GANDER, Newfoundland and Labrador, Tuesday, May 27, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at
7:53 a.m. to study the regulation of aquaculture, current challenges and
future prospects for the industry in Canada; and to consider a draft budget.
Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: We discussed the budget in relation to the proposed
trip to Scotland and Norway in September. Are there any questions before we
move the motion? Maybe we should move the motion first. Do we have a motion
with respect to the budget?
Senator Wells: So moved.
The Chair: Do we have any questions on the budget for the proposed
trip? Is everybody fine with the dates of September 21 to 27 and the
budgeted amount of $162,488? We will be making a presentation in short order
to the committee.
All those in favour? Contraminded?
We also have some requests from the media to film some of our discussions
here today. I have advised, as we discussed earlier, that they can do that
as long as they are not too intrusive and that they be allowed. Can we have
a motion to that effect?
Senator Wells: So moved.
The Chair: All those in favour? Contraminded?
We will recess for a moment to prepare for presentations by our first
(The committee recessed.)
(The committee resumed.)
The Chair: I am pleased to welcome you to the meeting of the
Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. My name is Fabian
Manning, a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am chair of this
committee. Before I give the floor to our witnesses I would like to invite
members of the committee to introduce themselves, starting with the senator
to my right.
Senator Munson: Jim Munson, senator from Ontario.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas from
Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier, Senator from New Brunswick.
Senator McInnis: Senator Tom McInnis from Nova Scotia.
Senator Raine: Senator Nancy Greene Raine from B.C.
Senator Wells: David Wells from Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Chair: Thank you, senators.
The committee is continuing its special study on the regulation of
aquaculture, current challenges and future prospects for the industry in
Canada. We are pleased this morning to start our day here in Gander with the
Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for
Newfoundland and Labrador; Mr. Brian Meaney, the Assistant Deputy Minister,
Aquaculture; and Dr. Darryl Whelan, Director of Provincial Aquaculture
Veterinarian. On behalf of the members of the committee I thank you for
being here today.
We spent yesterday in St. Alban's, Poole's Cove, and Harbour Breton and
have seen first-hand the activity that aquaculture is bringing to our
province. We certainly look forward to hearing from you this morning.
My understanding is that Minister Hutchings has some opening remarks,
which will be followed by Mr. Meaney and Dr. Whelan, and then our senators
will have the opportunity to ask some questions.
Mr. Hutchings, it is good to see you again. It was only a couple of weeks
ago we had you before us in Ottawa. It is good to be home in Newfoundland
and Labrador. The floor is yours, sir.
Hon. Keith Hutchings, Member of the House of Assembly for Ferryland,
Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Government of Newfoundland and
Labrador: Thank you, Senator Manning. It is certainly a pleasure to
present before the standing committee. For those not from our province, you
are certainly welcome and I hope you enjoyed your past couple of days in our
As Senator Manning indicated, I'm joined this morning by Brian Meaney,
Assistant Deputy Minister of Aquaculture, and Dr. Daryl Whelan, Director of
Aquatic Animal Health Division and Chief Aquatic Veterinarian. We're here
today to provide some information about the provincial aquaculture industry,
specifically with respect to the economic activity it generates and its
growth in recent years, and the provincial government's efforts to promote
sustainable aquaculture by working with industry to achieve best practices
in respect to governance.
I will begin the presentation today by providing an overview of the
industry in terms of employment and economic activity, and certainly discuss
ways the provincial government has partnered with the industry to promote
growth. Then Mr. Meaney and Dr. Whelan will proceed with a discussion on our
approach to good governance, initiatives for both fish and sustainable
aquaculture, and expectations of the industry in the future.
Aquaculture has become, as you've probably seen yesterday, a powerful
driver of the provincial economy in recent years and it has created
meaningful employment in many rural areas of our province. Many of those
areas were devastated by the closure of the ground fishery some years ago.
The provincial government saw the potential that aquaculture held with
respect to economic gains in rural regions, and that is why we invested more
than $25 million since 2006 to support the growth and development of the
aquaculture industry. This investment of $25 million leveraged approximately
another $400 million of private investment and resulted in significant
economic gains for many communities. Since 2006 the number of finfish sites
in the province has doubled, mussel production has reached a record high,
and the production value of the industry in 2013 set a record at $197
This growth was chiefly supported by two provincial government programs:
the Aquaculture Capital Equity Program and the Aquaculture Working Capital
Loan Guarantee Program. The Aquaculture Working Capital Loan Program is
designed to facilitate improved access to financing for aquaculture
operators and is available to companies that can demonstrate strength in all
aspects of their business from technical and marketing to the management
capabilities. The Aquaculture Capital Equity Program provides a minimum
investment of $250,000 for finfish operations and $100,000 for shellfish to
support increase in capacity, provided the company can match provincial
funds with private sector cash investment.
Slide 2 shows that both the production and value generated by aquaculture
operations in the province has increased steadily, certainly due to close
collaboration with government and the industry.
Slide 3 looks at the economic activities of aquaculture in Newfoundland
and Labrador today. Today there are more than 1,000 jobs within the province
supported by aquaculture activity and most of these are in rural areas of
our province. Specifically there are approximately 467 people directly
employed in hatchery activities.
With respect to the processing employment side in 2012 there were 268
plant workers who were employed at processing plants that held licences to
process only aquaculture products. As well, there were 932 plant workers
employed at processing plants that held multi-species licences. These plants
produced aquaculture productions in addition to raw material from the wild
harvest. For some of these plants aquaculture activity comprises one-quarter
to one-third of all production activity.
Additionally, and just as important, it should be noted that aquaculture
also creates significant spin-off employment, as you can imagine, like any
industry in terms of supplies in the service sector. It certainly supports
SMEs. Businesses that supply equipment, transportation, packaging, nets,
engines, boats and repairs and so on have all experienced increased activity
as a result of the aquaculture industry.
Specific examples include companies like Newfoundland Styro Inc. in
Bishop Falls that produces packaging, Fab Tech Industries which manufactures
boats and equipment, and Newfoundland Aqua Service in St. Alban's which
builds nets and cages.
The province's aquaculture industry is primarily composed of mussel and
salmon aquaculture and, as you will see, the numbers produced by both sides
of the industry have been impressive.
Slide 4, as you can see from the information, shows 2013 was a record
year setting for salmon farming in our province. More than 22,000 metric
tons of salmon were produced for market, and that was a 32 per cent increase
over the previous year. This generated a production value of approximately
Slide 5 demonstrates economic activity as being a tremendous boon for
communities on the south coast of the island, some of which I understand
members of the committee visited yesterday and saw first-hand. I certainly
want to note that there are six aquaculture companies operating in the Coast
of bays region. These companies maintain 87 licensed sites, in addition to
hatcheries in St. Alban's, Stephenville and Daniel's Harbour.
For Slide 6 we will look at the mussel sector. In regard to mussel
aquaculture the industry set a production record in 2012 as well and it
remains at the level of 2013 having produced more than 4,300 metric tons of
the product. This was certainly due to a rebound in the global market and
the production activity generated about $15 million in production value,
which is a 7 per cent increase over 2012.
Slide 7 shows the production value was achieved by supplying North
American markets with fresh products and providing vacuum-packed products
for European and Asian markets. In total most of the production was
generated by a core group of eight to ten growers and we certainly see some
amalgamation and consolidation of prior grow outs related to mussel farms.
Provincial aquaculture producers in the finfish and shellfish sectors
carefully follow established security measures to ensure the product they
bring to market is of the highest quality and raised and harvested certainly
in a sustainable manner. This has resulted in some notable achievements.
Most notably, provincial mussels recently became the first in North America
to be certified to the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard, which assures
consumers that their seafood is organic and farmed in an environmentally
In addition, over the course of 2013 the provincial government and the
salmon farming sector finalized a bay management regime that will identify
ideal locations for new sites, prescribe best practices and set fallowing
The provincial government has been very supportive of industry efforts to
pursue national and international best practices, and evidence of that
support would include our $9 million investment in the Centre for
Aquaculture Health and Development, which I believe you saw in St. Alban's.
Our leadership in the area of industry governance was recognized in 2010.
In that particular year the Centre of Aquatic Health Sciences of the
Atlantic Veterinarian College at UPEI completed a study that found
Newfoundland had the most comprehensive aquaculture biosecurity program of
any government organization studied in Canada.
To further discuss the governance I will now turn it over to Mr. Meaney
and to Dr. Whelan.
Brian Meaney, Assistant Deputy Minister, Newfoundland and Labrador
Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture: Good morning.
Aquaculture governance in Canada is an issue of duality. There is a
federal and provincial responsibility. From the Newfoundland perspective in
1986 we were one of the first provinces in the country that introduced an
Aquaculture Act. This was based on a co-operative approach looking at the
constitutional split between the federal and provincial governments in order
to put an orderly development mode and aquaculture regulations in place.
In 1986 the Aquaculture Act was introduced and by the nature of the act
it was called an act to encourage and regulate the aquaculture industry in
Newfoundland and Labrador. The act was put in place in order to ensure that
we see orderly development, encourage regulation but ensure that we have the
optimum regulatory and policy framework in place for aquaculture to develop.
In order to work with our federal counterparts a memorandum of
understanding in 1986 was signed between the federal and provincial
governments which outlined the nature and responsibilities of each order of
government to develop aquaculture in the province. That has been the
backbone of our process to provide regulatory control and support to the
The act has been reviewed and amended on two different occasions, most
recently in 2012 when there was a complete review of the Aquaculture Act and
regulations that were provided. This provides the legal authority for
provincial management of the aquaculture industry and orderly development,
secures property rights, minimizes user conflicts and assists in
co-operative decision-making activities that rely on aquaculture.
Hand in hand with aquaculture regulation we believe strongly in terms of
developing a strategic approach to aquaculture development. Beginning in
1990, working together with industry and stakeholders around the province,
we introduced the first provincial aquaculture strategy. It was reviewed
again and a new strategy introduced in 2000, which was updated in 2005.
In the fall of 2013 our minister announced it was time to have another
review of the aquaculture strategy and we began consultations with all
stakeholders, with industry, and with federal and provincial agencies to
look at where we're heading in the next 10-year timeframe.
As a result of those consultations we published a document entitled "What
We Heard." It is available on our website and we have copies for the
committee as well. It is a summary of all the stakeholders and the citizens
of the province and their positions and their aspirations for aquaculture in
the province. That will result in a new aquaculture strategy which will be
published in 2014. Again our focus will remain on a sustainable aquaculture
industry and its development throughout rural and coastal Newfoundland.
As part of the process to provide good governance we believe in a process
of one-stop shopping. It has been unique in Canada in that at any given time
there could be up to 30 to 35 different federal and provincial agencies,
departments and municipal governments involved in accessing an aquaculture
An approach to streamlining this and to ensuring that all aquaculturists,
all communities and all agencies are involved, we provide a one-stop
shopping service through our Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Instead of providing 20 or 30 different applications for different processes
in order to get an aquaculture licence in this province, we provide a single
window of opportunity where all the information is gathered. It disseminated
to all departments, all agencies and all stakeholders. We provide input, a
decision-making process and work closely with them.
The process of management of aquaculture comes underneath the Aquaculture
Act but also through the policies. We've been providing supporting policy
framework based on species management plans. We have management plans in
place for our salmonid sector and for various mussel sectors as well. These
management plans allow industry to identify what their responsibilities are,
what are the responsibilities of both levels of government and the
development mode in which we can move forward as we develop the industry.
Concurrent with that, there were a number of specific initiatives. The
minister mentioned today management agreements that were put in place in
terms of how we manage the salmonid sectors in the province in terms of
optimizing fish health and location of sites. Also, for example, the code of
containment for the culture of salmonids in Newfoundland and Labrador is an
internationally recognized code which ensures the maintenance of aquaculture
sites in the salmonid sector and ensures that the fish in the cages stay in
the cages to the maximum extent possible.
These are some of the approaches and the hallmark of our governance model
has been a co-operative approach between all levels of government and
industry to put in place practical but progressive aquaculture policies to
ensure the good governance of the industry.
The province also provides compliance enforcement and inspections of
aquaculture sites throughout the province. Marine aquaculture sites are
inspected annually. We have a biannual code of containment inspections that
are undertaken. We work co-operatively with our federal colleagues, for
example Transport Canada, for inspections under the Navigable Waters
Protection Act for compliance. As well we conduct regular fish health and
biosecurity audits usually on a 40- to 45-day cycle throughout the year.
From an environmental management perspective we work cooperatively with
the federal government in terms of fish habitat in particular. DFO has
responsibility for fish habitat obviously but we work closely with them on
pre- licence benthic assessments and fallow period monitoring. As the
minister mentioned we have a fallow period, so after a site is put in place
there is follow-up monitoring to ensure the site maintains its good health.
The new aquaculture activities regulations that are coming forward from
the federal government will also support this new initiative in terms of
providing and identifying to the public that we have the optimum management
opportunities and regimes in place.
All of this being said the objective, as the minister outlined, is to
seek opportunities for expansion and address some of the challenges that
will come. These include, for example, the Coast of bays where we have just
barely tapped the available areas that can expand for the aquaculture sector
in the future for the salmonid industry, bays west toward Burgeo which have
real opportunity, as well as Placentia Bay to the east. There is potential
to double production over time but this will be industry driven and market
driven as we move forward.
As the minister pointed out, we have constructed two state of the art
hatcheries. These are probably two of the most modern hatcheries in the
western hemisphere. One is located in Stephenville and one I believe you
visited in St. Alban's yesterday. These are the types of opportunities
provided and we work closely with industry to move forward.
The supply and service sector is also critical. The industry relies
heavily on supply and service, and I believe you will have some
presentations later today. This provides other additional economic activity
and opportunity for the economic wealth of the province as well. It supports
the local community tax base and has regional impacts but again provides the
industry with state of the art expertise at its fingertips to allow the
industry to move forward.
We work closely with industry in terms of developing infrastructure. I
believe you visited some of our wharves, the biosecure wharves, to ensure
that the movement of fish and fish products in and off the farm are
conducted in a most biosecure manner with the greatest focus on fish health.
We are working on brood stock.
We have a healthy working relationship with our federal government to
look at the interaction between wild and farm salmonids. We've been working
with them particularly in a review of south coast salmon stocks and
providing input particularly from Dr. Whelan's shop in terms of fish health.
We work closely with stakeholders and we really support evidence-based
science. That is what we believe has to be the hallmark in terms of making
good regulatory management of these decisions.
The mussel industry is experiencing a real resurgence in the last number
of years. They're expanding and every single mussel they are producing today
is going into the marketplace. There is a need to expand there so we're
working with them in terms of an environmental management program, a
monitoring program, to allow them to look at new opportunities particularly
in the Notre Dame Bay and the Green Bay areas. I believe you will be in
Notre Dame Bay tomorrow to have a look at some of our mussel operations.
Through our Fisheries Technology New Opportunities Program the department
works with the industry to provide and access new technology from wherever
it exists in the world to produce better quality fish products and new
opportunities, to reduce labour costs and increase mechanization.
Certification, as we pointed out as well, is key when we support the
industry, an example being the Canadian Organic Mussel Standard, but also
best practices and certifications for our salmonid sector.
I also have responsibility for seafood marketing. New marketing
opportunities and value-added opportunities are increasing. We see our
products hitting and looking at new markets not only in the U.S. but into
Asia. Also with the upcoming reduction of tariffs under CETA, new
opportunities are opening up in Europe as well.
There are challenges in all sectors. We work closely with our industry.
Coastal resource user conflict is key, but I will point that the industry
has done a banner job in being able to identify issues and potential
interactions with the other people who are occupying the coastal zone. We
generally have very few conflmicts. There has been a level of trust built up
between governments and other resource users in the aquaculture industry
that reduces conflicts and works up front in the licensing process to reduce
That is a brief overview on the aquaculture governance piece. I can take
some questions later, but I will now pass it on to Dr. Whelan to discuss
aquatic animal health issues.
Dr. Daryl Whelan, Director, Aquatic Health Division, Chief Aquaculture
Veterinarian, Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and
Aquaculture: Senators, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I met a
few of you recently so that was informative for me as well.
Just to discuss in the context of aquatic animal health, it should come
as no surprise that any time you raise animals for food production the
health component is an important part for sustainability, for performance
and for animal welfare for those animals. It is an obligation by all. If you
raise animals you must care for them.
In order to do that, whether it is terrestrial animals or aquatic animals,
you really need health professionals involved. It should come as no surprise
that we actually have the formation of an Aquatic Animal Health Division in
Newfoundland. The government foresaw that was a strong pillar for growth,
sustainability, performance, and really the obligation and responsibility
for all, for industry and government.
The Aquatic Animal Health Division was formed, of which I'm the director.
I had an opportunity to speak on this a day or so ago, but I will go through
some of the points that are here. If you have any questions afterward I will
be glad to speak to them.
The division itself provides aquatic animal health extension services and
those services really are broad based. We do that for our stakeholders who
really are different levels of provincial and federal governments, the
aquatic industry itself, for academia, stocks that are there, fishermen,
Fisheries and Oceans, and Environment Canada. We've actually been the client
service provider for some of those features. It gives us an opportunity to
see what is out there in the marine environment, in the freshwater
environment, and to see what the animals have to really survive in and live
in to sustain life.
I see the issues are both wild and aquaculture based because these
pathogens and these health issues that we discuss have been there a long
time and will be there for a long time to come.
The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture actually has a robust Aquatic
Animal Health Program. We have several programs that feed into this. We have
an active and passive surveillance program. We go out there every 30 to 45
days on farm sites. We also respond to calls. If we get a question, "Doc, my
fish just don't look right in this particular area, can you come out and
have a look", we have those services available to provide that and to reach
We have a comprehensive biosecurity audit program as well. It entails
going to wharves, to facilities on land and on water, transfers of animals
in and out of the province, transfers within the province where biosecurity
audits are conducted and discussions are held to ensure that it is the
strongest and most robust that it can be. We have a really strong laboratory
diagnostic program. We operate out of three different laboratories and I
will talk about that in another slide.
