Mr. Fin Donnelly (Port Moody—Coquitlam, NDP)
moved that Bill C-228, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (closed containment aquaculture), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to formally introduce my private member's bill, Bill C-228, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, closed containment aquaculture.
I would like to thank my seconder, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I would also like to thank my colleagues who have told me they plan to support my bill.
The bill would protect wild salmon by requiring B.C. salmon farms to transition from harmful open net pens to safe closed containment systems within five years of the bill becoming law. It is silent on the type of technology, but it must meet the definition of a closed containment system.
The bill would require the minister to create a transition plan within 18 months of the bill receiving royal assent.
Wild salmon are in trouble on Canada's west coast, and Canada is uniquely positioned to become a world leader in closed containment salmon aquaculture.
Wild salmon, like so many other species, are under threat from climate change and habitat loss, but wild salmon in particular are under threat from disease, including sea lice, pollutants, and other harmful substances coming from open net salmon farms.
I, like so many other British Columbians, have a personal connection to wild salmon. They are an iconic part of our past, present, and hopefully, our future.
I have been working to protect wild salmon for over 25 years. In 1995 and again in 2000, I swam the 1,400 kilometre length of the Fraser River, one of the world's greatest salmon rivers, to draw attention to the threats facing this mighty river and its salmon.
In 1997, in recognition for my work to protect salmon, the Squamish nation bestowed me with the name Iyim Yewyews, which means black fish, orca, or strong swimmer in the animal world. It is an honour and a huge responsibility that I stand here today to continue the work to protect wild salmon.
Wild salmon are a keynote species in B.C. to our economy, our environment, and our culture. Commercial fishermen, sports fishers, and first nations fishermen depend on salmon for their economic livelihood. Recreational and sports fishing contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy and provide unforgettable experiences that so many families cherish. Salmon feed our incredible forest. Grizzly bears and eagles drag their carcasses into the forest, nourishing the soil and providing nutrients and nitrates.
Canadians know the impacts from one industry should not negatively impact another, yet that is happening. Salmon aquaculture, a much smaller industry, is negatively impacting a much larger wild salmon industry. Let us compare.
Wild salmon support a $102 million commercial fishery on the west coast that employs about 1,400 people. They support a $325 million recreational west coast fishery that employs about 8,400 people. They also fuel a $780 million west coast wilderness tourism industry that employs more than 40,000 people. That is over $1.1 billion and about 50,000 employees. Compare that to the B.C. aquaculture industry, which the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance says is responsible for some 5,500 jobs, with only 2,400 of those being full-time. The industry generates about $475 million in exports.
There was a day when the number of salmon was so great they could not be counted. It was said that one could walk on the backs of salmon to cross rivers. Now the returns are greeted with fear and anxiety.
Historically, Fraser River salmon runs topped 100 million. Now a run of 20 million is considered exceptional. In the last few years, we have witnessed some of the worst returns in recorded history. In 2009, just over a million Fraser River sockeye salmon returned to spawn. triggering a judicial inquiry led by Justice Bruce Cohen. Sadly, this trend has continued, with indicators showing the 2016 salmon run will most likely be the worst return in recorded history.
Justice Cohen concluded:
||...the potential harm posed to Fraser River sockeye salmon from salmon farms is serious or irreversible. Disease transfer occurs between wild and farmed fish, and I am satisfied that salmon farms along the sockeye migration route have the potential to introduce exotic diseases and to exacerbate endemic diseases that could have a negative impact on Fraser River sockeye.
Canada is not alone in experiencing the harsh realities of impacts from open-net salmon farms. Norway, Chile, and Scotland have all had problems with impacts of the salmon farming industry on their wild fisheries, leading to a decline in wild salmon populations and in some instances aquaculture collapse. The problems include: diseases from sea lice like infectious salmon anemia, ISA, and heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, HSMI, spreading to wild salmon; feces and waste feed damaging ecosystems; and escaped farm salmon interbreeding with wild populations.
