2006 Legislative Session: Second Session, 38th Parliament
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE
November 30, 2006
Present: Robin Austin, MLA (Chair); Ron Cantelon, MLA (Deputy Chair); Gary Coons, MLA; Scott Fraser, MLA; Al Horning, MLA; Gregor Robertson, MLA; Shane Simpson, MLA; Claire Trevena, MLA; John Yap, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Daniel Jarvis, MLA
Others Present: Brant Felker, Research Analyst
1. Opening statement by the Chair, Robin Austin, MLA
2. The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:
1) Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Ted Perry, Director, Marine Ecosystems and Aquaculture Division, Pacific Biological Station
- Andrew Thomson, A/Director, Aquaculture Management, Pacific Region
- Dr. Simon R.M. Jones, Research Scientist, Aquatic Animal Health, Marine Ecosystems and Aquaculture Division, Pacific Biological Station
- Dario Stucchi, Physical Oceanographer, Institute of Ocean Sciences
- Dr. Terri Sutherland, Research Scientist, Marine Ecosystems and Aquaculture Division, DFO-UBC Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research
- Dr. Brian Riddell, Division Manager, Salmon and Freshwater Ecosystems Division, Pacific Biological Station
- Dr. Brent Hargreaves, Research Scientist, Salmon and Freshwater Ecosystems Division, Pacific Biological Station
3. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 5:41 p.m.
Robin Austin, MLA
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2006
Issue No. 30
|Chair:||* Robin Austin (Skeena NDP)|
|Deputy Chair:||* Ron Cantelon (Nanaimo-Parksville L)|
|Members:||* Al Horning (Kelowna–Lake Country L)
Daniel Jarvis (North Vancouver–Seymour L)
* John Yap (Richmond-Steveston L)
* Gary Coons (North Coast NDP)
* Scott Fraser (Alberni-Qualicum NDP)
* Gregor Robertson (Vancouver-Fairview NDP)
* Shane Simpson (Vancouver-Hastings NDP)
* Claire Trevena (North Island NDP)
* denotes member present
|Committee Staff:||Brant Felker (Committee Research Analyst)|
[ Page 889 ]
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2006
The committee met at 1:31 p.m.
[R. Austin in the chair.]
R. Austin (Chair): Good afternoon. My name is Robin Austin. I'd like to call this meeting to order.
We are here today at the Wall Centre to get a briefing to the Aquaculture Committee from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I'm going to let the witnesses be introduced by Ted Perry, the director of marine ecosystems and aquaculture division. I would ask that prior to witnesses speaking, they would please give their names for the purposes of Hansard here, which needs to be able to collate that. Our broadcast is going out live, so it's necessary for people who are listening to know who is actually speaking.
There's coffee and tea available here, and I would invite members and witnesses to get up anytime that they would like to get refreshments. We have four hours set aside for this briefing. I hope that will be sufficient time.
I'd like to thank everybody for coming here today. I'll hand the floor over to Ted Perry.
T. Perry: My name is Ted Perry. I'm with DFO — director of marine ecosystems and aquaculture division, located in Nanaimo at the Pacific Biological Station. The staff we have here today include Dr. Brian Riddell, Donna Martin, Mr. Dario Stucchi, Mr. Andrew Thomson, Dr. Simon Jones, Dr. Brent Hargreaves and Dr. Terri Sutherland. I don't think I've missed anyone.
R. Austin (Chair): I just want to butt in for one second. I should also ask members of the committee who are here to introduce themselves, starting on my right. Ron Cantelon and Gregor Roberson are tied up in traffic but will be here very shortly.
A. Horning: I'm Al Horning, MLA for Kelowna–Lake Country.
J. Yap: I'm John Yap, MLA for Richmond-Steveston.
C. Trevena: Claire Trevena, MLA for North Island.
G. Coons: Gary Coons, MLA for North Coast.
S. Fraser: Scott Fraser, MLA for Alberni-Qualicum.
S. Simpson: Shane Simpson, MLA for Vancouver-Hastings.
T. Perry: It's our pleasure to be here today and have an opportunity to support the work of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture.
The special committee visited the Pacific Biological Station back in June and, at that time, expressed an interest in having an opportunity to get more information on the work that DFO is involved in with its aquaculture research. The aquaculture industry in the world, as you know, is growing rapidly and now accounts for about half of all fish products consumed worldwide. The deliberations of your committee and the outcome and conclusions you reach will have a significant impact on what's going to happen in British Columbia in the future, from an aquaculture perspective.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as you know, is the lead federal agency for the aquaculture file. We are committed to scientifically based decisions related to the aquaculture industry.
Our aquaculture research program is very broad in scope. The focus today will be on environmental interactions related to aquaculture — in particular, to finfish mariculture in seawater and the aquatic ecosystem interactions. We have narrowed our presentation from our broad interests in research to this narrow focus, given the special interests of this committee that you've been grappling with over the last number of months.
The department has been involved in aquaculture research for more than 30 years. That's providing a sound basis for the management of aquatic resources as well as providing innovation and development tools for the industry. We have 12 labs across Canada, three of which are in British Columbia: the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, the centre for aquaculture and environmental research in West Vancouver and the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney.
In B.C. there are approximately 33 years of person-time involved in aquaculture-related science research. A number of those individuals are research scientists, as you will meet later today. Our scientists have been pioneers in a number of areas and are recognized worldwide for the innovations and discoveries they have made related to fish husbandry, genetics, fish health, nutrition, and ecosystem interactions related to the aquaculture industry.
A major focus of our work has been to determine the factors that pose a threat to ecosystems. We try to look at the ecosystem as a whole, including all the living resources, the environment, the interactions between species and the impact of human activities. We'd like to demonstrate this in the presentations that you will hear from the scientists today.
There's a fairly weighty reference document, which summarizes the presentations, and a lot of other material related to the matter at hand. I trust that when you have an opportunity to look at that, this will demonstrate the focus that we have on looking at the issue as a whole.
In terms of the presentations, we're going to touch briefly on an initiative in Canada called the state-of-knowledge initiative. We will then have presentations from the research scientists on four major areas. Those include fish health, the near-field effects related to aquaculture and the far-field ecosystem interactions.
[ Page 890 ]
Then we'll focus on salmon farm sea lice and wild Pacific salmon, which in fact will be a substantial portion of the afternoon.
We'll also touch on how the research that we do helps to inform the management components within the federal government, other regulatory agencies and management agencies. We'd like to talk as well, briefly, about the scientific approach to grappling with the kinds of questions that are at hand and the importance of the evaluation of the results of those research activities.
In the document there are a couple of appendices — several appendices, actually. I just want to point out that one of them is material that you actually received back in June. Another is the curriculum vitae for all of the staff here today, if you're interested in that. With that, what I would like to do is just talk briefly about the process, Mr. Austin.
The intent, or the thought, was that we would follow this agenda: essentially, a brief discussion of some introductory topics, which I've largely been through; talk about fish health research with Dr. Jones; Dario's presentation; far-field effects; and so on. The proposal was that we might go through the first three presentations and then have a question period.
Similarly, we could go through the presentation on sea lice and have another question period, and then there would be closing remarks and, hopefully, more time. We throw it to you as to whether or not that process would be suitable to the committee.
R. Austin (Chair): Does that sound reasonable to the members of the committee?
S. Simpson: I'm fine with that. I had just a question or two around context. I wondered if we could get at that first, maybe, just to clarify something we heard. This one has been weighing on me for the last series of our hearings. I don't know whether you want to deal with some of those questions at the outset or wait for them later.
R. Austin (Chair): Sure. Go right ahead.
S. Simpson: I'll just put this out. One of the questions I have is around the structure of the organization of DFO. We've had a number of people who presented to us, people on both sides of this question of aquaculture, who seem to have some agreement in some cases around an observation related to DFO. The observation goes kind of like this.
It says that DFO has responsibility for wild salmon, the wild fishery and habitat. DFO also has responsibility for aquaculture and, to some degree, the promotion of sustainable and quality aquaculture. It has these two interests, and there are times, as we've obviously seen over the last number of years in British Columbia, when there are conflicts related to those two interests. People have said to us: "We don't understand how that doesn't create a conflict within the organization."
What I'd like to know is: how is the organization structured, in terms of lines of responsibility and decision-making, to provide some kind of firewall to not allow that conflict to occur within DFO broadly? Are both of those initiatives answering to the same ADM or director or whoever within the overall structure of the organization? I just thought I'd lay that out there so we could clear up that question at the outset.
T. Perry: Well, I might look to have some input from Mr. Thomson.
One thing I would like to really emphasize is the process for science advice. I mean, we're here to talk about the science part of the DFO role in aquaculture today. One of the things that we have in DFO science is something called the Pacific Science Advice Review Committee, which is a peer-review process whereby the advice that we're getting from scientists and the recommendations they're making relative to specific issues are transparent, publicly available and so on. That's the advice that then flows to the management line of the organization.
Management, as you know, then has the very difficult and challenging task of considering not just the science but also the social, economic and all the other factors that need to be taken into account in reaching management decisions. The intent is to have some further discussion on this towards the end of the presentation.
In terms of the line part of the organization, there is a science line up to an ADM of science. There is a line up to management of fisheries, management of aquaculture — one ADM. There's a deputy minister who brings it all together very clearly. I think that's an important thing.
The other comment I would make is that we're faced with competing challenges in all aspects of our life, but in DFO it's not just aquaculture where we're looking at different sides of a resource use question. It happens also in fisheries. We have a mandate to ensure the conservation of our wild salmon stocks, for example. We also have our mandate to have sustainable fisheries on wild fisheries stocks, and in a lot of ways there are parallels there with aquaculture.
A. Thomson: I think Ted said it very correctly. Quite often….
R. Austin (Chair): If you could just mention your name before you start speaking, that would be great.
A. Thomson: Sorry. Andrew Thomson. I'm the acting director of aquaculture management for the Pacific region.
As Ted has mentioned, first of all, we do have a separate science sector. Secondly, this inherent viewpoint that Fisheries and Oceans is in the role of promoting aquaculture…. It really is about managing aquaculture. We view aquaculture management in the region the same as we view fisheries management.
As Ted has alluded to, we have openings and closings for fisheries to allow fisheries to occur on this coast, but we manage them in a sustainable manner and with a
[ Page 891 ]
conservation focus. It's much the same as we look at aquaculture. We manage aquaculture, and it's an industry that we see as sustainable and that has a place on this coast as a way of deriving economic benefit from the ocean resources. But it's a management function; it's not a promotion function.
S. Simpson: So just to follow up on that — and I appreciate the answer — two brief questions. You made mention of the science, which is the foundation of the work that you and the majority of the people here obviously do. So all of the science that we're going to hear about today is essentially public?
T. Perry: It is or will be. You will hear some results that are quite recent and have not yet been published, but the intent is that it will all be public. That's fair. We haven't resolved yet how to handle the processes.
R. Austin (Chair): We'll go through the first three presentations. Then we'll have questions from the committee members, and then we'll go with the last section.
T. Perry: Great. Thank you very much. I just wanted to touch briefly on the state-of-knowledge reports. I'm not going to spend much time on this. One of the appendices — three — is actually quite lengthy. It provides executive summaries of nine state-of-knowledge reports that have been produced nationally.
Essentially, the intent of this initiative was to address the environmental effects related to aquaculture industries. It covers fresh water as well as salt water. It covers shellfish as well as finfish. So it's looking at the impacts of aquaculture wastes, including nutrients from organic matter; the impacts of chemicals used by industry, including things like drugs and antifoulants; and the interaction between farmed and wild species, including disease transfer and genetic and ecological effects.
This is a national review. There are nine papers done, and there are three more that are very close to being published. Those are appended for your information. The presentations that you'll hear from our scientists, all of whom work in British Columbia, reflect on this material as well as their own research and the research elsewhere in the world. I just wanted you to be aware that this body of knowledge exists.
With that, just to keep things moving along here, I would like to ask Dr. Simon Jones to make our presentation on fish health.
S. Jones: Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. My name is Simon Jones. I'm a research scientist in the aquatic animal health section within the marine ecosystems and aquaculture division at the Pacific Biological Station. I recall meeting many of you earlier this summer on your tour of the station.
What I'd like to do today is spend maybe ten or 12 minutes and review some of the recent research in fish health that I have done and that my colleagues within my section have done, and perhaps try to put this into the context of the rationale behind the meeting.
There are a few key points I'd like to bring to your attention to lead off my presentation. The research that we conduct is fundamental and it's applied, meaning that we try to understand some of the more basic biological attributes and how these attributes can be useful to society. Research relating to fish health in wild and farm populations, whether they are finfish or shellfish, is the mandate of our focus. The knowledge is applied in support of regulatory, diagnostic and industry activities.
This is quite important. The knowledge that we derive through the scientific process is made available to a broader scientific community through the peer review process, and that means the publication of peer-reviewed articles. Finally, the knowledge is applied and has led to important milestones in support of sustainable aquaculture. I'll make specific reference to those milestones towards the end of my presentation.
In our group there are a number of programs with a particular focus on different aspects of health research into aquatic animal organisms. These relate to health in shellfish, for example; virology, the study of virus diseases; parasitology; and fish pathology — four distinct programs that are conducted within our section. These are supported by infrastructure including state-of-the-art laboratories that focus on molecular biology and on histology, or the study of fish tissues. What I'd like to do is provide some examples of research that's been conducted in each of these programs, but I will focus on research that's conducted on finfish rather than on shellfish.
In the virology research program, as the name suggests, the main focus of the work is threefold. There is a surveillance component, in which activities are focused on the occurrence of virus infections in salmonid and non-salmonid wild populations. The work also includes a number of laboratory investigations — controlled lab studies in which we investigate the attributes or the characteristics of viruses, what makes them cause disease and how the viruses may be similar to or different from one another.
There is also an applied aspect, in which research focuses on ways in which virus infections can be detected or diagnosed, or in which they can be prevented — for example, the development of vaccines that can be used to prevent virus diseases in salmon. The photograph just shows an example of some virus particles from fish.
I'd like to provide you with a specific example of a virus infection, and it has been of concern recently in British Columbia. That is a virus known as IHN, or infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus. This is a virus found in several species of marine fish in British Columbia, but in fact its range is much broader. It can be found in fish from California to Alaska.
Interestingly, the virus is most commonly found in sockeye, and it has been described as a sockeye disease.
[ Page 892 ]
This is an organism seen in juvenile sockeye in fresh water and, very rarely, in marine-phase adult sockeye.
Surviving fish can carry the virus. This is an important factor in this particular infection, meaning that fish with no apparent disease are able to swim and spread virus into the water. We believe this leads to occasional outbreaks that have been observed in farmed salmon on the coast of British Columbia. In Atlantic salmon, the disease is particularly severe. Unlike in sockeye salmon, when Atlantic salmon become exposed to this virus, they suffer relatively high mortalities.
On the next slide, what I'd like to show you are the results of some laboratory investigations by my colleague Garth Traxler at the Pacific Biological Station, where he compared the affect of IHN virus in two species of fish. On the top graph is the Atlantic salmon, which is, of course, the farmed species. On the bottom graph he used laboratory-reared pink salmon, which, of course, is a native species on the coast.
If I could draw your attention to the top graph, what we're showing here is the accumulated mortality in the experimental group of fish after they've been exposed to the virus over time. What these lines show is that over a period of about two to three weeks, we see virtually all of the Atlantic salmon succumb to the virus exposure, regardless of whether they were immersed in the virus or injected with it.
The same experiment conducted on pink salmon showed virtually no mortalities. What this shows is that the virus is particularly virulent in Atlantic salmon but much less so in pink salmon. It's typical of the kind of work that we do, in which we're interested in exploring how different species may differ in their susceptibility or resistance to a particular virus agent.
I'd like to briefly describe some of the parasitological work that we've been conducting. Again, as with the virological laboratory, in parasitology we're interested in surveying wild populations of fish for parasites. We look at salmonid and non-salmonid species of fish. The figure on the right is an example of some work that we've recently done. Our group was the first to show that the stickleback in the Broughton Archipelago is an important host of the salmon lice — Lep salmonis — and this has not previously been reported.
We also conduct laboratory studies using a controlled environment in which we expose fish to a variety of different parasites, depending on the nature of the study. We observe these fish for the effects of the parasite in isolation from other effects which may be occurring in wild populations. This allows us to dissect apart the variety of effects that may be related to the impact of a parasite infection.
It's important to note, too, that our research is collaborative. We work not only with colleagues in British Columbia in non-governmental organizations but also with colleagues in academia and government departments in other parts of Canada and other parts of the world. We have a broad network of research collaborators that assist us with these investigations.
One example of the research that we do is focusing on an organism called Kudoa, which is a parasite that occurs in many species of fish worldwide, and it occurs in the muscle of the fish. This parasite doesn't kill the fish. Following the death of the fish — for example, a harvested salmon — it leads to softening of the fillet, so that you see a deterioration in the quality of the product.
In farmed Atlantic salmon, this soft-flesh syndrome has been a significant concern on the coast in British Columbia. Part of our research has been an attempt to understand the biology of this parasite and to develop tools that allow us to provide early diagnosis and possibly prevention.
The figure on the right shows an example on the top of a fillet from a healthy salmon. On the bottom is the fillet of a salmon that was severely infected with Kudoa. You can see that the quality has deteriorated markedly.
On the next slide, our research has in fact developed a quantitative tool that allows us to detect very early infections with Kudoa, and this allows the industry to take appropriate husbandry actions to prevent not only exposure but the consequences of exposure.
I'd also like to draw your attention to the activities of our third group, the fish pathology group. Many of the functions of my colleagues in this group are not solely related to research, but they're also of a regulatory and diagnostic function. I've listed some of these on the side.
Individuals in this program participated, for example, in the Federal-Provincial Introductions and Transfers Committee, which is a process by which the movements of fish and their gametes are regulated in and out of British Columbia and in and out of Canada. They participate in a fish health advisory committee, but they also administer the fish health protection regulations which, as you know, are part of the Fisheries Act. The fish health protection regulations are presently in the process of being replaced through a national aquatic animal health program, which I'll mention in my next slide.
Finally, our staff provides diagnostic and investigative support, both for DFO internal and external clients. For example, they investigate fish kills that may occur on the coast and make an effort to understand the cause and possibly the remediation of fish kills. This illustration shows the example of a sardine die-off on the west coast of Vancouver Island about a year ago.
I mentioned briefly the national aquatic animal health program. This is a relatively new initiative that encompasses two federal departments — the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which leads the regulatory side of the program, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which leads the science delivery and the surveillance components of the program.
The NAAHP, as it's known, provides the infrastructure for a coordinated fish health assessment program nationally. The intent of NAAHP is to provide Canada with the basis to support its international trade in fish-based products.
I mentioned at the beginning that we have infrastructure, so we have a well-equipped, state-of-the-art molecular biological laboratory and, on the next slide, a
[ Page 893 ]
laboratory that supports our histological diagnostic basis, which is the study of the tissues of fish as they may change following exposure to parasites.
In conclusion, I'd like to bring to your attention the number of milestones that we feel reflect the fish health research that's being conducted not only at PBS in Nanaimo but in all of our laboratories across the country. We recognize that the introduction of intensive finfish mariculture in Canada has raised concerns of detrimental disease interactions with wild fish, so this was an initial milestone. We accept that this is a concern.
We have established mechanisms to prevent the introduction or transfer of fish pathogens through the Introductions and Transfers Committee, for example. We have no evidence of exotic diseases that have been introduced to B.C.'s finfish populations. Recognizing the concern that we all have concerning the interactions between salmon aquaculture and wild populations, and the uncertainty surrounding this issue, we have based our conclusion that at present there is no evidence that fish farms have contributed to adverse changes in the health of wild fish populations. The supporting documentation for this conclusion is provided in the state of knowledge document that's in front of you.
With that, I'd like to thank you for your attention. At this point, perhaps I can introduce my colleague Mr. Dario Stucchi.
D. Stucchi: My name is Dario Stucchi. I work at the Institute of Ocean Sciences. I'm a physical oceanographer studying circulation on the coast and most recently, along with my collaborator Jon Chamberlain, have been working on modelling the distributions and impacts of finfish farm waste in the near field. By the near field, I mean within a couple hundred metres of the net pens.
I'll start by a quick overview of the ground that I'm going to cover in this presentation. I'm going to present a brief background on the nature of the impacts of these organic-rich wastes. We're talking here about fecal material and uneaten food from finfish farms, which are high in organic content, but there are other activities that produce organic-rich wastes.