We conduct applied research on behalf of industry and the public to
ensure that we can reach some resolution of the issues that are there and
make things a little bit better for the next time. I think that is how we
Introduction and transfers of fish is a really important role that we
play. The federal role is there, the provincial role is there and the
industry itself, so it behooves you to make sure that the introduction and
transfers of animals and their movement are done at the highest level as
I think it is good to realize the context of what happens. If you just
took health management out of the equation at the industry level, provincial
level and federal level, I think what you would see is a curious case of
loss of socio- economic resources for the different regions. You would see
no mitigation of a disease. We know animals that are in the marine
environment, freshwater environment and all these other ones are susceptible
to what exists there. If you didn't control that it would be an uncontrolled
situation. It would amplify. It could move between stocks. It is really not
a tenable position to be in at the federal, provincial or industry level.
There would be morbidity. There would be decreased performance. All these
would be outcomes: disease spread within regions, between countries and
import/export trade restrictions so at a national level it would really
impact the country. It means a culling of fish where things might have been
mitigated, things may have been controlled. Again, as I said, it would
reduce socio-economic impact for different communities, for the provinces
and for the country itself, all that to say that I think fish health is a
very strong pillar for this industry as it is in terrestrial models as well.
I am very proud of and I think the government is very proud of the staff
complement that we have for aquatic animal health. We have very technical
people with varied backgrounds and a large educational experience component.
They are highly trained. We have everyone from degrees, to post-graduate
degrees, veterinarians and epidemiologists. We have specialized people for
biosecurity, for audits. We have animal health technologists. We have
laboratory technicians. It is a varied group but they are very mobile. They
really are cross-trained in all different fields so they are staff that we
really heavily rely on and again very proud of.
On the AAHD facilities themselves, we actually have three and we
segregate them down to what they do. We have more of a wet lab in St. John's
and that will handle some of the academic needs, some of the federal and
provincial needs, and we do that component from there.
In Grand Falls we've really specialized that down to when it comes to
work on the sentinel surveillance programs for shellfish, things like blue
mussels or oysters, and will conduct that work.
The jewel for us is the Centre of Aquaculture Health and Development.
That is in St. Alban's. Some of you had an opportunity to visit there and,
as I said before, it is a very good facility. I think that it will reach
real fruition and reach some international renown over time. I think you
will hear more about that.
It is a very sophisticated multi-disciplinary laboratory. It is not just
one. We have nine different laboratories that are in there, special for
detection or trying to do things with fish health, trying to understand the
environmental concerns that may crop up. We have several technologies that
will help us. If there was an oil spill or if there was anything like that
of environmental concern we would want to know does it affect our animals.
We're looking for future certification for the facility. Right now we
have accreditation through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. We will be
going through the ISO standardization process, so 17025 for laboratories and
continued work with the Canadian Council on Animal Care. As I said a virtual
tour was actually conducted on May 25.
Some of the initiatives for health and biosecurity, we use these terms
all the time but they are actually really amalgamated. They are really one
thing. There is no real separation. Each one feeds off the other. A lot of
things that we look at for the animals themselves are the site selection,
where are they in a freshwater marine environment, what things can we do to
optimize that and give them the strongest performance they can have and
minimize any sort of fish health effects.
Siting is very important for the growth performance. You want to try and
site them away from other known vectors of disease. Any wild animals that
are there you try to source away. You want to be away from any regions that
you know already may have something.
We deal with some bacterial viruses in the marine environment. We know
they're a thousand years old or 900 years old. They have been there for a
long time. You want to try to mitigate and look after the animals that you
We deal with several initiatives that are part of the policy about site
fallowing. We want to rotate sites as well. We want sites to be used for a
certain amount of time and not used for others. If you can understand any
agricultural principles aquaculture follows those. They're very sound.
They've been there for hundreds of years and they make sense.
We have site species and ear class separation because you don't want
naive animals next to mature animals or other types. You want to make sure
We have several fish health strategies. One thing that we're using is a
certificate of health for transfer between the Atlantic provinces. We have a
highly collaborative effort with the Atlantic provinces. We are very much in
tune with each other trying to harmonize our work and we understand what
moves from each province to another. That has been an important endeavour
There are disinfection and cleaning disinfection protocols that people
follow for different things. All this to say, one question we get a lot is
that it seems like you're doing a lot of things and you're treating this
like this is a very harmful situation. It's not really that. What you're
doing is you're trying to minimize any sort of impacts to your stocks that
you're raising. It's your obligation to treat them the best that you can and
it's not that there is any more to wild versus salmonid culture, versus
anything else. It is really a matter of: do the steps and take the steps
that you can to protect those fish.
As Mr. Meaney mentioned earlier we have further work on bay management
delineation so separation of bay management areas is a very crucial
endeavour. We do it based on science and it is very much evidence based. We
have epidemiologists involved, oceanographers, the industry itself. There
are a lot of specialists involved with trying to get separation between
zones. Why you do that is because even though it seems like an open
environment there are many different significant steps you can take to
create that sort of separation.
Another big step for us is biosecure infrastructure, things like having
clean wharves, wharves that have things externally leaving from a site and
not coming back, reducing all those effects that may come about. We have
things like a program for this wharf infrastructure that the provincial
government has really come on board with and provided different things for
wharves but also for waste water treatment. It is very crucial we understand
that if you take a lot of animals from the marine environment that are wild
or cultured and you have them and they go through a processing plant and
there's really no initiative to try to eliminate the risk or spread, then I
think that can lead to problems. The government has seen that and has a very
strong waste water treatment program that was initiated and enabled that to
really be not an issue after that point.
Therapeutant access is a very important issue and I think that it can't
be overstated that when you have animals you have to raise them. I think of
it no different than aquatic animals, terrestrial or for humans. No matter
what you do in the world there will always be a health issue. If you can't
save that from the human health, if you can't stop all those diseases, all
those issues, how can you stop them for terrestrial or aquatic?
What's important is do you have everything in place that you could
manage, you could not allow movement-spread application whether that be
terrestrial, aquatic or human. In order to do that it has always been
crucial that you also have therapeutant access. You have to have that kind
of toolbox in order to be able to handle those things but at the same time
you do things like non-therapeutant strategies and management strategies. We
do the same things we humans, things like a cleaning disinfectant for your
hands. We talk about that with fish. There's no difference. Part and parcel
of that you do need therapeutant access. We really see that there are very
limited tools available for the aquaculture industry itself.
When we talk about the therapeutants that are available they're actually
under Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the Veterinary
Drugs Directorate. It depends on which category of federal jurisdiction you
come under, but there are very few therapeutants that are available. If
there is a singular and focused use of that, that will lead to tolerance and
resistance and really that's not the way to go. That is one thing that I
would strongly discuss during this time.
Right now there are collaborative efforts and they are trying to engage
Health Canada really as the top part for the Veterinary Drug Directorate and
Pest Management Regulatory Agency. For DFO and Environment Canada, we really
need a streamlined approval process, something that is really well
prescribed, that is really set out, so that we can have a stable environment
to see that the companies that want to be involved know what the standards
are, the criteria, and they can be done in an efficient manner. Availability
is there but at the same time we're aware that it would be a judicious use,
that it would be sustainable, that it would be audited, that it would go
through the regulatory process.
An issue that's discussed a fair bit is sea lice. It should be remembered
that obviously this is a wild living crustacean that exists. It occurs in
every ocean on many fish species. There are different types of sea lice but
they do affect wild and cultured fish. So you try to site marine cages away
from the salmon rivers that you know are scheduled with large amounts
because you try to reduce the impact of the wild fish on your cultured farm
stocks. These sites are surveilled by both Fisheries and Aquaculture and
different specified managers for every company in the marine environment.
Salmon farms have actually fish health management plans in contingency
that exist for sea lice. That question was asked before. The idea is really
surveillance and monitoring. One thing I want to make people aware that is
that when you have these stocks of fish they're not all treated. There is no
growth promotant used. There are no hormones used. I can categorically say
that there is no prophylactic treatment of antibiotics. Veterinarians will
ascertain if there is an issue and in conjunction with industry decide what
is the best method, is it therapeutant, is it non-therapeutant and some
strategy. That is how that process occurs. It is a very important process.
It is one that serves us well.
Therapeutant access for sea lice control is actually a world-wide issue.
Jurisdictions around the world are struggling with this and there's always
new work both therapeutant-wise and non-therapeutant-wise. Integrated pest
management programs have come really to the forefront. It should come as no
surprise. We see that in terrestrial all the time. Those are exactly the
programs they implement and aquaculture is doing the same.
Infectious salmon anaemia is a virus that has also been in the news quite
a bit. The lead agency for reportable diseases such as ISAV is the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency. It is a very serious but manageable challenge that
other jurisdictions have undergone and been through. Biosecurity efforts,
surveillance, early detection and subsequent depopulation are the avenues
used internationally and ISA has been detected world-wide.
With infectious salmon anemia some key points to remember is that you
really need a large degree of collaboration when these issues are found. To
me as a veterinarian it is not much different than dealing with any other
health issue. Whether it be terrestrial based like the things that happen to
wild animals and cultured animals on land or whether it is human themselves,
you need this collaborative effort in order to meet these challenges. I'm
happy to say that between the CFI, the producers, and Fisheries and Oceans
there has been great collaboration when it comes to these issues.
There are some key issues. We require access to some of the reference
laboratories to establish that there actually is an issue when it comes to
reportable disease. Trying to meet case definitions, trying to expedite the
process, trying to maximize and optimize fish health and lead to that has
really been a challenge. I think that over time this will be addressed and
the Senate committee may actually have the role to speak about that.
Provincial and producer strategies expedite ISAV management. We do a lot
of surveillance that occurs on the outside, the producers themselves,
enhanced biosecurity of different regions. That part is in play and the
interaction with the federal role is something that we're always working on.
We conduct applied research on ISAV. We think it is very important. One
of the missteps we see is that in the efforts to deal with ISA sometimes
there are no thoughts about what you do for the future, how you manage this,
what things you do to make it better or what things you can do. That is a
very important issue to address and I think the province and industry have
really proceeded on with that. Things like enhanced biosecurity,
depopulation that you do, mortality control, all these are different efforts
that are required to do that because there is no treatment for ISA.
We do have a requirement for further infrastructure. There are always
infrastructure needs. You want approved processing plants to handle animals
in that manner, wharf infrastructure, cleaning disinfection, all the
infrastructure that we're talking about, personnel and equipment.
Talking about ensiling, composting, rendering, all these practices for
how do you handle any of the mortalities, these are ongoing things that we
work with. Some of the continuing initiatives that we're actually involved
with in the division and have been very much supported by government are
things like a health database, a decision support system with the industry,
laboratory and surveillance information management systems, applied clinical
laboratory and field trials, Atlantic provinces integrated pest management
programs and our targeted surveillance for different types of pathogens that
are in the marine environment or we've heard about in other jurisdictions.
Bay management areas are very crucial to this and health and
epidemiological studies and sea lice epidemiology studies. As you can hear,
epidemiology is a really big focus for us because we've seen how it works
for human health, things like when SARS occurred. Some of your best answers
came from the epidemiologists, some of the things that say what can we do to
reduce these impacts in the future. We see that as very important and within
the division we've encouraged that discipline.
We want to see a completion of the aquatic animal health MOU with the
federal government. We want to enact the Aquaculture Activities Regulations
in a manner that's very useful for the provinces and for industry. We
advocate for the development and access to approved therapeutants for the
aquaculture industry. This is judicious and responsible usage that we're
We have ongoing projects right now in the province. There are Wrasse
projects, so some cleaner fish, looking at non-therapeutant options. We are
doing network and spatial epidemiology, oceanography, ISA, BKD and different
risk factor studies. We have a broad base of collaboration.
We deal with the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador,
specifically the Marine Institute and the Ocean Sciences Centre, the
Atlantic Veterinary College, the Centre for Aquatic Animal Health Sciences,
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and both the industry association NAIA and the
They are extraordinary institutes to deal with. The Atlantic Veterinary
College is one of the five veterinary colleges in Canada but it is very
specific for aquatic animal health. It is well recognized in the world. If
you go to Norway and Scotland they will know immediately about the Atlantic
Veterinary College. They've been an amazing resource for the Atlantic
provinces and for Canada. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Whelan.
On behalf of the committee I thank you for accommodating us late Sunday
evening at your facility in St. Alban's and the great presentation you made
to us at that time as well. It was very educational and informative. We're
going to begin our questions this morning with Senator Wells.
Senator Wells: Again, welcome to the committee and thanks very
much for your presentation on Sunday night, Dr. Whelan.
Minister Hutchings, you mentioned a couple of programs that the
provincial government has. I think there is a $250,000 program and some
others. I know there are federal programs through ACOA and other
infrastructure funds. How significant have the federal programs been in the
recent success and development of the aquaculture in Newfoundland and
Mr. Hutchings: In regard to funding programs?
Senator Wells: Yes.
Mr. Hutchings: From our perspective, I guess to go back and look
at it from a Newfoundland and Labrador perspective in terms of developing
this industry, any funding is crucial to incentivize those investors to come
to the province to start. I guess from the beginning, I mean in our history,
we've had a number of aquaculture sites sort small scale. I guess we wanted
to get some of the larger players to come to drive that industry.
From that perspective the funding was crucial in making that attraction
and providing those supports. Dr. Whelan talked about biosecurity, providing
wharf infrastructure and all site infrastructure that is supportive of the
industry as well. Funding for is extremely important overall and through our
equity program we were able to attract those players too and continue to
Brian, you can probably speak to further funding in regards to the
Mr. Meaney: The federal programs available for large scale
projects in the province are really limited to the Atlantic Canada
Opportunities Program but that has been very, very supportive. A very large
proportion of the expenditures of ACOA in Newfoundland and Labrador have
been made in the aquaculture sector but it's important to note that we're
dealing with international companies.
Aquaculture capital is mobile. In order to be able to attract it to rural
areas in Atlantic Canada it is incumbent on governments to ensure that they
have the best opportunities and the best business models to move forward.
The programs are complementary. We work together with our federal
counterparts and with industry to see these developments. They are quite
Senator Wells: Thank you for that.
This is to Minister Hutchings initially. Right now it is primarily
salmonids and mussels. Is your department looking beyond that immediate
future of salmon and mussels? Are we looking at other opportunities in other
shellfish or crustaceans or other groundfish? What's beyond the curve and
are we looking at that?
Mr. Hutchings: I guess where we are to now is: we just did a
review of our overall provincial strategy. We went through and released
"What We Heard", the document that is probably in your binder. We looked at
salmonids and at mussels from that perspective. That has been our focus and
that has where we've seen certainly growth. That's where we are to right
We have identified a tremendous room for growth in both of those areas,
but one of the things we want to look at as we move forward from a
biosecurity point of view is an infrastructure. We recognize from what we
heard there is a need for additional infrastructure. We want to make sure
that's available until we move that growth forward. We want to make sure
In regard to other types and exploratory work we get inquiries all the
time in terms of other types of farming and that sort of thing. We're
certainly open to that but we want to make sure first and foremost that
we're structured in terms of our growth forward and we have the
infrastructure in place certainly to do that.
At this point we're certainly not looking to expand out immediately. I's
something in the long term we would certainly entertain and look at but
ensure that we have the infrastructure and everything in place, the
biosecurity that we need to do that.
I don't know if Brian or Dr. Whelan would like to comment on that.
Mr. Meaney: I have just one quick comment. We have a history of
looking at a variety of species. We've done research on scallops, arctic
char, sea urchins and lumpfish. We do have growers right now particularly in
our mussel sector that are working in the oyster sector, for example looking
at oyster farms in the province. There's a continuous opportunity there for
industry to come forward to look at new species, but they certainly would
have to be ones that match our environmental and biosecurity protocols and
be able to do so.
Senator Wells: I have one question if I may. It will be a fast
question but I can't guarantee a fast answer.
Dr. Whelan, the section you're involved in, the aquaculture industry, is
maybe the most critical element. I mean we still need to find entrepreneurs,
attract markets, and organize financing and capital markets.
You mentioned the interactions that you have with CFIA and Health Canada.
Our committee is likely going to be making recommendations to federal
entities. What other federal departments of entities do you interact with
other than Health Canada and CFIA and what are your greatest frustrations in
that process. That is an important part of what we need to know.
Dr. Whelan: It could be a long answer. I guess to be fair to the
entities we deal with the ones that we mentioned, Fisheries and Oceans
really for the most part, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada
on the periphery because ultimately anything that's done has to be available
with no human health impacts. That's evident. That occurs. We actually have
interaction with Environment Canada as well on certain occasions. That can
be positive and may not be so positive at other times.
For federal entities those are really the big ones. At one time it was
anything from the Navigable Waters Protection Act which used to be with DFO,
Transport Canada, and all those sort of things. There's interaction there.
Senator Wells: Dr. Whelan, I was thinking specifically with the
section that you deal with.
Dr. Whelan: Right, and that's what I was going to get to. It seems
strange but all of those actually have an interaction and interplay with
aquatic animal health. It does seem odd but there are a lot of federal
entities that play a role. There are a lot of regulatory entities involved
with this and I find that has an interaction on how we can do our work
sometimes for the better and sometimes not so good.
Precisely things about Canadian Food Inspection Agency, I think they have
the role. They are the lead for reportable diseases so when we deal with an
indication of finding a reportable disease I feel our job in the provincial
government is to detect, surveil and try to keep the health of animals
optimized. To do that we need strong collaboration. We need strong
leadership for the entities that are responsible for that. CFIA is
responsible for reportable diseases in Canada whether it be terrestrial or
aquatic. When those happen we want to see optimal fish health measures be
The biggest thing for us is being fast, being expeditious in a way that
either depopulation occurs or the management of that. I haven't mentioned it
there, but specifically some of the issues that we're working on are case
definitions for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. They wait a long time
because they have to have a case definition that says without a doubt this
is the gold standard. We definitely have this issue that has occurred.
Therefore we can have funding and enact all of our regulatory powers to do
this. That's great and that's the regulatory role that's there. That's how
they follow their federal agenda for that.
Sometimes that's not the best for fish health. We want to see an
expeditious procedure done. If we know very rapidly what we have detected
and confirmed we would like to see that really reciprocated on the federal
side saying we agree that's what we have; in the best interest let's then
begin the effort of either management by processing, by depopulation, or
whatever things have to occur in that realm for reportable diseases, all
that to say that these issues have been raised in the past.