Sea lice are naturally occurring parasites, but they are intensified by open-net salmon farms. In B.C., many of these open-net salmon farms are located right on the wild salmon migration route, creating the perfect storm for transmission of sea lice and deadly disease. As wild juvenile salmon leave the mouth of the Fraser River, they swim by these farms. Parasites from the farms latch onto them, sucking the life out of them and hindering their growth. This makes them more susceptible to be picked off by predators, thus continuing their decline. If we continue on this path of open-net salmon farms, scientists say it is only a matter of time before disease spreads to our entire wild salmon population.
Earlier this year, DFO scientist Dr. Kristi Miller confirmed the presence of HSMI by testing Atlantic salmon samples collected between 2013 and 2014 from a B.C. fish farm located in Johnstone Strait. The finding further raises the alarm that action must be taken to prevent the spread of this deadly salmon disease.
While I commend the government for its endorsement of the precautionary principle and its renewed commitment to implementing the Cohen commission recommendations, I call on the government to turn its words into actions. The precautionary principle recognizes that, in the absence of scientific certainty, conservation measures can and should be taken when there is knowledge of a risk of serious or irreversible harm to the environment and/or resources, using the best available information. Under this principle, the trigger for government action to protect wild salmon is for the science to demonstrate the existence of more than a minimal risk. The science is clear, the risks are real, and the diseases are present. It does not make much sense to let a much smaller industry, open-net salmon farms, destroy the much larger wild salmon industry. This was recognized by Justice Cohen in his report. Recommendation 3 reads:
|| The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.
We cannot sit back and continue to watch the decline of wild salmon, especially when we have such clear scientific evidence showing us the problem and such promising technological innovation showing us the solution. The solution is closed-containment technology, and if we act now, we can become a world leader.
Closed-containment systems involve a physical barrier, a solid wall between wild and farmed salmon, eliminating the negative impacts of open-net salmon farms. By transitioning to closed-containment technology, the industry would eliminate its impacts on wild salmon, allowing it to grow and the wild salmon economy to thrive. We are making strides across Canada in closed-containment salmon production, with Kuterra leading the way in B.C. and Sustainable Blue in Nova Scotia. In fact, in B.C. there are already more than 70 licensed closed containment finfish farms growing salmon, tilapia, crayfish, and trout.
Kuterra, which is 100% owned by the 'Namgis First Nation, is a fully operational closed-containment fish farm on northern Vancouver Island. Kuterra produces 400 tonnes per year of antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and non-GMO Atlantic salmon. It employs five local people full-time, plus contractors, and it supports fishing, processing, distribution, and sales jobs in Port Hardy and in Richmond, B.C.
In Burlington, Nova Scotia, Sustainable Blue is a privately funded, world-leading facility. It is now ready for the production of 100 tonnes of closed-containment salmon this year, aiming to expand to 150 tonnes or more next year. As with Kuterra, the fish are free from infection, so there is no need for antibiotics or chemicals. Sustainable Blue's waste-management system recycles what open-net farms dump into the ocean. It collects and stores the fish feces on the farm, which are later transformed into fertilizer for agricultural production.
The federal government needs to act now to encourage this trend. It must stop allowing the harmful open-net salmon farm industry to use the ocean as a toilet, a dumping ground for chemicals, toxins, and disease. Other countries are already taking up the challenge. We cannot afford to be left behind by not mandating a transition to closed containment.
In Norway, which is the largest producer of open-net salmon in the world, the government is investing in closed containment, in collaboration with industry. They have already begun to make the switch.
In Denmark, Danish Salmon is capable of producing 2,000 tons of closed containment salmon annually. Langsand Laks, in Denmark, is supplying customers with weekly harvests year-round. This year, it plans to harvest 2,000 tons, and next year, it is aiming for 4,000 tons. Danish investors are now exporting this technology to the United States. They are building a massive closed containment facility south of Miami, Florida, aiming to produce 30,000 tons of farmed salmon annually.
We cannot let other countries get ahead of us. We have a golden opportunity here in Canada, but we need to act now, be bold, and realize the potential of closed containment salmon aquaculture. We can start by supporting Bill C-228 and mandating the transition to closed containment on Canada's west coast.
