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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 3 - Evidence - February 25, 2014


OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day, at 5:29 p.m., to sthe regulation of aquaculture, current challenges and future prospects for the industry in Canada; and for the consideration of a draft budget.

Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable senators, I am pleased to welcome everyone here to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I am Fabian Manning, senator from Newfoundland and Labrador, chair of the committee.

I am pleased to see we have the Honourable Gail Shea, P.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries and Oceans before us. Due to a vote in the House of Commons, Minister Shea has a short time with us, so I will get right to it and ask her to give some opening remarks. Hopefully, if need be, we will have the opportunity to invite you back to a future meeting.

Hon. Gail Shea, P.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries and Oceans: I appreciate that, Mr. Chair.

I had intended to stay from 5:00 until 6:00, but my time is getting really short because the vote is at 5:45.

I thank you for inviting me. I'm happy to be back as the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans again. I want to introduce the folks with me today. David Bevan, Associate Deputy Minister, is to my immediate right; Dave Gillis, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science, is to my left; and Trevor Swerdfager, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management Operations to my far right.

I want to thank the committee for their work as well their interest in studying aquaculture because aquaculture touches every province in Canada, so I want to talk about the important measures that we're taking to strengthen our aquaculture sector.

It is the fastest-growing food sector worldwide and is now supplying 50 per cent of the global demand for fish and seafood, and that continues to grow and will likely continue to grow by 7 per cent each year. There is great economic potential in this industry. In Canada, it's conducted in all provinces and in the Yukon. We generate about 174,000 tonnes of product, worth over $2 billion in total economic activity annually, with a farm gate of over $800 million. This translates into 14,000 jobs, most of which are in rural areas and Aboriginal communities.

Farming fish and shellfish provides extra economic opportunity and stability in communities that have traditionally relied on forestry, mining and the wild fishery. Canadian and international markets are increasingly looking to aquaculture to meet growing demands for seafood. This trend will certainly not decrease but will only increase with the recently announced Canada-European trade agreement.

Under an improved legislative and regulatory framework, the aquaculture industry believes that aquaculture could expand from $2 billion in total annual economic activity to $5.6 billion in 10 years and to more than $8 billion in 15 years. That's why we're working hard to enable aquaculture to thrive while ensuring that it is sustainable over the long term. We truly believe that scientific knowledge and advice is at the root of sound aquaculture management, and will ensure the sustainability of both Canada's farmed and wild fisheries.

That's why when we came to power, among the first actions in the fisheries portfolio was to establish a new Sustainable Aquaculture Program. We recognized the major contribution aquaculture was making to coastal and rural economies and its tremendous potential for further growth.

Our budget in 2013 reaffirmed our commitment to the Sustainable Aquaculture Program for a further five years, providing $54 million to be used to continue our science, monitoring and reporting activities as well as work on a regulatory framework that facilitates industry growth.

Up to $27 million of this money will be invested in regulatory science. This funding will be used to investigate wild and farmed salmon disease issues; to enhance our understanding of the interactions between wild and farmed aquatic resources; and to monitor and develop mitigation options for the release of organic nutrients from aquaculture sites.

This information will inform the management and regulation of the sector. It will also be used to study issues that require longer term analysis, such as improving our understanding of potential cumulative effects on the ecosystem.

Renewing this program will help support the sector's challenges to growth by streamlining regulations. When I say ``streamlining regulations,'' it doesn't mean in any way that our system will be less rigorous. We recognize that in some cases the regime is inadequate, it's cumbersome, and it may create confusion and conflicting direction to the industry.

We're working hard to resolve long-standing regulatory irritants to the industry and the provinces. Building on this progress, I propose taking a series of targeted practical and incremental measures. I believe these reforms will boost the sector's productivity and its environmental performance and will also create new economic opportunities.

On the regulatory front, I propose bringing forward additional regulatory reforms that will eliminate overlap and duplication across the country. For example, we will clarify some areas of responsibility between Environment Canada and DFO and will introduce licence fees as well as multi-year licence regimes in British Columbia.

For years, the aquaculture industry has indicated that the Fisheries Act provisions created confusion, so the first step to eliminating this confusion is to use the new provisions introduced to the new Fisheries Act. Later this year, I will introduce aquaculture activities regulations that establish conditions for aquaculture operators to use products to treat their fish for disease and parasites. These regulations will reduce duplication and clarify the rules for using products that are already well managed by an existing provincial or federal regime, for example, through the Pest Control Products Act.

Taken together, these measures would represent a robust improvement to our regulatory framework and would eliminate long-standing irritants.

In addition to regulatory reform, we're generating opportunities for farm and wild fish by opening new markets. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union is an example. Under this agreement, 96 per cent of tariff lines for fish and seafood will be duty-free; 100 per cent of these tariff lines will be duty-free in seven years. Without tariffs, Canada will gain preferential access to what is a very lucrative market.

Mr. Chair and senators, we continue to work hard to generate opportunities for all Canadian fisheries and aquaculture sectors. We will continue to deliver results for fishers across the country, and we are committed to working collaboratively with the industry and provinces and Aboriginal groups to ensure the success and sustainability of our aquaculture sector.

There is tremendous opportunity for growth in this sector, so I look forward to reviewing your report on aquaculture.

I really apologize that I have to get to a vote, but as you said, I'm at your beck and call. If you wish to invite me back, I will be happy to come.

I am leaving the answers in very good hands with three of the folks from my department. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you. I thought we talked fast in Newfoundland and Labrador. Do you want to make any comments or should we go into questions?

David Bevan, Associate Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: I think we'll go right to questions, if that's okay.

