In the evidence that the population of the world is increasing, everybody seems to agree that fish are very healthy to eat. We know what happens when wild fish stocks get overfished. I see aquaculture as a way of protecting wild fish stocks from overfishing. I believe that fish are the only food that we are currently eating that is being harvested from the wild. We eat cows and pigs and chickens and things like that. We don't go out — for the huge population — and hunt wild animals. The same thing with growing. We don't gather the way you could when you had the whole the world to do it in, but we grow. We have agriculture to grow the food that we need. What role do you think aquaculture plays in the protection of wild fish stocks from overfishing?

Ms. Emrick: I actually absolutely agree about the health benefits of fish. I think we will see increasing demand for fish and seafood, not only because of a growing middle class in countries like India and China but also from a health perspective — governments encouraging citizens to eat more fish because it is good for you. It also has the lowest environmental footprint of any type of protein source, so there is no question that we need to ramp up our aquaculture production, but that also increases the need to make sure it's done in a sustainable way.

Senator Raine: I totally agree that it has to be done in a sustainable way, and I think that's what this committee is trying to look at. I believe Canada already has some of the strictest regulations in the world with regard to aquaculture, and we certainly don't want to not be sustainable with regard to our interaction with wild fish.

Do you see open-pen aquaculture as a viable option, if it's properly sited and regulated?

Mr. Hobson: Yes, absolutely.

Senator Raine: In terms of siting for closed-containment aquaculture, what is required for siting of those operations?

Mr. Hobson: Part of what we're doing in the pilot project is coming up with that list of criteria. There are a number of them. One is availability of certain types of water sources, fresh water or brackish water; another is proximity to market so that you can move your raw materials in and move your finished goods out with the smallest carbon footprint. You need a source of smolts that are disease-free, so you have to have a hatchery and a smolt of a certain size that can come disease-free and be put into the farm. There are a whole series of site criteria, which is part of the deliverables under the funding that we have with Tides Canada.

Senator Raine: It's possible, then, that in the end, the closed-containment siting, especially with regard to proximity to market, would not necessarily be in our coastal communities. Is that right?

Mr. Hobson: I don't think that's the case at all. If you look at the cost of moving, for example, the Kuterra product from Port McNeil, which is quite a remote spot on Vancouver Island, to Albion's processing plant in Vancouver, it's about a 12-hour trip. The truck has to go on the ferry, which costs about 20 cents per pound. It is not a prohibitive amount of money from an economic perspective to move it from the coastal communities.

Senator Raine: If it was at Powell River, would it be further away?

Mr. Hobson: Powell River is basically straight across.

Senator Raine: With the transportation system up and down the coast, you get to a certain point where you're past the ferries.

Mr. Hobson: Yes, and then you could go by ferry or truck or a combination thereof, or you could go by boat to where you need to go. It doesn't necessarily have to be close to the urban area.

Senator Raine: If it was in the urban area, would it still work?

Mr. Hobson: I think it would, depending on the price of land, another component in the economic equation, what you have to pay for the land, the site. Every site would be different in terms of its suitability for land-based closed containment.

Ms. Emrick: Where we see what I would call a reasonable amount of interest in the technology is in communities that have facilities that support commercial fishing because they see this as an opportunity — for example, if they have a processing plant — to be able to operate that plant year-round.

My sense right now is that between open-net aquaculture and the commercial fishery, there is some conflict. When you look at land-based aquaculture and the wild fishery, you're not competing for the same resources, so I think it does create an opportunity to build an industry around both types of product because they are more complementary than they are conflicting. We do see interest where there are processing plants.

Senator Beyak: You mostly just answered my question. I wanted to comment that I'm assuming that we all want the same thing, and that's fish and protein for food for people because there is such a shortage worldwide. I think your pilot project sounds like one more great idea for working in cooperation with any method that we could provide that source. You said that just now to Senator Raine's question, and I thank you for that.

The Chair: I want to thank our witnesses for being here this evening, for making their presentations and being frank and open in answering our questions. If at any time during the process, which may be another year or so, you feel that you want to advise us of something, please feel free to contact the clerk and let him know if there is anything you think we may not have had the opportunity to discuss this evening.

We will break for a couple of minutes and then we'll reconvene in camera.

(The committee continued in camera.)

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