Movement on it has been slow but it is progressing and if things can come
from this committee that can further make that collaboration more effective
and faster than that will be appreciated. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has
been quite a good supporter throughout these events, very supportive in
describing what occurs in the wild environment and what the impacts are that
might have led to things. They've been very good about this and their role
hasn't been primary.
DFO's role when it comes to the Reportable Diseases Regulations really
has laboratory support for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The one
minor limitation that we see there is that it is very difficult to have
these laboratories operate outside of ours. We're looking for fast responses
saying that we want to confirm what the province and industry have
determined. We want that fast confirmation. Without that, that has been a
limitation. So we do want to see that change.
Further to that we have more of a collaborative effort occurring with the
National Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory System, the NAAHLS program. It
will take accredited laboratories all over Canada that reach a certain
standard. They go through quality assurance and quality control. They ring
test all their products. That will lead to the assurance that at one point
perhaps the facility in St. Alban's will be the one that says we can say
this is positive for this reportable disease; let's get on with the actions
that we need to take. I think specifically those.
In Environment Canada there have been new endeavours under way. The
Aquaculture Activities Regulations, if you go through it and you realize it,
I look at it as more amendments than regulation but they affect sections 32,
35 and 36. It allows the destruction of things that we never thought of
before. When you actually destroy sea lice it would be in contravention of a
section of the Fisheries Act. Even though they're considered a pest and
there are billions that are available it actually would have been an issue.
If you have a therapeutant that enters the water that has been an issue
because anything you put in the marine environment can be considered a
deleterious substance. Not to make light of it, but if you added salt to the
ocean that's considered a deleterious substance, if you added brine, or if
you added hot water to the ocean that could be considered a deleterious
In the past what has occurred is that Environment Canada had the
enforcement ability for the DFO Fisheries Act and regulations and they could
enforce that at any point if anyone did those things. That needed to be
really harmonized to make sure that kind of vaguery in the way that
regulations work was really handled. There has been some agreement reached
on that and I think soon when it has gone through the gazetting process
you'll be able to do the judicious use of any of those products whether it
be brine, salt water or a therapeutant.
The only thing that remains I think is really to ensure that with
Environment Canada Disposal at Sea Regulations don't supersede all the good
work that has happened. At any point you don't want to have three or four
federal agencies, the province and the industry understanding what is
available and what you can do under prescribed protocol and have an
intervention by another federal agency that says that's not right. A
directive could be issued with fines, jail time and those sorts of things.
That kind of regulatory ambiguity we hope to see changed.
Senator Munson: Thank you very much for being here. Once again,
doctor, thank you for the other night. It was a great entry into the
environment of aquaculture in this province.
I am going to put two questions together. Mr. Meaney, you talked about 35
agencies and one-stop shopping. If I wanted to invest in a fish farm
aquaculture in this province where would I start? Who would I talk to? How
much money would I have? How do I get into this environment if there are
just a couple of entities here that are running the fish farms?
There is the politics of it all and there is the investment part of it
all. How do you get from 35 agencies to one-stop shopping to make it
comfortable? When you talk about as the minister said opportunities here,
there is a lot of fish it seems to be in this big pond. That's the first
To break that down, No. 2 is on the insurance part of it all. It seems to
me it's a great deal of risk when you're involved in this whether it's
destruction by the environment or disease.
We heard from Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, who is the Chief Veterinary Officer
at CFI. He recommended that since the federal government is spending a lot
of money to compensate people perhaps private insurance is the way to go for
people. Would the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador support that kind
of approach as well?
They are two separate questions but I think they're connected.
Mr. Meaney: I would just preface my comments that I think you will
have other witnesses today who have made those investments and that may be a
question you wish to pose to them.
Aquaculture is high risk. Any farm production system is a high risk
business. It takes a lot of planning, a lot of knowledge and a lot of
capital to do so. In terms of how do you invest part of our role is to
facilitate with industry, to identify opportunities, to work with them and
to identify sites, partners that may be available in our province, and to
work together co-operatively in a solid and sound business model that would
work in our particular environment.
We've been very lucky in terms of dealing with the companies that we have
present here. They're very highly professional, highly qualified and
extremely knowledgeable on the industry. That's the basis on which you need
to invest. Access to capital is there for any good business plan. I think
that's probably regardless of the industry that you're talking about.
Aquaculture in particular requires a specialized expertise and a
specialized investor to work with you. We've been lucky to have Canadian
companies in particular. I think it is an important point to make that in
east coast operations these are entirely Canadian companies. These are
locally owned companies that are Atlantic Canadian based and support
Atlantic Canadians, but they access international capital markets to be able
to do what they need to do.
As the minister indicated, over the last number of years we've seen that
our $25 million of investment in the capital equity program has levered in
excess of $400 million of private capital to be able to take the salmonid
sector, for example, to where it is today. These are critical pieces.
From a government perspective I believe our role is to provide a road
map, an ability to go through the program, and to provide everybody with all
the information they need to know from a regulatory perspective and be able
to take that into account in their business planning.
Along with the supports that were identified earlier like our capital
equity program or ACOA's Business Development Program, that's the partner on
smart business plans and to be able to see them realized in coastal
communities around the country. Our role is to facilitate that.
As I mentioned earlier our directive is to encourage and regulate the
industry. We take both sides of that responsibility very seriously and we
want to see solid business plans. There are people out there that can work
with you. If you have investment I think there are people in the room who
may want to talk to you after the meetings today.
To your second point on insurance, the companies do carry insurance.
Usually these are specified perils policies that deal with specific
initiatives, specific issues. I think it would be wrong to presume that
there is no insurance scheme available. There are private insurers that
provide aquaculture insurance for specified perils. I think your comments
from CFI probably relate specifically to the reportable diseases and the
ability for compensation under the Health of Animals Act which is available
to all farmers of Canada, terrestrial or aquatic. I think that's a different
issue. Reportable diseases are ones that are unique or new to Canada and
that insurers wouldn't probably look at but for the everyday perils
companies carry insurance.
Senator Munson: Thank you for that. When do you think you'll see
Mr. Meaney: I think it exists in terms of the licensing process
right now. As I said the key to the licensing one-stop shopping piece is
that we provide one window, one application, one form that comes into one
office as opposed to trying to track down 15 to 35 individual companies.
That exists today in our province right now and it has worked quite well.
Senator Munson: Dr. Whelan, are you satisfied that there are
enough biosecurity protocols in place to minimize the potential threat of
Dr. Whelan: Could you repeat the last part, please?
Senator Munson: Are there enough biosecurity protocols in place to
minimize the spread of potential threat of ISA, infectious salmon anaemia?
Dr. Whelan: One thing to realize, and maybe I didn't say it
enough, is that when it comes to disease or health issues in general all the
practices that you take help minimize whatever eventuality that you have. So
it's a matter of a gradient or a degree. There are biosecurity practices in
place on every farm site I would say in Canada and in every region.
Protocols do exist. There are international standards. There are ones
that are done provincially from the industry level. Those do exist. Is any
protocol that you have perfectly going to prevent any disease or health
issue? Categorically, no, because as I said before if we can't do it with
the efforts that we've taken for human health world- wide and we can't
prevent anybody from having disease or health issues, certainly you can have
the same expectation for terrestrial or aquatic. There will be issues. What
it really comes down to is the degree and the level of sophistication of the
Am I satisfied with what we have in Newfoundland? I would say yes and no.
I'd say that we will always strive for more. We are happy that we've used
every avenue we can, checking international standards, visiting different
international jurisdictions, incorporating everything that we can within our
protocols in Newfoundland. The industry takes it to heart. We take it very
seriously and I would say it's an evolving process.
So am I happy? I would say I'm content but we always strive for more and
there's always going to be new improvements. Whether it be technological
advances, new types of cleaning and disinfection, new types of equipment,
new management protocols, the incorporation of vaccines or other, that's an
evolving process. I think it'll never be a point where I'll be happy but
that's the way it should be. We need to strive for more.
Senator Poirier: Thank you for being here. Nice seeing you again,
Just a couple of questions and if there is time for a round two I would
actually probably have more than a couple.
The first question I wanted to ask was you have in place your Aquaculture
Act and your aquaculture regulations. It has been in place since 1986 or
1988. I'm not sure of the date but around that time. Are you aware or can
you tell me are there any other provinces that have a similar act in place
like that, and to what advantage has it been to the farms or the people
involved in aquaculture to have that act in place? What difference has it
made in their life?
Mr. Meaney: Certainly most of the coastal provinces have
Aquaculture Act or regulations. There are different models across the
country. In British Columbia, for example, DFO is the primary regulator as
they are in Prince Edward Island as an example. Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick both have aquaculture acts. The province of Quebec does as well.
Ontario uses a different set of regulations but has aquaculture regulations.
Clearly from a business perspective, a biological perspective and from an
economic and social perspective it is important to have a set of regulatory
guidelines in which industry knows how to operate its business in the metes
and bounds in which it can. It's a benefit for our public as well as the
private sector. It's certainly been critical in business aspects.
For example, if you look at one particular section of our act, I
mentioned the duality of aquaculture in Canada. The provinces' legal
requirement to legislate aquaculture falls under a section of the
constitution dealing with property and civil rights. It's a unique
circumstance where a mussel grower, a trout grower or a salmon grower
actually owns a piece of property, an animal located in a public waterway.
That property, as a civil rights piece, is critical in terms of being able
to use that fish, for example, as collateral under the Canadian Bank Act. It
has had some very, very practical approaches and responsibilities under the
act but again clearly as in any industry what are the metes and bounds? How
do you operate in confines to ensure in your total regulatory regime of
ensuring that the province is managed in an appropriate and environmentally
and sustainable way? The Aquaculture Act provides guidance and information
and process in terms of accessing licences, permits and approvals to be able
to do so but also outlines the responsibilities and penalties if you don't
operate in an appropriate manner.
Senator Poirier: Has there been any involvement from DFO in
writing the act to see if there are any similarities from one province to
Mr. Meaney: Our interaction with Department of Fisheries and
Oceans is largely driven, as I indicated earlier, by this memorandum of
understanding that we entered into with the federal government in 1986. Most
of the provinces did so around that same year and they've been updated on a
The MOU provides us with definitions and some markers to say here's what
the federal responsibility is and here's what the provincial responsibility
is. I think the acts on a provincial basis across the country have very
similar components in terms of what is aquaculture, how is it licensed, what
are the responsibilities of the province, what are the responsibilities of
the operators and the other interaction between agencies, provincial as
well. There are quite a number of similarities.
Senator Poirier: My second question is: In your slide on page 8
where you are talking about the challenges, and we are talking about
mussels, the first one you have is coastal users' interaction/conflicts with
fishers and the cabin owners. Being from a coastal area in New Brunswick
I've heard of that specifically in the years when I was a member of the
legislative assembly also. I am sure the conflicts are probably similar to
the ones we would hear down home which would be affecting the tourism
industry, property taxes living on coastal areas and different things like
that. Can you share with me some of the resolutions that were able to come
about in overcoming some of these challenges?
I guess the second part of the question is: I know we talked about in an
earlier slide the number of employment opportunities that have increased
with the aquaculture business in your province. We see that in different
provinces also. We were talking about roughly between 800 to 1,000 here in
Newfoundland. Has there ever been any study done to see if there have been
any opportunities lost on the tourism sector because of the aquaculture
business? Is that something that has been looked at? We've heard rumours of
that and I am wondering if you have some information on whether there is
fact behind the rumours or not.
Mr. Meaney: I've been involved in the industry 30 years. I would
have to say that first when the industry really started to expand in coastal
communities there was a wariness of what this means for interaction with
primarily fishers at that time. One of the hallmarks that we have and one of
our policies that we have is that no, we will not provide a licence that
would displace traditional fishing activity. That's the process that we
started with and that continues today.
Our licensing process involves, for example, referral to the fishermen's
union so the local fishing committees are aware and local communities are
aware of an activity that is being proposed. Early on back in the 1980s and
early 1990s I think we had a lot of discussions and some lively meetings
with cabin owners, with fishermen, with other marine resource users and
recreational boaters. I think over time there has been a level of trust and
we've seen the industry take steps which demonstrate their own
responsibility and their awareness and respect of the other marine resource
I think it really comes down to that. We have mussel farms, for example,
that specifically set the width between their mussel lines to allow lobster
fishermen to continue to fish lobster in and about their sites. We have
companies that will put tie-ons so that fishermen can attach bait nets in
the spring when they want to go fishing. So it is a co-operative approach.
I think the other big piece for Newfoundland quite frankly is that many
of the employees and operators of aquaculture sites have come from the
traditional fishing sector. They bring that knowledge, very valuable
knowledge, from working in coastal communities back to the companies and
make companies work better because they've got experienced fishing people
who know the waters, know the wind, know the ice and those types of things.
That is a continual process.
On the tourism side in particular I would have to think we haven't seen
many if any interactions. I can recall there was one concern raised about a
kayak operator on the south coast who wasn't aware there was a salmon farm
in the area. Part of our referral process is that we discuss with our
Department of Tourism and also for example historic resources. So we
wouldn't put a site where there was a ship wreck.
There's a co-operative approach. In all honestly, in travelling around
the province, we've had minimal conflict. For what conflict has been there
has been very practical resolution to that process.
Senator Poirier: In slide 3 you talked about your increase in
2013, an increase of 32 per cent. Can you share with me if that increase was
due to more farm openings or an increase in the volume of salmon, or what
was the increase based on? Why was there such a nice increase in one given
Mr. Meaney: It was an increase in production. The existing farms
were actually producing more product.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you, Chair, and welcome. My
question is for Dr. Whelan. First which is politically correct, fish or
Dr. Whelan: Either is fine. We say the Aquatic Animal Health
Division or we specifically say fish, and by fish we mean finfish and
shellfish, to be clear.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: You mentioned that you do inspections
on fish if the farmers find something wrong with them. Do you do it on
request or at random?
Dr. Whelan: I tend not to use the word "inspection" because that's
the wrong connotation. We do visitations. We do the scheduled ones for
active and passive surveillance. It's a program that we initiate doing two
things. We go to each farm site whether it be on land or in marine
environments. We do that every 30 to 45 days. That's our goal. That's what
In shellfish we do biannual visitations where we go out with a time
frequency to check on the shellfish two times a year. We vetted that
surveillance program through the OIE, through one of their key members for
shellfish surveillance. So that's the model that we follow.
When we go there we go there for two reasons. One is a regular timely one
that's there. It's crucial for me because I think that leads to a faster
detection if there's an issue of trying to mitigate things before it becomes
more of an issue, and I think that's been very helpful. The other one that
we do is really a surveillance program where we can get a phone call. We can
get a phone call or a veterinarian can get a phone call that states, "Hello,
Doc, I'm seeing some issue. Can you come on out?" We also facilitate those.
To say that for every single site 30 to 45 days is true, to say that there
are more if there's an issue presented, we'd also go for those as well.
We think that gives you that robust system to try to get to issues fast
and early. Veterinarians maintain a confidential relationship with their
clients. Their clients are very easy going about saying "I'm starting to see
something. Please come out and have a look". That rapport is really crucial.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: How many farms are there in this area?
Dr. Whelan: It's an unusual question because it comes down to
timing and frequency. How many farms that exist versus how many are active
are two different things.
When one of the jurisdictions in the early days said they would like to
have a farm site, we thought about it a long time and deliberated. It really
makes more sense. They actually say you should have more sites, not less.
Why? It is because you use a site for a duration. Then you let it lie fallow
and for the upcoming year you'd use another place. That's just simply an
agriculture practice that has been done for a thousand years. By fallowing
it allows all these good things to occur.
That is why the two different numbers exist. One is how many farms that
exist versus how many are active at any particular point in time, and in
every region that differs. The numbers are here about how many farms exist
but if you ask me today versus about five weeks when more of the stocking
happens there would be more active sites.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you very much.
Senator McInnis: Thank you for coming. Here in Newfoundland it
sounds as though you're quite progressive and proactive in terms of your
aquaculture. That is not the understanding we have of some of the other
provinces in Atlantic Canada. It almost appears at some point that when you
did your MOU with the federal government there were certain aspects of it
that would almost appear to be federal jurisdiction, and I refer to animal
health. When we had CFIA before us they were the ones that said they dealt
with that and Health Canada said that likewise. I'd like for you to comment
I have a couple of other quick points with respect to your act. I note
that it requires financial or other security for restoration. Are those
dollars paid up front? What are the details? How is the quantum arrived at?
Fallowing is an issue. For example, in Nova Scotia there was a company
coming in to locate in a particular area of the province. They stated,
"We're unique. We fallow our pens". So you have it your act saying fallowing
and processes to mitigate environmental degradation.
How long does a site have to remain fallow and what takes place? Does it
just sit there? Do you do anything with it? Also your act calls for
disposing of fish waste. How is this done and where is the waste taken?
Those are just a few questions and if I have time I'd like to ask a
couple more. Particularly I'd like to have time to talk about the bay
Mr. Meaney: In terms of the relationship between the federal
government and fish health I think the important distinction—and it's not
dissimilar in terrestrial health in Canada as well—is that generally the
federal government has a responsibility for the national biosecurity piece.
We don't want to see any new potato disease show up in Prince Edward Island.
We don't want to see any new cattle disease show up in Alberta. The federal
government has safeguards and international protocols that ensure that the
transmission of animals and meat products reduces that risk. That's their
primary role. It is the same in terms of the aquatic animal piece. They set
the ground rules for import/ export, largely their major responsibility, but
also deal with the reportable disease piece that Dr. Whelan referred to, for
example infectious salmon anemia.
The provinces in every jurisdiction across the country have a role in
terrestrial and aquatic animal health in terms of dealing with in situ or
localized issues around animal health in our communities and bays that
surround our provinces, production diseases or its management of that in
terms that we have the optimal fish health piece.
While it may appear to be an overlap there's a clear distinction in terms
of roles and responsibility. We deal with it on the farm site in terms of
ensuring optimization of health within our own environment and communities.
The federal government's responsibility is in ensuring that we have the
legislative and inspection barrier that prevents any new diseases from
entering Canada and relationships with other trading partners in our
adjacent countries that we share borders with to ensure those optimal health
Senator McInnis: So the federal government doesn't come here to do
any inspections. CFIA has no involvement whatsoever.