Senator Hubley: Thank you for being here. I'm sorry I couldn't wish the minister a welcome on behalf of another Islander, but I'm sure she understands, and I do understand why she's off to a vote.

At last week's AGM of the PEI Aquaculture Alliance, Ruth Salmon, Executive Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, called for a federal aquaculture act. She says that currently there are too many regulations that are complex and overlapping at all levels of government, which is both confusing and cumbersome for aquaculture growers and producers.

I do apologize for being somewhat late, but I did hear in the minister's presentation that she talked about regulatory reforms and a new Fisheries Act. Can you clarify for me whether the government is looking into developing a stand-alone federal aquaculture act?

Mr. Bevan: I think the first steps that we were asked to take by the industry were to resolve the issue around the use of therapeutants and other treatments. Under section 36, it's illegal to put into the water any harmful substances, so that was a very critical impediment to further operation of the aquaculture industry. That's what we're currently dealing with.

The changes that the minister mentioned to the Fisheries Act were related to the Fisheries Protection Program and the provisions under that. We changed the relationship between a number of the sections in the act. Section 35 is now looking after more than what it used to look after and section 36 is administered by Environment Canada, but we're working on a joint solution to the problem that previously existed. It doesn't respond to the demand that Ruth Salmon had last week, but it does move a step in the direction of removing some impediments that existed.

We recognize there was a very complex web of rules that applied to aquaculture, and we're taking pragmatic steps to resolve those.

There will have to be discussions held on what the next steps might be, and the decision will have to be one for the government to come to relevant to the next steps and options that might be taken by the government.

Senator Hubley: We're just beginning our study on aquaculture, and to date we've seen that there has been a phenomenal growth in the industry. Prince Edward Island has been singled out because we have had such a long history in aquaculture starting with Malpeque oysters and then mussels. Apart from that, the industry itself has doubled and redoubled over many years, and I think that the question of a federal aquaculture act may come up in some of our discussions. I'm wondering if it has been discussed at the department level or if it will always be included within the Fisheries Act?

Mr. Bevan: We clearly have had to have discussions around how to respond to the desire to improve the regulatory and legal framework for the industry.

The industry, particularly with respect to finfish, has grown and then slowed down. The growth is slowing down at this point in time. There are areas in the country where it's continuing to grow but other areas where it's pretty flat.

Part of the process that we have been engaged in inside the department is looking at ways to improve the regulatory regime, but those decisions will have to be taken by the government, and they will no doubt be considering the way forward. Your report will help inform that process.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I have a couple of questions and one follow-up on Senator Hubley's question.

When I was reading my briefing notes, just as an aside, of course you know that New Brunswick has the highest aquaculture production on the East Coast. It's second in Canada, so this is an industry that's developing and is hugely important. I want to try to ensure that the provinces can move forward. We have a huge difference. We have Northumberland Strait, which are warmer waters, and they freeze over. Then we have the Bay of Fundy, which is mostly finfish.

Moving forward, I was reading with interest about your Sustainable Aquaculture Program and the fact that it was launched in 2008-09 with a budget of $70 million for five years. I understand that was just renewed. I do not know the term, but another $27 million was put into it. I'm not exactly sure what it has accomplished and where it thinks it's going.

I have one more question after that, and it is on the therapeutants, if you wanted to give that some thought.

Mr. Bevan: Certainly on the East Coast, we saw New Brunswick have quite a bit of growth and now Newfoundland is continuing to grow, so they're getting similar in their production.

I will turn to Trevor to go through the details of the Sustainable Aquaculture Program.

Trevor Swerdfager, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management Operations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Good afternoon.

The Sustainable Aquaculture Program had five parts. The first was significant investment in regulatory reform.

The second was to focus on regulatory research and science, tied specifically to the regulatory agenda as opposed to a more broad eco-systemic focus for Science.

The third part was around reporting and information, trying to improve the transparency of the industry and how we're able to understand its growth both in terms of economic primers but also social and environmental.

The fourth element of the Sustainable Aquaculture Program is around market access and innovation.

The fifth element was a grants program designed essentially to spur technology development primarily in the green technology area in the aquaculture domain.

To give you a snapshot of highlights of each of those areas — I could go on for a very long time, which I know you don't want to do, but if you look at regulatory reform, probably in your initial deliberations you're aware of the substantial court case in British Columbia that upended the nature of the regime out there. The new funds that the department received under the Sustainable Aquaculture Program were used to build an entirely new regulatory regime for British Columbia, as an example. To go from, at the federal scale, nothing to a full-fledged regulatory regime in about 18 months doesn't happen to us every day, thankfully, but if you look at some of the resources that came to bear in the regulatory envelope, that was really where a lot of it went.

Our science outputs are substantial. Time doesn't allow us to inventory all of those, but a lot of the work that has been done on the regulatory science side of things enables us to build a stronger base for our regulations so that we have a stronger science base as opposed to some of the stuff that we had in place before.

We have worked very hard in the area of reporting. If you look at where we were six or seven years ago in this country, not zero, but very few aquaculture operators had third-party certification in place. You may have heard in your travels about the Marine Stewardship Council and the aquaculture version thereof. We're now at a point where the vast majority of the industry is either fully certified by third parties or moving aggressively to that.

The department would never try to claim credit for that. Well, we might try but we wouldn't succeed. Essentially, the industry has moved quite substantially in regard to certification, a large part of which is due to the work that we provide in supporting it.

The final element is the partnership side of things, which is very much around technology development. The government and the department invested in a whole suite of technology development activities. Some of the key things lie in the area of closed containment, which you will hear about. We have put several million dollars into development in that area. We have put quite a bit of money into different technologies for oyster growing.

