Mr. Speaker, it is privilege to stand on behalf of the official opposition New Democratic Party of Canada and speak to this important Bill S-3, an act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act. Behind that rather anodyne title I think reside some very important principles.
I should say at the outset that I am proud to be sharing my time with the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.
The bill essentially deals with an extremely important industry for Canada, which is our fisheries, and the very important need to protect the coastal communities and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who depend on that fishery, and the many jobs that come with it, for their livelihoods.
A couple of statistics show the importance of the problem the bill aims to address, which is illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. A 2008 study estimated that the economic loss worldwide due to pirate fishing ranges from U.S. $10 billion to U.S. $23 billion every year.
Illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing produces between 11 million and 26 million tonnes of seafood annually and can represent as much as 40% of the total catch in some fisheries.
Canada's commercial wild capture fisheries, aquaculture, and fish and seafood processing contribute $5.4 billion in total GDP annually and support 71,000 full-time equivalent employees in this country's economy.
The official opposition New Democrats want to focus on the importance of the bill in protecting our fisheries resources and in starting to tackle illegal fishing, because it undermines conservation and management efforts put forth by Canada and others to ensure that the fishing industry remains sustainable. Of course, underlying everything is the important need to protect our ocean ecosystems. The changes proposed in the bill will help protect fishers and their communities from unfair competition, and we support the bill accordingly.
Bill S-3 has been a long time coming, and if there is one criticism we would make of the government is that it has taken an unacceptable amount of time to bring this legislation before the House. With the numbers I just went over, we see that every year of delay costs our economy billions of dollars and harms the ecosystems of the world.
The bill was introduced in the Senate and passed third reading on March 7, 2013, some two years ago. After prorogation, the bill was reintroduced as Bill S-3, and it passed through the Senate again. It was introduced in the House of Commons on February 11, 2014, so it has taken the government a number of years to bring this legislation before the House, and I have not heard any acceptable reason for that.
I want to go over some of the provisions of the bill so that we can get an idea of why the bill is important and what it actually does to change Canadian law.
The Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, one of the pieces of legislation the bill amends, regulates foreign fishing vessels that are fishing in Canadian fisheries waters and are harvesting sedentary species, like oysters and clams, on the continental shelf of Canada beyond Canadian fisheries waters. The act also extends its application to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization regulatory area, and it prohibits specific classes or sizes of foreign fishing vessels from fishing for straddling stocks, that is, fish that move between international waters in the regulatory domestic area. The act also prohibits fishing vessels without nationality from fishing in Canadian or NAFO waters.
I will stop there for a moment, because this reminds me of a very concerning provision in the comprehensive economic trade agreement, CETA, that is currently being discussed between Canada and the European Union. By the way, contrary to what the Conservatives say, that treaty is not concluded. We have no final official text yet. It is still being worked on, although it is expected to come some time this year or perhaps next year.
There is a provision in CETA that deals with cabotage that has many people in this country in the seafaring industry concerned, and that is the provision that would allow European flag vessels to move containers on inland Canadian waters, primarily between Newfoundland and Montreal. The seafaring industry and the seafarers' union, in particular, are very concerned that permitting foreign flagged vessels on inland Canadian waters represents a threat not only to their jobs but to the security of Canada.
I should point out that the United States has the Jones Act, which prohibits any foreign flagged vessel from anywhere from plying American inland waters. Only U.S. flag vessels can do that. It is so the U.S. can keep control of the crews and the security of their ships. However, the Conservative government wants to allow foreign flag vessels to ply Canadian inland waters and seas. I would point out that this is a concern the New Democrats will be bringing up if CETA ever comes before the House in legislative form.
The port state measures agreement is an agreement that aims to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets through ports. Under the terms of the treaty, foreign vessels would provide advance notice and request permission for port entry, countries would conduct regular inspections in accordance with the universal minimum standards, offending vessels would be denied the use of ports or certain port services, and information-sharing networks would be created. The reason this provision is important is that Canada should be a world leader in preventing illegally caught fish from entering international markets through our ports.
Here is another irony. About six months ago, I raised in this very House the practice of illegally caught fin whale meat entering the Port of Halifax, being transported across Canada, and leaving the port of Vancouver. Fin whale meat is an endangered species, and Canada is a signatory to international conventions that prevent us from engaging in the trade of fin whale meat. I raised in the House that Canada was being used as a conduit by a Scandinavian country to ship its illegally caught whale meat through Canada to Japanese markets, and the government has done nothing since to stop it. Therefore, it is ironic that Conservatives stand in the House and try to look like they are preventing illegally caught fish from entering Canada or markets through our ports, when they are permitting endangered whale meat at this very moment to go through our ports.
I also want to point to the government's failures with regard to taking care of our oceans and fisheries. My hon. colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam has already brought up his excellent bill that would prohibit the importation of shark fins into this country, because, of course, there is an absolute crisis in our oceans with illegal shark finning, and the Conservatives refuse to act on that.
In addition, it has been pointed out that the government has closed Coast Guard stations and maritime communications centres on both coasts, including in my city of Vancouver, where it closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. I have already seen the foolishness of that decision, because there was just an oil spill in English Bay, right off the coast of Vancouver. Everyone in Vancouver and British Columbia knows that had the Kitsilano Coast Guard station been open, there would have been a quicker response time, and that oil spill would have been contained better and more quickly. Yet as a result of the Conservatives' mismanagement in this area, they actually caused toxic damage to be done to the ocean off the coast of Vancouver because of their shortsighted decision.
I also want to talk a little about fish stock conservation. The fishery on both coasts, in fact, on all three coasts in this country, is extremely important. It is important to aboriginal people, coastal communities, Canadian consumers, and the fishing industry. Yet the government has not taken adequate steps to protect fishery stocks in this country.
On the coast of British Columbia, its iconic species of salmon is critical to the economy of British Columbia and in fact to the culture of British Columbia. I know that the people of British Columbia want to see their federal government take every step possible to make sure that there are sustainable fish stocks of every species, on all coasts, today and for generations to come.
With an NDP government, which will happen this fall, they will see a government that will actually take better steps to conserve fish stocks on the east coast, the west coast, in the north, and in the inland waterways, where the current government has gutted navigable waters protection. They will see a New Democrat government that will protect all waters in this country and all of the life within those waters for the benefit of future generations and our economy.