Elizabeth May questions the Minister of Fisheries on fish farms, orcas and more

Read the full transcript here.

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2022-05-30 23:51

Mr. Chair, just by way of opening, I will say that I am basing a lot of these questions on testimony that we heard at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. It is an excellent committee with a lot of non-partisan co-operation between members around the table, but I will not cite every witness in every specific question.
I am following up on an earlier question on the climate impacts of extreme weather events and the impacts on fish habitat. We know we have impacts on and threats to Pacific salmon from flooding, wildfires and the destruction of the riparian zones that used to shield the waters to keep them from getting too hot from increased water temperatures. However, I want to focus on what we are going to do to rebuild infrastructure after the November floods in B.C. We could do it wrong and worsen salmon habitat through building dikes and drudging or we could do it right. Some of the expert witnesses suggested that Washington state is where we ought to look for excellence in its flood plains by design program, which works to reduce flood risks while enhancing and restoring salmon habitat.

Can the minister update us on whether DFO is actively pursuing a flood plains by design program?

Hon. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra)
2022-05-30 23:53

Mr. Chair, I absolutely share the concern that it is not just the effects of the flooding, slides and fires, but how we rebuild from them. I mentioned earlier that I am part of the emergency committee of provincial and federal ministers, and each of my and DFO’s interventions has been to make sure the other ministers understand the importance of having fish-friendly rebuilding. We are going to continue to press that point.

Our government provided $5 billion to the province to help rebuild from the flooding in November. That rebuilding has to be done in a way that is fish friendly, so I am going to be asking for a report on what we are doing to ensure that.

I thank the member for her concern.

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2022-05-30 23:54

Mr. Chair, I will move to the problem of what people call aquaculture but my constituents insist I call toxic fish factories, and how we are going to get them out of the water, as the minister’s government promised. Some of the witnesses who testified recently on the science issue questioned why the department, not the minister personally, obviously, has in certain sections suppressed science on viruses and sea lice. The conclusion was that it had to do with the fact that the Fisheries Act structurally has a conflict of interest in both promoting the aquaculture industry and regulating it.

Would the minister be open to looking at the new aquaculture act to eliminate that conflict of interest, have a different department promote aquaculture and have DFO protect wild fish stocks?

Hon. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra)
2022-05-30 23:55

Mr. Chair, we do have a process, the CSAS process, which provides the opportunity for peer review of science. I understand what the member is saying when she says that there has been some recent research that has come out since the CSAS report that determined minimal risk. At a certain point, when there is a body of work that has not been reviewed, I will be requesting that another peer review process take place through CSAS so that we can update our analysis of the risk to wild salmon.
Consideration in a Committee of the WholeDepartment of Fisheries and OceansMain estimates 2022-2023

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2022-05-30 23:56

Mr. Chair, moving on, I was really pleased to hear the minister say that she recognizes that polystyrene is a real problem of plastic pollution in our coastal areas, but I was disappointed to hear that it sounded like DFO is not interested in getting it out of the ocean.
Is DFO working with Environment and Climate Change Canada to improve the regulations currently under review for ocean plastics to put polystyrene’s use in the marine and coastal areas on a list so that we avoid getting it into the ocean in the first place?