That is a bit of retrospective.

In terms of where we are going, the government decided that insofar as the Sustainable Aquaculture Program of the future is concerned, it discontinued the grants and contributions technology development program. That was part of a broader shift across the government. It had nothing to do really with DFO. In the most recent budget, it moved in a direction away from what I would call direct industry contributions, whether in aquaculture which — it doesn't really matter. That program is no longer there.

The renewal of our program is actually $54 million over five years, and it will have a three-prong process. We will continue the very strong emphasis on science that my colleague David Gillis leads. We will continue to work on an aggressive regulatory reform agenda, and I would be happy to talk about the details of what is in there. And we will continue to work on sustainability reporting and information systems so people can understand better what's happening in the industry across the country.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Is there an annual report done on this program?

Mr. Swerdfager: We don't report on it annually as a distinct program. We have a number of reports that do come out. We have our reports to Parliament of plans and priorities in which we report on delivery as well. We have a number of more fact-sheet oriented things that we would be happy to provide the committee as well if that is of help.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I would be grateful for that.

The Chair: You'll send it to the clerk, and the clerk will distribute it among the committee members.

Senator Stewart Olsen: My next question is on the regulations and the regulatory regimes, but more specifically you mentioned therapeutants. I know that was an issue in New Brunswick. I understand that therapeutants are under the mandate of Health Canada. Is that correct?

Mr. Swerdfager: With apologies for sounding evasive, yes and no.

Senator Stewart Olsen: This is where I think we're all going: the proliferation of so many departments doing so many regulations. I don't want to put a stranglehold on our industry, and that's the one thing I hope you're looking at in the regulatory regime — updates for streamlining them.

Mr. Swerdfager: With respect to therapeutants, the key in terms of what we're talking about is that there are two main categories. One is drugs that go into the fish to treat them for a disease or an issue. They're ingested into the body and treat the fish that way. Their use is administered by the Veterinary Drugs Directorate, which is part of Health Canada. In order to get a prescription from a veterinarian, it's registered through the Veterinary Drugs Directorate.

Conversely, therapeutants are also used primarily in the form of pesticides applied to the exterior of the fish to knock parasites off. What you can use of those is regulated by the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency, again part of Health Canada. They lay out the menu, if you will, that is available to you for use.

The reason I said ``yes and no,'' they clearly control what is eligible for use and, I should indicate, the terms under which it can be used. The label is quite specific. One can't just walk into Canadian Tire and buy this; you have to have a prescription.

Where some of the fuzziness comes into play, and where it particularly arose with respect to New Brunswick, is that in putting a pesticide into the water, depending on exactly what you're doing and where, you're introducing a contaminant into the water that has a particular effect. The Fisheries Act, specifically section 36, prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into waters frequented by fish. In New Brunswick, we had a scenario under which the PMRA, the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency, authorized the company to use a particular therapeutant, in this case a pesticide. The application of the Fisheries Act prohibited the use of that, so we had a conflict.

Essentially, as the minister mentioned before she left, one of the regulations she is bringing forward shortly is a new provision that will be a regulation under the Fisheries Act, which in essence will rectify this somewhat of a left hand-right hand type of problem. If the committee wishes, I could get into what's in that. Essentially, it comes at that problem.

My final point, going back to your initial, more strategic observation, certainly the department is looking at how to get to a point where, first, our own regulations are as harmonized across our own piece as possible, and second, how do we work with our colleagues, particularly in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and Environment Canada, to do everything we can to make them a little more seamless than they are today?

Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you very much for that. I appreciate all that information. You can see that it's a burgeoning industry, very important to the Maritimes and Newfoundland.

Do you have a target date for the streamlining of the regulations?

Mr. Bevan: That is a continuous, incremental process.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I know.

Mr. Bevan: We don't say we're going to go this far and stop. We have immediate problems we have to resolve, particularly around treatment options. We're going to get that done, and we'll be looking at the next steps following that. We don't have a quantum, moving from Point A to Point B in one big jump by a certain time. We're continuing a process of improvement.

Senator Enverga: Thank you for your appearance and to the minister for her presentation.

I've read in some statistics that British Columbia is the fourth largest producer of farmed salmon in the world. In spite of that, Canada is not even among the top 20 countries in total food fish production. First, could you tell us what makes the British Columbia industry so successful? Second, does it have anything to do with the growth in the province of the aquaculture industry? And third, what is the likelihood of the British Columbia model being implemented in other jurisdictions?

Mr. Bevan: The British Columbia model was as a result of a provincial decision in the courts. We responded to that and put in place the current model where the province looks after the lease responsibilities, and then we control the activities of the farm through a licensing regime and inspection. That model is not something we will transport elsewhere. There is a desire on the part of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, for example, to continue with the current regime, where both of those activities are subject to provincial jurisdiction.

In British Columbia, there was a lot of growth that capped out. There hasn't been as much growth in recent years, and that is because of the limits on where the farms can be put. We had a moratorium on fish farm growth during the Cohen commission into the sockeye salmon in the Fraser River. That's now concluded, and we are looking at options for getting back into business in British Columbia.

Do you want to add to that?

Mr. Swerdfager: I think that British Columbia has done extremely well in the context of Canadian aquaculture. Canada as a whole is actually the fourth largest producer of farmed salmon in the world.

If you look at our position in the context of aquaculture vis-à-vis other countries, it's important to keep in mind the comparison in areas in which we are competitive. Canada looks small in terms of total global aquaculture production because global aquaculture production includes shrimp. Canada doesn't farm shrimp. When you look at total aquaculture production, the vast majority — I don't know the figure off the top of my head — is around 80 per cent in farmed shrimp, in which we produce zero.

