Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act

An Act respecting a Commission of Inquiry into the development and implementation of a national fishery rebuilding strategy for fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Ryan Cleary  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Dec. 14, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment mandates the Governor in Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry to study the development and implementation of a rebuilding strategy for fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Dec. 14, 2011 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

December 8th, 2011 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, I will pick up where I left off last time, about a month ago. My colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl has proposed a very worthwhile bill. My colleagues in the Conservative Party have said that the collapse of the ocean fishery has already been studied and the federal government has already done all it can to restore the fish stocks that have collapsed. If that is really the case, the cod and other fish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence would not be in danger or have almost completely collapsed. We know that the groundfish stocks, such as cod and ocean perch, are already considered to have collapsed. Their recovery prospects in the medium term are fairly poor, at best.

The cod population in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence is at its lowest level in 61 years of monitoring and is still declining. The mature cod population from 2008 to 2010 is estimated to be, on average, 37% of the average level observed from the mid-1990s to the end of that decade, and 10% of the average level in the mid-1980s.

Since 2009, there has been no cod fishery in the region because of a third moratorium imposed on catching cod in the southern gulf.

How can we rectify the huge mistakes that caused this catastrophe? We have to start with an inquiry, as the bill proposes. That will give us the scientific, ecological, economic and social information we need in order to rectify our mistakes, to undo the ineffective and often destructive fisheries management policies that the federal government has imposed on fishers.

An inquiry would allow us to understand the big picture, the economic, social, political, and scientific aspects of the fisheries collapse, which is without a doubt the biggest catastrophe that Atlantic Canada has ever faced.

We do know some of the causes of the fisheries collapse: overfishing, caused by a lack of essential scientific information needed to understand the true health of the fish species in the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystems; overfishing, caused by weak international laws that allow fishers from other countries to decimate fish stocks with impunity; climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and rampant urbanization, which has led to changes in water temperature and water acidification; and many other forms of human intervention that have damaged the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystems.

When settlers first came to the coast 500 years ago, cod was so plentiful that sailors could scoop them up into their ships with buckets. The cod fishery is one of the mainstays of the economy of the Maritimes, including the Gaspé Peninsula and the Madeleine Islands, and it was one of the main reasons for settlement.

As recently as the 1940s, cod fishers were landing between 300,000 and 600,000 tonnes of cod per year. Then in the 1990s, the federal government banned cod fishing in response to the collapse of the cod fishery. By 1993, all Canadian cod fishing was banned. Today, in 2011, no real solution to the devastation of the cod fishery has been either proposed or implemented.

In the Gaspé and the Madeleine Islands, the loss of the cod fishery has been devastating. Not only were cod and other groundfish the mainstay of the economy in the region, cod was also a cornerstone of Gaspé culture, as exemplified by the tradition of cod curing, so famous to the region that it became known as the Gaspé cure.

The Gaspé Cure is the result of a drying method that is made possible by the climate on the coast of the Baie des Chaleurs, a dry, windy climate that provides ideal conditions for sun-drying cod.

Today, the Gaspé Cured company continues this century-old tradition that has been passed down over the years. The company has established a major processing plant in Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé, one of the places in the Gaspé where fishing is most active.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, cod fishing has been the backbone of the Quebec fisheries, in both the Gaspé Peninsula and the Magdalen Islands. As a result, the community had become heavily dependent on these resources. However, the moratorium and the decline in total allowable catch have affected it severely.

In 1985, there were nearly 1,700 groundfish licences in Quebec, and more than 3,300 fishers and fisher's helpers were engaged in the cod fishery. At that time, the total cod landed values were in the order of $18 million. In 2002, there were fewer than 1,000 groundfish licences. In total, for all of Quebec, the number of active cod fishers and fisher's helpers was estimated at 1 150 in 2002 for landings of a total value of only $3 million.

Nearly half of those fishers are found in the Gaspé Peninsula. The sustainability of many coastal communities that depend on fishing is under threat at present.

This way of life in my riding is threatened in large part because of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' rules and regulations. Thanks to the department's questionable conservation policies, and thanks to its foot-dragging when it comes to taking real action on overfishing, the fisheries of the east coast have been mismanaged almost to the point of annihilation.

The minister said no to an inquiry into the state of the fish stocks in Newfoundland, even though federal management of the fisheries has clearly been a failure. An inquiry into the reasons for this failure is long overdue.

The minister's refusal to allow the inquiry has an impact beyond the borders of Newfoundland. This mismanagement that destroyed the Newfoundland fisheries has either destroyed or severely damaged many of the fisheries in my constituency also. When an Atlantic fishery collapses, it does not affect only one province; it impacts all of the regions that are part of the species' habitat.

The commission of inquiry called for by Bill C-308 would provide Canadians with a rare but crucial resource needed to rebuild the east coast fishery: clear and accurate information based on the experience of independent scientific experts, fishers and other stakeholders who rely on the Atlantic fisheries.

I urge the government to recognize the national importance of the Atlantic fisheries and pass the bill. I also urge the government to recognize the importance of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence to all Canadians.

By passing Bill C-308, the government will finally open the door to creating a sustainable Atlantic fishing economy throughout Atlantic Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

December 8th, 2011 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-308, the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery rebuilding act.

I would like to thank my colleague for introducing Bill C-308, which prompted this important discussion to take place on fisheries rebuilding; however, I will not be supporting this piece of legislation nor will the government.

With respect to the content of Bill C-308, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has already taken significant steps to rebuild cod stocks, including strict conservation measures, expanded scientific research, and are working on longer term strategies. Since the announcement of the moratorium in the 1990s, the government has been working with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to address these challenges. Action teams have been established between the Government of Canada and each of the maritime provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador.

These teams were asked to develop cod recovery strategies, which they did. On November 14, 2005, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador action team for cod rebuilding presented the strategy for the recovery and management of cod stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador. This strategy was developed through extensive consultations with a variety of stakeholders, including industry, academia, conservation groups and local communities.

This broad representation ensured that proposed rebuilding objectives and strategies were realistic and took into consideration conservation requirements, plus social, cultural and economic considerations. In some cases, external advisory committees were established with representation from a variety of experts and stakeholders to further assist the cod action team.

However, we all realize the impacts that the events of the 1992 cod collapse have had on the people in the fishery and in rural parts of Atlantic Canada are fully recognized. As the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl puts it, “The fishery is broken. The fishery is in perpetual crisis. The fishery can still be fixed. But it cannot be fixed without the facts”.

An inquiry can only reveal what we already know, the fish stocks were decimated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We are all still recovering from the tragic collapse of the fishery on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador. To recover these fish stocks, we need to dedicate the resources we have to the task of rehabilitating the fish stocks, not to finding blame and throwing accusations.

Our government has fostered an open door policy for proponents to discuss solutions and to make recommendations. Through consultations and through working groups, we have been listening and will continue to listen. Having worked their local fishing grounds for generations, these fish harvesters have an intimate knowledge of their local conditions.

As many know, groundfish are still being harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, 4,300 groundfish licences were issued in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2010. Last year almost 40 tonnes, $52 million worth of groundfish were harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. That includes more than 12 tonnes of cod.

The government recognizes that these numbers have been historically much higher. Our government has met with stakeholder and industry representatives. It comes as no surprise that there are significant and systemic challenges facing today's commercial fishing industry.

