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Divesting of salmon hatcheries in Nova Scotia

Petition: No. 7

Issue(s): Federal provincial relations and fisheries

Petitioner(s): Queens County Fish and Game Association

Date Received: 4 July 1997

Status: Completed

Summary: The Nova Scotia organization mounting this petition addressed a series of questions to the Minister of Fisheries on the Atlantic Salmon Hatchery Divestiture Initiative. The Association argued that the divestiture policy, if implemented for hatcheries in Nova Scotia, would have disastrous consequences for Atlantic salmon stock conservation and restoration programs.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Petition

June 25, 1997

Denis Desautels
Auditor General of Canada
C. D. Howe Bldg., West Tower
240 Sparks St., 11th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

Dear Mr. Desautels:

The Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans states it is about to enter the final phase of a divestiture policy that will have disastrous consequences for ongoing important wild Atlantic salmon stock conservation and restoration programs—programs that senior departmental bureaucrats appear to ludicrously claim don't exist. Ultimately, Nova Scotia's Atlantic salmon resource will be seriously affected.

At risk are Canada's Atlantic salmon hatcheries which represent (in capital value) more than $40 million of public funds, and equally important, over 129 years of operational funding developing the technology and corporate knowledge represented by the current world-leading wild Atlantic salmon hatchery program.

Levels of multi-sea-winter (MSW) large Atlantic salmon (the most important for egg production) have been precipitously declining for over 30 years, with no sign of recovery from this trend. Federal Atlantic salmon hatcheries are the only proven method of selectively increasing the proportion of MSW salmon in a stock. Less threatened one-sea-winter small salmon (grilse) now often form the largest proportion in natural spawning populations and further hinder, through the competition of their sheer numbers, the chances of large MSW salmon stock recovery.

The modern salmon hatchery was a breakthrough biotechnology development of a famous Canadian naturalist, Samuel Wilmot, and the Canadian government in 1868, the year after Confederation. This development has created a worldwide fish culture industry (both wild and farmed fish) that is today valued in the billions of dollars, and is potentially the only method that may help reverse the disastrous 30 year decline in MSW large salmon.

Instead of being proud of this uniquely Canadian development, which led to our present biologically and cost-effective federal hatchery operations, a few senior DFO bureaucrats with a narrow view—and a personal agenda—appear determined to dump an invaluable program in spite of the recommendation made in a 1994 checklist developed jointly by the (North) American Fisheries Society's top fisheries scientists and biologists. Based on the best science available, this checklist "fully recognizes that fish stocking is a valuable tool that must remain available to fisheries managers...".

All nine federal Atlantic salmon hatcheries, built and modernized by both taxpayer and client sponsored funds are about to be given away to various "non-profit" groups with no guarantee of their continued appropriate use after 5 years operation for "the benefit of the public fishery".

After this period expires, it is "hoped" that these public facilities will continue to be used for the public benefit, but in reality these groups may have no further obligation and could readily turn over the hatcheries to a silent partner for a $1.00, and could either operate or sell $ 40 million worth of public and client financed facilities at great profit.

Incredibly, there was no clause in the "Call for Expression of Interest" that after 5 years would allow DFO to resume control of the hatcheries for either present or unforeseen stock conservation or restoration needs, or in the event that the operator is not fulfilling the intent of the agreement.

In the near future divestiture could be complete, and the corporate knowledge invested in federal staff will disappear with retirements and layoffs. The sad part is that divestiture is based neither on good science nor economics.

The hatchery program, in addition to a positive benefit/cost ratio, has made invaluable contributions to river-specific wild Atlantic salmon rebuilding and restoration programs, and played a major role in the 1980's development of the maritime $100 million salmon farming industry and the substantial tax base it supports.

Atlantic salmon angling in Nova Scotia is principally comprised of catch and release and generates a $10 million per year industry (over 1 million/year for the Margaree river alone). Approximately 50 percent of the Atlantic salmon angled each year in Nova Scotia come from the hatchery program.

Based on the Public Works Canada statement in its divestiture newspaper ad (copy enclosed)* "The Government of Canada wishes to devolve itself from the operation of the fish hatcheries", the next target of this process will likely be British Columbia's federal salmon hatcheries, irrespective of their importance to current wild stock rebuilding programs.