Whilst we look small in the global economy in aquaculture, in the areas we do participate and do produce, farmed salmon is a key one, but we are actually big players relative to our competitors with mussels and oysters. Our position vis-à-vis our competitors has maintained and in some cases actually declined a bit.

As David said, in British Columbia we're in a position now where I think the scenarios and signals are all positive, we think, anyway. The industry is getting ready for a bit of a takeoff there.

Senator Enverga: When talking about aquaculture, does Canada have any agreements with other countries to accelerate the growth of our industry in Canada? Is there anything we can do more of?

Mr. Swerdfager: We have an agreement with Chile where it's basically an information management and research sharing initiative. We have a number of informal arrangements around aquaculture with Scotland, Norway and Ireland, but there is nothing I would describe as a government-to-government quasi-treaty type thing. We have a number of science partnerships that are in place.

Lastly, on the international scale, the Subcommittee on Aquaculture under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN is something we are fairly active in as well. We are aware of our competitors and our allies, if you will, in terms of the international community. We work with them quite a bit.

Dave Gillis, A/Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: I will add something on the Science side. As Trevor mentioned, we have a lot of connections among scientists in our country and other countries through the structured agreements that he made reference to. Often science and sharing of knowledge and technique are important elements of those agreements.

We have a number of multilateral arrangements through aquaculture science and general ocean science organizations like PICES and ICES. It's a wonderful opportunity to exchange, and quite a bit of sharing at the scientific level occurs through those multilateral arrangements we enjoy with other countries.

Senator Enverga: Considering the highly favourable conditions of Canada, what are the main challenges that we have to overcome?

Mr. Bevan: We have talked about one of the obvious challenges, and that is that the regulatory regime is not conducive to ease of use. It is not one-stop shopping; it's fractured and needs to be brought together.

Linked to that is the whole issue of social licence. There is a great deal of concern on the part of a number of Canadians about the impact of aquaculture. It puts us in a situation where we're often trying to prove negatives. Where there is an accusation that aquaculture does such and such and then we have to do the science and the work to demonstrate that may not be the case, we've managed well.

Better science and better management will help us with social licence, but I think those are the impediments to drawing in investment and to realizing potential growth.

The Chair: Before we go to Senator Raine, you mentioned a few countries that we have dealings with, where there's research and information gathering, such as Chile, Scotland, Norway and Ireland.

From the committee's point of view, could you suggest a couple of countries where we could look at their aquaculture industries so we can learn from them and see if there are any ideas or suggestions that we can incorporate into our report? What would you suggest?

Mr. Swerdfager: From personal experience, as part of my role in aquaculture I've spent time in Chile, Norway, Scotland, France and the United States. If you're looking for countries that offer examples around how to manage the industry extremely well and extremely aggressively and, I might add, extremely expensively, look at Norway. Norway is the elephant compared to us. Their production is approximately eight times the size of ours. Their industry is enormous relative to the Canadian one and is heavily invested in.

In my experience, with the greatest of respect to how things are done elsewhere, Chile has defined some of the things we don't do in this country and probably would not be seeking to emulate in some of the practices in place there, although there have been changes in the last couple of years. But those two might give you a bookend situation. Some of the regimes in the United States give you some insight into a federal state, where you have state and federal dynamics, and federal-provincial tensions and issues occur in our country occasionally. You might look at how that works in the United States.

Senator Enverga: Since we're talking about Norway or Chile, are there regulations that we could emulate from them that you think might be applicable to Canada's aquaculture?

Mr. Bevan: Norway has an aquaculture act and they have modified that several times over the last couple decades, so it's certainly simpler there. It doesn't have to deal with states, et cetera, and has all the regulatory powers within the one level of government. It's a simpler model, but they have an act that covers the activities of their industry.

It's not easily transported into the Canadian context due to the differences between various provinces where, as we noted, British Columbia deals with the lease and we deal with the licence of the farm. In Prince Edward Island we deal with both. In New Brunswick and Newfoundland, for example, the province deals with both. It's a bit of a mix in Canada, but that's one potential model.

I don't know if you have any other examples.

Mr. Swerdfager: Well, if you look at the content of the British Columbia aquaculture regulations that the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans passed a couple years ago, we plagiarized some of that from the Norwegian regime. Some of the monitoring protocols and standards that we used, we borrowed from there. The ISO process internationally has a lot of technical material that we draw upon.

We work very hard not to reinvent the wheel every time. From a regulatory point of view, our first step is to see what else is out there, and if we can cut, paste and plop it in within reason, we try to do that as much as we can.

But as David has mentioned, our circumstances are quite different than other parts of the world, so it's not easy just to take an act. It's more a section here and there as opposed to the entire thing holus-bolus.

Senator Raine: As our chair has said, we're just starting the study and already, being from British Columbia, I can see that there are a lot of different viewpoints.

I'm not exactly sure where to start, but I would like to find out how DFO is set up in terms of how it works in British Columbia. The Pacific coast is a unique situation. It's quite different, as you know, from the Atlantic coast, and of course we have all the fisheries in between. Being as there are new Pacific regulations for aquaculture, can you explain how it's set up? Do we have a deputy minister in charge of the Pacific DFO and/or aquaculture?

Mr. Bevan: We are a decentralized department. Eighty-seven per cent of our resources are located in the regions. We have six regions for fisheries and three regions for the Coast Guard component of the department. Each of those fisheries regions has a regional director general.

In the case of the Pacific region, that is an ADM-level position located in Vancouver with considerable authority to take actions relevant to the wild, the fishery, aquaculture and fisheries protection programs, et cetera. There's a wide range of programs that that person is responsible for, aquaculture being one of them.

