STATE OF THE PACIFIC SALMON: Part 3 Canada’s Minister of Fisheries & Oceans Answers Questions on the Decline of Wild Pacific Salmon
--- In an occurrence as rare as a Fraser River Sockeye Salmon opening, on June 2nd, "THE" Fisheries Minister for Canada attended a federally run "State of the Pacific Salmon" session, answering questions by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on the Extremely Dire State of Wild Pacific Salmon.
Fisheries Minister, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, appeared before this committee just days before her major June 8th announcement that the federal government will be launching a $647 million Pacific Salmon Strategy. - This will be the largest investment in Salmon by any government in history.
In this Part 3 of our "State of the Pacific Salmon" series we have compiled shortened clips (from the intense 2-hour session) pertaining just to the dire state of wild Pacific Salmon.
If you have not watched Part 1 or Part 2 of our "State of the Pacific Salmon" series, we encourage you to watch it, as it showcases the highest-level of competency on saving and managing Wild Pacific Salmon.
We will provide links to all the videos below.
We hope you enjoy this presentation and encourage all industry members to go to Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan's Facebook and Twitter page to let her know your concerns.
Mr. Gord Johns (MP for Courtenay-Alberni, NDP) questions the Fisheries Minister:
Mr. Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni, NDP): Minister, since I last checked three years ago, your Liberal government and the Harper Conservatives have spent over $19 million just in legal fees fighting the Nuu-chah-nulth people in court and denying their fishing rights. For the third time, on April 19, the higher court reaffirmed the rights of these nations to viable commercial fisheries. Will your government and the Prime Minister finally back up your commitments to reconciliation and affirm that this government will not appeal the most recent ruling? We know you have to decide within the next couple of weeks. Will your government actually get on with the implementation of their rights so that their fishers can get back on the water and contribute to our coastal economy?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard): I would say that Canada has been working collaboratively with the five Nuu-chah-nulth nations to advance reconciliation in the areas of collaborative governance, increased fishing access and community-based fisheries. We signed an incremental agreement with the five nations in September 2019, and we continue to work closely with them on their comprehensive reconciliation agreement. Of course, we want to make sure that we see first nations out on the water. We are currently, as you know, Mr. Johns, reviewing the court decision, and we'll have more to say on that—
Mr. Gord Johns: I appreciate that. Minister, it takes a lot of documents to prepare an appeal. You would have a good idea now of whether you're going to take that ruling on and appeal it. I'm not asking this question because the Nuu-chah-nulth are satisfied with what's happening or not happening at the table. I'm asking you a question: Are you going to respect the courts instead of continuing to spend taxpayers' money fighting indigenous people in court?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: We are still reviewing the decision. We are looking at it. We will have more to say on it in the near future. Our government and my department have been working very diligently to make sure that we can get fishers out on the water.
Mr. Gord Johns: While we're talking about indigenous fishers, do you have a safety plan in place to protect Mi'kmaq fishers who are afraid right now? They've told me that they are afraid to go out to exercise their right to a moderate livelihood because your government has failed to protect them. Do you have a plan in place to protect them?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: You know, this is an issue that is extremely challenging. There is no question that it's complex. Nobody wants to see a repeat of what happened last year with first nations on the east coast exercising their moderate livelihood right. We of course will have C and P officers on the water. We will also have the Coast Guard. We will also have RCMP officers who deployed to that area if needed. These measures are all put in place to protect all fishers and make sure that people are able to work safely.
Mr. Gord Johns: I don't think that's giving them the assurances that they need. Minister, you were asked earlier about the public data registry that would show who owns the quota of fisheries on the west coast and sharing the benefits. Why has that information not been released? This has been a couple of years in the works. This is really important. We want to know who owns the quota, and we also want to know about foreign ownership. It's not just about quota. You're seeing how foreign owners are creeping in on the processing side. We heard that with Royal Greenland at the committee the other day. What are you going to do to address the issue of foreign ownership of quota and processing in our country? It is a huge economic leakage, and it's having a huge impact on coastal communities.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: As I said earlier, this is not an easy thing to untangle. There are many different webs that you have to unwind to get to where ownership is. I'm going to turn to my deputy to see if he has anything to add, but I know that this is ongoing work within the department. It is something that we committed to doing after we received the committee report, but Deputy Sargent....
Mr. Gord Johns: I'll save it for your deputy, because we actually want to see results. I want to make sure that it is a priority of your government. In the information provided by conservation and protection at committee, we heard from them that there's an average of two violations a year for the retention of undersized prawns, that the regulation of non-retention of undersized prawns is not a conservation measure, and that the two and a half minutes to thaw a tub of prawns can rationally be considered to make them “readily available” or “readily determined”. Are you prepared to authorize the harvest community to continue to freeze their catches in the manner that they've been doing for the past 50 years, which has been demonstrated by precedent as well, as a previous DFO lead prawn manager explained, and has been approved by conservation and protection as being in accordance with their existing regulations? Everybody's dumbfounded on why you haven't interceded, especially given the testimony that we heard at committee that there just wasn't justification.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: As I said earlier, we have actually put in place something for this year. We are continuing to work with the industry to determine whether or not that is something that can continue into the future. We will make sure that this is done hand in hand with the industry, but I will give you my commitment right now to making sure that we solve this issue.