I'll give you a brief background of what the impacts are on the sediment, where they are deposited; talk a bit about the modelling approach, why we use models and why they're effective; and then move into a particular model that we've adopted at DFO and on this coast generally to try to model the effects of aquaculture wastes.
Now I'm going to go into a little bit of detail about how these models work — the inputs and outputs, some of the validation work that we have done and are continuing to do to test this model with the finfish farms on this coast. Then I'll discuss a very important aspect of any modelling exercise — that is, the limitations and uncertainty, which I think are critical.
Then I'll shift gears and talk a bit about how the model is applied. I'm a scientist at IOS, but the results of our work are fed to our management or habitat people so they can implement and use some of the advice we provide.
Some brief background here. This is an old slide going back almost three decades, which shows the continuum of effects caused by enriching sediments with organic wastes. On the left you have a normal state and on the far right a highly polluted state with a lot of organic wastes being deposited. You'll notice that the sediments — these are soft sediments we're talking about — have a zone that's light grey, which is oxygenated. Organisms that breathe and use oxygen live in this zone. You have burrowing macrofauna as well as micro-organisms.
On the far right, in a polluted state, that oxygenated zone is absent, and the sediment is anoxic — has no oxygen — and therefore we can't have organisms that breathe oxygen living there. We're down to a community of micro-organisms called anaerobic organisms that decompose and degrade organic matter. This is a continuum. As you go from the normal to the highly polluted, there's an increasing amount of organic material being deposited on the sediment surface.
There's a large body of knowledge that came together to put that simplistic picture together. It's tantalizing to think of it in terms of if we could predict the amount and distribution of this organic waste, knowing what we know about the impacts of it, we could create a model to simulate what the potential effects are from an activity like finfish farming.
This brings me to the next slide on why we use models. If we had models to do that, we could use these models for selecting suitable locations. Once we have what we think is a suitable location, we can run simulations of configuring the net-cage structures in particular ways to minimize impacts or even in reducing production limits on the farm to minimize impacts and the effect of these organic wastes — or the footprint of the farm, as it's often called.
They can be used to design monitoring programs to go out and test where you should sample to validate the model and to see what the extent of the impacts is. They can also be used as a research tool to guide your research into some of the processes.
The next slide. There's some overlap here, and it talks about some of the benefits. Using a model that's well described and peer-reviewed and published makes it transparent and an objective tool that others can run and use as they will, and it should produce the same results if they use the same inputs. It's a site-specific management tool that takes in the local conditions, so it's very attuned to the local conditions. It has some predictive capabilities that we've just mentioned.
It's cost-effective. You can envision and run different scenarios to see how you can arrange your operations so as to minimize impacts. This can be done easily. It would be prohibitively expensive and risky to try to do that in the real world by physically moving things. You could try to get an estimate of what would happen by running the models. I've already mentioned targeted monitoring.
[ Page 894 ]
There have been a variety of models developed for the aquaculture industry, like many other activities going back quite a number of years, from very simple models to very complicated models. There are very site-specific models. The only one that I know of that's been commercially developed and in widespread use is a model developed in Scotland called DEPOMOD.
There are some of the agencies involved in its development. Jon Chamberlain was part of this group when it was first developed at Napier University. Their underlying objective or goal for developing this model is to have a better predictive capability of what the impacts might be from fish farms in Scotland. They wanted to improve the objectivity in making regulatory decisions about the location and management of these farms, so they developed this tool. It's just a tool, one of many — and some references from the Scottish folks.
Before I go into the details of DEPOMOD…. As I said, there are many models that do this particle tracking of where the wastes go. I wanted to give you a little talk about the components that go into this model. It's really not just one model. It's a collection or sequence of models that are run in series.
Here you have a cartoon or a schematic of a hypothetical finfish farm with a varying ocean bottom. The light layer on the bottom is meant to represent the wastes coming out of that net pen. You have currents on the right-hand side here — the arrows representing the flow of water in the ocean.
Some critical parameters. You have particles sinking out of the cage with a given sinking speed, a certain distance from the bottom of the cage to the ocean.
That sets the setting. The very first start of any of these particle-tracking models is the waste production model. This deals with the activity of the farm. It talks about the biomass, how many fish are in the net cages, how the net cages are arranged, how much feed you're putting into that net cage and what the quality of that feed is.
That model produces wastes and the characteristics of those wastes that come out of the net pen, which the next model in the sequence then takes and distributes on the ocean bottom, taking into account the motion of the water currents, the depth above the bottom and the sinking rates of the different fractions of the wastes that come out of the net pen. It distributes them on the bottom.
Some models have this. DEPOMOD has this particular submodel. It's a resuspension model. Once the wastes are on the bottom, if the currents are sufficiently strong, they can be eroded, picked up, resuspended and carried away by the currents to some other location often outside the model area.
Finally, the crux of the matter — the important bit, the part we're always after — is to try to tie together what the particle-tracking model predicts — how the wastes are distributed — with the impacts we see in the sediment. How do you tie those two together? That's a sort of semi-empirical model, where you take observations and try to tie them together with predicted organic waste loading.
Those are the basic constituents of the model in a nutshell. This is the setup from the DEPOMOD simulation. This is the model grid. It's about a kilometre on the side, so we're talking near-field here — a few hundred metres, which is what we specify for the grid size for any model I emphasize. You'll see the coastline, the bathymetry in blue. The farm is represented by the long array of squares there. There are eight net pens, with a couple of small ones on the end. So the geographical position is geo-referenced to this particular grid.
There are a couple of other things to note here. These are sampling station locations. This little spot here is where some current meter measurements were made, where the star is. I'll show you some of the example data from that particular site, collected by the current meters — the devices that measure water velocity.
Essentially, what I have here are windrows diagrams from three different layers in the ocean — the surface, mid-water and near bottom. The way to interpret these dots is that the distance of the dot from the centre is the speed of the water current, and its direction is given by the points of the compass. So in these particular cases, we're looking at a flow at this site that is predominantly to the northwest. About 25 centimetres a second is roughly half a knot. So we have current speeds of up to half a knot, maybe even a little more than that.
These are the hydrodynamics, the currents that distribute the wastes that come out of the farm and are taken into account in the model.
An actual simulation now of this particular farmsite. It's a simulation we use to try to validate the model. This is an example of one of those simulations for August 2000 for this particular farm. You've seen the grid before, and now what I draw your attention to is this shaded area. I hope this comes out clearly. This is the footprint of the farm mapped out in two dimensions. You see concentric contours here underneath the net pens. This net pen has fish in it, as does this one, but the one between them does not. You're seeing a description of where their wastes are going onto the ocean bottom from this farm and how far out they go.
Another way of looking at this data is to take a transect from this corner of the farm out this way to the northwest and then just look at the predicted amount of material sedimenting out. We use carbon as the material we sediment, so in this scale here we have a carbon flux rate — the rate at which carbon is being deposited on the ocean floor — and this is the distance moving away from the net cage.
You can see the solid line here. The highest sedimentation rates are right at the farm edge. Then they decay quickly, so by the time you're out to 200 metres, they're very low.
I draw your attention to these dash lines above and below. They are envelopes of uncertainty caused by one of the key parameters in running the model, which I'll discuss on the next slide. That has to do with the feed-wastage rate. The farmer provides feed to his fish, but some of the food is not eaten, escapes the fish — either they're satiated, they're not healthy and don't eat,
[ Page 895 ]
or the water clarity. Those pellets are rich in organic material, so they become a waste.
Determining what that rate is, is a difficult problem. The new technologies of farms today use underwater cameras to try to minimize the wastage rate. This is a big cost for the farmers. Every bit of feed they waste is money they've lost, so they're quite conscientious about trying to minimize that. However, you can see from this submersible photograph of the ocean bottom that sometimes there appears to be a large wastage rate. It seems to be a debate or a large range of what that wastage rate could be, and it has significant impact on the uncertainty in the model predictions.
I showed you some of the validation results from this particular farm. We were able to establish significant relationships between what we predicted the organic waste loading would be and what we measured in the benthic environment in terms of its health. We can look at the sediment chemistry, the amount of free sulphide in the sediments. We can look at indicators of benthic health — species diversity, abundance and other indices — to gauge the health of the benthic environment.
We are able to show significant relationships between the two, which is very encouraging. However, it's a model. You have to be very conscious of where the errors come from and what the limitations are. I alluded already to the feed-wastage rate, which produces large uncertainty. Another one is the carbon concentration in the feed and fecal material, which has a significant variation.
Another one I mentioned, the resuspension model. DEPOMOD has a resuspension module. In this particular validation, we turned it off. Had we left the resuspension module on, it would have removed all that material from the ocean bottom, so we would have nothing to compare with observations. Obviously, the way the resuspension process is modelled in DEPOMOD needs to be refined. Terri will talk a little bit more about that in her presentation. We're continuing to validate the model at different sites in different conditions.
More about limitations and uncertainties. Models have assumptions because we try to simplify the real world down to little bits and pieces that we can understand and handle. One of the immediate ones that comes to mind, which is very relevant, is that this is a near-field model. It deals with the wastes that fall out close to the farm — the heavy ones that sink out quickly. This model can't handle the fine materials that get deposited far away. It's not meant to handle those. It would be unfair to expect it to be able to handle those. It addresses a very specific problem.
The accuracy of the predictions depends on the suitability of the test site, and there are some environments where it's not well adapted to that — how you configure the model. Of course, the kind of data you input into the model determines the kind of data you get out. If you put in poor estimates or very coarse estimates and input data, you're going to get coarse estimates out — garbage in, garbage out.
The final one is this uncertainty parameter in feed-wastage rates. I've mentioned this already, but the point I wanted to make about that one is if you don't know what that rate is, it doesn't matter which model you use or how good your model is. Your results are going to be uncertain, no matter what. It's an important rate, and it's a difficult one to get at.
Now I'm going to switch gears a bit to talk about who's using the model on this coast, and it's quite widely used on this coat. The provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has constructed models for almost all B.C. finfish farms and in many cases, I presume, more than one simulation as the farm configurations change. They do that as part of their mandate and their support role here
Fisheries and Oceans. Jon and I quality-control all the model simulations that are done by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and all others. We've written a "Methods and Settings" document that prescribes the settings that are to be used in the model for use in regulatory aspects or for formal submissions.
We're continuing with research and validation of the model. Published papers are part of our internal peer-review process and have been published elsewhere. We provide an advisory role as a management tool.
The aquaculture industry has also embraced the DEPOMOD, using it for its own internal use for site screening. They do a lot of the preliminary work before they even submit a plan to the regulatory agencies. Sometimes they hire consultants to do it for them. It's in widespread use.
Going into a little more of the particulars of how DEPOMOD is used as a regulatory tool within DFO. Just a few bullets here. It's much more complicated than this, but the footprint of the farm…. The habitat people have chosen a particular threshold. It's just one gram of carbon per square metre per day. The units aren't important, but it's a threshold.
Our habitat folks have identified critical habitats, such as eelgrass beds, and the list goes on. The footprint of the farm at that threshold level cannot impact on that. If that happens, the farm has to be altered in some way so that effect does not happen. For sensitive habitats it's a little different. It's the same threshold, but there the option is to minimize — and eliminate, if possible, or reduce — the overlap.
Finally, when you get to a very high threshold, or a higher threshold, where there's a reasonable expectation that there's going to be a significant impact under the Fisheries Act, then the area of the footprint is authorized. The area that exceeds this five grams is authorized under the Fisheries Act, section 35(2), and may be authorized…. Associated with that authorization is a requirement for a compensation of that disturbed habitat. This is a regulatory policy of DFO.
In summary, I've given you a very quick overview of what the effects of organic enrichment are in the near field and the modelling tools that we are currently using; the process we're trying to validate them; some of the issues around the uncertainty and limitations of those models as tools in a regulatory framework; and some of the practical application of that model in this
[ Page 896 ]
province by a number of agencies, including our own department. Thank you for your time.
T. Sutherland: My name is Terri Sutherland. I'm with the marine ecosystem and aquaculture division, and I'm located at the DFO-UBC Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research. That's formerly known as the West Vancouver laboratory.
The information presented in the far-field interaction ecosystem approach talk is largely based on two DFO projects that have taken place over a three-year period. These projects were a collaborative effort between the various groups that are listed on the slide, and they were funded by the DFO environmental strategic science research fund as well as the DFO aquaculture MC fund.
"Near field" and "far field" are pragmatic terms that are used for convenience to describe processes related to large particles in local conditions and fine particles in distant conditions. In our project approaches, our research to date, we have looked at near-field/far-field continuums. We have taken far-field stations and put them in reference to transect bearings to near-field stations. So we're looking at a continuum, and we're considering the lease boundaries as being transparent.
In terms of the interactions between the environment and aquaculture, we have three broad categories. The first is sedimentation and resuspension processes, which involve the initial descent of waste material to the bottom and the resuspension and transport of material along the sea floor.
The second category involves eutrophication and organic enrichment, which usually deals with nutrient input and the consumption of the nutrients by the organisms and oxygen uptake. As Dario described, in the benthic environment the sulphides can be produced as an end point.
The third category involves ecosystem interactions, looking at complex food webs over large spatial scales. Feed-detection camera systems have been developed to minimize the amount of feed passing through to the benthic environment. However, in the event that feed does pass through, it's important to properly quantify the total solid input into the environment. As Dario has discussed, DEPOMOD has been used to provide predictions of sedimentation fluxes and depositional footprints.
In the far field, coastal circulation models have been developed to support predicting the transport of soluble and fine particulate material. These circulation models are very complex and very expensive and time-consuming to develop. One has just been produced here, as you see in the publication in 2006.
As we mentioned, we have two projects. One is called our near-field benthic recovery project, which looks at the recovery of the sea floor following the removal of a fish farm. We have done an extensive benthic grab survey. A grab is like a mechanical claw which collects a sediment sea sample. We've also done an acoustic survey of this area to try and delineate the shape and aerial extent of a depositional footprint.
The second project is a far-field project, and this is considered to be a national project. It was carried out in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. The objectives of this project were twofold: first, to assess potential impacts in the environment from aquaculture operations; and the second was to assess the use of recommended monitoring tools that we are using to assess the impacts.
We have two sets of far-field stations that we set up, those that are 300 to 500 metres from a farm and are connected on a transect bearing with near-field stations…. Those are typically within the same bay as a fish farm. The second set is usually located one to ten kilometres away, and those exist in an adjoining channel.
Again, as Dario mentioned, the resuspension module of DEPOMOD needs some refinement. Resuspension is…. We're looking at the movement and transport of material along the sea floor in the far field following its initial settlement phase.
Water flow flumes provide a platform for experiments to take place to look at what the critical thresholds are for sedimentation, resuspension and solubility of this material. So we want to know: at what velocity point does the solid waste material drop out of the water column under decreasing flows? Decreasing flows can take place through tidal cycles or as the particles get closer to the bottom. That's where the water starts to feel the bottom and the friction from the bottom and slow down. We also want to know what the critical velocity point is at which particles start to move and start to roll and start to bounce.
The other thing we need to consider is how they degrade under flow, and this might be at the point where we need to use another model of parameterization. In terms of far-field transport, we need to look at the fate and pathways of material in the far field. This can take place in several ways. It can be ongoing or widespread, or it can be episodic, sort of acute and localized.
I think you can actually relate to these processes in your day-to-day world. If you're driving down the highway, and you see a snowpack on top of a car, you can see the sheer velocity working on the surface of the snowpack to mine away the surface snowflakes. That comes off in a very even wake that's sort of milky in colour. Now, if you have a wind gust or a storm taking place, you can have a blowout system take place, where a large piece of snowpack drops off the car and, hopefully, falls on the side of the road. So that's the type of thing that we're looking at.
Again, we've been able to produce relationships between pellet speed and current speed within these water flow flumes that we have just acquired. You can see here that pellet speed, which is located on this axis, and current speed here is not a 1-to-1 relationship. In fact, it falls below a 1-to-1 relationship.
From these experiments using the water flow flumes, which are equipped with movable lids that actually induce a flow within the racetrack and can simulate both storm and tidal events, we can actually detect the critical velocity point to which the pellets
[ Page 897 ]
start to move, the duration they roll and the point at which they start to bounce and disperse.
In order to track material in the far field, we need to know tracers for feed and fecal material. Zinc is considered a useful tracer, because it's put into feed material. It's a required micronutrient for fish nutrition. My understanding is that it's required so that it prevents the formation of cataracts in juvenile fish.
Because zinc varies in nature, depending on grain size and the presence of other elements, we need to ground-truth it in order to find a tracer, in order for us to decide what's natural and what's coming from the feed pellet.
This graph shows zinc concentration on this axis and lithium concentration on this axis. The green and yellow symbols represent that which is naturally occurring, and those happen to be in our far-field stations. The red and orange symbols represent those that come from feed pellets, and those just happen to be at the zero-metre and 30-metre stations. So we have confidence that this could be used as a tracer of waste material.
Another tracer that we're using is the ratio of copper to lithium under the same concept. Copper is used as an antifoulant agent in net pens. Again, you can see here that we have copper concentration on this axis and lithium on this axis. The naturally occurring ratio is represented by the yellow and green symbols, which again happen to be our far-field stations.
If you notice, with this graph copper only shows up in the zero-metre stations and signifies that which may have arisen from the net-pen system. But it doesn't show up in the 30-metre stations. Again, that's more information about the dispersal of material arising from the net pen.
We'll move on to the second category, which is eutrophication and organic enrichment. Eutrophication, again, results from the input of waste material and dissolved waste material. It could come in the form of solid waste, feed and fecal matter or inorganic nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus. Once nutrients are loaded into the system, there's an increase in biological demand. That's where the organisms eat up the nutrients and consume oxygen while that's taking place. That can result in low-oxygen conditions in both the water column and the benthic environments, and that's the near-bottom environment.
A mass balance nutrient budget took place on the east coast of Canada, and it examined various sources of nutrient inputs and was carried out on an inlet-wide spatial scale. We're hoping to do something like this in the Broughton Archipelago.
In terms of benthic organic enrichment in the sea floor, it's very difficult to get an idea of the shape and aerial extent of the depositional footprint by just using traditional grab methods. These are discrete samples that are taken from the bottom of the ocean using a mechanical claw. We carried out an acoustic survey, which provides a high-resolution picture of the sea floor. In this picture you can see that the white refers to a very reflective hard surface, and the black refers to a very soft sound-absorbing substrate.
This black triangle here represents the depositional footprint of the fish farm that used to be in that location. This is part of our near-field benthic recovery fouling project.
We used another type of acoustic survey, which actually colour-codes habitats and puts them into different classifications. We seem to have agreement between the two acoustic surveys, and within this triangle-shaped depositional footprint you see a yellow classification taking place. It's hard to discern on this slide from the green, which is the background far-field area. We took grab samples and looked at the amount of tracers in that material, and we feel confident that these tools will help us identify impacts.
The last benthic organic enrichment indicator is sulphide measures. I'm sure you've heard quite a bit about this indicator in the past. Here we have the relationship of redox and sulphides that have been collected in the Broughton Archipelago. We'll just concern ourselves with this axis here, which is sulphide concentration. You can see that in low-sulphide concentrations you end up with very sandy — that's represented by the blue symbol — and oxygenated sediments.
These tend to proliferate in high-energy environments. As you move up into high-sulphide concentrations, you tend to be in a low-oxygen environment, which is typified by silt or clay environments. This type of information might help with siting, in terms of relocating farms or finding new locations for farms.
In terms of assessing impacts of benthic organic enrichment, it's important to select the most appropriate far-field site. Here what we do is we use this ternary plot to look at the relative proportions of different grain size — clay, silt and sand. Here you can see that each colour represents a different farmsite. Our reference area, which is designated by the colour blue, seems to span three of the farmsites with different substrate types. It looks like we haven't covered this red farmsite here, so what we would do is have to go back out and choose a different far-field station for that one. These are just some of the tools we're using to make sure we're properly detecting benthic organic enrichment.
In terms of ecosystem interactions, in the Broughton Archipelago we've focused on the response of organisms, both macro- and meiofauna, that live in the sediments. This graph here shows the response of meiofauna against sulphide concentration. You can see that at high sulphide concentrations you have very low abundances. That seems to be true for both meiofauna and macrofauna.
Ecosystem interactions really involve a very complex food web structure of different trophic levels involving plankton, fish, invertebrates and macroalgal communities. These things need to be looked at over large spatial scales encompassing different substrate regimes from subtidal to intertidal. In order to approach something of this magnitude, it's difficult to do just one project. So right here we have listed several projects that have dealt with looking at plankton, clam, faunal and algal responses to fish farm effluents.
