Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
BC Seafood Summit III: Challenges Ahead “DFO’s Perspective”
Vancouver, BC January 7, 2004
Thank you for that kind introduction, Christina, and to you &
the BC Seafood Alliance for your warm hospitality. And good morning,
Minister Van Dongen and Ladies and Gentlemen. Before I begin I would
also like to bring warm greetings to each of you, to your Association
and to your industry from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
the Hon. Geoff Regan. As Minister Van Dongen stated earlier this
morning, Minister Regan felt that the issues on this coast were
so important that he came here within 10 days of being appointed
and met with the BC Government and a number of stakeholders, including
representatives of your Association on 22 December. He is tied up
with Caucus and Cabinet meetings in Ottawa this week, but he did
want me to pass on his best wishes to all of you for a very productive
conference and a happy, successful and rewarding New Year.
At a personal level, I very much appreciate this opportunity to
give you the DFO perspective on the challenges that Canada’s
fisheries face as well as the directions we believe that we need
to take together to meet those challenges.
Following my comments, Christina will be presenting your vision
for a modern, sustainable seafood industry. I am aware of the goals
behind the vision, and I commend you for them. As well as for all
your other excellent efforts. The BC Seafood Alliance has been a
leader not just in the Province but nationally in moving the fisheries
Today, I’m pleased to offer the federal Government side of
I think you’ll see that our visions are quite compatible.
Indeed, we all want the same thing — a strong, sustainable,
competitive, and high-value seafood industry. One where businesses
and government can work together on shared priorities. One where
we can deal with challenges in a co-operative manner. And one that
can continue making a very important contribution to Canada and
That’s why it’s especially fitting that this summit
involves both the BC and federal governments and industry. The challenges
we face are significant, and we do need to work together to address
Take salmon, for instance. As you all know better than I, this fishery
has been through some extremely tough times resulting in significant
I believe that we have worked closely with the fishing industry
to try to rebuild this resource, to restructure the fishery, and
to help people and communities adjust. While there have been successes,
and some stocks are abundant, conservation concerns have continued
with others. Therefore, it’s been a real challenge to meet
industry’s expectations in this area, and I know it remains
a serious concern — both from your perspective, and from ours.
We must continue to work together to try to adequately address both
conservation and economic harvest goals.
To your great credit, your businesses have adapted — and adapted
well to this challenge. You’ve been extremely creative in
finding new and innovative fishing opportunities for other species,
and in building markets for them around the world.
We can point to a number of success stories in this province —
from geoduck, sablefish and halibut, to herring, crab and prawns.
And the exponential growth of the aquaculture industry also makes
an increasingly important contribution to Pacific Canada’s
fish and seafood industry on both the national and international
And I’m not suggesting that these successes came without a
price. Indeed, your businesses had to make tough decisions. Your
companies had to streamline and to contract your operations. Some
companies merged with others, and some shut down altogether.
It wasn’t an easy transition. But we’d be remiss if
we didn’t also acknowledge the successes. Because these various
efforts have resulted in a streamlined, billion-dollar industry.
Nationally, our fish and seafood exports break records every year,
2002 saw them reach an all-time-high of $4.7 billion — an
achievement due in good part to the people in this room. And Pacific
Canada accounts for a significant chunk of the national total value,
contributing over a billion dollars in export value, and nearly
a full third of our national value.
Clearly, maintaining this success — and creating more success
in the future — is a challenge in itself. Above all, it means
facing up to some tough realities, and working with partners throughout
the industry to address them.
Today, I’d like to review some of those challenges and what
we’re trying to do to help address them.
The first challenge I’d like to discuss is the environmental
one. In the old days, we fished without much thought paid to the
effects on the oceans environment. These days, it’s all about
balance. Balancing conservation and fishing opportunity and balancing
economic potential with environmental realities and as an aside
let me be very clear in that context. Conservation is paramount,
but sustainable development is one of the core mandates of our Department
and there is nothing evil or improper about doing our utmost to
give human beings the dignity of a decent job. I think we all need
to keep that ethical reality in mind as we wrestle with these various
issues. We also need to balance the fishery itself with other oceans
For DFO, this means looking at our fishery through a wider lens.
The days of single-species and single-stock management are over.
We’ve had to take a far wider view of our fishing activity
— and its effects on the entire ecosystem.
For our department, we’re changing how we manage our fisheries
in very significant ways. I should point out, however, that our
primary goal remains the same. We’ll continue to strive to
ensure that for every fish that’s taken out of the water,
there’s a plan to replace it — and hopefully, to create
the environment for even more fish in the future. Conservation will
always be a key factor in our department’s decision-making
I’m pleased to note that your industry in this part of the
country has been particularly focussed on the need for conservation
from the start. You’ve long recognized that conservation makes
good business sense as well as ethical. It’s a key to predictability.
