Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans
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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 21 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 5:09 p.m. to study the regulation of aquaculture, current challenges and future prospects for the industry in Canada (topics: enact federal aquaculture legislation OR amend Fisheries Act: pros and cons; defining "aquaculture:'' a fishery or farming activity?; existing federal and provincial review processes; progress achieved; and concluding remarks.)

Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: My name is Fabian Manning. I'm a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador and I'm pleased to chair this committee.

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

Senator Meredith: Senator Meredith from Ontario.

Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia.

Senator McInnis: Tom McInnis from Nova Scotia.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick.

Senator Poirier: Senator Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.

Senator Wells: Senator David Wells from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Chair: The committee is continuing its special study on the regulation of aquaculture, the current challenges and future prospects for the industry here in Canada. We're pleased to have a great group this evening to have some interaction with. Before I continue, I want to ask the witnesses if they would introduce themselves, please.

Ruth Salmon, Executive Director, Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance: Ruth Salmon, Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.

Pamela Parker, Member, Board of Directors Executive and Government Relations Committee, Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance: Pamela Parker, Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association and the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.

Terry Ennis, President, Board of Directors Executive, Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance: I'm Terry Ennis, president and CEO of Atlantic Aqua Farms from Prince Edward Island.

Kevin Stringer, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Kevin Stringer, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Eric Gilbert, Director General, Aquaculture Management, Ecosystems and Aquaculture Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: I'm Eric Gilbert, Director General of Aquaculture Management from DFO.

Jay Parsons, Director, Aquaculture Science, Ecosystems and Aquaculture Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: I'm Jay Parsons, Director of Aquaculture, Biotechnology and Aquatic Animal Health Science Branch from DFO.

The Chair: Thank you very much. On behalf of the members of the committee, I want to thank you for taking the time to join us this evening. We're hoping to have interaction with our senators, and try to allow as much discussion as possible. I know we have some opening remarks, but our plan is, following the opening remarks, we're going to try to discuss four items this evening if possible and we'll have time limits on those. That is to make sure everybody is aware of the plan.

First is the discussion of enacting federal aquaculture legislation or amending the Fisheries Act, and the pros and cons of both. Second is defining aquaculture as a fishery or a farming activity. The third is existing federal and provincial review processes, progress achieved to date. Maybe we'll have a summary of closing remarks at the end.

I want to advise our senators that following our public session we'll be going in camera for a few moments after our meeting, so don't run away when I lay the gavel down.

I understand there are some opening remarks. I will ask Mr. Ennis to go first.

Mr. Ennis: Thank you, senator. My name is Terry Ennis. I'm President and CEO of Atlantic Aqua Farms, a mussel company from Prince Edward Island. Our company is the largest mussel company in North America. We produce and process fresh and frozen blue mussels under the brand name Canadian Cove. I am also president of CAIA.

First I want to emphasize that in my industry I'm a farmer. Our operations involve stocking, rearing, protecting and harvesting our livestock which, I might add, we own. It's our property or inventory, if you will. All of the activities that are typically associated with farming we carry out in our operations. The difference is that we operate on the water, whereas terrestrial farmers operate on the land. Similar to land-based farmers, we are stewards of the environment in which we operate. Farmers have a vested stake in ensuring the continued health and productivity of their land as we do with the waters in which we operate.

Odds are that if you have purchased mussels at a grocery store or ordered them at a restaurant, they were either grown in P.E.I. or in Newfoundland. In Canada, we produce a product that we believe is the best in the world and the market agrees. We can't produce enough to fill the demand we have.

We are regulated under a 150-year-old Fisheries Act that never envisioned aquaculture at the time it was written. You can't even find the word "aquaculture'' in the Fisheries Act. The result is that this act ignores our legitimate, important food-producing industry as if it doesn't exist. As a company owner who provides year-round, good-paying jobs to Canadians and supplies nutritious healthy food to Canadians and export markets with our highly demanded product into the U.S. and elsewhere, this is a very frustrating situation to be in.

For over 30 years our industry has asked for an aquaculture act. Numerous independent studies, government commissions and committees have recommended an aquaculture act. While I appreciate the opportunity to come here and speak to you today, it's really time to move beyond talking about the situation. It is time to act. I'm hopeful that in addition to the considerable work that CAIA has undertaken to move forward on an act, your deliberations and report will finally lead to concrete action by the government.

We spend a lot of time discussing salmon farming, but it is important to realize that as a shellfish farmer I also want to see growth in our industry. We believe that can in part be accomplished through national legislation. We need legislation that will: define and explicitly recognize aquaculture in law to acknowledge aquaculture as an important, legitimate user, and I would say steward, of our country's aquatic resources; ensure we are regulated on the basis of sound science; ensure greater coordination between federal and provincial regulators, which should lead to a reduction in unnecessary overlap and duplication of effort; clarify regulatory and promotion roles within government; and to open the door for aquaculture to access insurance and support programs that are available to our terrestrial agriculture counterparts.

I believe there are both opportunities and responsibilities for companies like mine to grow Atlantic Canada's food production sector. We have a mandate to feed people both locally and globally with healthy and nutritious food, and to create jobs and bring social benefits to our coastal and rural communities.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Ennis.

Ms. Parker: My name is Pamela Parker. I'm the executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association and I thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you.

Our association represents the salmon farming industry throughout maritime Canada, both in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the salmon farmers and the feed producers, in addition to a wide range of supporting organizations and companies.

Today I want to share with you a new report on salmon farming globally recently released by the International Salmon Farmers Association. It shows that our industry has come of age. It is thriving in coastal communities around the world, producing one of the healthiest foods with a minimal environmental footprint. The report further demonstrates that Canada is well positioned to benefit from the growing demand for healthy protein.

According to the report, at page 6, salmon farmers globally produced 14.8 billion meals in 2012-13. That's a lot of healthy meals to feed a growing population. And it's especially impressive when you think that the salmon farming industry did not exist 40 years ago.

What's more impressive is that salmon farmers produced those meals from only .00008 per cent of the world's oceans. That's 14.8 billion meals from only 262 square kilometres of ocean. That makes salmon farming one of the most efficient protein producers in the world.

The report also shows that in 2012-13, production of salmon was worth $10 billion U.S. It created 121,000 direct and indirect jobs around the world, stimulating thousands of spinoff jobs and economic growth in a wide variety of sectors. To view the ripple effect of our industry, refer to page 13 of the report.

For Atlantic Canada, salmon farming is already one of the biggest economic drivers, employing 3,000 people in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and generating $356 million in economic activity annually. Our region plays an important role in the success of the global salmon farming industry. In fact, 50 per cent of Canada's farmed salmon is grown in Atlantic Canada. With our vast aquatic resources, innovation and technical expertise, we have tremendous opportunity to continue to grow and create economic prosperity in coastal communities.

A federal aquaculture act is critical to enable us to reach our full potential, and to secure a responsible and sustainable industry for the future. An aquaculture act would finally address the long-standing issues of trying to regulate aquaculture under the Fisheries Act.

The Fisheries Act was designed to allow seasonal or permanent fishery closures, to create limits or conditions to fishing gear and allowable catch, prohibit certain behaviours and levy charges for violations. However, it was not designed for the farming of fish, where the resource is privately owned, where it involves intervention by regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators or disease. Nor is it designed to enable seafood farmers to access existing fisheries to support growth of new or underutilized species, or to define needed levels for growth in the production to enable Canada to compete in an international market. Words like "cultivation,'' "promotion,'' and "growth'' are terms that are fundamental principles in the farming of fish, but have no place in the Fisheries Act.