We don't have a West Coast person in Ottawa. We have national sectors. The Ecosystems and Fisheries Management sector looks after the fisheries side, the fisheries protection program, small craft harbours, so on and so forth. We have an ADM of operations who is responsible for aquaculture, which is Mr. Swerdfager.

It's a national oversight, but there is a regional operating ADM-level position in B.C. that is responsible for all things to do with the fishery habitat and aquaculture.

I don't know if you want to add more detail to the structure.

Mr. Swerdfager: Sitting below there, the regional director general, as David mentioned, is in charge of everything.

Specifically with respect to aquaculture, as a result of the new regulations, the department received $8.5 million in new A-base resources to implement that program. We hired 55 people, and they were genuine 55 new people. It wasn't a reshuffling exercise. We grew the program quite substantially to be able to implement the new regulations.

It breaks into three main parts. The first is the regulation liaison maintenance itself working with the industry, working directly with the farmers, doing the licensing extension.

The second major focus is around fish health. That involves a variety of things, as you can imagine, of an operational nature. For the first time in a long time we've hired new veterinarians, which has historically not been part of our skill set.

One thing that distinguishes or differentiates the federal program from its predecessor at the provincial level is that we chose to invest heavily in enforcement. We have a group that varies in size. It is between 8 and 12 full-time fishery officers, and our program is based across the province. We have a fairly significant presence in Nanaimo and Vancouver, but we've got staff in Campbell River as well. We have a couple of people up in Port Hardy so we have coverage out there, plus we already had some A-base resources in place there. By the time you total it up in British Columbia, the program has about 70 people focused on aquaculture.

Senator Raine: Are those people involved in decisions with regard to siting and the science of how you site, not just new ones but how you monitor the siting of the existing fish farms? I know the leases themselves are done by the province, but is the science around where to allow farms in the hands of DFO Aquaculture?

Mr. Bevan: Yes, I would say that's the case, and Science certainly provides a lot of advice as to the oceanographic conditions in the area that the farm will be sited in to look at flows, deposit rates and all of the other parameters that have to be considered when determining where the lease should be. Again, it's a provincial responsibility to make that final decision, but also in determining the activities that can be permitted in that particular area. What kind of biological load can you permit in that farm? How much impact are you going to allow? How often would it have to be laid fallow and things of that nature?

Senator Raine: Continuing on that train of thought, on the science of where the migrating salmon are going from the various rivers in British Columbia, how is that data correlated and is it available to the public? I know in different years they go different ways. So if you're going to have risk-free aquaculture for the wild salmon, how do we determine that?

Mr. Bevan: I think you do point out that the migration of the returning salmon can be inside Vancouver Island, outside Vancouver Island, depending on the oceanographic conditions and whatever is making them choose one route versus another, so we have to consider the overall average.

I'll turn to my colleague, Dave Gillis.

Mr. Gillis: If I can pick it up there, the associate is correct. When we're formulating advice on any question, and it would be no different here, we're going to be assembling all of the information that we have available. Certainly in this instance, the juxtaposition of wild stocks and potential aquaculture sites would be one thing we would be looking at. It would be an average or more accurately a full range of the different types of routes, and also timing and run strengths, which will vary from year to year as well. That would all be factored into the advice that we provide that will inform a decision that would be taken on siting.

Senator Raine: I know the Cohen report came out with a lot of very strong recommendations around the moratorium on new salmon farms, a new increase in production of existing ones, new farms after five years only, which would be September 30, 2020, but did I hear you say that the moratorium has been lifted?

Mr. Bevan: I should be a bit more precise. The Cohen commission did note that there should be a moratorium on new growth in the Discovery Islands area, and that is the fact at this point. We are not seeking to increase production there, nor is the industry asking to. That is a consensus on the way forward there. We're going to have to continue to do the evaluation of the potential impacts of aquaculture in that area on wild fish.

There was another recommendation that we should be very careful about understanding those impacts, and if we aren't satisfied and the minister's not satisfied that the risk is very low, that something should be done to mitigate the risk.

In the rest of the province, and in the southern areas where aquaculture is still contemplated by the province, because they do control the lease, then those are things that we can look at — renewing licenses; whether there is a desire to reflect in the licence the fact that they are producing more than was noted previously; or changes in various conditions.

Senator Raine: Perhaps for my colleagues, Mr. Gillis, you could talk about the Discovery Islands area and why that is so sensitive with regard to wild fish.

Mr. Gillis: Well, it's a natural constriction.

Senator Raine: I know, but the rest of the committee probably doesn't.

Mr. Gillis: We don't have a map here, but if you could imagine the top of the Strait of Georgia area and a funnelling effect, if you want, of migratory routes of salmon, that's one of the elements that would be a feature there. As the associate says, the migratory routes can vary from year to year, but there is going to be a natural funnelling in that area.

I have to say, though, that a lot of work has been done to understand the interactions between wild and cultured fish in that general area, and really on all of the rest of the coast. We're going to have an opportunity to do further work on that in the near future with the renewal of the science program that we were speaking about a few minutes ago. It will be an early activity for the department to do a risk assessment of the interactions between cultured and wild stocks on the B.C. coast. This will be a real good opportunity for us to bring together all of the knowledge that we have on those interactions and put it through a structured process that we are quite familiar with and have used in many contexts to evaluate the risks and inform ourselves that way. We look forward to being able to do that work very shortly.

Senator Raine: Thank you.

The Chair: Before we go to Senator McInnis, one of the comments you made earlier was in relation to zero shrimp being produced in Canada. Can you give us an indication why that is the case? Has anyone tried it? Is it because of temperatures of water? It seems to be very active in other countries.