Previous Fisheries Minister Hon. Fred Mifflin recently restored $3 million in funding to B.C.'s federal hatchery budget, stating that current hatchery programs were too important to current stock rebuilding programs to risk cutting them. Inexplicably, with stocks of MSW large Atlantic salmon at an all-time low, and some river stocks threatened with extinction, all funding for Atlantic salmon hatcheries and their programs aimed at stock conservation and restoration is slated to stop in 1997.

We hope that our new fisheries minister Hon. David Anderson will review the merits of our hatcheries' conservation roles and stop the divestiture process.

Apparently a comment by an earlier Auditor General's report that there was insufficient departmental emphasis on "Oceans" has led DFO to overcompensate by abandoning as many of its freshwater responsibilities as possible. The health of the productive estuarial nurseries and ultimately the rich coastal fisheries resources that depend on them cannot be managed in isolation from the freshwater drainage basins.

DFO appears to be ignoring public commitments previously made to important stock conservation and restoration programs, while Environment Canada seems to be turning a blind eye to the issue of fish stock conservation. DFO may be withholding the true conservation issues in Nova Scotia from other government departments.

Among the major DFO commitments made (documentation enclosed): 1) in the mid-1980's, to the N.S. department of Fisheries and its minister John Leefe , DFO agreed to continue to fund and operate Nova Scotia's federal salmon hatcheries ; 2) DFO solicited the sponsorship of N.S. conservation groups (including our own) in the mid to late 1980's for projects to modernize and expand N.S. federal hatcheries to support new programs aimed at rebuilding, restoring, and conserving Atlantic salmon stocks; 3) The publishing of a public information bulletin on Acid Rain that committed DFO to using its hatcheries to help conserve stocks threatened by acid rain; 4) the Canada-United States clean air agreement; 5) as recently as 1994, at an International salmon management conference, senior DFO stock assessment biologists identified significant objectives (numbers of rivers in brackets) for the hatchery program including: mitigation for hydro development (3), mitigation for acid-impacted rivers (9), colonization (4), enhancement where target spawning escapements are not being met (14), development of First Nation fisheries (3) and research (4).

DFO appears to be ignoring the international commitments its own recent program review determined were part of DFO's core role: " international obligations for resource conservation and rebuilding, including those for the transboundary and migratory species of special interest to Canada. Conservation includes maintaining genetic diversity as well as ensuring fish abundance." Also the Canadian Atlantic Fisheries Scientific Advisory Committee (CAFSAC) suggested in 1991 that DFO adopt the definition of conservation based on the World Conservation Strategy produced by the United Nations Environment Program: "?..Conservation ensures that the fullest sustainable advantage is derived from the resource base and that facilities are so located and conducted that the resource base is maintained." The principles of the United Nations Law of the Sea well as those of the international treaty of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, of which Canada is a member, oblige all states of origin to conserve and rationally manage their salmon stocks.

Bill Taylor, President of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, in the summer 1997 issue of the Atlantic Salmon Journal, commented editorially on a key area of Canada's fisheries management policy. "Two years ago, Canada received accolades from around the world when it aggressively pursued "a precautionary approach to fisheries management" at the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The guiding principle upon which this conservationally sound management strategy is based, is that when there is a shortage of sound data, management decisions should err on the side of caution..... This is certainly a strategy worthy of support, but it appears to have been all but forgotten in Ottawa, as evidenced by Mr. Mifflin's decision to close salmon hatcheries in Atlantic Canada?..".

Given the threat posed to ocean environments (el Nino, affecting Pacific salmon; severe temperature declines in the Northwest Atlantic affecting cod and salmon), this is not the time to take risks by eliminating federal salmon hatcheries, a valuable fisheries management tool.

Divesting and eliminating federal hatchery programs that produce approximately one-half of the Atlantic salmon returning to Nova Scotia is hardly in keeping with DFO's own Program Review obligation to "ensuring fish abundance" stated in its definition of conservation ? not to mention the role Nova Scotia's federal hatcheries are playing in the recovery of endangered stocks, the other part of the Program Review conservation definition, "maintaining genetic diversity".

Recently, both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have endorsed the use of Canadian-style conservation hatcheries for the restoration of wild salmon stocks, and several successful programs are underway in the Snake R., a tributary to the Columbia River.

In 1996, Canada initiated a major new hatchery program aimed at rebuilding threatened Pacific Chinook salmon stocks. Yet Canada is going to abandon its Atlantic salmon hatcheries at a time when stocks of MSW large Atlantic salmon -of critical importance to egg production- are at their most depleted state ever.