[ Page 898 ]
In summary, circulation models have been developed to support research regarding the far-field transport of soluble and fine waste material. Research is underway regarding the quantification of recent suspension processes that will help to refine the DEPOMOD model and also determine pathways of transport in the far-field environment. Mass balance models, or nutrient budgets, have been developed on the east coast, and we hope to incorporate these on the west coast.
We have confidence in the selected methods that have been chosen and recommended to monitor organic enrichment. These methods consist of sulphide, zinc, copper, faunal, acoustic and video techniques.
Lastly, DFO has established a working group to focus on ecosystem-based research and develop environmental research priorities related to aquaculture science. I'd like to thank the committee for its time.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much. Now we will open the floor to, I would imagine, multiple questions.
J. Yap: I will start with you, Terri. What were the conclusions? I saw your last slide, and you had a summary. Were there any conclusions? Your work was mainly in coming up with methodologies on monitoring the benthic environment.
T. Sutherland: Yes. What we did focus on was the work that had been carried out to date, as well as our confidence in the monitoring tools, which had been developed as we've assessed environmental impacts. I didn't focus on the actual trends and equations regarding the responses of organisms to environmental impacts, but we are working on that and publishing that.
J. Yap: It's a work-in-progress.
T. Sutherland: Some of it is just coming out for publication, and some of it is work in progress.
J. Yap: So what you have established and published is the work that supports how we monitor the benthic….
T. Sutherland: That's right, and if we go back through those slides, we can pick out the trends of that with distance and that with organism, but I didn't focus on that in this talk. I mostly looked at identifying the trends. But we're modelling equations for how organisms and sediments respond to sulphides and organic content and that type of thing.
J. Yap: Is this now accepted science and methodology for monitoring the effect of waste?
T. Sutherland: Yes, there was a DFO NAP workshop, which is a national advisory process, that took place in 2005. One of the deliverables was to set up a suite of recommended monitoring tools. That was accepted by the department and is placed in an advisory document.
J. Yap: Thank you. Maybe my next question is for Dario. Have there been studies or has your research looked at the effects of the movement of the waste particles — the food and fecal particles?
D. Stucchi: Once they have been deposited on the ocean floor?
J. Yap: Uh-huh.
D. Stucchi: No, we haven't looked at that directly. We know that the way it's modelled in the present DEPOMOD is too simplistic, and Terri has talked about that. We need to do, and Terri is doing, that kind of work to try to better understand those processes so that model can be refined or changed and something more applicable used — for example, in DEPOMOD.
There are two types of waste. There's the fecal waste, and then there are the waste pellets. DEPOMOD doesn't distinguish between the two, though they're very different in their characteristics. Terri showed you some of the results of how the feed pellets get moved around.
It's a challenging piece of work that needs to be done. We're not specifically doing it, but Terri is working in that area.
J. Yap: So Terri's work is an extension of what DEPOMOD can do.
D. Stucchi: Yes, it would enhance DEPOMOD and address what we see as a limitation or a deficiency in the way it's presently modelled.
J. Yap: In its present form, how useful is DEPOMOD in terms of siting and making those decisions?
D. Stucchi: From our validation exercises here in B.C. from the one farm, it was very encouraging. We got good agreements of significant relationships that we could establish. The model has been validated in Scotland, including the resuspension component, which was validated to a certain extent.
The model has been receiving validation in Scotland, here in Canada a little bit and elsewhere, so we have some confidence in its utility. But as I hasten to add, it's a model, and you always have to be careful how you apply it and to understand what its limitations are.
J. Yap: Thank you. My next question I will direct to Simon. I find it very interesting that the Atlantic salmon — with regard to IHN and the other parasite, Kudoa — is very susceptible, yet from our travels, it's almost the fish of choice for finfish aquaculture. Is it just a genetic difference between the Atlantic versus the Pacific salmon that leads them to be more susceptible?
S. Jones: In the natural range of the Atlantic salmon — which, of course, is the northern Atlantic Ocean — viruses such as IHN don't occur naturally. Kudoa is much more widely distributed around the world, but it tends not to occur widely in the northern Atlantic naturally.
[ Page 899 ]
We believe that when you see differences such as we saw between, for example, the Atlantic salmon and the pink salmon in terms of their susceptibility to a virus like IHN, this probably reflects a historic association of the fish with the virus so that there has been a selection over time for individuals who display an enhanced resistance to that agent.
I showed you pink salmon data. Similar patterns of resistance to IHN were seen in chinook and coho salmon, as well, which leads us to hypothesize that there is a so-called innate resistance in species such as the Pacific salmon that occur in the same area as a particular antigen like IHN.
When we introduce an exotic species like the Atlantic salmon, it doesn't have that natural resistance because it has had no historical association as a species with that. This usually forms the basis, and we believe that a similar pattern can explain why the Atlantic salmon is more prone to Kudoa as well.
J. Yap: One of the anxieties that is out there is the issue of escapements, which was previously a major issue and now seems to be much better under control — the escapements of Atlantic salmon from the fish pens. I've never really heard — perhaps you can answer this — from a scientific point of view why it is a big deal, to put it simplistically, that some Atlantic salmon might escape, given the level of anxiety about such an occurrence. What would be the impact? It sounds like the Atlantic salmon that might escape might be, as you've said, more vulnerable to these diseases.
S. Jones: I think the concerns were twofold, to my awareness. One is that escaped Atlantic salmon which may be infected with a disease agent may then go on to spread that disease agent among wild species that occur locally on the coast. The second concern was based on the establishment of naturally reproducing Atlantic salmon on the B.C. coast and possibly displacing resident species such as Pacific salmon. There was some concern, although I think it was rather less of a concern, that there may be genetic mixing between species. I don't think many people believe that option anymore.
These, I think, form the basis of the concern. In terms of levels of disease in farmed Atlantic salmon, there are processes in place that allow farmers to monitor for disease, to treat and to maintain as healthy a population as is possible. So the risk of diseased salmon which might escape and spread has, I think, been minimized through this built-in fish health monitoring process.
The laboratory data which we've generated, which further identifies the relatively lower risk of infection among Pacific salmon species — infections such as the infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus — indicates that even if diseased Atlantic salmon were to escape, perhaps the risk to the local populations is limited or minimized.
I think those form the basis of the concerns.
J. Yap: From your studies, from your experience, is there any evidence that escaped Atlantic salmon have been able to colonize any of the areas on the west coast?
S. Jones: Well, it's not really my area of expertise. I am aware of at least one study that documented the occurrence of juvenile Atlantic salmon in a stream. I'm not sure that that was followed up with subsequent work or whether those observations were repeated in a later spawning cycle, but I think there was at least one observation of a reproducing population.
T. Perry: I wonder if we could interject just on that particular point.
B. Riddell: Just to, I guess, complete that point, there has clearly been evidence of a couple of locations of juveniles produced from Atlantic salmon that were able to spawn naturally. There is no evidence on the coast yet of any juvenile Atlantic salmon going to sea and returning to their stream of origin and finding a mate to reproduce a second generation. So we would say that there's no evidence at this time of successful colonization. There is evidence of successful spawning but not returning, as in a full generation.
C. Trevena: I think I'd like to throw my questions open because I'm not quite sure who would be the best to answer them. I'll try and keep them brief because I know everybody has got lots of questions.
The DEPOMOD model. Mr. Stucchi has been explaining that there is uncertainty and that it's not going to give guaranteed answers, and there's obviously still some research going on into it and the far-field effects. Is this the main tool used by DFO for its environmental assessment of location of finfish sites?
A. Thomson: I'll answer that. It is one of the tools we use, and it's more used in habitat assessment rather than environmental assessment. The environmental assessment of finfish sites looks at all broad-ranging environmental effects potentially of that site on the environment, whereas the habitat assessment under section 35 of the Fisheries Act looks at the impact on fish and fish habitat.
We use this tool as a part of the suite of tools, along with the professional judgment of our habitat practitioners. It is a very useful predictor tool to allow us to site farms away from areas of sensitive and critical habitat.
It has been a significant advance in how we are being able to site a farm away from these habitats that we're trying to protect. Then we follow up with monitoring, both federally and provincially, using harmonization with the provincial waste-monitoring regulations to see if the model came out correctly and to see if we have properly predicted where that waste will end up and use it as a siting tool.
It's yet another tool in our ability to do it, as opposed to prior to using the model. What we would use was essentially the knowledge of the area along with the best judgment of the habitat practitioner. We still use those tools as well. We still use the knowledge of the area and the information given to us by surveys and such, but we also now use DEPOMOD as well.
[ Page 900 ]
C. Trevena: What if, when you're doing your follow-up assessments, the model has proven faulty and there is a lot of waste going into the…?
A. Thomson: We can adjust the authorization. We can actually rewrite the authorization compensation and say: "You are having an impact in this area." We can have choices to have the farm moved or relocated to adjust it or, conversely, the other way. Maybe we have overestimated, which can happen as well. You can adjust the authorization compensation after that.
C. Trevena: When you talk about compensation, you're talking about the siting of the farm and not the compensation, where you'd say…. For instance, Grieg Seafood told us about when they got their last application, and then they invested in Baikie Island in Campbell River.
A. Thomson: No, I am talking about that — section 35(2) compensation. It is a legal mechanism under the Fisheries Act that allows projects that impact habitat to compensate, through rebuilding other habitat or putting in an artificial reef of some manner, for the habitat being lost.
Again, in the situation where perhaps the model predicted a footprint of X value and it turned out to be larger than X, the company would therefore have to go in and build a larger compensation for that in the case where there is compensation coming, when an authorization has been decided on.
C. Trevena: One other question. I know that DFO, when it comes to finfish aquaculture, isn't using the precautionary principle. I've found this has been a very useful document that you've provided us with — with the state of knowledge. But just flipping through it and, obviously, not having had time to digest it, there seems to be a raft of gaps in knowledge here that DFO is aware of.
I'm wondering why we're continuing with the process when DFO's very aware of…. Literally, I'm just flipping through it, and I've got at least 20 different gaps in knowledge here that are quite significant, just from my read of it. I'm wondering if you could maybe explain that.
A. Thomson: I can start with an explanation, and my science colleagues can join in.
First of all, I would take issue that we don't follow the precautionary principle in our management of aquaculture. I think we follow the precautionary principle in the application of all our management actions within the department.
Secondly, in terms of our knowledge gaps — and I'll let Ted and Brian answer this more fully — that's the nature of how things work. There are knowledge gaps in virtually every activity that goes on or that is licensed to go on from Fisheries and Oceans or any other government agency. That's the nature of it — trying to assess as best we can and make decisions in a precautionary manner beforehand.
T. Perry: I guess, picking up on that, the whole management framework has to be based on a risk-based context. What we really follow is a precautionary approach. The interpretation of that is where we feel that there may be loss that's non-retrievable. I'm trying to think of another expression for that, but they're losses that can't be recovered. That would call for management actions that would prevent that from happening.
Outside of that constraint, you would make judgments based on what you've assessed the risks at. The intent there would be that over time we will learn more that would enable us to make decisions to minimize that risk even further.
B. Riddell: I don't think I really have anything to add to this. Whether it's fishing or development of logging practices — such as the riparian zone management where we're currently reviewing salmon-farming regulations and decisions — where we see a need to apply the precautionary approach, that's certainly brought into effect. We try to identify what the gaps are and address those with direct investigations of that area.
The coast is very diversified, of course. You've probably seen that first hand in your travels. Really, in many cases you have to look at the specific environment to make a good decision. Where we find that we have significant limitation, you're unlikely to have received the okay to proceed.
C. Trevena: But you would get the okay if, under section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act, you repaired another section — you compensated.
A. Thomson: Again, it's getting back to the two segments to the regulatory review prior to a site going in. One is the Fisheries Act, section 35(2), where you can actually decide that there is going to be an impact to habitat, and then you authorize and compensate for it. This is the very same as we would do for buildings at the Canada Place expansion. You know a certain section of habitat will be impacted. You authorize that and compensate for it. That's a regulatory authority under the Fisheries Act.
Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, what you're looking for is a determination of whether or not the project has a likelihood of causing a significant environmental effect. If the project is found likely to cause a significant environmental effect, it is not allowed to proceed. We've had a number of sites in British Columbia where they've been applied for. We've done the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act review of them. We've found them to be likely to cause a significant environmental effect, and we've not allowed the project to proceed.
C. Trevena: Are those finfish aquaculture sites?
A. Thomson: Yes.
C. Trevena: Is it possible for the committee to have a list of those sites?
[ Page 901 ]
A. Thomson: A list? For sure.
C. Trevena: Thank you very much.
G. Coons: Thank you for coming here, and thank you so much for this. Most of these articles I've got in my files. I've been going through them, and it's really nice to have it consolidated like this.
Again, as far as looking at the research gaps and the knowledge gaps and the bullets — it's just overwhelming, that I see. And we still continue to approve sites with the DEPOMOD and other siting criteria.
I just want to get back to the precautionary principle. I spent a bit of time trying to find out where it's mentioned in here, and the only place where I could find it was: "In situations where the knowledge is incomplete or lacking, a more precautionary level of advice is normally given to the habitat practitioners."
As far as the Privy Council back in 2003 and the law under the precautionary principle…. You did mention that it's used in all of your departments, and I notice that it's used very well in the harvest strategy where it's compliant with the precautionary principle. In here it says that benchmarks should be consistent as they apply in all fisheries management…. It's pretty clear that the application of precaution requires increased risk avoidance, and precaution should be incorporated in all fisheries management.
I'm just wondering, going through this…. My big concern, coming from the north coast, is: how is the precautionary approach being applied as far as aquaculture in British Columbia? And what's the level of risk that we're willing to give with our wild stocks?
B. Riddell: I don't think that our description before on how we apply it is incorrect in what you've just said there either. Your comment about what the level of risk is…. I guess I would ask you to keep in mind that what we provided you is perspective from the science branch. Our role is to generate new knowledge in support of the development of good management and policy.
The precautionary approach is basically a management action. We implement regulatory actions and management plans on the basis of the best information we have. If people assess that it is inadequate, then you would apply the precautionary approach and reduce the potential risk. We do that exact same thing in all of the impacts that we determine or are evaluating on wild Pacific salmon.
One of the things about the precautionary principle is that it implies that you have to define that risk. If it is acknowledged as being something that requires social input, it requires a lot of non-scientific input in terms of how risk-averse society wants to be. If you tell us that you want essentially no impact, then we can provide you with scientific advice about what would be required to ensure no impact.
If you're prepared and you want to assess something with potentially a 20-percent risk of some level of impact, then that's what risk assessment is all about. That is a risk evaluation, and what we need from people in local communities, who may be looking at protecting wild fish first but allowing some development, is input from them about what level of risk they're prepared to accept. On the basis of what we're capable of measuring and evaluating, we can tell you how you would actually regulate for that level of risk, what you would have to measure and how you would be able to actually evaluate whether or not you are meeting your objective.
We may not be applying the precautionary approach to the extent that people of some outlooks would want us to, necessarily. But on the other side, I think we need to really ask: have we determined what that level of risk is so that we can build it into an appropriate management plan? If we have a process whereby somebody will designate a level of risk, then we can turn around technically and advise what would be required to achieve that.
In the meantime our jobs, from a scientific perspective, are to determine what the knowledge gaps are, as you've commented; to direct research to fill those gaps where it's necessary; and to give advice to our managers about what the sources of risk are and about what the potential impacts could be.
If it has very, very little impact but has a very high probability of recurrence, then it's not likely a place that you would direct extensive research. But if it's something that actually has a very low probability of recurrence but tends to have an irrecoverable impact, then that's where I'm going to direct staff to spend their time. We need to know what level of risk people are really trying to avoid.
G. Coons: Also, I think I've read recently that there were some focus groups happening with some information from across Canada about aquaculture — its direction, its focus and the concerns. The first one done, if I recall correctly, was in 2001. And there was one as recently as 2004, I think. There was a dramatic shift in public concern and interpretations of what's happening with aquaculture. People were more concerned about making it safe and wanted more knowledge, which the precautionary principle is a key aspect of — having that public input and taking the societal concerns into account. Has there not been a recent survey and study about that?
A. Thomson: There have been focus group studies conducted last year. There have been public opinion surveys — a study conducted in this year, in 2006 — informing various actions of the department. I'm not an expert in the surveys that were conducted, and I wouldn't want to speak to them at this point.
G. Coons: I just want one last comment before I get into DEPOMOD stuff. The PFRCC in 2003 had a consultant's report that indicated that the insufficient progress made toward reaching expanded environmental knowledge — the gaps — wasn't there prior to the decision of lifting the moratorium. I just would like your comment on the PFRCC consultant's conclusions.
[ Page 902 ]
A. Thomson: You know, honestly, it was not a federal decision to lift the moratorium, so it wouldn't be proper for me to comment on whether or not it was lifted.
G. Coons: For Dario, I'm just wondering: is the DEPOMOD an interim threshold?
D. Stucchi: Sorry?
G. Coons: Is it an interim or a set threshold?
D. Stucchi: The regulatory threshold you're talking about?
G. Coons: Yes.
D. Stucchi: Those thresholds were set by our habitat management people, and I guess they will be reviewed. We provide the outputs, how they choose to interpret them. That will change with time as the science advice comes along.
For the time being, they are what they are.
G. Coons: Okay. In my briefing note I got from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, it says that the DFO has identified an interim threshold at this point in time. I guess it's changing.
A. Thomson: I'll address that. Yes. I mean, obviously, as with any of our management approaches, it's subject to review, change and improvement. That's really the goal of our adaptive management approach: to improve our management and our regulations through time.
G. Coons: Thank you. Dario, as far as the DEPOMOD, back in 2005 you had concerns about it, as you said, and you're currently working with the salmon aquaculture industry in some research on that?
D. Stucchi: Yes. We're collaborating with the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association on a study to look at this feed wastage rate. We're trying to constrain that, so we've acquired some underwater cameras to try to detect waste feed pellets and count them so that we can get a handle on how much that wastage is but also on what factors caused the wastage, because there seems to be a wide range of wastage.
G. Coons: As far as your current research, is it at numerous sites or just one site? Is it at a range of environmental conditions?
D. Stucchi: It'll be at a range of sites. We're still grappling with how to do this properly. It turns out to be a conceptually easy question to pose but a difficult and challenging one to actually carry out.
G. Coons: Yes, I can imagine. Are you working with anybody else besides the industry?
D. Stucchi: The provincial government is involved as well. So it's industry, provincial government and DFO working on this particular aspect.
G. Coons: Great. Thank you.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I guess I salute my fellow panel member at finding 20 gaps in a document we received an hour and a half ago. I'm still struggling to get my mind around the complexity of the various presentations.
Just a general question that I'll direct to Ted. I don't think I've been in a room with so many PhDs for quite a while. You people have been at this a long, long time. Do you have any idea of how many collective years of science I'm looking at here? Just as a guess.
T. Perry: Actually, that's an interesting question. I did a little calculation when the meeting started. It's well over a hundred.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Well over a hundred years of marine science. Well, we hope it has evolved more than what we anecdotally have heard from various people.
You indicate in the document here that the scientific method is the process by which scientists collectively and over time endeavour to construct an accurate, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary representation of the world. In this case we're talking about the undersea world.
Now, I'd just invite comments from anybody. What is the state of the technology? On a scale of one to ten, what degree of certainty are we now achieving in our understanding of salmon and farmed salmon? Where are we at in the process, say, compared to 20 years ago when we just plunked the farms anywhere? We've been studying it for a long time. To what degree of certainty can we rely on the information we now know?
T. Perry: Dr. Riddell will respond.
B. Riddell: Actually, Ron, I think there are two sides to that question. You know, when you ask a bunch of scientists if they can still learn, boy, they're going to say yes — right? Maybe the more critical one is that given where you were 15 or 20 years ago in the salmon aquaculture industry and the effects on the environment, where are you now?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): You can answer that one.
B. Riddell: I think you've made major progress. There's no question, I think, that in many people's minds the sea lice is the issue that has taken us by a bit of surprise. The provincial review in the late '90s mentioned sea lice twice and not in the context that we're discussing it now.
That's not because people didn't know about sea lice at the time. The entire European group was involved in
[ Page 903 ]
research on sea lice by that time. It was because it had not really been brought to people's attention here as a problem. The industry didn't notice this as a major impact. They actually didn't treat particularly much — when they'd talk to you about treatment.
We have a situation now where we have the Broughton, which is really quite exceptional in terms of what we've observed. If you look outside that in other areas of B.C. where we have salmon farming, we don't have the very high levels of sea lice.