Mr. Bevan: The countries where shrimp is a huge product from aquaculture are all tropical. They're grown in coastal areas, in lagoons, and they are a tropical fish. They grow to market size quickly in those conditions, and there is no comparative species or conditions in Canada, obviously. Aquaculture of cold-water shrimp is not economic compared to the fishery.

The Chairman: So basically the temperature of the water determines the activity.

Mr. Bevan: That's correct.

Senator McInnis: Thank you very much for coming. When I came on to this committee, I thought I knew something about the fishery, and I'm finding that I'm learning a great deal from every meeting that I attend.

Aquaculture is carried out in every province in Canada, and there are probably as many sets of regulations as there are provinces. In fact, the Province of Nova Scotia currently has a wide panel of individuals travelling the province to come up with new regulations and protocol, apparently. It should be good because it's headed by two law professors, and you know lawyers normally don't make mistakes and they have great vision. The regulations will be void of any input from other provinces. Essentially, what I perceive, and I want you to correct me if I am wrong, is that we have in this country a patchwork of regulations.

I'm reminded, having read about our justice system in the country — and this is a terrible analogy and nothing is meant by it — that prior to the Criminal Code being put in place, each province handled if themselves. Then we got the Criminal Code in the 1940s, I think it was, concurrent legislation that has been continually updated and corrected and amended, but it was consistent across the provinces. It was alluded to here by Senator Hubley. What would be terribly wrong with working with the provinces to come up with concurrent legislation with respect to aquaculture?

Mr. Bevan: Clearly it's not conducive to having the most efficient system when you have a company that has to operate in more than one province, subject to varying rules.

We have been working through MOUs collaboratively with provinces to try to resolve these kinds of issues. Clearly, if you're looking at resolving or redefining a regulatory regime in a province, it would be useful to look at best practices and try to emulate them. But there are national committees involving the provinces and the federal government trying to ensure that we make the lives of those in the industry bearable by not creating a patchwork.

I'll turn to my colleague to go through some of those details.

Mr. Swerdfager: I think there are a couple of things. The first is that, from my vantage point, the way I always describe the regulation of aquaculture is that it has two components. One is to regulate the site, and one is to regulate the facility or the operation itself.

For the most part, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, the regulation of where aquaculture occurs, the site, is the subject of a lease, entirely controlled by the province. Provinces have different leasing regimes because provinces are different, because the nature of the beast so far as the lease goes tends to be fairly consistent across the system. Fees differ from province to province, just like renting a house is different in different provinces, and the terms are different, but, for the most part, leases are generally fairly consistent. The term, the duration of the lease, varies a little bit from province to province, but for the most part it's fairly similar.

The second part, regulating the site, up until fairly recently given British Columbia's decision where the federal government became more active, site or facility operations were primarily regulated by provinces. By facility regulation I mean everything from how the net is set up, how it's configured, literally what colours are used on the buoy markers, how your oyster farm is laid out, et cetera.

In British Columbia, that is now regulated by the federal government under licenses under the Fisheries Act. In Prince Edward Island, it's regulated by the feds. Everywhere else in the country, site operations are regulated primarily by the province. They draw upon our science expertise and other things, but the decision maker on licensing operations in provinces is primarily provincial.

That gives you a bit of the setting. My experience suggests that whilst there are differences in detail from province to province, I've been party occasionally to conversations where those differences, at least in my judgment, are somewhat exaggerated. There is certainly, to be sure, a difference in the structure, say, from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, but if you're an operator, you're not on entirely different planets. It's a matter of how you report differently. Some of the standards are different, some of the ways in which you monitor the environment are different, but you don't have wild competitive advantage. It's much easier to operate in Nova Scotia versus New Brunswick.

There is an awful lot of collaboration between the four Atlantic provinces. There is quite an active memorandum of understanding between them. They are working, particularly in the area of fish health, to harmonize and standardize their regulations; so there's a real convergence there.

One could always build an argument that more consistency, cohesion and simplicity are probably never bad things. Nor, I think, would it be accurate to say it's just a situation of total entropy where every province has had a self-actualization experience and generated its own aquaculture issue.

Senator McInnis: Ultimately we're going to write a report and make recommendations. You are saying the status quo is pretty good; we shouldn't worry about that.

Mr. Swerdfager: Let me rewind the tape a little bit.

Senator McInnis: Well, that's what I'm hearing.

Mr. Swerdfager: What I was trying to do is convey a situation where I wouldn't, for an instant, argue that the status quo is ideal, pretty good or great. What I was trying to do is balance things a little bit. Nor is it a disaster, at least from where I sit.

The system certainly could be simpler. There is room for greater standardization across legislation and across regulations. A common monitoring system would be helpful for people, common science standards. Greater commonality and cohesion between provinces and at the federal-provincial table certainly would be helpful.

I wouldn't want the committee to come away with an impression that, from a federal perspective, when you look out into the regulatory landscape that you find yourself going, ``Oh, my gosh, I can't recognize one system from another; it's totally in disarray.'' That would be, I think, inaccurate.

Mr. Bevan: I think what we're saying is that great efforts are being made to work around much of the patchwork. We're trying to work around that in a way that gives a bit more cohesion and consistency for the industry. There is a problem that has to be actively managed, and it's not as efficient as it could be for government or for industry, but we are doing our best to avoid unnecessary problems caused by the legal patchwork that we deal with.

Senator McInnis: But would it be better to have an aquaculture act if all the provinces and territories bought in?