The fishing industry is going through fundamental changes, driven by significant and unprecedented shifts in global economics, consumer demand, technology and, of course, conservation and environmental realities.

Fisheries policy decisions have favoured the short-term rather than the longer view. Some of these policies have limited growth, curtailed efficiencies and, frankly, made little sense in terms of the conservation of fish stocks.

It has become all the more evident that we must modernize our practices, policies and regulations to remove unnecessary barriers to industry growth, global competitiveness, and fish stock conservation in the 21st century.

My colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl knows enough about fisheries to understand that rebuilding fish stocks is extremely complex. There are many factors that need to be examined and there are several challenges to be faced. Sacrifices have been made and will continue to be required in order to rebuild Atlantic fish populations.

Since the cod collapse in the early 1990s, the government has made significant changes in the way it manages fisheries, not just in Newfoundland and Labrador but from coast to coast to coast. Challenges such as the cod collapse have become drivers for the development of sound, science-based decision-making practices, and fisheries management decisions incorporating ecosystem considerations and the precautionary approach to ensure the future of Canada's fisheries.

The current ongoing scientific research may help further define the known causes that may have contributed to the collapse of the groundfish stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The degree of accuracy with which possible outcomes can be predicted would not be increased by shifting funding from the research currently being done to the management of an inquiry.

A moderate fisheries management framework would enable us to focus on maximizing value and quality of output rather than quantity. Our goal would be to establish a coherent management system that would benefit individual fishermen and industry stakeholders in both the short-term and long-term.

Changes in fisheries management practices in Newfoundland and Labrador are reinforced by measures taken by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization. These changes address long-standing challenges and opportunities associated with the management of international straddling fish stocks. A significant change has been to identify stock rebuilding as one of NAFO's main objectives.

In fact, Canada's leadership at NAFO has led to the implementation of a number of innovative plans for the recovery of stocks currently under moratorium, and to rebuild other fragile stocks based on scientific advice and the precautionary principle.

In October, I have been informed that my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl quoted Rex Murphy's article, “Newfoundland is a province in denial”, in which Mr. Murphy offered some advice to our colleagues across the way.

We can assure him that we are working with the province to build policy that is more than about oil and more than about fighting with the federal government.

The purpose of Bill C-308 is to launch an inquiry into the collapse and recovery status of Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries. An inquiry is not the path toward a competitive Canadian economy. An inquiry will not look at solutions that would help Canada strive in these times of fiscal restraint.

This government, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is rolling out a transformative agenda that would carry us forward toward international competitiveness and prosperity for Canadians.

The commission of inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in British Columbia is looking into improving the sustainability of the fishery, fisheries management policies, practices and procedures, and the factors influencing the management of this stock, including environmental changes and marine conditions.

These are areas that are already being examined and monitored in the Atlantic.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada was a key contributor to the Cohen commission of inquiry in British Columbia and continues to support the work of the commission. Recommendations made with respect to management of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River will be reviewed and will be considered in fisheries management decisions as they apply across Canada.

Implementing market-based approaches to fisheries management has proven successful. Other countries, and even some fisheries in Canada, have adopted change and, as a result, have seen flexible, market-oriented fishing seasons, improved product quality, increased economic value, a decline in instances of overfishing, and improved safety.

I believe strongly that with some changes at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canada's fishing industry has the potential to generate much more value. We will see the department untangle and standardize rules and processes.

We must increase transparency for decision-making and strengthen environmental sustainability in Canadian and international waters to ensure Canada's distinguished international reputation as a source for the finest sustainable seafood in the world.

Our government believes that the private sector is the driver of the Canadian economy, but we certainly have a regulatory role in this particular industry. We will continue to engage industry and stakeholders to work together toward a solution and respond to these complex and interrelated challenges.

The government is making the necessary investment to protect Canadians and create jobs now, while laying a strong foundation for long-term economic growth.

Our actions have already included providing to fish harvesters the same lifetime capital gains exemption enjoyed by farmers and small business owners and supporting coastal communities, through regulatory initiatives in support of the aquaculture sector and through investments in small craft harbours.

Canada is 144 years young and yet we have barely scratched the surface of our full potential, be it here at home or on the international scene. This is a country that is just brimming with confidence. It is strong, united, peaceful and prosperous. It is a Canada that will accept no limits, no bounds, and no ceiling to its great future. We are simply the best country in the world. Its unbeatable spirit has been leading us out of the global recession in the best position in the world.

Given these ongoing efforts, a judicial inquiry would represent a costly and duplicative exercise that would simply reinforce the need to continue focusing our efforts productively on future opportunities for Canada's fisheries and the Canadian economy.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

December 8th, 2011 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be standing here once again to talk about something that is certainly a topic of discussion in my riding, which is probably the understatement of the night. Northeastern Newfoundland is predominantly my riding, as well as central Newfoundland or, as the fishermen like to call it, parts of 2J, 3K, 3L.

I would like to commend my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl for bringing this bill forward. I have the honour of being one of the seconders of this legislation and it may come as no surprise that I speak in favour of it.

I have a few comments about the earlier speaker. I understand the intentions of wanting to create the right markets and the situations by which our harvesters can get more value from the occupation that they have to the point of being able to pass it on to the next generation. However, putting things in the window, like a capital gains tax, is probably not what we want to rely the entire fisheries policy on, given the fact that the value of that catch has decreased so badly that the capital gains tax is probably worth even less than that 1¢ people got off the price of their Tim Hortons coffee this morning.

I do want to talk about stock rebuilding. I bring that up because we did a study with the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, as my colleague across the way, from British Columbia, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, can remember. It was November 2005. We paid visits to eastern Newfoundland, to Bonavista in my riding as well, and Twillingate. In those areas, what we saw and heard was, to me, some surprising testimony about how all the efforts being made to help recover a stock were not showing the results we wanted. Time and again, the stock assessments were showing, in the offshore stock, less than 2% of what they were in the 1980s.

Again, over quite a period of time, from the time of the moratorium when the directed fishery was ended on a mass scale, that was July 1992, until now, we have not seen that recovery. By his own admission, the member who just spoke talked about over 800,000 tonnes of a catch in the late 1960s and now down to 12 tonnes. So we can talk about markets all we want, but this is a question about stock rebuilding and how we go about doing that. Even the Auditor General, a few years ago, pointed out that it has been a dismal failure over the years and therefore we have to look at it. I am not specifically blaming any one particular government. I blame them all, as we should blame ourselves as well.

However, there is one element that the government needs to look at and I think has failed somewhat on this scale. The Conservatives entered into negotiations with NAFO. For anybody who is watching at home or in this House, NAFO is the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the international body that governs the offshore stocks outside of our 200 nautical mile limit. In this particular case, we saw bandying to the point where there was trade and negotiations going on that did not work in our favour, only to find this out after the fact. When the House voted to go against these NAFO agreements, the government went ahead and decided to reverse that and go ahead with this agreement, which I think is a shame, with species such as turbot, not just cod or Greenland halibut as it is called.

However, in the meantime the offshore directed fishery from international fisheries, primarily western Europe and I will not pick out any of the countries as they know who they are, have had their time on the open water. We have seen a lot taken from us in that particular vicinity, not only outside the 200 nautical mile limit but inside the 200 mile limit as well. When I look at the state of the fishery now in the northeast, and again I will restrict my comments to just the northern cod species, we see a small directed fishery taking place. In excess of 2,000 pounds would be the average. We are looking at a recreational fishery isolated to four weeks, three in August and one near the end of September. Right now, we are seeing an overabundance of cod.

