Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 12 - Evidence - November 30, 2012 (afternoon meeting)


MONCTON, Friday, November 30, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 1:10 p.m. to study the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good afternoon. I am pleased to welcome everyone this afternoon to a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. My name is Fabian Manning. I am a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador and I am chair of this committee.

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

Senator Unger: Betty Unger from Edmonton, Alberta.

Senator Harb: Mac Harb from Ontario.

Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier, New Brunswick.

The Chair: A couple of other senators had to leave somewhat early to make connecting flights. We will be gathering all the information and deliberating over the next couple of months as we prepare a study that we hope to present to the Senate sometime in late February early March. That is our goal at the present time.

If there is anything else you think of after your opportunity to present today that you think would be of benefit to us as we continue our study, I certainly welcome your forwarding that to the clerk of the committee.

Our committee is continuing its study of the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The committee has had very productive meetings so far in Moncton and we have had several in Ottawa during the past couple of months. As we listen to our last panel in this location from organizations that conduct research on the lobster population this is an opportunity for the committee to learn more on the activities of these organizations as well as some of their findings. We are delighted to have you here today.

On behalf of the members of the committee I thank you for taking the time to join us to give us your expertise. It has certainly been a very productive couple of days. We have heard from harvesters, processors, buyers and various organizations and groups. There is no doubt that this is a very important industry in this part of Canada. We have learned of great opportunities but also of some great challenges that they face.

We are hoping to present a report next spring with some recommendations and certainly part of that process has been our meetings here in Moncton over the past couple of days.

I would ask you now if you would be so kind as to introduce yourselves. Some of you may have opening remarks. It is a freewheeling discussion. The floor is yours.

[Translation]

Martin Mallet, Director, Homarus Inc.: My name is Martin Mallet; I am a biologist and the Director of the Homarus project.

Homarus is a project, a not-for-profit company, that conducts research and development into all lobster-related matters, but specifically into the viability both of the resource and the fishing industry in general. Our work is primarily based in the southwest of the Gulf.

As I mentioned, Homarus is a not-for-profit company, a subsidiary of the Maritime Fishermen's Union. In addition to the Maritime Fishermen's Union, we have partners from public and private sector groups. For about 10 years, we have been working on a number of questions in lobster research.

Currently, our research and development is focused on four areas. The first, our oldest development area, involves resource management projects focusing on lobster hatchery and seeding projects in order to enhance lobster stocks in problem regions. We are also working on projects involving the creation of artificial reefs as a way to increase lobster habitat.

Second, quite recently, last year or two years ago, we began monitoring and follow-up projects. Put more simply, we are monitoring the lobster population to get an idea, an index, of the changes in terms of resource conservation measures. This is a very new project because we now have funding that will support the project for two years, a grant from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Third, we have environmental projects. We are looking at the impact of the environment on the resource, more specifically in terms of the problems caused by contaminants and by climate change.

Fourth, we are also working on development projects in the area of alternative forms of bait for the lobster fishery.

That is a little introduction to start with. If you wish, I can come back to these points later and go into more detail or I can expand a little on what is to come in our research.

[English]

Patty King, General Manager, Fishermen and Scientists Research Society: I am Patty King, General Manager of the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Fishermen and Scientists Research Society is a non-profit association established in January of 1994 with the primary goals of improving communication between fishermen, scientists and the general public, establishing and maintaining a network of fishermen and scientists capable of conducting collaborative research, and collecting information necessary to promote the long-term sustainability of our resources.

Our current membership is 470. Of those 275 are fishermen and the other 195 are scientists from the private sector, academia. government and other interested individuals.

The FSRS was formed out of the recognition by both fishermen and scientists that each had valuable contributions to make to the long-term stewardship of living marine resources and that a partnership based on effective communication and common goals was a necessary prerequisite to realizing our objectives. This partnership has enabled a number of valuable joint projects to occur that are important to the advancement, assessment and management of our fisheries resources. We are actually known worldwide as a proven model for effective collaboration between fishermen and scientists.

I would like to tell you a bit about some of the unique things about the society and then give you a brief overview of a couple of our research projects for lobster and providing a cull with more details on all those projects that you will be able to review at your convenience later.

One of the unique things is our level of independence. Our role is to do credible, independent science and have the results shared with all stakeholders including industry, scientists and managers because we all share one common goal, the sustainability of our fishery.

It is not our role to represent industry or government or any particular side on an issue. Our objectives very clearly state we are not a lobby group. We are here to do good, credible, independent science that we all need as a foundation for making good decisions and to bring all the stakeholders to the table to work together.

The level of participation of fishermen in fishery science is also one of our defining characteristics. When we first started this back in 1994 I would ask fishermen what they were concerned about; what they were seeing out there and what they had to study, and they would say that was the scientist's job.

Now fishermen are taking a lead role in identifying what are those research priorities. Through the society they are able to work with scientists to develop effective studies and to look at issues of concern. Then they actually go out on the water and do the research. They collect the data and once the data has been analyzed they are part of the peer review process.

They have become more equal partners, more effective partners in the whole stock assessment process. In many ways they have become scientists on the water. Through this collaboration and improved communication fishermen have gained an increased understanding of scientific methodologies and processes, why it is scientists do their job the way they do it. They have come to trust science more and have an increased respect for fishery scientists such as Mr. Lanteigne.

As one fisherman put it to me, if fishermen are doing science they have to believe it to be true. How can you argue about something you collected? In turn scientists have come to realize the wealth of knowledge that fishermen have about fishing and all the different species of fish. Of course lobster in particular is one of our focuses. Scientists have a lot to gain by working with fishermen and accessing that knowledge. Through fishermen, through this collaboration, they have access to data collected on the water every day on a scale they have never been able to access that information before. Not only are we able to collect data over large areas, we can now collect data over long-term time frames.

Another advantage of the society is that we have this established infrastructure. In 2013 we will be going into our 20th year of operation. We can have that continuity of projects, standardization of protocols, and the maintaining of integrity and confidence in that research both by fishermen and scientists.

This leads to one of the challenges we are facing. For science we need to do it long term. We need a long-term time series. That requires funding and funding for science is increasingly less and less and less.

Another thing that is unique about the society is our commitment to share our data and get that information out there. When we first developed the society one of the concerns we heard from fishermen is that any time they tried to participate in science they would share their knowledge but they did not know what happened to that information. It went into a black hole. They did not know how it was interpreted, if it was even being used.

One of our commitments is to make sure that our fishermen get the results of their own data back as well as see all the root results. We share our data with Fisheries and Oceans and any other scientist who is interested in analyzing it. It is used extensively in the stock assessment process. I will touch on that with one of the projects I am going to highlight in just a moment.

Lobster, being so crucial to our resources, our economy and our communities in Atlantic Canada, is a focus of our research. I would now like to take a few minutes to highlight a couple of the projects we have had on the go. One is a lobster recruitment index project. This is a major focus for the society.

This project has been going on since 1999. The idea for this research came from a fisherman. At that point in time industry was being asked to double egg per recruit. This fisherman very correctly said, "How can we know we have accomplished that goal through our conservation efforts? We do not even know what we have out there to begin with, what our juvenile population is. We need to get a handle on what is there."

By bringing the fishermen and scientists together we designed a long-term lobster recruitment index study. We currently have this project going on from LFA 27 off Cape Breton all the way around to LFA 35 in the Bay of Fundy. We have about a 160 fishermen participating in this project in any given year. They are collecting information every day that they are on the water from specially designed scientific traps. They measure every lobster out of those traps. They collect length, if it is male or female or berried, whether or not it is v-notched. They also monitor temperature because we know temperature is a critical element in our lobster fishery.