Mr. Gord Johns: Minister, they need to hear from you soon, because your department is losing their confidence. They want to see that you're in charge of that department, because there was no good reason for that decision to be made, and it had such an impact on those fishers' lives. I'm hoping to see an announcement to correct things and redress the situation, and we're encouraging you to come out with one very soon.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: As I have said, Mr. Johns, the decision will be made in collaboration with the industry, but I am very much committed to solving this issue.
Mr. Gord Johns: Minister, the PRV paper published on May 26 shines an unfavourable light once again on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' refusal to heed the science on the risk of salmon farming to wild salmon. When science reporting on the risk from salmon farming is published, invariably the department and industry downplay it. However, it seems implausible that scientists at UBC, the University of Toronto, SFU and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, for example, can be wrong every time. How will you evaluate the implications that a virus has been imported accidentally by the Atlantic salmon farming industry and is spreading serious health impacts on some species of wild salmon? Who will you turn to, and will you be designating PRV as a disease agent so that it is captured under fisheries regulations?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Thank you for the question. A number of people have reached out to me directly with regard to PRV and the concerns they've seen. We welcome any new research that can help us identify and understand the potential risks of the PRV virus and associated strains. We do continue to support research on the number of factors that impact the health of our wild salmon. All our science is peer reviewed. We will look at what has been put forward and make sure that we have the right path going forward.
Mr. Gord Johns: Minister, that hasn't happened. Aquaculture has been given an entire division in the department under its own regional director. It's focused entirely on the industry. While management of wild salmon may be implicit, don't you think it's time, given the extreme state of wild salmon in many salmon runs, that there's better independent oversight and advice? The department and Canada's elected officials need someone outside of the bureaucracy and political system to provide overarching, unbiased, science- and evidence-based decision-making on what is working and what isn't working and what the priorities are. Do you not agree with that?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I would say that our science is peer-reviewed, Mr. Johns. That is one of the reasons it is held to a very high standard. With regard to the independence of the public service, they don't do this for political reasons. This is their job, and they take this science very seriously. I stand behind them in the extremely important work that they do.
Mr. Gord Johns: Minister, further to my previous question around governance, the current system is clearly not working. The department doesn't have a system to assess the status of a population, the status of the habitat, set a management target, and then manage for the outcomes you want under an integrated approach using the available management levers of habitat, hatcheries and harvest. The department has had decades to do this and has never done it. It was laid out fairly nicely in the wild salmon policy, which was written over 15 years ago, but never fully activated. Cohen said that someone should be put in charge to integrate all things for salmon, but the department has never done that. If you pour $647 million into a system that isn't working and that has never activated an effective management framework, I'm worried that we'll lose the opportunity to get better results. This is why a new governance framework is needed and necessary, one that includes the department, the province and first nations. Otherwise, we're just going to end up spending more money on a system that lacks a management framework, lacks a reporting system and lacks accountability for results. We know that what's best for salmon needs to be a priority and what's good for users must come second. Will you speak about a new model?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Thank you Mr. Johns. I would like to thank you for your advocacy. You and I have had a number of good discussions over the last few years with regard to this issue, and I appreciate your comments. The new centre of expertise is going to be something that will bring people together so that we aren't working at cross-purposes. This is one of the challenges we have seen when we have so many different groups trying to do the same thing. It's really important to make sure we come together and find the right path forward by working in collaboration. I know that people say, “Oh, you say that all the time”, as Mr. Zimmer did, but the reality is that we have to do this with first nations, the province and environmental groups. A centre of expertise is going to give us that ability to work with the best people on the ground who are doing this work now. Your point is very well taken. That is actually the goal I have. It is to make sure we are working with everyone to make sure we find the best way to conserve and protect these species.
Mr. Gord Johns: Minister, thank you for appearing today at committee. I appreciate your being here. Minister, you supported my motion M-151 in 2018 to combat plastic pollution. Within that motion is combatting industrial use of plastics. We know how important the shellfish industry is to our economy, but in terms of future sustainability, the amount of plastics used in the industry is growing right now. Now it's our understanding that there are geoduck applications coming forward in the form of PVC tubes. These tubes break down, releasing toxins and microplastic particles that can permanently contaminate waters where shellfish are grown, where our food supply is coming from and where herring and salmon are spawned and reared. What are you going to do to ensure that PVC and other types of plastic chemicals aren't being given industrial use in our oceans?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Thank you, Mr. Johns. I agree with you that we have to take the use of plastics seriously. As I said, I supported your motion. We know how important it is to get plastics out of our oceans. It's something I am committed to working with all of you to do. I think I would like to have a further conversation with you about this, if that's possible—
Mr. Gord Johns: Yes.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: —at a later time. I think it is something we do have to make sure we're addressing, because the fishery has to be sustainable for the long term. We need to make sure we're not only conserving and protecting but also growing things to abundance. In order to do that, we have to make sure we have the best practices in place.
