Larry Murray
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 agenda forward.

Today, I’m pleased to offer the federal Government side of the equation.

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 to Canadians.

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 them.
Take salmon, for instance. As you all know better than I, this fishery has been through some extremely tough times resulting in significant restructuring.

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 stages.

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 industries.

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 process.

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 was.

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 are met.
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 this certification.
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 world.
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.

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