Basically this project is designed to study the changes and abundance of the juvenile lobsters that will be recruiting into the fishery in the coming seasons. It is well known that lobster fisheries in Atlantic Canada rely heavily on newly recruited lobsters. As this project continues we hope to be able to predict with some degree of uncertainty, which is always the case with science, if there will be increases or declines in our lobster fishery in the future.

This project has contributed significantly to the stock assessment process within DFO. Over half the data that has been used in the recent stock assessments in Maritimes region has come from this project. This is a vital component of the stock assessment project for the Martime region.

Another issue that I believe you have already heard about is the lobster molten quality issue particular in southwest Nova Scotia. We are seeing some changes going on with the molt cycle, when it is occurring. The lobsters are not necessarily hardened up or full of meat by the time the season begins. This is a major concern for a number of reasons including economically. The customer wants that hard-shelled, fully meated lobster and we are not necessarily giving that right now. We have had a couple of really bad years with regard to this issue.

In collaboration with fish harvesters, processors and AVC Lobster Science Centre at the University of P.E.I. we developed a program to look at lobster quality as related to molt timing. Changes in temperature, diet and other ecosystem factors are affecting the molt timing. The timing of molt is important in its effects on the lobster quality because a period of time after molting is required before lobsters harden and are in top market quality.

With this collaborative effort we have ongoing year-round sampling in LFA 33 and LFA 34. We have now expanded into LFA 35, the Bay of Fundy area. We are collecting information on blood protein levels, shell hardness and temperature. We are in the process of analyzing the information we have so far. We are looking at the relationship of temperature to that molt cycle and what is changing. We are also looking to delve into the relationship with food sources. Certainly some of the fishermen you have heard from may have expressed concern about whether there is enough food out there to feed these lobsters. Is that one of the problems that is causing these changes or is it climate change and temperature primarily? This is one of the things we are focusing on.

We also are studying lobster settlement, the young of year lobster, through a collector project. This is a collaborative effort with DFO. We are trying to get a better idea of the stage four larvae that are settling to the bottom. This can be used to develop settlement indexes which will then feed into your recruitment levels and so on, again predicting what our fishery is going to be like in future years. This is part of a larger international initiative called the American lobster settlement index being done in conjunction with Rick Walhe at the University of Maine and others.

We are also doing research on size at maturity. One of the key factors in terms of the assessment and management of the lobster is this whole 50 per cent size at maturity goal. They set the minimum legal size based on 50 per cent size at maturity in certain areas. The concern is fishermen are seeing that berried lobsters are smaller than they used to be. There seems to be something changing in when lobsters are reaching that maturity level. This is something that had not been looked at in decades. In collaboration with DFO and other community organizations we are now looking at the size at maturity issue, how it is changing temporally and spatially as well.

When the Lobster Council of Canada appeared before you I am sure you heard about the lobster node component of the NSERC and Canadian Fisheries Research Network program. The FSRS is one of the founding members of the lobster node of that particular initiative. The goal of that network is to answer questions about lobster stock structure and connectivity, what are the links between the different areas. For example, if this area is producing lots of larvae is it settling there and helping to maintain their resource or is it getting into the currents and ending up settling in another area and helping somebody else? Who is helping whom out there? Who is connected to whom? They are also doing some genetic work and other things as part of those studies.

Another focus of the society is promoting communication between fishermen, scientists, and the general public. We do that in a number of ways. We have a quarterly newsletter. We have a website which I encourage you to check out. We are having our 20th annual conference that I would like to invite all of you to attend on February 20 and 21, 2013. It is being preceded by a collaborative lobster science workshop we are doing with the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation down in Maine. We have an international relationship going there with our research.

To wrap up, as the lobster industry deals with severe economic challenges and is faced with issues such as lobster molten quality, the impacts of a change in environment and NSC certification, there is an increasing need for science to determine the sustainability of the fishery and contribute to improve conservation and management of the resource. Sustainability can be impacted by a number of factors. Ensuring the sustainability of the lobster fishery requires having a thorough understanding of all those factors and how they are connected. This can only be achieved through a commitment to ongoing research such as is being done by the society.

Science is the foundation for sound decision-making. We cannot properly conserve and manage our resource if we do not fully understand it. We need a clear picture of the current state of the resource: what is affecting it and how it is being affected. We need to be able to predict what is coming in future years, be it settlement or recruitment, et cetera, in order to have a productive discussion on what conservation and management actions should and can be implemented to ensure the long-term sustainability of our resource. We need to be able to look at the changes over time. We need a long-term time series. We need long-term science.

The society has enabled a number of joint projects to be implemented that help advance the assessment and management of our fishery resources. This collaboration needs to continue but funding is a major challenge.

We need a renewed commitment to fishery science on the part of both our federal and provincial governments, including providing adequate funding to ensure that science is done. Collaborative efforts such as the FSRS have enabled us to do science in a much more cost-effective manner. There are significant contributions from the fishermen in the way of their time, their vessels and covering various expenses. They are very committed to getting science done and working with the scientists to promote the long-term sustainability of the fishery. However long-term funding for science is critical to ensuring that we can continue this valuable collaboration and ensuring we have a sustainable fishery and in turn sustainable coastal communities.

Marc Lanteigne, Manager, Aquatic Resources Division, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Good afternoon. My name is Marc Lanteigne. I am the division manager of the Science Branch of the Aquatic Resources Division in the gulf region. As division manager I manage a group of science teams working not only on lobster but on other species such as ground fish, crab and most of the commercial exported species in the gulf region. My opening remarks will touch on mainly the gulf region, but you will find an analogy to all other regions in DFO on the Atlantic Coast.

In the Atlantic provinces and Quebec we have about 45 management units. In the gulf region alone we have five fishing areas, not including the Magdalen Islands in area 22 of the Quebec region.

As for most of the lobster fishing areas in Canada the lobster landings are used as a primary indicator of the abundance and the health of the lobster stock. In recent decades the lobster landings have increased over the entire distributional range of the species basically from Labrador to North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast. That same increasing trend, which started in the mid-1970s for the gulf region, has been seen in the entire range of the species on the coast. Since the peak landing up-swerved in 1990 the total annual landings for the southern gulf have ranged from 16,000 to 23,000 metric tons. To put you in perspective, 20,000 metric tons each year is about the equivalent weight of close to 3,000 school buses.

Recent landings of about 20,000 tonnes in the southern gulf represent roughly 35 per cent of the total landings in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec. These landings are well above the recorded average landing of 8,000 tonnes that occurred between the 1920s and 1975. I am pretty sure if you talked to fishermen and harvesters in previous meetings they probably gave you the same message of a tremendous increase over the last 30 years of maybe threefold or fourfold. We are working with the same data.

Part of the lobster monitoring and scientific study is the node work of science staff in the gulf region. Science investment in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence consists of six full-time science staff and a budget of roughly $200,000 annually, not including the salary of staff. That budget fluctuates from year to year depending on the type of research we do.

If we include the partnership and the contributions from the fishing industry and provinces to our program, the overall DFO gulf region budget would be more in the range of $350,000 to $400,000 annually. We work with the MFU and with the PIFA as collaborators on these projects.

The current management approach for the lobster fishery is based on minimum carapace size, no retention of egg- bearing females and input controls which basically are a fixed number of licences, a season trap allocation by fishermen and a maximum trap size, the basis of the input fishery.