Now I know that there were a couple of studies in the lower portion of Johnstone Strait and the upper Strait of Georgia. I've not actually been given access or seen any access to the results there. I hear that their numbers of sea lice are higher than many of the other areas. But where you have salmon aquaculture in most of the other areas, the incidence of sea lice is well less than 10 percent most of the time. Really, we're talking about the one type of sea lice, the Lep. salmonis.
How far are we — and how would you phrase the second part of that question — in ensuring a sustainable industry in B.C.?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): That's fair enough.
B. Riddell: I think you've made a major step forward. I think we can get there. I don't see any reason why it's not an achievable objective. I think that if you were to identify the major limitation right now, it's that when sea lice do occur in unreasonable numbers, do you know what to do? Do you have an effective response that in a timely way can reduce the impact?
You were just talking about risk assessment. Well, if your responses have a low probability of being effective, then you're going to have to have a very different response. But if you know what to do, and you're confident that you can drop the incidence to a very low number, then we can have an effective response program or management plan.
The uncertainty, as I'll point out in my presentation, is the use of SLICE right now. In Canada we're a little behind in the authorization and evaluation of it. We still have regulations with Health Canada. In Europe it's used much more freely. There is more research on the effects. It's something that I'll identify as an area where we want to implement more research now in terms of the effect of SLICE in B.C. environments and B.C. organisms — Dungeness crabs, prawns — things like this. There has been a little bit of work done on that, but it's not something that I would feel confident where we would say we really know the full effect of this. But it does look to be quite promising.
Then there's the issue of: well, how much should you utilize it? Then you'd get to people like Simon, who would be looking at if you can develop resistance to this, which is something that the European community has seen in other types of treatment. When you're relying on a chemical treatment, there are other types of concerns that come into play. You really need to do that research as well.
But I think you've made major steps forward. There isn't any question that we still have differences of opinion and we still have some risk, that people will be more confident with more work. But you're many ways down the road now. You could look at fish food development, escapes, antibiotic use, siting criteria. These things, as Andy said, will evolve. If you actually look at the change in application over time, there are major successes behind many of the issues and concerns people have.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Dr. Jones, way back there in one of your presentations — I think it was point 4 — you made a comment, a bullet, that said something to the effect that fish farms aren't a threat — if I took that context — to wild salmon. Did I see that? Is my memory right?
S. Jones: That's correct.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I did see it. Good. Could you expand on that? How did you come to that conclusion? That would seem to be in sharp contrast to at least some of the anecdotal information we've heard.
S. Jones: Well, it's certainly a consensus of opinion among a number of scientists and organizations whose focus involves the interaction of salmon aquaculture with adjacent salmon populations. These conclusions have been echoed in reports from Norway and Scotland, as well as our own. The supporting documentation behind that, I think, is outlined in the state of knowledge document.
I think part of the uncertainty behind that statement — of course, there is uncertainty — is that it's always extremely difficult to make as confident a statement about the state of health of a wild marine population compared with a similar statement of health that you might make about a captive population in a net pen in front of you. Your earlier comments relating to how far along we've come in 20 years I think relate to this as well.
It's a little ironic, actually, that many of the tools we now use to explore health in wild populations are tools that were developed to understand health in farm populations. We're applying those more effectively now. I think our confidence in terms of predicting health in wild populations has improved tremendously as well.
To answer your original question, this is a consensus of opinion among quite a large number of individuals and organizations.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): One last question, I guess to Dr. Sutherland. Concerns about far-field effects are becoming more prominent in some of the discussion we've had, particularly with first nations people and particularly in the Broughton. Do we have any sense of what percentage of benthic material or waste material gets distributed in a far-field effect? Dr. Cross tells us a lot of it's kind of sticky and clumpy and drops down
[ Page 904 ]
quite quickly. Do we have any idea of how much goes further than, say, 300 metres?
T. Sutherland: I think Dr. Cross is right in that most of the large particles do fall out within 30 metres or so of the farm system. Far-field objectives would be to look at the transport of soluble or dissolved material and finer particulates. That can either be a straight path in the upper water column or along the bottom during strong tides and storm events.
In terms of that issue, I understand that there was a field trip that took place in September where there was an observation looking at clam beaches. That is being developed currently and also will be assessed in terms of the ecosystem-based working group that is now being developed. We're going to hold a workshop in February to address more of the far-field intertidal clam beach issues.
There was a study done in southwest New Brunswick which focused, essentially, on changes in macroalgal communities and the effects on clam beaches. I did send that information to Marty Weinstein. I think that's going to form a good base for a direction for us.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): What did that study from the east coast tell us?
T. Sutherland: That's unique to the local conditions there, but there was an increase in macroalgal communities, which can sort of create a blanket over the intertidal areas. Clams are intertidal, so they're very good at tolerating different extremes of environmental conditions, but it looked like the algal communities did have an impact on the clams.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): It was certainly an issue we heard about from first nations, so I think they'll be reassured that we are studying it further. Is that what we're doing?
T. Sutherland: Yes.
S. Fraser: Since we're recorded on Hansard here, I just want to clarify something. Ted, you mentioned in your opening statement that the results of these decisions that came out of this body would be of significance to the industry in B.C. Just so everyone knows, officially, our mandate is that we will make recommendations. We're not a decision-making body. Just so everyone is…. I know you knew that, but I just wanted to make sure that was clarified on record.
Andrew, you mentioned early on, in response to, I think, Shane's comments about the role of DFO, that this was more management, not promotion; promotion wouldn't be the key word. You're referring to your roles here in science and management. Or were you referring to a political position too?
A. Thomson: Certainly I'm speaking of my role, but generally, within the department, I don't know of any dogma where we say we promote aquaculture. Certainly, we are the lead federal agency for aquaculture. We support a sustainable aquaculture industry through clear regulation and things such as research around aquaculture for a sustainable cause, but I don't know if we do what I would consider promotional activity for aquaculture.
S. Fraser: Okay. I've heard ministers speak before that seemed to indicate that. I'm not laying that on you. I understand your role here, and I respect that.
Andrew, again to you. You mentioned, I think on Claire's question around compensation if there was going to be impact, that it's similar to Canada Place expansion or, I suppose, log sorts. Anything really has a potential impact. There are compensation levels. What ratio are we talking about with fish farms as far as compensation goes? Is that the same as with a dock or…?
A. Thomson: No, it's not. There is actually a document developed that I can share with the committee if they like that actually describes how the compensation ratios were developed for aquaculture. It's not the same. It's based on the permanency of the impact in that with a fish farm site, it can be removed, and the impact, much easier than a dock…. So the ratios are less than you would have for a permanent structure, such as, say, Canada Place.
S. Fraser: It's not exactly the same. There's a different ratio there.
A. Thomson: Actually, each industry has a different ratio assigned to it depending on what impact is occurring. It's not that every industry project has the exact same level of ratio for compensation. Each one has a different one, as determined by the habitat practitioners.
S. Fraser: Thanks. Just something that Ron touched on just recently — I thought it was quite a specific question — about what percentage of distribution or dispersion, whichever, from the far-field effects. Wouldn't the answer be 100 percent?
One way or another, whether it's the solids or the particulates or anything, suspension or dissolved, nothing is taken away by the industry. It all relies on the dilution or dispersion of everything that's introduced in one way or…. Either it has to be broken down by something…. Wouldn't the answer be 100 percent?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): My question was far field.
S. Fraser: Or far field.
T. Perry: Terri, do you want to respond?
T. Sutherland: Sure. I understand what you're saying. If nothing is taken out of the system, then 100 percent of it is in the environment. It is important that we do break it down as a size-fraction type of thing so the
[ Page 905 ]
very large particles fall out. Dario has shown that some of the sediment fluxes occur up to 200 metres away from the farm, but most of the large particles do fall within the first 30 to 50 metres. So what we need to do is determine distance criteria for soluble material where it's diluted to background levels. That's the aim here.
There have been some numbers, through the mass balanced budgets that have taken place on the east coast, thrown out that 95 percent of a certain size fraction is distributed away. Then it's up to us to find out the paths of that material. You have to appreciate that if you look at a map of the Broughton Archipelago and the jigsaw puzzle nature of those islands, that's a very complex and tricky thing to do. It's a matter of us determining those paths, the rate that that material is distributed and whether or not it's finding sinkholes in the environment.
S. Fraser: Okay, but just so…. I'm not a scientist here. We're talking about current information — no pun intended. At the end of the day, in a near-field effect or a far-field effect, you can trace the diminishing amount of the material from each farmsite, and hopefully…. I know that's used in siting criteria. A farm would not be going into a site that has no current flow because you require that dispersion.
The model, DEPOMOD, or these studies…. There's a presumption that everything must get taken away. We just want to see where we can't measure it anymore. Is that accurate? Is that what happens?
D. Stucchi: Just to step back a bit. This is organic waste. It's food. In the long term it gets converted into carbon dioxide and the elements that go into making this. So most of it gets dissipated, except for that fraction that gets buried in the sediments. In the long term it's a valuable resource that gets consumed.
DEPOMOD calculates from the…. The feed has a characteristic called digestibility, and modern feeds have high digestibility. They're up around 85 percent and higher, which means that 85 percent of that organic content in that feed pellet is assimilated by the fish. The other 15 is the solid waste that comes out. That's well known from laboratory experiments where they've developed these nutritional diets, so you have a good handle on how much of the solid wastes come out.
The fraction of that solid waste…. Some of them are very fine and would get carried far away. Most would settle close to the farms. That ratio is not clear in my mind. I know Steve Cross has had some quite definitive numbers about that, but even the wastes that get deposited on the ocean bottom can then, as Terri showed, get moved away to the far field.
I don't know the details of Steve Cross's work, but I'm sure he didn't account for that part of it. Even the heavy wastes that get deposited could be moved away. In a long-winded approach, what I'm trying to say is that once you move to the far field, the complexity of the processes just increases. The space scales go from hundreds of metres to several kilometres. We're talking long term. Trying to grapple with what's going on, on that kind of scale, becomes much more difficult, and it requires different approaches.
I think there is no easy answer to that, other than…. We know some of it is getting away, but to give you a number, I think, would be…. I wouldn't be prepared to do that.
S. Fraser: No, and I'm not expecting that. I appreciate the complexity of these issues and this one in particular.
Dr. Riddell, you raised the issue of SLICE, specifically with prawns. We had a representative from the commercial prawn fisheries. They pointed out…. We talked earlier on about the precautionary principle. When it comes to DFO policy, if there's a reduction in the availability of prawn, for instance — other species I'm sure, too, but in this case, prawn — the fishermen are aware of that. They have a reduction in their catch or…. I'm not sure exactly how it works.
Some of the commercial fishermen have, from their colloquial knowledge and from the knowledge of seamen who have been doing this for decades — which I don't think can be discounted; we're certainly listening to that too…. They are seeing a link, in some cases or potentially, with the use of SLICE around farms and the impact on prawns and larval prawns. I guess at certain times of year SLICE is exactly…. It's aimed at a critter — sea lice — that's very similar, I guess, to a larval prawn.
They have a problem grappling with the fact that they do have to follow a precautionary principle, and they have to pay the price for that. They're not convinced that that is not…. They're paying the price for another industry's not following the precautionary principle — with something that this committee has to reconcile, to some extent. Can you comment on that?
B. Riddell: I can't comment too much about the specific concerns of the prawn fishermen. We heard about this very recently, actually, as something that has been up to Ottawa and now is coming back to us for investigation.
This will be another example of where we really need to look at the various potential sources of a change here, and we would certainly want to look at it in a number of areas — not just in the Broughton, for example — because if this is a chemical effect, then it should occur widely — right? So there are ways that we could isolate these sorts of effects.
I guess I would be a little bit concerned about jumping too quickly to SLICE on farms because there happen to be some recent studies coming from Scotland, where they were trying to look for the effect of SLICE on zooplankton, which is exactly what you're referring to now. So when you have juvenile prawns, they are like small zooplankters in the marine environment. They're floating around out there.
The Scottish researchers, who actually did a very thorough study as far as I can see, found absolutely no effect whatsoever. The concentration they use is about ten times higher than would be available in the marine environment.
[ Page 906 ]
I think I commented in that statement that there is no question that we need to do more in B.C. on this issue. We have one of the most advanced chemical laboratories in Canada at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, and so we are starting a program this year with what Terri has talked about earlier — looking with the navigation and the clam gardens and looking at the various concerns of the first nations in that area. So we will be starting programs, hopefully, to look specifically at this question.
Prawns, obviously, are now on the table, so we have to have a sample of them, look at the growth and see what the mechanism might be.
S. Fraser: Prawns on the table always sound good to me.
B. Riddell: Sounds good.
S. Fraser: Thank you for that. Again, the issue around the precautionary principle…. We see that there is a gap here. If indeed SLICE is an issue…. Of course, Canada, in its wisdom or not, has not okayed the widespread use of SLICE. Maybe other countries have, but we haven't.
There is certainly colloquial evidence that there may be an effect on the prawns, yet it's the prime mitigator for sea lice. It may be having an effect on another industry. I'm not saying that it is or isn't. But that's certainly the opinion of some that work in the commercial prawn industry.
Precautions happening on the one side…. If there's a reduction in prawns, there is a reduction in the fishery. Some are paying the price for that. I'm not looking for a comment, but that is an issue that we are grappling with.
Just to finish off, I appreciate the state of the knowledge presentation and the book that came along with this. This compiles a lot of information that we've been trying to carry in a more haphazard way.
Dr. Jones, you mentioned that you were relying on peer-reviewed science, and there's a large appendix here, which gives us a pretty good list of recent publications from 2003 on. That is not a complete list, though, is it? Is this an internal list? There have certainly been other publications which have come out recently that have been high profile, and they've been peer-reviewed. They were not mentioned in this appendix, though. Maybe you can explain how that is done.
S. Jones: I know there are several lists of publications in here. There are those associated with my own curriculum vitae, but there are also lists of publications associated with our group's research, and as a larger group as well.
T. Perry: Mr. Chairman, if I may clarify.
R. Austin (Chair): Sure.
T. Perry: The appendix at the end of the document is DFO-authored papers since 2003, as I understand it.
S. Fraser: That's appendix 4? Is that what we're looking at? Page 66?
T. Perry: That's correct.
S. Fraser: Okay, I didn't see that. It just said….
T. Perry: Those are all the DFO-authored, primary or co-author, contributions.
S. Fraser: All right. Okay, I get it. Thanks for the clarification.
G. Robertson: Thanks for the presentation so far. First question, coming off Scott's question around impact on the prawn fishery. When we were out in the Broughton for the day, right adjacent to the Bennett Point farm — the newest farm that has been approved there — there was a prawn fisherman with a shrimp and prawn boat. His immediate complaint to us was: "This is where I've been fishing for years and years, and the licence was issued right here."
I'm curious why the models wouldn't have picked up shellfish…. He contended that this was nursery habitat for shellfish, right where the licence had been issued. I'm curious if that should have come up in the DEPOMOD model or where that approval would have happened.
T. Perry: I think I'll ask Mr. Thomson to respond to that.
A. Thomson: Shellfish resources are identified in the CEAA, in the environmental assessment for each site. Those resources are identified through a number of mechanisms such as scuba-dive surveys, ROV surveys — this type of thing. They're done by contractors and submitted to the department. I don't have, obviously, the Bennett Point site review in front of me, but that is where they come up — during those surveys.
Local knowledge goes into it, as well, through consultation with first nations. I don't have an answer for you as to whether or not those came up during the review, but the document itself for Bennett Point is a public document, so it can be determined if that came up.
G. Robertson: Are the fishers that have licences in those areas consulted around the locations?
A. Thomson: For each site, what's done is that there are comments requested from our fisheries management staff that have knowledge of fisheries. They go into the document as fisheries management comments. The fishers themselves have an opportunity to comment through the public comment process as the tenure is being granted or through the navigable waters comment process, as part of the navigable waters decision-making process.
G. Robertson: Okay. Next question. Related to antifouling, I've noticed on Dr. Sutherland's model there,
[ Page 907 ]
there was lots of copper present at zero metres. Then it disperses, or it's not picked up farther afield. I'm curious, though. Was DFO involved in approving or accepting that the use of antifouling was okay? It seems that antifouling was not used and that the nets were clean to a certain point. There was an approval at some point, I assume. Was DFO involved in that? What was the environmental assessment related to that?
T. Sutherland: I'll just make one statement and pass it over to you, Andy — okay? We use these tracers as direct measures of either feed or antifoulant agents. Also, these chemicals or elements can come in as a product of organic enrichment. So anything that's organic and gooey in the sediment sequesters and collects elements of seawater…. They establish themselves there.
It's a direct measure of agents and an indirect measure or organic enrichment, so that needs to be clarified. We're providing science on the presence and absence of these things.
In terms of the permitting, I think I'll hand that over to Andy.
A. Thomson: That really gets away from the way the department's regulatory authority is exercised. We don't look at prescriptive measures of saying they can use this type of net or that type of net, or this type of fouling or that type of fouling. They come to us with their proposals, and we review the proposal for whether or not it has a likelihood to cause a significant environmental effect.
The use of antifoulants. Antifoulant paint is used on the bottom of vessels all throughout British Columbia, so it is acknowledged that it is present in the environment. Like I say, we don't prescribe details of how a farm operates. There are aspects of that included in the provincial regulating operations but not in the federal site review regulations.
G. Robertson: In the federal review of this, irrespective of the fact that some of the operations have voluntarily switched back and are no longer using antifouling…. There have been a lot of concerns expressed in the hearings — particularly in the Broughton and Discovery Islands, where there is a large concentration and the amount of antifouling is very significant compared to what's on the bottom of boats moving through there.
But DFO is not involved in environmental assessments specifically around that? It's a provincial…?
A. Thomson: No. We do assess it as part of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The use of antifoulant nets is assessed as part of the Canadian environmental assessment screening. I can bring you the section of a table that would describe how we assess that.
We don't prescribe. We don't say you can or can't use it; we assess what their proposal is. It's a different mechanism in our regulatory review. I can bring you how we assess the use of antifoulants.
G. Robertson: You don't make a recommendation to say we shouldn't be doing….
A. Thomson: Obviously, in the case of antifoulant coatings, we have allowed those sites to proceed, so the likelihood of significant environmental effect was not seen to occur. If there was a case where it was significant, then we wouldn't allow it to proceed. Again, I can provide you with how we assessed, under a CEAA review, the use of antifoulants.
G. Robertson: I come back to a concern that I had early on in this process in the committee's work. As a former farmer and seeing the amount of effluent released into the environment directly, which is not tolerated at all on land-based farming, I'm just curious why, as a general principle, the precautionary principle — which I think is a lot stronger than just an approach — is not applied and, basically, 100 percent of release into the environment is acceptable, when it is not tolerated in land-based farming. Does DFO have a rationale for why it's acceptable?
T. Perry: Maybe I could just kick in before I throw it to the scientific vote.
One of the things I picked up from the presentation that was given by Dario was the fact that there are thresholds. Some of those thresholds were for very high productivity in sensitive area such as eelgrass beds and so on. Very clearly, the regulatory decisions related to deposition of ways to clean those areas are very restricted, and it's a drop-dead zone. If you're going to exceed it, you're not going to do business there. To me, that's very clearly an application of the precautionary approach. I just wanted to highlight that point.
Would anyone like to add to that? Dario or Andrew?
A. Thomson: It's much the same answer as I would provide.
G. Robertson: So in terms of the genesis of this, there wasn't a question right at the outset, with DFO, of introducing it at the scale…. Maybe it wasn't envisioned at the outset. But when we look at the Broughton in particular, with the concentration of nutrients in a relatively small area and ten or 20 million salmon growing in there, maybe it wasn't envisioned in terms of precaution and releasing that scale of nutrients into an ecosystem. Is that revisited? Is there a check-in on this, given the scale that's now occurring?
A. Thomson: Again, I want to point out that there is an acknowledgment that there is an effect of the farm. That's why we go through the mechanism of using DEPOMOD to assess the footprint and then authorize that as a harmful disturbance of habitat. It's an acknowledgment that there is an effect. That's the application, if you will, of the principle, and then they have to compensate for that.
[ Page 908 ]
It's not as if we are disavowing any effect of the farm. We are acknowledging it and requiring the company to go through the same legal mechanisms to allow it to proceed that they would if they were building a log dump or anything else.
B. Riddell: Maybe I could just add…. I think that what Dario and Andrew are talking about is addressing what you're saying, in the sense that we are very concerned about what the benthic effects are. I suppose you could talk about the urinary aspects that you're not getting in the benthos, but really, you're returning what are, to a very high percent, natural elements to the ocean.