Why would it be on Canada's west coast? It is because we are ideally located beside the ocean, with excellent growing conditions for salmon, and we have a well-trained workforce. I have consulted and sought support from industry, the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, first nations, academics, scientists, business leaders, labour groups, environmental organizations, the B.C government, and the public for my bill. Thousands have rallied behind this bill. They have signed petitions online and on paper. They are contacting their members of Parliament, asking them to vote their conscience and protect wild salmon.
Endorsements continue to come in, and the list is as diverse as Canada itself. It includes business leaders like Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, Jim Lawley of Scotia Fuels, Tony Allard of Wild Salmon Forever, and independent fishermen and chefs right across Canada.
It includes renowned environmentalists David Suzuki, Alexandra Morton, and Mark Angelo; first nations leaders, like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Chief Bob Chamberlin; the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance; the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and BCAFN.
It also includes industry associations, like the Sport Fishing Institute of BC, the B.C. Federation of Fly Fishers, the B.C. Federation of Drift Fishers, and the Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance; conservation organizations, like the BC Wildlife Federation, the Steelhead Society of BC, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC; trade unions, like UFAWU-Unifor, CUPE BC and UFCW local 1518; academics and scientists, like Dr. Rick Routledge, Dr. Andrew Wright, Dr. Lawrence Dill, and Dr. Marie Clement, to name a few.
I have even received support from Stanley Cup champion Willie Mitchell, and as many members have seen, an online video endorsement from the captain himself, Canadian actor and icon William Shatner.
This bill offers members a clear choice. They can either stand with wild salmon and the people who depend on them, and stand with progress, technology, and innovation, or they can remain mired in the status quo, impeding progress and putting wild salmon at further risk.
If we ignore the science and do not embrace closed containment technology, we not only risk taking advantage of our opportunity to become world leaders but we endanger a globally significant species. A collapse of wild salmon will lead to further job losses in coastal communities and will undermine first nation culture. That is why the majority of first nations in British Columbia are strongly opposed to open-net salmon farms.
Let us learn from one of the greatest ecological tragedies in Canadian history, the collapse of the northern cod. Let us not repeat the same mistake on the west coast. We cannot afford to sit back, make excuses, and not take action. We cannot let the impact of a smaller industry destroy the much larger wild salmon economy.
We can choose a healthy future for wild salmon and the people who depend on them. We can choose to expand new economic opportunities for rural, first nation, and coastal Canadians by embracing closed containment technology. We can choose to revitalize our salmon by protecting them from the threat of disease from open-net salmon farms.
I ask all members of the House to support this bill.
Mr. Serge Cormier (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by recognizing the good work the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam is doing, his continued dedication to the issues concerning aquaculture on the west coast of Canada, and his good work on the fisheries and oceans and Canadian Coast Guard committee.
I would like to assure him and all Canadian stakeholders that our government takes these issues very seriously as we continue to support the responsible development of a sustainable aquaculture industry in Canada. I also want to thank all my B.C. colleagues who took the time to speak with me and inform me about the aquaculture industry in their province.
The government is absolutely determined to conserve wild Pacific salmon and ensure that our wild salmon populations remain healthy for generations to come.
To show our commitment, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard went to British Columbia in August to announce that our government would continue to follow up on the recommendations of the Cohen Commission, which include tangible measures to conserve and protect wild Pacific salmon, measures backed by new investments in ocean sciences announced in budget 2016.
These new investments include research and monitoring in support of sustainable aquaculture and the improved health of fish stocks. We are hiring new scientists, biologists, oceanographers, and technicians to increase the monitoring of salmon populations, better predict where salmon mortality occurs, and increase our investment in fish health. This scientific data is used to inform aquaculture fisheries management and regulatory decision-making.
We have also held extensive consultations with first nations, environmental NGOs, and industry stakeholders on the choice of site for finfish aquaculture in British Columbia.
