Archived - Government of Canada Response to the Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans: Nunavut Marine Fisheries: Quotas and Harbours

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November 18, 2009

Introduction:

The Government of Canada would like to thank the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (Senate SCOFO) for its Fourth Report of the Second Session of the Fortieth Parliament entitled, Nunavut Marine Fisheries: Quotas and Harbours.

In accordance with its Northern Strategy, the Government of Canada agrees with the premise of the Senate SCOFO Report regarding the importance of social and economic development in the North, and the demonstration of Canada’s sovereignty and jurisdiction. The Government of Canada committed to the Northern Strategy in the 2007 Speech from the Throne. The Strategy is focussed on exercising our Arctic Sovereignty, protecting our environmental heritage, promoting economic and social development, and improving and devolving Northern governance so that Northerners have greater control over their destinies.

The Government recognizes the importance of supporting and promoting economic growth in the North and of facilitating sustainable economic and social development that benefits northern inhabitants, particularly indigenous peoples. The construction of a fishing harbour at Pangnirtung demonstrates the Government’s commitment to this objective and discussions continue with the Government of Nunavut regarding infrastructure needs to further support local fisheries.

The Government of Canada is supportive of Nunavut’s fishery development and recognizes the importance of the commercial fishery to the economy of Nunavut. Over the years, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has provided Nunavut interests with increased allocations in adjacent fisheries. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans takes into account conservation and applicable provisions in land claims agreements. These agreements have provided for the establishment of Wildlife Management Boards and set out processes under which advice and recommendations are sought and considered. As well, requirements related to licensing and allocation are set out in the agreements. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans also takes into account other relevant factors.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of scientific research and monitoring in support of the expansion of sustainable marine fisheries. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) views Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) as an important component of fisheries management in Nunavut and relies upon both IQ and scientific knowledge for effective fisheries decision-making. DFO is committed to its existing multi-year, multi-species research program. Budget 2008 provided $1.9M per year, on an on-going basis, for science to support emerging fisheries. With respect to a research and monitoring program for the Eastmain-1-A and Rupert Diversion Project, Environment Canada is performing an assessment of relevant scientific information and traditional knowledge already available to identify appropriate research needs and coordinate activities. Given its expertise in aquatic ecosystems, DFO will provide scientific assistance to Environment Canada as appropriate.

The Government of Canada is committed to providing support for scientific research and monitoring in support of sustainable marine fisheries in Nunavut. The Government of Canada is currently undertaking research activities on Eastern Arctic whales and their environment but, given the responsibility of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) for wildlife management in the Nunavut Settlement Area, the Government of Canada welcomes proposals from the NWMB on supplementary initiatives related to whale conservation.

Once again, the Government wishes to thank the Senate SCOFO for its Fourth Report, Nunavut Marine Fisheries: Quotas and Harbours. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will continue to support the sustainable development of marine fisheries in Nunavut.

Recommendation 1:

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada move forward to develop and implement, in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut, the harbour development plan recommended by the DFO–Nunavut Harbours Working Committee in its 2006 Nunavut Small Craft Harbours Report.

Response: The Government partially supports this recommendation

The federal government is committed to supporting and promoting economic growth in the North and to supporting sustainable economic and social development that benefits northern inhabitants, particularly indigenous peoples. The construction of a fishing harbour at Pangnirtung, one of the harbours that was assessed in the 2006 Nunavut Small Craft Harbours Report demonstrates the Government’s commitment to this objective. This initiative supports the Economic and Social Development Pillar of the Government of Canada’s Northern Strategy announced in the 2007 Speech from the Throne.

The harbour at Pangnirtung will not only directly support the local fisheries and their expansion, but also supply the local fish processing plant with necessary fish landings and contribute to supporting employment at the local level. The harbour also will support other users and community needs, including the annual community re-supply effort.

There are no immediate plans to construct additional commercial fishing harbours in Nunavut at this time. However, discussions continue with the Government of Nunavut regarding infrastructure needs to further support local fisheries.

Recommendation 2:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada continue to assign 100% of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Division 0A turbot allocation to Nunavut.

Response: The Government supports this recommendation

The Government of Canada is supportive of the development of Nunavut’s fisheries and recognizes the importance of the commercial fishery to the economy of Nunavut. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has consistently allocated 100% of the Canadian Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for turbot in the NAFO Division 0A to Nunavut interests.  