The Fisheries Act does not and cannot consider private farming drivers that affect Canadian aquaculture products and their competitiveness in an international market. Yet this is fundamental to our discussion of present industry stagnation. Holding Canadian aquaculture solely within a Fisheries Act almost guarantees the growth will be slim to none.

If we move forward with modern legislation that has been written specifically for who we are as farmers, Canada will be seen as being open for business and investment dollars, and economic activity and employment will flow into Canada as a result. There will be significant positive impacts on rural, coastal and First Nations communities, in particular, and Canada will help to provide alternative seafood that complements the products from our existing fisheries.

Your committee has spent a lot of time learning about and considering the level of scientific research into our industry, and I'm sure you have come to realize that research is what drives this industry. Science has informed both our farming practices and our regulations, and it will continue to guide the industry forward. Is there more to learn? Yes, there is. Research continues.

But let's not confuse the need to continue to support and advance scientific research and technical innovation with the need to move forward now with legislation that will position Canada as a global leader in responsible best practices with clear, transparent and accountable regulatory frameworks.

The future of salmon farming in Canada holds tremendous promise in terms of producing fresh and nutritious seafood for generations to come. Salmon farming also has the potential to revitalize coastal communities with high-value jobs and new opportunities.

Thank you for your important work. A national aquaculture act with fair and clear rules will be a significant and important milestone for the modern and responsible aquaculture industry of Canada.

The Chair: Thank you. Ms. Salmon.

Ms. Salmon: Good afternoon, senators. Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you. We appreciate being here and also appreciate the work that your committee has been doing. I know you've been working hard, and we certainly appreciate it.

As I mentioned, my name is Ruth Salmon, Executive Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, and our association represents seafood farmers from coast to coast to coast.

As you know, certainly, over the course of your study, few jurisdictions can match Canada's natural advantages when it comes to aquaculture. We have an enormous coastal geography. We have an abundance of cold, clean water, a favourable climate, a rich marine and fishery tradition, established trade partners and a commitment to sustainable and responsible best practices.

Aquaculture is among the fastest-growing food sectors in the world, accounting for 50 per cent of the world's total fish production. That's going to be about 62 per cent by 2030.

In 2012, our association launched a national strategy to address over a decade of stagnation in production. We determined that a combination of legislative, regulatory and policy and program reform was necessary to reverse the trend and encourage growth and increased competitiveness in our sector.

As you know, the Canadian aquaculture industry is regulated primarily by the Fisheries Act, a piece of legislation that dates back to Confederation when commercial aquaculture in Canada did not exist. Rapid development of the sector resulted in a combination of federal, provincial and local regulations, many of them implemented before commercial-scale aquaculture was even a significant activity. So as a result, many of these policies and regulations are reactive, duplicative and inefficient.

Our association views the lack of legislation appropriate for our industry as a primary impediment to investment and growth. In fact, if real progress to improve the legislative, regulatory and policy environment in Canada is achieved in a timely manner, the industry believes it could easily double in size over the next 10 years. That's a real, doable and responsible growth projection.

Canada remains one of the world's only major farmed seafood-producing jurisdictions without national legislation specifically designed to govern and enable its industry. Other jurisdictions that you've been exploring, such as Norway, Chile, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and the United States have all enacted aquaculture legislation. Most of the Canadian provinces, if not all, also have their own aquaculture legislation.

Over the last two years, CAIA has presented its viewpoints on an aquaculture act to this committee as well as many other standing committees. We've also presented our perspectives to the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers this past June, and at that time, we indicated that our association would be doing additional homework to provide more detail of what we thought an act should contain. We're nearing the completion of that process now, and I can share with you tonight the underlying principles that have guided our work.

CAIA believes the aquaculture act should ensure responsible growth, competitiveness and sustainable best practices through a modern legislative and regulatory framework — I stress the word "modern'' — and outline a transparent regulatory regime that will be robust, risk-based, science-based, agile, adaptable and focused on performance outcomes. Instead of trying to force-fit aquaculture in a traditional and outdated fisheries regulatory regime that is fundamentally inappropriate, the new act would provide the government with a regime that recognizes and is designed specifically for aquaculture as a farming activity. An act should be consistent with yet update key duties and powers from the Fisheries Act, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, and the Species at Risk Act.

The new act should contain modern, state of the art compliance, promotion and enforcement tools, including an effective licensing mechanism and administrative monetary penalties to establish an effective regulatory regime that ensures legitimacy and public acceptance.

An aquaculture act should provide a regulatory regime that reflects the fact that the business incentives of aquaculture operators align well with the risk management objectives that are sought by the government.

I'll give you an example. Disease and escapes cause loss to finfish aquaculture operators, so minimizing those risks and finding lower-cost ways of achieving compliance is job number one for industry, as well as government, so our objectives and government objectives are the same.

An act should reflect the reality that the aquaculture industry recognizes and supports that effective regulation of our industry is a critical factor in continuing to maintain and build consumer acceptance of our farmed products and public support for our farming operations.

An act should avoid perceived conflicts of interest for ministers by separating regulatory from industry promotion functions.

An act should affirm a regulatory leadership role for the federal government, while allowing day-to-day delivery of regulatory oversight to be handled by provinces, if certain conditions are met.

It should be a highly cost-effective model for the federal government, reducing the need for dedicating scarce resources to regulatory activities that are duplicated at the provincial level.

In closing, we believe a modern legislative and regulatory framework with clear and transparent rules for all stakeholders is essential to a critically important industry. Canada's first national aquaculture act will ensure a vibrant, nutritious and responsible farmed seafood sector for future generations.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Salmon.

Mr. Stringer, I understand you have some opening remarks.

Mr. Stringer: Thank you very much. It is a pleasure for us to be back with you on this issue. As has been pointed out by the other witnesses, the Senate committee has done some very important work. We look forward to the results of your studies, and it has been an honour to be invited a few times to speak with you, answer questions and engage as we are today, and it's a unique pleasure to be here with representatives of industry at this time, in this unique process. Thank you for inviting us.

[Translation]

As you know, aquaculture in Canada depends on several jurisdictions at once. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the main federal agency. The department ensures that aquaculture is managed in a sustainable fashion, in accordance with the Fisheries Act and related regulations. The Fisheries Act dates back to 1868, almost when Confederation was born. It is now nearly 147 years old and, at the time it was drafted, it was difficult to imagine that aquaculture would develop to such an extent.

[English]

In spite of this lack of historic legislative focus, aquaculture has established a solid foothold in Canada. We've already heard about that and the committee members are well aware of it. It now accounts for about one third of the total landed value of fish in Canada. In fact, it is effectively the largest fishery in B.C. accounting for $508 million in landed values.

As senators are aware, DFO has been working on the aquaculture activities regulations and a number of other regulatory improvements to improve the regulatory coherence in environmental management of the sector. As public servants, we work with the regime we have. That regime is the Fisheries Act. Ms. Salmon spoke to their comments in 2012, and it has been before then and since then that there needs to be a comprehensive regulatory regime. So we've been doing it based on that with the tools we have.