Mr. Gord Johns: Thank you, Minister. One area of the motion that the government hasn't really taken action on is the industrial use of plastics. Minister, going back to the emerging science I talked about around Tenacibaculum and the PRV sea lice that has been science journal peer reviewed, and acting in accordance with the precautionary principle to safeguard B.C.'s critically low salmon runs, what are you going to do in terms of...? Keeping in mind, obviously, that the precautionary principle is to be implemented in the absence of conclusive science and that there is no fish farm policy to guide this—so it's really at your level of decision-making—how will the department implement the inclusion of first nations in the external advisory committee mentioned in the budget for salmon restoration?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I think indigenous knowledge is going to be critical as we go forward. As I said earlier to MP Battiste, first nations are the stewards of the land and of the water. They are the ones who are committed to conservation. We all have to be. Having said that, I think they will play a significant role in our centre of expertise in making sure we have the proper consultation, because indigenous knowledge is going to be a driving part of this salmon strategy.
Mr. Ken Hardie (MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, Lib.) questions the Fisheries Minister:
Mr. Ken Hardie (Fleetwood—Port Kells, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's good to see you, minister and officials. For the longest time, there's certainly been a strong feeling that having the DFO responsible for aquaculture runs in direct conflict to its obligation to employ the precautionary principle, because there has been so much evidence that suggests that aquaculture operations have been harmful, especially to some of our salmon runs. Have you made any progress on the long-standing recommendation from the Cohen commission to get responsibility for aquaculture away from the DFO?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard): First of all, I would say that I have full confidence in the science that the DFO produces. There is a robust process in place when it comes to the peer-review process for aquaculture. All decisions that are made are based on the best available science, using the precautionary approach, and the aquaculture industry, while undergoing a transition on the west coast, is extremely important right across the country. It supports thousands of jobs. The DFO has immense expertise. It makes sure that it is working in collaboration with the industry as well. I have also begun work on things like the an aquaculture act, which will provide clarity to the industry. My parliamentary secretary, Terry Beech, has been doing consultations with regard to the 2025 transition commitment. You know, we're going to continue to work with industry. We're going to continue to base our decisions on science, and I have full confidence in the department's science process.
Mr. Ken Hardie: With regard to the major investment in Pacific salmon that was included in budget 2021, to what extent will the DFO be responsible for basically managing the programs that this funding will be supporting?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I'm very proud of the fact that our government has made this historic investment of $647 million in wild Pacific salmon, recognizing that this is the largest investment to help this species. However, we need to act in partnership and in collaboration with the Province of British Columbia, with Yukon, with first nations, with industry, with environmental organizations, with anglers. There are a number of groups that have great expertise in salmon. We need to bring it together, find the path forward and make a strategic investment where we do the strategic work. However, I think bringing it all together under one umbrella is going to be critical.
Mr. Ken Hardie: Explain, if you can, the role of the salmon centre of expertise. That was specifically noted in the budget as something you intend to create. What will its role be?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Of course, we have not rolled out the salmon strategy yet. We are hopefully going to be doing that in the coming weeks, at least the first phase, which will be a consultation process to find out what the best ways forward are. The centre of expertise is looking at the many people who work on the ground with salmon, who know the populations and the challenges they're facing, and we need to bring all of that under one umbrella. We need to make sure that we're not all working at cross-purposes. Everybody has the same goal, and that is to protect, conserve and grow the salmon populations. What we need to make sure we're doing is that we're all doing it in the same direction.
Mr. Ken Hardie: I have one final question, and I haven't seen the chair lean forward in his usual fashion to tell me I'm over. In the last Parliament we brought forward a fairly major study on basically sharing the wealth that comes out of the water. Just recently here in this committee we've been looking at some of the changes of ownership on the east coast. Out on the west coast there's been a long-standing call to try to identify the beneficial ownership of things like licences and quota, because the suspicion over and above the suspicion of money laundering out there is that a lot of our common resource is actually being owned and operated offshore.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: First of all, I want to thank the committee for the work they did on that study. I think it was an extremely important one to recognize the challenges being faced with regard to ownership on the west coast. This year on the east coast we were able to enshrine owner-operator in legislation. It has taken many years for us to get to that point. We have started work on the west coast with regard to questions around foreign ownership and things like that, recognizing that DFO is currently reviewing the existing foreign ownership restrictions and gathering data. It does take time. I often say it's like unravelling a very tangled knot, but we are committed to doing that work. I believe that when we responded to the committee report, we indicated that this is something we are moving forward with right now.
Mr. Ken Hardie: I have one last question, then. What is the state of our assessment of salmon stocks in British Columbia? Do we have up-to-date assessments of those stocks?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Salmon are in serious decline. I think we are seeing some populations as low as 90% down in some areas. We have almost 50 different types of salmon that are on the possible species at risk listing, so there is no time to waste in making sure that we find the right path forward. I'm not sure, but if I could turn to my deputy, he may have more numbers with regard to what the salmon stock numbers are.