Dr. Whelan: I guess to go back first, it may look like an overlap
of aquatic animal health. It is because you're talking about different
categories of animal health. There's a reportable and notifiable disease
issue that is handled nationally and down at the local level by CFIA. In
truth, if you didn't have the interactivity between the province and the
industry along with those, you wouldn't get everything on the periphery of
what we're talking about.
Reportable and notifiable diseases don't occur every day although maybe
the Food Inspection Agency thinks so right now. It's not something that is a
commonality that we'll deal with every single time. It's an eventuality that
the country has to be ready for.
What is of more importance is regular diseases or endemic pathogens that
might exist in Canadian waters. They've existed and they always will. That's
something that you'll have either in a freshwater or marine. Those are the
ones that really have primary importance that you want to deal with. The
province and the industry play a crucial role in that.
The federal one, the reportable disease one, sounds like it is completely
separate. There is no question they're the lead entity for it, but without
the province and the industry doing subsequent surveillance all around that
region—a buffer zone, a control zone—you don't get that truly coordinated
effort that leads to good management. That's part of where aquatic animal
health works. It is all those levels.
It's not to say that's the only interaction because we also do fish
health for the federal government as their client. We do that if there's a
wild fish condition or something. We'll actually provide that health service
and diagnostics and report back to those entities.
The other thing that happens is that there is the Department of Fisheries
and Oceans Introduction and Transfers Committee so that when you move
animals within the province or around it looks clearly on paper that's the
lead for that. That has been now segregated and the health portion comes out
to CFIA. The other components for habitat and genetics are actually handled
by DFO, but what was really not clear there was the role of endemic
pathogens that already exist that CFIA really doesn't have an interest in.
Those ones are now being covered through DFO's Introduction and Transfers
Committee, the province and the industry which will continue to do that
surveillance. That's how they kind of mesh. I hope that explains that.
To proceed on with your fallowing question, we've done a lot of different
work on fallowing over the years. It has been an important issue because we
saw early on that you really need to fallow. I believe in it strongly.
Inherently as a veterinarian I think that's a very strong practice to have.
That was incorporated a long time ago but to do that you need the sites
available. You need sites that can lay fallow.
What duration that you have will be different in every single
jurisdiction. If people consider there's a mismatch between provinces and
how long, we've had in some areas a one-year fallow. We asked that the site
remain fallow. Why wouldn't another jurisdiction? Why wouldn't everybody do
one year? It's because the environmental conditions are different in every
We look at some of the Newfoundland waters and we see 400 feet of water.
You have all these conditions that really give you an optimal site: good
production and good flow. That's really crucial but we also believe for a
whole bunch of different factors that fallowing is a crucial piece to that.
You have to have enough other sites available so in Newfoundland that can be
the term that's there.
What will change is that we now have management agreements in place. We
do evidenced-based decisions now so we have validated scientific information
on how things travel and how they move. That will inform more on fallow so
fallowing can be less or more based on that. So it becomes more of a truly
scientific focused decision that you make for fallowing.
Senator McInnis: So the restoration of a site, is that in
connection with fallowing?
Dr. Whelan: To me as a veterinarian its primary for health but
obviously the secondary factor is that amount of fallowing allows for any
other targeted events that happen for them to be remediated.
Senator McInnis: This financial contribution that is given I take
it that's analogous to a security deposit. Is that paid up front? Who holds
Mr. Meaney: We're in discussions currently with the industry in
terms of looking at financial obligations. The reference you make is in
section 4.2 of our act. It deals with the event where a farm would fail and
the site would have to be restored in a physical sense.
There are a number of models around. We have had discussions. Industry
apparently maintains a lump sum of finances to address that in the event
something happens. The recourse for the province under the act is that if
you didn't have the funds available to do so then we could enact the powers
of the act and go seek legal recourse against you.
There are two points I'll make. One is that the opportunities for
requirement for restoration have been very, very small in the province and
secondly we've had some experience with the cost of doing restoration. It's
fairly reasonable. It's less than $100,000 for a major site. We're in the
process of working with industry. They've come forward with a proposal in
terms of how to provide that surety on an industry-wide basis as opposed to
Senator McInnis: The bay management area which you suggested is
based on science to a great degree, it's something that I think is quite
important and probably very helpful. Is it similar to zoning? They have to
have apparently a minimum of three bay management areas where they put their
farms. Explain to me how it works, and is it zoning?
Dr. Whelan: Each word has a specific definition so bay management
areas have been chosen because it's a regionalized approach within that one
discrete area, a bay managed area. The misnomer is the word "bay" because
it's not necessarily in corporate to a bay. That is because a bay in
Newfoundland versus a bay in New Brunswick is completely different. In some
fjords in Newfoundland you could fit a whole industry of aquaculture in that
area. The misnomer is the word "bay" but it is an area.
What's the difference between that and a zone? Zones are generally used
for the World Organization for Animal Health, the Office Infectious des
Epizooties. They use the word "zonation" and that's zonation has different
control measures and different parameters. It has more to do with what's a
defined response to something.
We see zones and zonation used in terrestrial medicine. With things like
avian influenza there were zones, control zones and buffer zones. We would
use something similar if you have a condition that you're under management.
I think the reason the word "bay management areas" are chosen is the most
specific and precise usage of words. Discrete activities happen within that
area. You look at a marine environment, a freshwater environment and it
looks like it's free-flowing. It looks like how could you do anything in
that area. How could that be separate from another one? We use strict
science rules, things like epidemiology where you look at risk factors and
studies. You use oceanography where you understand currents, wind driven,
the strata in the ocean and how things operate. You look at the zonal
influence when we say "zone" and a "coastal zone", so how does that change?
We found in Newfoundland there has been a tremendous investment by the
provincial government. It was seen as something that should be done, that we
should have some strict evidence to inform these bay management areas. There
has been in the neighbourhood of 450,000 per year for the last couple of
years where we have our own vessel that has actually been leased from the
Marine Institute, great collaborators in this. We have oceanographers on
board, veterinarians, health people, development people and a multi-beam
sonar suite. All these things are brought to bear and you go out and you
start mapping the region along the coastline, along the areas where you
think aquaculture is and will be. You want to understand how do things flow
from this certain segment to another.
If there's no flow that leads you to believe now we've got a zone, that
we have something that you would say would be "zonal". I look it as more of
an area. That's a more precise term because you do the activities within
that. We say there is then truly separation. If something can't travel or
travel well from this region that you've chosen to another one, you've now
created a biosecurity barrier that actually exists even though it looks like
there is none. All the measures that happen is what will move from one
region or one bay management area to another, control those, cleaning and
disinfection should occur between each of those. The practices of stocking,
when you stock, when you remove, when you harvest, when you do any sort of
therapeutant or non-therapeutant control, they will be across the area. That
gives you that greater of confidence you're doing things to improve things
for the future.
Senator McInnis: Are they normally pristine areas?
Dr. Whelan: I would call everything a pristine area.
Senator McInnis: In Newfoundland.
Dr. Whelan: Isn't Newfoundland pristine? If you had an opportunity
to visit I think you'd feel that. We're pristine. I think it's beautiful. I
think the conditions are great. Everybody in the community loves their
community. In all marine environments or freshwater environments there exist
pathogens. They just do exist. If you want to call that pristine I do
because within wild fishes there are pathogens found. Things are detected
that exist. Are they still pristine? Absolutely but you do have to have an
awareness that this exists.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much. One of the advantages of going
last is that most of the questions I was going to ask have been asked. I
appreciate your being here and I have a couple of very small points.
Have you ever experienced conflict between the siting of a fish farm and
the people on shore where they didn't want it in front of their property and
how would that be dealt with? Do people on shore have any rights in terms of
what they call their pristine view, or are you sort of cognizant of that and
is there general agreement that this is good for everybody?
Mr. Meaney: Our land tenure system in Newfoundland and Labrador is
based on a Crown land basis and riparian area. Thirty-three feet from the
high tide mark is public property. You may have a piece of property that
overlooks the ocean but you have no direct ownership or restriction on that
33-foot area. We certainly consult. We take that information into account
when there's an aquaculture licence present. There have been some concerns
expressed however this is coastal Newfoundland and Labrador. There are
fishing vessels and other vessels moving back and forth in front of your
property every single day and it's presumed to be part of our process.
That being said, again we work with industry. If we can avoid disrupting
somebody's access or view we certainly strive to do that, but from a
legislative perspective no, there is no protection given to the shorefront
properties that they have exclusive rights to viewscapes, for example.
Senator Raine: There's nothing on your application for tenure for
a licence that says you have to have a little check box: "Do your neighbours
Mr. Meaney: The licensing process requires the company to meet
with the community and meet with other resource users. If for example there
were cottage developments in that area they would have to demonstrate to us
that they've met those concerns and we would follow up on it if there were
any concerns addressed with the opponents to it.
Senator Raine: The other question I have is completely different.
We did hear that there's a concern about transporting the fish to market in
an efficient and fast way where sometimes the trucks can't get on the
ferries. In your plans for expansion are you taking that into consideration,
the ferry access to the mainland for exporting the fish?
Mr. Meaney: We're very cognizant that the market access is the
most critical point. Industry together with the province has made
representation in terms of identifying priority for fresh and live seafood
access on vessels that exiting the province. We continue to press those
points with Marine Atlantic and support industry in terms of identifying
opportunities where a priority setting basis can be identified for fresh and
Senator Raine: Is that in place or is that hopeful?
Mr. Meaney: That's hopeful. The current priority setting process
from Marine Atlantic doesn't necessarily segregate out seafood as a priority
commodity exiting the province. Granted there is a difference between frozen
products but the critical concern for us and industry is that fresh and live
products—lobster, mussels, freshly harvested fish of any species—need to be
able to get to market as quick as possible to be competitive in the market.
Fresh is critical in the marketplace and travel time equates to freshness.
Senator Raine: Who owns Marine Atlantic?
Mr. Meaney: The federal government.
Senator Raine: Are they co-operating on this request?
Mr. Meaney: We've had numerous discussions and the industry has
indicated to us that they are not satisfied with the current process in
terms of access to priority setting on the ferries.
Senator Raine: Perhaps it would be good to get a little background
paper on that issue for the committee. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, senators, and thank you to our witnesses
this morning. It has been once again a very interesting and informative
discussion and certainly a great way to start off our public hearings here
in Newfoundland today.
Minister, if you have a couple of closing remarks, we will finish up.
Mr. Hutchings: First and foremost I want to thank the committee
for hearing our presentation. I certainly hope we answered your questions. I
want to thank staff, Dr. Whelan, and Mr. Meaney.
I hope you certainly get insight into what is happening in Newfoundland
and Labrador in regard to aquaculture industry, how it has progressed, and
certainly first and foremost biosecurity and making sure it is sustainable
and keeping those pristine waters we talked about. Collectively I think
we've done a good job. There are challenges but they're exciting times in
terms of how the industry is going to grow.
Thanks for coming and certainly enjoy the rest of your stay in our great
The Chair: We're pleased to welcome our second panellist of the
morning. I would ask you to introduce yourselves first before we begin,
Cyr Couturier, President, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry
Association: Good morning, senators. My name is Cyr Couturier and I'm
currently the President of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry
Miranda Pryor, Executive Director, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry
Association: Good morning. My name is Miranda Pryor. I'm the Executive
Director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association.
Jennifer Caines, Project Manager, Northern Harvest Sea Farms NL Ltd.:
Good morning. I'm Jennifer Caines. I'm Project Manager with Northern Harvest
Sea Farms Newfoundland Limited.
The Chair: Thank you for taking the time to join us here this
morning, and my understanding is we will have some opening remarks. We'll
give you the opportunity to present those and then our senators, I'm sure,
will have questions for you. Certainly I want to thank you on behalf of the
committee for your assistance over the last couple of days in organizing and
helping us with our tour of the south coast. It was very memorable. The
floor is yours.
Mr. Couturier: Thank you.
My biography has been handed out. I'm a marine biologist. I have 35 years
of experience in sector development for aquaculture across the country and
in Newfoundland in particular. I would like to briefly give you a few
comments about aquaculture globally and put it down to the Newfoundland
context. Then my colleagues here from the industry will speak a bit more
about the finfish industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.
My voice is going. I guess it's a result of spending too much time on the
Bay d'Espoir highway. I don't really know.
Global populations are growing of course and we will exceed 9 billion
inhabitants on the planet by 2050. The United Nations has recognized that
aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production sectors globally
and seafood in its entirety is currently the single largest source of animal
protein eaten by human beings on the planet. An additional 30 million metric
tons will be required to meet global demand at present levels of
consumption. So even if we don't increase production from any source of
seafood, at current consumption levels we will need another 30 to 40 million
The United Nations reported on and released this week its status on world
fisheries and aquaculture. It recognized farm seafood as an essential
component of filling this gap. On a global basis farmed seafood accounts for
50 per cent of the seafood eaten by human beings. About half of the world's
farm seafood consists of finfish species, feed to a certain extent, and half
of self-feeding species such as seaweed, filter-feeding mollusks and so on.
Over 50 million fish harvesters and fish farmers rely on seafood as a source
of income, food production, employment and nutrition. A much larger portion
of about 500 million people rely on seafood as nutrition.
Seafood, including farmed seafood, has the least carbon footprint of any
food produced by man. On a global scale humans utilize nearly 80 per cent of
our arable land and this land comprises less than 20 per cent of the world's
food producing zones. So the opportunity is great for farm seafood to
continue to supply food for humankind.
All seafoods provide incomparable sources of healthy delicious nutrition
including excellent natural sources of essential oils, minerals, vitamins,
db12 and a variety of other essential minerals that we need as human beings.
In Canada, we've been farming the oceans for over a century, in fact
before Confederation, mostly for restoration and recreational fisheries
purposes. We currently rank in terms of farm seafood 27th on a global scale
and I think 22nd in terms of fisheries. In the fisheries alone we were in
the top five or six in the 1980s. So we're losing ground in fisheries and
we're also losing ground in terms of aquaculture. Our total contribution,
even though it's a $2 billion industry in Canada, is less than 0.5 per cent
of the global supply. The total value exceeds $2 billion to the Canadian
economy and nearly 30 per cent of the value of all Canadian seafood comes
from farm sources. Much of it is from farmed salmon.
There is lost production in shellfish and finfish due to regulatory
barriers and many of them are at the federal level. We can talk about that
if you wish but there's certainly a large gap. The gap is widening, for
example, on salmon in spite of recent increases in Newfoundland and Labrador
from the Canada perspective. Our share of the global market has decreased by
over 40 per cent in the past decade. That's just comparing salmon and
The total farm production of Canada for finfish occupies less than 0.1
per cent of the coastal space available and in total an area less than
Stanley Park in Vancouver. That's for all the salmon farms across all the
provinces. Just in comparison, the airport and tarmac in Vancouver cover a
much larger area of productive fisheries habitant than the Fraser River
Delta. That's another example to give you a picture of how not dense
aquaculture is across the country.
Finfish culture in Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland has a desire
and a responsibility to produce healthy and environmentally sustainable
seafood to feed the growing demand. Salmon production began in earnest in
Newfoundland a little over a decade ago—and Jennifer will talk to you about
their efforts—well after all the major declines in natural salmon stocks
occurred here and elsewhere.
We are currently the second largest producing region of Canada in terms
of finfish next to British Columbia. At least we like to think so. We
haven't seen the statistics yet for New Brunswick for last year. Conditions
for farming salmon are different from those of the Maritimes and British
Columbia. Most likely here in Newfoundland they're similar to Scotland and
Norway in terms of the social, environmental and maybe to some extent
economic conditions. Two of the world's leaders in salmon farming are
Scotland and Norway.
The sector is worth over $200 million to the Newfoundland economy
annually now, as the minister mentioned that this morning, and is supplying
around 1,000 full-time jobs in rural areas and more indirect employment. In
the last census the only rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador showing
declines in the rate of out-migration, or even increases in population
during the last census of Canada, are farming regions of our province. Maybe
it's coincidence but that's the case.
For Newfoundland and Labrador, just to finish up, there are a number of
challenges to maintaining or increasing current levels of production in the
finfish industry, including access to infrastructure, broadband and
cellular, wharves, roads, transportation and service sectors, to name a few.
There are ongoing needs that are difficult to overcome.
The capacity of Fisheries and Oceans to undertake science for the benefit
of either fisheries or aquaculture we believe is severely limited.
Nationally there are very limited targeted programs for either sector for
research and development in aquaculture. There are a few locally but
nationally there are very few.
We will find solutions to those challenges however as the opportunities
for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Canadians are just too great. The
regulatory regime at the federal level in particular is inadequate to manage
fish farming. The Fisheries Act is an antiquated hunting act. That's what it
was designed for. It's not meant for modern fisheries or farming,
particularly not for farming. I don't even believe the word "aquaculture"
appears in the act unless it appears under specific regulations. Moreover
federal legislation support programs are applied differentially in
Newfoundland versus other parts of the country and we'll hear that from my
colleagues. We have the NPA, Navigable Protection Act, the Shellfish
Sanitation Program and CFIA. We heard from Dr. Whelan that the resources
applied toward our industry here are applied differentially than they are in
other parts of the country.
There's a requirement for a national legislation from the federal side of
the House to better manage aquaculture, legitimize it and regulate the
industry more rigidly than the patchwork quilt of acts and regulations that
are cumbersome, ineffective in some instances and impose a regulatory burden
next to none for this sector.
I'll just conclude there for now, senators.
The Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Pryor: Thank you, everyone. I do appreciate the opportunity to
speak with all of you this morning. I have a few speaking notes as well but
because I do look forward to your questions I will try to keep my comments
I have a general overview of actually what NAIA is. Specifically we're a
member based not-for-profit industry association. We have regular membership
and associate members and currently our membership sits at around 80 members
throughout the province and country. We have some from other parts of the
country as well. We are unique in a sense that there is one industry
association in Newfoundland and Labrador and we represent all sectors. We
represent both the shellfish and the finfish producers so you will see me
again this afternoon at 1 p.m., I believe, just to speak on our shellfish
issues in particular.
We are managed by a voluntary board of directors. We are very grateful
for the time and effort that they put in. It is sector based and both Cyr
and Jennifer have been longstanding members of our board. They are elected
annually during our annual AGM.