When considering the question of the potential for a dedicated aquaculture act in Canada, it's useful to consider — and I'm sure the members will — the aquaculture regulatory regimes in other countries. Jurisdictions such as Chile, New Zealand, Norway and Scotland have all adopted national legislation that recognize aquaculture in the title and have acts that basically speak to aquaculture. Others have not. But others, such as Ireland, recognize and regulate aquaculture under specific provisions in their national fisheries legislation, and that's one way to do it as well.

For others, such as Australia and the U.S., aquaculture is largely governed by sub-national state governments, under sometimes aquaculture specific and sometimes fisheries legislation. The U.S. did in fact enact the National Offshore Aquaculture Act at the national level.

We would note as well that the purpose of aquaculture legislation varies from one country to another, and the issue that was just raised around what would be in an act is significant. It is different in different countries. So Norway's legislation states as its purpose — and we are paraphrasing because the translation is rough — the promotion of profitability and competitiveness of the aquaculture industry within a framework of sustainable development that contributes to the creation of economic value on the coast. Norway's legislation confirms the property rights of aquaculture operators to withdraw and recapture farmed species and specifically allows for the mortgaging of aquaculture licences to raise capital.

On the other hand, it does have important control dimensions. It imposes siting requirements on fish farms, specifically for salmonids. It sets fees and imposes a duty of disclosure on fish farmers. It imposes sanctions and enforcement provisions for failure to comply, including criminal charges, and it grants power to government to recover costs of enforcement and execution of orders from aquaculture operators. There are other examples as well.

Ireland's Foyle and Carlingford Fisheries Act contains a lengthy section. So it's the Fisheries Act dealing with the issuance and revocation of aquaculture licences while leaving other regulatory matters potentially related to aquaculture to be addressed elsewhere in their fisheries act and by other pieces of legislation.

We could go on. There are other examples, but the central point is that the purpose of aquaculture legislation is not the same from one country to another. The purpose appears to depend on the specific challenges and unique opportunities those countries were seeking to address, their legal systems and of course the unique political and socio-economic context that they find themselves in.

Industry stakeholders have expressed interest — we've heard it today and we will hear more — in having modern legislative and regulatory framework that enables sustainable aquaculture development in Canada. The complexity of our aquaculture regulatory regime is often identified as a key factor in limiting the sector's growth.

The reality is that, as government, our responsibility is to ensure that a robust regulatory framework exists, and one that enables the growth that must surely happen in the future and also protects the broader aquatic environment and ensures sustainability. There are different tools to achieve this. An aquaculture act is certainly one of those tools.

As public servants, I don't think you'll find us taking a formal position about whether an aquaculture act is the best tool. As public servants, we work with what we have. But we can speak to the challenges, gaps and risks with the current framework that can assist you with your studies.

I'll just repeat that I am very pleased to be here to answer questions and to participate in this engagement.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Stringer. I don't believe Mr. Gilbert or Mr. Parsons have opening remarks.

Mr. Parsons: No.

The Chair: To move things along, I will ask Senator McInnis if he would open up with some remarks on our first topic for discussion, as all of you have touched on and has come up in our discussions, on enacting aquaculture legislation or amending the Fisheries Act, the pros and cons.

Senator McInnis: We have heard a great deal about whether the new aquaculture act is required, would it be the utopia or provide us with one-stop shopping, something similar or analogous to what is perhaps in Norway.

We understand that there are 70-some pieces of federal and provincial legislation and regulations. The level of duplication and lack of uniformity in the aquaculture governance is incredibly confusing. We were provided with a schedule or table and when you look through it and see the number of divisions of provincial and federal departments that touched them, it's quite remarkable and would lead one to believe that it would be cumbersome at best for the industry.

Now, would a new act cut out all of the good work that's been done — I'm being selfish here — in my province of Nova Scotia with the new regulations?

Mr. Stringer, you are on record as saying that reform would be carried out within the existing framework of the Fisheries Act, but you'll clarify that tonight I'm sure. It's a wide discussion. I think it's important for this committee, as we get ready to draft a report, to try and come up with the very best recommendations with to respect to this. Obviously, the status quo does not appear to be an option so the committee would be interested to hear your feelings on that.

The Chair: Anybody who would like to make a comment on any issue raised, please feel free to make the comment, cross-examine or butt in. The floor is yours.

Ms. Salmon: Senator you raised some very good points. One of the points was in terms of what your province has done, Nova Scotia, and I think you raise a very important point.

We went into this work realizing that it was very important. In this country we have a governance system where the federal government and the provinces are involved in the management of aquaculture and we're not suggesting that change. So it is very important that the provinces be able to administer the aquaculture act if certain conditions are met.

That's to say very clearly that we're not looking here to change the way that's already operating. The provinces have an important role to play in aquaculture management and certainly that needs to continue.

You also made another comment about there being 17 pieces of legislation, and would we be cutting that out. In supporting what Kevin Stringer was saying in terms of that, we do have a robust regulatory requirement in Canada and we agree. We don't want for a minute the stringency of our regulations to be reduced. Industry has never said we need less regulation, we want to be less regulated.

What we wanted was a clear, consistent act that would be modern, reduce duplication and red tape and that would, in one place, be able to explain how aquaculture is managed. You identify that it's complex, so it's complex for Canadian consumers to understand how aquaculture is managed.

National aquaculture would give us the opportunity to explain how aquaculture is managed and how we are managed and impacted by a number of different pieces of legislation. It's not cutting out, it's creating something that would be much more coherent, clear, consistent, and be able to be clear and consistent not only to Canadian consumers but industry as well so that they are comfortable investing in an industry that they know how it operates and they know this federal government has a vision for its future growth.

Those are the two points I wanted to pick up on and there may be others who want to weigh in.

Ms. Parker: I would just add, from our industry's perspective, we definitely want to maintain the roles of our province. However, a lot of times the provinces are in conflict because of the lack of clarity at the federal level.

Also I think that there are models already in Canada. Unlike Norway, where they don't have provinces that have a regulatory role, Canada has this complexity for all of our resource industries. There is a role for the provinces and there is a role for the federal government.

Really we're not asking for anything more than that, we're just asking for clarification at a national level, which will then enable the provinces, I think, to have a clearer understanding. It also allows the federal government to set the minimum standards that we would strive for. Certainly it would give a benchmark then to measure provincial roles.

Mr. Stringer: I have a couple of comments. As I said previously, I think, during my opening remarks, we are working with the current system. We are committed to ensuring that there is a robust and modern regulatory framework and so we have the arrangements in the current Fisheries Act. We are working with that. We've talked about the aquaculture activities regulations which we believe will contribute to this. We will move with further items.

That doesn't mean that those things can't be addressed and some other things couldn't be addressed in an aquaculture act and you couldn't do it in a different regime. I don't think it negates any of that important work that we've been doing and you've been looking at. Others have been working with us as well.

A couple of points that were made in the question and colleagues here have spoken to. One-stop shopping, it is a question if you were to do an aquaculture act, are you going to put everything related to aquaculture that is currently in other pieces of legislation into one piece? Or would it define aquaculture, provide a legal basis and enable a vision? I think we would want to do something about that, even for the fisheries business. We still have Department of Transport regulations and things that the fisheries industry has to follow. It's not all in the Fisheries Act. There are other pieces of legislation that define the fisheries business in addition to the Fisheries Act.