Fishery quotas are normally based on stock biomass estimates. They are not used in the lobster fishery. Biomass for lobster is difficult to estimate because the lobsters tend to be found on a rocky bottom where they seek shelter. As a result there are no cost effective methods that could be used to generate a biomass estimate as is often done with the ground fish or snow crab in the southern gulf. You may see there is an exception of a quota fishery in area 4 on the Scotian Shelf. It is an exception that there is a quota for that fishery.

Over the years the lobster science activity in the southern gulf has been focused on key activities relevant to fisheries management. You are well aware of the 1995 and 2007 FRCC reports. They are a good example of reports proving the overview of the state of the fishery, the lobster biology and the gaps in terms of scientific knowledge. Some of the work conducted by science staff in the gulf region has specifically addressed these gaps to improve DFO's ability to better manage the fishery. For example, the research done on the size at sexual maturity has been central to determine the required minimum size for lobster in the lobster fishing areas. I am sure you have heard about size from the harvesters, from the buyer and from everybody in your numerous visits. The minimum legal size in different fishing areas was increased to allow more females to reach sexual maturity and to reproduce at least once before they are being fished.

These changes also required new studies on the mandatory escape mechanism installed in lobster traps. I have one example of an escape mechanism that we put in lobster traps. These mechanisms are designed to allow undersize lobsters to escape from the trap. Basically you do not bring undersized lobsters to the surface. With some but not all size increases we have to adjust the escapes at some point to be in relation to the new minimum size.

More recently in the gulf region we conducted research on the biodegradable panel. Some of this research is quite new. As a matter of fact the results of the two-year research are done and the new legislative rules will be put in place in 2013. They are changing the biodegradable panel on a trap from being attached to metal that would rust. If you lose your trap in the water that trap will still ghost-fish. Fish go in the trap, die and serve as bait for more fish and more lobsters. Lobsters are being caught and dying needlessly in traps that are being lost at sea each year. We are moving from metal clips to cotton twine. We tested the proper gage of twine to be used on these biodegradable panels. It is an example of the work we have done recently. That will fall into place next season as a result of research that has provided some options for the biodegradable panel.

Science activity in the gulf also involved fishery independent and fishery dependent monitoring activities. To indicate the difference between the two, fishery dependent monitoring is monitoring a program that occurs during commercial fishing activities onboard fishing vessels. Independent monitoring is something we conduct outside fishing activities.

In terms of fishery independent monitoring we conduct scuba diving surveys at reference sites to provide indicators of lobster equipment. We are also involved in the collector program the same as in the Maritimes region using special collectors that we set on the bottom in position for stage five lobsters.

In terms of fishery dependent monitoring we conduct at-sea samplings onboard commercial vessels. We use index harvesters using special traps to collect biological information during fishing activities. These data allow the collection of data that is used heavily in the stock assessment work that we do on a regular basis.

In the gulf region the assessment is conducted roughly every five years through peer review process, meetings with DFO scientists, scientists outside DFO, harvesters, First Nation members and managers. We come up with an overview of the stock and advice for following years.

In terms of research we are also involved in numerous other studies that are conducted in partnership with stakeholders and academia. Patty King mentioned the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, NSERC, and the Fisheries Research Network node work on lobster. We work with them also on a project looking at the structure of American lobster and the population connectivity. We are looking at renewing the size of sexual maturity for lobster. As Patty King mentioned, that has been done over a few year. We are looking to see if we can find changes, if lobsters become sexually mature at smaller sizes. We will have to do that on a regular basis to see if there is a change in the ecosystem.

I hope that this provided you a quick summary of the science and research activities we are conducting in the southern gulf.

Stefan Leslie, Regional Director, Fisheries Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Good afternoon. My name is Stefan Leslie. I am Regional Director of Fisheries Management for the Maritimes region of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

I do not have prepared remarks this afternoon. My colleague Alain Hébert and I are here should you have any questions that relate to the management side. I understand this is largely a science panel but if you have management questions then we are here.

We divide the lobster areas between DFO regions. The Maritimes region covers the eastern side of Cape Breton, the Scotian Shelf and the Bay of Fundy. It comprises 12 lobster districts and approximately 3,000 lobster licences out of the 10,000 across Atlantic Canada.

Alain Hébert, Director of Resource Management — Gulf Region, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: My name is Alain Hébert. I am Director of the Resource Management Division in the gulf region. It is a division under Fisheries Management.

It is important for you to understand our role in the process. We are responsible for developing and implementing fisheries management plans. For lobster, for example, we are the ones coordinating with various players because it is an integrative process. We integrate the industry and the First Nations. We are a science client in terms of asking specific questions that pertains to the management of the fishery. We gather all the information and we put it in something we call the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan which is basically a guide for the fishery.

We are also involved in the decision-making process because we are in charge of consulting with the industry. We have consultation platforms, our advisory committees. We have a lobster advisory committee as well as a global advisory committee that touches all area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We also have smaller committees, more local committees in specific areas.

We engage various stakeholders and First Nations in key questions. We also integrate the science component. One of our roles is to provide advice on management and the decision-making process. The decision-making body is the minister. That was to situate you.

If you have any questions regarding management Mr. Leslie and I are here to answer them. Mr. Lanteigne touched on some management aspects during his presentation. We also have responsibility for leading the Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measure program, ALSM. If you have any questions feel free to ask them.

The Chair: If you or any of the committee members feel you have something to add you are free to do so as we are open to all discussions.

I have some questions based on what we have heard in the past couple of days. The purpose of our study is to find common ground on which to address some of our concerns. What we have found on listening to our witnesses here and in Ottawa is that even in the geographical area we are talking about there are many different concerns and issues from province to province and even within the provinces, especially the western side of Prince Edward Island which is close to New Brunswick, close to the Magdalen Islands or whatever the case may be.

The issue in relation to the carapace size of the lobster came up here several times. We heard people from Quebec who wanted an increase. We heard people from P.E.I. who felt very comfortable with the size they are catching in their market. From a scientific point of view, a management point of view or both, is there any concern?

I am from Newfoundland and Labrador. We faced an issue years ago with the size of cod. We were told by scientists that there was a problem. We were told by some fishermen that there was no problem and other fishermen said there was one. There is always that back and forth. Ms. King mentioned earlier about scientists and fishermen coming together in regard to collaboration, which is good for all of us and really good for the industry.

Could you touch on the size of what is being caught out there now and the research that has been done? I know there have been increases in catches. Perhaps you could elaborate on that. Anybody can feel free to do so.

Mr. Lanteigne: I will go back maybe 20 years ago when a lot of the fishing industry was harvesting at a much smaller size than they are harvesting right now. Size is important from the research we have conducted. Male lobsters are getting sexually mature at a smaller size than females. It is not a problem for females in that only a small fraction would be caught by the fishery. I tell the fishermen it is no secret it is all about sex and kids. You have to allow your female lobsters to have sex and kids before being caught. They were being caught before having the opportunity to have sex and kids. This is why size and maturity were important.

This is what all the studies were aimed at this. Right now we are talking about 72 millimetres for the southern gulf. It is the size at 50 per cent. If you take 100 females at that size, 50 per cent are sexually mature and 50 per cent are immature. The 50 per cent that are sexually mature have an opportunity to produce eggs. For science it is simple. I would say it is a no-brainer. The minimum before harvesting any stock should be to allow at least 50 per cent of your stock to become sexually mature.