Mr. Ken Hardie: Just reporting out, Minister Jordan, I've heard from my old friend Alex Morton on the west coast. She's done a review of the sea lice situation and young salmon going past the farms that are now not operating. There is a reduction of about 90% in the infestation there. I have to say that on the one hand we hear, “Well, you've got to act”, and then “Well, no; you'd better wait until you talk to this one, that one and the other one.” We were dealing with an urgent situation, and you took, I think, very brave and very immediate action, and it was clearly necessary, given the kind of damage that was being done there. That's my commentary. Here's the question: On the centre of excellence, who is it going to report to?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Are you asking about the new centre of expertise for the salmon, the salmon strategy?
Mr. Ken Hardie: Yes.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: That will be run out of DFO, but it will be done in co-operation with the stakeholders working in this industry on the ground.
Mr. Ken Hardie: I have to say that there is suspicion on the coast that sometimes DFO isn't very forthcoming at passing information along to the minister. We certainly had suggestions in the salmon study earlier that certain information had not reached you, that it had been suppressed. That's a claim that was made. I am not asking you to confirm or not. I am just putting that on the table. Can somebody—
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Can I also mention that there is also going to be an arm's-length advisory board at the centre of expertise as well? It will be made up of individuals both inside and outside of DFO.
Mr. Ken Hardie: I think it will be necessary to maintain very close contact with that board. I know you have an excellent parliamentary secretary who would love to be able to take that on. I would love for him to take that on. I had asked this, but you didn't get a chance to answer—nobody did. What is the state of our salmon stock assessments? Do we have up-to-date assessments on all of our runs in B.C.?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I am going to turn to my department on that one.
Mr. Timothy Sargent (Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): Rebecca, perhaps you can take that one on.
Ms. Rebecca Reid (Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): Thanks very much. We have over 9,000 individual stocks in B.C. and the Yukon. We don't have stock assessment information for all of them. We do have a very comprehensive collection of stock assessments for the main runs. That information is used in evaluating fisheries every year.
Mr. Ken Hardie: Thank you for that. Minister, you mentioned that there's going to be an aquaculture act. What are thinking about in terms of pulling that act together? What are the essential elements going to be in that act?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: The work on the aquaculture act is already well under way. Of course, recognizing that aquaculture is governed differently on the west coast from the way it is governed on the east coast, we have to do this in collaboration with partners. I think the whole focus of the act has to provide clarity to the industry. We recognize how important the aquaculture sector is. We know how important it is to jobs and to providing a food source. It's an extremely important industry. It is very different in Newfoundland and Labrador from what it is in British Columbia and in Prince Edward Island. The aquaculture act will give us an ability to provide clarity to the industry with regard to sustainability and regulation and just make sure that everything is there, because aquaculture is not covered under the Fisheries Act as well as it should be.
Mr. Ken Hardie: One thing that's come up quite often in our past studies, particularly on the west coast, has been the missed opportunity to engage indigenous people in on-the-ground guardian programs, etc., to keep on eye on things, report on things and even help with enforcement. Do you see that as a key element, particularly as the strategy goes forward with this quite hefty investment in Pacific salmon?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: With regard to the guardians program, I've been doing consultation under the blue economy strategy. I think I have probably done somewhere in the vicinity of 35 round tables. It comes up on a regular basis at almost every one of them about how important that program is, so I can see that being part of the path forward with regard to the blue economy. We have also made some significant investments in indigenous communities with regard to the Coast Guard Auxiliary by providing boats for indigenous communities. I think there has been collaboration on the west coast with indigenous communities and the Coast Guard. I think the guardians program is an amazing program that we really need to do more with—absolutely.
Mr. Ken Hardie: Now can we talk a little bit about hatcheries? They have come up quite often. In fact, during our discussions on the Big Bar slide and the work that's going on there, we did venture into that issue. Where are we headed in terms of perhaps getting a hatchery strategy in place?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: With regard to the salmon strategy, some of the money, of course, is for conservation-based hatcheries. We are actually looking at a number of ways.... We know that hatcheries play an important role in the conservation and protection of wild Pacific salmon, so I think that hatcheries are going to be part of the bigger picture as we go forward with the salmon strategy.
Mr. Ken Hardie: Yes, I think we're definitely going to need to be very close to community hatcheries and have a lot of consultation with indigenous groups, because they have some very clear ideas on this one.
Mr. Mel Arnold (North Okanagan—Shuswap, CPC) questions the Fisheries Minister:
Mr. Mel Arnold (North Okanagan—Shuswap, CPC): Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thank the minister for appearing at committee today. It's been a long time since you've appeared at this committee. Minister, who is ultimately responsible for leading DFO?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard): That would be me.
Mr. Mel Arnold: Are all of the fisheries decisions you make based on science?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Science would be the primary driver of the decisions that we make, but there are other considerations that are taken into account.