We are working on having assessments done of the risks associated with the transfer of pathogens between farmed salmon and wild salmon, taking into account the potential repercussions on the aquatic environment, when determining the optimal location and issuing the licence.
Bill C-228 seeks to relocate all the aquaculture finfish in Canadian waters off the Pacific coast to closed containment cultivation facilities.
Closed containment cultivation technology is still not technically viable. The only feasible possibility technically speaking would be land-based recirculating aquaculture systems, which are limited and not necessarily financially viable.
The bill addresses cultivated Atlantic salmon, but many other species would also be affected, including coho salmon, certified organic chinook salmon, rainbow trout, and black cod.
I would like to remind my colleagues that the aquaculture industry in British Columbia is already under federal regulation as a result of the 2009 decision by the British Columbia Supreme Court. The regulatory changes that were brought in at that time enable me to say with confidence that aquaculture in British Columbia is managed under a comprehensive and robust regulatory regime.
Measures are in place through regulations and conditions of licence to apply evidence-based thresholds and standards to manage environmental impacts. Moreover, the industry is required to report to Fisheries and Oceans Canada on all of its activities. Additionally, a new regulation requiring even more reporting on aquaculture activities was brought into force in 2015.
These regulations and reporting requirements provide a great deal of information about the management and implementation of aquaculture fisheries in British Columbia.
What does all the data, collected over the course of five years, tell us? Does it indicate that the problems with finfish aquaculture in British Columbia warrant the restructuring of the entire industry? In my view, the evidence tells a completely different story. In fact, the evidence shows an industry that has steadily reduced its environmental impact, mitigated the impacts it has had, and minimized its interactions with wild populations and their habitats.
Let us now take a closer look at these elements. Operators in British Columbia must produce reports on a wide range of technical regulatory requirements from the state of the environment inside and around open-net farms to the number of sea lice on the fish. Operators must report details of any escapes and all illnesses that affect their farmed fish.
Starting in 2017, the drugs and pesticides used by aquaculture operators in Canada, including British Columbia, must be made public. All aquaculture operators are now required to report the steps they take to mitigate the impact of their activities, and the results will also be made public.
Our country and our government rely on the best scientific advice to inform our regulatory system. We use data to make our decisions. We have no evidence that the environment is sacrificed in order to pursue the economic development of British Columbia's aquaculture industry.
With respect to the state of the environment under and around marine finfish aquaculture facilities, the regulatory requirements ensure that these sites are left empty if they exceed the established threshold and they cannot be cultivated again until levels return to normal.
Because of the potential impacts an escape of farmed salmon could have, aquaculture operators in British Columbia are required to report any escapes to Fisheries and Oceans Canada within 24 hours. Escape events are very rare. Interestingly, the largest escape happened when a storm damaged an experimental at-sea closed containment facility.
With respect to the health of farmed fish, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a list of diseases that have the potential to seriously impact aquatic animal health or the Canadian economy. Anyone who knows of or suspects these diseases is required to notify the agency.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada periodically inspects the health of fish in British Columbia salmon farms. Three incidents involving infectious diseases were reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over the past six years alone.
The presence of sea lice is another highly controversial fish health indicator, particularly in British Columbia. Even if the fish are raised in cages in a parasite-free marine environment, farmed fish can catch sea lice from contact with wild species.
To reduce the spread of these parasites, there is a regulatory limit of three lice per fish during the seaward salmon migration. Fisheries and Oceans Canada audits of the last migration showed that, on average, 96% of salmon farms were below that limit.
As a whole, Canada's aquaculture industry has an exemplary record. The Canadian environmental sustainability indicator shows that the compliance rate of aquaculture operations with Fisheries Act regulations was over 99% each year.
Based on the data, we believe that the regulatory regime is strong enough to ensure stable, well-paid employment for thousands of people living in rural and isolated coastal communities, as well as first nations, to promote an innovative, world-renowned aquaculture industry, and to protect wild populations and the aquatic environment.