You can add to this harvesting in the fishing industry. Right now the lobster population is in high production. Conservation is not the issue. It is more impact on the resource. It is not of a big concern because it seems that the population is still thriving although we harvest 50 per cent of immature females. It is always risky. If stock is to decline we may have to take some further action. This is what we say to the fishermen and the harvester. At this moment the target is to bring everyone to that 50 per cent line.

The Chair: Is the 72 millimetres the 50 per cent?

Mr. Lanteigne: For the southern gulf. It is different for different locations. For Newfoundland it would be a different size for sexual maturity and for the Maritimes region. A different environment results in different size at sexual maturity.

The Chair: We heard yesterday from a panel of harvesters and people representing harvesters from pretty well all of the provinces. There seemed to be concerns. I am just trying to gather information for our committee. The message was that different areas can accommodate different sizes. Department of Fisheries and Oceans cannot necessarily come in and say one size fits all. What you are telling us today is that is not the case.

Mr. Lanteigne: You are probably being faced with the buyers and the harvesters or the marketing element. In terms of science I am looking to the lobster. If you ask me a question about what could be the best size, the minimum size to favour conservation is the 50 per cent starting point. If you want to increase the size, as some people are pushing for increase in size, there may be some market element to that decision which is out of my field.

The Chair: I appreciate that.

Mr. Mallet: I just want to add something to the comprehension of the size for females. It is mostly temperature dependent. In colder waters it takes more time for the females to reach sexual maturity. In the southern gulf there is a problem right now with size increases. That is the reason we are talking about this today. In the central strait area or the Northumberland Strait, LFA 25, production for females is a 72 per cent. If you go higher than that for market reasons to 75 or 76 you are going to have more egg production. At the same time you might be able to fill a specific niche market. At the present time that is a problem in that area.

The Chair: We also heard yesterday their concern with the warm water temperature, especially last year during the fall season. It may sound cold but to the fishermen the waters were very warm at the time.

Ms. King: Tying into what Mr. Lanteigne was saying about letting these ladies have a chance to have kids and whatnot, it stresses that we need research to ensure we know when they are reaching the level of maturity where they can reproduce. Changing temperature is certainly a factor. When we have changing temperatures we need to see if the size at maturity is changing. If we are going to be make decisions on what is the minimum legal size, we need to base it on the good, solid science of understanding the life cycle of the lobster and knowing when it is going to mature so that we have the ladies having kids and we ensure the broodstock coming into the fishery.

Everything is complicated; it is all interrelated out there. When you are looking at any issue there are many other things that can be impacting it. One of the things that we hear is that we are having a great explosion of the resource and it is doing so well in some areas, but now my fishermen are becoming concerned about whether the environment actually sustain that level. Is there going to be enough food out there? You start having to look at things like predator- prey relationships.

I just came from an international lobster symposium in Portland, Maine, and they were talking about this type of thing. Is it affecting the biology of the animals? Is it opening it up to disease concerns or not? Certainly they have been dealing with some of those issues in the Long Island Sound area and whatnot.

It is a very complex issue, but the important starting point is good, solid science and an understanding of this critter we are trying to conserve and manage. There are other confounding issues such as market and whatnot, but at least let us understand this resource and have a good handle on it so we are informed as we go forward.

Mr. Leslie: The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, which Mr. Mallet mentioned in his opening remarks, issued a report in both 1995 and then in 2007. They raised concerns with the high exploitation rate of lobster, the harvesting of lobster, in such a way that prevented a good portion of that population from reaching sexual maturity.

In response to your question about whether there is a single size, the introduction of a single limit, it is not appropriate because the size of maturity ranges quite substantially depending on the area from above 100 millimetres in the Bay of Fundy, to in the low seventies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and various other levels in between. The response is not just about the minimum legal size but there have been other management measures introduced in different lobster districts to try to increase the proportion of egg-bearing females that remain within that population and are contributing to it.

It may be an increase in minimum legal size, but we have also done what are called windows, minimum and maximum size levels that prohibit their being caught. Once they get into that size band they cannot be caught. Then as they grow beyond that then they are again able to be exploited.

In the Maritimes region we have some maximum sizes. Should a lobster achieve a certain size then it again achieves a level of protection from the fishery. The management response to this general size issue has been tailored to the specific biophysical characteristics that lead to different size categories but also what the preference of that industry happens to be. Because what size the industry wants is very much a function of where that lobster winds up, whether it is destined for the fresh market or for the processed market and what size they need to put that fish into. That is why that response has been different across the different zones.

The Chair: That certainly helps very much. We have had a lot of conversation and much feedback. I do not pretend to have knowledge of how this works. That is why I am posing a question in regard to the tags that were used or are more or less not being used now or we are looking at a different way of using them. From a scientific point of view gathering information is always positive but there seems to be a concern. We seem to have many harvesters that want this tag system.

We may be getting a bit clouded on the answers but there did not seem to be a large cost associated with something that was giving some very important information to scientists, to the harvesters, to the management, to everybody.

Could you explain what has happened there from a management point of view? Mr. Mallet can add some comments too for clarification. I am just trying to get it straight because yesterday was a bit confusing.

Mr. Leslie: It is probably useful first to be clear when we are talking about tags about the difference between a trap tag and a tag that may be more of a science tag affixed to the animal itself. I presume much of the discussion would have been around trap tags. Each lobster licence, depending on which district it is in effect for, has a different number of traps to be fished that are permitted to be associated with the licence. The tag was our way of tracking how many traps were being fished. There is not a link into the science in that respect. It is a management measure in order to ensure there is control over the number of traps.

The change that occurred as a result of the budget decision was simply that the department was getting out of the business of acquiring, paying for and providing those trap tags. Now the change is that harvesters themselves will be responsible for acquiring those tags. It will be done through an approved tagging plan whereby a manufacturer and distributer has to fulfil certain requirements but the harvesters will still be affixing those plastic tags to their traps.

The Chair: When they apply for the annual renewal of their licences will that be part of the renewal?

Mr. Leslie: The renewal of the licence is separate from the acquisition of the tags. The licence will have conditions that specify the number of traps they are permitted to carry and to fish with. Then they will need to acquire tags through an approved distributor. The distributor has to be approved through the departmental process as to whether there are sufficient controls on the production of those tags, whether they are able to provide replacement tags if they are lost and so on. The harvester, independent of the department, acquires tags through one of those distributors.

Mr. Lanteigne: Mr. Leslie made a very clear distinction between management tags and the science tags.

The Chair: I am glad he did that.

Ms. King: This is a management issue, something the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society does not involve itself in. Since I talk so frequently to fishermen perhaps I can personally add some insight.

In the past up until this fall DFO has been providing the tags to the fishermen. Now it has been decided that they need to get the tags themselves and pay for them themselves. The fishermen I talk to are willing to do that. The concern is that this is supposed to be in effect for April 1. It is very rushed. The plans are not in place. Where are the suppliers going to come from? There are concerns about if different industry groups are allowed to go out and find their own suppliers, where is the credibility in the system and the tracking? I should tread carefully here. What are the opportunities for problems? Can it all be done through some central means? There is going to be an approved process and things like that. Those things need to be in place first. The sense I get from all the fishermen is that it is too rushed. We need to ensure we set this up properly, that there are proper controls in place, approved suppliers and whatnot. The feedback I am getting is that t cannot be done properly by April 1.

The Chair: Yes, we heard that. They have pretty well asked us to recommend an extension to the deadline. The timing of our report may not coincide. That was the message we received yesterday. There seems to be confusion about trying to track down a distributor, as an example.