Many stocks are in fact threatened with extinction, particularly the inner Bay of Fundy stocks, and the Nova Scotia acid-impacted stocks. According to a recent federal report, "Nova Scotia has felt the impact of acid rain more than any province in Canada and is the only region in North America where entire rivers have been acidified by pollution. Of the 60 rivers in the province's Southern Upland region, where waters have been badly damaged by acid rain, salmon populations are extinct in 14 rivers and reduced by 90 percent in 20 rivers". Yet DFO has also terminated its N.S. freshwater habitat research group which was primarily responsible for continuing research on acid rain impacts on freshwater habitat. Nova Scotia has the most severe fish habitat problems of any province in Canada, which should not be ignored by Ottawa.

The discovery that acid rain was killing Atlantic salmon in Nova Scotia was first made by hatchery program biologists and technicians and provided key evidence for Canadian acid rain agreement negotiators; the Nova Scotia federal salmon hatcheries are currently producing stock for 11 acid impacted rivers, in several cases maintaining remnant wild stocks until negotiated emission controls begin to yield fish habitat recovery (optimistically 10-15 years away). Present agreements with the United States, signed by our federal government, permit their industries to legally pollute our province.

DFO has clearly stated that, based on the recent program review, conservation is a core DFO role and responsibility. Further, in his 1994 report on the Fraser river sockeye, John Fraser (Canada's Ambassador to the Environment) stated that DFO has the constitutional authority for conservation and cannot delegate it. His report was fully accepted by then fisheries minister Brian Tobin.

By divesting federal salmon hatchery conservation programs in Nova Scotia, senior Ottawa DFO bureaucrats appear to be forgetting DFO's own rules and standards by setting their own agendas and ignoring our conservation situation. Senior Bureaucrats seem to take the latitude to disregard or re-interpret ministerial decisions and directives on their own initiative, especially after a ministerial change. Sometimes major federal-provincial agreements are disregarded, i.e. the Tom Siddon—John Leefe agreement to keep the Atlantic Salmon hatcheries operating federally in Nova Scotia.

For Conservation, all MSW Atlantic salmon (wild or hatchery) must be released by anglers. Only grilse (1SW salmon) may be retained where surpluses to conservation requirements exist.

Depending on the river stock, hatcheries produce significant returns of MSW salmon, hence are producing fish for conservation, not just enhancement as Ottawa bureaucrats are falsely claiming.

Further, DFO's own stock assessment biologists in their April 1997 stock status reports (see enclosed) have documented that a substantial proportion of the spawning conservation requirement in Nova Scotia rivers is being met by the hatchery program (e.g. 32 percent in the LaHave river).

Please also note the Inner Bay of Fundy report which demonstrates the important role the hatcheries are playing in the recovery of two endangered stocks—the Gaspereau and the Annapolis rivers, where conservation requirements are not expected to be met for at least 10 years. According to the report "Inner Bay of Fundy stock levels are reduced to the point that action should be considered to hedge against their extinction".

DFO cannot fulfill its conservation mandate in Nova Scotia without its hatcheries, and by its own standards should continue to fund them.

In Ottawa DFO's theoretical world, federal Atlantic hatcheries are not required for conservation, and only produce surplus fish for user group exploitation—hence should be funded by them. This may be appropriate for the Miramichi and other New Brunswick rivers where stocks are meeting conservation spawning targets; it is totally out of touch with reality in Nova Scotia where many rivers have endangered stocks (no permitted exploitation) and many other rivers are only meeting conservation spawning targets because of the hatchery conservation program.

Since conservation is a core DFO role and mandate, why is the divestiture of all the hatcheries still being pursued? The three maritime provincial fisheries ministers made a request that Ottawa continue to operate all salmon hatcheries, but due to federal economics, provided a reasonable compromise request (letter attached) of at least one federal hatchery per province to insure DFO's continued capability to carry out its remedial and conservation role in the management of the Atlantic salmon fisheries.

During the 1980's, DFO entered into many partnership agreements with client conservation groups to access millions of dollars to modernize and enlarge the federal hatcheries to expand conservation programs and to mitigate for the effects of acid rain. The Nova Scotia Salmon Association and the Queens County Fish & Game Association sponsored eight such projects at the Mersey, Coldbrook, and Cobequid hatcheries with a total value of approximately $1.5 million. These three hatcheries operate as an interdependent unit, mainly due to water temperature requirements for broodstock and appropriate seasonal release of fish.