Therefore, I stand in the House in full support of British Columbia's aquaculture industry as well as the aquaculture industry across the country, in support of our robust regulatory regime, in support of good jobs, and in support of the healthy and nutritious farmed seafood products that feed Canadians as well as people around the world. We recognize the potential of closed containment aquaculture, and as the industry evolves and grows, our government will continue to pursue innovation in salmon aquaculture.
I respectfully oppose this bill because I sincerely believe that we have a solid regulatory regime for aquaculture.
Mr. Todd Doherty (Cariboo—Prince George, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to private member's bill, Bill C-228, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act.
First, I would like to commend the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for having his bill debated at second reading. I know how tirelessly he has campaigned and worked on this. I know how much work goes into getting these bills to the floor of the House, and I would like to recognize his efforts.
Second, I would like to acknowledge the natural beauty of the rivers and lakes in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George, which are chock full of some of the finest fish on the west coast. From salmon to trout to char, Arctic grayling, dolly varden, Rocky Mountain whitefish, and even lean cod, we have it all in the Cariboo.
The fisheries are an important economic driver in the northern regions of our country, but they are struggling. A recent article in the Prince Rupert Northern View spoke of salmon being caught in Prince Rupert and shipped to Vancouver or China to be processed. The demand for same day catch or fresh-to-plate fish is high.
Demand for Canadian products is always high. While this is a good opportunity for Canadian producers and our Canadian economy, it does mean that it is putting jobs at risk.
Bill C-228 would ban finfish aquaculture in Pacific waters unless it were carried out in a closed containment facility. It would require that within 18 months cabinet conclude a transition plan for current licence holders, including specific support measures for corporations and workers affected or impacted by these changes. It also mandates that companies would have five years to phase out open-net pens.
British Columbia is Canada's largest producer of farmed salmon. Farmed salmon is B.C.'s largest aquaculture export. The wild and farmed salmon industries provide important economic activity for the province and for communities where families depend on the fishing industry to put food on their table.
Ninety per cent of all direct and indirect jobs in rural, coastal, and first nations communities are supported by fisheries. As a matter of fact, 78% of farmed salmon production comes from traditional territory. Nineteen first nations have joint ventures and partnership agreements in place with salmon producers. The salmon farming sector has become a significant economic driver and source of jobs for first nations communities, who provide an estimated 30% of the workforce in this industry.
If Bill C-228 were to be adopted, it would come at a significant financial and economic cost to our aquaculture industry, and a loss to those communities. This is an issue that has been studied at the fisheries and oceans committee numerous times over the years. Its most recent report was completed in 2013.
Unsurprisingly, the committee witnesses expressed a number of views on the matter of net-pen aquaculture. They pointed out that mandating closed containment and banning net-pen aquaculture without closed containment being economically viable could have a drastic effect on employment, especially in our rural coastal communities who have already been suffering from the lack of significant growth in salmon aquaculture production in recent years.
However, I do not just have economic concerns with this bill. It is worth knowing that environmental impacts are not unique to open net-pen aquaculture production. Closed containment aquaculture carries its own set of environmental impacts that, given the state of the industry, have been and are not well studied. The carbon footprint generated by a closed containment facility drawing in electricity, pumping in water, filtering waste, among other actions, is hugely significant.
Growing British Columbia's production in salmon in closed containment facilities at the current stocking density would require 4.16 billion litres of water just to fill the tanks. That is roughly equal to the water used by 135 million people, and if that were not enough, the current production in Canada alone would require 28,000 Canadian football fields, or 33,719 acres, or 159 square kilometres of land to grow fish in appropriate densities in land-based systems.
When it comes to this closed-pen aquaculture, and the environmental impacts in particular, more studies are needed.
The Conservative Party supports aquaculture development that is both economically sound and environmentally responsible. As it is written, Bill C-228 does not meet these thresholds. In fact, it was the previous government under Stephen Harper that put in place stringent regulations to protect Canada's aquatic species, both farm and wild, from disease. We worked with our provincial partners and developed some of the most stringent regulations in this industry.
A number of important changes have been made to environmental management regimes, including the relocation of poorly sited farms, new farm siting requirements, and the adjustment of stocking, harvesting, and sea lice treatment schedules in order to account for wild salmon migration seasons.