I remember when we did the study and we talked about the fact that there was an offshore stock and inshore stock. The science was saying that the offshore stock was quite low. In many cases, the science was saying that the inshore stock was also very low. However, our own fishermen told us that this was not the case.

We have situations now where a bycatch of cod on the inshore becomes drastic. Believe it or not, for many of these fishermen, the cod has become a nuisance species on the inshore. Therefore, when they say that enough studies have been done, I do not agree.

In this case, why do we have a stock that is in danger, overfished, yet on the inshore we have stock in abundance? This past season was a successful season for those who had the small quotas. These are the questions we need to ask and we need to ask them each and every time.

Right now, as members know, we have to take into account elements like climate change and seal populations. The seal population itself has grown exponentially just in the past two or three years, millions upon millions. To this day, even during the study we did in November 2005, there is not an exact science as to how much, or even why, these seals are eating all the biomass of cod. It is incredible. We need to look further into this.

When the government decides it will get to its deficit cutting and budget measures, but announces that the science assessments will be over a three-year period, it is a major mistake.

Stock assessments are on an annual basis and I would argue there should be more than that. It should be done twice a year, or three times a year, or even more, if the science that had been invested in was bad. As Conservatives say, it was bad to begin with, but they said that they would fix it. I remember former minister Loyola Hearn saying much the same, but it did not get much better. In fact, it is much worse as far as the science investment is concerned.

The recommendations of the FRCC show up in our report quite extensively. It is quite incredible. Why would they do this? I remember being on the government side with the Conservatives in opposition. They told us about all these changes that we needed to make. We fell short of these goals, but now it is even worse.

However, we should do this study. The effects of the offshore fishery, the international markets, those people who line up along our 200 nautical miles looking for fish and who are certainly not flying the flag of Canada, needs to be reassessed. We need to reassess the biomass itself across the northeast.

Cod was the king species that sustained a people for hundreds of years. My colleague pointed this out in his speech some time ago, and I will not reiterate. However, where I come from, we all know what it meant to us. Now we find that the king species are the snow crab and shrimp as well, but even those are not near what cod brought us over the generations.

The member is right in the sense that we have to do a more extensive study. The hon. member talked about the studies that had been done in his speech. Not really. The right studies have not been done yet. It takes a vast effort to look at how we can rebuild the species and not just the one species, but ecosystem management itself.

Fishermen, such as George Feltham from Eastport and Rick Kane from Bonavista North, were quoted in this study. They are harvesters, one with a smaller boat and one with a very large vessel. They talked about how they would go out to catch snow crab and shrimp in their nets and find large cod. How is this happening? Within the inshore regions, why do we show high numbers of cod, yet each and every time, northern cod gets close to the endangered species list? Do we know that this is the case?

When fisherman tell me that they went out and it took them three hours of fishing to catch their quota of over 2,000 pounds, and they are not big boats either but it is a lot of fish in a very short period of time, then one has to ask why this has happened. The fact is science is telling us we cannot have the fishery we used to have and that there is a long way to go. Somebody is wrong, and it is not the fishermen who show me the fish on the wharf.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

December 8th, 2011 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-308, Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act. I want to acknowledge my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl for his tireless advocacy for the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries and the people who depend on them.

In July 1992, John Crosbie, the then federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans, called for a moratorium and closed down the northern cod fishery. The cod fishing moratorium was supposed to last two years. We are approaching the 20th anniversary and there is still no rebuilding plan in place.

Newfoundland and Labrador commercial groundfish fisheries have seen little if any recovery since the early 1990s. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador had fished their waters for cod for over 500 years. It was said by British fishing captains in the 1600s, that the cod “was so thick by the shore that we hardly have been able to row a boat through them”.

The cod fishery was the backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador and the closure cost 39,000 people their jobs. It devastated coastal communities, which have yet to recover. This was the largest layoff in Canadian history. Approximately 80,000 people have left Newfoundland and Labrador since the cod fishery collapse.

The East Coast Report, an interim report tabled in the House of Commons by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in 1998, helped to frame the social and economic implications of the collapse of groundfish in Newfoundland and Labrador. Many people who appeared before the committee explained the devastating financial effect of the collapse on their personal lives. In communities across the province, it was clear the way of life that existed for hundreds of years was being lost.

In the same report, witnesses indicated that fishermen in coastal communities had very little confidence in the ability of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to manage the fishery. There were complaints that DFO policy-makers in Ottawa had no grasp on local issues. Further, there were concerns about enforcement, science and foreign fishing. I reference this report and the testimony because several years later we still have not addressed these concerns.

There have been studies on the collapse of the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador over the years. There have been several recommendations made. One of the last reports produced by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was entitled “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management”. The report stated:

Concluding that overfishing was the cause of the collapse of the northern cod stock should not surprise anyone. Others who have studied this issue have come to the same conclusion. However, the Committee felt that it was necessary to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador to fully understand the factors that allowed the “world's greatest fish stock” to be grossly overfished for so many years. In our view, the major factor was clearly mismanagement.

It also concluded that the failure of the northern cod to re-establish itself was a lack of vision and long-term planning.

Nothing has been done with this report. These recommendations have yet to be acted on. There has been very little real analysis as to what has been successful and what has not.

The Conservative government likes to talk about streamlining and modernization, implying that fisheries should be run like a business, but successful businesses create plans with vision, goals and targets. Successful businesses understand the importance of innovation and research. None of this is happening.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans recently stated that “the fishery is broken”. However, rather than implementing the recommendations from the 1998 report and the 2005 report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the government is moving backward and making cuts to the department, including science and enforcement. Instead of putting forward a concrete plan to rebuild the fisheries, the government is determined to move forward with its reckless cuts.

We need to take a serious look at the future of Canada's fisheries and our many coastal communities and their local economies. This bill provides a real opportunity to take a fundamental look at the direction of Canada's fisheries and how we might rebuild our once great fishery.

Hans Rollman, a Newfoundland columnist for The Independent, wrote:

In short, this is not just an inquiry to lay blame for some long-over historical event. This inquiry is about our future. If it does not happen, we will be unprepared, uneducated, and unable to meet the demands and challenges our future world and economy...

It could examine DFO enforcement programs and determine whether they are truly underfunded or ill-equipped to deal with current problems or future problems, like our changing ocean ecosystems. The inquiry could examine the environmental impacts of fishing technologies, the distribution of inshore and offshore quotas, the quota allocation system and allowable catches or limits. It could inform the minister and the department what type or scale of fisheries we would need or how we would move forward to a truly community-based fishery based on co-operative management. It could help us learn how to prevent future collapses or deal with unprecedented changes to our oceans, whether it is climate change, acidification, overfishing, pollution or habitat loss.

All of this could be achieved by doing a serious examination of the greatest fisheries collapse in Canadian history. We owe it to future generations to act now. That is why this bill must pass. Canadians deserve an inquiry that will pose real solutions and rebuild what has been lost. As the bill states:

—the fisheries are a renewable resource which can, with revitalized conservation and management practices, be rebuilt for the benefit of present and future generations and contribute towards the economic growth of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and all of Canada;...

I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-308.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

December 8th, 2011 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to follow my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, our fisheries critic on the bill.