Mr. Mel Arnold: As much as I know you want us to be excited about the funding announced, the committee has heard repeatedly that the resources need to be paired with the right plans and actions to restore Pacific salmon. The state of Pacific salmon today shows your government's approach over the past five and a half years has failed to the point that the committee has been warned of impending collapses and extinctions. The salmonid enhancement program is chronically underfunded, and the strategic salmon health initiative is lapsing because resources have not been provided. Why do you refuse to provide the resources needed for proven and essential work like these initiatives?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I would say that we have actually, as a government, done a great deal with regard to salmon enhancement. There is more that needs to be done, and I could not agree with you more that we need to do it in collaboration with the organizations that work on the ground in these really important areas. We are committed to doing that. That's one reason that the salmon strategy we will be putting forward will be done in collaboration with the province, the territory, with first nations, with environmental organizations, with industry and with anglers.
Mr. Mel Arnold: It's interesting that you say you'll be working with all of these groups, because in 2018, your government worked with the B.C. government, first nations, academics, industry and others in developing a science advisory report that followed the emergency assessment of Fraser steelhead. I have three questions on this. First, are you aware that DFO unilaterally diluted the conclusions of the emergency assessment and issued a science advisory report with conclusions that were not scientifically defensible? As well, what actions have you taken to ensure that this assault on intergovernmental co-operation and scientific process is investigated and prevented in the future? Finally, how can Canadians trust you and your department to make impartial, science-based decisions when your officials discarded the science in order to protect the status quo, rather than protecting fish on the brink of extinction?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Our government has made extremely difficult decisions when it comes to fisheries management. We've also based our decisions on science. I will stand firmly behind our process with regard to the peer-reviewed science that we used to make our decisions. Management decisions are often very difficult because they, of course, impact livelihoods—
Mr. Mel Arnold: Those management decisions disregarded the science that was provided, the professional science, and your department discarded it in order to make another decision.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I would say, sir, that because of previous cuts that we have seen from the previous government, DFO science was challenged. We have been working very hard to make sure that we are able to invest in science again. We are making sure that we have the right tools in place to make these very difficult decisions. I will say that this government is committed to making sure that we take that very seriously and that we make sure those decisions are based on peer-reviewed science within the department.
Mr. Mel Arnold: Again, I will say that your department manipulated the science and provided a report that diluted the science that was there. I want to move on. Minister, the Adams River, in my riding of North Okanagan—Shuswap, was once known as the richest 300 acres in the world because of the sockeye and other salmon that used to spawn and hatch there. For years we've seen continuing salmon declines, and your status quo management is not working. Your actions and inactions in this year alone have hurt British Columbians and the families and communities they support. Your Discovery Islands decision was announced with no plan for the hundreds of workers it will affect. By your sudden regulatory reinterpretation, 600 B.C. prawn harvesters had their livelihoods put on notice, along with 9,000 British Columbians who depend on a public fishery for their workforce and employment, because you have again rejected the proposal for mark-selective fisheries. Juvenile wild Pacific salmon continue to be obliterated by pinnipeds, yet you refuse to accept proposals for their management. Despite a mandate from your Prime Minister, you've also failed to make—
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Arnold. I'm sorry, but you're out of time.
Mr. Mel Arnold: Madam Minister, before I was cut off there—rightly so, I guess, by the chair, and right on time—I was speaking about the continuing salmon declines we've seen in my riding in the Adams River and how your actions and inactions have hurt British Columbians with the Discovery Island decision and the spot prawn decision, or reinterpretation. I was speaking about the public fishers who have been let down without an opportunity for a mark-selective fishery, the failure of your department to address pinnipeds in the Salish Sea and the Pacific—and the Atlantic, as far as that goes—as well as the failure to follow through on the mandate from your Prime Minister to provide funding for preventing aquatic invasive species in B.C. How can you make these decisions that you've made without a scientific background to base these decisions on?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I'm sorry. I'm not sure I understand the question.
Mr. Mel Arnold: You've made these decisions without providing any reasoning to the people who are affected by them. The spot prawn harvesters are still trying to understand why the decision was made. The public fishers haven't seen any answers as to the reasons. There doesn't seem to be any reason behind any of your decisions.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: First of all, I'm going to say that I'm extremely proud of our government and the decisions that we have made with regard to investments in making sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to protect the wild Pacific salmon. You talked about that. We've also invested, in budget 2018, I believe, $43 million for aquatic invasive species. Is there more to be done? Absolutely. With regard to the B.C. shrimp program, we have made significant investments in habitat restoration. With regard to science—
Mr. Mel Arnold: If there was more to be done on the aquatic invasive species, why was there nothing in the massive budget of 2021 for invasive species in B.C.?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: We are continuing to make sure that we are working to deal with aquatic invasive species. Of course, there is ongoing funding for things like the Asian carp and sea lampreys, and of course we know there have been challenges this year with regard to the quagga mussels. We are continuing to work in collaboration and to get the science to make sure that we make the right decisions with regard to these species. It is a challenging—
Mr. Mel Arnold: There's nothing in budget 2020-21 for that. I need to get another question in here if I can. If you've based these decisions on science and sound reasoning, as you say you have, and you're proud of your department, why have you not shared those reasons with the people whose lives are most directly impacted?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I would say that we actually have absolutely communicated to stakeholder groups and first nations on decisions. The management decisions are often very tough, because it does mean that we have to sometimes cut quotas and sometimes cut total allowable catch, depending on where you are. These are tough, Mr. Arnold. There's no question.