Where people have actually tried to measure nutrient enrichment in water — not in the sediment at this time — they can't detect it. The most thorough studies are actually done by the Scottish fisheries authority where they're looking at their lochs, which have much less current flow and tidal fluctuation than we do. They couldn't detect any effect of nutrient enrichment or change in algae.
You really are seeing the effects in things like what Terri referred to as microalgae. We're seeing elements that we're not able to separate from normal background. You can't measure a change in nutrient load as sampled from one area to another area. Animals are more sensitive detectors of these things, and so as we get into these ecosystem measures, we're starting to look for these signals.
Given the amount of food that goes in to grow these animals — Dario actually gave you the biggest signal about why — it's about an 85 to 88 percent conversion efficiency. I never even believed it until I really went into the literature. That really is quite spectacular. I'm quite sure that you did not have that in the early years.
The other thing that you saw was the pictures about how the farmers don't want to throw money down the toilet, that sort of thing. When you dump food in and it is going out the bottom, that's not in their best interest. You saw the camera system they have now. They feed in bursts. They feed so that the minimum amount goes through the bottom.
It's to their advantage again, because if you accumulate too much, you might lose your site. And if you have too much sediment there, your fallowing won't remediate it again, won't get rid of it. You may not be able to go back in, in your production plan.
There are a number of sort of built-in checks in this thing, but really, the expectation that there's a huge amount of waste…. Yes, there are feces, but there are an awful lot more fish in the sea than…. It's the concentrated localized effect that we're concerned about, particularly in your example of prawns. If there is an effect on prawns, they have to be localized to that signature that you saw Dario estimate in the DEPOMOD.
That's where we'll start. We'll start looking at where we see the active presence of prawns. Are they feeding? There are studies that we can provide you where they've tried to feed these types of animals directly. They will not eat the feed.
Now, in nature, if they're doing that, then that's an interesting observation in itself. There were a couple of studies that really set SLICE back a number of years, until it turned out that what they were doing was force-feeding lobsters pellets, which is not a particularly credible approach. We really need to do more work on that. But in all honesty, you can't really measure nutrient effects.
G. Robertson: To wrap up, what I take from a whole series of these hearings and site visits we've had…. Whether it's eutrophication and the clam beaches in the Broughton that are impacted…. The first nations and traditional ecological knowledge indicate significant change. That's over in this silo. Sea lice and pink returns are over here. Direct impacts on prawn nursery beds…. It seems like there are all kinds of different issues and concerns and papers related to them.
I don't see a really comprehensive approach to pulling this all together. I think we come back to this issue of precautionary — or what many of the aboriginal peoples on the coast have brought up as looking at the big picture here. There's a real problem here. How do we do this better? Or should it be happening at all? That seems like where the committee has to grapple with it.
From a DFO perspective, what I'm curious about is, given a case like this where there could be a significant impact on an entire fishery or number of fisheries and a number of ecosystems…. Is there an example historically of where DFO has kind of rallied around the big picture and said: "You know what? We need to take a very significant action to protect this complex of ecosystems, this whole myriad of species that we think are being adversely affected here"? Whether that's saying that closed containment has to happen here and we have to reduce the amount of impact but with technology, or whether it's more drastic than that or less drastic than that, is there an example of where DFO has actually pulled all of this together?
I look at examples where something didn't happen like this with Atlantic cod. Some people up and down the coast in these hearings have said, with Pacific salmon, where the wild populations are impacted: "Slow down. Hold up. We need to change the approach here." Is there an example of where DFO did do this and we have a healthier outcome, or is it so difficult to pull it all together and make a big-picture decision when there are political imperatives that DFO has to realize?
B. Riddell: That's a big question. Absolutely, there are examples. But let me start off by saying that what you're referring to is what is becoming known around the world as ecosystem-based management — ecosystem-based science and supportive management. Call it whatever combination of words you want. It's getting away from single-species assessment, and it's getting into a multispecies understanding of how climate, the environment and the community of animals interact, and that's not just one particular species like Pacific salmon.
We have to really change our management approach to doing that. It's not as easy as it sounds. It is a complicated
[ Page 909 ]
environment, and that is where the future is heading for us. That is the first priority in our new research plan for the next ten years. That is front and centre on a lot of people's plates.
The best example of this I can give you is that we probably have one of the leading approaches to groundfish management in the world, because our ability to control bycatch is very, very limited. You can't fish with these large nets and be particularly selective, so you have multispecies impacts when you're targeting things. When you were actually getting into situations where you were targeting a single species, you had significant bycatches that at times could exceed the catch of the target species.
What we've done is develop a multispecies-removal rate, where all fish caught are accounted for. Then we have private vessel ownership of allocations of the catch. You can trade amongst the industry, but it all has to be accounted for. The total effect has to be under what the assessment says is sustainable by that community of fishes. That's probably one of the best examples on the coast.
The other one that is probably front and centre all the time is our response in the Pacific salmon fisheries for conservation of specific Pacific salmon stocks — stocks that are considered to be endangered by COSEWIC, for example. That's still a single species, but it has multiple-species effects when you have those limitations on fisheries.
As you're pointing out, this is a new way to go, and it is definitely where we're headed. My recent experience is largely with working in the development of the wild salmon policy, working with a number of the first nations. I describe many of their traditional knowledge examples they give me as: it's all based on ecosystems. It's about everything working together. A lot of what we can learn in working with first nations like this…. In this way, I think it's fascinating to work with people up in the 'Namgis and look forward to this sort of interaction with clam gardens.
It's all about ecosystems. It's about these sensitive indicators that we can learn more from. But this is being developed, as you're sort of indicating.
S. Simpson: I know that we've probably thrown the schedule right out the window here on the second part.
A couple of questions. One is: when I look at the documents here, I go back to looking at the research related. It talks about the state of knowledge reports and identifies that there were 12 reports being prepared, which essentially lays out the body of work from DFO in relation to aquaculture. I think it says here that 12 of them are being written. Or nine have been written and published and the three others are kind of in line for publishing, to be published or released soon.
In those, a couple of questions. I notice it says here: "Each paper was written by or under the direction of DFO scientists and was peer-reviewed by three experts." Mr. Stucchi talked about internal peer review. Is that what you were talking about when you talked about being reviewed by experts? Is that an internal review process?
T. Perry: My understanding is that the peer review was managed by DFO and included some external and some internal expertise.
S. Simpson: So it was a managed process. In that sense, it is a slightly different process than…. For example, I noticed that Dr. Jones and Dick Beamish published, I believe, in the Journal of Marine Science a paper that's listed in the back, in the bibliography here. That would have gone through the more conventional, independent peer-review process with whoever the publication produced to review that document and then, however, the back-and-forth happened. So that is a different process.
T. Perry: It is a different process but with a similarity of independent reviewers.
S. Simpson: Independent reviewers — some inside and some outside. Okay.
When I go back and look at these and when I look at the list…. I found this interesting, and maybe I'll get back to this question. I want to talk about one question in regard to the precautionary principle again. I noticed that Mr. Perry talks about the precautionary approach and not the precautionary principle, and there is a difference.
The precautionary principle is something that is pretty clearly defined now. I mean, the courts will use the terminology. Increasingly there is a standard perceived around what the precautionary principle means. Other things like the precautionary approach might be something somewhat different.
The question I have is: in all of the work that's being done and the regulations or the policies that the department works under…. In those policies or regulations, is there anything in there — and maybe this question goes best to Mr. Thomson — that clearly defines when the precautionary principle is to be used?
A. Thomson: I actually think I may have misspoken earlier on in that I was referring, actually, to the direction from Privy Council that we are to use a precautionary approach, if I have my nomenclature correct.
S. Simpson: And is it the precautionary approach, not the precautionary principle?
A. Thomson: Yes.
S. Simpson: Okay. So that is not written into the policies or the guidelines. You follow, obviously, a Privy Council direction.
A. Thomson: Obviously, we follow a Privy Council direction, yes.
S. Simpson: Have they defined what "precautionary approach" means?
A. Thomson: There is definition in the document, yes.
[ Page 910 ]
S. Simpson: Okay.
Going back to Dr. Jones. The comment that you made…. I notice it here, on page 10, where it came from, where it says: "Notably, none of these reviews has found…evidence that fish farming has contributed to detectable adverse changes in wild fish populations…." Then it goes on to qualify that a little bit, but generally, that is the statement that was made and the statement that was up on the PowerPoint.
You've suggested here that there's a broad consensus. Now, what we've probably seen, as much as anything we've seen…. The most material that we have seen in independent peer review would challenge your position. Very eminent scientists, a whole group of scientists, would challenge the view that you take and would say that there's a whole body of evidence that suggests that there potentially are significant issues here — whether it be around lice, around disease, around sitings, around a number of things.
I guess that the question I would have…. I also understand that in places like Norway they've now — as I understand it; I'd be interested in your thoughts about this — made the decision to say that in a number of the fjords where there had previously been fish farm activity, that won't occur there again. They've relocated, or they've deemed others…. They say that there will be no activity there because of concern — presumably, the precautionary principle — about whether it would have impact on habitat in those areas.
With that information, I guess what I would ask is: how does Kent et al., 1998, make that statement in such a definitive way when there is a significant body of information and knowledge out there, which may or may not be right, but that certainly challenges that view?
S. Jones: There is certainly a lot of very recent information coming from this coast where people have concluded that there is a direct link between, for example, sea lice from farmed salmon causing a certain mortality rate in adjacent populations of juvenile Pacific salmon. Those are very recent papers, and those particular papers from this coast were published since the release of the state of knowledge. So those particular papers…. It's just a timing question. I think we would have taken note and commented on those particular cases.
The bigger challenge, I think, is addressing the uncertainty and what all of the processes are that contribute towards mortality or towards regulating the abundance of wild salmon populations. It's as much a question of evidence that we can identify any factor that in and of itself will be a contributor towards mortality. There are some that are obvious. Fishing, for example, is an obvious source of mortality in a wild population.
In terms of disease-related or environmentally related processes that are known and proven to be contributors to mortality in wild fish populations, this is a very difficult relationship to confirm. It's very common to show correlations or an association between one process and another, but to actually show that there's a causal mechanism is not quite the same thing. That's what is lacking in many of these processes.
I referred to a publication from Norway that documented over nine years of surveillance of, for example, sea lice on Cape salmon in Norway and the health and abundance of adjacent populations of sea trout and Atlantic salmon. The case was made, and quite convincingly in many cases, that there was a relationship between sea lice on the wild juvenile salmon in the same fjords as where salmon-farming activities were located.
Despite that overwhelming nine-year body of evidence, there was still insufficient information to go one step further and say that the occurrence of lice on the wild fish in these fjords was related to the changing population abundance. So the decline of the numbers of wild salmon in many fjords was recognized to be associated with a variety of factors. Their conclusion was that it was very difficult to say that sea lice was the principal or the only source or even to assign it a relative risk among all of the potential factors.
The challenge is to try to understand what the suite of factors are that are influencing salmon survival and to be able to assign a relative importance to one — for example, disease from the farmed population — amongst all of the others. The statement made in the state-of-knowledge and in the PowerPoint is a reflection of not only the lack of evidence but the appreciation of the uncertainty of the challenge and actually monitoring and measuring processes that relate to the abundance of wild salmon.
S. Simpson: Just following up on that. It's interesting. I think the earliest written document that I read — I read the summary, not the complete paper — was by Dr. Larry Aldridge, written, I believe, in 1991 or 1992, where he makes the connection there in a paper that he wrote.
One of the most interesting things I found about that is that it was that was a paper that probably predated the time when the different sides started to entrench here, which happened much later than that. There are always reasons to look at when people entrench and folks line up on one side or the other and to appreciate that that happens. It's interesting that Dr. Aldridge wrote the first paper probably 15 years ago that made that connection.
I accept that there's a debate around the certainty of this, that there are very different views and that we all have to take the view we do. But that being the case, that there is significant uncertainty and, as has been said, that the Privy Council has provided direction that the precautionary approach should be taken on these matters and there is uncertainty about whether that result….
In the mind of the science community here, it's not definitive. Then why would the science community within the department take the position that there is no evidence when there is uncertainty, as you have noted, and when the Privy Council has said: "Take a precautionary approach"? Maybe you could explain to me how you're
[ Page 911 ]
dealing with that to further investigate and determine whether in fact there is merit to some of this science that has been questioned.
S. Jones: The comment I made on my PowerPoint specifically related to health impacts. Of course there may be any number of other impacts, as we've heard, from salmon aquaculture. We recognize, too, that there's good evidence there are environmental processes other than salmon aquaculture that do impact, so we're beginning to see relationships between climatic effects and ocean productivity. This relates to the ability of salmon populations to thrive and to grow based on the availability of forage in the marine environment. This has a direct impact on the survival of salmon populations.
Although we're challenged with drawing relationships between salmon aquaculture and the various possible impacts that come from that, we are at the same time building a body of knowledge that suggests there other processes in place in the marine environment that are important in regulating the abundance of wild salmon. We're not quite working in a vacuum, but we do recognize that some considerable research is still required to better understand disease interactions between farmed salmon and wild populations.
S. Simpson: One last question, and I'll be done.
Going to the paper that you prepared for the Journal of Marine Science along with Dick Beamish and others, where you made the link, I believe, around the pinks. It was: "The survival of the pink environment 2003 suggests that farmed Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon can coexist successfully in a marine ecosystem on the Pacific coast of Canada."
I've certainly had people talk to me about that who don't necessarily agree with you, and that wouldn't come as any surprise. One of the suggestions that was made to me, and I'd be interested in your comment there, is that that research that was done…. I believe it was around the 2003 run.
S. Jones: The 2003 juveniles.
S. Simpson: Right. The connection there is that it would have been during a period of time when not all, but a significant number, of the farms had been fallowed in that area. Some would suggest that that makes the case for fallowing because the return was significant and it was quite a positive year. It may make the case that the fallowing was part of the positive that created that situation. I'd be interested in your comment on that and also interested in knowing whether other research has been done that looked at other years when fallowing was not in place and seen whether, in fact, the returns were similar.
S. Jones: We have, as you may be aware, been conducting marine surveillance of sea lice levels on juvenile pink and chum salmon. We began in 2003, and we're continuing through until 2006. We did recognize that in 2003 the number of lice on average on juvenile pink and chum salmon was low — probably lower than in 2002, and certainly lower than in 2004 — and that some effort was made to so-called fallow the farms along Tribune Channel passage through the Broughton Archipelago.
Now, the numbers I've seen from the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association…. I've heard them describe a continuity of production so that the overall biomass in the Broughton Archipelago, according to their numbers, has not changed appreciably. Certainly, it didn't appear to be significantly lower in 2003 than it was in the years following that. So I'm not quite sure what they mean by "fallowing" in that sense. It certainly doesn't fit the traditional meaning of the term fallowing.
If the farm biomass — and that certainly isn't a measure of lice production, but it's a proxy for it — was consistent, what we noticed on our surveys was that 2004 was an extremely high year for sea lice. A lot of sea lice were out there — more than we've seen in any other year. In 2005 the numbers fell again to levels that were not as low as but were approaching what we saw in 2003. What we're seeing this year is the lowest we've seen in all four years of surveillance.
Fallowing was only conducted as a process in 2003, and yet we're seeing this tremendous year-to-year variation in the overall levels of lice. My immediate conclusion from that would be that there are other processes operating in the system, independent from the farming process, that are regulating the level of lice on wild salmon. We're not sure what those are. They may be related to temperature or salinity in the environment. They may be related to the abundance of the wild salmon migrating through the archipelago. But there are factors regulating the abundance of lice that appear to be independent of the farm process.
A. Horning: Just maybe to you, Mr. Chairman. The PowerPoint presentations we've had today — are we going to get copies of them?
A Voice: Yes.
R. Austin (Chair): We'll move on to the next part, which is the sea lice presentation. What we'll do is just go and have one question. Afterwards, and if there's time, we'll come back to you for a second question. That way we won't be here and having dinner brought in.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Chair, if I could just ask. Maybe some of these scientists have to catch ferries. I wonder what their time frame is past five.
T. Perry: I believe all the scientists can stay probably until about….
B. Riddell: Quarter to six.
T. Perry: Except for Dr. Jones, who needs to leave earlier than that.
A Voice: Five o'clock.
[ Page 912 ]
T. Perry: I was going to suggest that if there are any last questions for Dr. Jones, he won't be available by the time the next presentation is finished.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): May I suggest, Chair, too, that if we don't get to all our questions, panel members can write them down, and we'll submit them to Ted, and he can….
R. Austin (Chair): Yeah, we could do that.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Okay, great.
T. Perry: With that, then, Dr. Riddell is going to give a rather in-depth look at sea lice, wild Pacific salmon and sea farms. We're anticipating this will probably take anywhere from three-quarters of an hour to an hour, and then questions. So you'd better kick off right away, Brian.
B. Riddell: This has been a challenge, and as I think Ron has just said, this is like taking four years and jamming it into one hour. I'm going to try and do it faster than one hour, because you do have the documents, and we can certainly provide more in-depth comment after.
I want to start by indicating that this is my presentation only in that I'm giving it and have collated it. It is really the result of research by a number of people here and their active programs.
Dr. Brent Hargreaves is here because he's our chief scientist in the field. Brent spends his late winter through spring enjoying the Broughton Archipelago — somewhere between enjoying and hating — so he spends extraordinary amounts of time in that area.
Simon Jones's laboratory is where the materials all come back to so we ensure that we have a consistent group of people enumerating the sea lice, developing the database, doing the error checks and that. Then Brent and Simon are responsible for reviewing the data post-season.
I have information provided by Dr. Dick Beamish. He has people sampling with our large ship, the W.E. Ricker, but a lot of Dick's work is also working with the industry actually on the farms. This is something that he's been working on the last couple of years.
Then Dario, who has just stepped out, and Mike Foreman are the people we rely on for the modelling aspects.
Why am I giving the talk? A reasonable question. It's because a few years ago I was unlucky enough to go and work with Mr. John Fraser, with the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, when he asked me to come over as science adviser for two and a half years. That was September 2002. You can assume that right away what happened is that we ended up starting to talk about sea lice. So since the beginning of the sea lice discussion I've been involved with this. I know the people in the Broughton fairly well. We have worked with them over the years.
My background is in wild salmon conservation, most specifically with chinook conservation, the Pacific Salmon Treaty, working in international fisheries, fisheries management domestically.
Most recent is the completion of the wild salmon policy for Canada, which makes a very explicit statement about the value of conservation of wild fish first. We're talking about the conservation of the diversity and production of wild Pacific salmon in B.C. It states in there very clearly that this is our first priority in resource conservation. This is what our department is about.
The rest of what we do…. In science, of course, we do research to provide new knowledge. Our role in support of management is to provide the best science possible so that you can manage the potential impacts on wild salmon.
I hear many people say that we're conflicted, that maybe I'm confused and such — that we shouldn't be working with salmon farmers. But I don't believe that what we do with the salmon-farming industry is any different than my history of research with the Pacific salmon fisheries. We've spent extensive amounts of time working with the purse-seiners, the recreational sector, the gill-netters. What we're trying to do is manage the potential impacts so that when we say we want to achieve a specific harvest rate, we can do that.
We do similar types of work with logging. We do work with developers in terms of how you would…. People talked about compensation earlier. If you have a shoreline development where you take up an eelgrass bed, what is adequate compensation? How can you replace the natural habitat? That's an extensive research-based question that's not fully answered after many years of work.
We work with industry all the time. Somebody, I think it was Andy, commented, "We're not in the game of promotion," but we're definitely in the game of working with the industry to reduce its impact on natural resources and to ensure that it doesn't have an unacceptable impact on natural ecosystems. That's the big picture.
I welcome the opportunity to comment on this because a number of comments that you've heard and I've read are certainly highly critical that we're not actively involved. We're very involved. There's no question. We have people that have dedicated their lives, trained themselves to be scientists to work to conserve Canadian natural resources. The fact that anybody would say we're not involved is really rather uninformed.
I mean, we're not directly in the media, maybe. The way I described that the other day is that I don't find it useful for me just to know how to criticize a particular scientific paper, because people really don't understand that detail. We don't want to further confuse people. We want to work with the scientists involved to understand, if there are differences between our outlook and their outlook, what those are. What's the reason for the difference?
