Transcript: Standing Committee on Fisheries & Oceans (Rashid Sumaila)

This is an extract from Dr. Rashid Sumaila’s presentation to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The full text can be found at, and the full audio can be found at

Audio Transcript of Dr. Sumaila’s statements:

Standing Committee on Fisheries & Oceans

#065 | 1st Session | 42nd Parliament

Dr. Rashid Sumaila (Professor, Fisheries Economics Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, As an Individual):
Mr. Chair, I want to start by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to share some of our work and the work of colleagues around the world on marine protected areas. I specialize in the economics of the oceans and fisheries. We develop bioeconomics models. We do evaluations. We look at internal issues and policy issues like fishery subsidies and illegal fishing. In all of this our goal is to see how economics can integrate with other disciplines like biology to help us manage our fisheries into the future for the benefit of all Canadians, born and unborn.

I thought I should start with the economic benefits, because you probably have heard a lot about biological benefits. One of the key things we talk about in the economics literature is the insurance value of marine protected areas because, in general, we don’t know everything about the ocean. There’s uncertainty. There’s risk. We make mistakes. The economics literature argues that it’s good to put some of the oceans portfolio in a protected area in case of shocks and mistakes. Think of this as your retirement insurance. You don’t want to put everything in one stock or in one class of assets; you want to spread them out to help you. Diversification is one of the reasons. The other one is resiliency. Papers are coming out. On June 5, we published a paper where we showed that protected areas could mitigate climate change effects if you have enough of them in your waters.

Many countries have done this because it enhances tourism values. Eighty per cent of Palau’s waters is now protected and tourism values are just zooming because all the live creatures are there, whales and so on. That’s another reason.

Finally, fisheries values is where I think we have a bit of an issue because there is a short-term cost to fisheries if you put in an MPA. Some efficient effort has to be made to move and change. This is where most of the resistance comes from. The literature shows that in the medium-term and long-term the benefits are quite high, higher than the short-term cost. The problem is how to deal with the short-term cost.

To give you one key piece of a report that came out from the Scottish government, recently they made a report about the potential socio-economic cost of MPAs before they implemented them. In March of this year they came out with a report looking at the consequences, and they found their fears of the cost of implementing MPAs did not come true. I can share the reference with you later.

How can Canada make progress in this area? I think we are around 1% or 1.5%, and the goal is 10% by 2020. Before I came here, I looked around the world to see which countries have achieved this and more. We have countries like the U.K., the U.S.A., Palau as I mentioned, and Chile have gone over 10%. How did they do this? I saw two types of strategies. One is to create large marine protected areas in remote parts of the ocean where there’s little or no fishing. The other is there is a situation where you create small MPAs where fishing takes place. In the case of the first, that has turned out to be not difficult to do because you are not displacing people. You are not losing economic value. The U.S.A. is a good example of that. Both George Bush and Barack Obama did this. That is one strategy Canada could possibly use. In that case you can have a top-up, top-down approach. The government can find a place where they can say to do it, and there won’t be much resistance.

In the second case, if you do small MPAs in fishing areas, you really need a bottom-up approach. You have to deal with the community, work with the fishers, find ways to soften their short-term costs so we can all get these high-level benefits later. We also see our leadership is really important. You have a leader who knows that the medium-term and long-term are better for the country and really pushes the nation to do it. Again Obama, the President of Palau, the Prime Minister of Chile, and the U.K. have done this, and they’ve been quite successful.

The last point, specifically about the Oceans Act and MPAs in Canada, is I see no kinds of stipulations or deadlines, and this usually makes them slip. If we want this to work, we’ll need to put in some deadlines to help the system to move toward achieving the goals.

It’s difficult, actually, to go from community to community, even though that would be the best thing to do. If we want to have movement, we may have to have some minimum standards that can be applied to places and coasts around the country, and very quickly.

My final comment is about that paper I mentioned, published through PNAS, which found that to make this successful, to get the benefits, your MPAs have to be large. I know the big question is about how large. Recently Callum Roberts of the U.K. did a study where he looked at the whole literature. The consensus in the literature is about 30%—we are now looking for 10%—in order to achieve the benefits fully. It has to be well managed, of course. Paper parks don’t work. It has to be there for many years, because fish don’t grow in minutes, right? Most of them don’t.

I urge you to keep this in mind as you help Canada create a policy for marine protected areas in the country.

Thank you very much.