The final thing, and this will be a big issue, and Ruth and Pam both spoke about it, the federal-provincial relationship is a hugely important dynamic. We have a national strategy that we work on with the provinces. We have a deputy-minister level group that is effectively chaired by Eric Gilbert along with one of the ADMs from the province. It is a complex world, and they meet regularly and we coordinate where we need to. But the issue of federal/provincial jurisdiction is a challenge and one where, no question, both jurisdictions have a responsibility.

Senator McInnis: On that item of jurisdiction, the Supreme Court of B.C. talked about jurisdiction, as does the Constitution, section 91 or 92. In there they said that it was the jurisdiction finfish. I may have it with me. Anyway, that it falls in the federal jurisdiction, and so for the provinces to say that is inland fishery and the other is provincial, it is not.

Now some would say the Supreme Court decision would not fall to other provinces. I would suggest quite differently because any challenge in Nova Scotia would be the precedent, and that's the way it would follow until we get a Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Where does that come into the mix and how is it working in B.C. now that you've set up out there?

Mr. Stringer: A couple of comments, and I'll ask Eric to jump in. That decision did indeed say that it's a fishery and therefore the federal government has responsibility for it. By the way, not responsibility for absolutely everything — the provinces still do the tenures and the leases, but in terms of licensing the facility and the general regulation of the operations of aquaculture it has been federal. It has not been applied elsewhere in the country. It hasn't been tested elsewhere in the country.

There were discussions or considerations, provinces that are managing and regulating this expressed a view early and wish to continue to do so. That's a system that we continue to manage. It does make for a complex regime, no question.

We were given 18 months by the courts to come up with a regulatory regime. We did that and it came into effect on December 18, 2010. It was the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, the PAR, and we have been managing since then and it has been going quite well, we think. It has been effectively managed, so it can be done.

We've maintained the relationship we had previously with other provinces and we respect their jurisdiction. Provinces are not here, but you will often hear them say this is similar to agriculture. Fish farmers own the fish they cultivate, it is property and civil rights and all those things. We have not engaged in that. We've simply said in B.C. the courts have said it's federal. You're managing it elsewhere and we're going to continue to work together.

Eric, do you have anything to add to that?

Mr. Gilbert: I think it was a pretty good answer. This is a very good question. From my personal perspective, actually, the question is: Is aquaculture a fishery or not?

Right now we have three different regimes in place in Canada: one for B.C. where we are the lead regulator; one kind of arrangement with the Province of P.E.I., we're playing almost the lead regulatory role there; and elsewhere it's the province playing the lead regulatory role. This is coming from a long way.

In the 1980s the provinces and the federal government sat down together and tried to define whose responsibility that is, this new industry that is expanding pretty fast in Canada. Is aquaculture federal or provincial jurisdiction?

To be honest, at that time the federal and provincial governments agreed to disagree. We fixed the problem by negotiating an MOU on how to manage, so clear roles and responsibilities splitting within the MOU between the two levels of government. We've been working that way since then.

An aquaculture act in any way, we're talking about defining aquaculture. Normally it would be the first part of the act, so the act would have to set the stage for aquaculture as a fishery or farming, the agriculture side of things, or maybe even something new. It may be something that is not a fishery but it's not perfectly coping with what agriculture is. It's something new. Aquaculture is aquaculture.

But my point would be to say that whatever we decide or the federal government, through negotiations with the provinces, will decide what aquaculture is, this would necessarily change the relationship a bit, the way the province and the federal government are working together. I'm not qualifying at all if it would be better or worse, but I'm saying this definition would have an impact on who is doing what for sure.

Senator Wells: Thanks again to the panel; it's good to see you back. I have a question for Mr. Stringer, but before I get to the question, I want to say that Ms. Salmon, who is the Executive Director of CAIA, and Pamela Parker, who is Executive Director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, and Terry Ennis, who is an operator and on the boards, to hear Ms. Salmon say that the aquaculture industry can double over the next 10 years is a staggering thought. I don't disagree, because I think Canada is under performing. Certainly, I think we see that in our deliberations over the past number of months.

Mr. Stringer, I've known you for a couple of years both from the fisheries side and the oil and gas side of things. It's important to note that you were with NRCan as Director-General of Petroleum Resources. I note that in the petroleum industry, and I spent some time in it myself, the Government of Canada did a number of things to streamline processes to make it better, not necessarily easier, but more streamlined for industry to do what industry does best. A couple of examples: the Government of Canada streamlined the Environmental Assessment Act process, known as CEAA 2012. The process became better after that. The Government of Canada established the major projects management office, which was not one-stop shopping, but it was a single portal for major projects like the ones we see in the energy industry. When we think of single portal, I think that's probably a better descriptor than one-stop shopping because there are a lot of things to do that span many departments and agencies. The federal government also set up the Atlantic Canada Energy Office based in St. John's in 2008, I think.

We have done a lot of things for the oil and gas industry based on the obvious and recognized need and perhaps the call from industry to make things more sensible on a regulatory level.

We hear Ms. Salmon saying: We could double the industry over 10 years and we have support. Every time we have been in front of anyone from the aquaculture industry in Canada in our deliberations, we have heard the same call.

I know you don't make policy, but you recommend policy. Why do you think it is so difficult to action this from the aquaculture industry when it was apparently so easy to do it from the energy industry?

Mr. Stringer: Thanks for the question. I'd make a couple of comments. One is that it has grown. There has been some stagnation, but it is now 30 per cent of Canada's landed value. It is significant, and we do agree it continues to be poised for growth.

I think what we've been saying is we agree on the need for a robust regulatory framework, and I think everybody is in agreement on that. The question is what tool. Our job as public servants is to work with the tools we have, provide advice with respect to other tools that may be useful — not our decision — and we can express views with respect to the limitations and challenges with the current tools. As I said, our job and our objective in terms of regulatory framework, regardless of the tool, is to enable the growth that needs to happen and ensure that it's consistent with protecting aquatic environment systems and sustainability.

Regarding some of the things we have talked to this committee about and have been moving forward on, I would point to the aquaculture activities regulation as one element to be able to do that, providing legal clarity, consistency and coherence, where we heard and, arguably, it was not there, and to multi-year licences, instead of coming back every year. We are moving forward on those specific things. We are doing that now within the framework and with the tools we have. We are moving forward on it. We're hearing that there is a better way, and that's something that we know you're considering.

Senator Wells: It's a fair point. Ms. Salmon, how long have you been advocating for an aquaculture act, for want of a better term?

Ms. Salmon: This industry has been advocating for an act long before I took the position with CAIA, and I have been here for eight years. Certainly, there have been 30 years of reports and studies recommending an aquaculture act. I'm thinking of when our association became actively involved, maybe 20 years ago. That would be my guess.

Senator Wells: Many years, I think it's safe to say.

Mr. Stringer, you said the aquaculture industry is poised. It's one thing to be poised for growth, and it's another thing entirely to grow. This is what the aquaculture industry is calling for.

If the Government of Canada, specifically through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, were to have an act — obviously, it would go through Parliament — then it would be up to industry to put their money where their mouth is and to do what they say they will do. I think there is no better challenge that I'll put on their plate than to be able to facilitate that. Even though it's the bureaucracy and you don't make decisions as such, there is an obligation, as we have done for the oil and gas sector, to have not just a robust, modern regulatory framework but to have one that works for industry. It's an important distinction to make.