Conservatives made significant investments, which included more than $465 million per year on salmon alone, of which $20 million was directly related to activities to support sustainable management of sockeye, such as fisheries science, protection of fisheries habitat, salmon enhancement, and catch and monitoring enforcement. Finally, prior to the 2015 election, Conservatives renewed the sustainable aquaculture program, which would continue to improve the regulatory framework for the sector, support science, and require public reporting.
On the west coast, Abbotsford has a state-of-the-art health facility. It is called the Animal Health Centre. It is one of only three in North America and is probably the only institution in North America with two veterinarian pathologists certified by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, who work exclusively with fish. That is on the west coast, in Abbotsford.
While Bill C-228 may have received ringing endorsements from Captain Kirk himself, it just doesn't make sense, certainly not from an economic standpoint and certainly not for those whose livelihoods depend on a sustainable aquaculture sector to put food on the table for their families. With more and more uncertainty in our forestry and resource sectors, and with the Trudeau government increasing taxes at every opportunity, communities like those in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George or those just north of us, like Prince Rupert, do not need more uncertainty.
If Bill C-228 were to be adopted, it would essentially be moving aquaculture away from small towns and into larger cities, where they are closer to resources and transportation hubs. I can say from first-hand experience that when jobs are slashed, communities are left without a lifeline. No amount of subsidization can make up for this fact. That is why I am unable to support Bill C-228 today.
It is the aquaculture industry that supports 4,900 direct, full-time jobs in this vast country, with salaries paid out to the tune of $106.2 million each year, which is 30% higher than other industries. If we want to include indirect jobs in that figure, we can add another 9,600. The industry contributes $500 million to the B.C. economy alone.
Bill C-228 would have a direct and immediate impact on our rural coastal communities. If we were to move it, based on the number of currently operating marine farms, conversion to land-based systems would result in an estimated lost investment in farm equipment of approximately $500 million. Capital investment in land-based systems for equivalent current provincial production can be roughly estimated to exceed $1 billion in capital investments alone based on the above figures.
Siting facilities close to urban centres would increase this estimate significantly. We know the price of real estate in the Lower Mainland is among the highest in Canada. We are not quite sure where we would find the amount of land needed to move these facilities.
Bill C-228 would put full-time, well-paying jobs in jeopardy during a time when we are faced with economic uncertainty and layoffs in many sectors across this country. I am not saying there are not benefits to closed-pen aquaculture. What I am saying is that more studies need to be conducted in terms of the impact of closed-containment aquaculture on our coastal communities, which need these jobs the most. Unilaterally banning finfish aquaculture unless it is carried out in closed containment is not the answer, and until the practice can be carried out in an economically and environmentally sound manner, I will be unable to support this bill.
With that, I again want to commend my hon. colleague for putting forth this bill and for the work he has done on it. Unfortunately, it has missed the mark.
Mr. François Choquette (Drummond, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to support Bill C-228, an act to amend the Fisheries Act (closed containment aquaculture).
I am really pleased to support my colleague, the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, in British Columbia. I had the opportunity to get to know him in 2011 when I was first elected and I can say that he has been working very hard for years, not only on protecting the oceans and animals, such as fish, but also on protecting the environment in general.
This is not the first time he has raised the issue of protecting wild salmon. He previously moved a motion in favour of sustainable seafood.
We should be taking a very different approach, not just to agriculture at some point, but also to how we view seafood.
We currently have a very wide-scale, very commercial approach, which is having very serious repercussions on our ecosystem. I am going to elaborate on some very concrete examples of the direct and serious effects on our ecosystems of the current use of nets directly in the sea.
For example, there may be illnesses and parasites that spread to wild salmon. My colleague spoke at length about the economic importance of wild salmon to British Columbia. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of fecal matter on the seabed, which damages the flora and fauna. Moreover, farmed salmon that escape sometimes rejoin the wild population, which, sadly, can lead to illness or other serious consequences.