During the exploratory phase of this fishery, which commenced in 1996, allocation was based on effort and fishers assisted with data collection that informed the development of the fishery. The first official TAC for the fishery was established in 2001 at 3500t. Subsequently there were several increases in TAC: to 4000t in 2002; and, in 2006 the Canadian TAC increased to 6,500 tonnes. At each increase, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans allocated the new quota exclusively to Nunavut interests and, since then, has continued to allocate the entire 6,500t Canadian TAC for 0A to Nunavut interests.

The importance of the commercial fishery to the economy of Nunavut will continue to be an important consideration in any future decisions on the allocation of the Canadian turbot quota in NAFO Division 0A. Conservation, relevant land claims agreements and other relevant factors will also be considered when making allocation decisions.

Recommendation 3:

The Committee recommends that, in NAFO Division 0B, Fisheries and Oceans Canada continue its policy that no new access to 0B turbot be given to non-Nunavut interests until Nunavut has achieved a level of access to adjacent marine resources comparable to levels of access enjoyed by other coastal jurisdictions in their adjacent fisheries.

Response: The Government supports this recommendation with qualifications

The Government of Canada is supportive of the development of Nunavut’s fisheries and recognizes the importance of the commercial fishery to the economy of Nunavut.  There are two important elements that frame Nunavut’s share of adjacent marine resources: access (i.e. licences for participating in the fishery) and allocation (i.e. distribution of quota). 

With respect to access, there has been no increase since 2002 in the number of licences issued by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to non-Nunavut interests for participation in the 0B turbot fishery. With regard to decisions made by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in the past on access to turbot in NAFO Division 0B, the principle of adjacency is one of many important considerations that were taken into account. That approach also applies to future decisions.

In 2001 the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans established the Independent Panel on Access Criteria (IPAC), which focused on issues governing access to particular fisheries. In its report, the IPAC stated that:

It is clear that Nunavut does not enjoy the same level of access to its adjacent fisheries as do the Atlantic Provinces. The Panel is of the view that every effort must be made to remedy this anomalous situation. In keeping with the spirit of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the fair and consistent application of the adjacency principle, the Panel recommends that no additional access should be granted to non-Nunavut interests in waters adjacent to the territory until Nunavut has achieved access to a major share of its adjacent fishery resources.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans accepted IPAC's recommendation as it pertained to new access. The Minister's response also stated that the “fulfillment of this recommendation will not affect the current status of other participants in these fisheries”. Subsequent Ministers have upheld this decision.

With respect to quota, the allocation of any increase in TAC is determined based on relevant land claims agreements, adjacency, historical participation and other relevant factors.  This approach also applies to future decisions.  DFO has made significant effort to facilitate the development of Nunavut’s fisheries. Between 1999 and 2006 the quota for the turbot fishery in waters adjacent to Nunavut has increased; and, as a result, Nunavut’s allocations in NAFO Subarea 0 increased from 27% to 68%.

The Minister has been flexible in the implementation of DFO policies when making decisions about fisheries in waters adjacent to Nunavut. This flexibility has enabled the opportunity for Nunavut interests to attain greater access to the fishery.

Recommendation 4:

The Committee recommends that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans put in place a policy giving Nunavut stakeholders the right of first refusal to purchase, at a competitive rate, all fishery quotas in Nunavut’s adjacent waters that are transferred or sold.

Response: The Government does not support this recommendation

The Government of Canada is aware of the interest of Nunavut stakeholders, the Government of Nunavut, and others in such an approach. DFO is prepared to work with all these interests to improve transparency regarding the process for “re-allocating” fishery quotas and to facilitate opportunities for Nunavut stakeholders to increase their access to adjacent fisheries. However, for the reasons set out below, the Government can not support this recommendation of the Committee.

It is the position of the Government that, as a general statement, no individual or organization can claim an interest in a licence to fish, assert a right to receive a licence to fish, or assert a right to be allocated a fishing quota. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans retains discretion, under the Fisheries Act, whether or not to issue a fishing licence or to allocate a fishing quota. In making decisions on such matters, said Minister will consider conservation, relevant land claims agreements and other relevant factors.

That said, the Minister may adopt new policies and procedures to assist decision-making when he/she exercises the discretion conferred to him/her by the Fisheries Act. In this vein, DFO is fully prepared to work with Nunavut stakeholders and others to identify alternatives for improving transparency around the “reallocation” of quota for fisheries resources in waters adjacent to Nunavut.