Mr. Stringer: I don't mean to knock the idea of whether or not an aquaculture act is the best tool. What I do mean to say, though, is I think we have a general understanding of what kind of regulatory regime is required.

We think there is a need to work with provinces on it where they have systems that currently exist. There is more than one way to achieve it. We currently have a set of tools that we're operating with, and we have a regulatory agenda that we've outlined to this committee and we are proceeding with. If there ends up being an aquaculture act as well or amendment to the Fisheries Act that puts an aquaculture part in, we would work with that as well, but we certainly do take your point.

Senator Wells: Thank you.

Senator Meredith: As a follow-up to my colleague's question, Ms. Parker, at the end of your statement, you cited U.S. $10 billion and $356 million in economic activity locally and you stated: "A federal aquaculture act is critical to enable us to reach our full potential and to secure a responsible and sustainable industry for the future.''

What would that potential look like? The previous question said it has been over 30 years that the industry has been asking for an aquaculture act. How would we realize the full potential in the absence of a full aquaculture act?

Ms. Parker: Currently, a lot of our companies, both our Canadian companies and our companies that are from head office, say in Norway, are investing in other countries. They are not investing in Canada right now. Even our local companies are investing outside of Canada because they lack the confidence that the confusion is going to go away. It's very complex. We spend a lot of time trying to educate the public on how we're regulated and it's very difficult.

I think, with all due respect, during the Cohen commission, even the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had a difficult time explaining how the industry is regulated because there are so many different and conflicting parts. Hopefully an aquaculture act will recognize, of course, that other federal acts have to be considered, but the complexity and the clarification will be there.

That will give confidence to our industry that we have the tools to go forward, so that we understand clearly how fish health products would be regulated or how benthic or environmental impact would be monitored and regulated. We could clarify that to the public. They would be able to see the information available publicly.

It is in some provinces now. It isn't in all. But to have the aquaculture activities regulations would ensure that the public is fully informed on an annual basis about the environmental performance of our industry.

It would make it more difficult for misinformation to be clarified, for communities to understand the benefits of the industry for themselves, for their community, and to resolve outstanding questions. Many of you, when you first came into this process, didn't fully understand and you had lots of questions. There was confusion, and it's very difficult.

If the industry is defined and if we're able to clearly articulate the different aspects of what our industry does, which is the same as terrestrial farmers, I think that will go a long way.

Certainly we have to respect the environment that we work in. We will always have certain roles within the Fisheries Act, just like any other marine industry that's working, whether it's oil or gas, or even a log boom in B.C., has to meet certain regulations around the Fisheries Act. We'll have to do that too. But I think the clarity needs to be there and the federal desire to recognize our industry will also go a long way to attracting investment and confidence in our farming companies.

Senator Meredith: Thank you. Ms. Salmon, just to follow up on your presentation, why is it that you think that potentially DFO — and Mr. Stringer, you can jump in after she has commented — has been somewhat reluctant to hear your viewpoints on why we should bring about this aquaculture act?

Ms. Salmon: That's a good question. Again, I would support Kevin Stringer's comments that as civil servants they operate with the tool that they have. Quite honestly, I think they've done a good job. The aquaculture activities regulations are an example of the kind of performance outcome and modern approach that we would look to see replicated in an aquaculture act. That's an example of a regulation that makes some sense, but there are lots of other examples of changes to the Fisheries Act that will be required after they finish the aquaculture activities regulations.

What we're talking about is one piece of national legislation; that the whole piece of legislation is modern in its approach, not prescriptive, and looks at performance outcomes and is not inefficient or time-consuming.

To be fair, DFO has worked with the tool they have. Why have we not moved faster towards an aquaculture act? There are probably a number of different reasons. It is a complex industry, and that's part of the reason why our association, two years ago, decided to make a concerted effort to do our own homework and not look to government to solve our problems. That's the process we're in right now. We need to make it clear, and we're hoping to do that, about exactly what an aquaculture act should look like and how it might be approached.

I think in the past, moving forward on this, it's very confusing. There are these various levels of federal legislation. There are provinces involved. There are different species that we farm. It isn't a one-template solution. I think that's probably the reason why it hasn't been an easy activity to move forward with, but our hope is that our association will help clarify some of the road forward and it will make it easier for some of those decisions.

Senator Meredith: Mr. Stringer, did you want to comment on that?

Mr. Stringer: Thank you. I would say, as Ruth Salmon just said, really there has been lots of talk about an aquaculture act for the last five or ten years, but there's been a real focused effort formally from CAIA within the last two or three. In that discussion, there are proposals that come forward, here's an idea, and there are questions back and forth about what would actually be in it. Ruth just spoke to the fact that they're coming to the completion of a document that might speak to what's in it. But in the meantime, we're plugging away.

Why has it not happened? Partly that work hasn't been done. It's partly the current regime we're making reforms to, and it may not be as effective. It may or may not be. But the platform has been adequate for us to move forward on.

I think the issue that was raised by senators previously — provinces will have a view on this. We've got different jurisdictions and different regimes in each province. They don't do things the same way. The challenge of taking on something that says "guys, this is the way it's going to be'' or setting standards is not an easy one. We've been plugging away with the regime we've got, making the reforms and working with the industry.

I absolutely agree with what Ruth has outlined, which is that we have a good working relationship with the industry, with the provinces and with other stakeholders, despite the challenge that you'll see from time to time in terms of identifying what needs to be done next and moving ahead with it. This is a big initiative, and we really welcome the views of this committee as you consider what's best.

Senator Raine: I know this is very difficult because, you're absolutely right, we don't have an aquaculture act, but with the new regulations that are coming into place there are a lot of things happening to govern and regulate aquaculture in Canada.

My worry is that DFO has a fantastic organization across the country with a lot of science and scientists and people on the ground. If we have a whole other regime, department, whatever, you get silos — that's DFO, that's not aquaculture — and we start to lose that valuable scientific resource that's been built up.

I would like to ask the industry representatives, if there isn't an aquaculture act, can we regulate the industry in an efficient, proper, modern way that lets you expand and invest, given that our number one concern is that it doesn't impact the wild fish? Of course, everybody agrees on that. But can it be done without an aquaculture act?

Mr. Ennis: We currently operate under DFO and the Fisheries Act, of course, but we also have a great deal of interaction with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. You asked if there would be confusion in the future. I think we're working in that system now under sort of regulatory and how we operate our businesses from a farming perspective versus how we're supported internationally through agri-marketing programs and developing new markets for our product. I think we're both doing quite well now.

We've certainly debated this at the association and amongst our members, whether under an aquaculture act it would fall under the remit of DFO or does it fall under Agriculture Canada or is there a new department? I don't think we've come to a conclusion on that yet ourselves. Certainly DFO has made a lot of progress in the last couple of years. The gentlemen present and many other people have consulted with industry and other stakeholders, and they're making improvements.

Certainly under the leadership of Minister Shea we've seen a lot of progress and we appreciate that. We want to see something in place through an aquaculture act that would give confidence to all Canadians, those who are opposed to aquaculture and those who are working in the industry, that meets everybody's needs. We really think that tweaking the Fisheries Act may move the ball down the field but it's not going to accomplish everything we want, especially when the Senate and this committee have looked at other jurisdictions where you see that model operating successfully. I think we're almost at a point where it's nearly a foregone conclusion we need an act and we're trying to convince ourselves why we shouldn't have one. That's a good point to be at, after many years, as an industry trying to move the ball down the field.