I want to commend the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for bringing forth this private member's bill. It was an extremely important reason of why he ran for Parliament. It was also part of our party's platform in the last election. We called for an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery to talk about a recovery plan.

The story of the collapse of the Newfoundland fishery can be pretty simply told. I want to tell the House about a book which outlines some of the major problems. It is called Distant Water by an American individual named William Warner. He wrote the book in 1983. In the book he talks about the three things that came together that caused the initial devastation of one of the world's, if not the world's, most significant source of protein.

We have to remember that this fishery, which has been going on for 500 years, fed Europe through many centuries. The fishery was not a local fishery. It was a distant water fishery from Portugal, Spain, the Basque country and England. It sustained Europe throughout many centuries and was one of the most significant protein sources in the entire world.

In the fifties and early sixties, three things came together. First, believe it or not, there was a surplus of tankers, so shipyards that made big tankers were suddenly not very busy. Second, flash freezing techniques and plate freezers were invented. Third, the Germans developed a mechanical filleting machine.

The British started developing a distant water fishery from York, followed by East Germans and Russians. Pretty soon there was a huge distant water fleet coming from Spain, Portugal, East Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and even as far east as Asia. This fishery was so efficient and enormously successful that by 1968, and that is the peak year others have mentioned, 800,000 tonnes of cod fish were taken from the north Atlantic.

The subtitle of the book Distant Water is “The Fate of the North Atlantic Fishermen”.

By 1992 the catch rate was way down because the fishery could not sustain it. It is estimated that the biomass of fish that was there could actually sustain 400,000 tonnes per year on an ongoing basis. That is the amount of biomass that was lost not only to Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada but to the world in terms of a food source.

One of the previous speakers talked about 12 tonnes, but I think he meant 12,000 tonnes of cod being caught in the last year. The annual catch is closer to 20,000 tonnes, but that is 20,000 out of a potential 400,000 tonnes.

The question has to be asked, where is the recovery plan? We have a recovery plan for the pine marten and for the British Columbia marmot. Where is the recovery plan for the cod stock that sustained Europe for centuries and Newfoundland fishermen for 500 years? About 40,000 people lost their jobs and their livelihood in 1992 as a result of the cod moratorium. With the recovery potential of 400,000 tonnes and we are up to 12,000 now, there is a long way to go.

The story of how the fishery collapsed is fairly easily told.

What is important about the bill is actually subclause 5(d), which is asking, pertaining to the terms of reference, to develop recommendations for rebuilding and improving the future sustainability of the fish stock including, as required, changes to the policies, procedures, et cetera, and talks about management of boundaries and all of the things my colleague, the fisheries critic, just so eloquently disclosed.

That is all we need. We need a recovery plan. We need some objective, evidence-based report. We had it from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in 2005, talking about fisheries management. The impetus is there.

There needs to be some evidence-based approach. Let us examine the things that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor talked about in terms of the fact that there seems to be recovery in some places. We need to hear from scientists. We need to do a proper job.

It is not good enough for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, as he did here in the House and elsewhere, to say the fishery is broken. We do not say the fishery is broken and then walk away from it, and leave it to private enterprise or private industry. If we have this devastation and this loss of a critical food resource for Canada and the world, we have to do something about it. We do not cut back on science if science is needed to answer the questions.

We have more than a responsibility for the people and fishers of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a moral responsibility as a country to attempt, if it is possible, to regenerate this fish stock for the sake of helping to feed the world and support the people of rural Newfoundland who have lived for generations and centuries on this resource.

The predecessor to the riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, which used to be called St. John's West, is my neighbouring riding. That was the riding that was held by John Crosbie when he was fisheries minister and the moratorium was brought in, in 1992, so it is very fitting that the current member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl is bringing this forth 20 years later, saying, “Where is the plan to recover the stocks”? Twenty years later, we are at 5% of what we were 20 years ago.

Now the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, the successor to Mr. Crosbie, is here telling the Conservatives again, “Where is your plan? Don't just say the fishery is broken, say the fishery has a problem”. There has been a failure to adopt a rebuilding plan. We want to have an inquiry to talk about that, just as we did in British Columbia. The Cohen commission is doing it in British Columbia.

One of the members opposite asked, why would we repeat that on the east coast? There is nobody from Newfoundland to B.C. going to talk about salmon in the Fraser River. We want to talk about cod fish in Newfoundland and Labrador and we want someone to do the same kind of study as is being done in British Columbia, with regard to the value of that fishery and the sustainability of the cod stocks.

The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl said that we have oil right now and it has been very good for our economy. It has been very good for the provincial government's coffers. It has been very good for the federal government's coffers, better for the federal government's coffers, frankly, than it has been for the Newfoundland government's coffers. Any study will show that the benefits to the federal government are greater than the province. That may have changed slightly in recent years, but that is not a forever resource.

What we need to do is examine not why the cod has diminished because overfishing is the issue. Who did it and when is not necessarily what we need to get into. We need to get into how it is going to come back.

I will just leave the House with the fact that the fundamental problem with the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is the lack of fish. That seems pretty basic. The way to answer that problem is not to say that the fishery is broken. It is to say that we need a recovery plan for the species, for the stock, and for the sustainability of Newfoundland and Labrador culture and way of life. It is to provide, as we should, the restoration of a prime source of protein, of food, for Canada and the rest of the world.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

December 8th, 2011 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I very pleased to speak to Bill C-308, a private member's bill presented by my colleague for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, and I am very proud that he has brought forward this bill. I also heard the member for St. John's East, the member from British Columbia and the other government members who spoke to this bill. It is unfortunate that the government opposes this bill.

The members spoke very well on the topic of the bill. They proposed a public inquiry to try to find answers and to restore our fish. I come from northeastern New Brunswick, and I do not have to tell you that my riding is bounded by the ocean, Chaleur Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is the most beautiful riding in Canada. We have the ocean on one side, and the forest on the other. We have everything. But it is unfortunate to see what is happening. I do not want to mix fishing with forestry, but we have lost both our fish and our forest because the paper mills in Miramichi, Bathurst, Dalhousie and New Richmond have been closed. The primary sector has fallen.

Who would have thought that this would happen? All the fishermen said that they once had fish in abundance. I remember going to the Shippagan harbour with my parents when I was very young, and the people working at the plant were walking around with wheelbarrows full of fish. Cod were falling off every side. There was fish in abundance. What is going on now? There are no more. It was closed in 1992, as my colleague for St. John's Eastsaid when talking about Mr. Crosbie, the former Minister of Fisheries. I have never been a fisherman, and my family has never been a family of fishermen. I was a miner and worked underground, but not far from the ocean. I was about 2,300 feet underground and had nothing to do with the ocean.

However, when I became a union representative in 1988, I started to get involved in the fishing industry and began working with the employees of fish plants in the Acadian peninsula. That is where I saw the damage that occurred in the communities when the groundfish fishery was eliminated in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

I have read newspaper articles when the media has covered this subject. They used words like “managed annihilation”, “the biggest failure of Confederation”, “national embarrassment” and “national disgrace”.

The collapse of the cod fishery off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador two decades ago is now considered a legendary environmental and economic disaster. I would go further and say that it affected not only Newfoundland and Labrador, but the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence and every other Atlantic province. It was a national disaster.