Mr. Hébert: Maybe I can to try to give some level of comfort in terms of where we are with the process. We are receiving tagging plans as we speak. We have accessed two last week in the gulf region. Another two came in that we are accessing. The process is working. We will have the tag suppliers be approved before the fishery. Once the fishermen are approved it is a matter of their getting in contact with the suppliers. We will communicate those who are approved to the industry.

The Chair: I am trying to get clarification of some of the things we have heard. We have moved to an online system in renewals. I come from a community of 350 people who are totally dependent on the fishing industry. We heard a fair bit of conversation in the last couple of days, and before we got here, in relation to the fact that in small rural communities in Atlantic Canada some people do not have access to computers. Some people do not have knowledge access. In my home in Newfoundland the average fisherman is now 50-plus years of age. Some of them have never laid eyes on a computer or used a computer.

Could there be an opportunity for some of them to do their renewals through the telephone system? I am just wondering. I am just asking for ideas and suggestions from management because this is one of the issues that we as a committee are looking at. Is there any way, shape or form we could have a secondary process where people who do not have access or knowledge of a computer to do an online renewal could at least have an access to a telephone to be able to do that?

Mr. Leslie: The move to the online licensing system was another of the elements that was introduced as part of the Budget 2012 decisions. That will come on stream or become live in January of 2013. It will be phased in, in two different ways. The first is counter service. In each of the regions we have licensing centres where harvesters for many years have come to renew their licences. They get their tags or replacement tags, acquire logbooks and so on. Those will be in place until the end of March and they will then close on April 1.

To your question about those without access to the Internet there are a number of different options. There are online tutorials and a telephone-based support system that provide several tiers of support. The first level of support through a 1-800 number system will be accessing Service Canada which has the contract to provide the service on behalf of the department. It will take people through relatively routine troubles: I cannot get on to the system, I have forgotten my password, the screen seems to freeze or I do not know where to go for this type of information. They will be able to provide that basic level of service.

If they are unable to provide the assistance required it then gets kicked up to the next level where we get into more fisheries or licensing specialists, where people are able to get assistance with accessing whatever services they are going to be required to use through that licensing system.

The flexibility to add a telephone component is not available to us because we have to dedicate our resources to ensuring that the online system is working. By having a telephone-based support system it is to help people through the use of that online system.

The system permits harvesters to designate someone who can act on their behalf for some or all of their business. Harvester organizations, unions, family members or whoever it may be can be designated by harvesters to renew their licences, to conduct whatever business they need to do with that online system. That is done through a designation process where people can identify what tasks someone else can do on their behalf.

Ms. King: I actually want to go back to the tag issue for a moment from the tags for science traps point of view. For example, with our lobster recruitment project all the fishermen have science traps. They might have two, three or five traps depending on the lobster fishing area they are from.

Currently I get the science tags to go on those traps from DFO. At this point it is unknown where or how I am going to get those. Will science still be providing them? Will I have to find my own supplier? Will I have to pay for them? There are questions on science tagging that there does not seem to be any answers on. That is a concern.

As well, as a non-profit organization trying to take on another cost if we have to pay for the tags, our funding keeps getting cut but more costs are coming potentially. We are hoping that we can get some clarification soon on that issue.

Mr. Hébert: There are some exceptions to the transfer of tag costs to the industry. One exception is scientific tags. The department will continue to pay and provide those. There are other exceptions such as tuna tags, for example, because of our international engagement with tuna and commercial communal fisheries.

Senator Poirier: My first question is for Ms. King. In your presentation you talked about the region that you were covering from 27 to 35. Basically you are a Nova Scotia society, right?

Ms. King: Yes, we cover the Maritimes region as based on DFO description of their regions. It does include southwest New Brunswick.

Senator Poirier: But it does not go as far as 24, 25, 26 or any of those regions.

Ms. King: No.

Senator Poirier: From what we have learned in the last couple of days, Nova Scotia fishermen are not fishing canner lobster. They are basically going more for the market. I learned recently that they have upped the size of their market to the United States level of what they are fishing there. Was the decision to go that route based on scientific information that they have received, that to be able to secure a long-term survival of the lobster industry that was the best route to go as far as they are concerned or from the information they were getting, or is it based on something else?

Ms. King: That is a good question. I am not sure I can adequately answer it because we do not get involved in those decision-making processes. We do the research and we provide the results. Then the fishermen, the managers and the DFO scientists use that information to make those decisions. I believe the market would have been an influencing factor. To what degree it was based on science I do not know.

Senator Poirier: Right now we are in a phase, as I think we have heard this from all regions, where the quantity of the lobster is really good. Do you think the fact that they have upped the size of what they are fishing has actually helped in the quantity of the lobster we are fishing now? We also heard from other groups, and I think somebody mentioned it a while ago too, that at the 72-millimetre level we are creeping along at about 49.2 or 50 per cent of the maturity of the fish they are fishing.

An argument or some comments were made that if we would up that 72 to 76 millimetres then in that way we would be keeping 75 per cent roughly, give or take, of the maturity of the eggs that are not being taken out of the ocean. That would help in the long-term survival of the lobster industry. I think they are looking at a long-term avenue to make sure we are not going to do similar things that happened in the past with the cod industry where it is basically gone at this point. Do you have any information to say that the quantity they have today has anything to do with their not fishing the smaller lobsters?

Ms. King: I will probably defer to Mr. Lanteigne as a scientist to explain that part of it. I do more managing of the studies, making the studies happen and giving them what they need. Yes, changes in measurements over the years is one conservation measure that has been helpful as well as other things they have been doing. As Mr. Lanteigne mentioned earlier, other conservation efforts in different areas have been considered.

Mr. Lanteigne: The increased abundance of lobster we have seen over the entire range started in the early 1970s. Something happened in the global distribution of lobster that favoured recruitment, favoured survival of the recruits. At that time the management measures were very different from what they are right now.

Over the last 30 years we have seen the stock of lobster increased. All the landings are showing that as a proxy of biomass health. All management measures that were taken in the last 30 to 35 years were positive in terms of improving, maintaining and increasing the biomass. It was buying insurance to add more eggs, more larvae in the system. It is hard to distinguish between the natural event and the human impact of management measures on that increase.

Mr. Mallet: I have a question for Mr. Lanteigne. Is there any proof during the last 30 years that any of these conservation measures have actually had a negative effect on the resource?

Mr. Lanteigne: The answer is no. We cannot say that any of these measures have had a negative impact on the resource, on the lobster itself.

Mr. Leslie: There is not a direct relationship between the management measures and where the resource is going in any particular year. Let me give you the example of district 34, the most productive lobster region probably in the world. It produces an enormous amount of lobsters. It opened Tuesday morning and there are probably already five or six million pounds ashore within 36 or 48 hours of the district opening. It is quite remarkable in that regard.

In that area the minimum legal size is 82.5 millimetres. The size of maturity is 95 millimetres, assuming it holds upon further review. The fishery is accessing lobsters well before 50 per cent of those females are mature. Yet the landings in LFA 34, just like every other district, seem to keep going up. There are little dips but since the 1970s there has been an increase. There are also times when it tails off a bit but then seems to come back as strong as ever.

The point I want to make is that this is about risk and resilience. There appears to be something that is enabling lobster to grow like no other time in memory, in anyone's memory. There have certainly been management measures taken to promote this or to enhance this. We cannot untangle what is the result of perhaps temperature regime, food availability, competition or any other thing that it might be in that abundance cycle. It is really about risk and resilience.

