moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members who have participated in Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), commonly referred as the triple nickel bill. I am pleased that the bill is at this stage, because it shows, first of all, continuing interest in and support of safety in the seal hunt. It also shows the government's recognition of the seal harvest as a legitimate livelihood.
For more than 300 years, Canadians have relied on the sealing industry to support their families, and today I am really pleased that we are continuing the support for this important industry.
Many members may have enjoyed in recent days the Seal Day held on Parliament Hill. A number of aboriginal representatives from northern Canada showed how important sealing is to the culture and the economy of their communities. I am particularly pleased that the Minister of the Environment and the member for Yukon led the way in that. For those who enjoyed it, certainly they saw some great food, entertainment, and wonderful clothing made from seal skins.
I am glad that members from both sides have been supportive of the bill thus far, as most have been. This whole process is to make sure that we look at legitimate safety within a legal industry. The bill would simply create a larger zone of safety around the sealing expedition. It would go from one-half to a full nautical mile.
When we reflect on the need for the bill, an obvious question comes to mind: why is it that some people are prepared to endanger sealers and those around them and those who are protecting the public? One example stands out. In 2008, the Sea Shepherd irresponsibly and illegally endangered not only the sealers but licensed observers, and it caused considerable damage to a Coast Guard vessel.
We think this continues because of three basic misconceptions that keep cropping up. One, of course, is that the seal hunt is inhumane. Many years have gone by. With the 50th anniversary of the Seal Protection Regulations, many changes have taken place. The sealers are very responsible and very much aware of making sure they do things right. We think it is time for that myth to go, because it is a humane industry and a humane harvest that takes place.
The second myth that kicks around is the sense that this is unsustainable, which may have been possibly a concern back in the fifties and sixties, but today there are over seven million harp seals. They have almost exploded in population and indeed have become a threat to other fish, particularly cod. It is way overdue that we let that myth go by, because not only is it sustainable but it is done in a most efficient manner. Maintaining a healthy sea population is to the benefit of all sealers, and certainly it is to their advantage to make sure it continues.
The third myth is that the seal harvest is not thoroughly regulated, and that is absolutely incorrect. Fisheries and Oceans officials have worked hard over the past decades to make sure that sealers are well educated, well informed, and well regulated, and they certainly do their industry in the most productive and most supportive manner. These regulations make sure that in collaboration with the Coast Guard, policing authorities, provincial authorities, and so on, they are followed. It is important that the officials ensure not only safety but that the proper methods are followed.
It is unacceptable to let the critics simply spread misinformation, but it has been part of almost a worldwide effort for some time. It has been easy for some on the sidelines to make these very incorrect accusations. Today we know that we have not only a sustainable and a very well-regulated industry but an industry that remains incredibly important to the Inuit and the northern population and certainly to many communities in Atlantic Canada. Violations are taken very seriously, with fines, and the process is followed very closely by authorities as well.
This bill, as I said, would double the zone of safety. There is a very thorough process with regard to becoming a licensed observer, and the bill would make sure that both observers and sealers are protected. It would ensure that this legal and legitimate industry is allowed to pursue its course of action and harvest in a safe and thoughtful way and that those who simply want to protest and cause disruption are not allowed to interfere with this legal ongoing industry.
The end result of the effort here is to bring about improvements. We realize there will be more to come. There are certainly more things that should be considered and looked at in this very important industry.
I want to end by saying that we in the House, the government, and I think the general population, in taking the time to understand what this bill is about, realize that sealing is very much a part of both the culture, the background, and the economy of many communities. We want to ensure that it becomes a bit safer, and that is what this bill would do. I appreciate the support of the House and I hope we get this bill moved forward.