In science, particularly in biological sciences, resolving differences is the way we make breakthroughs in many
[ Page 913 ]
cases. It's finding a way to resolve differences that gives us real insight into what the actual mechanisms might be. Dario talked about testing models — a perfect example. You had a model presented to you, I'm sure, by Marty Krkošek. We have models, and I'm going to show you why they're a little different.
It doesn't mean that we don't put real value on other people's research. We're not always going to agree. That doesn't happen at any sort of progressive research step, but we do take steps, then, to try and ask each other: what is the difference, what is the reason, and how do we resolve that difference? There's a great deal of collaboration going on now with these people to try and identify steps to sort out what the potential differences are.
I have an admittedly dense presentation here, but I'm going to now selectively speak to it. You have it, and I would be very happy to explain anything to you — whether in writing or on the phone or wherever you like.
Let me start off with the first slide. Really, you've been here. You've done your tour, which is very impressive — the amount of time you spent on this. I simply wanted to point out here that there's a huge focus, of course, on the Broughton. It clearly is a point that has generated really polarized differences and a strong sense of feeling.
Personally, I have a great deal of respect for Alex, with her dedication in bringing this to people's minds and keeping at it until she feels that there's progress being made here. But farms are throughout the coast, and when we sample in other areas, we don't see all the same problems.
The environments that we're in are different. We do need to take that into account. The communities are different, which from your perspective I'm sure you'd want to take into account — what develops in different areas. So we have a very diversified environment that we actively work in.
This is the quick outline of the paper. I'm going to follow through the book. Under "Sea Lice," section 3.5, there are five topics that I identified to try to clearly break out the components that we talk about. They're talking about the biology of pinks, the biology of sea lice, the environment they live in, the interaction between all these components and then what you do with all this information. How do you develop an effective management plan that will get us through this? If you're going to have sustainable aquaculture in that region, how do we get through this discussion? Those are the five components that I've tried to break this out to.
We won't really focus on this much. I just wanted to put this up here because we've been actively involved in aquaculture-related research for over 30 years. This is not something that we just started in 2002 with sea lice. We have some of the leading scientists at the biological station that have researched elements of this since about the early '70s.
We started doing this largely because of developing our hatchery program. There is an extensive amount of work in Simon's line, in fish diseases, about how you regulate disease, how you treat it, how you prevent it. Fish nutrition — we have expertise. And fish growth hormone application.
We've built on this. Science builds on the success of previous people, and we do this through time.
What we really see salmon aquaculture being is just one more potential effect for us to deal with. There's nothing different about a salmon aquaculture site in the effect on pinks than the effect of fishing, because you're simply killing adults. You're killing some component of the population that we need to get back to the spawning grounds at some rate. Whether you kill them as a juvenile or you kill them as an adult…. There's a difference in how many fish you kill. Ultimately, it makes no difference where you kill them as long as you get the right number of animals back to the grounds.
I spent a lot of time working on the Columbia River. The most effective description I ever used is that the dam is a fishery. The dam does nothing more than a fishery. A dam kills a bunch of juveniles, and it kills a few adults going back.
What does a manager do with that? Well, what he does is take that off the allowable harvest. So if you kill 20 percent of your animals that you could actually catch, you just lost them. You have to compensate for actions of other groups if you have a new source of mortality — this sort of thing.
This slide was only meant to familiarize you with the Broughton specifically. I expect that you are well versed in these systems now — more than you wish.
I'm just going to point out a couple of things to you here. I want to just point out the Kingcome, Wakeman and Embley over here. These are what I refer to as the northern rivers. They're going to come into a comment I'll make, because I'm sure you've heard about the loss of pink salmon in the Kingcome and Wakeman rivers and that it's related to sea farm development in the early '90s. I'll show you something on that.
The Glendale down here is a major spawning channel, and the source of about 80 percent of the pink returns to the Broughton in each line, even year and odd year.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Which one is that?
B. Riddell: That's the Broughton — up there.
A lot of what you're going to see takes place in this…. That's going to be an area that we'll refer to. That's the intersection of Knight Inlet and Tribune Channel.
S. Simpson: The Glendale's enhanced, though, isn't it?
B. Riddell: Glendale is enhanced. It has a spawning channel. Juveniles do the same thing. It's just more productive. The same is true of the Kakweiken, which is the next one up on the slide. It has a spawning channel as well.
S. Simpson: It's enhanced as well?
[ Page 914 ]
B. Riddell: The spawning channel's not working now, but it did work through the mid-'90s. You'll see that in the rates of increase there.
S. Simpson: The Glendale's working now?
B. Riddell: The Glendale is very productive. The only thing there's more of in the Glendale than pinks is bears. It was a very interesting place to sample.
Okay. You have that map. I want to start with a few comments about pink biology. It seems like a simple place to start, but there's a major point to doing this.
The life cycle is represented in the upper left. I'm going to identify three phases. There is the freshwater spawning, eggs in the gravel and incubation. They have to emerge. That's the little guys with the yolk sacs there. Once you get partial yolk sac absorption, they move out to the sea right away. They go out as very small animals at about half a gram. They're a very small beast.
They go to sea. I'll show you the life cycle in total in a minute. Upper right — they're a beautiful little fish. These are glossy — that goes with the healthy pinks. These are Alex's pictures that she sent over to me at the time, which she sampled in Bond Sound. This is actually around Ahta River and Kakweiken.
Then down below is one of her first pictures of small pink salmon with sea lice. Who would argue that that's not going to have an effect on survival? I don't think any of you would try to argue that, would you? They don't look very healthy.
The point is that not all animals are infected. I'll show you that in the fish disease literature, there are nine criteria that people talk about before you equate the existence of a disease to causation — nine criteria. We don't touch at least half of those in this debate, so there is a basis for uncertainty in this whole thing.
I'm not going to argue with anybody that that fish is not likely to survive. That's likely food for something. But that is not symptomatic of what we need to think about. What I said earlier is that what you need to be concerned about are adults to the river. You need to sustain the spawning population. We'll get back to this.
Very quickly, the life cycle — I really just encapsulated this for you — three life phases. The critical factor here is not that they differ. All the action occurs in the estuary. The juveniles go out to sea. We used to think they only spent maybe six weeks to two months in the coastal environment. The common number was that when pinks got to about 5.5 centimetres, they went straight out to sea.
We know they don't do that anymore. Now, with the intensive sampling going on, we know that they're in the coastal zone for months. Brent can sample these fish there through July. The image samples even bigger fish as they start to grow in July and August. So we're still learning more about the natural biology of pinks.
Anyway, they're in the estuary in the coastal zone. They go to sea for about a year and a half. They come back as probably the most abundant salmon species. That's why they're particularly valuable to ecosystems and fisheries. But in an open-net-pen aquaculture system, there is free transmission of lice between wild salmon infecting fish in sea pens. The get-back is at the juvenile site. So there is free movement through these pens. Then they spawn, and the cycle begins again.
The important thing is that with three separate life cycles, if there's a major mortality near estuary number 2, you can't assume that's going to directly lead to a loss of adults. These three separate life cycles are well known. They could either compound a previous problem, or they can compensate for it. That's the Beamish paper.
He wasn't saying there wasn't a wash in the estuary of small pinks. But the survivorship in the ocean was staggering. It was as high as we've ever seen. So there was a compensation in that one year, which allowed him to make that statement.
How many times will that occur? That to me is the critical limiting factor of that paper. It's not that it didn't occur. It did. But it was only an example of one year.
S. Simpson: But as a one-off, you have to take that for what it is.
B. Riddell: Exactly. Take it for what it is. Nothing wrong with the paper. As a matter of fact, Alex, was one of the reviewers. She kept his nose to the grindstone, as they say.
Let's move on. What I want to show you here is that the other aspect of pink salmon biology is that you lose the vast majority of them before they ever get to the ocean. For a long time we've known that the natural history, the natural mortality of pink salmon and chum salmon as very small fish going to sea, is that they have very high natural mortality in the first few months.
A classic study is by a research scientist at the station in the '60s. He actually did a study where they were handling hundreds of thousands of pinks. They were all marked, and the design of this allowed him to estimate the mortality during the first 40 days and then the mortality after they left the inshore waters and went to sea and came back to spawn.
In the first 40 days for three brood years — three replicates in the exact same area, the same stock — they lost between 59 percent and 77 percent of all the fish they marked as juveniles entering the sea.
The most recent paper by Marty Krkošek talks about 9 percent to 95 percent. On the one hand it's not particularly informative, is it? But it certainly covers the range. Most fish are going to die. So unless you actually find that this is an additive source of mortality, maybe the net effect is not that great, which is not something that people like to say. But we have to find out whether or not that's the case. Are we really blowing smoke here, or is this a truly additive mortality that's causing a serious effect? We'll come back to that point later on.
This is just to point out what the range is. A fascinating comparison here is that this is in the mid-'60s. That bottom red line ends up with an adult survival of
[ Page 915 ]
1.1 percent of animals that went to sea and they marked. The top line is 10.2 percent. The only other place that we've studied this in detail in B.C. is pink salmon in the Fraser River. The range of marine survival is identical to the decimal point. What's the chance of that?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Same species?
B. Riddell: Same species. Yeah, pink salmon out of the Fraser, odd-year line. It's in that sort of range that we get. We know most fish don't come back — not a nice environment out there.
What is it that we're actually trying to do? This is my point earlier about sustainability. When we talk about sustainable aquaculture, we're talking about managing the effect of aquaculture so that we don't risk the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon. That's what's important to us.
Now the other thing I'd like to add is that the wild salmon policy doesn't just talk about fish production, it talks about their ecosystems as well. We're not just managing fish anymore. We're talking about managing ecosystems, which is right along the lines of the earlier discussion. That's an explicit policy statement of the federal government.
Let's move on. I'm not even going to really spend a lot of time on this. These are in your document. I did this because I see various forms of these floating around, and they're not all correct. All this is, is our official estimate of escapement for the Broughton area, plus the catch. Most of the time you'll see escapement plots.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Escapement means getting back, doesn't it?
B. Riddell: Escapement was coined because you've escaped fisheries. You get back to spawn. So we're talking about spawning estimates of the number of animals in the streams, and then we're attributing the catch.
S. Fraser: They're the smartest fish.
B. Riddell: Well, they're the luckiest, if nothing else.
The vertical line across the two of them — that's the median. That's the expected return that we see in these populations. Odd year is about half as productive as even — the odd year returning around 600,000 fish a year historically; the even years returning about 1.3 million pinks in the Broughton. In the recent years we've seen all-time record highs and all-time record lows. In the odd year…. If you look at that and pretend you don't know anything about the issue, do you really see a recent pattern? Your eye is a tricky tool. But just pretend you don't understand any of the debate, and look at that and say: is there really a pattern? It's not as evident as people think.
The even is a little worse. They're very productive. Now, this is where the enhancement comes in. You've got huge increases. We went from the record high to the record low in one cycle. That, of course, is the infamous 2002 return. I have to admit I did the analysis. The drop from the peak number to the 2002 is statistically outside the bounds of any previous year's deviation. The change from spawning to return is statistically different in all of our records for southern B.C. pink salmon. There's no question that you could not avoid doing something about 2002. If you want the example of precautionary principle, which I kick myself for….
If you read the 2002 PFRCC advisory, the basis of the recommendation is the precautionary principle. It's right in there. Well, we had a terrible time agreeing to wording. But that was the recommendation of the council — that we saw no other way to explain this, and so we should take some action. That led to the 2003 plan.
S. Fraser: Precautionary principle — just for clarification. That was with the commercial fishing industry — the catch, the allotment?
B. Riddell: No. The PFRCC talked about the change and whether it was caused by the salmon farm, because that was the debate in the fall of 2002. When we looked at all the data that was available to us, of which there was no catch, we could not find any other explanation. We couldn't find any way to refute that the salmon-farming industry may have been involved. That's all it takes.
We don't know for certain, but we do know that we saw the lowest return that we've ever seen on that cycle. Something needed to be done. That's what led to the discussion with the industry, the province and the federal government and to the 2003 action plan.
S. Fraser: Where was the principle? I'm not sure. Where was that demonstrated?
B. Riddell: It's in the document. The reasoning for recommending this is that there is uncertainty in the cause. We cannot refute the argument that it could be the salmon-farming industry involved in some way. The action we recommended was the fallowing and a few options.
S. Fraser: But did it make for change to that area?
B. Riddell: Yeah. It led to the 2003 provincial plan of fallowing in corridor.
S. Fraser: That was what caused the problem? Okay.
B. Riddell: That was the action — right?
I wanted to just throw this one in. You've probably heard people talking about the two I pointed out, Kingcome and Wakeman — how they're disappearing and it's all salmon farming. These are big systems; these are highly dynamic systems. I don't know if you've had the opportunity to fly them or something
[ Page 916 ]
like that. They're glacial — huge, highly dynamic valleys — and they're quite removed from salmon farms. But they have to go out through one corridor that does go past some salmon farms.
All right, so what do you do with this information? Well, the fascinating part of this discussion here is that the top graph is the odd-year line for Kingcome and Wakeman, and the crosses are Embley, the other creek along the way. That reduction you see from 1991 to 1993 occurs in the odd-year lines. Now, if there's a mechanism associated with the salmon farms in the migration corridor and their environment, would you expect to see that in the years next to it — the even-year line? The even- and odd-year pinks spawn in the exact same location, use the exact same estuaries and go through the exact same corridors because they have no choice. You just look at a map. There's no way out for even- and odd-year lines or any different….
The even-year line has stayed up quite fine, thank you. It's twice as productive; it shows no effect. Being from the scientific community, I have no problem saying I'm concerned about odd years. As a matter of fact, I'm recommending enhancement actions to restore it. But I can't agree that the only explanation is the example of salmon farms and sea lice, unless you're going to say it occurred once and then caused that decline. It's not a very tenable hypothesis.
All I'm showing this for is…. I'm sure you've heard about the top. You have not been told about the bottom, because it's a very difficult thing to explain — okay? It's another one to think about. I don't expect you to understand these or pass a test at the end or anything like that.
S. Fraser: No, it's self-explanatory. It's all right.
B. Riddell: This is all you need to know about even-year pink salmon in southern British Columbia. The red lines are the two areas that we talk about in the Broughton Archipelago. This is Knight Inlet and Bond in Knight production, so you can look at the trend through time there. The background ones with the narrow lines are areas of all the other pink salmon information we have for southern B.C.
The point of putting something like this up is so that you can see the incredible variation between regions. In any one year there's high variation, except when you have blue circles. When you have very poor marine environments, you have very strong coherence in pinks. It's because there's only one year class coming back, and we can pick it up as a strong signal. They only return as age-two adults.
So when we have really poor marine conditions…. Here's 1960, the outcome of the '58-59 El Niño, a major environmental event. Here's 1984, from the '82-83 El Niño, a major environmental event. For 2006 we have no clue; no El Niño, but we've seen maybe the largest temperature deviations in the North Pacific recorded ever, I think: 4 or 5 degrees Celsius — unheard of deviations. That effect occurred from B.C. through southeast Alaska, about halfway out to Alaska. On the other side of the world, in Russia and in northern Alaska, there were record all-time catches. The yin and the yang.
You can see that pink salmon biology is tough to explain. It's highly variable among rivers in an area. It varies among regions, it varies among lines in one river, and it varies over spatial scales that have large signals that are clearly climate-driven. They're not anything to do with local environmental conditions.
It's really not as clear-cut as people are trying to present. It's not that we refute what people are saying, necessarily. It's that we have an onus to make sure that if we say something and we proceed with policy or management action and we're wrong, there are serious consequences. We have impact on people's lives right away. I mean, we have to do that in some cases — like fishing recently. We certainly don't do that lightly.
Let's move on, then. This is the summary. I won't go through and read all of this, because you have this all in your text. Given the time, I'd rather you be able to ask questions on that after.
The second part of this is the lice biology. These are fascinating animals. Imagine living in the ocean. You're a little, wee copepodite, which you can barely see on these fish. You have five days to find a host, or you're dead — you don't feed.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): There's no sympathy for that.
B. Riddell: But they're fascinating, and they do amazing things. I mean, they're responsive to light, to chemicals, to pressure. They do things that are well-versed in how you find a host. It's what we call co-evolution. Hosts and parasites are highly co-evolved. You're talking about a species here that we used to talk about being host-specific, species-specific. Lep. salmonis, we used to think, was only on salmonids — that's a challenging task for the little beasts.
Anyhow, their life history is really part of this puzzle, and it's going to come into spades when we talk about the currents and how they actually live in that environment. They start off as nauplii, which are hatched from eggs — very small, free-living, into the ocean. They then go through one naupliar growth and then into the copepodite. The copepodite is the only phase that is infecting. In the Broughton Archipelago, in the winter, these copepodites probably live for five to seven days, because the temperature is cool there. That's it. Outside that, there may be some extreme events, but on average, it's pretty tight.
If they are successful, they go through this chalimus growth to adults on the host and then to adults, producing mature adults with eggs and males.
In the Broughton in the winter, generation time from egg back to gravid female and egg is about two months at the temperature there.
S. Simpson: How many of them will we see in the Broughton, considering the number of fish that would
[ Page 917 ]
be there — the cumulative impact of all those farms? What are we looking at in terms of a volume of lice, considering the number of farms that we have there?
B. Riddell: The farms don't necessarily have a ton of lice on them anymore. So it really depends. I didn't actually bring the material from Beamish, because it's working directly with the industry. It's actually fascinating.
Over a two-year period of study, there was almost no lice until….
S. Simpson: About two to three per fish?
B. Riddell: Well, not even that, on average, at this time.
This changes by year, of course — 2004, as Simon has already said, we had never seen infections in lice on the coast like we saw that year. We were getting up to 67-percent infection rates of L. salmonis on pink salmon and chum salmon. So take an animal from the wild, and two out of three had lice. That's unheard of in previous documentation — in B.C., not in the European fishes.
Let me go on through here. I won't go into the whole infection side again. Only to say that when the standard of science is such that they have to prove causation, there are nine criteria that are widely accepted as being required as evidence of proof. This is a classic study in epidemiology back in 1965. This is basically the sort of rule of thumb in terms of all the things….
An obvious example. If the farm is generating lice at a time when the juveniles aren't going by, there's no susceptibility to infection. That's an extreme, obviously, but there are nine criteria like that, that are met to prove causation. That's a very high standard in a natural environment.
I'll just go on to the next. This, again, is our summary. There's an extensive amount of literature about what you would expect the survival rate to be of nauplii and copepodites in the natural environment. It's very dependent on temperature and salinity.
There is a bit of debate in the literature, particularly with Ken Brooks and Marty Krkošek, about the survivorship of copepodites and salinity. Marty's position is that they're much more flexible to salinities above 20 parts per thousand than Ken Brooks says.
Well, the recent study that Simon has noted says they have severe limitation to survivorship below 29 parts per thousand. That's almost full-salt. Full-salt on our coast is approximately 33 parts per thousand. That says that the early stages need to be in marine water, not in fresh water at the surface. So that's going to limit the production here.
We've put in here a number of things that you need to keep in mind and why we argue about where copepodids are, what the infective stages are and so on. We'll comment briefly here on the environmental conditions. You probably can't work in a more spectacular location of B.C. than the Broughton Archipelago — to be there in the summer and to see the diversity of marine life there. It is a spectacular location.
I started in this case with the summary slide. These are exactly as you have in your document on pages 4 and 5. There are the bullet summaries that somebody referred to earlier. This is just what I've put up here for emphasis. The Broughton is a highly dynamic area that's driven by tides, by freshwater discharge from the rivers and by winds. Dario has talked about the modelling. Well, this is really a substantial piece of work — the modelling of that area.
The principal feature of the Broughton is what is called estuarine surface flow. All that means is this: fresh water is lighter than salt. You have enormous outflows from large rivers that actually peak in the summer because of glacial melt, but if you have storm events in the winter with rain, you're going to get a serious outflow because there's not much retention in some of these valleys. They're very, very steep. So that's the predominant feature on the surface — tidal inflow of full-salt water, anywhere from five to 15 metres deeper.
Salmon farms are — what? — approximately 20 metres deep. So some portion of each of the pens should have marine conditions — full-salt pretty much at most of the time of the year. Now, Dario and Mike Foreman…. And if you have not, there's a very, very nice paper — Mike is the primary author — we could get you copies of. It really describes this beautifully. It talks about average conditions, with a lot of colour plates, in terms of what the conditions are like.
I'll show you an example of this. This is a very large model. You can look at surface flows, temperatures, salinities and what the current strengths are. You can cut it at various depths and look at profiles — a lot of work. What that's been used for, which led to some of the debate, is what happens if you release particles? So if you pretend to release lice at a salmon-farming site in some layer of water, where is it going to go?
