Does DFO understand the urgent state of wild pacific salmon stocks?

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-11-24 22:40 [p.2401]

Mr. Chair, I thank my hon. colleague for splitting his time with me. I also want to make note and thank a previous speaker, the member for Sydney—Victoria. Wela’lin. For people staying up late to watch the main estimates on fisheries, it was an important historical, personal and very relevant step toward reconciliation to understand who Donald Marshall Jr. really was.

I will ask the hon. member a number of questions. They are in the context of my extreme level of panic that Pacific wild salmon are in collapse and that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not seem to understand the level of urgency around a multifaceted and multi-layered crisis.
I will focus with my bit of time on some very specific questions.

Based on advice that the fisheries and oceans committee heard before prorogation, the only thing to do with the Big Bar slide to help the salmon in the Fraser River is to get a fish ladder in place. Has the Department of Fisheries and Oceans commissioned and contracted for the engineering and construction of a fish ladder as a permanent solution on the Big Bar slide?

Hon. Bernadette Jordan (South Shore—St. Margarets)
2020-11-24 22:41 [p.2401]

Mr. Chair, with regard to the Big Bar landslide, we have made significant progress but know that more has to be done. We are currently in the process of building a natural fish passageway. That is one of the things that has to be done to make sure we address the concerns in the Fraser River with regard to the slide.

We have been taking a multi-level government approach to this. We have the province behind us, we have worked with indigenous communities in the area and we are going to continue to do everything we possibly can to address this concern.

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-11-24 22:42 [p.2401]

Mr. Chair, I take it the answer, then, is no. I would urge the minister to look at the testimony we had before the fisheries and oceans committee specifically from first nations leadership that the only solution, and it is going to be expensive, is a permanent solution with engineering and building a fish ladder. It must done.

I want to move to the issue of recommendation 19 of the Cohen Commission and the Discovery Islands. The minister and I exchanged concerns about this issue during question period some months ago. I am desperately concerned that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans constructed its review of the threat to wild salmon from the fish farms specifically excluding the parasitic effect of the sea lice that escape and affect wild salmon. It did not take those into consideration. Within the minister’s own department, Dr. Kristi Miller has done important work on this, which appears to have been excluded from consideration.

Why is it that we have not taken action, as the Cohen Commission recommended, to protect our wild salmon?

Hon. Bernadette Jordan (South Shore—St. Margarets)
2020-11-24 22:44 [p.2401]

Mr. Chair, first of all, I would like to clarify for my hon. colleague that we actually have contracted for the Big Bar ladder. That is the natural fish passageway. I want to clarify that it has been contracted. We are working on that. We know it is an important part of making sure the salmon are able to traverse the river.

With regard to the Discovery Islands, protecting the wild Pacific salmon is a priority for us, and we recognize the first nations’ historic cultural connection to wild salmon. Our government manages risk from sea lice using a science-based adaptive management approach. This spring, in consultation with our partners, my department revised the licences of marine aquaculture finfish operators in British Columbia to increase the enforceability of licence conditions pertaining to the management of sea lice. That is a step we are taking to address the concerns around sea lice.

With regard to the Discovery Islands specifically and the Cohen Commission, one of the things we heard loud and clear from the first nations in those areas was that we could not make a unilateral decision on the fish farms. They are in their territorial waters, and they wanted to have a say. They knew it was important we make the decision, but they wanted to make sure they were—

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-11-24 22:44 [p.2401]

With respect, Mr. Chair, the department had plenty of time to consult between the Cohen Commission report and when we did not take those recommendations.
To the southern resident killer whales, I have had other discussions with the department about the sanctuary areas on Pender Island and Saturna Island. Not a single fine has been levied. No one who has violated the sanctuary for the whales has faced any punishment.

Can the minister commit to a much better and more robust protection of our southern resident killer whales?

Hon. Bernadette Jordan (South Shore—St. Margarets)
2020-11-24 22:44 [p.2402]

Mr. Chair, absolutely, we are committed to making sure we protect this iconic species. We are taking a number of measures to address the concerns that we hear with regard to the southern resident killer whales. We are going to continue to work with stakeholders and environmental organizations to make sure that we are addressing concerns.

This is an iconic species that nobody wants to become extinct. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that we protect it.