We understood that the purpose of these projects was to support salmon conservation and acid rain mitigation in Nova Scotia. It was obvious to all, that building new concrete ponds with a lifespan of at least 50 years was also a long term commitment by DFO to continued salmon conservation in Nova Scotia.

The need for federal hatchery conservation and mitigation programs has not changed. Apparently DFO's mandate for conservation has not changed either. Perhaps the solution would be a transfer of the $500,000 yearly Nova Scotia hatcheries cost from DFO's science branch to the operations branch which strongly supports hatcheries and operates the $27 million Pacific salmon hatchery program. DFO's Pacific region recently (Dec.'96) hosted the 47th Annual Northwest Fish Culture Conference which focused on several hatchery topics including the role of fish culture in protection of wild stocks.

Why isn't a uniform hatchery policy in place for all of Canada?

Since Nova Scotia has the most severe fish habitat problems of any Canadian province, there is no justification for DFO to abandon its hatcheries—valuable tools for the protection and rebuilding of wild stocks (as DFO's Pacific region will attest).

DFO's non-supportive bureaucracy of the science branch will be cutting all funding to the 9 Maritime Atlantic salmon hatcheries by the end of Sept 1997 and laying off all the hatchery staff, ending 129 years of federal investment in the corporate knowledge of a very productive and uniquely Canadian-developed program.

The potential negative impacts of divestiture in Nova Scotia have not been seriously investigated.

Are we to believe that the many senior public servants who supported this program for over 100 years were all wrong?

Are the public servants who support British Columbia's federal salmon hatchery program wrong too?

Are the three Maritime provincial fisheries ministers who have requested at least one federal hatchery remain in each province to ensure DFO fulfills its constitutional mandate for conservation also misguided?

Your support in reversing the hatchery divestiture would be much appreciated. Divested hatcheries are not supposed to be involved in conservation programs; many existing programs could be at risk.

Divestiture has not yet been finalized at any of the hatcheries and the Dept. of Public Works newspaper call for expressions of interest stated that the divestiture was subject to withdrawal in whole or in part at any time prior to final sale. Nova Scotia Power has not entered into property and water lease negotiations as yet for the Mersey hatchery, a basic stipulation of the divestiture plan.

$40 million worth of publicly funded capital assets recently modernized to last at least another 50 years are about to be given away for $9.00—nine hatcheries at $1.00 each. If some of these facilities are divested, to protect the public interest there should be clauses in the contracts to allow the government of Canada to recover the facilities if their operation becomes unsatisfactory to DFO.

An operational requirement of only 5 years is totally unsatisfactory and indicates the lack of importance Ottawa DFO places on the conservation of Nova Scotia's Atlantic salmon. Minimum stocking levels were not part of the divestiture requirements.

We do not expect any participant in the divestiture process to be able to raise the $500,000 per year required to operate the three Nova Scotia hatcheries. If federal funding is supplied, we see no savings to the taxpayer over DFO's existing operations.

Recent articles in the Globe & Mail and the Canadian Geographic which are enclosed, call into question the scientific integrity and ethical standards of senior DFO bureaucrats.

The entire divestiture process troubles our association and we would ask that you immediately place this DFO initiative under close scrutiny for any breach of proper process and possible abrogation of responsibility by all involved.

We look forward to your response in this matter. Thank you.

Yours respectfully,

[Original signed by David Dagley]

David Dagley
Secretary

[Queens County Fish & Game Association
Conservation of Fish & Wild Life
P.O. Box 1598
Liverpool, Nova Scotia
B0T 1K0]

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Minister's Response: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

October 1, 1997

Mr. David Dagley
Secretary
Queens County Fish and Game Association
P.O. Box 1598
Liverpool, Nova Scotia
B0T 1K0

Dear Mr. Dagley:

I am pleased to respond to your petition dated June 25, 1997 to Mr. Denis Desautels, Auditor General, regarding divestiture of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' (DFO) hatcheries in Nova Scotia. I appreciate your thoughtful and detailed letter, and the commitment of you and your association towards conservation of Atlantic salmon in Queens County and Nova Scotia in general.