Mr. Mel Arnold: Those reasons haven't been made clear to the stakeholders. As I mentioned, the spot prawn harvesters have no idea why the decision to reverse the interpretation was made. Public fishers haven't received a satisfactory answer to their questions. Many of them haven't received a response. Why?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: As I have said, with regard to the spot prawn specifically, I am 100% committed to getting this issue solved for the long term. We were able to work with the industry to have a plan in place for this year, but we will be making sure that there is a plan in place as we go forward. That has to be done in consultation with the industry.
Mr. Mel Arnold: Thank you, Minister. The Cohen commission was initiated in response to severe declines in Pacific salmon stocks, and the strategic salmon health initiative, or SSHI, was established in 2013, soon after the Cohen report was calling for more information. Since 2013, SSHI work has examined and reported on very important science. Why are you shutting down the SSHI program after having only completed two of the four phases of the investigation?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I am actually going to turn to my deputy minister for this one, please.
Mr. Timothy Sargent (Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): I think, Rebecca, that's in your world as well.
Ms. Rebecca Reid (Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): The SSHI was organized through a series of phases. We have completed phase two of the program. Phase three, which requires the establishment of a wet lab, a facility, is not funded at this point, so the work under way right now is writing up the papers and doing that type of activity while funding is sought for that next step.
Mr. Blaine Calkins (MP for Red Deer-Lacombe, CPC) questions the Fisheries Minister:
Mr. Blaine Calkins (Red Deer—Lacombe, CPC): Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Minister, for being here today. Minister, many communities, businesses and families along Canada's west coast depend on access to chinook salmon for their livelihood, food security, family traditions and businesses. I've asked you before about mark-selective fisheries. They are a precautionary and sustainable way to provide critical access to these chinook salmon while minimizing or virtually eliminating any of the impacts on the wild stocks of concern. The department has been aware of mark-selective fisheries proposals now for over eight years, and we simply can't get a definitive answer one way or the other. Minister, I'd like to think that you're in charge of the department. I'd like to think that you've seen the reasonableness of mark-selective fisheries proposals from advisory boards. Virtually everybody says that it's okay to go ahead with these things. Are you going to instruct your department to proceed with mark-selective fisheries so that we can have this effective conservation tool and actually achieve a balance between conservation and socio-economic objectives?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard): Thank you for the question, Mr. Calkins. As I have said to you before, I am not averse to a mark-selective fishery. I do believe it needs to be done in a measured fashion. We cannot have something happening that may impact the wild stocks. We have opened up mark-selective fisheries in a small scale in some areas as a test—as a pilot program—to see what can work. We have to recognize that the potential of increased fishing effort and increased mortalities from hooking and releasing are all things that have to be taken into consideration and are a real concern. We also need to make sure that—
Mr. Blaine Calkins: With all due respect, I'm an angler. I'm a sport fisherman. I'm a recreational fisherman—
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I'm aware.
Mr. Blaine Calkins: I know that there is always going to be some mortality, even in a catch-and-release fishery, but that doesn't prevent catch-and-release fisheries from existing. I also know from being an angler on the west coast that as soon as you catch your quota or your limit on a particular species, you generally move on, especially if you're chartering somebody to take you fishing. When you catch your one coho, you move on to the next fish. Allowing people to actually keep the first marked chinook salmon that they catch means they will move on to other species. I don't see how that would be more damaging than having a catch-and-release fishery that encourages the catch and release of chinook salmon all day long. With all due respect, I just don't know if the department really understands the mind of a recreational fisherman.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I recognize how challenging this has been for the rec fishery, not only because of COVID but also because of the management measures we had to take. That is one of the reasons that this investment we have put in the budget is going to be so significant for making sure that we can do everything we have to do to see how we go forward with a mark-selective fishery. I look forward to working with the anglers and the sport fishers to find out what that can look like for them, recognizing, though, that stocks are in serious decline. We have to be very careful with what we're allowing to happen in areas where there are challenges to those fish.
