Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Morrissey, for your question.
I had the chance to be in your province on Friday evening. I met with the P.E.I. fishermen's federation on Friday in Charlottetown, and you're absolutely right. I heard from them the importance economically of a sustainable fishery, in lobster principally, but in other species as well. The fishers in your district or in mine have had, in recent years, I think, some economic success, and they are proud of it. They have had difficult years previously.
They talked to me, exactly as you said, about the importance of having the best scientific information that the government can have when making management decisions, and the importance also of sharing that scientific information in the most transparent and open way. Our department, as you know, has increased by a couple of hundred million dollars and by 135 permanent scientists and technicians across the country, many in the gulf region, looking at some of the species that would be significant to your district and mine. Right across the country we've hired these remarkable women and men, and I've had the chance to meet many of them.
I've urged them to speak publicly about their findings, their concerns, and their ideas, and to share with fishermen's organizations, with other industry groups, with the public, and with universities. The more discussion we can have and the more we challenge different views and opinions, I think the better the decisions that governments and Parliament and others can make on these matters. I totally share that view.
I think we can continue to do more. We've made a good start, but I hope it's not the end of our story.
On the ability to enforce, Mr. Morrissey, you're absolutely right. We can change the law and we can change regulations. If we don't have the internal capacity to apply those regulations and that law, over time it becomes désuet, in French, or it becomes functus, which I think might be the legal term in English.
From the fisheries conservation and protection officers in my department I heard this all summer, frankly, a lot when I was around all the coasts in our country. People want to see more fishery officers in communities, on the water. There are a whole bunch of positive reasons that these women and men provide an essential service, but they also provide the enforcement that people reasonably expect of our government.
Those services had been cut very considerably over the last number of years. As the legislation, for example, the Fisheries Act, which your committee and Parliament may deal with in the coming months, had been changed, so too was the capacity to enforce.
I recognize we need to do both. We need to improve the legislation, but we need to reinvest in the women and men who can effectively and fairly apply the regulations that our Parliament adopts.
Finally, Mr. Morrissey, you mentioned traditional knowledge. You're absolutely right. Indigenous groups talk to me about that often. They express it in terms of traditional indigenous knowledge, which can and should form part of the scientific assessment that governments are required to make and that we would share transparently.
I also think we can incorporate the traditional knowledge of non-indigenous fishers. We tend to think of these issues in the context of indigenous peoples, and they often get defined that way, and for good reason, but the fishers I talk to and that you would talk to, and your family would have talked to, also have significant knowledge that should and can benefit scientists working in laboratories or on Coast Guard research vessels. The more voices and the more experience we can add to the decisions, the better are the decisions we can make.