We have two offices in the province. We felt many years ago it was
important to have a presence in St. John's, which obviously is the capital
of the province, where we can meet regularly with our key regulators but
also have a presence in the St. Alban's area on the south coast of the
province where the coast of bays area is the heart of finfish production in
I apologize for the quality of the graph here. I want to highlight that
on page 2 it shows from 2003 to 2013 the level of growth in Newfoundland
that we have experienced. We get these numbers from the province's
Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture annually. The largest graph that
you'll see has been our finfish production which in 2013 had reached
approximately 25,000 metric tons. That increased from what you'll see in
2003 which was approximately 20,000 metric tons. There has been significant
growth in the province in just those 10 years.
We are, as Cyr mentioned, the second largest producer now in Canada of
finfish products. You'll see from a value perspective that meant
approximately $197 million in direct product sales. That is just the sales
of the product in 2013. With some of the critical infrastructure needs
resolved we feel realistic goals for growth could be 40,000 metric tons by
the year 2020. That's something that we approach cautiously. We want to be
careful with our growth. We do not want to expand too rapidly but we feel we
have identified several critical infrastructures. If that gets resolved we
do feel we can reach that.
The key infrastructure needs: I don't believe I need to say to many of
you who were with us over the last day or so that I have "roads" there, but
obviously from the growth perspective of our industry we are located on the
south coast and the only way to get in and out of the region right now is
via road. Jennifer will probably emphasize in her talk the amount of actual
transport trucks that go over that road daily for our industry. Roads are
Wharves: Through investments that have been made several new wharves have
been developed in the region but again given the vastness of the region
there's a critical need for more wharves. If we're going to truly implement
our bay management areas and our biosecurity protocols more wharves will be
Waste management is a critical need for the industry at the moment. There
are insufficient suppliers and solutions for organic waste management in
particular. Contingency plans have been developed for mortality events
however most of the solution providers being compost and landfills are
inadequate at present or simply not available. This is important for
biosecurity maintenance as well as proper disposal of the organic waste from
Other infrastructure needs include general suppliers that go along with
the development of any industry but ours in particular would be diving,
transportation logistics, well boats and equipment repair. The industry
cannot grow without more suppliers of this nature.
Broadband and cellular coverage: Again I will probably leave that to
Jennifer to highlight in particular the challenges that we have on the south
coast, but site management, communications and real time environmental data
acquisition are important for improving farm husbandry, animal performance
and the safety of our workers on our farms as well.
Challenges with the Marine Atlantic ferry system: That has been mentioned
this morning but we can't emphasize enough that is the link to our markets.
Everything that we produce has to go with the Marine Atlantic ferry system
because of the advantages we have of producing fresh seafood into the North
Bay management areas have been discussed. It is a very important step for
the industry. DFA, DFO and the industry have been conducting oceanographic
studies and epidemiological studies in the coast of bays for five years or
more now. That has led to our only recently being able to sign the bay
management area agreements with the province for the companies. Full
delineation and implementation of bay management areas should be feasible
now and will require oversight by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans,
DFA and the operating agreements that we have throughout industry
Research and development: We are an industry that is heavily based in
science and committed to constant improvement. Many of us, and all of us
here at the table, have scientific backgrounds. Continued R&D is critical to
our industry. I'll leave it at that because there's a separate panel
discussion on that this afternoon. We are certainly committed to R&D.
Human resources: The aquaculture industry in Newfoundland creates
approximately 1,000 direct jobs. We like to use the 1.5 ratio for indirect
employment but the majority of these are in rural and coastal communities.
A competitive labour force is one that is well trained and keeps abreast
of technological developments. There are shortages of qualified labour for
all sectors of the industry now in processing on farms and in the supply and
service sectors. Industry recruitment and retention are hampering growth in
some areas. There is an ongoing need for technical training of farm and
plant personnel on the most up-to-date methods of farming efficiently and
We've done significant work over the last few years with the Marine
Institute, with the companies' complete support, through funding provided
via ACOA and through our provincial departments to train many of the
employees we have on our farms now. We're looking at doing more managerial
training this year. We do a lot of work in local high schools with the
youth. We talk about aquaculture and I guess make them more aware of the
employment opportunities in the industry. We see that as our future human
resource as well.
Regulatory requirements and renewal: Aquaculture is a modern industry
that requires a modern legislative framework to be at least competitive. On
the federal side, as Cyr has mentioned, the industry is managed by an
antiquated piece of legislation called the Fisheries Act. It makes no
mention of aquaculture and is designed to protect wild fish only. Numerous
sections of the act are invoked to regulate aquaculture activities and are
simply not used in a fish farming context. The Newfoundland industry is
advocating for a federal act to regulate the aquaculture industry, one that
is enabling and allows for statutory regulation of the sector without
We offer full support to our national association, the Canadian
Aquaculture Industry Alliance, that I believe has spoken to your committee.
Cyr currently sits as treasurer on the board of CAIA. I am also a board
member of CAIA and we support the efforts of Ruth Salmon in that regard in
Moving on to Transport Canada, to name a couple of specific challenges
that we currently have, the Federal Navigation Protection Act, formerly
known as the Navigable Waters Protection Act, was recently revised and
allows for clear site markings for navigation purposes. There is a strong
need for consistency between provincial and federal regulations regarding
site markings within Newfoundland. In comparison to other jurisdictions ours
are quite different here although it is a national act. It is felt that
there are excessive marking requirements in Newfoundland which create safety
concern for fish farmers as well as for recreational boaters. Federal
cutbacks to staffing within Transport Canada have resulted in Newfoundland
losing its regional manager position a couple of years ago, first to
Dartmouth and most recently this position was moved to Moncton.
Information gathering regarding the MPA permits, because we all require
those in navigable waters now, from local staff has been difficult and is
often directed to the Maritimes where communications are even more
difficult. This has resulted in confusion among our industry participants
and delays in getting our required permits.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which has also been mentioned this
morning, under the new Aquatic Animal Health Program, the NAAPH of CFIA,
there are challenges with aspects of the current legislation, particularly
as it relates to incidents of the detection and subsequent quarantine
procedures required of a notifiable disease event.
Industry is continuing to work with CFIA. We have a meeting scheduled
very soon to meet with representatives in Halifax to address these concerns,
with the support that has obviously been demonstrated this morning of our
provincial fish health veterinarians.
I'll just mention on the communications side, which is a very important
aspect for the industry and for the association in particular that the
finfish aquaculture industry will continue to promote its social and
economic benefits to the economy. However the government also needs to
continue to promote the sector as a viable and responsible economic activity
for our rural region.
We are very blessed to have the support of provincial government here, as
was demonstrated this morning, and we look to that from a federal government
as well. We are committed to working with stakeholders and in Newfoundland
in particular we do have a joint working committee which was formed with the
fish harvesters' representatives through the FFAW on our south coast, as an
example. We aim to meet regularly to discuss issues from the fish harvesters
perspective as well as from the aquaculture perspective. We keep it to an
industry-wide basis. We don't discuss particular company information but the
company representatives do then meet with the fish harvesters individually
on those. That has worked very well and has certainly improved our relations
on the south coast.
Both government and industry need to work collaboratively on
communications about our growth plans and developments as they arise and
NAIA is committed to doing this on behalf of our industry in Newfoundland
Lastly we are committed to producing safe, nutritious, healthy seafood
for the local as well as global consumers. We believe in this industry. We
believe in what it can do for Newfoundland and Labrador. We believe in what
it can do for all of Canada if the proper support is given.
Thank you for your time this morning.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Pryor.
Ms. Caines: Good morning, everyone. You drove three hours to see
me yesterday and I certainly appreciate that, so I drove three hours this
morning to see you. I hope everyone is sufficiently warmed up after
yesterday. I think we had the best day on the water yesterday as opposed to
waiting until today.
I'd just like to reiterate a few points about Northern Harvest Sea Farms.
I know it was difficult yesterday. We cut the engine on the boat but it was
difficult in the wind to be able to talk to you and explain to you a little
bit more about what we do.
Actually I was originally a biologist and a parasitologist but I've been
involved in the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland for over 30 years now,
first in shellfish and then in cod research and in salmon for the past 11 to
12 years. I'm currently the Manager of Northern Harvest Sea Farms
Newfoundland Limited which is a fully integrated producer of Atlantic salmon
for the fish market in the northeastern United States and Eastern Canada.
You don't hear much about Northern Harvest Sea Farms actually. Sometimes
that's a good thing. We generally keep a low profile but in actual fact in
2013 we produced 16,000 metric tons of salmon for this market. That actually
put us in No. 3 position with Canadian producers. All of our product is
certified on the Global Aquaculture Alliances Best Aquaculture Practices
Program. We were actually the first operation in Eastern Canada to receive
BAP certification for salmon farms and we were the first three star BAP
certified operation globally, together with our feed supplier and our
processors. Hopefully once the hatchery standards become finalized our new
hatchery in Stephenville will also have the four stars in that program.
As I said, we have a brand new recirculating hatchery on the west coast
of the island and that's intended to supply the smolt for our production on
the south coast. At any one time — and I don't know if you heard me
yesterday — we probably have 150 to 200 cages of fish in the water, all
distributed over 12 sites.
Again as Dr. Whelan was explaining, it's hard to give you a definite at
this point in time when we have this many sites in operation with fallowing
and sites coming in and out of production as fish get harvested out.
Normally our sites are very deep, anywhere from 30 metres to 300 metres
deep, and we use deep nets. We farm over 20 sites in rotation with
production cycle of around 1.5 years to 2.5 years followed by a period of
fallowing. Normally our fallowing period was one year in Newfoundland and
you can see from the act the department was discussing this morning that
Newfoundland has been proactive in these things. Sometimes it's good to be
sort of late on the go in developing because you can learn from the mistakes
of others. We've always had a long fallowing period, a single site year
class and those types of what we consider normal good practices now.
Newfoundland has had those for many years.
At Northern Harvest we believe in very low stocking densities which we
think has given us an edge, feeding premium BAP certified feeds, and
monitoring as you saw yesterday all the feeding with underwater cameras so
that we have feedback from the fish to tell us when they're finished
feeding. We work alongside capture fisheries such as the lobster harvesters,
herring, codfish and other groundfish.
Northern Harvest currently owns a 650-cubic metre well boat, two 65-foot
vessels, 258 steel utility barges, probably 16 or 17 long liners, one of
which we were on yesterday, and various other barges and small craft. We
employ around 130 people directly and we contract out our processing, our
net servicing and some other services.
As you've heard Newfoundland has recently signed a bay management
agreement that co-ordinates the stocking and fallowing of entire areas as
well as the use of dedicated infrastructure for those specific areas. We saw
one of the wharves yesterday in Back Cove that was designated as an inflow
wharf where your new fish, your smolts, go to sea from your clean nets and
your feed. Then at other wharves at other facilities are your outflow
materials, fouled nets, dead fish, harvest fish and those things that return
back from the farm. By using these separately and maintaining a separation
between inflow and outflow activities we hope to ward off or keep separate
but increase and improve the biosecurity and reduce the risk of pathogen
transfer, specifically in the past couple of years ISA virus or infectious
salmon anaemia virus.
Northern Harvest has been fortunate. We have not had any experience with
ISA to date. We had better knock on wood. We are hopeful that the bay
management program that we've all instituted now will help keep us that way.
I think you've found by now that Newfoundland conditions are quite
unique. Our seawater is cold, very cold at times, and clear. Although it may
seem extreme here the fact is we are indeed growing delicious and nutritious
salmon and quite well. After all wild Atlantic salmon naturally spend their
winters in the mid-Atlantic, which is not really known especially off west
Greenland for the tropical conditions there.
We do have good opportunities here to grow premium quality salmon and to
expand our industry, which has really only begun to expand around 10-12
years ago. I don't know if Northern Harvest will ever be a huge producers or
whether or not Newfoundland will ever be a huge producer globally, but our
philosophy is that improvements in sustainability are totally congruent with
improvements in profitability, and both of those are our goals.
We are not however without other challenges and many of them have federal
implications which I'm sure you're dying to hear about. Apparently everybody
thinks I'd be able to focus on it all but I can't. There is just too much.
You may not be able to do anything about them but at least you'll be aware
of how they affect our ability to maintain our business and improve our
competitiveness. I would think they affect all operations within
Newfoundland, not just for Northern Harvest.
The Marine Atlantic ferry: While Newfoundland's south coast affords us
waters not likely to be contaminated with industrial pollutants and/or heavy
marine traffic, our island means we are where we are and the only way off
and only way to be linked to the mainland is through the Marine Atlantic
ferry system. That's where our main markets are obviously. The ferries
experience frequent delays in crossing—there are two scheduled a day
usually—due to weather or mechanical issues. At certain times of the year we
just expect truckloads to be stuck in Port aux Basques.
The Christmas before last I believe we had nine truckloads of salmon just
before Christmas stuck in Port aux Basques due to weather delays. That is
significant. It is not trivial because every day that our fish stays on this
side of that gulf is one day in the marketplace that the shelf life is just
We may or may not get those loads on the next available ferry either
because of the low cost priority booking which actually at one time was no
cost. Fresh seafood got priority booking as there were so many reserved
spaces on board ferries. That's no longer possible. You can pay $500 a pop
to have the priority booking and you're still not guaranteed. That's
significant. While no one can control the weather we just ensure that we
have the right ferries and the right docking infrastructure because that is
our Trans-Canada Highway across the Cabot Strait. I would think some might
be convinced that we don't have the correct ferries, that we have ferries
that are too large for the ports they're operating in. Some of these ferries
can't operate in any winds higher than 50 kilometres. Oh, boy, that's just
about almost every day, if you think about it. Our products are not only
perishable but any significant delays can and do result in downward pricing
pressures in the marketplace, and that's definitely not a competitive
We have goods incoming as well including materials and feed and that cost
is not trivial both in terms of money and lost opportunity. As I told you
yesterday, given our seasonal challenges we have only so many days here to
capitalize on opportunities to grow fish and we try to make hay when the sun
Looking to the impact of the aquaculture on Marine Atlantic's business,
Northern Harvest alone sent out 1,200 tractor trailer loads of fresh seafood
product or fresh salmon last year in 2013. Together with 200 to 300 loads of
feed or equipment transported into the province, that really accounts for 1
to 1.5 per cent of Marine Atlantic's commercial traffic business. I believe
we have some figures showing 100,000 commercial sailing bookings last year.
So 1.5 per cent to me is significant in a province this size. Add to that
the other salmon producers as well as the mussel sector and I think it's
With Transport Canada under the Navigation Protection Act as has been
mentioned — and I won't dwell on it too much although it's a particular bane
of my existence — there is a lack of uniformity of interpretation of
regulations. We have the same act nationally. It used to be the Navigable
Waters Protection Act. Now it's just recently changed to the Navigation
Protection Act. The Newfoundland marketing requirements are determined by
Transport Canada with local, I would say, Newfoundland region advice.
Compared with other regions globally such as Norway, Scotland, Chile, and
within Canada itself, either B.C., Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or
P.E.I., in 2011 for example before we bought our own well boat we chartered
a well boat from Norway. The Norwegian captain, as soon as he got on the
site to deliver our smolt, wondered what's all this; why do you have all
these yellow small floats at 60-metre intervals around this site. He was
concerned by the navigational hazard caused by it. They had never seen it
before in Norway or anywhere else they worked. So what we did was we removed
some of them temporarily so he could get safe access into the cages.
Lo and behold didn't Transport Canada inspect our sites during one of
their inspections at the same time? Subsequently we got a letter saying that
we were in non-compliance with our approvals.
You can't win. We don't know of any other jurisdiction in the world where
so much marking of an aquaculture site is required. We have asked that this
be reduced but the Newfoundland NWP staff continues to require it. All we
ask for is equal interpretation of our federal legislation.
Also our insurers, our stock insurers, Sunderland Marine which is a
global aquaculture insurance provider, had expressed concern over the
excessive marking requirements in Newfoundland. They do not see this
I actually brought some documentation with me that's an amber alert. One
thing I thought about this morning is we lost a $12,000 transmission in one
of our longliners. The transmission can be replaced but if it had been
during a stormy event and one of our boats was lost then we could have had
serious personnel issues. So don't go there.
The new Navigation Protection Act came into effect in 2014 which was
replacing, as I said, the old NWPA but we still don't know what this will
mean for Newfoundland sites. There's uncertainty about the length of time
for aquaculture approvals. It has been five years in the past. Our
aquaculture leases are for 50 years. Our provincial licences are for one
year. It's a full-time job keeping up with the regulatory burden, I tell
you, in this industry.
I guess in essence the NWPA can't really tell us what the new act really
means for us. As Miranda mentioned, we had the loss of the NWP manager for
the Newfoundland region. Subsequently we've had three acting managers for
the program and now we finally have a permanent manager in Moncton. I'm
hopeful that we will be able to get something done with this because it sort
of went off the rails when all of these changes started happening.
I am just about finished. Human resources: With the changing demographics
especially in rural areas, finding qualified or trainable workers is
challenging. We have great workers but it's becoming more and more difficult
to find more and we need more. Again attraction and retention of employees
is increasingly difficult and a whole range of factors is responsible, from
health, education and other services to basic infrastructure and social
services. I tell you Route 360, down that highway, doesn't really entice
people to come live down in that area as well.
Also we understand Transport Canada is going to continue to increase
requirements for vessel competency demonstration, decreasing the size of
vessels for which ticketed captains will be required. I bring this to your
attention simply because of the impact on small and rural operators like
ours and the need for consideration of timelines for the implementation of
new regulations and new requirements for ticketed captains. It's
increasingly difficult already to recruit and retrain. We have even been in
the position of facilitating training for someone for their FM-4, fishing
master 4 classification, so that they can take a 60-tonne or higher vessel,
only to lose them because now they are more employable. It is difficult to
As far as communication goes, the lack of cellphone, broadband and
Internet access opposes business economy and efficiency as well as personnel
safety. You noticed yesterday that we had no cellphone service. We do have
VHF radio and sometimes not great coverage considering the topography. I
mean the fjord-like bays on the south coast of Newfoundland make that
challenging. The farm you visited yesterday was only minutes from shore.
That was the reason you were able to visit because we had such short time
periods, but most of our farm sites are located between a half an hour and a
two-hour steam from port without any coverage at some point in the middle
there maybe. We only have one cell service provider down in the region so
I'd like to ask them to step up their game. They've been asked. The lack of
cellphone coverage not only affects our business communications and
personnel safety, but the remote sensing technologies that are difficult for
us to apply if we have to resort to satellite systems makes it more costly
as well as not necessarily as secure.