Mr. Bevan: I'm sure the industry would say it would be better to have one body of law. That is, again, something that has to be put in the Canadian context and jurisdictions. So we're working, as I said earlier, on incremental improvement by improvement. What's the biggest problem? Let's fix that. What's next? And so on.

Going for a big solution is perhaps risky. If you try to hit a home run you might strike out versus getting around the bases step by step.

That's where we are and that's the decision the government is going to have to come to ground on. In the meantime, we're looking at taking incremental steps, and we are working with our colleagues in the other jurisdictions to minimize negative impacts.

Senator McInnis: Help me on this issue. With regard to the locale of a lease in bays and inlets, Transport Canada is involved in the navigable waters section; you're involved in the science. Environment is involved probably more so when it's in place. You probably don't know this — or probably you do — but what currently happens is the provinces blame you when the application is approved.

The controversy in Nova Scotia is this: The protocol is not perfect, but that's not your protocol; it is the respective province's protocol, but you become involved and it's approved. I have always believed that if you leave it in the hands of the private sector, it will work out well, but only if certain stipulations are put in place.

The private sector will develop where it's cheapest, and it's cheaper to do it in bays and inlets where traversing back and forth is not that complicated. I would like your comment on this: You have closed-pen containment on land. I read that in the Atlantic off of Panama, they go out and sink the containers, and they do that because of black salmon and others. They do that because, as one of the proprietors said, ``We get away from any environmental concerns''; so he believes that there are environmental concerns.

What's your comment on that? As I say, these applications are approved based on what the respective federal departments have to say.

Mr. Bevan: Yes, the decision is for the provinces to make. They need advice relative to the ecological impacts, the impacts it could have on other species, species at risk, et cetera, so they ask the respective departments for that information. Most of it comes from DFO at this point.

Under the new Fisheries Protection Program, it's been simplified and there has been less duplication as a result of the changes to the Fisheries Act and changes to the whole responsible resource development process. There are still reviews, but there is one review per project, which has simplified it. Given the fact that the province has to make a decision on a lease, they need advice from DFO and other appropriate departments if other questions need to be resolved prior to making that decision.

Senator McInnis: So the depth of the water that these pens are put in would be determined by the federal government.

Mr. Bevan: It is not so much the —

Senator McInnis: It is the depth and flush and so on.

Mr. Bevan: It is the depth, the flush, the vulnerability of the local ecosystem, et cetera. We would provide that advice and they would make a decision on the lease.

In British Columbia, we would deal with the rest of it, but in the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, they will deal with the operation on that site — the load, et cetera, that can be put there — relative to the information they receive from us.

Senator McInnis: That's right. So we have to deal with the provinces.

Mr. Bevan: Yes, and they have to deal with us.

Senator McInnis: Well, they deal with you, but they're putting the pens there based on your advice, and yet they can give or not give an application. They determine that. But if you're giving positive advice, they put the pen in.

Mr. Bevan: That's their call.

Senator McInnis: I know it is. But then it's not just their call because they're taking your advice.

Mr. Bevan: They are.

Senator McInnis: Yes.

Mr. Gillis: If I can just add a dimension to that, we're providing advice. Usually we're responding to a management question. So the question is posed: This is the scenario, the site and what is proposed to happen there. Then we'll do our work and assemble the information, and we'll bring back a statement of what the consequences of that could be — good, bad or indifferent. The decision goes to the other side. It's important to understand that we're not advising them to say yes.

Senator McInnis: What they're saying is on your advice.

Mr. Gillis: In some cases, evidently, based on the information that we're providing, yes.

Senator McInnis: Now you know why we need concurrent legislation. We all should be in the same book and on the same page.

Look, we had a division of your department here last year, and they were into aquaculture marketing. They had glossy brochures and it was just tremendous. Aquaculture should be marketed; there's absolutely no doubt about that. But then down the hall, you have enforcement, and this has been alluded to tonight as well — perception sometimes is reality.

I've tried to think about where aquaculture could be marketed from. It strikes me it could be in Industry Canada, some other division of a department, but not in Fisheries and Oceans if you're going to be doing the enforcement. You can do all the science and all the regulations and monitoring, but this is becoming a real issue where I come from. It may be perceived, I realize, but it strikes me that the marketing division should be in another department.

I would like your comment.

Mr. Bevan: I agree. We don't have a marketing division for aquaculture in DFO. How we support the industry is by regulatory science, by setting out the regulatory framework where that's our responsibility, by being transparent with the outcomes that are happening in farmed sites. We publish data, et cetera.

We want to provide assurance to the Canadian public that this is a sustainable activity and that there can be confidence that it's being well regulated. That's how we can support the industry.

Marketing of wild fish or aquaculture has not been the primary core activity for DFO for some time. We don't have an active marketing arm, other than to explain our regulatory regimes that apply to these activities, whether it's responsible resource development on land, wild fisheries or aquaculture.

Senator McInnis: Who are these people who were here with these glossy brochures? I thought they were from Fisheries and Oceans.

The Chair: Were they from the aquaculture industry? I don't think that was the department.

Senator McInnis: I do not know; I thought it was. You don't have any brochures.

Mr. Bevan: We explain programs and regulations. We explain our activities.

The Chair: That's the one extra question that I promised you.

Senator Raine: Going back to British Columbia, there are various jurisdictions there. Of course we have the provincial government involved, but we also have First Nations who have Aboriginal rights for fish and fish resources. How is the department in B.C. set up to consult and work with First Nations to make sure that their interests are protected?

Mr. Bevan: Following the Haida and Taku decisions, we have a legal obligation to consult with First Nations when they are of the view that any of the activities could impact on their rights or on rights that are claimed. That's an obligation that we have.