I appreciate also the importance that you place on the contributions of hatcheries to salmon fisheries in Nova Scotia. However, DFO is facing severe budget cuts and we have had to examine all our activities to see where we could reduce expenditures. We decided to divest all the hatcheries in the Maritime Provinces now that closure of most commercial salmon fisheries combined with in-river conservation measures (e.g. retention of grilse only, fly fishing only, catch and release) render additional stocking activities to sustain natural populations generally unnecessary.

Our intent has been to have the hatcheries continue to be operated in much the same manner, and for the same purpose, as they are now. The difference is that DFO would no longer own them or pay the operating costs. Many individuals and organizations who benefit from enhancement, either because there is better fishing or because of economic benefits, have a strong interest in ensuring that the hatcheries continue to be operated. It is these interests that we look to for leadership in helping to ensure that new funding arrangements will result in the continuation of hatchery operations for the benefit of all in the future. There will also be opportunities for those that assume this leadership to have a greater say in the management of our valuable salmon resources.

We have been very fortunate in that interest groups submitted strong proposals to take over all four hatcheries in Nova Scotia, and we are close to finalizing agreements with these groups. I say "fortunate" because the alternative if interest groups do not take over the hatcheries is to declare them surplus and sell them.

In reviewing the comments in your letter, I find nothing which would justify a reversal of the decision to divest DFO hatcheries. I attach for your information the DFO responses to the issues and concerns which were raised in your letter.

So we are proceeding with divestiture of the hatcheries as planned. Our intention is to complete the divestiture process by mid-October, 1997.

Thank you again for writing to the Auditor General in regard to hatchery divestiture.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by David Anderson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans]

David Anderson, P.C., M.P.


DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS (DFO) RESPONSES TO STATEMENTS MADE IN MR. DAVID DAGLEY'S PETITION DATED JUNE 25, 1997 REGARDING DIVESTITURE OF NOVA SCOTIA HATCHERIES

  1. STATEMENT

"At risk are Canada's Atlantic salmon hatcheries which represent (in capital value) more than $40 million of public funds, and equally important, over 129 years of operational funding developing the technology and corporate knowledge represented by the world-leading wild Atlantic salmon hatchery program."

DFO Response

DFO will be divesting ownership of eight (8) hatcheries in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (DFO will retain ownership of the ninth hatchery at Mactaquac, New Brunswick). The $40 million figure cited by Mr. Dagley is probably the cost to replace all the DFO hatcheries by building new facilities at current prices. The appraised real estate value of the eight hatcheries is less than $4 million, not $40 million.

  1. STATEMENT

"Levels of multi-sea-winter (MSW) large Atlantic salmon (the most important for egg production) have been precipitously declining for over 30 years, with no sign of recovery from this trend. Federal Atlantic salmon hatcheries are the only proven method of selectively increasing the proportion of MSW salmon in a stock.

DFO Response

It is true that numbers of MSW salmon have declined over several decades, however there is no evidence to show that artificial breeding and hatchery introductions influence the stage of maturity in natural spawning populations. It is also true that hatchery smolts from MSW salmon parents beget proportionately more MSW salmon than grilse parents, but this may be at the expense of the wild populations. One example is the selection that has taken place in the LaHave River, Nova Scotia, where many or most of the MSW salmon were removed and used as hatchery broodstock. During the period of colonization of the LaHave River above Morgan Falls, when returning hatchery and wild MSW salmon were selected for broodstock, the proportion of MSW adults in wild salmon returns has decreased.

  1. STATEMENT

"Incredibly, there was no clause in the "Call for Expression of Interest" that after 5 years would allow DFO to resume control of the hatcheries for either present or unseen stock conservation or restoration needs, or in the event that the operator is not fulfilling the intent of the agreement."

DFO Response

DFO had two options for divesting the hatcheries. The first option was to declare the properties surplus and sell them using standard government procedures. The second option was to try to divest the hatcheries to interest groups whose major interest was to continue producing fish for enhancement.

Our preference was to try to divest the hatcheries to interest groups (second option); if this was not successful, we would declare them surplus and sell them. DFO worked with Treasury Board to establish the criteria for allowing not-for-profit interest groups to take over the hatcheries for a nominal sum. The five year period after which the interest groups would assume title of the property was justified because the groups would have paid five years of operating costs. This amount equaled or exceeded the appraised value of the hatchery in each case.

  1. STATEMENT

"The hatchery program, in addition to a positive benefit/cost ratio, has made invaluable contributions to river-specific wild salmon rebuilding and restoration programs, and played a major role in the 1980's development of the Maritime $100 million salmon farming industry and the substantial tax base it supports."