“An inquiry would reveal telling similarities with agriculture—small coastal fisheries are equivalent to the family farm, and the big freezer trawlers are the ocean's equivalent to the mega-farm. Such an analysis would inevitably lead to the realization—which is always the case when people band together—that in one way or another, we are all in the same boat. It is not surprising that the Conservative government is not taking the request for an inquiry by the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP seriously.” That was an excerpt from an article written by Helen Forsey, published in the November edition of The Monitor, a publication by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

I could read aloud a lot of other newspaper articles were journalists have picked apart these issues.

Perhaps the bill should go further. There should not be an inquiry only in Newfoundland, but also in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In fact, there should be an inquiry in every Atlantic province to determine what went on.

The member for St. John's East is right; we do not want to accuse anybody. The fish are no longer there, period. Fishers and scientists need to work together to find solutions to bring the fishery back to the Atlantic.

We are talking about resources, food and jobs for these people. Rather than calling them a bunch of lazy slackers who do not want to work, like the member for Madawaska—Restigouche did by saying that too many people remain jobless in order to get employment insurance, why does the government not hold a public inquiry to get people back to work?

In my riding, people worked up to 35 weeks a year in the groundfish fishery, including crab, cod, and redfish. These are hard-working people, men and women who used to get up in the morning to go to work. What happened is unfortunate.

If the government wants to do something positive and if it has nothing to hide, why does it not sit down with scientists, fishers and experts and come up with solutions, for example, a public inquiry? Before fixing the problem, the root cause needs to be identified. Perhaps it was because of overfishing; but there may be another reason. The experts need to work together.

That is why I am going to support this bill. It is our hope that the government will reconsider things and admit that holding a public inquiry would not be the end of the world. An entire industry has shut down. That is not right. We need to get to the bottom of things and come up with solutions.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

December 8th, 2011 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, there has been a major breakthrough in the fisheries since the introduction of my private member's Bill C-308, the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery rebuilding act. The breakthrough took almost 20 years. It took tens of thousands of job losses, the biggest layoff in Canadian history. The breakthrough took unparalleled out-migration from the outports of Newfoundland and Labrador. The breakthrough came after untold suffering and hardship and a devastating blow to our heritage, a blow that still threatens our culture. The breakthrough is the long-awaited acknowledgement that the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is broken.

The word “broken” has been used in recent weeks to describe the state of our fisheries. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has used the word “broken”, as has the CEO of Ocean Choice International, one of the largest fish companies in Newfoundland and Labrador left standing.

Now that the acknowledgement has been made that the fishery is broken, the question now is: How do we fix it? The cracks in the broken fishery begin at the very foundation, the management. With Confederation, part of our dowry to Canada was the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, one of the richest fishing grounds on the face of the planet. Sixty-two years later and commercial stocks such as cod and flounder have been virtually wiped out. Stock after stock has failed under the current management regime.

The management has not worked, and it cannot be trusted to fix what has been broken. Twenty years and there has been no recovery plan. Shameful. Our future is too important to leave in the hands of the bureaucracy and the system that brought our fishery to its knees in the first place.

One of the only reports that has been carried out in recent decades on the state of fisheries management was written in 2005 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The report is entitled, “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management”, the key word being “failure”.

The report took DFO to task for failing to recognize mismanagement as one of the reasons for the stock collapse, describing DFO's lack of long-term vision as astonishing.

On September 12 of this year, I held a news conference in St. John's to announce my private member's bill calling for an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries. The news conference was made in the same hotel room where then federal fisheries minister, John Crosbie, shut down the northern cod fishery in 1992.

Within hours of that news conference, Canada's current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced there would be no inquiry. His reasoning: the minister pointed out that some areas of the eastern Scotian shelf have seen some stock improvement. The ignorance is astonishing. The Scotian shelf is off Nova Scotia, not Newfoundland and Labrador.

When the Conservative government says no to my bill before the Conservative government has even seen my bill, that is a testament to the importance it gives to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. When the Conservative government says no to my bill, it is saying no to the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is saying no to the future of our culture and the sustainability of our heritage.

The Prime Minister once said that the Atlantic provinces have a culture of defeat. Saying no to an inquiry will ensure that defeat. How can the Conservative government say yes to an inquiry into the disappearance of British Columbia salmon stocks and no to an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador cod stocks? Are our fish, our cod fish, are we any less important?

John Crosbie once asked, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?” My question for the Conservative government is this: Who hears the fishermen when they cry?

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

moved that Bill C-308, An Act respecting a Commission of Inquiry into the development and implementation of a national fishery rebuilding strategy for fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, my private member's bill, Bill C-308, is an act respecting a commission of inquiry into the development and implementation of a national fishery rebuilding strategy for fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The short title of my bill, the title that cuts to the chase, is the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery rebuilding act. The key word is “rebuilding”. We must rebuild. We must rebuild what was once one of the world's greatest protein resources, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. We must rebuild what has been lost to us. We must rebuild the fish stocks and use them as a foundation for life after oil, as a foundation for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. Let “rebuild” be the one word that resonates with every member of the House.

It is almost 20 years after the fall of the Newfoundland and Labrador cod fisheries and there has been practically no rebuilding, none. Why? This is the key question that an inquiry would answer. Why have stocks not rejuvenated? Why have stocks not been rebuilt? Why has the moratorium stretched almost 20 years when John Crosbie said, in 1992, that it would last only two years? Commercial fish stocks are in desperate shape, about as desperate as they were when the fisheries were first closed. Why?

Soon after Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, she handed over responsibility of her fisheries to the Government of Canada to manage. The fisheries were our offshore oil of today, an incredible resource and wealth, only, unlike oil, the fisheries were an incredible renewable resource, a renewable wealth.

Sixty-two years after Confederation and our commercial fisheries for species such as cod, what was once known as Newfoundland currency, are on their knees. How far have we fallen? For most of the year, it is illegal to jig a cod, to jig a fish from the vastness of the north Atlantic.

What was once seen as a Newfoundland birthright is now a crime. However, the real crime is the fact that nothing has been done, that the fish resource has not been rebuilt, that we have not acted. The real crime is that a generation later and the stocks are still in the same desperate shape.

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland were fished out. It is plain and simple.

In the year 1968, the northern cod catch was officially recorded at 810,000 tonnes, three times the estimated maximum sustainable catch. Unofficially, more than one million tonnes of northern cod were taken from the sea that year. It has been downhill ever since.

To be clear, this is not about blame. There is blame to be shared by everyone, by the Government of Canada, by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, by foreign trawlers, by our own domestic fleet, by viewing the fishery as an occupation of last resort, by international organizations that are powerless, that are toothless to manage migratory stocks, by the use of fish stocks as international bargaining chips, by greed, by apathy everywhere. The apathy must end.

To quote Newfoundlander Rex Murphy from a National Post column earlier this month:

Newfoundland is in silent crisis...Increasingly, St. John’s highly concentrated economy resembles a sort of miniature Hong Kong amidst an increasingly deserted province. Out-migration is stealing a whole generation of Newfoundlanders. The outports are becoming just places “where the parents live,” and the larger centres outside St. John’s have become dominated by old-age homes.

To quote another Newfoundlander, Zita Cobb of Fogo Island, who is renowned as an entrepreneur and a visionary and who is behind one of the largest projects every attempted to preserve even a small portion of rural Newfoundland. She says, “If something isn't done now, we are going to be disconnected from our sense of community and our sense of past. The most tragic thing that could happen and it is happening now, is for a son not to understand his father's life”.