In closing, in terms of impacts there are many other topics that we can
focus on but I think we all should be challenged to reduce our impact on
this earth. We've got several billion people already and yet more to be born
and food production is paramount to their and our survival. We have the
wonder of transforming fish that in many cases nobody eats or even desires
to eat and the innovative use of other ingredients, component nutrients from
various sources, and the wise use of our coastal resources and our people to
yield such delicious and nutritious superior seafood. In Canada we've got
tremendous opportunity to produce our own and still have room for future
generations to do so.
The Chair: Thank you. You've raised many, many issues here this
morning and I'm sure our senators have many questions but I'm going to ask
that we try to keep our questions and answers as concise as possible,
realizing our time limitations. As I said, you've raised many issues that
we're very concerned about as the committee so I'm going to ask Senator
Wells to begin our questions.
Senator Wells: Thank you for coming here today and giving us your
presentations and answering the questions that we have. It's very helpful.
As you noted, Ms. Pryor, we did speak a number of times with Ruth Salmon
from CAIA and one of her overriding messages was the concept and practice or
concept and possibility of a standalone Aquaculture Act. We know in Canada,
as I think Mr. Couturier said, we supply 0.5 per cent or less than 0.5 per
cent of global supply.
Mr. Couturier: Of farm seafood.
Senator Wells: Of farm seafood, yes. That's right. Would a
standalone Aquaculture Act that combined the aspects of Health Canada, CFIA,
DFO, Transport Canada, Environment Canada, and whatever other ones I haven't
noted, unleash greater production or activity and how would it do that if
that would be the case?
Mr. Couturier: I don't think it would supersede any other federal
acts because they're not going to change obviously, but if you have an act
that legitimizes aquaculture as a farming activity — and it is farming; it
is private property and it is within the purviews of the provinces to manage
private property — I think you could come up with an act that would reduce
some of the duplication that seems to be out there in terms of federal
duplication and provincial duplication and get the federal house in order.
There should be a component in there that has a development component such
as in some of your agriculture acts and other areas which is non-existent
for aquaculture in this country federally. It should also streamline the
regulatory process so that you don't necessarily have to be referred to 15,
16 or 17 different federal agencies and pieces of legislation. That's the
The cost of just applying for a permit or a licence to operate in this
country from the federal side may be up to half a million dollars for a
salmon farm, for example, to get a licence and just do its due diligence in
terms of consultation with the public and so on.
For farmers it's similar, not in costs but relative amounts. For
shellfish farmers it may be $50,000 or $100,000 before they even may put
something in the water. That's significant because just negotiating those
different aspects of the law is quite cumbersome and creates a lot of
headaches. The laws aren't always consistent with one another at the federal
level or at the provincial level but at the federal level in particular.
There needs to be some streamlining of that to make it more cost effective
for industry and more understood what is expected. The industry doesn't want
to be non- compliant. It wants to be totally respectful of all of the laws
but they are cumbersome and there's a lot of red tape if you want to use the
word. I think a federal act could enable, legitimize and better regulate
aquaculture from the federal side.
Senator Munson: I thought the salmon were tough surviving the
obstacles of going back and forth across the ocean. Salmon is one of the
greatest survivors of all time but it seems the picture you have presented
here today is equally as tough because you talked about the confusion and
delay, Ms. Pryor. Could you give us some examples of what the confusion and
the delay is all about in getting permits? What is not happening and what
should be happening there?
Ms. Pryor: It goes to being compliant, as Cyr was mentioning. We
have licence applications right now with the province that are required
annually. Jennifer could probably speak more specifically to the process.
From the Transport Canada perspective where I mentioned specifically the
confusion and delays, we have inspectors that visit our sites twice a year
annually for Transport Canada. We also have provincial inspectors that visit
our sites from the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. If they do visit
our site, they have the site diagrams that were approved under what was the
NWPA and then were deemed as being compliant or non-compliant. Anything that
would be considered a hazard or non-compliant would then affect our ability
to have the licence for that farm to be able to do anything to transfer the
fish from that farm or to harvest the fish from that farm.
What's happened is with losing positions in Newfoundland with the
movement of that it has created a lot of internal struggles within
departments as well and certainly within local staff. There have been
offices with retirements that have closed locally and they've not been
restaffed. When we reach out to our counterparts to try to get clarification
on application as to what is the status within the system, we have the
approval. The province does certainly help with its one-stop shop of vetting
applications for us, but if we've got approvals and we know we have the
approvals from the province. If we have approvals from other agencies but
the one we know we don't have is from Transport Canada, we will not get our
application. Fish will not wait. If fish are in a hatchery and fish need to
go to a farm there's a large process required to set up a site. We can't
start any of that until we actually have our approved licence and the
province will not give us that obviously until we have our Transport Canada
approval, as an example. There have been delays. There have been
considerable delays in getting any feedback as to status of applications. So
that's where the confusion comes from.
Senator Munson: What's the rationale behind a one-year licence?
People work in all kinds of industry. They're either five-year plans or
three-year plans as a minimum. Where is that coming from and what is the
rationale behind it?
Ms. Caines: I wish you'd ask that of the minister of fisheries. I
agree the banks want more than a one-year plan, don't they?
Senator Munson: Could you elaborate on that? We should have asked
of the minister. Maybe I didn't do my homework well enough but there much
information for us this morning. The minister will probably be asked after
this but is there an impetus to change that to make it a little bit more
rational to the aquaculture industry?
Ms. Caines: Industry has asked for multi-year licences because it
makes sense to do multi-year licences. Our fish are on the site for at least
a year and a half before we can start to harvest them. Even if it was for a
production cycle you know your fish are going to be there maybe a maximum of
three years or whatever. Every single year you come back with your
production statistics, your inventory reconciliations, your money, and then
a few months later or a few weeks later you get a new licence issued. For
that period of time you may be in non-compliance. With all the certification
schemes it's all about documentation. It's all about being in compliance.
Those are things that we don't like to see. Nobody likes to see it.
It's getting a bit better, I would say. To tell you the truth, the new
Navigation Protection Act purports to make things a little easier but we
still don't know and we can't get any answers just yet as to what that will
actually mean for us whether or not it will be streamlined.
Senator Munson: I get more curious about this issue on this day of
discovery. Basically for this committee everything connects. There have been
many great things being said about what's happening in Newfoundland and
Labrador in terms of being a have province. In Ontario where I come from
we're a have-not province, seriously, in terms of equalized payments and so
on. Yet with the oil industry and the money things are being poured back
into this province. There is a thing called infrastructure that you say is
not being addressed, everything from getting to the market to getting
product off this island.
How do you go about addressing those issues? You complained about them.
The Marine Atlantic ferry service is obviously not acceptable nor is getting
across some of the roads that we were on yesterday. The Trans-Canada was
fine but the other one was a little dicey in spots but that's the way it
goes. Do you have any comfort that money earned in this province through
taxation and so on will be used to have an equitable approach to all
industries and in particular yours?
I'm startled. There's so much excitement in Harbour Breton and your
place, Poole's Cove, yet I don't know how you're going to grow unless
everything connects properly. Maybe that's just a statement from me.
Ms. Caines: And that's about all that we can give back to you
because if we knew what to do we'd have been doing it by now, I think.
Mr. Couturier: I believe the province has reinvested some of that
tax revenue from oil and gas to some extent. The minister mentioned this
morning the loans. They are repayable so some of that would have come there
to help the industry expand. They are going to pave 30 kilometres of that
long road you were on yesterday at some point over the next two years.
They've been paving it bit by bit.
We wouldn't say that it hasn't been forthcoming but it has been a long
time forthcoming. For the wharves, as you also had an opportunity to visit,
those of you who were able to go, the province itself has spent tens of
millions on biosecure wharves. That is an infrastructure piece that was
required and it still continues to be required.
The road is a big one. Marine Atlantic is a federal issue that somehow we
have to have the province negotiate with the feds to resolve that issue for
In this year's provincial budget there was a significant announcement on
broadband access in some areas of the province and I believe in the federal
budget as well has a national infrastructure program. We hope that in the
next couple of years we'll be connected. We don't know. That's something to
see, I guess.
Other infrastructures that weren't mentioned directly, or maybe they
were, are service infrastructure and waste management. In this province even
if you're a homeowner where do you take your garbage? Right now it's all
being consolidated into two or three zones in the whole province. You take
that from 200, 300 or 400 communities and how do you even have the
infrastructure to consolidate it? It is a question that's trying to be
worked out now. The geography is challenging so that sort of infrastructure
is not in place. It will be a challenge for future growth but as I said in
my opening comments we believe we're up to the challenge. Our industry will
certainly go to both the federal and provincial governments to make sure
they are able to support the infrastructure needs.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much. We really appreciate the time
you've taken with us on this tour.
Aquaculture producers need to use certain chemicals, therapeutants,
biofouling agents, et cetera, as part of their ongoing operations. The
committee has been told the industry would like to have access to a larger
number of products. How does the use of chemicals in aquaculture in
Newfoundland and Labrador compare to the use of chemicals in jurisdictions
such as Norway and Scotland? How does the availability of therapeutants in
Canada compare across Canada? Is it the same everywhere?
I just want a little bit of an overview, if you don't mind, and some
details on the use of therapeutants.
Mr. Couturier: Maybe, Senator Greene Raine, I can partly answer
some of this.
The availability of therapeutants is similar across the country because
these are all nationally registered therapeutants that go through an extreme
screening process by Health Canada, as Dr. Whelan mentioned earlier,
Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the federal Fisheries
Act. Of course all provincial regulations have to be met. Before anything is
licensed to be used or permitted to be used in an aquaculture facility it
goes through all of those checks and balances. Sometimes it takes 10 years
to get permission to use a therapeutant because you have to do all of the
science required to demonstrate that it will have minimal impact on the
environment when you're using it.
In terms of access it's basically similar for every jurisdiction in the
country in terms of therapeutants and products that are used for growing
fish and managing health in the event they are needed.
The other part of your question was internationally compared to Norway
and so on. I don't know that we use per tonne of fish production if you're
talking about antibiotics or sea lice treatments and so on. We're probably
using less than Norway in some cases and certainly less than Chile. On a per
tonne basis it amounts to very small amounts. I don't have exact numbers in
front of me right now but something like .3 grams per kilogram may be used
in farming salmon.
It's less than 3 per cent farm salmon will ever see an antibiotic in
their life cycle. Most of the time fish health is managed through proper
siting, low densities, proper husbandry, and vaccination in particular is
another important one. A lot of our fish are vaccinated. They go in the
water healthy and presumably resistant to a variety of local pathogens.
We're doing well that way in Canada. It's hard to compare exactly against
Norway but I would say that we're doing as well, if not better.
Senator Raine: Is there an end to the use of antifoulants on nets?
Mr. Couturier: That's also changing quite a bit in Canada. We have
limited use of antifoulants on nets in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have
some nets have a copper compound which has been used for 30 years but
regular net cleaning and washing prevents that from basically leaching into
the environment. These are all approved by Health Canada, Environment Canada
and others for use in the marine environment. Many of the operations now are
getting away from antifoulants for the simple reason that it does cost money
to have the antifoulants put on the nets. They're able to do in situ net
For example, in Scotland and Norway not that many operations actually use
antifoulants because they clean the nets in situ, right on site. We're
moving that way here in Newfoundland and Labrador. About half our production
would probably be done that way. It won't be long, I am guesstimating, that
it will be the common practice.
Senator Raine: Would that be quite labour intensive?
Mr. Couturier: It's highly mechanized, those net cleaning devices,
but it is labour intensive, yes. You have robots that can do it. Basically
it's underwater washers that can be done from the surface from a video
camera. You can wash the hull of your boat to get rid of invasive species.
You can do all kinds of stuff if it works.
In high wind and current conditions it may not work that easily.
Otherwise you have to use sprayers in the cages and it's labour intensive to
do that. That's the other point that you have to consider. If it requires
additional labour then is it practical for the company to do it?
Ms. Caines: I would say it will be a while before we go totally
with non-treatable nets. I think we're trying to minimize the use of it. If
you look at the amount of antifoulant used per tonne of fish, I think the
more we increase our productivity and the performance of our fish, if you
look at it then, we're producing more fish per use of this product. I think
we're a ways off before we would see any non-treated.
Senator Raine: Thank you.
Senator Poirier: Thank you for the presentation. We heard from Dr.
Kochhar, who is the Chief Veterinarian Officer of Canada and Executive
Director for Animal Health Directorate. When he appeared before the
committee a while back he mentioned to us that the aquaculture industry was
compensated several million dollars by the federal government for the costs
associated with the order of destruction of fish between 2012 and 2014. He
felt in the long run that would be something that could not be sustained. He
was recommending that the industry consider a private insurance program
similar to the one developed for Canada's poultry industry.
Is this something that you have looked at or have studied or thought of?
Ms. Pryor: I'll try to keep my points short.
Yes, the industry has certainly looked at it. They currently do have
insurance policies in place. Jennifer can correct me if I'm wrong here, but
the crop insurance is quite costly that they do have but does not include
events such as a notifiable disease event. As Dr. Whelan was describing
earlier, if the CFIA were to come into a site with ISA like we experienced
here in Newfoundland, or IHN on the west coast, and if it's a notifiable
disease that becomes a mandate of CFIA, that's when we may have the
opportunity to get compensation for the fish. That isn't something for our
insurance and we haven't been able to date to get insurance to cover crop
losses due to that.
Mr. Couturier: As you may be aware crop insurance for these types
of events are available to all farmers in Canada, animal farmers of any
kind, even plant farmers. There are business risk management models out
there. We've been talking with the federal government for at least 20 years
on having business risk management insurance policies for crops shared
between the provinces and the private sector, the sort of business model
where you would share the insurance policy you were talking about.
We're hopeful if something like a new Aquaculture Act does come forward
that it has an insurance policy for things like that that can be cost shared
between industry and government. That would make sense and minimize the
exposure of organizations like CFIA.
Of course no farmer wants to lose his or her crop to a non-endemic
disease. It is a notifiable disease so they hope they certainly never have
to run into it in the future. It's there as an emergency and the reason why
it's there in the Health of Animals Act for Canada really is to protect
trade. It's a trade issue.
When you spoke to the CFIA that's their mandate, animal health with
respect to trade and that's why it's there. It's no different than any other
farmed animal production in Canada.
Having said that, yes, there has been here in Newfoundland and Labrador
and maybe in Nova Scotia some compensation in recent years for notifiable
diseases. That's required basically under law because you have to get rid of
your animals. We believe that if they improve the case definition, as Dr.
Whelan mentioned, you would get those animals out of the water a lot faster
and there would be a lot less compensation costs.
You should also know at the same time that compensation was paid for. The
industry also contributed, as the minister mentioned, at least $400 million
in private sector input and contribution to the economy of Newfoundland.
That's not insignificant. Over the years that the compensation has been
implicated in diseases for eradication for aquatic animals in Canada the
industry has contributed over $15 billion to the Canadian economy. When you
look at that the numbers do pale in comparison but anyway, yes, I think the
industry is looking at a cost-shared insurance model.
Senator Poirier: My last question is that we've heard from you
many different provincial/federal things that you'd like to see changed,
improved or worked upon. The committee started this study in January of this
year and we're hoping to present a report and be finished around June, 2015.
If I were to ask you which would be the No. 1 recommendation you would
like to see us consider as a priority of the federal government to be put in
the report, what would it be?
The Chair: Who would like to answer that?
Ms. Pryor: I'll try that.
As a No. 1 priority I think from an industry perspective I would add the
recognition that we are a legitimate industry in Canada because I don't know
if we've ever felt that we had that. That lends into the Aquaculture Act and
why we've been asking for an Aquaculture Act, but we've run into so many
instances where we're knocking on doors and we are the aquaculture industry
but we're not allowed in because there's nowhere in federal legislation that
they recognize us as a true industry. We are making significant strides in
the industry in Canada and feel we can make more. I guess my first ask would
be to have that recognition of the industry in Canada.
Senator Poirier: Would the other witnesses agree?
Mr. Couturier: From the federal government side.
Ms. Caines: From the federal, legitimizing an industry and
offering support sometimes in the presence of, I hate to say it, other
agenda driven attacks on an industry is something that's important. I think
legitimizing with suitable legislation offers that acknowledgement that yes,
this is an industry that Canada can do well at, is doing well at and should
be doing better.
The first time I visited Norway I got off the plane and got on the bus.
The first thing I saw all around me was advertising for aquaculture,
aquaculture products, aquaculture feeds and everything I thought these guys
have bought this big time. We don't see that here. We may never see it but
it just struck me: oh, my goodness, this is a culture that really embraces
what they have chosen. Granted, they have put an awful lot of money in it
and a lot of attack: This is going to be a totally integrated approach; we
are going to have an industry here and it is going to be salmon aquaculture.
Boy, they did it big time. That was the thing that struck me, the
legitimizing of that. We should be proud of what we've done and I refuse not
to be proud of what I've helped to build in this province.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
The Chair: A very diplomatic answer.
Senator McInnis: Thank you very much.
This morning our presenters left us feeling that we just finished an ice
cream, everything was so good. In fact I'm surprised that you have
difficulties with the federal government. When one looks at the MOU that was
executed, the provincial act where the province controls a fair bit with
respect to aquaculture, I'm somewhat taken back by your difficulties but
will not repeat them now. Are there any organized groups opposed to
aquaculture in Newfoundland?
Ms. Pryor: Oh, yes, I think with our industry that goes par for
the course. As our industries were developing and if we look at that graph
over the last 10 years, for a long time there were people who had concerns
but it wasn't a very vocal group. Certainly as a sector and certainly as our
colleagues in other parts of the country they would say, "As your industry
grows just be prepared that the opponents will grow and consolidate as
We certainly have concerns that are raised locally from local groups. We
do meet with them when we can and if they're interested to meet with us. We
try to address those concerns but it's not anything that I think would be
distinct to Newfoundland. They are concerns that are general to salmon
farming that you'll hear in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or B.C.