Mr. Blaine Calkins: I think we should be careful. Not all stocks are in decline. I'll agree, and everybody at this table would agree, that certain stocks are in decline, but certain stocks are also very healthy and very vibrant. Certain stocks are actually just created, through hatchery programs and so on, for the purpose of putting fish into the ocean to be caught. I'm an Albertan, Minister, one of many Albertans who count on going to the west coast to catch fish, and we know, based on talking to those who offer charters and so on, that they know we're not going to pay for airfare or drive to the west coast unless we have some type of certainty and predictability that we can keep one or maybe two chinook salmon. That is the prized fish that's out there. We know that there are many chinook salmon that are produced by hatcheries in Washington and other areas, and there's every indication, as there was last year when there were great opportunities to catch and retain chinook salmon, that this year there's going to be a good return of chinooks, not in the stocks of concern but in other areas. What kind of certainty and predictability is there that we are going to have the same kind of summer catch retention that we had last year? The sooner the department decides, or you decide, to announce that, the sooner people will book trips to the west coast and provide some economic certainty for those who rely on chinook salmon fisheries for a livelihood. Sooner rather than later, can you give us any clarity on what's going to happen?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: That decision will be coming soon, Mr. Calkins. We are also developing a framework on whether chinook mark-selective fisheries and mass marking can be applied as a management tool. DFO is consulting on the chinook mark-selective fishery proposals from the recreational sector, and we are planning to proceed on a pilot basis in 2021, this year, so there are steps being taken. As I have said many times, I am not averse to a mark-selective fishery. It just needs to be done within the right time frame and in the right way, and while recognizing that there are stocks of concern that we do need to be very careful about. Making sure that we have the right information, making sure that we have the right data, and making sure that we are addressing these concerns that we're hearing from people are all parts of the process.
Mr. Bob Zimmer (MP for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, CPC) questions the Fisheries Minister:
Mr. Bob Zimmer (Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, CPC): Thank you, Chair. Thank you to the minister for attending today. My questions will be around what my colleague Mr. Calkins has already referred to, that's the selective fishery in B.C. I have to read you recommendation 30 of the Cohen commission. It says the following: “The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should designate an individual to coordinate scientific, educational, and management efforts in relation to selective fishing practices”. Minister, has this been done?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard): I'm going to have to turn to my department, because I will admit that I am not aware of that.
Mr. Timothy Sargent (Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): In turn, I'll turn to our regional director general for the Pacific, Rebecca Reid.
Ms. Rebecca Reid (Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): We do have a selective fishing policy that we apply for salmon.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: I'm asking actually about the person who's been applied, the designated individual. I just want to now if that's been done and who it is.
Ms. Rebecca Reid: The policy is implemented by all fishery managers—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: I'm actually asking about the one. It says "designate an individual to coordinate scientific, educational, and management efforts", so who is that person?
Ms. Rebecca Reid: We have a regional director of science and a regional director for fisheries management who work together on those two aspects.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: Maybe I can get those names specifically so that we know who to go to after this.
I'll go back to the minister. With regard to a selective fishery in B.C., the B.C. government has been very supportive of this idea, as you know. I have a document that was written to the B.C. salmon management team at DFO.
This is from the letter:
We look forward to further discussion regarding salmon enhancement. We encourage increased chinook mass-marking to enable better management and identification of hatchery chinook production. This can lead to efficiencies in chinook production, and better management of harvest, which can lead to increased prey availability for SRKW and certainly for harvesters.
It goes on:
B.C. encourages DFO to be flexible in its management approaches to not only conserve and protect stocks of concern but also facilitate limited and 'safe' harvest opportunities on abundant stocks where locally supportable. We are hopeful that all options, including mark-selective fisheries, are being considered by DFO to ensure conservation and socioeconomic objectives can be achieved.
Minister, we have 25 MPs who are asking for a selective fishery in B.C. We have a B.C. government that is asking for a selective fishery. We have a public fishery that's asking for a selective fishery.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Thank you for the question, Mr. Zimmer. As I have said to Mr. Calkins, I'm not averse to a mark-selective fishery. I do believe that—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: I heard your answer, Minister, but I guess I'm asking for the next part of that answer, which is “When?”.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Would you let me finish, please?
Mr. Bob Zimmer: I'm asking for when, Minister. When?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: We currently have a pilot program in place. We will continue to work to find the best way forward, recognizing that the wild Pacific salmon are in dire straits in some areas—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: We know.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: —and we need to make sure that anything we do does not impact the conservation of those fish.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: Minister, that's the great part about a selective fishery. You can selectively catch certain fish and selectively not catch certain fish, using fishing methods. I've done many videos—I'm sure you've seen some of them—that explain what a selective fishery is and how it works. We're just asking for it to be implemented. You said that you're doing a test fishery this summer. You're doing tests, and then what? Is it a test fishery, and then there's another five years of a pause, or are we actually going to move into a selective fishery that can be used B.C.-wide? What's your end goal? If 2021 is the test selective fishery, what's the next step?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: My end goal is to make sure that we have wild Pacific salmon. That is my end goal. We have a stock that is in serious decline. We need to do everything possible, and we are making sure that we do that. A mark-selective fishery is a possibility, no question, but we need to make sure that before anything moves ahead, we do what we have to do to conserve the stock that we have.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: That's the great part about a selective fishery: It allows us to do both. You use the word “collaboration” a lot, and that, by definition, is “the action of working with someone to produce something”. You use that word a lot. You use word salads a lot, Minister. The public fishery has been more than willing to do a demonstration and to show you that it works, but they don't feel collaborated with. They feel that you've taken their data and simply ignored it. You've ignored conversations at tables that they've been at for months. When are you going to actually establish the selective fishery that's been asked for? I know you're going to repeat your answer, but my hope is that you'll give us a date, an expected date: “This is my best, Mr. Zimmer. The test date is 2021. Maybe in 2022 we can see a 50% selective fishery, and maybe in three or four years, we can see a 100% selective fishery.” Minister, we need answers now.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I met with the sport fishing advisory board, and—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: And you ignored their advice.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Can I finish answering the question?