Our Newfoundland and Labrador culture, a culture steeped in the fishery, is slowly dying. Let Me Fish Off Cape Saint Mary's is one of the most powerful Newfoundland and Labrador songs ever written. Will there come a day when we will not relate to that song, or a day when we are forced to change the words to, “Let me drill off Fort McMurray”? We must rebuild, or that will happen.

The ultimate tragedy is not so much that the stocks collapsed, but that there is no plan to rebuild them. That is Confederation's greatest failure. That is our national embarrassment. That is our national shame. That is Newfoundland and Labrador's silent crisis.

Canada once bore the reputation as a great steward of the sea. Our reputation today is worth as much as an empty net. An inquiry would investigate federal and provincial fisheries management. Is the management working? The ultimate measure of that management is the state of the stocks, the state of the industry. The management, obviously, is not working. Stock after stock has failed.

One of the last reports on northern cod was carried out in 2005 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The report was entitled, “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management”. The title says it all.

Ask me what was done with that report. Nothing, even though the report took DFO to task for failing to recognize mismanagement as one of the reasons for the stock collapse. That report also questioned why a recovery plan had not been drawn up describing DFO's lack of long-term vision as astonishing.

The federal Conservative government called an inquiry in 2009 into the decline of sockeye salmon on British Columbia's Fraser River. How can the federal government investigate management policy on one end of the country and not the other, when it has so clearly failed everywhere?

Newfoundland and Labrador's commercial salmon fishery was shut down in 1991, 20 years ago this week. There has been no recovery. Do hon. members see a trend? Because there is a trend.

An inquiry would also investigate the state of fishery science. Science has and is being gutted. Instead of rebuilding for the future, we are taking away our opportunity for a future.

An inquiry would also investigate fisheries enforcement and quotas. Who rules the rights to the fish in the sea and who exactly is fishing the quotas? Who is benefiting from the quotas? An inquiry would investigate the effectiveness of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization in managing migratory stocks outside the 200 mile limit. Has it been effective? Absolutely not.

At NAFO's recent general meeting in Halifax the quotas for most groundfish stocks were cut across the board. All stocks are in trouble.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which I sit on, tabled a report in the House last week on the snow crab resource. The study was triggered by concerns expressed after DFO cut the snow crab harvest in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence by 63%. DFO had been warned to cut the quota but the minister ignored the advice. Again, this is not about blame. I purposely avoid laying blame. That is not what this is about.

Recommendation three of the snow crab report advises that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans strike a task force to review the snow crab assessment process and the management of the fishery. However, the problem is not just with the management of the snow crab resource but also with the management of all the fish that swim off Newfoundland and Labrador shores. Today in my province, pan-size fish are being exported to places such as China and the U.S. for processing while the plants we have left are closing permanently and our aging plant workers are protesting in the streets. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel and the bottom of the sea. We must rebuild.

Experts have said that a healthy groundfish stock could provide an annual harvest of 400,000 tonnes. The total groundfish harvest last year for all of Newfoundland and Labrador amounted to less than 20,000 tonnes. We could have a healthy harvest of 400,000 tonnes. Last year, it was less than 20,000 tonnes, which is a shadow or skeleton of our once great fisheries of the great Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The time to rebuild is now.

The Prime Minister once described the east coast as having a culture of defeat. I stand before the members to say that is not the case. It is far from it. We are fighting for our culture and our rural way of life in Newfoundland and Labrador. We want to ensure that we can provide for ourselves rather than revert to what we have been labelled in the past, a label which I am sure everyone in the House has heard and one that is absolutely incorrect, that being that we are a drain on Canadian Confederation. That is not the case.

If the fisheries and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland had been banks that were mismanaged into bankruptcy there would have been demands for accountability, for reform and for an overhaul to ensure that never happened again. The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador in my home province deserve no less.

I urge all hon. members to support my private member's bill. It is not just the fish stocks that need rebuilding but also our faith in this country to help individual provinces stand on their own.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Madam Speaker, in just a few minutes we will have opportunity to disagree with my colleague on many of the points he made in his eloquent presentation.

What he did not flesh out well enough for us is the number of reviews that have already taken place since 1992 into the collapse of the cod stocks. He only referred to one. I took part in that study. However, there were at least a dozen, some from the provinces, from the federal government, from the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council and one from the Auditor General's Office. There is a long list.

What does the member think spending millions of dollars would do that these other studies have not done? The follow-up question would be, why is the province of Newfoundland not supporting his call for a commission of inquiry into the matter?

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I would be interested to hear exactly which points in my speech the hon. member disagreed with.

As for why the Progressive Conservative Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has not called for an inquiry, I suggest that the hon. Conservative member across the way ask the Minister of Fisheries.

The government has to make a decision as to whether there will be an inquiry and the decision has to come not just from the federal Conservative government but also from the provincial government of my home province. The federal Government of Canada looks after harvesting. The provincial government looks after processing. The federal government looks after fishing boats. My home province looks after fishing plants. The bottom line is that the management at the federal and provincial levels of government has not worked. Maybe it is the fact that both levels of government do not want to admit that the management has not worked.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asked why we should spend millions of dollars on an inquiry. His province is spending millions of dollars on an inquiry into a salmon run that failed miserably.

My hon. colleague from Newfoundland is absolutely correct. I was the NDP fisheries critic for over 13 years. I asked for a national federal inquiry into the practices and policies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In the period 1998 to 2000 the Hutchings and Myers report came out, which the hon. parliamentary secretary should know, and those two scientists indicated that there was science manipulation at the very highest levels within DFO when it came to the collapse of the cod stocks. The government of the day was warned that the cod stocks were in trouble and it ignored that warning.

That is just one tiny element of why we need to get to the bottom of the serious mismanagement of the fisheries and oceans in this country. I would like my hon. colleague to comment on that, please.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, that is a very good question. How many reports into the fishery have been ignored? There are untold numbers. There is an inquiry going on into the disappearance of salmon stocks in B.C.'s Fraser River. The last I heard, that inquiry has a price tag of roughly $25 million.

The point I want to make is that we have not had a ground fishery since 1992, going back 19 years. There are experts who say if it was a healthy resource there could have been an annual harvest of 400,000 tonnes going back 19 years and every year into the future. How many untold hundreds of millions of dollars would that be worth?

In terms of the question about why we need another inquiry, we need an inquiry specifically into why the management of this fishery has failed. Why has it failed? I challenge the member opposite to show me the report that shows the way forward, that shows all the problems with the management of the fisheries in the past. That report does not exist. The only way to get a report is to have an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-308.

I thank my colleague for his comments on this. I know he has an interest in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a province I love as well, having spent a fair bit of time there in my current capacity. I am pleased to see that he appears to have abandoned any notions of his musings in earlier years of separation from Confederation.

I agree with him when he talks about the importance of the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, but I do want to say up front that we are not going to support the bill.

The bill is premised on several assumptions, false assumptions in large part, that I would like to address.

The first of these is that there has been no recovery of fish stocks since the 1990s and that this has led to more than 80,000 people leaving Newfoundland and Labrador. This is not quite true.

The decline of fish stocks is blamed on several factors, including: inaccurate scientific data and projections; environmental factors, including temperature shifts in the ocean; predation; and poor fisheries management, including overfishing. This is why the collapse of the Atlantic ground fisheries and related fisheries management practices have already been thoroughly reviewed.