The bottom line is that, over a limited number of days — the modelling ending in roughly about five days, typically — the vast majority of these neutral particles are out in Queen Charlotte Strait. They're not in the Broughton. That's probably not consistent with what you've heard, as well, but that is definitely what happens with the actual water body. That's led to a couple of papers — arguments, rebuttals and so on.
What we're doing right now — and this is work that Dario has initiated — is: how do you explain the very tight correspondence that Marty Krkošek reports in terms of lice infections in farmsite location five to seven days after the fact, remember? Well, it's actually longer than that because it takes a period of time, about three and a half days to five days, just to get to be a copepodid. So you've got anywhere from eight to ten days at least that the animal has to retain its position in the Broughton in the face of all this energy. How does it do that? We're asking ourselves questions about how these major pieces of work fit together. How do you explain both of these things?
[ Page 918 ]
Now, as Dario talked about earlier, the power of a model is prediction. They've been careful to look at theirs, and how well they can predict tidal currents and temperature at depth — things that the model predicts, which they can go out and verify independently. That's the real value of this. What Dario has done now is looked at how you would test this.
Let me just comment. These are just the two examples I told you about. The top one is spring temperature, and the bottom one is salinity. If we get you that paper, you can see all these. The point is that it's a very complicated environment. Most of the waters are not conducive at the surface level to copepodid survival. Until you get wide out into Queen Charlotte Strait, they're all less than 30 parts per thousand. That's because of the type of surface flow and then tidal mixing. They'd have to stay deep in the water column.
Here's the flow profile that is predicted by the model — a highly complicated environment. Imagine the math behind doing this. Dario's a bit of a work guy at times, I guess.
D. Stucchi: This is Mike's work.
B. Riddell: That's Mike's work. Okay, well, the importance of this is on the next slide.
As I said before, we take this simulation model now, and we say: "Okay, let's predict: where would a neutral particle go over time?" Some of the papers, particularly Ken Brooks's paper with Dario, have plots of what you predict on day 1 to day 5. They've used two sites. One is the Doctor Islets, in red, and the other is Glacier Falls, in blue.
What they basically predict for these particles is that they'll be out in the strait. They're not going to be in there, except that the model does predict that particles released from Glacier Falls do show some retention within the Broughton Archipelago, even after five days. There is some retention of the particles there, but most are going to be leaving.
This is just to bring out the fact that this is part of the conflict in terms of…. Both are credible scientific investigations. They have different predictions. It's part of our scientific process to explain the difference. You can't just say: "I don't believe the next guy." We have to have a basis for where we are going with this, and what's it really telling us. We're missing something if we can't explain what the dynamics are here.
Dario has a couple of ideas, one being that the model is maybe not sufficient in surface wind because it's a very dynamic area for winds as well. He wants to look at more information on winds.
The other obvious thing is: is it actually possible that the animals, even though small in a highly dynamic environment, are capable of being active enough to hold that position around a farmsite? And how are you going to know that? So far we've been unsuccessful in sampling for these nauplii — very difficult to find. There have been some successes in limited areas in Europe, but the vast majority of studies have a very hard time finding sea lice nauplii. That work is going on.
How is Dario testing the effect of the surface current? They have what they call surface drifters. They actually have GPS location systems on them, so you can track them remotely. In the centre of the picture, you see there should be four…. Why is one on land, Dario?
D. Stucchi: They've shifted, Brian.
S. Fraser: Is that the land-based one?
B. Riddell: That's the land-based drifter.
D. Stucchi: Just shift them south a bit so they're across the inlet. That was the release point.
B. Riddell: My apologies. That's probably not his release point. That's my moving the slide around somehow.
Anyhow, there were four drifters released at that point. The effect of this is just to simply show you that we can monitor these surface flows. They went further up Knight Inlet, and then they started actually ending up seaward. That's all within 31 hours of tracking.
This is a way that we can actually work with Marty Krkošek or anybody else that comes up with a hypothesis about what's going to happen to a sea lice particle in the Broughton Archipelago. This work is ongoing, and we're going to be doing more of this as well.
The last thing I want to show about the environment is the highly dynamic nature of these rivers. The longest flow information that we have in the Broughton is the Klinaklini River at the top of Knight Inlet. This is information provided by Dick Beamish. Really, what I just wanted to show here is the extraordinary positive deviation in 2005. This is measured between November 2004 and the end of April 2005 so that I capture the winter period, when the salinities are very high.
What you're looking at here is that if the bar goes to the bottom, goes lower, that's a lower flow than average. That will result in a higher salinity. If you want, that's sea lice prone; that's probably a good environment.
In 2005, that huge bar at the top says that you have way more freshwater flow than usual, and that would be very low surface salinity. That's not a conducive environment. You can just look at the amount and annual variability there, and you start to understand why, when Brent has done his intensive sampling, in four years we've seen four completely different results. The idea that there are very consistent results and everything is repeatable is simply not true in our data. I'm going to show you that in the next one.
Put it all together, and that's where we talk about the interaction — right? Now we're going to look at the salmon farms and sea lice in the wild fish. What have we done with this? I will point out a couple of things here, because I'm not going to come back to them.
Outside of the Broughton, in areas that have been sampled without salmon farms, typically you have an
[ Page 919 ]
incidence of L. salmonis less than 5 percent, and you have very low infections — typically a fraction of one lice, on average. So the incidence on this type of lice on juvenile pink and chum is low. Basically, that's a common occurrence. Brent has probably sampled more juvenile pink and chum in B.C. than anybody around right now — in the Queen Charlotte Islands, the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Broughton and that. So we know that it's low in that area.
There is some variation between the inlets. There is some information from lower Johnstone Strait and upper Georgia Strait that I don't have. I'm told that the infections are higher there, but I haven't got the data — okay?
Now, the next thing that comes to mind is: what is the origin of the lice? In the beginning, people said: "Well, we can just determine chemically or through DNA what lice come from farms."
S. Fraser: Take a swab?
B. Riddell: Well, something like that. But you can't do it. The problem is that you can tell where something is from if you have enough tissue to do the chemical screening. But how do you actually look at the chemical signal in something that comes from a single egg, forms a nuclei — so you're talking about a very, very small signal — and then it's growing? So the natural background is going to cover it up instantly.
The other would be the DNA, but there is no reason in the population genetics of lice that there should be any difference in an open environment like this. So people have actually done some work in this. It's really led to very little.
What are people saying? Well, we infer source from models. That's really what Marty Krkošek has done for his PhD. What you've seen are these relationships where — I'm going to show you one — he has his point zero, and he has the level of infection around that farmsite. What he's doing is inferring the source of lice from that site, the way that model is set up. It could be correct, but that's what he's doing. He's indirectly inferring the source from the farm.
Again, you have these, and I'm going to show you the actual data now. I asked Brent to come along because as the man in the area, he has set up this survey design. You probably heard most about Marty Krkošek's sampling. Marty's sampling is site-specific. So take one salmon farm location and do very intensive sampling approaching it and going away over a range of plus or minus 40 kilometres — something like that. He has one track, and in a 2005 paper it's in the Knight Inlet, Tribune Channel area. There was one track there in 2004. He used the same in 2005. He went to the north section, because the other farms were fallow. So three areas; the same method, though. Site-specific — approach the farm; go away from the farm.
Our survey is very different, because we're interested in synoptic information over a large area to get larger sources of information. We have 100 to 150 sites sampled every year and every month — March through July, most years. In 2003, which we'll show you some information for, Brent sampled every ten days, roughly, over this area using both beach seines that Marty Krkošek and Alexandra Morton use and our purse-seine vessel.
As the fish move offshore you cannot get them with a beach seine. You must use a bigger net. So very intensive sampling, and we're really just starting to get into utilization of all this information. That's the location of the sampling.
This is the one I wanted to show you about Marty's. This is from his 2005 paper. The only point to really focus on here is…. Just take the top row, and you can see the zero. He's at minus 20 to plus 20. That's the range that he sampled over, and the farm location is at zero. So you see this increase. In the top one is the copepodid. Those are the infected ones. Then as you go away from it, it seems they come down and then back up. I honestly don't understand why it should come down at all, but that's what the data says. He builds his model around this type of data collection. Keep in mind the fact that we're looking at zero and some distance approaching it and then going away from it.
I'm going to show you Brent's information — or Brent is going to show you — doing the same type of analysis but with our data. So we're using the same farm, the same year and same time period. This is looking at the chalimus, which are the ones that are starting to grow on the fish. We have distances much further up — minus 60, approaching the farm at zero, and then you see an increase in the number of these animals after the farm, which is actually what would be predicted by the circulation model. Some movement to sea depends on how many days away and this sort of thing. So that's sort of similar to Marty's type of analysis and his pattern.
This is for the mobile…. These are almost fully developed lice, sampled in the same area, same time period. I didn't point out in Marty's that you do see a slightly different pattern. As the lice mature, they build up over time further seaward from the farm location. We see something like that. We definitely see them upstream and downstream, though, but centred around the farm.
The trick is that Marty's work shows what we consider a staggering consistency. I mean, this is a consistency and repeatability between samples and locations and stages that we just simply can't find. So our concern is: why is it not more repeatable if he finds such incredibly tight relationships with his type of data? He's doing the same sampling method. He's doing it more intensively around one location — right? But we should pick up similar types of features.
What I'm going to show you now is for 2003. This is all of our data, and what we've done is fit a line now to that distribution of data. That's exactly what Marty Krkošek does. You get your observation of the data. He builds a model. He predicts his pattern around it. Brent has done exactly the same thing. He's used regression analysis, which is a statistical way of looking for trends. He has fit the data to every single week of his data at these sites.
[ Page 920 ]
There's not a lot of consistency here. It's so inconsistent that we would have to again ask ourselves: what are we missing? Why is it so different? Maybe it's just a bad example. Not great.
On the positive side, we're talking with Marty. We're comparing numbers, comparing sampling and that. Marty has actually been quite good at publishing results so people can talk to him about it. He's been very careful to this point, as a PhD student.
We're now working with the industry to combine all four years of our data and all four years of data on the farms. This is the first time ever. We'll be able to put this entire package together and see whether or not one set of observations is consistent with the information versus the other. Which is the best explanation of what's out there?
The farms are not always in the same level of production. You know that they cycle. They're harvested, they go fallow and they come back to smolts. So you really need to take that into account. And when are they treated? That's not publicly available. You could probably get it from the veterinary database. We do not have access to that. This is the first time that we can really put the story together. Hopefully, that will provide us some clarity. That's going on right now, and we're hoping to have it done end of winter. That's the schedule, I guess.
Anyhow, this is just to show you that there are legitimate differences between two sets of scientists who should be able to actually replicate their type of information. This is a very intensive sampling program done by people with years of experience of doing this and very carefully documented methods in the lab in Simon's group. All this data can be provided to people. We can show everybody all the results. It's not the same as the published results to date.
As a government agency, what do we do with this? We still need to explain what we're doing here before we make an error in policy or management.
I wanted to show you two slides about 2006, just to bring you up to speed. This has not been seen out anywhere yet — 2006 lice monitoring. So this is four out of five samples. Simon put this together, so I'm not….
S. Jones: Right. This is probably the first three weeks' worth.
B. Riddell: Three out of five samples at this time. So this would be March, April, May analysis complete. The note at the bottom is that, thanks to the Pacific Salmon Forum, there was an extensive initiative to work collaboratively with people in the region this year. Brent had a program with Alexandra Morton. Alexandra actually sampled a number of the sites that Brent did in the past, and that allowed Brent to focus on testing some of Marty's ideas in the area around Tribune Channel and Knight Inlet.
What we're finding here…. Prevalence is where, like I said before, you take a fish at random. In the past, where it has been 35 to about 70 percent incidence…. This year for salmonid pinks: 12.4 percent; chum, 15.8 percent — a significant decline from what we've seen since the 2001 issue all started up. The other side is that the intensity is much lower. Now we have all sorts of data on sticklebacks again, but it's not been processed yet, and Alex's data has to be handed in.
A 2006 spawning escapement. Just to provide you some insight here, the total returns are about two-thirds of brood. This is part of that wide coastal event that went on, and you're going to hear about very poor numbers. The numbers are going to look bad. They are not related to a local event; this is a major oceanographic event. This occurred throughout southern B.C., all the way through the north, central, transboundary rivers and Alaska.
The other thing that makes this very serious for us this year is, and you're all aware of it, the drought — the drought and then the deluge, which is the worst possible combination for salmon. We had a drought through October, and we had pinks stacked up outside that could not get into the rivers. There was a reprieve where they got in for a couple of weeks, and then the rains came. Three major events in two weeks in the Broughton. So we're very concerned about egg productivity and survivorship this year.
Summer chum. Pinks go out to sea in a particular spring. They spawn in the fall and go out the next spring. Chums do exactly the same thing. They're very, very small and they go out with the same juvenile life history. They have a completely different adult life history. They come back as multiple ages of maturity. They come back as ages three to five. So anytime you go and look at spawning chum, you're going to see a wide range of size. That's because there are three age classes there. What that does is dampen down the big fluctuations that you see in pink, whereas fish that went to sea over three-year classes can contribute to a single-year return.
If the marine survival is being determined early on, then what you can find is that there is compensation when you look at the adults. Summer chums were actually very productive in the Broughton last year — good return. Poor age fours, which ties into some of the pink data.
I just want to comment a bit about management capacity, and this is maybe as much for you guys to have some dialogue after about where we go with this. I'll do this fairly quickly, because this is really just an example. If we start developing a management plan, there are about four basic components that we need to think about. What are your goals, and what are your management objectives? That needs to be set by the people who are affected by the industry and the natural resources. We spend a lot of time talking with people like Brian Gunn with the tourist association.
We have to set our goals, and then we discern what you're going to measure about how effective you are in achieving your goals, what your monitoring program and design is, and what your evaluation is. The reason I put this up here is because I think that what we're
[ Page 921 ]
doing on the juveniles is the only way you're going to get a short-term answer.
The sort of thing that you're going to hear from people in terms of management goals are fairly broad. You're going to hear about sustainable salmon production and healthy aquatic marine and freshwater ecosystems, and they're going to be very risk averse. Nobody is going to say: "Well, we're okay with 50-50 risk on wild salmon."
You're going to hear people saying: "No, we want to be 90 to 95 percent confident." That's a very high standard that's going to cost you a lot in information and in ensuring that you get there, so that's important to keep in mind.
Things we measure are catch, spawning escapement, age. Terri talked about ecosystem indicators, ways of looking at the effect on ecosystems. Those are the sort of things we talk about as being performance measures. We then have to go out and design a program on how to get that. The reality is that as hard as we try — and this year is a great example — getting highly accurate information on spawning escapement of salmon is difficult. There's high variability. The weather, if nothing else in that area, will kill them probably two out of five years anyhow. So there is a lot of uncertainty in relying on that information.
The other is that it's two years down the road. So it's what we call an insensitive indicator, in the sense that if the effect occurs in the juveniles, you don't see it until you actually get to the adult. Then what do you do? So it's insensitive. It's indirect in that sense.
I think what you're going to find is that people are going to say that's not an adequate indicator. What would you recommend at this point? It's really what we've been focusing on.
What have we been doing? Naturally, I think what we're doing is trying to target what people perceive to be the source of the risk. Whether you prove it or not, there is this very strong perception that the risk is coming from the farms. The standard to prove that is going to be tough, and it's very unlikely that we're going to do it within the time frame that people expect.
If you put a certain level of credible science in here in terms of process, proof, prediction, validation and so on, that takes time. So it's not likely to happen really quickly. What we've done is gone to things like fallow in corridors — 2003. There is the debate we've already talked about, so let's not go back to it.
We don't support corridors as being sufficient — we being the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The reason for that is that we know the animals are highly mixed in their environment.
When you say something like that…. I also gave you the example of Kingcome and Wakeman, where they only have one way out. So in some really terminal area, clearly there's only one corridor left. But where they mix out in Fife Sound in the Broughton, they mix very widely.
We're really not certain there's any basis that a corridor is a safe action or an adequate action site. You could harvest the fish, but that then requires a high level of agreement or cooperation with industry, and it's slow. You can't market or process 500,000 to a million fish quickly. It doesn't happen. It's just a lot of product to handle.
You can go to chemical treatment, which is actually what's happening now. We had a bit of a discussion earlier about SLICE. No question, there's more to do on SLICE. But SLICE is very effective on feeding salmon — emphasis on feeding. Like Simon mentioned, you can have sick fish. They're off their food for a while. What if they're off at the time you put the SLICE into the feed? So it's feeding salmon.
It has a prolonged protection too. It could be two to three months, depending on the literature and the temperature you look at. So there is a real benefit in that way.
There is the risk, and there very clearly is a need to do more work on ecosystem effects. We may find that this is not the best thing to do yet. We don't know that.
In Europe it's been widely certified. There's no clearance time even requested for harvest for food in Europe now — so very different than what we have.
A thought I'd like to leave you with is that one thing that is not dealt with in B.C. yet…. Actually, it was recommended even in the 2002 PFRCC report. A number of European agencies have gone to what they call regional management plans developed with the industry, the communities and others. Recreational fishing is the big one in many areas. Develop a plan in a specific inlet that treats all the farms simultaneously.
There are different things that people do. Sometimes they have all the fish going in at one age. You treat all the farms at the same time. The concept is that you want to avoid transmission or transfer between farms. If you're going to spend the money, because it costs a lot of money to treat, you want to ensure that you don't have cross-transmission from your company across the inlet.
You could develop regional management plans. I think the other advantage for us — think about this — is that it involves the local community. If they have to make these decisions about what's there, what's the carrying capacity and what type of industry they want, those local communities can be involved in these regional management plans.
They've been very successful in Scotland and Ireland. From what I read, it's a little bit more mixed in Norway.
There is a role for science in the management component as well. This is in there, so I won't focus on it, given the time. My concern in putting this slide up here was: is science going to be enough? The truth of the matter is that we're not going to have fast answers to all questions, and so really, what I think we need to do is find ways of working with the industry to focus directly on the source of the risk.
The remainder here are all summary comments. They're all in your document, so I'd rather go on to the discussion. But let me just go to the final slide here, which talks about the future. What I've done there in
[ Page 922 ]
those last three slides is really put in emphasis about: so what do we know? What are the differences that we have yet to resolve?
We know the emphasis outside the Broughton is less than in the Broughton. We know that salmon farms will contribute sea lice to the natural environment without treatment. We know that interaction will occur. We know that sea lice on an individual fish will contribute to mortality, but we don't know if it's the only source of mortality, or if it is a contributing factor to mortality. If the animal is ill and has sea lice, it'll contribute.
The critical factor is not so much the individual but the population. How do we actually develop an assessment program adequate to measure the effect of only sea lice? That will be very demanding. If you have to isolate an assessment program to measure the effect of one source of impact, that's very, very challenging, and it will be costly.
What we want to end on, really, is: what do we think is in the future? I'm actually, as I said earlier…. It's not because I'm in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that I have a positive outlook. I see nothing here that we can't resolve technically.
Our statement would be that we see it is possible to have a sustainable aquaculture industry on this coast — right? Let me emphasize that with my background in natural fish, my first priority is…. I would not say that if I didn't think we could have safe aquaculture and sustainable wild fish. The wild fish will not be compromised. That's our first priority.
How do we get there from here? Well, our history in the last few years is that there's no question that we need to continue to build on collaboration, a lot of which is started by individual initiatives but also by PSF. Pacific Salmon Forum has gone a long way to say: "Look, if you're getting resources from us, you must have a collaborative program in place with other researchers." All right. So that's been positive.
We do need a better way to manage data. There's no question that while we need to be respectful of people's data…. What I mean by that is that the industry owns certain data. Our researchers have to have access to their data to publish. That's related to their progress as well. It needs to be cooperative but respectful, and it has to be more open than it is now.
I think we need to have an explicit, strategic research plan and a monitoring program that has a commitment of funding for a number of years to settle this issue. We need to have a fixed plan in place that people agree to. It's not for DFO to sit down and say: "Okay, we think it's 1 to 12, and this is what we're doing." I think you should do it in a way that you meet with communities and the provincial government and those involved with this issue.
That gets to the final point of effective communication. In all the time I was at PFRCC, and any of the time I meet with first nations and other community groups now, the most common problem that I hear is not just about sea lice. It's about lack of consultation. It's about, "You didn't come and talk to us" — of course, in some way, they probably did — or, "You didn't listen to us," or: "You don't really want to take our concerns into account." So we have to really bridge that gap. You've really got to restore credibility here to get communities onside and to work with them.