We are assuming the kind of productive regime will continue that will enable us to keep taking it. We have to ensure that the management measures we use or apply are going to work in other regimes as well. When we look forward this is about looking in the medium and longer term, about what will be coming farther down the road when perhaps the productivity regime is not quite so favourable to lobster production. Will the management system be able to respond?

The Chair: Are there any areas where that is the case?

Mr. Leslie: Where the landings have decreased?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Leslie: I would say there are no large areas where landings have decreased. Even within zones there are areas that are more productive and less productive. The near shore may be lower one year and higher the next year. It is not even across every district, even within the districts. Overall there is no significant lobster producing area which has not seen quite a substantial increase over the past several decades.

Ms. King: Just a word of caution when you start talking about whether we now want to have a 75 per cent size at maturity, for example. Our instincts might be that it is always better to have more; that it is more of an insurance policy and whatnot. However from an environmental point of view, could trying to achieve that actually backfire? Can the ecosystem actually support that much of the lobster population?

There are already concerns about food availability and things like that. What are you doing in terms of your predator-prey relationships? There are other factors that we may think have to be good. We may think increasing is always good. Is there a tipping point? This is the type of question I am starting to hear more and more. Are we getting close to a tipping point that suddenly what has been really good news could become bad?

We do not know but that is where research is key before you make these decisions to fully understand the impact of the decision you are considering.

The Chair: Mother Nature will kick in.

Mr. Mallet: Actually my comment is in the same sense as Ms. King just mentioned. There is a clear sense that there is missing information in terms of science to know what is actually going or why there is this increase in productivity in terms of lobster landings in the past 30 years. Conservation measures have helped enormously but there are some issues concerning changes in water temperatures, current directions and distribution of the changing currents. We know that climate change is not just something on the Internet now. It is actually happening.

There is one area where we are seeing it happening right now. We had a meeting a few weeks ago on the Ecosystem Research Initiative review of the Northumberland Strait. In the central area of the strait there is an actual decrease. For a portion of it there are some actual decreases in certain wharves. When we look at the data from this five-year research there is clear evidence that there is an increase in water temperature. This brings about problems with oxygen concentration in these areas. With these lobsters and other species there is a tipping point where temperature is good for production. It increases egg productivity in terms of releasing the eggs earlier. The larvae have a better survival rate in the wild before getting to the bottom, but there is a tipping point where over 22 to 24 degrees it is no longer productive for lobster. It is the contrary that is happening. We have been seeing it for other species in the central strait such as scallops. Over 20 degrees is extremely stressful for scallops. They go into shock and they die.

Some areas are seeing problems associated with increased temperature. Maybe this is what we have been seeing elsewhere also. We have been seeing an increase in the temperature of the water, which has been beneficial for lobster for the most part. But is there a tipping point? That is where there is a lack of research. There is a lot of information that we should already have. You have been listening to people comment on some of the questions you and the fishermen have had over the past few days due to the fact there is a lack of science that has been done.

Senator Poirier: I have a question on the scientific avenue and not on the marketing side. We know they are two different issues and there are two different arguments on both. We know some of the problems that happened in zone 25 this year had to do with climate change. When a size of a lobster is determined it is determined what can be fished for a whole zone area. We have also been told that you cannot divide a zone. You cannot just look at the issue of zone 25 where some of the fishermen in the P.E.I. say the water is a bit colder. If they are not fishing here because you want to bring the size up but they are fishing over there, the lobsters are going to move there. We are going to lose them one way or the other. It has got to be the same.

I think somebody mentioned awhile ago that as the temperature gets higher and as the water gets warmer the maturity of the lobster is being delayed or they mature earlier and the size is smaller. Have we done research to see at what level we are in the zones right now that are affected with what is happening? Have we done research to see if it is adequate that we stay with status quo, the size we have it now? Are we being more prudent to look for the long-term viability of the industry? Should we be looking at more of a middle ground between what Nova Scotia is doing and what P.E.I. is doing? Can you give us some advice or give us some recommendations based on scientific evidence, if possible?

Mr. Lanteigne: If possible. We suspect that when temperature is higher the sexual maturity will be achieved at a smaller size. If we follow that logic it means that in the future we will have a minimum size decrease which is probably not a good plan. We took a global view of the changes in size at sexual maturity. If you look at Northumberland Strait right now it will not change the picture for 72 because lobster move in the central part of the strait in the summer and most of them move out for the winter. They do not spend all of their time in that area as they do on the east coast of New Brunswick or the northern shore of P.E.I.

If we look at it right now we will not see a big difference between in the sexual maturity of lobster from the strait compared to lobster from northern P.E.I. In 10 years maybe we will see a difference because not only will there be an overall change in the water regime for the strait but more drastically for the entire southern gulf. This is the kind of time scale we are looking at in terms of a change in sexual maturity.

Senator Poirier: Is it fair to say that zone 25 seems to be facing challenges that other zones are not facing right now?

Mr. Lanteigne: I totally agree. Yes, they are facing challenges especially in the central part of the strait. We are not talking about the entire LFA 25 but about the central portion of the strait, yes.

Senator Poirier: Would you say the challenges that need to be addressed are more on the marketing side or more on the scientific side?

Mr. Lanteigne: As a biologist I look at what is happening on the science side I see this area, as Mr. Mallet mentioned, as a warm body of water with a low oxygen situation. It is not looking good for most of the species we are used to seeing in these waters.

Senator Poirier: If you were to give us advice, should I dare to ask what advice you would give us for that zone? Would it be to look at possibly increasing the size or would it be staying with the status quo?

Mr. Lanteigne: Staying with the status quo is kind of strange advice. Let us say that in 10 years there are no more scallops there or if in 10 years lobsters will avoid the area. They will not die: they will avoid the area. What would be the reaction of the fishing industry? It would be difficult to fish in that area.

Mr. Hébert: Maybe I can help here. If we are talking about LFA 25 we can say the fishing in LFA 25 is complex. It involves many players. We have many communities and about 500 miles of coastal area. We have fishers from three provinces. Various views are expressed. We actually have a process that we started with them following the crisis this fall. The discussion evolved around sustainability of the fishery. Sustainability is not only about conservation. It is about the people and the economics. It is about trying to find the right balance between those three. There are issues in the area. I agree with Mr. Lanteigne when he says there are more challenges there than elsewhere.

In terms of the minimum size, the way fishers look at these issues is not by pinpointing a single issue. They are looking at the big picture. Some effort has been made over the years to improve the sustainability of this fishery. Just under the ALSM program 124 licences have been retired in this area which basically helped sustainability. This accounts for many thousands of traps that are not fished since the program was implemented.

Not only that but Mr. Leslie mentioned that in his area in the Northumberland region there is minimum size but there are also other measures. Particularly for LFA 25 they have implemented a maximum size by which they release all females over and above five inches or 114 millimetres in the water. That also contributes to ensuring that there are enough eggs to position on the bottom. Having a fishery is a risk. You take a risk with conservation. The point I want to make is that you need to find the right balance.

It is more than just minimum size. Other factors are being discussed such as the season, for example, which is an issue in the strait, in LFA 25, being that it is a fall fishery. Because it is a fall fishery starting in August we are double- dipping the adult females. There is a minimum size but there is also a maximum size which helps counterbalance this issue.

Just for the record, I want to make a correction to what I said earlier about the exceptions with tags. I mentioned commercial communal fisheries. That is not the case. It is food fisheries that are not paying for tags. All commercial fisheries in the industry need to pay the tags.