Ms. Caines: We welcome valid concerns. That's the only way we're
really going to build a trusting and a trustworthy industry. It's when the
concerns go off the rails and the rhetoric and things aren't based in
scientific fact. That's what I have difficulty with, but it is concerned
citizens that make improvements in many industries and aquaculture is no
different than any other resource based or resource using industry. We
welcome a certain amount of it. That's what makes us get better. I don't
like my feet held to the fire, no, but I think we need a certain amount of
One of the things I mentioned was that I was a bit concerned about the
destruction of habitat division within DFO and all the cutbacks we see in
science and habitat protection. As a citizen of the country and a biologist
I'm a bit concerned with that type of thing. We've had enough cuts of that.
As an industry we welcome a certain amount of it. It has to help us get
better but it has to be reasonable and it has to be based on science.
Senator McInnis: Who's on your board? Is it industry people?
Ms. Pryor: Yes, we have industry representatives and we have two
at large representatives. Cyr actually sits as a representative from the
Marine Institute and we have another gentleman on our board from the Ocean
Senator McInnis: I want to leave Newfoundland with a good
understanding. I've heard some of your difficulties and your challenges but
I take it Newfoundland is somewhat unique. You've referred to the depth of
the waters where these farms are located and obviously currents are there.
You do low stocking. I would like for you to comment on how many you put in
a pen, the separation of the inflow and outflow and that type of thing.
Would you say you're comparable to other Atlantic provinces in this respect?
Ms. Pryor: Comparable from an opportunities perspective, yes. We
feel, as Jennifer said, we grow fish very well here and we can grow more
fish very well here. But from a geographical perspective, no, just given the
landscape of the south coast, the lack of roads and the cliffs that we have,
and trying to institute bay management areas where we don't have wharves
that we can designate as our inflow wharves and our outflow wharves. The
industry is looking at how we implement that with the infrastructure we have
and what we need.
We are unique from that perspective and unique from the environmental
perspective as well. Some of the challenges and the hurricane wind events we
get on our south coast of Newfoundland you may get in the Bay of Fundy or in
other parts of Nova Scotia. I think we've learned from the other provinces
what has been done. We're certainly learning from that and how can we do it
Senator McInnis: The production of aquaculture in Canada has
flatlined for a number of years now. In fact we're less than 1 per cent of
the global production. China, for example, is 62 per cent. I think there is
a uniqueness here in Newfoundland and I wish you luck with it.
I just wanted to offer this comment with respect to broadband. It is just
a suggestion. You have to be proactive. You have a big challenge here
because it will not be profitable. You have to take advantage of the federal
proposal and you have to invite the operators in. There are ways that you
can contribute toward the capital costs of the cells.
For example, I heard mention here today that you have Crown lands
normally along the adjacent shoreline. You can use those as a great
contribution toward the capital costs and the companies will accept it.
We've done that in Nova Scotia.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: It is nice to see you again today. Is
there only a certain amount of licences that are issued every year? Is that
why you have such a hard time to renew your licence?
Ms. Caines: The fact that they are annual licences means a
tremendous strain on the human resources within the department and all the
rest of the referral agencies that might need to be considered for the
renewal of the aquaculture licence. Crown lands don't matter. It's a 50-year
lease but that 50-year lease is no good to you unless you have a valid
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: And why would an application be
refused? Give me one reason. Do they ever refuse a licence?
Ms. Caines: If there was total opposition or some physical reason,
oceanographic reason or fish health reason, all of those things would be
considered. There are at least 17 different referral agencies including
Historic Resources as well as federal. So there may be reasons.
Usually by the time a company decides to submit an application they've
done their homework. They've done their background. They've done their
assessment and they've done an analysis of if they think the site is
suitable or not. That includes public consultation all along the way. Even
before you submit it there is a check mark there where you need to show that
you've done due diligence in consulting people.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you.
Mr. Couturier: This refers to the provincial annual renewal but
when they did change the act two years ago in 2012, as the minister
mentioned or Brian Meaney did, they do have provisions in there to give
multi-year licences. The minister can do that. They're just not there yet so
we're pushing them. They would be annually renewable but basically it's a
check-off where you would check off that you've been compliant with all the
laws and regulations and it should be expedited.
They've also implemented an electronic renewal system. They are piloting
it now and hopefully that will help in terms of the labour component. We
don't know. It's still a work in progress.
The Chair: Thank you, sir.
Earlier on, Ms. Caines, you mentioned some additional information you may
have. I'm not sure exactly what it was on at the time but I just wanted to
advise all of you if there's anything after today that you think we could
use as part of our study, feel free to send it to the clerk and he'll
distribute it to the senators on the committee. Once again, thank you.
As our next panel we're pleased this morning to welcome Mr. Robert
Sweeney, the President and Senior Project Manager of Sweeney International
Marine Corp and SIMCorp Marine Environmental Inc. and Mr. Boyd Pack of
Newfoundland Aqua Services Ltd. from St. Alban's.
We were down to St. Alban's yesterday and are certainly delighted to have
you here this morning.
On behalf of the members of the committee I thank you for taking the time
today to join us. I understand that we have an opening statement from Mr.
Sweeney and a statement from Mr. Pack, and then we'll go to our senators for
Mr. Sweeney, the floor is yours.
Robert Sweeney, President and Senior Project Manager, Head Office,
Sweeney International Marine Corp and SIMCorp Marine Environmental Inc.:
Thank you and good morning, senators. Welcome to Newfoundland and Labrador.
First of all I'd like to extend my personal appreciation and gratitude
for being afforded the opportunity to address the Standing Senate Committee
on Fisheries and Oceans on regulations, current challenges and future
prospects for the aquaculture industry in Canada. My particular focus this
morning will be concentrated on the marine finfish aquaculture sector,
specifically Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Atlantic Canada.
Let me begin by simply stating that the greatest challenge limiting the
growth of the aquaculture sector in Atlantic Canada is the regulatory
framework within which the Canadian finfish and shellfish producers must
operate. While the provinces have a statutory mandate to both develop and
regulate the aquaculture sector, there's no federal statute that supports
the development of an aquaculture industry in Canada.
It's a well-known fact that the Fisheries Act dating back to 1868 was
enacted to manage the capture, recreational and food fisheries in Canada by
Fisheries and Oceans Canada or DFO, with a mandate to conserve and protect
fish and fish habitat. If Canadians are to realize our full potential for
aquaculture in our coastal waters then there is a very real need for federal
legislators to bring into force a federal Aquaculture Act, entrenching the
rights and privileges of the fish farmer to conduct the practice of
aquaculture in the marine environment. Such an enabling federal statute
would bring balance to DFO's mandate of protecting fish and fish habitat.
By way of introduction, my personal career in connection with the
aquaculture sector in Atlantic Canada began about 30 years ago as a public
servant with the Province of New Brunswick. My role as an aquaculture
development officer included facilitating applications for aquaculture
leases and licences while also developing many of the guidelines, policies
and regulations governing the aquaculture industry over the course of a
14-year tenure with the province.
Upon leaving the public sector my career led me to senior management
positions with two independent salmon farming operations in New Brunswick
and Nova Scotia where I managed the site operations and growth opportunities
for the owners. In February 2002 I followed a long-time ambition to own a
business and incorporated Sweeney International Marine Corp with our head
office located in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
While we have been working on the Newfoundland south coast conducting
marine environmental assessments for new aquaculture sites since 2004, it
wasn't until December of 2008 when we decided that we needed a more
permanent presence in the coast of bays region by establishing SIMCorp
Marine Environmental Inc., opening an office in the community of Harbour
Breton. Throughout Atlantic Canada, SIMCorp has a highly qualified
professional staff of marine environmental biologists and environmental
technicians, including a Benthic Sediments Lab located in the National
Research Council's Institute for Marine Biosciences in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
SIMCorp is now seen to be among the leading experts in marine
environmental assessments, monitoring and environmental management for the
finfish aquaculture sector in Atlantic Canada. At the moment SIMCorp
conducts the independent third party environmental monitoring required by
the regulatory agencies for approximately 80 per cent of the marine finfish
aquaculture sites in New Brunswick, 95 per cent of the sites in Nova Scotia,
plus 95 per cent of the sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our files now
contain well in excess of 830 hours or 50,000 minutes of underwater video
footage of the seafloor throughout the region.
When we say that marine finfish aquaculture is an environmentally
sustainable industry we do so from a great deal of experience on the water
based upon what we see and what we measure both in the course of conducting
baseline environmental assessments, followed by the ongoing compliance
monitor. We had the rare opportunity to see Greenfield areas before an
aquaculture site is ever put into operation and to monitor those same areas
throughout the course of production. I might add that the regulatory
compliance monitoring programs are under the pending Aquaculture Activities
Regulation or AAR and proposed to be biased toward peak biomass monitoring
deliberately designed to capture the worst case scenario.
It has been our experience that the finfish producers in Atlantic Canada
typically meet or exceed the environmental quality objectives set out by the
regulatory agencies. The sustainability analysis and risk assessment process
begins with a scoping exercise when considering candidate areas for marine
finfish aquaculture development. The analysis precedes the filing of any
applications for new marine finfish sites and can take from one to seven
years of collecting of environmental and resource data to complete.
A very complex matrix or parameters is applied against each candidate
location being considered for aquaculture development. The fundamental
elements critical to ensuring long-term environmental sustainability include
at the very minimum looking at the bathymetric contours, water depths,
exposure to wind and waves, water temperature, ocean currents, water
quality, proximity to other aquaculture sites and/or producers. The
establishment of bay management areas is also critical. We assess predators
and pests, supporting infrastructure, local fisheries data, sensitive
habitat and areas of ecological significance, along with the benthic flora
All of the foregoing data sets are approved against a complex risk
assessment matrix leading to whether or not a producer should even consider
applying for a new marine finfish aquaculture site. Once the decision is
made to move forward with the next phase by filing applications, an even
more complex set of parameters including site management practices, fish
health management, site engineering, biosecurity protocols, feed management
and waste management, to name a few, come to bear in an even more
comprehensive environment assessment for submission to the lead provincial
department for aquaculture development.
Prior to Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 aquaculture applications were reviewed
under parallel provincial and federal legislation and processes. However
that's no longer the case. The duplication of processes has since been
eliminated to an extent as the EAs are now co-ordinated by the provinces
under provincial statutes with input from DFO. Although to this point the
producers invested considerably into a process to ensure the long-term
environmental and economic sustainability of a candidate location, the
actual EA review processes are both complex and unpredictable.
To further complicate the process, the conundrum faced by the aquaculture
sector in Atlantic Canada is that while one processed stream has been
eliminated, a duplication of effort, DFO's core mandate toward fisheries
production can and at times does supersede any development issue so
important to job creation and sustaining our economy.
In conclusion, it's our view that fish farming in our coastal waters is
an environmentally sustainable industry that needs to be supported by
enabling federal legislation. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Sweeney.
Boyd Pack, Owner and President, Newfoundland Aqua Service Ltd.:
Thank you. I just got back into town on Sunday and I have to apologize that
I didn't get my little brief in ahead of time. If you want I can pass this
The Chair: Everybody has received a copy. Go ahead, Mr. Pack.
Mr. Pack: First of all thank you for the opportunity. It's a
pleasure to meet you distinguished people, especially Ms. Greene. I am very
pleased to meet you.
I first got involved in aquaculture back in the late seventies as a
volunteer member of what was then the Local Development Association. Then in
the mid-eighties I was chairman of a federal program called the Community
Futures Program which now has evolved into the BDC, I believe it's called
I'm from Bay d'Espoir. While in the other fishing communities in the
mid-eighties life was relatively good and employment was relatively speaking
not that bad, in Bay d'Espoir, which is not a fishing community, we were
fighting with Port au Port for the highest unemployment rate in the province
and one of the highest in Canada. At that time I was an educator with the
school board. I spent 25 years as a teacher, principal, program co-ordinator
and then assistant superintendent of the school board.
In 1993 a couple of friends and I started a training business called
Aquatic Resources Incorporated to train employees for the aquaculture
industry. Over a period of four years we trained some 150 students as basic
aquaculture site workers. Some were better educated as technicians, which
was twice the amount of training. Over 60 per cent or 93 of those people are
still working in the industry and some have gone on to do post-graduate
degrees in aquaculture and in other things. We're pretty pleased with the
results there. We also administered and supervised work experience modules
for university level students who were doing post-graduate work in
In 1994 from a personal perspective things were changing pretty
drastically for me professionally as the school boards around the province
were all being incorporated. I had to make a choice at that point in time to
either go back into the classroom teaching or move up to Grand Falls or
Gander area where the new school board office would be located. I was very
much involved as a volunteer at that point in time in the aquaculture
industry. I didn't want to move. My kids didn't want to move and my wife
didn't want to move so I quit. Some would call me absolutely crazy for that
but I did it. We went ahead with a new company, Newfoundland Aqua Service
Ltd., in partnership with a company out of New Brunswick. The business was
formed to primarily manufacture and maintain the cages that the industry
Now as a volunteer I had gone to several business people in the area to
encourage them to get involved in the cage manufacturing for the industry.
Really I couldn't find any business people — they were probably smarter than
I was — who would take that chance, who could see the potential business
case for a business that would supply products to an aquaculture industry
that wasn't here yet.
When you're beginning an industry like we were it's very much a chicken
and egg situation. How do you build facilities to clean nets when the nets
aren't made yet? How do you build a facility to disinfect, build and repair
cages when the industry is not there yet? That was a chance we took. We
couldn't get anyone else to do it basically so we went at it ourselves.
The industry was small at the time. You were down to the area and you
could see there were not a whole lot of service businesses there now.
Believe me, back in the eighties and nineties there were even fewer. To get
any kind of maintenance done on boats or any kind of marine equipment was
practically impossible around our area.
Newfoundland Aqua Service became sort of a supplier of necessity of a
whole range of services and products. We got into everything over time from
building the cages the fish are in, the plastic rings that you saw out
there, to the nets that go in those rings. We got into manufacturing and
repairing those and treating those with antifoulant.
The plastic work involves welding so the guys we trained to do the
plastic welding were also metal welders, or some of them were. We ended up
with a few really good welders. We not only ended up building the plastic
barges, some floats and that kind of thing. We also ended up doing steel
barges, doing repairs to fibreglass boats and repairs to outboard motors. We
were storing feed and delivering feed, you name it. If it came along we
tried to supply it to the industry because of necessity we had to do more
than just make cages and nets.
The service that we provide is still changing. As the industry evolved
different technologies come along, different products get used, and it's
sort of an ongoing state of flux, if you would.
Our top priority as a service company is to provide services and products
to the industry and to do it in a way that is environmentally appropriate
and biosecure. In other words, we're handling equipment and materials
belonging to all of the growers so it is incumbent upon us to make sure if
grower A has some kind of a disease issue that there is no
cross-contamination from their products to the products of other customers.
To that end we engaged in the development of a new $4 million facility at
Milltown. I think you guys may have seen it in passing. What you would have
seen would have been simply a fairly large building and some strange looking
drums, big drums that we wash the nets with. You would have seen a lot of
land that has been grubbed and readied for construction. That is a work in
progress in Milltown now and it will be completed by the end of the fall. We
purchased and installed three mechanical drum washers which are very
similar, if you would, to the washers that you use at home except they're a
heck of a lot bigger.
To give you some idea of the nets that we're putting in those washers
now, they go out into the water weighing anywhere from 3,000 to maybe 5,000
pounds when they have been cleaned, mended, retreated and are ready to go
into the water. Over the last few days — Jennifer would know all about it —
we've had nets coming back to us to be cleaned that weigh over 30,000
pounds. That gives you some idea of how foul those nets can become with
kelp, mussels, seaweed and all these types of interesting things. We've
purchased and installed those three mechanical drums and they allow us to
control the waste products that come off the nets, both the solid waste and
the liquid waste.
That is important because the nets are coated with an antifoulant or a
herbicide, I guess you would call them. Basically what it comes down to is:
the easiest way I can describe it is copper paint. You've all seen ships and
boats of various sizes and you will see maybe a red paint or a black paint
on all them. These are generally the two most common colours. It is a paint
that comes to the waterline on the boat. That is an antifoulant paint
designed to inhibit the growth of biofouling on bottom of the boats. It is
very similar to what is used to inhibit the growth of biofoulant on the
nets. That is what we use.
Control of that is important from an environmental point of view because
there is copper residue in the solids and there is dissolved copper in the
water that we wash the nets with. These wastes cannot be disposed of until
the copper content has been addressed. To remove the copper from the water
we have developed a system which includes an EC unit, an electrocoagulation
unit that uses low voltage electricity to remove dissolved metals from
water. This equipment allows us to continue to reuse the water for cleaning.
The system removes and treats the solids from the waste stream before
disposed of in an approved landfill.
We clean up the water with the electrocoagulation unit and the solids
that come out contaminated with copper have to be treated with lime and
tested for leachability. Then we dispose of it in a landfill with the
appropriate tarp coverings and things as required by the environment.
After the nets have been cleaned they have to be disinfected. Then they
have to be repaired, strength tested to make sure they are strong enough to
go back out and retreated with the antifoulant for deployment. Once that is
done the nets are disinfected and they are taken from what we call the dirty
side of our facility. They're disinfected, taken out of the disinfection
tank, and then they go to what we call the clean side of our facility.
Now the clean side is separated by a fence from the dirty side. Of course
employees who work on the dirty side cannot go to the clean side without
going through the proper disinfection protocol and changing clothes, et
These nets have to be dried after they're treated. To dry them we're
using a low temperature drying technology source in Norway. It's a unique
system and we put it together in consultation with a Norwegian company and a
Canadian company out of Winnipeg. What we did in order to decide on how we
would set up our facility is we went and visited sites in Europe, Norway,
Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, New Brunswick and British Columbia. We didn't go
to Chile but two of the major players in Newfoundland also operate in Chile
and we did get information from them.
We also had visits from international companies, service companies
similar to ours. They have all come to visit us. We have gathered together
and we shared information with them as well.
Participating in the establishment and the growth of the industry in our
region has been very gratifying for me. We were looking in the eighties and
nineties at 85 to 90 per cent unemployment in the Bay d'Espoir region.
The employment for aquaculture has dramatically improved the morale of
the people in the communities. The economic benefits to communities are
obvious. You probably would not notice it as much as people who lived there
years ago and come back now. It's a common comment from people who come back
to visit for vacations. It is a very positive comment that they make on what
is happening in the region.