DFO Response

It is difficult to analyze the benefit/cost ratio of the hatchery program as a whole. These ratios are easier to determine on a river-by-river basis. In some cases, hatchery stocking has resulted in important contributions to total adult returns to individual rivers (e.g. the LaHave river in Nova Scotia), while in others the costs have exceeded benefits. However, most of the benefits of hatchery stocking come from increased fishing opportunities rather than from contributions to salmon conservation. It is for this reason that DFO wants to transfer the responsibility for operating the hatcheries to those who benefit most from hatchery stocking. DFO will use other less costly management measures for conservation of Atlantic salmon.

While the hatchery program played an important role in development of the salmon aquaculture industry through transfer of fish rearing technology to the private sector and by providing seedstock during the early stages, the aquaculture industry is now self-sufficient in both respects and no longer needs assistance from DFO.

  1. STATEMENT

"Approximately 50 percent of the Atlantic salmon angled each year in Nova Scotia come from the hatchery program."

DFO Response

The 50 percent figure seems high but it is true that the contribution to the salmon angling fishery in Nova Scotia by the hatchery program is significant. This is the case also on Prince Edward Island, where 90 percent or more of the angled fish originate from hatchery stocking. In some Nova Scotia rivers (i.e. Clyde, Mersey) the entire fishery is based on fish originating from the hatchery program because the habitat is too acid to sustain natural reproduction.

It is because a high percentage of the angled fish are from hatchery origin that DFO wants to divest the hatcheries to people (recreational fishers) that benefit most from the hatchery program.

  1. STATEMENT

Based on the Public Works Canada statement in its divestiture newspaper ad (copy enclosed) "The Government of Canada wishes to devolve itself from the operation of the fish hatcheries", the next target of this process will likely be British Columbia's federal salmon hatcheries, irrespective of their importance to current wild stock rebuilding programs.

DFO Response

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans currently plans to continue the Pacific Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP), including hatchery operations. However, the department is under pressure to meet federal government budget reduction targets. Over the past few years, budgets and operations have been reviewed to ensure that the funds are spent as wisely as possible. This has resulted in funding reductions in several SEP operational areas as well as withdrawal of funds from several hatchery operations. The programs which have been affected are those which contribute the least to conservation and stock-rebuilding and/or are the least productive/effective facilities. Local community and volunteer groups have been successful in continuing the operation of several hatcheries.

  1. STATEMENT

Previous Fisheries Minister Hon. Fred Mifflin recently restored $3 million in funding to B.C.'s federal hatchery budget, stating that current hatchery programs were too important to current stock rebuilding programs to risk cutting them.

DFO Response

Funding for the Pacific Salmonid Enhancement Program was not restored by Minister Mifflin, rather the $3 million budget reduction proposed for the 1997-1998 fiscal year was deferred to a later date, which has yet to be determined. This decision was due to Minister Mifflin's recognition of the importance of hatchery production and other enhancement activities as contributors to the department's overall salmon management program. Decisions regarding the timing of the federal budget reductions related to the SEP are under review.

  1. STATEMENT

"Inexplicably, with stocks of MSW large Atlantic salmon at an all-time low, and some river stocks threatened with extinction, all funding for Atlantic salmon hatcheries and their programs aimed at stock conservation and restoration is slated to stop in 1997."

DFO Response

It is true that many stocks and MSW salmon are at low levels. However, these levels have occurred regardless of the hatchery program that has been in place for so many years. Also, some of the healthiest Atlantic salmon stocks are in Northumberland Strait rivers which receive no hatchery stocking.

  1. STATEMENT

"DFO may be withholding the true conservation issues in Nova Scotia from other Departments."

DFO Response

The responsibility for conservation of fisheries resources rests squarely with DFO under the Fisheries Act; the federal Department of Environment does not share in this responsibility. We take our responsibility for fisheries resource conservation very seriously, and believe that we are not abdicating this responsibility by divesting the hatcheries. We also have a very transparent system of fisheries management, that we willingly discuss with other federal departments when questions arise.

  1. STATEMENT

"Recently, both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have endorsed the use of Canadian-style conservation hatcheries for the restoration of wild salmon stocks, and several successful programs are underway in the Snake R., a tributary to the Columbia River.

