As It Happens

Ottawa goes on a fish scientist hiring binge

The 135 new jobs at Fisheries and Oceans Canada don't make up for the 310 positions cut under the Conservatives. But one former government research scientist hails it as a good start.
Scientists set-up a raft with one of a series of micro-meterological stations on a lake. (The Canadian Press/Experimental Lakes Area)

Here's something that Canadian fish scientists haven't read in a while: "Help wanted."

This is the problem. There's so much that needs to be done, where do you start?- Michael Rennie, former DFO scientist

The Conservatives cut 310 positions at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. But now the Liberal government has announced it is reinvesting $20 million in the department — and hiring 135 people.

Michael Rennie, a former DFO scientist, is now a professor at Lakehead University. (

"I thought it was great news," Michael Rennie, a former government research scientist, tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "Really, it's a department that suffered horrific cuts since 2012, so the need for reinvestment was there."

Rennie is now a Canada Research Chair at Lakehead University who works with the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).

Tracy Groenewegen (R) and Pam Godin are painted by Kristaps Balodis as they protest the federal cuts to the Experimental Lakes Area in Gimli, Manitoba in 2012. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The Conservatives ceased federal funding of the ELA, a world-renowned research facility in northern Ontario. It became the centre of a battle over funding of freshwater research.

It is now funded by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the governments of Ontario and Manitoba.

A lake, part of the 8th year of the wetland reservoir (Experimental Lakes Area Reservoir Project), is shown in this undated handout photo. (The Canadian Press/Experimental Lakes Area)

Rennie says having the 135 new federal researchers and biologists on staff to do monitoring and stock assessments of Canada's fish and marine species will help rebuild the science capacity "taken apart" under the previous government.

Springer the killer whale swims with her calf near Bella Bella, B.C., in this undated handout photo. (The Canadian Press/Cetacean Research Program)

But he acknowledges that there is still much more he and others would like to see invested in, beyond today's commitment by Ottawa.

"This is the problem," he says. "There's so much that needs to be done, where do you start?"

For more on this story, take a listen to our full interview with Michael Rennie.