We were a dying community 25 or 30 years ago. There's absolutely no doubt
about it. All of Newfoundland was, I suppose, but I know when I first went
back to Bay d'Espoir to teach in our school we had a little over 600 kids.
In the Catholic school up the way in St. Alban's there were over 1,200
students. Then there were some 350-odd in Conne River. Today in Milltown all
of Bay d'Espoir, St. Alban's included, has only in the vicinity of 300
students. It's a different dynamic from a population perspective in the area
now, but the good thing today is that we are seeing more young kids around
the community. We have a lot of young people working in the industry and
contributing to the community.
The salmonid aquaculture industry in Newfoundland has brought us
prosperity and a bright future. There's no doubt that it is sustainable, but
in order for the growth and sustainability of the industry to continue we
need to have legislative support specifically for the aquaculture industry.
One of the problems is that we've been four years getting around to
finally getting all the permits and the financing stuff in place to build
this net servicing facility. A lot of it comes down to the time it takes to
get permission to do the simplest of things. We are involved with
departments of government that we didn't even know were involved. We know we
have to deal with the Department of Environment, federally and provincially.
We know we have to deal with DFO and DFA. That's logical, but I'm sitting in
my office a little over a year ago and I get a visit from a federal lady
from the Department of Health, a provincial Department of Environment person
and a federal Department of Environment person. They come in, look at the
antifoulant treatment that we're using and say, "Do you realize that what
you're using is a herbicide or a pesticide?" I say, "Yes, that's why it's
regulated the way it is." They say, "But do you realize that your employees
need a licence to administer a herbicide or a pesticide?" I say, "Okay, so
how do we go about getting a licence for our guys who work at that?" The
young fellow says, "We don't have one yet. We don't have a training plan for
herbicide or pesticide. When we get one, we'll be in touch." He hasn't
called back yet but that's just a simple example.
I don't like to get into the bureaucracy or the political part of it,
although I could, because 99.9 per cent of these people are the same as us.
They are doing the absolute best that they can. The problem is especially in
terms of the environmental — and I'm not going to distinguish between any
levels of departments — that it's easier for these people sometimes to just
let it sit there because once they sign they've committed, and they're
scared shitless of what the kickback is going to be.
We were trying to figure out how to deal with the water, how to deal with
the solid waste and what is the proper way to do it. We go to the various
departments and we ask them, "What should we do?" They say, "I don't know.
We're not in the business of telling you how to do it or what to do. You
come and tell us what you want to do and we will say yes or no." That's a
fact. And guess what? To most of the stuff they said no. It was quite an
experience to travel around the aquaculture world over the years and see how
it has developed around the world.
We don't have any monopoly on stalling and procrastination either. I
don't want to give the impression that we're that far behind other countries
and other jurisdictions in how we do things but they have similar problems.
That's why I say that I don't know exactly how it should be done. If I did,
I'd have had that solved long ago. There needs to be some sort of department
that focuses on aquaculture because we're always seen as the poor cousin, if
you will, of the wild fishery and/or agriculture. We need legislation
specific to aquaculture so that if somebody wants to get involved in it from
a business perspective then they have some guidelines and some rules and
regulations that fit rather than trying to fit what they want to do into
regulations that come from four or five different directions.
The Chair: It is very interesting. You're out at it every day so
we like to hear from people that are trying to make a living from the
industry. We certainly welcome your remarks.
Senator Wells: Thank you, Mr. Pack and Mr. Sweeney, for appearing
and for your presentations.
Mr. Sweeney, suppliers to industry are very much bellwethers of success
of that industry. It's one way to measure if an industry is growing or
shrinking or how the suppliers to the industry are doing. What was the
trigger that caused you to decide to expand to Newfoundland?
Mr. Sweeney: The trigger for us was seeing growth opportunity in
Newfoundland. When we first started working here we worked remotely out of
our office in New Brunswick, quite frankly. We would come to the south coast
for two weeks at a time doing some initial scoping for a key client. It
wasn't until we saw the real growth opportunity here in Newfoundland
particularly on the south coast. That's what turned things for us.
We decided to open an office at one point just to catch up on the
workload that had built up at the time. We had seven people working out of
our office in Harbour Breton. That has since levelled off to four
professional positions in that office. For us it was seeing growth
opportunity. The growth opportunity was being realized so it wasn't
speculative. It was becoming an everyday part of our lives so that's what
turned it for us.
Senator Wells: How long ago was that?
Mr. Sweeney: That would have been 2008 so that's six years now.
We've been working on the south coast for close to 10 years.
Senator Wells: Do you also supply to the north coast of
Newfoundland and other aquaculture operators in the province or just on the
Mr. Sweeney: No, we don't. When you take a look at aquaculture in
Newfoundland, the finfish production is on the south coast and up in the
Green Bay area. The north coast has shellfish producers. The shellfish
producers typically don't use companies like ours. For instance, a lot of
the work has been done by provincial departments and monitoring the
shellfish operations shows low impact on the environment. There's not a
great need for companies like ours yet with the shellfish sector.
Senator Wells: Mr. Pack, when you left the teaching sector did you
ever think you'd be hiring dozens of people and running, I'm assuming, a
high revenue operation like this in the rural area of Newfoundland where you
Mr. Pack: No, I didn't. To be quite honest, I didn't really know
where it was going to go. I just knew at the time something needed to be
done in the area. I'm from that area. I grew up there. It was a desperate
situation back in the eighties and nineties down in the Bay d'Espoir area in
particular. I got involved for purely altruistic reasons at that time,
believe it or not. It is only after a while you figure out that we'd better
make money at this or we're in trouble. You learn quite quickly once you get
I didn't know where it would lead. In the course of my involvement I've
been involved with the grow-out of fish as well. I was there when we made
some pretty big mistakes. They were not all our fault, I will say that, but
I was involved very early in a company called SCD Fisheries which was sort
of like a combination of about 60 or 70 people who had made small
investments and everybody was sort of hoping to get rich at aquaculture.
Senator Wells: May I ask how many employees do you have now?
Mr. Pack: Today I think we have 23 directly and with the
construction that's going on now there are 12 or 13 people there working
with the two companies that are doing the construction.
Senator Wells: That's good. You are to be congratulated, both of
Senator Munson: Thank you for your comments this morning. I just
have two questions. One is for Mr. Sweeney first.
We've heard earlier testimony and from yourself on the waste management
issue and the lack of areas to get rid of this waste. You talked about a
more comprehensive environmental assessment in dealing with waste
management. It was in the context of feed management and biosecurity
protocols. Can you give us any idea from your own company of how to deal
even more effectively with waste management? It seems that there are very
few dumping grounds that exist here.
Mr. Sweeney: Actually handling the waste stream is not part of our
core business but we have worked with Mr. Pack in the past as he was
building a business plan for all intents and purposes to warrant a land
based facility. Some of the things that we see on the seawater side for
instance is that a lot of the organic loading that we've seen in not just
Newfoundland but throughout the Atlantic region over time has been a product
of net washing on the sites themselves. What the producers would do as the
nets would become biofoul is that they would wash the nets and the organic
material would end up on the seafloor. Over the past 10-12 years there has
been a transition toward bringing all the dirty nets to shore. The challenge
in Newfoundland has been no facilities onshore until Mr. Pack started his
That has been going on for five or six years but in the early days the
challenge was working through the regulatory system itself. The need was
there for a facility but working through the regulatory system was perhaps
one of the most difficult challenges. We don't necessarily handle waste
streams but we do work with our clients and a business like Mr. Pack's here
to see the proper handling of the organic waste streams.
Senator Munson: Mr. Pack, you may have a viewpoint on that, but
I'll ask this other question so you can answer both of them.
We've seen outward migration of course. I'm originally from the north
shore of New Brunswick and the plane is full every day from Bathurst heading
to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and so on and so forth. Newfoundland is no
You talked about the young people before. It's a smaller population. Are
there enough programs in place for good tradesmen and women to stay home to
work on all of the particular programs that you have in your company? Is
there enticement to stay here. You talked about a sustainable, diverse,
moving-ahead aquaculture that needs legislative protection and one-stop
shopping and one place to go. Is there enough to keep people here to be part
of this industry?
Mr. Pack: The biggest problem we're finding in terms of hanging on
to skilled people is the labour market demand for in our particular case
equipment operators like boom truck operators. We need a boom truck. It is
much easier to get a brain surgeon than get a boom truck operator in
Newfoundland and Labrador now. That may be exaggerating but it is difficult.
Because of regulations they have to have training and one of the things we
found is we've got older guys with us who can operate a boom truck. There
are two trained boom truck operators in the industry, both of them
relatively young, in their thirties and forties. We've got a couple of
people there who can handle a boom truck better than either of these, but by
God you ain't going to get them into school to get trained. It's just not in
their genetics. I guess their experience in school 50 years ago was not that
exciting and they just don't want to go back at it. The biggest problem is
hanging on to people and being unable to compete with Labrador. the Avalon
Peninsula and Alberta, of course.
Senator Munson: You're an educator. Are there enticements for the
present generation with the provincial government or any government and the
schools to educate people in this particular way to stay here and get well
paid? Are there programs in place? Is the government paying enough
Mr. Pack: On the positive side what we are finding, and I can only
speak for our company, is that we do have people there who could be working
in Fort Mac, in Labrador or wherever offshore, but they are opting to hang
around because they have kids, they have a family and they have a life.
There are some who are prepared to stay but you can't expect to keep people
for $12, $13 or $14 an hour. The pay rate has to go up and that's one of the
issues that the industry has to deal with. We have to be competitive with
other sectors. With the price of fish fluctuating it all comes down to can
you compete and still earn money.
Senator Poirier: Thank you for being here. I have one question for
Mr. Sweeney, in your presentation at the very beginning you talked about
specifically the marine finfish aquaculture sector, specifically Atlantic
salmon and rainbow trout in Atlantic Canada. We hear about mussels and
oysters. We hear about salmon a lot but we don't often year the words
rainbow trout. I'm just curious to know what level or percentage of market
is there out there for rainbow trout. How much are we doing and is there a
demand for it?
Mr. Sweeney: Lots of questions there.
Is there a demand? Yes, there is. Rainbow trout tends to be a niche
market so it's not the volume market you would see with Atlantic salmon.
Rainbow trout is actually being cultured here on the south coast and here
are sites in Nova Scotia that are doing rainbow trout. They tend to be
smaller producers in comparison with the salmon producers and that's largely
because it is a niche market. Once you carve it out it's very difficult to
get into those sales for all intents and purposes.
There is some work also being done with arctic char but that's very small
scale. That's perhaps only one site that I'm familiar with in Atlantic
Canada that's doing some work with arctic char recently in the marine
environment. By comparison rainbow trout is very small but there are some
Senator Poirier: Mr. Pack, you talked about your company that you
put in place, the Newfoundland Aqua Service Limited, and you talked about a
partnership with a cage manufacturer in New Brunswick. When you look at
where we're going with aquaculture and hear all that you've done and all
that you're doing for the industry, I need to say congratulations because
I'm sure you started something that was probably not available for many
years and have helped development the aquaculture industry to where it's at.
Right now you are in Newfoundland and you've partnered with New
Brunswick. I am curious to know: Is your company supplying just for
Newfoundland or are you supplying all of Atlantic Canada?
He's only going to allow me this one question so I'm going to have to put
two or three in at the same time.
When you're talking about the nets how often do the nets have to come in
for cleaning? Are you talking just nets from Newfoundland aquaculture? Are
you talking about cleaning the cages? I remember years ago people would have
concerns because of the floating cages for the oysters. They would say, "How
do we clean the droppings from the birds? How do we clean this? Is this
something we should be concerned about? Does this have an impact on the fish
that we're growing?" I'm wondering exactly how big the territory is. If you
don't do it, are those services available in other provinces that do the
aquaculture of this type?
Mr. Pack: First of all when it comes to nets, no, we don't service
or clean anything from out of province. One reason obviously is to ship it
over here and ship it back would be expensive. The other thing is we would
not be allowed to take dirty nets from here to New Brunswick or the other
way around. We wouldn't be permitted to do that and for good reason.
The nets in terms of how long they're in there, it depends. I'm sure
Jennifer and the other growers around would like to take them out every
three or four months if they could. Generally they go in for a season. So a
smolt net, for example, will go in in the spring when they put in the
smolts. This is a smaller mesh net. It will be there until late that fall or
the next spring. Then the fish are bigger and they can go into a bigger mesh
net. I think it's safe to say that on average maybe a year in the water for
a net. It varies. If you get a real bad mussel set they may come out sooner
than that but by and large a year.
To your question on the cages, no, we don't do a lot of cleaning of the
cages. We will if we have to repair it. It has to be cleaned before you can
fuse it back together and things like that but generally that is done on the
site. They'll just scrape off the oil or the bird droppings of whatever
there on the site.
Senator Poirier: Are you aware if the net cleaning and what you're
doing is available in all other provinces? Are there companies out there
that are doing that?
Mr. Pack: Oh, yes, absolutely. Most of them we corresponded with
and we've met over the years. It's a very small community.
Senator Poirier: Thank you very much.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much, and it's been very
Obviously you started with the industry, Mr. Pack, and built what was
needed and were sort of building ahead of the regulatory people
understanding how to regulate you. So you've probably had a very exciting
time. You could probably write a book.
Mr. Pack: Yes, I've threatened to.
Senator Raine: You might want to take some names out. Obviously
you're aware there are world-wide industry best practices.
Mr. Pack: Yes.
Senator Raine: Do you think those best practices should be part of
the standards that would be set? Is what you're aiming for? Would that make
it easier for the bureaucrats to sort of define what they want you to do?
When you went to them and said, "What do I do," they said, "Just come and
ask us and we'll say, yes or no." I mean that's crazy.
Mr. Pack: It is kind of crazy but it is the way it is, yes. In
answer to your question we do have a code of practices, a pretty good code
of practices from my perspective. Provincially NAIA does but that coded of
practice is based on the regulations that we have or that we know we have at
this point in time.
In answer to your question again, yes, I think a best practices section
in the legislation or whatever you call it should be included. Now I realize
saying that there may be people behind me here ready to shoot me in the back
of the head, the growers, I don't know what kind of implications that would
have for them in some cases but I see no reason why that couldn't be
Senator Raine: Thank you.
The Chair: Senator McInnis, you have the final question.
Senator McInnis: Thank you very much.
You mentioned the Aquaculture Act and it has been mentioned this morning
as well. Currently in Canada we have the Fisheries Act and every province
has an act. Basically that is based in the provinces with respect to
aquaculture on farming and the securing of the pens to the ocean floor. This
all falls within the jurisdiction of the province under the Constitution.
Recently in B.C. there was a Supreme Court decision that said aquaculture
is a fishery and falls to the federal government. I want your comment on
this. If we are going to have a national act do you believe it should be
concurrent with the provinces? In other words, that we have the one act. At
the moment we have a mishmash across the country. They're all different. It
strikes me that we should have something, as I've mentioned before,
analogous to the Criminal Code where you don't have all the provinces with
their own laws. We have the Criminal Code and all feed into it.
Do you agree that that might be the way we should be going with respect
to an Aquaculture Act in Canada?
Mr. Pack: Yes, the one-stop shop. I know we're sick of hearing
those terms but, yes, if we could come up with some kind of legislation or
regulatory system that includes both the province and the federal government
it certainly should simplify things in the way of licensing and permits and
that kind of thing for sure.
Mr. Sweeney: Senator, can I take you to some conferences with me?
That's exactly what I would like to see. We have the opportunity to work in
several jurisdictions, including Ontario and Saskatchewan, for instance.
When we go to Ontario we move inland away from the Atlantic region and there
is no aquaculture act. Ontario does not have an aquaculture act
provincially. Applications for or administration of sites for all intents
and purposes in Ontario is done through the Ministry of Natural Resources.
There is no aquaculture act for Ontario.
In Saskatchewan it is the same thing. Saskatchewan does not have an
aquaculture act. The industry there is actually regulated under I think the
Department of Environment and crosses over into Natural Resources as well.
As we take a look at how aquaculture is administered in the Atlantic
region, for all intents and purposes there's a lack of consistency
throughout the Atlantic region. New Brunswick administers the aquaculture
industry very differently than is done in Nova Scotia, for instance.
Newfoundland is done somewhat differently again which causes some confusion
for the producers as they work with the regulations.
With the type of work our business does in environmental monitoring I've
spoken on many occasions that there is no consistency in terms of the
environmental monitoring or the thresholds that are applied for impacts even
within the Atlantic region, for instance. That can cause a great deal of
confusion for the producers and for companies like ours, for instance as we
work with the producers and as we work with regulatory agencies.
Within our own company I have to have biologists who are intimately aware
of the regulations in each province and specialized in each province.
Perhaps in our company I'm the only one that crosses the boundaries within
the Atlantic region.
In short, yes, a national act should and could bring a level of
harmonization on many different fronts and recognize the industry as a
legitimate user of the marine resource.
Senator McInnis: In Ontario and Saskatchewan while they don't have
acts they have protocols and they have to be followed, but it seems to me
that if we're going to be effective, for example, in the next couple or
weeks Nova Scotia will report after the panel travelled the province on new
regulations. I suspect they didn't consult with Newfoundland, with New
Brunswick or P.E.I. So we're going to have a whole new set of regulations
and a different protocol.
It seems to me that the provinces should be working with the federal
government. Let's not let the federal government on its own go out and do an
act. We should do it collectively and it'll be more effective.
Mr. Sweeney: I would agree. The Fisheries Act or federal
legislation supersedes anything provincially.
Senator McInnis: Exactly.
Mr. Sweeney: Over the past number of years with the discussions
connected with Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, for instance, and pending regulation
of the AER, personally I saw that as opportunity to bring that level of
harmonization. I'm not sure it's there yet so, yes, Nova Scotia will likely
come up with something somewhat different, slightly different. There will be
some parallels with the Province of New Brunswick but I would have my doubts
there's been a great deal of communication between Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.
Senator McInnis: Yet the four Atlantic provinces executed an MOU
that they would be consistent.
Mr. Sweeney: The irony here is there is an MOU in place among the
four Atlantic provinces.
Senator McInnis: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, and thank our witnesses. It has been a great
conversation especially as I said earlier for those people that are on the
ground. Thank you again for your time.