I think it can work. Whether it's under DFO or under Agriculture Canada in the future, someone else can debate that. My preference would be DFO, but I don't speak for everybody in the industry. It's something we can sort out in the future for sure.

Ms. Salmon: I was going to assure you that this industry is science based and needs to continue to be science based. That's absolutely at the foundation of our industry.

The sense of protecting the wild stocks, protecting habitat, is critical. That needs to continue. That doesn't mean growth can't happen in the industry. They can work hand in hand. That doesn't mean one has to be less than the other. We're looking for a piece of legislation that is modern, that is science based, that is nimble and credible, protects the environment and the aspects of the Fisheries Act. The conservation and protection aspects of the Fisheries Act are critical. We want science to be more significant than it is right now, and we want science communication to be more part of our industry than it is right now.

All the things that you think are important, we do as well. We also think you can have sustainable growth with that.

Senator Raine: So you're saying you need this act so that the public and the people who are anti-aquaculture can be assured that the industry is properly regulated and the act will have the power to do that?

Ms. Salmon: Absolutely.

Mr. Ennis: That's a very important piece of this, for sure. I say to anyone who opposes aquaculture that some of the best stewards of the ocean are people who are involved in this industry, because we make our living every day on the ocean. So we certainly don't want to cause problems. We want to make sure it's a sustainable industry that's around for many generations to come.

One of the questions earlier was about economic development. It does have a big impact on rural communities, and there's certainly lots of potential. If you look at global statistics on seafood consumption, population growth and economic factors, wild capture fishery is not going to be able to keep up with the demand. Mr. Stringer mentioned a moment ago that about 30 per cent of Canadian seafood is coming from aquaculture now. Roll ahead 20 years and it might be a lot more than the wild fisheries coming from aquaculture if it's done properly.

The Chair: We have already touched on the next topic, which I'd like to get some more feedback on. Certainly it's a topic that we've been engaged in from one end of the country to the other, and that is defining aquaculture as a fishing or farming activity. We heard some feedback already this evening, but I'm going to ask Senator Wells to make some opening comments or ask a question, whatever he may have, to start this part of the discussion.

I'd like to focus in on that, because one of the major issues that has been raised with us on several occasions is if a government finds a place to put an aquaculture act in place, defining exactly whether it's a fishery or a farming activity will be a very important part of that.

Senator Wells: Full disclosure: I used to be president of a company called Atlantic Halibut Farms, so I know a little bit about the aspect of farming and the things that go along with it.

When we talk about any kind of farming, whether it is fish farming or more familiar farming in fields with cattle or agricultural products, we talk about feed and rearing juveniles. We talk about the specific plots of land or space. We call them growers, whether it's seafood or cattle. We leave these spaces fallow sometimes. It's a farming term in both aquaculture and farming on land.

There's controlled harvesting, which we don't always have in the wild fishery. In the aquaculture industry, there's controlled harvesting. If you need 10,000 kilos of product, you get it. In the wild fishery, if you want 10,000 kilos of a product, you hope to have that through whatever fishing gear or methods you use. Of course, in fishing you control the stock or harvest through defined harvesting based on quotas, allocations or opening and closing of seasons, which are things that you don't have, things that you don't regulate in the aquaculture industry. Farmers take their product when they need it. There's not a defined season. It might be defined by weather or other factors, but it's not defined by regulation.

With respect to the regulations that guide it, and it's the Fisheries Act, which was developed in 1867, aquaculture is the square peg and the act is the round hole. I think that's what every operator that has to live under — the rules were designed for something completely different. Can you imagine if we had rules of the road for our vehicles that were designed for the period of horse-and-buggy? That's what I think we're facing now.

It's just a point of discussion to open up this part of the session. I open it to the floor, chair, for any of my colleagues to comment on that or give their view.

Ms. Salmon: You said it very well. It was eloquent and absolutely accurate. When you look at definitions in other jurisdictions, the United Nations, everyone defines aquaculture as farming. We know that that hasn't always been the case in recent legal cases, but potentially that decision was made because there wasn't a clear definition of aquaculture in law in Canada.

Everywhere else where aquaculture operates, the United Nations defines aquaculture as farming. You could ask any operator of aquaculture in Canada and they will tell you they're farmers. That's what they do. So for us it's a very clear distinction.

Senator Wells: Maybe we could hear from Mr. Gilbert or Mr. Parsons. I've known both of them for a number of years through their efforts in the aquaculture industry, specifically Mr. Parsons. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Again, I'll say Jay Parsons has been involved in the aquaculture industry for more than 20 years, because I think that's when I first ran into him.

Mr. Parsons: By all means, thank you for the opportunity to comment. Certainly, as you've outlined, I've been involved in the aquaculture sector through the university community, working with industry and more recently with government, working in supporting the management and the regulation of it through the scientific work that we do.

As you've outlined, clearly the steps involved in aquaculture are quite different than the harvesting of fish from the wild. Certainly a number of the steps in terms of broodstock, including raising the young and having control over your stock, needing to feed them, controlled harvesting and looking after them, are clearly activities that are aligned with similar practices that occur in terrestrial farming.

Having said that, I think it's already been stated there have been legal decisions under our existing framework that have a different perspective, and my management colleagues are more prepared to be able to articulate those particular aspects. Having said that from the farming perspective, there are also common aspects of activities that aquaculture — occurring in an aquatic environment — has in common to the fishery as well. It's of course not all clear-cut, one or the other, because it is a common environment in which the fisheries and aquaculture take place, but certainly from the husbandry aspects that's very much in line with terrestrial practices.

Mr. Gilbert: For those of you who have known me for a long period of time, I'm trying to be very practical in the way that I approach my job and that I have to deliver the mandate of the department regarding aquaculture. As my dear colleague Kevin put it, we have to work with the tools we have. One of the tools we have is a Supreme Court decision in B.C. saying that aquaculture is a fishery. We decided to be practical and apply this in B.C., but actually the decision was made under the Canadian Constitution. On paper, aquaculture is a fishery across Canada, and that's what we have to deal with.

If I may, I'll come back to the point that I was making previously, which is the fact that if we have an aquaculture act that sticks to the fact that aquaculture, legally speaking, is a fishery, then this has some consequences. This would mean that for the first time we would have a national act dealing with aquaculture, but a big part of it making it a federal jurisdiction, because the fishery is a federal jurisdiction only, as you all know. It's a very complex situation.

In terms of fixing or looking at the issue we're facing from a legal perspective, it would need the highest level of government decision and it would not go easily. Because some provinces might like the idea that aquaculture would be a fishery and others would not. It would start a round of discussion between the two levels of government again. At the end of it, we might be in a better situation, but how long would this take? I don't think anybody knows.

Again, the core of the issue comes from the fact that aquaculture is not defined, but whatever we decide it would be, it has some pros and cons. I can tell you that we're working within the framework we have now, and we're making some progress, certainly not as fast as the industry would like to see it happen. But the AAR, the aquaculture activities regulations, will make a big difference from that perspective in terms of siting and daily operation, in terms of what DFO will do practically to help better manage the industry.