There have been at least 12 different reports or studies published on the topic over the past 18 years. For example, the latest report, released in September of this year by the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, made several recommendations for a long-term strategic approach to the sustainability of eastern Canadian groundfish fisheries. As a result of these numerous reports and studies, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has implemented modern fisheries management policies. The department is committed to continued conservation and rebuilding efforts and to perfecting its practices to ensure the conservation of groundfish stocks in the Atlantic.

The number of registered harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador has declined; about this, the member is correct. It is notable that many of those who remained transitioned their enterprises to more lucrative shellfish species, like snow crab, shrimp, and lobster. In fact, Newfoundland and Labrador has increased its relative importance in Canada's commercial harvesting industry. In 1990 the province accounted for 20% of the total value of commercial landings in Canada. Today that share has increased to 30%. Since 1990, the average annual growth in the value of Newfoundland and Labrador commercial landings has been higher than that of any other province.

Second, on reading the bill one might be led to believe that there had been a lack of organized efforts to rebuild Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries or to restore the province's economic base. Let me set the record straight. In the past 20 years, the government has invested over $4 billion to assist the industry and help affected communities adjust to the changes in the resource base. This included $2.5 billion in income replacement, over $600 million in training and counselling, and $1 billion on licence retirement, economic diversification, stock rebuilding, et cetera. In addition, allocation of various shellfish species was also provided to facilitate the diversification of the industry.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada worked with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in an intentional and systematic way to address these challenges. For example, shortly after the announcement of the second moratorium on the harvesting of southern and northern gulf stocks of Atlantic cod, the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador formed the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Action Team for Cod Rebuilding. The action team was mandated to develop a stock rebuilding and long-term management strategy for the four major cod stocks adjacent to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. These efforts resulted in the release of the federal-provincial strategy for the rebuilding of Atlantic cod stocks.

In terms of international fisheries management practices, to which my colleague referred, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO, has made significant improvements in fisheries management, science, and enforcement. These improvements have been validated by the recently released NAFO performance review, which included the input of external experts. I encourage my colleague to read it.

Some improvements noted in the NAFO performance review were in key areas such as stock management, science advice, protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems and enforcement measures. I also want to mention that NAFO scientists have become world leaders in the provision of science advice on vulnerable marine ecosystems. NAFO has taken key steps to strengthen enforcement measures leading to improvement in compliance.

For example, since 2006, it has reached new definitions of a range of serious infringements. There has been the development of provisions for immediate recall to port for major infractions and clearer directions to NAFO members on penalties to be employed by flag states for serious infringements. As a result of these changes and thanks largely to Canadian-led enforcement efforts, infractions in NAFO areas have been significantly, even dramatically reduced.

Bill C-308 mistakenly accuses NAFO of failing to rebuild migratory fish stocks. I should point out that NAFO is responsible for the management of straddling stocks, not migratory species. Rebuilding straddling stocks has now been identified as one of the main objectives of NAFO which is reflected in the new convention which was ratified by the Government of Canada in December 2009.

Over the past several years, NAFO, led by Canada, has implemented a number of innovative rebuilding plans for the recovery of moratorius stocks and to rebuild fragile stocks. These plans are based on scientific advice and the precautionary approach. They include conservation plans and rebuilding strategies for American plaice and cod.

In 2009 NAFO reopened two key stocks, 3M cod and 3LN red fish, that were under moratorium for over a decade. Recovery of other stocks is proving successful and some may be eligible for reopening in the next few years.

In the bill, my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl identifies fisheries as:

--a renewable resource which can, with revitalized conservation and management practices, be rebuilt for the benefit of present and future generations and contribute towards the economic growth of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and all of Canada.

That is exactly what we have done.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, on behalf of the Government of Canada, is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada's scientific, ecological, social and economic interests in oceans and fresh waters. In working toward these outcomes, the department is guided by the principles of sound scientific knowledge and effective management.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada's approach to fisheries management has changed significantly over the last two decades. The sustainable fisheries framework introduced in April 2009 has introduced policies that provide the basis for ensuring Canadian fisheries are conducted in a manner that supports conservation and sustainable use of our fisheries resources.

I encourage my colleague to become familiar with this framework. He will find it incorporates existing fisheries management policies with new and evolving policies and provides planning and monitoring tools. These policies will promote the continued sustainability of stocks upon which commercial fisheries depend. As other stocks grow, emerging commercial fisheries will be managed in a way that is sustainable.

As these actions demonstrate, this government continues to take action to rebuild the Atlantic fisheries and no inquiry is necessary.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 2 p.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to private member's Bill C-308 put forward by the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. I support this piece of legislation, as does the Liberal Party of Canada.

Nearly two years after the first commercial fishing moratorium was introduced, there has still been no substantial recovery of fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The collapse of the fishery has had devastating effects on communities in rural Newfoundland because this had been the largest fishery in Canada and the focal point of the local economy.

The recent signs of possible recovery are hopeful but that only makes it more important that we do everything in our power as a nation to prevent this from happening again. It is important that we really understand what we need to do differently to ensure the health of our fish stocks.

The Liberal Party supports this long overdue federal inquiry into the collapse and mismanagement of fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The parliamentary secretary talked about the many inquires that have been held into this regrettable situation. I want to point out that the result that Canadians need has not been achieved. We have not fully understood how the Government of Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans made the decisions that led to the absolute collapse of such an important fish stock. It is urgent that we understand that. We are seeing a repeat of this kind of crash with other fish stock.

As the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl mentioned, the parliamentary committee on fisheries has been studying for many months the collapse of the snow crab stock. I had the privilege of being on that committee for a year. We learned to our surprise and shock that the department had not been implementing the precautionary principle in its management of the snow crab in 2009, and we are now hearing that the precautionary principle was not being implemented as a clear framework.

The precautionary principle is something people have understood since the 1980s. We had an earth summit in the early 1990s. We had a world summit on sustainable development in 2002. The precautionary principle surely is a baseline approach for managing these important renewable natural resources, but it has not been a baseline approach in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. An inquiry is an important tool in order to do a better job and get a better result.

It is not just on the east coast of Canada that we are having challenges with sustainable management of important fisheries. We have our challenges on the west coast as well, and I will point to the salmon fishery as a prime example.

The Fraser River sockeye salmon stock collapsed in 2010. The numbers came in at one-tenth the number expected by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There was an outcry from people asking why our fisheries were being mismanaged, not just to the extent that we were having crashes, but to the extent that we did not even know why we were having crashes. Fortunately, the Cohen inquiry is looking into the disaster in the Pacific salmon fishery. We need that same kind of attention and that same kind of lens on the fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is not to say that an inquiry is enough. Other things need to be done as well, and one of those things is the adequate funding of fishery science. Instead, a hatchet is being taken to the budget of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, cutting $57 million this year alone. That means research scientists along with budgets for international co-operation projects to identify what is happening with the salmon when they go outside Canadian jurisdiction will be cut.

It means boats will be tied up in harbours, DFO research vessels will be tied up in harbours, unable to afford the gas to go out and find out what is happening. It means that funding for the POST listening system, which is an innovative way of tracking small salmon smolts on the west coast of Canada to identify where they are disappearing and helping us understand why they are disappearing, is woefully inadequate for what is necessary to actually track these smolts as they go out into the ocean. It remains a black box, a mystery, why, year after year, other than for a few anomaly years, we are having decline in our precious stocks of Pacific salmon.