The Chair: I'm sorry, Mr. Zimmer, but your time is up.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: Going back to the sport fishing advisory board and the questions I was posing to you before I ran out of time, this is from the B.C. government, once again:
We also encourage DFO to implement some of the specific fishery proposals that have been put forward that balance conservation with harvest opportunities, where possible, including those Mark Selective Fishing opportunities recommended by the Sport Fishing Advisory Board.
I'm going to read a document from the SFAB. This is their warning and advice to the ministry:
In order to sustain both wild Chinook stocks of concern and the recreational (and potentially other) fisheries it is critically important that DFO make the policy decision as soon as possible to implement mass marking (MM) of hatchery origin Chinook in BC to enable widespread mark-selective fishery (MSF) management when non-selective management poses too high a risk to stocks of concern.
Minister, when are you going to implement a selective fishery in B.C.?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Thank you, Mr. Zimmer. As I have said, we have put a pilot program in place with regard to a mark-selective fishery. There needs to be more work done, absolutely, when it comes to making sure that they are not going to impact the stocks of concern. We are working on that now. We have put in place areas where there can be a mark-selective fishery, and I—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: Minister, you talk about a framework. You've talked about a framework for different things before, but in fairness, you haven't stated a framework for implementing a selective fishery in B.C. It's a big thing. It's going to take some work to do. That's what the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should be working on as we speak, based on Cohen commission recommendations and other advice.
Let me just read another quote from the SFAB.
The SFAB cannot overstate the urgency of the situation and the critical need to implement Chinook mass-marking as soon as possible. The recreational fishery infrastructure simply cannot survive widespread Chinook non-retention from April into July, and perhaps longer, around much of the inner south coast on an annual basis. We know from biosampling programs (Avid Anglers and other catch sampling opportunities) that significant numbers of hatchery origin Chinook are present in the Salish Sea during this time, we simply need a way for anglers to identify them in order to sustain both the fishery and unenhanced Chinook stocks of concern.
Minister, we need a better answer than just doing a test this summer. When are you going to implement a full-on selective fishery in B.C.?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: Thank you, Mr. Zimmer. As I have said, we have put a pilot program in place with regard to a mark-selective fishery. There needs to be more work done, absolutely, when it comes to making sure that they are not going to impact the stocks of concern. We are working on that now. We have put in place areas where there can be a mark-selective fishery, and I—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: With respect, Minister, there's data that has been already provided to you from the SFAB and many others. We have examples in the states of Washington and Oregon that have already gone through this process, and they're functional today.
I have one more quote from the SFAB.
It should be noted that because of sufficiently high mark rates the opportunity exists now to implement MSF management for Chinook at certain times. As a generalization these potential opportunities occur around the south end of Vancouver Island and into the lower Strait of Georgia in the winter to late May period, enabled by the presence of significant numbers of US (and therefore adipose fin-clipped) hatchery origin Chinook.
Minister, you have the data. Why don't you just do it?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: As I have said, there are stocks of concern that we have to be aware of. Conservation always has to be our priority. Right now, a mark-selective fishery does not allow for fishing in an area where there are stocks of concern.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: That's why it's called a selective fishery, Minister. You can selectively not catch the stocks of concern.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I'm well aware of why it's called a selective fishery, Mr. Zimmer.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: Pardon me?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: I said I'm well aware of why it's called a mark-selective fishery.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: With all the data that's been presented to you by the experts you call on to give you advice.... They've even offered that this can be done now. This can be established right now, and yet we hear stalling after stalling after stalling examples from the department about establishing a selective fishery. Even the ability to have machines that mark fish has been turned down, we've understood. Minister, there have been many opportunities for you to get to an easy “yes” answer on this issue. There's a lot of evidence, a lot of data. A lot of B.C. fishing families are frankly relying upon a good decision based on data, based on science that you yourself have solicited, and you're just simply not listening to it because you want to still prevent it from happening, for some reason. I just need a clear answer. If you're not going to listen to the data provided, what is it going to take?
The Chair: Actually, Mr. Zimmer, you've gone way over time, so the time for an answer is well past. I'll now go to Mr. Hardie for five minutes or less, please.
Mr. Ken Hardie (Fleetwood—Port Kells, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Did you want to fill in any final comments on the last line of questioning, Minister Jordan?
Hon. Bernadette Jordan: As I've said many times, Mr. Hardie, the mark-selective fishery is not something I am opposed to. I think it's actually a good idea. We just need to make sure that I have the right science and data, that it's backed up, to make sure there is not a challenge within the areas of concern. I will continue to say that.
STATE OF THE PACIFIC SALMON: Part 2 - The “Smoking Gun” Killing Pacific Salmon, DFO Keeping Science Away from Fisheries Minister May 24, 2021 Episode Page: STATE OF THE PACIFIC SALMON: Part 2
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