Recommendation 5:

The Committee recommends, as a general principle, that Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, as an indispensable complement to scientific knowledge, always be given full consideration in fisheries decision-making.

Response: The Government supports this recommendation

The Government of Canada and DFO recognize the importance of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) as a component of fisheries management in Nunavut and rely upon both IQ and scientific knowledge for effective fisheries decision-making. DFO routinely consults Nunavut communities and resource users, and obtains their views and traditional knowledge on a wide range of management issues, including fish and marine mammal stock assessment studies, quotas and management measures, and the development of fish and marine mammal management plans. Therefore, as a general principle, DFO gives full consideration to IQ in management of fish and marine mammal stocks in Nunavut and adjacent waters.

Recommendation 6:

The Committee recommends that, with respect to the Eastmain-1-A and Rupert Diversion Project, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans indicate when and how the research and monitoring program outlined by the 2006 Federal Review Panel in Recommendation 34 will be implemented.  

Response: The Government supports this recommendation

Environment Canada (EC) has been assigned lead responsibility for monitoring and coordination of research activities in the James Bay/Hudson Bay region in the context of cumulative effects. EC is currently undertaking a review of existing scientific data, scientific information, and traditional knowledge with an aim to assessing the needs for implementing a new stand-alone research and monitoring program. If it is determined that such a program is required EC will also be responsible for determining the nature and scope of the required monitoring and research, and associate costs. DFO will assist by providing available scientific data and information related to the aquatic ecosystem of James Bay/Hudson Bay.

Recommendation 7:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada substantially increase its funding for exploratory research in Nunavut’s adjacent waters, and that it commit to a multi-year, multi-species research program.

Response: The Government supports this recommendation

The Government of Canada is committed to scientific research and monitoring in the waters adjacent to Nunavut and is aware that Nunavummiut are interested in exploring the development of fisheries near their communities and in the waters adjacent to Nunavut. To this end, the Government is committed to various actions, as outlined below, which also support the Environmental Protection pillar of the Northern Strategy.

DFO continues to foster and develop emerging fisheries in co-operation with interested parties. The New Emerging Fisheries Policy outlines the steps required for developing new sustainable fisheries. DFO will work closely with Aboriginal groups, co-management partners and the Government of Nunavut in the development of new fisheries adjacent to Nunavut, including with respect to scientific research and monitoring.

In Budget 2008, the Government provided $1.9 million/year, on an on-going basis, of new funding for science to support emerging fisheries associated with building a small craft harbour in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. These new resources will enable DFO to more effectively support the sustainable development of new fisheries in this region.

In support of the long-term sustainability of fisheries resources, DFO funds research in waters adjacent to Nunavut – including those within the Nunavut Settlement Area – in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut, co-management partners and industry. DFO conducts multi-species stock assessment surveys in support of existing commercial fisheries as well as those under development. For example, an annual multi-species survey has been conducted since 2006 in waters adjacent to Nunavut, as part of the monitoring, assessment and management of marine fisheries, targeting Greenland Halibut and Northern and Striped Shrimp. In addition to stock-specific assessments, DFO is moving towards research programs that consider entire ecosystems; this approach is outlined in the New Ecosystem Science Framework in Support of Integrated Management.

Recommendation 8:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada assess the impact of all vessel activity on whales and in concert with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, develop protective management measures, such as vessel exclusion zones at certain times of the year.

Response: The Government partially supports this recommendation

The Government of Canada is aware of the importance of whales to Inuit traditions and culture as well as to Arctic ecosystems. The Government is also aware of the growing threat of interactions between whales and humans as vessel traffic increases in the Arctic. The Government is undertaking research activities on Eastern Arctic whales including identifying spatial and temporal patterns and trends distribution, movement and hotspots. These data are important in order to assess the potential impacts of vessel activity, and will be provided to managers to assist in attempts to reduce vessel-related impacts on whales.

However, at this time, there is no dedicated research program specifically designed to assess the impacts of vessel activity on whales. Finding effective solutions to managing human-whale interactions is complicated. New measures for Nunavut would require flexibility to allow it to be tailored to local circumstances, taking into account the species of marine mammal, type of vessel, location and time of year.

Within the Nunavut Settlement Area, the NWMB is the main instrument of wildlife management, as set out in Section 5.2.33 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. However, government retains ultimate responsibility for wildlife management (including aquatic species). In this regard, the Government of Canada will continue to work closely with the NWMB on issues of whale conservation and welcomes proposals from the NWMB on specific initiatives.

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