DFO Response

DFO has carefully monitored USA Pacific salmon enhancement programs in Washington, Oregon and California states, including the Snake River, because of their relevance to some Canadian hatchery programs. Recent contributions of hatchery fish to adult returns in these states appear to be declining, and some USA scientists are questioning whether the cost of current hatchery programs is justifiable. Hence, these programs are not as successful as they first appeared to be.

  1. STATEMENT

"Yet Canada is going to abandon its Atlantic salmon hatcheries when stocks of MSW large Atlantic salmon—of critical importance to egg production—are at their most depleted state ever."

DFO Response

See Item #7 above

  1. STATEMENT

"Nova Scotia has felt the impact of acid rain more than any province in Canada and is the only region in North America where entire rivers have been acidified by pollution. Of the 60 rivers in the province's Southern Upland region, where waters have been badly damaged by acid rain, salmon populations are extinct in 14 rivers and reduced by 90 percent in 20 rivers."

DFO Response

Acid rain is a relatively recent phenomenon, and the Department has used some of the production from one hatchery to compensate for reduced salmon production in rivers in Southwest Nova Scotia where the highest levels of acidity were detected. However, conservation of the salmon in those rivers affected by acid rain depends more on reducing the release of industrial gases that cause acid rain, than stocking fish raised in hatcheries. I believe Canada has a good record of negotiating reduced emissions of harmful gases from industries in Canada and the United States, and we look forward to a steady improvement of Nova Scotia rivers relative to their acidity.

  1. STATEMENT

"DFO has clearly stated that, based on the recent program review, conservation is a core DFO role and responsibility. Further, in his 1994 report on the Fraser River Sockeye, John Fraser (Canada's Ambassador to the Environment) stated that DFO has the constitutional authority for conservation and cannot delegate it."

DFO Response

DFO is not delegating its responsibility for conservation of Atlantic salmon by divesting the hatcheries in the Maritime Provinces. We will continue to conserve Atlantic salmon resources through use of appropriate management measures. Hatchery programs represent only one of several different options available to resource managers, and it is our view that salmon resources can be managed effectively (and hence conserved) without hatchery stocking.

  1. STATEMENT

"Sometimes major federal-provincial agreements are discarded, i.e. the Tom Siddon—John Leefe agreement to keep the Atlantic Salmon hatcheries operating federally in Nova Scotia."

DFO Response

The "agreement" between former DFO Minister Siddon and Mr. Leefe was not a formal agreement per se, but a statement to Mr. Leefe in the 1980s at a time when DFO was reviewing the effectiveness of its hatchery program. Minister Siddon made the statement sincerely, and he could not be expected to anticipate the significant changes since then in the way the federal government operates. DFO cannot be expected to be bound by informal statements by previous Ministers when major program changes have to be made in the national interest (e.g. reducing Canada's deficit). Also, Minister Siddon made the statement before the federal government spent millions of dollars to buy out most of the commercial salmon fishing licenses in Atlantic Canada. This management measure was designed to increase the return of adult salmon to home rivers for conservation purposes.

  1. STATEMENT

"Depending on the river stock, hatcheries produce significant returns of MSW salmon, hence are producing fish for conservation, not just enhancement as Ottawa bureaucrats are falsely claiming.

DFO Response

It is true that hatcheries are producing significant numbers of MSW salmon, but their contribution to conservation remains to be verified. However, hatchery and wild salmon returns are treated as equals in stock assessments.

  1. STATEMENT

"... DFO's own stock assessment biologists in their April 1997 stock status reports (see enclosed) have documented that a substantial proportion of the spawning conservation requirement in Nova Scotia rivers is being met by the hatchery program (e.g. 32 percent in the LaHave River)."

DFO Response

Hatchery stocking would appear to be making a significant contribution towards achieving the spawning escapement requirement in several Nova Scotia rivers, particularly during this period of low marine survival. However, we expect that the hatchery contribution will be less important to meeting conservation requirements in these rivers when marine survival improves.

  1. STATEMENT

"Please also note the Inner Bay of Fundy Report which demonstrates the important role the hatcheries are playing in the recovery of two endangered stocks - the Gaspereau and Annapolis rivers, where conservation requirements are not expected to be met for at least 10 years.