One last comment I would make: Again, my personal view on the need for an act or not is irrelevant, but one thing I would say is that since 2010, since we took over part of the jurisdiction in B.C. to deal with aquaculture and we've established this new program, we have seen, I think it's fair to say, an improvement in terms of social licence of aquaculture in B.C. We've seen people more and more interested in looking at all the information we can provide because we have access to that information, being the main regulator. So transparency is the reason for it.

At the end of five years of federal jurisdiction in B.C., under the Fisheries Act for aquaculture being a fishery, we're just about to allow some industry expansion. Actually, we've issued two new licences for new sites in B.C., not only because we have the tools to do it properly but also because the acceptance of the aquaculture fact is improving in B.C.

I can say only this: Even for the two new sites that licences were issued for, those licences are in the name of First Nations, which is a first. Eight, ten years ago, there was a movement within First Nations opposed to finfish aquaculture. Today, five years after the implementation of the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, we see even First Nations asking for salmon farming licences, which is a fact that says a lot.

Mr. Stringer: In addition to what my colleagues have said, I'd say a couple of things. First, the issue of is it farming or is it fisheries. Presumably, it's about both. It's an interesting debate. I hear different views from different people quite regularly on it. As has been pointed out by many, the consequences of where you formally land on that, if you were to move forward and define it, is pretty significant.

At this point, we have court decisions, we have the practical reality of how it's being managed by provinces in different areas, and those are things that at this point we respect the court decision where it was made, we respect the provincial jurisdiction and we have good relations with provinces — all of that.

Second, we've all said, including me in my opening remarks, that the Fisheries Act in 1868 did not envision a modern aquaculture world, and therefore it would be a challenge to say it's a perfect tool for it.

It's been pointed out that it didn't actually envision a modern wild fishery either. It's been pointed out by the fisheries community and others as well. It's been a challenge to change that Fisheries Act. We've had some changes but not that many changes. But in the wild fishery we've made it work, and in the aquaculture industry we've made it work. We've had efforts to adjust, change the Fisheries Act for the wild fishery. Would that have made the wild fishery an approved regulatory — I'm not 100 per cent sure, but those things went forward, and you're hearing proposals with respect to aquaculture as well. We have made it work both in the wild fishery and in aquaculture.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Wells. Great discussion again.

I want to move into our third topic.

Senator McInnis: Can I read something into the record? It is important with respect to this. I just found the quote that I had. This is from the B.C. Supreme Court:

. . . "finfish aquaculture'' is a "fishery,'' and falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament under subsection 91(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The court "ruled that the majority of the provisions of provincial aquaculture legislation lie outside the constitutional jurisdiction of the province.''

That I think is extremely important, a very important statement. It goes on to say that the only jurisdiction the province has is to look after marine plants on the bottom of the ocean floor. That is an important thing as we go forward as to what we're going to do.

Sorry about that.

The Chair: No. It's a good interjection.

Mr. Ennis: We've heard a few times now this evening that DFO has to work with the tools that they have available. I would think the courts are much the same. They have to define it as a fishery because there is no definition of aquaculture. If you look in the Fisheries Act, it's not even in there.

Senator McInnis: It's in the Constitution.

Mr. Ennis: I haven't read that one yet. Eric made some good comments a few moments ago, but at the very end of his statement he said that the First Nations have applied for fish farming licences. There's a lot of confusion around whether it's farming or fishery, but I thought it was interesting that they applied for fish farming licences. To David's point earlier about is it farming or fishing, I think we all agree we need some clarity around that.

The Chair: Words are important.

Moving on to our third topic for discussion this evening, and certainly I thank you again for the great feedback that we're receiving here. Just to clarify from my opening remarks, the topic is existing federal and provincial review processes.

I'd like to have some conversation — I think Senator McInnis is going to lead us off here — on the progress achieved under the National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative and an MOU that was signed a while back with the Atlantic provinces. So basically trying to get some feedback from the people gathered here this evening of your take on what is happening up to date in relation to the federal and provincial processes and is there something we could learn from those? Is there an order we need to do? Part and parcel of what we're trying to do here is trying to find an avenue to move.

I'll turn the floor over to Senator McInnis, who will initiate this discussion.

Senator McInnis: I'll be very brief. Basically, the federal and provincial governments — and I believe all provinces are represented here, are they? I think they are. You're looking at the regulatory frameworks to enable harmonization of the regimes that would lead to reduced regulatory burden.

The committee, as I understand, was founded in 2010, five years ago. I know from past experience that these things don't move quickly, but it would be interesting to see where you are with respect to it. You may have considerable information now as to how this may be. There may be some consolidation, condensing and so on. Would you comment on that, please?

Mr. Stringer: I'll start and I will ask Mr. Gilbert to add.

I have a couple of comments in terms of how we work with provinces. The Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers has a body underneath it, which is co-chaired by Mr. Gilbert and one of the ADMs from the provinces. Because of the jurisdiction, the split jurisdiction, the difference in B.C. and the difference in P.E.I., we have had to have good working relationships. A number of groups were involved, and there may be people at the table who helped push us in this direction, which is to say we need a national strategy for aquaculture. We recognize that at this time the jurisdiction is diffuse, and therefore let's, at the very least, get the federal government, provinces and territories together to come up with a set of objectives that is, in fact, an action plan with year 1, year 2 and year 3 objectives to try to move forward on all of the elements where we have shared jurisdiction. There were science, regulatory and economic development components. I will ask Mr. Gilbert to speak to where that is. I know an assessment has been done recently, an evaluation by the parties, and what we need to recommit to going forward.

It is one of the tools we have with provinces and territories to try to coordinate, regulate and ensure. For example, I know you've talked about fish health recently. That's jurisdiction that the provinces and the federal government have. We need a fish health regime that is consistent across the sector, and we need to make sure we are setting standards.

I will ask Mr. Gilbert to speak specifically to some of the things in there, some of the evaluation and what we might learn from it.

Mr. Gilbert: The National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative, or NASAPI, was a first in Canadian history. In 2010, for the first time, we gave both levels of government a national strategy to tackle the aquaculture industry and try to move on many issues. It was an ambitious plan. I think we had close to 160 actions that we had to make happen over a five-year period.

As I said, it was a provincial-federal-territorial strategy, but we engaged the industry in the development of it extensively. We had numerous consultations and meetings across the country, including discussions with First Nations and conservation organizations.

It was a first. Because it was a first, it was pretty ambitious and we're in the fifth year now, so we did an evaluation of where we are. I would say we didn't realize everything that was planned in the strategy, but, certainly, we tackled most of the actions and we moved on many of them.

It's government, so it takes time, but the first example I would mention is the renewal of the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms that was in existence in 2005, if I recall well. That needs to be renewed. This is a national code that delineates roles and responsibilities within the federal family but also the provinces and even the industry, as it deals with transfer of aquatic organisms, mostly from fish health issues, so from a transfer of disease perspective.

This code was signed off by all ministers, provincial and federal, and the trigger to do that was the new role of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that they will take on. The CFIA is already responsible for the export and import of live organisms, but they will soon implement the domestic component of the National Aquatic Animal Health Program. So that federal organization is taking over some of the old DFO responsibility as it relates to fish health. We have to therefore delineate a new rules and responsibilities scheme for all of us and make sure CFIA will be sitting at the table and coordinating their action with us and with the provinces.

I think this is a great achievement. For the first time, we can tell anybody who wants to know, including the average Canadian who is not involved in the aquaculture industry, how we are managing fish health in this country.