While it’s a tough goal to achieve, I think it’s possible
to use all the tools at our disposal to put the odds in our favour.
Tools like good science, and applying the precautionary approach
in the context of comprehensive integrated risk management principles.
It also means “thinking beyond the fish”. The fishery
is now one of many industries that use our oceans. We’re seeing
priorities off all our coasts for oil and gas development. Cable
and pipe lines. Tourism, shipping and so on. In fact, the fishery
is rarely the only kid on the block anymore, anywhere, if it ever
Through our Oceans Strategy, and working with BC, we’re trying
to engage all oceans users to develop management plans that make
room for everyone, while ensuring that our environmental obligations
I know this may be a bit of a sticking point for some people in
the fisheries business. But the reality is that these other industries
are here to stay. Our job is to work together to try to understand
and to accommodate everyone’s needs, while at the same time
ensuring that our oceans are managed wisely for future generations.
We’re also finding ways to involve the fishing industry more
in the decisions being made. Because the second reality we need
to face is that government shouldn’t, and indeed can’t,
manage these resources on its own.
Resource management — and conservation in particular —
needs to be more of a collective effort, with all users sharing
in the stewardship of the resource.
In fact, this kind of co-operation has been a hallmark of our response
to the challenges we’ve faced with salmon, and our efforts
to rebuild these stocks. We’ve been working closely with stakeholders
to define conservation objectives, and to develop the framework
we need to manage this stock wisely in the future.
The Review of the 2002 Fraser River Sockeye Fishery is a good example
of the kind of collaborative approach we’ve taken.
To build the recommendations included in the report, the steering
committee worked with commercial, recreational and environmental
interests, as well as with Aboriginal fishers. The 14 recommendations
were truly consensus recommendations — and DFO accepted every
one of them. Since the Report’s publication in March, we’ve
made progress on most of its recommendations, and we’re aiming
to have a new Wild Salmon Policy in place soon.
Still, I know and understand that you do have a number of concerns
vis-à-vis how Fisheries and Oceans Canada ultimately makes
our decisions, and the level of your involvement in them. That’s
why, as those of you in the salmon fishery know, we’re striving
to develop a new and more representative advisory process, to make
our decision-making more transparent over the long-term. I have
heard that concern from most stakeholder groups in B.C. since returning
to the department, and I know that this is an essential step in
strengthening the relationship between DFO and your industry.
Our commitment to co-operation takes other forms, too. Perhaps the
best example has been the move towards better co-management. While
DFO has to work within our legal and regulatory framework, I think
we have made good progress on a number of co-management initiatives
here in BC. Many of these arrangements are bearing fruit, including
those for halibut, sablefish and geoduck.
In the halibut fishery, for example, DFO entered into a Joint Partnership
Agreement with the industry. This partnership has resulted in an
internationally recognized, extremely well-run fishery with a very
high standard of management.
The lucrative geoduck fishery, in turn, involves a co-management
arrangement between the Underwater Harvesters Association and DFO
to conduct quota management and monitoring.
While I know that there remain some serious concerns on the part
of industry, I strongly encourage you to continue working with our
Pacific team to iron out these problems, and to try to find effective
ways to collaborate, and to make progress towards a truly co-managed
fishery that is environmentally responsible, economically viable
and more self-reliant.
Managing our fisheries wisely also means adapting to legislative
realities. For example, I know that Treaty negotiations, and the
notion of Aboriginal fisheries in general, are one cause of uncertainty
for many people involved in the fishery.
That’s why the Governments of Canada and BC recently established
a task group to explore fishery arrangements for all fishery participants
in a “post-treaty” era. Led by Dr. Don McRae and Dr.
Peter Pearse, this task group will advise government on approaches
that support a sustainable, equitable, economically viable and well-managed
fishery for all participants, as treaties are reached with First
Nations in BC.
DFO’s top priorities in this regard remains conservation and
an orderly fishery. While we are committed to providing fishing
opportunities for First Nations, I want to assure you that we also
place a high priority on security of access for the non-Aboriginal
component of the fishery. We’ll continue to rely on your advice
and opinions on this subject as the task group’s work moves
forward, and as we explore ways to implement their findings.
The Species at Risk Act, or SARA, is another good example of a legislative
reality we must adapt to. As you all know, this Act has significant
implications for our fisheries. We will jointly have to ensure that
SARA’s requirements for protection and recovery of listed
species are met while maintaining sustainable fisheries.
Now that SARA is a reality, we’re committed to working with
industry groups and others in its implementation. Although COSEWIC
is an arm’s length advisory body, we have been working and
will continue to work to ensure that it has access to all the DFO
information it requires, and that the related government processes
operate in a transparent manner with adequate stakeholder input.
Along these lines, our department will be organizing a workshop
on assessment criteria for marine fishes early next year.