PFRCC has just made that a requirement of any future funding that they provide. You have to be able to go out to the community and have people onside. You have to have scheduled workshops to keep them informed in terms of what's going on, so that you can show that you are collaborating in some way, consulting in some way.
In the end — Andy made this point earlier — this is a dynamic situation, because the industry is not that old, really. In terms of industries on this coast, it's relatively new. It has gone through a significant evolution. It is much better handled now than it has been in the past.
Really, what we're saying here is that we will be continuing research. We will be providing advice to managers. There is, as Andy calls it, an adaptive process here. So if the siting requirements or if some review process proves to be inadequate, we're going to pick this up as we go. Maybe we do have to have public consultation on review processes or something — like we talked about peer review earlier. You could do that in a number of cases about habitat impacts or fishery impacts associated with aquaculture or fishing or anything else.
We will continue to do the work. There is no question that you have a highly qualified, dedicated group of staff on this coast, so any sense that the department's not involved is simply not correct. We're completely involved. And we're dedicated to the natural resources and to…. When we say something's sustainable, we want to be able to prove it. That's what we trained ourselves to do.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you, Dr. Riddell. We'll have just one question each.
J. Yap: Thank you for your presentation. My question has to do with your reference to the nine criteria for establishing causation. There was a reference to a scientist named Hill, who I guess came up with this, and the fact that this is universally accepted in any field of research if you're going to make a case for causation.
T. Perry: Disease research.
J. Yap: In disease research, yeah. My specific question is: how would it be that a piece of research that is peer-reviewed could come to a conclusion or a supposition that there's causation if the nine criteria are not met? This, I gather, is the case with the Krkošek paper.
B. Riddell: Well, that is an interesting question, actually, because it gets to the heart of…. A fundamental piece of science is peer review. Unfortunately, peer review is…. It shouldn't be held up as error-free. There are actually publications recently, more in the social
[ Page 923 ]
literature, about adequacy of peer review and how do you ensure non-bias in peer review, and so on.
I review maybe 15 or 20 papers a year. Sometimes people put a lot of pressure on "why we'd like your opinion." I may not actually be the best person to do that review. I may not know of Hill. You are completely dependent on the editors of that journal having access to people who are really qualified to do that review. So if you're doing something in fish disease and you're talking about proving causation and effect, then you should know who you have to go to. But you've also got to get them to assist you in a certain time. Typically, three weeks is what they ask you to do.
Peer review is one of our foundations, but in all honesty, it's not without error. It's not flawless.
S. Fraser: Thank you very much for the great presentation, and thanks for the paperwork on this too. There's a lot of material. Following up on John's question…. We've got the Krkošek document. It is peer-reviewed. It's the Proceedings of the National Academy. I assume that's for real. I mean, I googled them. They seem to be a recognized and respected peer-reviewed….
B. Riddell: The National Academy of Sciences? Yeah, they're not bad.
S. Fraser: Okay. So this spans a number of different scientists from different disciplines and different universities in different countries. It was sponsored primarily by the National Research Council of Canada, and the national engineering council of Canada too.
B. Riddell: Sorry, I don't….
S. Fraser: Okay. It's just when I'm looking at…. When I see that report…. We're not scientists, so we've got what, I think, is a recognized as a well-established, well-respected peer-reviewed journal that spans a number of different disciplines and scientists and universities and countries.
It's sponsored by the government of Canada, basically, for a lot of the costing on that — certainly for the mathematical modelling that was in there. If someone were to refute that, would the process be…? Anyone can say anything about: "I appreciate all the work you're doing." You would peer-review a rebuttal of that or a correction of that?
B. Riddell: Yes.
S. Fraser: Has that happened?
B. Riddell: In ways, yes — not the most recent paper. The first paper did lead to the Ken Brooks article, because he was refuting a number of comments there. There are actually a number of papers that…. The Ken Brooks paper — there was a formal rebuttal. That rebuttal would go into the journal. It would be peer-reviewed and sent to the original author. The original author is invited to reply to the rebuttal, and so both are published at the same time. That would be the particular process.
I was a little confused about your Canadian research, because the source of the funding has nothing to do with peer-review.
S. Fraser: Well, agreed. But we're not scientists. I mean, the optics of it — if it was sponsored by an organization that was, say, biased…. If that was the main sponsor, it could be…. I'm not saying that it would mean that there'd be bias, but there is a perception that it's so. At least it passed that muster. From we laypeople's point of view, for me, it was significant. But the science itself on that hasn't been refuted through a peer-review process. Is that correct?
B. Riddell: It has not been refuted, no. We have done peer-reviews of that so that….
S. Fraser: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm over my time.
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): I could ask a hundred, but a simple one is.… I'm intrigued by your last statement: "Nothing here that we can't solve scientifically." I won't suggest you're an undue optimist. But do you feel that we should consider going to something like closed containment as a solution, or do you think we should have a moratorium until we can sort all this out and figure out what we're doing? Or do you think we can manage the business…?
B. Riddell: Just one question — right?
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Yes.
B. Riddell: I should pass that to Andy. Well, there is a program right now starting up in the DFO looking at closed containment, but it's from a modelling and economics perspective to see whether or not it's technically feasible and what the true costs would be. There's no point in developing some super Cadillac that means you can never actually implement the thing. So they are starting to look at that. It is going to be done in collaboration with the industry. But to my knowledge, it's just starting — right?
T. Perry: Yup.
B. Riddell: So you'll hear more about that.
I'm sure you know that there have been closed containment efforts on the coast, both floating, that I don't think have ever really been prototyped, and then the one in Cedar, which ended up not going very far on an economic basis.
Do we think we have to go there? Well, I'm not sure you do. If what we're seeing is…. For example, if the incidence of lice that we were comparing in the Beamish paper…. If a 35-percent incidence of lice allowed you to have that large escapement return in 2004, what is the measure you're looking for? What's the performance
[ Page 924 ]
measure on lice in the farm? If you could actually measure on the farm that you could keep it under 5 percent, like natural background, you can't do better in nature.
Is there a risk? Well, then you're getting into the near field, far field, ecological effects of treatment. Now you've got questions that you're going to have to really spend a bit more time looking at. So whether it's required is still a reasonable question. We are looking at the feasibility of it, and they will be looking at modelling how you would actually do it.
It's a very demanding task. If you go to a production-level farm and you're treating water and treating disease vectors, what do you do with effluent? How do you pump the water, oxygen? It's no small challenge to actually do that on a production scale.
G. Coons: Thank you very much. Again, looking at the concluding comments — it's unlikely to resolve each science issue quickly; research and monitoring with SLICE, etc.; more research needed…. I just have this question in my mind of where we're going and at what speed.
My one question is…. As far as our deliberations, we had some concerns brought out. I guess there was a study about what type of valid measures DFO is using for sea lice on juvenile salmon and using the Fulton's condition factor. I'm just sort of wondering — your comments on that and if you're still using FCF.
B. Riddell: We did write a response to that, and I did a couple of interviews on that. The statement is not that we use that as our only measure of fish health. A condition factor is used in fisheries biology all the time by everybody, everywhere. It is not the only measure of fish health. When these materials from Brent come back to Simon's lab, we do measures of length and weight and sea lice, and it is screened for virus, bacteria or anything else. Those are the measures of fish health.
The idea that we were comparing them is actually quite interesting. The different perspective is that if 95 percent of these animals die with sea lice, how come in July, or any other time, you can go and sample fish that are heavily infected and have no lice and frequently the lice fish are bigger than the uninfected? How is that possible? How is there no stress associated with infection?
So you may not think that the condition factor is a very sensitive indicator, but maybe that's not the message you should be looking at. We don't use condition factor as a measure of fish health. It's a very coarse measure, just like Alex said. We measure fish health directly.
The other side of it is that there's a valid question here. How come these fish that are infected are as big as the uninfected? Keep in mind what I said earlier. This is a highly co-evolved system. A parasite that kills its host is not a very good parasite. It's a pretty short-lived strategy.
S. Simpson: Just a comment and then a question — that'll be my wrangle here. On the issue of peer-review, as you said, the National Academy of Sciences is about as good as you get in North America, as I understand it. The paper is peer-reviewed. Frankly, I think part of the reason that we put some weight on peer-review here is because we're not scientists, and we have to find some way to make sure of the value of these documents. That's one that is well-established within the scientific community as an approach that provides credibility to things that get published in publications of that level. So I take it for what it's worth, because it's about as good a publication as you can get.
The question that I have, though, is around comments that you made about sort of the differences that DFO has with some of the science being done by some of the people like Routledge and Volpe and Krkošek, and Morton and others who are raising serious questions, primarily around lice.
Clearly, part of the sense that I get out of what you're saying is that there needs to be more collaboration and more work done with all parties, and that you're doing some of that, to try to see if you can actually come to some conclusions here where everybody can agree — or in large measure agree, maybe not totally agree. I think that's a worthwhile thing if it can be accomplished.
The question I have, then, relates to some of the work of a collaborative nature that is being done and that you'd know about. Marine Harvest and CAAR have reached an agreement, and I guess they've been working at it for about a year now. It seems they've reached some…. They've had a protocol that they've been able to live with, the two groups.
I saw their presentation at the dialogue yesterday, where they clearly are continuing to build on that. They've set terms of reference for a closed containment study, as I understand, and both parties have agreed that they will cover most of their concerns. They're looking at a number of other initiatives around research that they would like to sponsor jointly in the hopes that it would produce things that they could both sign off on. Certainly, from my view, if that's being accomplished by a significant industry player and the primary environmental group, that's a big, big plus.
So the question I have is: in terms of DFO, what role does DFO see itself playing as the representative of the federal government in providing support to those collaborative ventures between CAAR and Marine Harvest to try to find some solutions that bring both parties to play? I'm looking at you.
A. Thomson: Yeah. In terms of the Marine Harvest–CAAR agreement, that was announced last December. It was announced without the department's involvement, and as they presented yesterday, they designed it that way. They wanted to get off the ground on their own, as an industry and environmental organization, to start cooperation and then look for partners outside. They did find a limited partnership with the provincial government at that time.
We've been pretty clear all the way along that we would welcome more collaboration into these types of
[ Page 925 ]
activities. Certainly, not being involved from the start puts us a bit of a challenge, but we've always held the door open for further collaboration.
When we talk about closed containment, certainly, the CAAR and Marine Harvest document on closed containment…. Although I haven't seen it, I'm told it's quite extensive. I would expect that it would be part of the inputs into our look at closed containment — I mean, there's no sense duplicating good work that has already been done — and bringing those points of view forward. It's not something that we are opposed to at all. In fact, I would have preferred to have been part of the Marine Harvest–CAAR agreement when it first started.
S. Simpson: I understand why they chose the direction they took, and it seems to have worked for them so far anyway. I accept that they kind of excluded governments and others while they tried to work this out with just the two parties, at least to build some trust.
Then DFO would be open to engaging them, whatever that might mean — within reason, of course.
A. Thomson: Well, certainly. From a management point of view, I meet with CAAR officials at times. We have our scientists who are collaborating now with CAAR partners and with Ms. Morton. It is a much more inclusive world than it was 20 years ago.
S. Simpson: They're looking for money. We know that. Talk to us.
R. Austin (Chair): Claire….
Did you want to say something?
B. Riddell: Can I just clarify a point? I'm not sure if I triggered this or not. I am in no way criticizing Marty Krkošek's use of the literature and the peer-review process. For a PhD student, Marty has done things that most PhDs don't touch. He has published in highly reputable journals. I in no way meant to criticize his process here.
My comments about peer-review…. There is no question that for any scientist who publishes a lot of papers, you're going to get everything from grossly misinformed reviews to reviews that are bang on and really, really useful. You can get some that are an absolute pain in the ass. All they do is go through how you write something in English, and they don't know anything about the technology.
All I'm saying is that peer-review is highly variable. Now, if you're a peer-reviewer for PNAS, hopefully you are a credible reviewer. I am in no way criticizing the process he has followed — okay? Just keep in mind that simply because something is peer-reviewed…. It's almost used like an excuse at times. There can be errors, so don't just take it as gospel.
Not to mention that science evolves. We may simply…. Marty might find that he's got an error in his model — right? We can't explain certain things yet. Just keep in mind that it progresses. Peer-review is the only thing we have, and that's why we rely on it.
S. Simpson: That's why I'm saying we have to have some way to measure the credibility of science, and peer-review may be the only tool we have.
It wasn't a question. It's a debate.
C. Trevena: The closed containment project you're working on — I'm assuming it's the UBC one. If it's not, could you clarify what it is and what your involvement with it is?
A. Thomson: I will speak to it in general terms. It doesn't have formal ministerial approval to move ahead at this moment, so I don't want to get into too much detail. It does not relate to any one particular pilot project being put forward, whether from UBC or other groups. It is rather more of a background process that would look at the different environmental or technical questions that you would have to answer to do a proper study of closed containment aquaculture and then follow that with what the economic realities are around those environmental mitigation measures.
That's a lot of gobbledegook, but I'll give you an example. If you're going to remove solid waste material from the environment, what are the current technologies that can remove that solid waste? What can you do with that solid waste? And what would be the costs associated with those technologies?
We want to have these background documents so that when people come to us with pilot projects, real in-the-water projects, we're at a much more informed point of view in order to evaluate them and see whether we should be investing federal and provincial dollars into these rather large….
A Voice: Federal.
A. Thomson: Well, it is actually a joint process. We have the provincial government involved with this evaluation process as well — to look at investing in these larger pilot projects.
C. Trevena: What sort of time frame are you working on?
A. Thomson: We're hoping to have the initial scientific evaluation done by March or April.
C. Trevena: And it's a joint federal-provincial project?
A. Thomson: The provincial government has a role to play in developing the terms of reference, yes.
R. Austin (Chair): Great. Thank you very much.
Ron, do you have another question?
[ Page 926 ]
R. Cantelon (Deputy Chair): Yeah, just a comment. One thing we've heard…. We've certainly heard peer-reviewed science. From what I hear you say, no matter how astutely it's peer-reviewed, it does not make it an immutable law of science, a law of nature, just because it's peer-reviewed — because there may be differences in the model. That's a comment.
One thing we're beaten over the head with quite often here, honestly…. Up in one area we were told that there are 18 scientists — that was the number, I think — on one side, the sea lice side being the death knell of the industry. And only two scientists…. "Find me two" was a comment.
You review it. I'll throw this at you, Dr. Riddell. How much science has been done on the pro–sea lice versus anti–sea lice, or whatever — on both sides of the argument? Is it true that all the studies show that the weight of evidence is on the side that sea lice are a detriment, or is it indeed more balanced, or what is it? Do we have 40 studies on this side saying that sea lice are going to kill and none on the other questioning that hypothesis? Where are we at with it?
B. Riddell: Well, a statement like that must be including many of the European investigators. I don't think there's any question…. They went through this exact debate for 20 years: is the salmon farm and sea lice from those farms attributed to the loss of sea trout and Atlantic salmon? We had a Norwegian scientist here one time who said: "You guys are just crazy. There's no question there is an effect. Whether we can prove it or not, it's fact."
I don't know that we would necessarily disagree, but what I've tried to do in my talk is put it in perspective. Number one is to differentiate between individual effects on fish and population effects that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is required to manage. I don't care if it's logging, fishing, or salmon and aquaculture, the bottom line is that the effect of an industry cannot be at an unacceptable level. If you're going to actually have a level of impact, then there'd better be a process in place that defines what that goal is. That's what we talked about: risk assessment.
If you want to have coastal communities with a vibrant economy in forestry, aquaculture and fishing, there will be some interaction amongst these industries. Do you have the biological and technical know-how to limit that and manage it? I don't think that it's drawn…. I'm not sure I even know who said that, but I won't worry about it. I think that here we have more questions than answers right now.
I have a lot of respect for the effort they've gone through in Europe, because my background is in Atlantic salmon. It's a sad story in Norway. The saddest story has nothing to do with aquaculture; it has to do with hatcheries.
There are lots and lots of cases where you need to understand the actual cause. If we do something addressing a cause that's not the right one, we just spend a lot of time and don't actually solve the problem. It's a pretty simple lesson you teach your kids. We need to understand what the actual mechanisms are.
For example, one of the major things in Marty's most recent paper is that the abstract refers to 9 percent to 95 percent of all pink and chum dying, but take a look at that paper and see where the range comes from. That's almost like saying zero to 100 — isn't it? Pretty close. The reason it's like that is because there are five independent tests and the abstract only focuses on the minimum and the maximum. Not one test has that range of uncertainty in it. They're all more like: "Well, the value was 25 to 40."
When you start looking at the individual tests, they're much more like Parker's original study. If the mortality is that high, is it replacing natural mortality or is it on top of natural mortality? That's the critical question, not that sea lice from farms don't cause some mortality. It's the net effect of everything on the spawners. And if our fish are that much more productive in the Pacific Ocean, then maybe we don't see the sensitivity in Europe.
Now, I would point out that for all the work in the Broughton, there's almost no work on trout. Cutthroat trout are like sea trout. Rainbow trout…. I don't know about rainbows. The steelheads — why not have concerns about those things? We're very, very focused on a very highly productive and very large number of fish. One of the things that Dick Beamish and I talk about at length is looking at the other species, but right now we really haven't been able to focus the resources into that full study.
You really have to interpret what these studies are saying. I'm not criticizing the science behind it, but you really need to understand that when we review a paper, we want to see that the discussion and the conclusions are supported by the paper and that the paper is written clearly enough that we could replicate the study and get that result.
J. Yap: I appreciate all of you coming to present and be involved in this. As you can see, one of the issues we're grappling with — as my colleagues Scott and Gary referred to — is the issue of science, and trying as a committee to use science to help us find our way through this issue. Science is supposed to be objective and dispassionate, and yet science is also inconclusive, because it leads to more questions.
My question is: how do we as well-meaning laypeople determine — and please don't get this the wrong way — which scientists we should believe and which scientists we might have more difficulty believing, given that both groups of scientists publish and publish in reputable journals that are peer-reviewed? It's a simplistic question. Forgive me if you find this question offensive, but how would we gain some comfort one way or the other between one group of scientists and another? Is there a way to assess the relative reputations or track record of scientists? It's a simplistic question, but I'm just wondering if you have a perspective on that.
B. Riddell: I'm fully sympathetic to the sort of yin and yang you're in on this thing. The first thing that
[ Page 927 ]
comes to my mind is that differences in science are really common. Because this is not a laboratory study where we can repeat it or do something different and try to resolve the difference, it's going to take some time to sort it out. Brent Hargreaves has been talking with people, and others are saying: "Okay, what if we could actually implement an in-the-field major study so that we generate a very strong signal and really look at whether or not the interaction is here?" Well, that's going to be like one year — right? It takes a bit of time to do this.
I think, given the uncertainty, it gets more to: how do you develop this management plan? In developing that plan, I think you need to be involved with the local communities. Develop what the objectives are, what an adequate basis of proof is, what the performance measures are and how we are going to measure it.
Andy has referred to the adaptive response over time. It's not very likely you're going to put any local population at serious risk in one year. The whole history of pink salmon biology, in looking at the fluctuation throughout the provinces, is that they have a strong capability to recover. So we do have some time with well-designed studies that people would say, "Yes, we agree. This is an adequate research plan. These are the parameters that we'd like to see measured. This is how we'd like to be involved," and actually get some collaboration going with people that are involved with the impacts.
Very seldom is it going to be either-or, select one or the other. Clearly, if you read section 2.1 and 2.2 in the material we gave you, it tried to comment on the scientific methodology, because as you say, the credibility of science is around the methods. This should not be occurring unless they're valid differences. If they're valid differences, then they're equally possible, and we need to continue to do more work.
How do we get there in the short term? That's where people are saying that maybe the only way to really resolve it in the short term is to do some direct experimentation in the environment. That's not a very good answer. It's not a simple answer for you.
J. Yap: Thank you.
R. Austin (Chair): Thank you very much. I'd like to echo John's comments. Thanks very much for all of you coming here and taking the time to make this presentation. It's been very useful to us.
If members have further questions, maybe we can direct them through to Mr. Perry, and then he can find the relevant scientists to reply back to us.
With that, we'll have a motion to adjourn.
The committee adjourned at 5:41 p.m.
[ Return to: Sustainable Aquaculture Committee Home Page ]
Hansard Services publishes transcripts both in print and on the Internet.
Chamber debates are broadcast on television and webcast on the Internet.
Question Period podcasts are available on the Internet.
Copyright © 2006: British Columbia Hansard Services, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada