Mr. Speaker, I rise on a topic which is much less glamorous but is related to a question which I asked on June 20 of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
The question concerned what action the government was taking to fight the increase in sea lamprey eel population in the Great Lakes.
I realize that this is not a topic which has a great appeal for someone who lives in a place like Airdlie, Alberta or Moncton, New Brunswick. At the same time I think it is important that all Canadians understand the importance of the Great Lakes and their ecosystems.
Every year some 75,000 Canadians have jobs and some $2 billion or more are generated simply as a result of the commercial and sports fishing industries which exist on the Great Lakes. Every year some 4 million sports people try their luck on the waters of this lake system.
It is also important that we remember the recent past when the sea lamprey first appeared in the lakes and flourished at a rate which threatened the very existence of all fishing in the Great Lakes.
The result of this predator, which came in from of the ocean when the seaway was opened, an eel which can live in fresh or salt water, was the absolute annihilation of commercial fisheries for a time in the 1950s.
In the 1950s governments did react. Governments used the best technology of the time to combat and limit the population of eels in the lakes so that the numbers of certain species did in fact come back to an acceptable level where an industry could exist.
As is often the case, there is a certain level of complacency which sets in at the government and at the naturalist level. It is a complacency from a governmental perspective in that dollars directed to controlling the sea lamprey remain flat and in some cases actually marginally decreased to the point that less was being done to control the populations of the sea lamprey.
At the same time due to joint Canadian-American efforts water quality in the Great Lakes started to improve. We are all aware of the efforts taken to improve water quality. This opened up new habitats for lamprey eels. The combined result of improved water quality and less money for control has resulted in a real resurgence in lamprey populations.
Naturalists have now confirmed that lamprey eels take more trout out of Lake Superior than do all the commercial sports fishermen on that body of water.
Finally it is essential that this threat be always considered in light of the 75,000 jobs and the $2 billion plus generated by the fishing industry on the lakes.
When I asked the question of the minister I was very pleased and surprised by his response that the government has acted to protect this industry and these jobs. The minister has recognized the seriousness of the problem and has moved to address it in a timely fashion.
The government has increased funding to the Great Lakes fishery commission by one-third. The fishery commission, as some may realize, is a joint Canadian-American agency which deals with ecological issues in the Great Lakes system. We must however realize that this problem emanates from feeder rivers on both sides of the border.
Canada has increased its contributions in a real and significant fashion. It is now necessary, indeed imperative, that pressure be brought to ensure that the American government will match the Canadian proportionate increase, failing which I would suggest that a multi-billion dollar industry and tens of thousands of jobs will continue to be threatened.