In the meantime, DFO has just launched teams to develop recovery
strategies for Cultus Lake and Sakinaw Lake sockeye, as well as
Interior Fraser River coho. These teams include broad representation
from First Nations and stakeholder groups.
Indeed, the commercial fishing industry will need to play a big
role as the Act rolls out, and as we work together to adapt to it.
I’m pleased to see that you’re dedicating the better
part of this afternoon to this important topic. We look forward
to hearing the results of your deliberations. For our part, we have
recently appointed Dr. John Davis as our “full time”
Special Advisor on SARA Implementation and we are very serious about
trying to bring clarity and transparency to the implementation of
this very important legislation as soon as possible.
The final reality I’d like to touch on today is that of the
marketplace. As far as I’m concerned, we do need to keep in
mind that we are all involved in a sustainable system — from
the water to the table.
In particular, there’s a global push to ensure that fish and
seafood products come from sustainable practices.
Here in Canada, harvesters have led the way with the Code of Conduct
for Responsible Fishing Operations. And now, industry is developing
a post-harvest code of conduct for the processing sector.
Some Canadian fisheries are going one step further, and seeking
certification from the Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC. While
I know that eco-labeling isn’t popular with everybody, it’s
a reality I believe that we have to deal with because whether we
like it or not, consumers around the world are starting to demand
The B.C. Salmon Marketing Council has been the first out of the
gate in Canada. At industry’s request, our department is supporting
this process by providing information, data and technical advice.
We’re now in the process of finalizing a workplan that will
move this initiative forward.
It’s certainly a challenge — and not without a number
of significant bumps in the road — but it’s one we’re
committed to meeting. We’re aiming to complete the submission
for sockeye salmon early in the March timeframe, and to subsequently
complete the process to certify other salmon stocks. I also understand
that the halibut industry is working to obtain MSC certification
for their fishery.
A key feature of the MSC process is that they’re not just
looking at the practices of individual companies. They’re
looking at how fisheries are managed in general. That’s why
we’re working hard to clearly demonstrate how our policies
and regulations are consistent with MSC requirements.
Our work to finalize our Wild Salmon Policy and implement the Species
at Risk Act will also be important keys in keeping this process
on track. As we move forward on this, we will continue to seek your
input and advice.
Our department is also concerned with the myriad trade challenges
your companies are facing on the international stage.
A major concern is industry’s ability to stay competitive
internationally. We must find the most effective ways to maximize
the value of our fisheries, including salmon.
We also share your concerns about the U.S. Bioterrorism Act and
its potential effects on our fish and seafood trade. We’ve
been very active in consulting with industry and other levels of
government. We’ve carried your messages to the U.S. Government,
and stressed the importance of implementing these regulations in
the least trade-restrictive fashion possible. I can assure you that
we’ll continue to make every effort to influence the final
result, and to mitigate any potential impacts.
The next challenge we’ll need to face is looming deadlines
on traceability to meet country-of-origin labeling requirements
in the U.S.
DFO and its federal partners remain committed to keeping markets
open to Canadian fish and seafood products. I can assure you that
we’ll continue to make Canada’s concerns heard, and
to work closely with our industry partners to keep our high-quality,
high-value fish and seafood products on the move, throughout the
Ladies and gentlemen, the challenges I’ve outlined today are
important — both from your perspective, and ours.
And if I have to convey a single message to you today, I guess that’s
it. DFO, and the Government of Canada as a whole, take the fish
and seafood industry seriously. We are working closely with Minister
Van Dongen and his staff and we all want to create an environment
for a strong, competitive Canadian fishing industry from coast-to-coast-coast.
We are listening to your concerns, and trying to take the steps
necessary to respond to them. And we are committed to working with
you to do so.
In that context and in addition to appointing John Davis to work
full time on SARA Implementation, Pat Chamut will be returning to
BC next week as my Special Advisor on Fisheries Management with
an initial mandate to focus on completing the Wild Salmon Policy;
supporting the BC-Canada (Pearse/McRae) Task Group and looking for
post Kapp decision solutions acceptable to all stakeholders. Paul
Sprout will be competing to replace John Davis as Pacific Region
Director General once he completes French language training and
Paul Macgillivray will be “holding the fort” in the
meantime, with direct and ongoing support from our Associate Deputy
Minister, Jean-Claude Bouchard, in the interim. There is no doubt
but that we do have some very difficult resource challenges and
funding decisions to take, like every other department in the federal
and indeed most provincial governments. However, I hope it is clear
that we are “walking the talk” and trying to address
issues of primary concern to you and other stakeholders in this
vitally important industry.
We consider each of you to be important partners in the future of
Canada’s fishery and both Minister Regan and I will continue
to count on you making your voice heard, and providing the kind
of advice the Pacific fisheries industry has become known for.
I’m confident that by working together, we can weather the
uncertainties of the future, and continue building a strong, competitive
fish and seafood industry in Canada.
Thank you very much.