DFO Response

Regarding the Gaspereau and Annapolis River stocks, these are not Inner Bay of Fundy stocks. The Annapolis River and Gaspereau Rivers are limited by fish passage efficiency and habitat. The objective of hatchery stocking in the Gaspereau River is to provide fishing opportunities, and to accelerate the recovery of the stocks. Combined with improvements in fish passage, one of the objectives of hatchery supplementation in these two rivers is to accelerate recovery to self-sustaining population levels.

In regard to the Inner Bay of Fundy stocks, hatchery stocking is not considered a viable option to hedge against extinction of the wild stocks in view of the high marine mortality of wild fish.

  1. STATEMENT

"The three maritime provincial fisheries ministers made a request that Ottawa continue to operate all salmon hatcheries, but due to federal economics, provided a reasonable compromise request (letter attached) of at least one federal hatchery per province to insure DFO's continued capability to carry out its remedial and conservation role in the management of the Atlantic salmon fisheries."

DFO Response

Former Minister Mifflin met with the three provincial fisheries minister's in Ottawa, but was not convinced that there were reasons to justify changing DFO's decision to divest the hatcheries. Minister Mifflin made no commitment at that meeting to retain any of the hatcheries.

  1. STATEMENT

During the 1980s, DFO entered into many partnership agreements with client conservation groups to access millions of dollars to modernize and enlarge the federal hatcheries to expand conservation programs and to mitigate for the effects of acid rain.

DFO Response

As indicated in Item # 13 above, DFO was operating in the late 1980s on the assumption that the hatchery program would be maintained for the long term. Changes to this position were brought about primarily as a result of the Program Review in 1995. DFO staff could not anticipate these changes, nor the impact they would have on DFO's hatchery program in the Maritime Provinces.

  1. STATEMENT

The need for federal hatchery conservation and mitigation programs has not changed. Apparently DFO's mandate for conservation has not changed either. Perhaps the solution would be a transfer of the $500,000 yearly Nova Scotia hatcheries cost from DFO's science branch to the operations branch which strongly supports hatcheries and operates the $27 million Pacific salmon hatchery program.

DFO Response

I am quite satisfied with the way that Science Sector has dealt with the hatchery issue, and see no advantage to transferring responsibility for hatcheries to another Sector in DFO.

  1. STATEMENT

"Why isn't a uniform hatchery policy in place for all of Canada?"

DFO Response

Using salmon production from hatcheries to enhance wild salmon stocks has been one component of the integrated management strategies for both Atlantic and Pacific salmon. However, the species involved, the types of river systems, the different rearing cycles, the different fishing practices and the status of individual stocks make it impossible to have a uniform national policy on hatcheries. Fisheries management on the west and east coasts operate independently of each other in terms of salmon resources and hatchery production. Also see items #6 and #7 above.

  1. STATEMENT

"Divested hatcheries are not supposed to be involved in conservation programs; many existing programs could be at risk."

DFO Response

It is true that DFO does not intend to use divested hatcheries in salmon conservation programs. Conservation will be ensured by use of other management measures such as changes in fishing seasons and catch limits, catch-and-release fishing, etc. as required. Also see Items #2, #4, and #13 above.

  1. STATEMENT

"Nova Scotia Power has not entered into property and water lease negotiations as yet for the Mersey hatchery, a basic stipulation of the divestiture plan."

DFO Response

Negotiations pertaining to property and water lease agreements, between Nova Scotia Power and the consortium that wants to take over Mersey Hatchery, are ongoing and are expected to be successful.

  1. STATEMENT

"If some of these facilities are divested, to protect the public interest there should be clauses in the contracts to allow the government of Canada to recover the facilities if their operation becomes unsatisfactory to DFO."

DFO Response

DFO and Treasury Board developed an acceptable procedure for non-profit interest groups to take over DFO hatcheries for a nominal sum. The procedure is designed to protect the public interest for a period of five years, and give the interest groups reasonable rights to the property in order to secure the necessary investment to take over the hatcheries. DFO has followed these procedures precisely.

  1. STATEMENT

"We do not expect any participant in the divestiture process to be able to raise the $500,000 per year required to operate the three Nova Scotia Hatcheries.

DFO Response

DFO is in the final stages of negotiating a business plan prepared by a consortium named Salmon Care to take over Mersey, Cobequid and Coldbrook Hatcheries in Nova Scotia. A second group, ADAM, is leasing Margaree Hatchery in Nova Scotia until they take over the facility in January, 1998. The proposals and business plans prepared by Salmon Care and ADAM meet all the requirements established for take-over of the hatcheries.