A second example is the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program modernization. Again, it deals with food safety, shellfish health and access to market, and this one was planned to be modernized within NASAPI. We are about to finalize that process.

I need to mention here, in terms of governance structure, we have, as you mentioned, an MOU signed with all the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec and B.C. That came from the ADs when we didn't agree on who is responsible for aquaculture, so we said: Let's work that out, put the legal issue aside and in practical terms let's determine who will do what. Those MOUs have been in place for decades, and they have a governance structure, a federal-provincial committee that deals with daily operations of both sides, federal and provincial, as they relate to aquaculture. NASAPI was built on this. The delivery mechanism at the provincial level was the committee of the MOU that was responsible to review priorities on a yearly basis, follow progress on any of those priorities and report at the national level on progress done for any given year.

I think we can say that NASAPI was certainly not perfect but a success in terms of coordination amongst the federal-provincial governments and we delivered on major action items.

Finally, as I said, this strategy is coming to an end, and just so you know, we and all the provinces agree that we should renew the strategy. We need a national strategy for aquaculture and we also agree that this new strategy needs to be a little more focused. Maybe a little bit less ambitious, but we can deliver on 100 per cent of the actions we agree to do.

Senator McInnis: Would this not be a good vehicle to do the act if there was such a thing?

Mr. Gilbert: I would say in terms of talking with the provinces, it would be the vehicle for sure.

Senator McInnis: How often do you meet?

Mr. Gilbert: The ministers responsible for aquaculture and fisheries meet once a year, normally in June. All the deputy ministers of all the lead agencies, including us and the provinces, have a conference call three times a year. Under this umbrella, we have what we call the "strategic management committee on aquaculture,'' which is the one I am co-chairing with a provincial co-chair. This committee meets as needed, so it's at least four to five times a year, if not more.

When we developed the aquaculture activities regulations, we had to engage the provinces, so we used the strategic management committee to do that. Last year, we had eight or ten meetings — conference calls or face-to-face meetings. It's pretty useful and it's working pretty well.

Mr. Stringer: Regardless of whether there is an act or going with the current arrangement, what is good about the current structure with the provinces is it does start at the ministers, and ministers get a report every year, whether or not there is progress. There is a discussion about this by ministers, there is reporting up to ministers, preparation, et cetera, so there is that discipline that's brought to it. Then there are deputies who get together and when they do it three times a year, I can promise you that there is a flurry of activity to say what progress have we made and let's make sure, you know. We also have the working level connections that work. It is a necessary connection that we've got and whether it's NASAPI or our regular work, that structure of engagement with provinces and territories has been quite useful.

Senator Raine: What does NASAPI stand for?

Mr. Gilbert: National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative.

Senator Meredith: In your collaboration with the provinces, are there any major concerns that are brought to DFO with respect to how you move forward under this new initiative?

Mr. Gilbert: I can assure you that they are raising tons of concerns on a regular basis.

Senator Meredith: How are you addressing those?

Mr. Gilbert: It depends on what we are talking about. Sometimes the province would use that platform as a good venue to discuss their concerns that they know we're not responsible for, but as the lead agency that we should help out with.

The coming into play of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is a good example where CFIA was not used to working with the provincial aquaculture folks. They have their network in place on the agriculture side, but since they've taken over aquatic animal health issue or program they have to develop that network. Developing the National Aquatic Animal Health Program was a major endeavour from CFIA and they used the SMC under the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers to deal with the province with us sitting at the table. It was pretty efficient.

Each and every time any member of that CCFAM is moving forward on any regulatory initiative, this is something that would be discussed at that table, both only from an information sharing perspective, but also in terms of coordination.

Senator McInnis mentioned that the Nova Scotia government is moving forward in regulatory reform. We exchange a lot, in order to make sure that through the development of the Aquaculture Activity Regulation, we will not overlap in any way what the province is planning to do. That's another example. If there is some emerging issue like access to market, we could have a conference call organized very rapidly in order to discuss that amongst the federal and provincial family.

This governance structure, in my view, is very useful. Actually, I see it as a "must'' because aquaculture is a shared jurisdiction and the lack of coordination between the federal government and the province was mentioned many times in the past as something that impedes the industry from moving forward and that provoked or caused more confusion. So the CCAFM umbrella and the Strategic Management Committee on Aquaculture were designed, put in place, maybe 10 years ago and it was exactly to address that lack of coordination.

It's not perfect. It's far from going as far as an aquaculture act in terms of coordination, but it certainly was very efficient and useful.

Senator Meredith: Thank you so much.

The Chair: I want to thank our witnesses.

Senator McInnis: We all know there is opposition to aquaculture on different fronts. You talk about growth of the industry. What effect has that had on the growth of your industry or lack thereof? Has that stopped the corporations from going forward?

Ms. Salmon: It is an interesting question and I think it's a good one because there is opposition against our industry from a small vocal minority, as there are against other industries, which is certainly challenging. But from our industry's perspective, what is most critical is to have a federal government that sees the vision for what this industry can be and supports it for that future growth. That's what we have not seen to date. So again, not to be critical of what has gone on before because there has been some good work and we are a significant industry, but we could be so much more. We've lost 42 per cent market share over the last decade and other countries have raced ahead. What we see as an impediment is the fact that we need a modern approach to how we are managed. We need a government that sets the vision for growth while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability.

We can talk about words and definitions and say it's too difficult. We can talk about that we have a complex governance system. We all know that. But let's not lose sight of our goal of supporting a critical food producing industry that can do a lot for coastal communities and First Nations. It can be an economic driver and produce a healthy, nutritious product that not only Canadians need, but that the world needs.

I think we have to step back and realize what we are here to talk about. We can find all the reasons why it's difficult to do it because it has not been done before, but what is the purpose here? We want Canada to be a leader in a seafood farming industry that supports and respects the environment, which also moves ahead and not only creates jobs, but creates a healthy protein. I want to leave you with that comment because we have to remember why we are doing this.

Senator McInnis: But we want to do it correctly.

Ms. Salmon: Absolutely and our impediment has not been the public issues, which are challenging, to be sure. But that has not stopped our industry moving ahead.

Ms. Parker: If I could just add to what Ms. Salmon said. I agree with her. We are a farming industry. The Fisheries Act is ultimately a conservation and protection tool. So it puts the government in a conflict under the Fisheries Act to be promoting an industry that operates in the marine environment, or pardon me, enabling an industry like ours that farms in a marine environment when their ultimate goal is protection and conservation. So it makes the decision-making to move forward perhaps more difficult.

Senator McInnis: You are farming on public domain — terrain. Farming is done on land. There is a distinct difference. The public can say private land is farming on land. It is different — big difference. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We certainly want to thank our witnesses this evening. Once again you have added much to our discussions and consultations. If there is something that comes to mind after you leave here this evening that you think we should be aware of or be enlightened on, please feel free to forward it to the committee at any time. We will hopefully work on finalizing our report after the Easter break and present our report to the Senate by June. That's our plan. All eyes are in that direction, but you never know what can happen. Thank you for your time.

Is it agreed that the committee move into camera?

Senator Stewart Olsen: You bet.

The Chair: Pursuant to rule 12-16. All those in favour?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Contrary minded? Carried.

We will take a moment to move in camera.

(The committee continued in camera.)