Pacific salmon, like cod on the east coast, is an iconic species for Canadians. It has been the basis for the economies of coastal communities. It has been the basis for the culture of Canadian aboriginal peoples. It has been part of their identity, their celebration. It has been central to the Pacific coast. Our salmon stocks are disappearing and we do not even know why. Yet, we are cutting the budgets of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which is charged with the responsibility of protecting salmon and other important stocks. This is shocking. That is the kind of thing that I expect an inquiry into the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador to shed a light on, so that all Canadians can support having conservation as a number one principle. The degree to which conservation was not held as a fundamental principle by the previous fisheries minister was highlighted in the snow crab process.

I would disagree in this small point with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl when he said it is not about laying blame. Actually, I disagree with that. We had a Conservative fisheries minister who deliberately and knowingly ignored the advice of her fisheries scientists who said that there was a very strong risk of a collapse of the snow crab stocks if the quotas were not reduced. That minister ignored the advice of her scientists and took the advice of lobbyists who said, “No, don't worry. Be happy. Keep the quota where it's been”.

We cannot allow that kind of interference in our fisheries management, not on the east coast and not on the west coast. We cannot allow these kinds of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans when we are losing these iconic stocks and we have not even understood why.

Permit me a quick aside about the aquaculture review that the fisheries committee was undertaking.

Recently, the management of the aquaculture industry and potential impacts on wild salmon has been transferred to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The regulation of that important industry so that it does not affect our wild fish stocks is a very important role of Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It needs to do a better job than the province was doing in the past. How can we expect the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to do its job, to understand the science of the aquaculture industry and the wild fisheries in those interactions? How can we expect it to do that with these massive cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

I support, and the Liberal Party supports, this inquiry because we need more, not less, transparency and more, not less, accountability and more, not less, science so that we can protect our wild fisheries this year, the next decade, and into the future as our legacy to our children

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador for his intervention. I also thank the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for allowing Canada to join Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949.

I would say that what salmon is to British Columbians, what pickerel and bass are to central Canadians, what Arctic char is to northern Canada, cod fish is to Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a symbol of heritage. It is a symbol of the people. In fact, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can trace their ancestry to people who have fished the great seas in the past for their livelihood.

With Remembrance Week coming up, it would be fair to say that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have not only fed the world, they have also fed many great soldiers, airmen, airwomen and sailors not only in Canada but our Allies in other countries throughout the war effort as well. Many a soldier ate bully beef as well as salt cod.

We also know that trade between the Caribbean and Newfoundland and Labrador ran from cod to rum. I thought that was a balanced trade deal.

However, I believe the reason why the Conservatives do not want an inquiry is because they do not want to know the truth. They do not want to know the facts.

I was on the fisheries and oceans committee for over 13 years. We studied all aspects of the fisheries in this country to death to come up with reports, of which 95% were unanimous, meaning members of the Reform, Alliance, the PC Party, the Bloc Québécois, NDP, Liberals and the Conservatives at the time supported those recommendations, only to have them fall flat on the desk of the minister of the day.

In 1998, I asked for a full judicial inquiry into the practices and policies of the management of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada.

Hutchings and Myers are the best oceanographic and fishery scientists in Canada and the world. They said very clearly in their report when they came to Parliament Hill that in their opinion science had been manipulated at the highest levels when it came to the cod crisis in this country. What party was in government at the time that happened? It was the Conservative Party of Canada. Those are the facts.

In my mind, it was the Kirby report of 1982, which formulated the companies of Fisheries Products International and National Seas, that started the over aggressive fishing of those stocks which caused the downfall of the outports of not only Newfoundland and Labrador but also the provinces of P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

People anywhere who believe that the management of Canadian fisheries is any good at all are fooling themselves. We and the Conservatives know that is not the case. I can quote numerous interventions wherein Progressive Conservatives, Reformers and members of the Alliance were slamming the Liberal Party for the mismanagement of the fisheries in Canada. They were good at it too.

I remember a certain John Cummins of British Columbia who was probably one of the most vocal critics of fisheries management in this country. He did a fantastic job at it because he was a commercial fisherman. Even his own party did not like some of his criticisms. However, he was not only standing up and fighting for the fishermen of his province but also for their way of life. On some parts I obviously disagreed with him but I could not knock his passion and desire to stand up for the men and women whose livelihoods were made from the sea.

Right now both the provincial and federal governments are concentrating on oil resources, the so-called non-renewable resources of this country, the petro-economy. Time and again I have asked, what will happen when oil and gas resources are gone? No response is forthcoming. There is only silence on that side.

If the fisheries are managed correctly and properly, seven generations down the road will be able to access a renewable, natural, healthy, vibrant food-based resource, not just for the people of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador but for the entire world.

Why, in the life of any parliamentarian, would we not want to do everything possible, everything within our power, be it federally, provincially or municipally, including opposition members, to ensure the sanctity and the survival of that renewable resource?

I have tremendous respect for my good friend and hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met, but he quotes from and talks about the FRCC report. I have worked for a long time with the FRCC. Its members are fantastic fishermen, scientists, environmentalists, et cetera. However, what did the government just do to the FRCC? It cut its funding to the point where it no longer will exist.

One second the Conservatives will quote its report and hand it up as a litmus of sound management and advice and then cut its funding. Why do they do that? How many scientists now within DFO across this country are about to lose their jobs? When we heard the parliamentary secretary speak, I felt like buying a fishing boat. I felt like quitting my job, selling everything and going out fishing because, according to them, I am going to be well off. That is what Crosbie said in 1992. I remember when Pierre Pettigrew introduced the TAGS program so people would get five years of employment subsidy and payment subsidies and retraining so those who were left in the fishery would be well off. The folks were told not to worry, that they would be given bit of money, with a few shackles here, and they could train to be barbers. We had five barbers one time train for one small town of a couple of hundred people. That turned out really well. The fact is that it failed.

What did Premier Dunderdale say the day after she was elected? She said that they would need to deal with the fishery and reduce the number of fishermen and plant workers in the province. Not necessarily like that, but she said words similar to that. It is funny that she never spoke like that during the campaign. She only spoke like that after the campaign.

I am not blaming anyone here. It was not the Conservatives alone that mismanaged the fisheries. It was the federal Governments of Canada, the provincial governments, the fishing industry, the international fleets and NAFO. Everyone is partially to blame for this, including, I may say, the opposition, at times pushing for extra resources to help people get through the bad times, to get their EI, et cetera. We are all responsible for the downturn in the fishery. It is also our job to hold them to their fire, not just the Conservatives but the Liberals and previous governments before that. It is not a question of pinning one blame against the other. That is easy to do.

However, an inquiry would get everything out in the open and find out where the problems were, what the government and others have been doing to this point and where the road map to the future leads. That is Canada's national shame and the world looks at us saying that we had one of the world's largest, abundant, prolific protein fish stocks on the planet and now it is minuscule compared to what it used to be. Over 20 years and more, it is still the way it was in 1992. That is the shame.

I just want to thank my hon. colleague from St. John's, Newfoundland, for bringing this forward. I ask the government to reconsider, call for the inquiry, get the facts on the table and truly help the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador.