Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade has a keen interest in this bill, so with your consent I would like to share my time with the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's.
I am pleased to support Bill S-13, an act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. This bill originated in the other place and the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans studied the bill between November 8, 2012 and March 5, 2013. During the study, the Senate committee heard testimony from officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Oceans and Environmental Law Division of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, the president of the Fisheries Council of Canada, and others as well.
The purpose of Bill S-13 is to enable Canada to ratify the international agreement on port state measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
On March 7, after examining the bill and hearing from witnesses, our colleagues in the other place passed the act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.
The port state measures agreement negotiations focused on illegal fishing and transshipping on the high seas, what we call IUU fishing or illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. IUU fishing is an issue of grave concern. The agreement deals with the worldwide problem of IUU fishing, which has deep economic and environmental consequences. The committee heard that the estimated economic loss from IUU fishing averages between $10 billion and $23 billion every year.
The international agreement ensures that there is a cohesive and collaborative effort to sustainably manage the resources contained in our oceans. On November 22, 2009, the member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN reached an agreement on it. Canada was one of the countries that played a leadership role in that effort. Canada signed the port state measures agreement in 2010 and now needs to follow through with this commitment by ensuring that our legislation is amended to fulfill our international commitments.
Some of the most important stipulations in the port state measures agreement include: establishing standards for information to be provided by vessels seeking entry to port; continuing to deny port entry and service to vessels that are implicated in pirate fishing or IUU fishing unless entry is for enforcement purposes; and, setting minimum standards for vessel inspections and the training of inspectors.
I can say that Bill S-13 is widely supported by the fishing industry and is necessary in order to fulfill our international commitments. The only criticism from the president of the Fisheries Council of Canada was that it took too long to negotiate and ratify this agreement. Therefore, I sincerely hope that my colleagues on the opposition side will not delay this bill and hold up the implementation of measures that would enable Canada to effectively combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Fish is a highly traded food commodity and as such illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing rapidly becomes a global problem with significant economic, social and environmental consequences. IUU fishing operators gain economic advantage over legitimate fish harvesters through lower cost of operations by circumventing national laws and regulations. They also undermine conservation and management measures of regional fisheries management organizations and other international standards.
Once IUU fish enter the market, it is very difficult if not impossible to distinguish them from legally caught fish. IUU fishing will remain a lucrative business if the benefits of landing and selling such products continue to outweigh the costs associated with being caught. IUU fish in the market can depress prices for fish products to unprofitable levels for legitimate fish harvesters. Canadian fish harvesters are susceptible to price fluctuations in international markets, as approximately 85% of fish caught in Canadian waters are exported, representing more than $4 billion annually.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, often referred to as pirate fishing, puts the livelihoods of legitimate fishermen around the world at risk and has an impact on the conservation and protection of our fisheries.
Pirate fishing is a global problem that undermines responsible fishing and has consequences on food security, safety at sea, marine environmental protection and the stability of prices for fish products in some markets. IUU fishing also poses serious potential threats to marine ecosystems and fish stocks. Therefore, by strengthening the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act we will protect this vital resource and support the international fight against pirate fishing.
Canadian fishermen feel the impacts of pirate fishing, including the depletion of stocks from overfishing, unfair competition with illegal fish products and price fluctuations created by illegal fish products in foreign markets. Therefore, we need to continue to be leaders in the fight against threats to our fishery in order to maintain a fair and stable market environment for our high quality fish and our seafood exports.
The proposed amendments to Canada's Coastal Fisheries Protection Act would help us to do that. The amendments represent the next steps in our effort to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. There are some loopholes now where fish can be caught illegally and then moved to another vessel, which can then legitimately say that it did not catch those fish illegally.
Bill S-13 proposes a new definition of fishing vessel that includes container vessels and any type of transshipment vessels so that transshipment at sea of fish that has not already been landed would be caught under the act. Also, if a country is fishing outside of the authority or the control of a regional fish management organization, if it is just fishing without any compliance with the international norms, then fish caught by that vessel would also be subject to intervention under the act.
The amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act would expand our capacity to deal with illegally caught fish from other jurisdictions. We would have the ability to deal with illegal fish product imports in the efficient way required by the port state measures agreement to which we are a signatory.
Canadians can be proud of our already strong port access regime for foreign fishing vessels. Among other measures, Canada does not allow entry to vessels on the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing vessel list of the Northwest Atlantic Fishing Organization, or the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, usually called ICCAT. The IUU vessel lists are a key tool for combating pirate fishing globally. These lists include not only the fishing vessels, but also any vessel that helps fishing vessels engaged in illegal acts. For example, if they provide fuel or transshipping products or packing materials, all of these activities would be covered and included in the list. Arrangements have already been undertaken among several regional fisheries management organizations to share their lists so that members can take the necessary action to deny port entry or services to listed vessels. This makes IUU fishing more and more difficult and expensive.
The proposed changes to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act set out even tougher prohibitions against the importation of illegally caught fish and other living marine organisms. Contravention of these provisions would be an offence under the amended Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, with penalties specified under the act. Together these measures would help dry up the profits from illegal fishing activities. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in close collaboration with the Canada Border Services Agency, would carry out monitoring and enforcement with a view to minimizing impacts on legitimate cross-border trade of fish and seafood products.
Canada has a large stake in the fisheries and a lot of the stocks we fish are straddling stocks, stocks of fish that move from one area to another in the ocean. This means that to protect our fisheries we have to protect them inside and outside of our exclusive economic zone. When we combat illegal fishing that takes place elsewhere in the world it has a far-reaching positive effect here in Canada.
Preventing illegally taken fish and seafood products from entering Canadian markets is also a priority for Canada's major trading partners. Stronger controls at the border would help maintain our reputation as a responsible fishing nation and trading partner. The amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act that are before us would strengthen and clarify Canada's domestic rules and reinforce our leadership role in the global fight against pirate fishing.
I am very happy and proud of our government, which has taken action against this global problem that has an impact on our fisheries here at home. I encourage all members of the House to support the bill.