The Chair: Finding the right balance is the goal that we all seek to find. I agree 100 per cent with your comment that various views have been expressed. That is an understatement, I will tell you.

Senator Harb: I was looking forward to your presentation to shed light on some of the issues. I am a little more confused this afternoon than I was yesterday afternoon. I thought the scientists would have the answers.

We have an industry, to say at best, that is very anxious because of the variety that exists in different zones that exist in the different markets that exist. There are different sizes and different prices. A large number of people have licences. Some of them are not making ends meet. Others are losing money and so on. I guess all of it comes to the issue of certainty. When we have uncertainty we look to scientists for certainty. What can you offer in terms of certainty first on the issue of size? Second, you said there is not enough science, that we need more science. Who in your view is responsible for that science if it is not you?

Mr. Lanteigne: I am sorry I am adding more confusion. As I have seen over the last many years, when scientists are asked questions typically we try to bring forward some answers. We sometimes bring more confusion or more uncertainty into the machine.

Who should do the research is a difficult question to answer. Some say it is the government sector that is getting involved. More and more we see the partnership element involved in the research we do with the MFU and others. We see more and more of that kind of research to try to resolve some of these questions.

On the question of what would be the size, the bottom line is there is no single size that would fit them all, as you probably have found out from talking to people around the table. What science provides with some certainty is the size at sexual maturity, when they reach sexual maturity. We can give you certainty on these measures. After that it is a management decision among managers, provincial governments, federal government and the harvesters to balance the risk of setting the management regime for the fishery.

Senator Harb: Ms. King mentioned earlier that these guys float around. They migrate. Is it possible that they will be at the level of sexual maturity in one zone and when they move to the second zone their level changes? We have to determine exactly what we are talking about because these creatures move around, do they not?

Ms. King: On a point of clarification, I am talking about the larval stage. After the egg gets hatched it spends a certain amount of time in the upper water column and then it drifts before it settles. Once it has settled that is when you start getting into when it is going to mature. Studies have been done on how far moves once it has settled to the bottom. In some areas it tends to be localized movement. In other areas it could be larger scale movement.

In terms of how egg production is influencing how much settlement there is, that is where you can get the movement and that is where this whole connectivity study that is being done through the NSERC network comes into play. Mr. Lanteigne can probably explain that a bit better.

Mr. Lanteigne: On your point about movement let us talk about the larval stage. It is about 10 weeks in the water column drifting. One area is producing larvae and these larvae can fall and settle into a neighbouring area quite a long ways.

The management regime in one fishing area has an impact on the production of another, yes. We have little information on that connectivity because it is linked to productivity of the lobster but also water mass movement. We are working on this. In terms of lobsters crawling on the bottom Ms. King is right. In the Bay of Fundy or on the Scotian Shelf they travel a lot more, sometimes 100 kilometres, compared to in the southern gulf where we talk about an average of 10 kilometres.

Senator Harb: Tell us a bit about best practices. We have to do a report. We have to our harvesters and tell them what this committee is recommending. We have to say in this part of the world they manage the industry and this is how they manage it. If you were to look at best practices where would you look? What are they doing that we as a committee should recommend the government do?

Mr. Lanteigne: You are talking about best practices in terms of management and of the science groups. Is it in terms of the best practices of science work?

Senator Harb: Yes.

Mr. Lanteigne: All the work we have been conducting so far has been aimed at best practices. All the work we conducted in terms of minimum size for sexual maturity, escape mechanisms and biodegradable mechanisms has been decided based on the priority of the best management of this resource. That is my only answer.

Ms. King: From a science perspective your best practice is going to be collaborative science. We all have a stake in this. We want to ensure the sustainability of our resource and the communities that depend on it. We all have to work together.

Scientists and fishermen have unique ways of looking at things. They see different things. By bringing those two knowledge sets together we have been able to achieve a lot. We have got to continue that collaboration but the challenge is how to continue that with a lack of funding.

Science has to be long-term. We cannot study something for a year or two and make a conclusion because in the short-term we do not know if it is a natural anomaly that occurs in nature. Is this why we are seeing more or less settlement in this area or more or less recruitment? We need five to ten year trends before we can start making a lot of conclusions. The best practice again is that we have to be committed to doing long-term science. That costs money. Fishermen very much want to participate. They are willing to contribute what we commonly call in-kind contributions. That has a lot of value.

As I mentioned earlier, we can do science a lot more cost-effectively by having scientists and fishermen working together rather than just having government do the research. To send a big DFO vessel out to do research in just this one area is very expensive. You give me even a 10th of that and I can get a lot more research done. Having the fishermen participating is beneficial in that way as well. We need best practices and collaborative long-term research. We just have to find the money to do it. That is the challenge.

Mr. Mallet: The research that has been done in the past 23 years has been excellent. Part of the work is being done right now to address some of the questions you have today. Some of it that should be done has not been started. Ms. King mentioned sometimes these projects take five to ten years to accomplish.

There has to be equilibrium between the work done between DFO and fishermen associations. You cannot just give all the research to fishermen associations and say it is now their responsibility to do it. There has to be a centralized group that does this with credibility. We have in Canada some of the best researchers in the world within DFO. Fishermen associations including my research group and Ms. King's group can do part of the work. Part of it is complementary and part of it is regional also. This has to be done in terms of having equilibrium with not too much on one side and not too much on the other side.

Earlier a question about the movement of lobster was addressed. There is quite a bit of movement of lobster at the larval stage. We are just starting to understand the connectivity between areas in terms of the effect of conservation measures in northern New Brunswick having an effect in terms of what is going on down south maybe on northern P.E.I, for instance. Larvae can stay in the water floating around with the currents for upward of six weeks to ten weeks depending on water temperature. If we do not have enough information on what will be the effects of climate changes on water temperature regimes and such, it might be that the larvae coming from somewhere else may be settling earlier because the water temperature is increasing. In some areas right now with production being very high because of influx of larvae from elsewhere we might eventually see a decrease in productivity.

These are questions that we know are important to answer but we need to get the funding to do it.

Senator Harb: Everything that goes up gets to a point where it has to go down. Perhaps this committee should make a recommendation on the precautionary side.

First, do you know where we are in the cycle? Probably the answer is no.

Second, what are some of the measures we should put in place to provide stability in a sense so that we do not have a situation like we had with the cod industry?

Mr. Lanteigne: In the last century it has been pretty difficult to see a cycle in the southern gulf. I do not have the numbers but there has been a bait of an increase in recent years.

I agree with the way you are approaching this matter. Right now we are living in an abnormal situation of high production. What goes up may go down, yes. This is why all the measures we put in place are very important. I have always said that the art of fisheries management is not about managing fish but about managing people.

The trick is not to maintain a stable level, but as it is going down you can slow down the down trend to survive the bad time and go back up again. The trick that everybody is talking about now is putting management measures in place now. Size increase, windows, maximum size and effort reductions, all those management regimes will help in future bad times.

Mr. Leslie: I do not know if we are in a normal time or not. In fishers management there is no normal time. Everything is changing. You just do not necessarily know how or how fast or where it is going. Things are constantly getting adjusted somehow, sometimes as a result of things you do, sometimes not, and most of the time you do not understand.

When you are talking about best practices, I would look more at what would be the features or characteristics of a good management system. Let us leave lobster aside. Generally good management is responsive or adaptive so that in the face of indicators, evidence or strong suspicion that things are changing the system is able to adapt within a time frame that is appropriate, such that we can maintain fishing activity. It may be at a higher level or a lower level, but we can continue to maintain the fishery. The art of fisheries management is to try to respond to what we see and what we are advised and to try to balance off the various interests. There are multiple paths to get there to try to work with people to identify what is going to yield the best results for all concerned.