We have had a long-standing relationship with First Nations across the provinces where we manage the fisheries. Particularly in B.C., we have 200 First Nations and we have relationships with most of them.

In terms of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy and discussing with First Nations how we can manage fisheries, if they have a right to certain types of fisheries, as they do exist, we have to be careful to consult with them on how we manage it because we have to be able to justify any infringement of their rights to a very high standard of justification.

With respect to First Nations and aquaculture, the same kind of issue would exist. We have to be able to demonstrate to First Nations that we have considered, in any of our regulatory activities, the rights they have to resources and to ensure that we have had the discussions and consultations needed to provide some assurance to them that any unauthorized activities are not going to impair or impede their rights.

There has been a lot of development in terms of growing relationships between the aquaculture industry and First Nations communities. That's an ongoing reality that happens outside of the strict regulatory requirements that we have and the activities that we have to engage in in order to protect Aboriginal rights as we move forward.

Senator Raine: Has the change of the new regulatory regime in the last two years improved relationships with First Nations or have they been involved in the development of those regulations?

Mr. Bevan: There were a lot of consultations with First Nations when we were developing the program. Some First Nations were of the view that we didn't do enough consultation and that by moving ahead with the regulations there was a chance that we would infringe their rights. They took us to court, and the courts have found in the cases that have taken place to date that there was adequate consultation.

I'm not going to say we have consulted to the satisfaction of all First Nations in B.C. in the implementation of this new program. Obviously if they shared that view they wouldn't have challenged us in court. But we have had a lot of work with First Nations to try and ensure they understand and had some ability to influence the development of the program.

Senator Raine: Are they involved in the ongoing science in terms of monitoring and sharing information between their fisheries officers and the department?

Mr. Bevan: We do look at traditional knowledge. The science we've been talking about is being done by DFO, but there is traditional knowledge that is looked at. We share our information. We're very transparent on the science publications. We post about 300 papers a year and are very open about the science findings.

Mr. Gillis: In Science, we'll take information where we get it. It needs to be vetted through our process to make sure we can trust it to support our results and our advice. So, generally speaking, where there is traditional knowledge, in particular, and ecological knowledge, it's very useful input from those communities.

You asked earlier and I didn't exactly answer the question about the availability of the information that we have in Science. As the associate says, we have a very open publishing policy that makes all of those, not just the advice but the research papers behind the advice to substantiate those conclusions, available publicly.

Senator Raine: Is the information that DFO is posting similar to what the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service maintains with their publicly accessible National Wild Fish Health Survey website?

Mr. Gillis: I'm not familiar with that specific website, but I'm talking about the internal process we have. The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat is the organizing office for that.

All of the science advice that goes to our minister comes through the CSAS, as we call it. It's made public and posted on our website, as are all of the supporting papers that contributed to that advice.

In recent years, about 300 documents per year are published on that website.

Senator Raine: I've received an email that is sort of complaining about the way we do it compared to the Americans. Maybe we'll have a chance to look into that when we carry out our studies in British Columbia.

The Chair: We're used to that.

Senator Enverga: You said one of the major hindrances for aquaculture growth is more environmental or social issues. I know there are some drugs that they don't want to put in the sea or water. Have we looked at natural agents or organisms to help kill sea lice? Are there some sea-lice-eating organisms or fish? Have we tried to implement those kinds of biological aids?

Mr. Bevan: The control of sea lice has been a real challenge, particularly in places like New Brunswick, and there has been a great deal of interest in looking at alternative ways to do that. We haven't got anything of that nature, and that is the responsibility of other departments.

Mr. Swerdfager: In Norway, they use another kind of fish they put in with the salmon. It's a wrasse, which will eat lice. It tends not to work very well here; there are different climatic conditions.

The industry itself is responsible for the industry's innovation. I know some members of the industry are looking at biological or natural control mechanisms for lice. There is a strong incentive for them to do that, if they can do it more effectively, efficiently and cheaply, because they will go where the cheapest alternative is.

From the point of view of the department, we haven't devoted a lot of research energy into that question because our job is more about managing and regulating the operations as opposed to helping the industry develop its own technology.

Senator Enverga: Could this be one of the things we should look at?

Mr. Swerdfager: It might be.

The Chair: I thank our witnesses for the great information provided us this evening. As we go forward with our study, I look forward to the opportunity to have you back again sometime.

Just to advise our members, we will briefly go in camera to review and discuss the proposed budget.

(The committee continued in camera.)

——————

(The committee resumed in public.)

The Chair: Further to discussion of travel plans in the context of our aquaculture study, a draft budget of $516,708 has been prepared to request funds to conduct the following activities: public hearings and fact-finding missions in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, which could take place in late May of 2014; a fact-finding mission in Norway and Scotland, which could occur toward the end of September, 2014; and public hearings in New Brunswick and fact-finding missions to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec, which could be scheduled in late October, 2014.

The budget proposal to be submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration includes funds for 12 senators, for 8 staff for public hearings and 5 staff for site visits, and only 2 staff for international activity, to travel and for accommodations, air transportation, hotel accommodations, et cetera; for fact-finding site visits yet to be determined, the process of how we move around; and for our public hearings for reporting, transcribing, editing of transcripts, rental of office space and equipment we would need for interpretation.

Is it agreed that the budget proposal amounting to $516,708 for the special study on aquaculture for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, with adjustments resulting from this meeting and following the final review by the Senate administration, to be overseen by the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, be approved for submission to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration? Do we have a motion to that effect?

Senator Hubley: So moved.

The Chair: So moved by Senator Hubley; seconded by Senator McInnis. All those in favour? Contra-minded?

Carried.

That is it for this evening. Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)