For all these reasons, it is important to remember that wild salmon is a national treasure in Canada, which, unfortunately, is threatened by the illnesses and pollution that affect open-net salmon aquaculture.
We must take action now to protect the wild salmon economy. My Conservative colleague spoke extensively about the economics of the salmon aquaculture industry. However, his arguments only referred to that aspect of the issue. We also have to consider wild salmon. If wild salmon begins to disappear from the oceans and coastal waters of British Columbia, we will lose even more jobs. We have to take this into consideration as well. In any event, these jobs will not disappear; they will simply be transferred to closed containment aquaculture operations.
Canada could become a world leader in closed containment technology and create a lot more jobs for Canadians in coastal regions and first nation communities, which is why this bill is so important.
When one has been an MP for some time, like me, entering my sixth year, we sometimes have to ask ourselves exactly what it is we are doing here. We think about it. As the days go by, we wonder what this is all about and what our true goals are for our time here.
When one can speak to an issue like this and introduce a private member's bill as important as this one, it is clear why we are all here. We are here to take positive, concrete action that will make a difference in our communities, not only for the people and employers we represent today, but also for our children and grandchildren.
I am thinking of my daughters and the children they may have one day. I am also thinking of my nephews, who are still young, but who will grow up. When you think about it like that, it is extremely important to regularly reflect on the decisions we make.
Once again, I want to congratulate the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam on his bill, which reminds me why I am here in the first place, and reminds me of the importance of our actions today. This makes up for the more difficult times we have here on a regular basis.
Bill C-228 seeks to strengthen the Fisheries Act by banning open net salmon farming. It is a relatively simple initiative that will have many positive effects. Its provisions require all salmon farms in British Columbia to transition from open net pens to safe closed containment systems on land.
As I have already explained, right now, salmon are being raised in nets in the ocean. I have already talked about all of the negative impacts of this method, which is extremely dangerous. The federal government must step in, because salmon farms are threatening the survival of wild Pacific salmon.
People are worried about their jobs and the transition. It is only natural to have concerns when an economic sector makes a transition. That is why my colleague had the wonderful idea of setting out a transition period. In order to support the transition of the west coast's salmon aquaculture industry to closed containment, the minister has 18 months after the bill is passed to create a transition plan. This will help to ensure a proper transition that is satisfactory and beneficial for everyone, as well as make sure that work continues in this industry.
The concept of closed containment farming is not far-fetched. It did not spring from the imagination of a gaggle of oddball scientists. My colleague talked about this in his speech. On the contrary, closed containment systems already exist. This technology is already being used. My colleague talked about Kuterra in British Columbia, a salmon farming operation. This farm already has the support of a number of organizations and scientists. It is a certified “best choice” according to the Living Oceans Foundation and its SeaChoice program.
This technique is already being used and the technology exists. It is being done in an environmentally-friendly and economically sound manner. Consumers are increasingly asking for environmentally-friendly products. As we have already heard, many fishers and people who profit from the wild salmon fishery want action to preserve our fish stocks, including Pacific salmon.
For all these reasons, these practices are crucial. When you think about it, consumers are asking for higher quality products. To make better quality products, better environmental practices are needed. Closed containment farming could help. The example of Kuterra in British Columbia and the SeaChoice program prove that it is possible to do from an economic and sustainable development standpoint.
We also need to think about what we want to leave for our children. Earlier I was thinking of my nephews and the children they may have later. We want to leave them a healthy, sustainable environment. Yes, we want prosperity, but we must still think about the future. That is why this bill is so important and why we must support it. I hope our colleagues will join us.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will start off by complimenting the member for taking the initiative to ensure that we have the debate we are having here this afternoon. I can tell the member that the government's caucus, particularly my colleagues from British Columbia, take this issue very seriously.
I have had an opportunity to have discussions on this issue, which I believe goes outside the province of British Columbia, but I recognize the sensitivity to B.C. in particular. My colleagues, who are quite opinionated on the issue, want to make sure that the government gets it right, and that is something this government is committed to doing.