The features of management that tend to lead to that are an organized industry. No doubt over the past several days you have heard many different views within the industry. Many different views are fine because everyone is playing to different markets. They have different investments. They have different places to play within the industry. That is okay, but being able to view the problem with some sort of collective interest is an essential component to having an efficient management system in the end.

Because there is always going to be uncertainty the management system has to be robust to that uncertainty as much as possible. If you do get some things wrong then they are not so catastrophic that you push things over the edge. You have to build in measures of insurance to ensure that if you get some things wrong, you have enough of the basics right and you can adapt the change going forward.

When it comes to lobster I mentioned five million pounds in LFA 34. We have significant supply patterns that have been going on for many years where a substantial peak in supply occurs right about now as fisheries in my district come on and then again in the spring when Mr. Hébert's fisheries come on in the gulf. You have a significant glut which creates a whole host of quality problems and market problems. It is not really a resource management problem but it is part of the dimension of the issue you are looking at. It ultimately forms part of management just as much as interpreting what science information may be available to us.

Mr. Hébert: I agree with Mr. Leslie's point in terms of using good management practice. I think that would be better terminology. I see an issue with best practice. It may be the best practice in one area may but it may not be the best practice if it were applied in another area because of the nature of the fishery or the management measures that are a part of the management framework. Sometimes also there are some biological nuances with the stocks.

For your other question in terms of how to try to manage the downward trend in the stock, like any biological stock the stock fluctuates. We will probably see the lobster stock going down in the future. The question is how we manage that.

I just want to share an exercise we have started in the gulf region with the lobster industry around the precautionary approach framework. We started working with harvesters on that concept. Right now in lobster in the southern gulf biological unit we think we are in the healthy zone. It is a good time to start working on that.

When things start to go down you have three zones with that concept: the healthy zone, the cautious zone and the critical zone. It is the traffic light approach: green, yellow and red. In each of those zones you need to develop a specific management strategy to adapt and adjust to the stock conditions.

In February science is having a peer review of what would be the reference points for the lobster stock biological unit in the southern gulf. The reference points are basically the points between the green and yellow zones and the yellow and red zones. Those would be the triggers. We are trying to develop them. Science will be discussing that.

The next step is to engage industry in trying to develop decision roles. The challenge with lobster is that we do not have a TAC, a total allowable catch. We do not manage with biomass. We manage with fishing effort control. Those harvest decision rules will need to be geared toward either the reduction of effort or that sort of stuff. That is how we envision the future in terms of making sure that we continue to manage these stocks in line with conservation.

Senator Unger: I agree with Senator Harb. I have not heard anything today that I did not already heard yesterday. I am from Alberta so I am learning a lot. I am more confused on the science in all of this. A case in point is zone 25 where the water in one area is warmer than the water in another area. That is caused by climate change. Frankly I do not think that is possible. In my limited understanding I just do not think that is possible.

To me it is almost like science is inserting itself into the industry. You are producing reports. I have put some of my papers away because time is short now, but it seems to me that we need to manage or be prepared to manage some things that we cannot identify, may or may not know, or are just concepts at this point.

I will look forward to reading this report. I may learn more about these things that I am confused about and do not know. As I said, I heard a lot yesterday that made sense and I am hearing another similar version today. I do thank you for your presentation.

Ms. King: In terms of science inserting itself into the industry my perspective is a little different because I see the fishermen inserting themselves into science. When the society was first developed back in 1994 it was because fishermen wanted to be more part of that process, better understand science and contribute their knowledge to the science. They realized if they were going to make good, solid decisions to ensure the sustainability of their different fisheries, and lobster is just one of the ones we focused on, that it had to be routed in good science.

They very much want to be partners in the process. They feel there is a lot of value to the science and it is a necessary part of everything.

Mr. Mallet: I agree with Ms. King. Fishermen are actually more involved than ever in research and development with science, in using this new data and in integrating it into decision-making when the time comes. If anything they are asking for more information but there is a limit. At some point if you do not have the amount of information you need to make the proper decisions, your word is as good as theirs.

Part of the problem in LFA 25 at this point is that one group of fishermen is saying something and the other group is saying something else. Science is there saying what they can based on the data that they have, but there is some data missing and that is the extent of what we are seeing today.

Mr. Lanteigne: I am kind of sorry that you are may be more confused with science as Senator Harb mentioned.

You mentioned that you have heard the same thing in the past few days. To me it is a good sign if the industry came to talk to you with the same information because we share a lot of our scientific information with them and they bring that information to you. Maybe their interpretation was confusing. I do not know but I am pleased they came to you with the same information that we have.

I want to clarify one thing with regard to the Northumberland Strait. We made an allusion to climate change being the culprit in all this. I think it is a mistake. I agree with you. We should not make climate change the bad guy because of what is happening in the central part of the strait.

Let me explain something you will find interesting. We have long-term data on the central part of Northumberland Strait. Over the last 100 years the temperatures of the air and the water have increased while the water level has increased by 30 centimetres due to climate change and to subsidence of the continent. This part of the shelf is sinking. The prediction for the next century is 60 centimetres due to climate change and the continuing sinking. This is the worst area in the east of Canada. The reason we have a problem in the strait is a mix of climate change, less ice and warmer waters but also a sinking of the continent, an erosion of the beach and so on.

We foresee a lot of issues in the future in this area. I agree with you that it is not all climate change. It is other factors also changing the ecosystem such as contaminants with a lot more people building cottages along the beach.

The Chair: It has been an interesting couple of hours for sure. I live in Newfoundland and Labrador and I have seen even in my short lifetime major changes in the temperature of the water and the rise of the water. There many complications out there. I truly believe that more science is needed. I truly believe that collaboration between people who make a living on the ocean and the scientists is very positive. For many years we have operated in two different places. It is constructive for all of us and for the industry as well that they are working together. I certainly encourage that. It will be part and parcel of our report for sure.

To get back to what Dr. Lanteigne says, we have heard common concern in the past couple of days. We have differences of opinion between the harvesters themselves in some cases and differences of opinion between the harvesters and the processors and so on. As someone who grew up in a small town I say to anybody who thinks this industry is a simple industry that can come up with simple answers overnight it ain't going to happen. That is not the way this place operates. There are a lot of factors and a lot of people involved in the industry. We are not just talking about black and white. There are a lot of grey areas and it is a way of life. We have to be very careful that we proceed forward as best we can to try to come up with some concrete solutions and concrete ideas in terms of the solutions.

Senator Unger: I would like to clarify that I think it is a good thing that fishermen are working with scientists. I know they will have some good and positive answers but unfortunately there is still a lot of confusion and questions that are not yet answered.

Senator Poirier: I have a final comment. I want to thank you for being here.

I am from the area of zone 25. From what I am hearing here I am not sure we have come to a solution. I am not sure anybody has an answer right now. That is the scary part of all of this. Obviously there are issues. There are problems. We are dealing with three different provinces. Two seem to have a different view and that is making it complicated.

We do not have the answer yet from science. In the meantime we need to all be aware that families, fishermen and communities out there are suffering. We need to work as fast as we can to try to find solutions if we want to be able to survive in our communities with the lobster industry.

The Chair: You had the last word. I want to thank everyone for their attendance over the past couple of very productive days. We look forward to participating in more discussions and having our report ready for the spring. Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)