It is not quite as simple as some might try to make it appear. The issue of fisheries is something that a land-locked province can still care about, as well as our oceans and the industry here in Canada. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that the wild salmon is protected and that we do whatever we can do as a national government.
The parliamentary secretary to the minister made a couple of statements, one of which I will repeat in the House, because it is in budget 2016. The Government of Canada has invested $197 million over the next five years to improve fisheries and aquaculture science and to inform the development of regulations, which will contribute to further improvements to the environmental performance of this sector. This is really important for us to recognize, because the Conservative member made reference to it in his speech.
When we talk about our fisheries industry, whether it is wild or farmed, we have to make sure that not only is it good for Canada's economy but it is also good for our environment. As a government, not only are we talking about that, but we are also walking the talk on it. This is why we have seen a substantial investment in the area of science.
We have heard members in the House talk about the importance of regulation, and we do have some of the most stringent, robust regulation in the world, I would argue, dealing with this specific issue. It is absolutely critical that we do have that regulation. It is ongoing and monitored, because there is always room to improve. As the Prime Minister likes to say often, there is always the opportunity to do better, and this is a government that is committed to doing just that. In listening to the debate this evening, I believe that there are ideas that have flowed through thus far that will allow for more thought on this very important issue.
There is a lot of information on the Internet in regard to this issue. One of the websites I went to was the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. It comments on some basic facts of the salmon farming industry in British Columbia.
For example, one farm can hold 500,000 to 750,000 fish in an area the size of four football fields. The biomass of farmed salmon at one farm site can equal 2,400 tonnes, which equals 480 Indian bull elephants. B.C. has approximately 137 salmon farm tenures with about 85 farm activities at any one time. This information is coming right from the website, which also indicates that 84 tenures are on eastern Vancouver Island and the mainland coast, 48 on western Vancouver Island, and six are on the central coast. I bring this up because I think it is important that we recognize just how strong the industry really is.
Many years ago when I was first elected in the province of Manitoba, the whole concept of aquafarming was pretty much foreign. We did not really hear too much about that in the public arena because it was just starting. Over the last 10 or 15 years we have seen significant growth in the area. Some countries have really pushed the envelope within the industry.
I can appreciate the need for us to look at the industry here in Canada and realize that it has fantastic potential with respect to growth. The industry has quadrupled in size over the years. It is an industry that not only the Government of Canada or the Province of British Columbia is following, but many of my strong-willed Atlantic colleagues would tell us that there is a healthy, vibrant industry in Atlantic Canada as well and they want to see that industry continue to grow. My colleagues, no matter what region of the country they represent, recognize that we need to foster and encourage that growth but we also need to be sensitive to the environment. We want to make sure that the wild fishery is not negatively impacted.
The essence of Bill C-228, put forward by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, would be to impose requirements on the industry for the use of a technology that has not yet been proven to be commercially viable, and we need to be concerned about that. If we are concerned about the jobs and how the industry impacts many communities, particularly communities on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, we should not be overly quick to impose something on that industry that could virtually shut it down in a short period of time.
The responsible thing to do is what the federal government has committed to do and that is to invest the financial resources in the industry to allow the proper science to take place so that the industry as a whole can be protected.
Our indigenous communities have played a positive role in the development of this industry. They are not only providing the workforce in many ways but they are also spearheading growth within that industry. This growth is coming in good part from strong leadership within the indigenous community. We need to be sensitive to that.
Innovation and technology are two areas in which this government has been exceptionally proactive with respect to budgetary commitments. Maybe at some point in time we will see that difference, which will make what is being proposed in the legislation that much more commercially viable.
From what we have detected and from what the fisheries standing committee has provided and the expert witnesses have put on the record, today's science clearly indicates that as long as we continue to develop strong rules and regulations, ensure that they are followed and respected, and continue to have an industry that is developing and understands its important role, then we should continue to allow that industry to grow and prosper.
I would emphasize that we are not putting the industry's needs ahead of the environment. When we look at the industry we see it is a complement to the overall community, whether it be society as a whole or the economy. The responsible thing will be done.