Mr. Speaker, listening to the members from the Reform Party and the Bloc, one would think that this was a terrible piece of legislation we have before us. One would wonder why the Government of Canada would introduce such a terrible piece of legislation according to the official opposition.
The fact is that the bill before the House today is the first of its kind. It is a historic event in the House of Commons because Canada for the first time in its history will actually pass a law, if the majority of the people in the Chamber vote for it, to put into law that Canada has an exclusive economic zone.
It took the present Liberal administration under our Prime Minister to bring in this act. The act was brought in by the minister, the MP for Bonavista-Trinity-Conception in Newfoundland, a rear admiral, a man who knows more about the ocean than perhaps any other member of Parliament knows. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans represents a riding that perhaps has more fishermen than any other riding in Canada has.
As well, the parliamentary secretary is a learned and extremely well educated colleague. I do not know of anybody ever in the Chamber who has received the education that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has. He has a masters in law. He is on the judicial committee at the Hague. He knows international law inside out and upside down.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is bringing in this bill, which the opposition does not want to praise him on because there is too much in the bill that is good politics, good for Canada and good for our fishermen. Where else would we find such terms as contiguous zone, Canadian waters, continental shelf, exclusive economic zone, territorial sea?
Never before have we ever seen that in legislation before this Chamber. Why is that? The reason is quite simple. Never before have we had a government that has brought in a piece of legislation that outlines two things, one of which is conservation and the other of which is proper management.
The Bloc stood in the Chamber today and put on the record how bad the management of DFO has been over the years and how terrible it is that it has not been able to manage the resource properly. I suppose one could agree with that statement if one looked at what happened under the previous Tory government.
There was no logic behind the management decisions made by that government. It led to the destruction of the northern cod stock off the east coast of Canada. It led to the destruction of the fish stocks that the northern cod stock fed on. It led to the destruction of the pelagic resources of our oceans. It led to the destruction of some of the greatest spawning grounds for fish in the entire world.
I remind the hon. member who spoke for the Bloc to look at the great spawning area for mackerel off Quebec's coast, the greatest spawning area perhaps in the world. For year after year after year when those mackerel at the end of May were trying to get in from the ocean to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to go to those great spawning areas, the Government of Canada, then led by the Tories of course, assigned foreign quotas to block the migration of those mackerel into their spawning grounds off the coast of Quebec. That was done simply because of poor management decisions by the Government of Canada.
However, under this legislation and under the actions of this government, the minister and the parliamentary secretary in bringing this legislation forward, that will no longer be possible to do. In other words, for the great resources of the fishery off the coast of Quebec, especially along the north shore of Quebec where the great spawning areas are for those fish that were blocked from their migration pattern on to those spawning grounds, never again will there be quotas assigned. Quotas were assigned under the previous Tory administration to Norway, to Sweden, to Denmark, to Cuba, to Japan, to the Russian states, in order to block that migration on to the coast of Quebec.
It is a two-way street, is it not? Not only did the mackerel disappear from the coast of Quebec where they spawn, but they disappeared as well off the coast of Nova Scotia where they were on their way into the spawning ground. They disappeared along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador because that is where the mackerel go after they spawn at the end of May. It takes them until about September to become eight or nine inches long as they travel up around the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and go out into the ocean again.
That migration was prevented. It was stalled. It was stopped by those quotas to foreign nations in Canadian waters, assigned by the Tory government. That is perhaps the blackest mark we have on our fishery. It was poor management.
Under this legislation the minister and the parliamentary secretary are bringing forward today, fisheries management takes top priority. Conservation becomes the most important thing in the decision of quotas and the assigning of them.
As well, it operates both ways for the fishermen of Quebec. The hon. member representing the Bloc should remember that the squid disappeared in the early eighties off the Quebec north shore. The reason they disappeared was that the squid which are prevalent on Canada's east coast are not born like the mackerel are along the coast of Quebec. They are born way down in Florida. Their migration path is almost like the Trans-Canada Highway of the squid. They go up past the east coast of Nova Scotia.
What was happening there under the poor management of the previous administration, the Tory governments of this country? We had vessels from Cuba, Japan, the Soviet Union and from other nations with licences from the federal government to block that annual migration of squid in the month of July.
All of a sudden the squid did not show up on the coast of Quebec or on the coast of Newfoundland or on the coast of New Brunswick
or Prince Edward Island. Why? It was poor management, poor decision making. That would not be possible under the legislation passing this Chamber today. Why? The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is bound to consult and not only consult, but the fishermen themselves and the industry itself will have to have an input.
On the same argument, as far as the Quebec coast is concerned, at the same time in the early eighties there was the tragic disappearance of the capelin, a very tiny fish that does not spawn as the mackerel does on the coast of Quebec, as the squid does down in Florida; it spawns off the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and off the south coast of Labrador.
Due to poor management, because it did not have an act of Parliament like this at the time, what did the previous Tory administration do? In 1980 the Tory government gave a quota to the Soviet Union for over 100,000 tonnes of capelin. That is more than has ever been caught in any one year in Canadian history by all Canadian fishermen put together. Why? The Government of Canada was not bound by an act like this. The Government of Canada was not bound by these regulations.
I point out to the member from the Bloc what has happened in the past under previous administrations because they did not have this bill. They did not have the Liberal government we have today. They did not have that before, and what happened to his shore, his coastline, was that yes, the mackerel were prevented from going to their spawning ground at the end of May; yes, the squid disappeared at the end of July and were not seen anymore after 1980 because of the decisions of the federal Tory government at that time; yes, the capelin that spawn off Newfoundland and southern Labrador and Nova Scotia were never seen again because all of their biomasses were practically eliminated by overfishing licences given by the federal government.
There is a reason I mentioned those three species of fish for the benefit of the hon. fisheries critic for the Bloc. Those are the three fish that form the main food supply of what the hon. member has been so concerned about, codfish. They are the main food supply of the cod.
One would think that if we catch the food of the cod we would actually affect the codfish. According to the scientific evidence that was available at the time the Tories were in office, that conclusion could not be drawn. This was the reason they claimed it could not be drawn. They said we would have to have fishing of this food for about a year and then non-fishing, fishing of that food stock and then non-fishing, to be able to compare it year after year. A common sense thing like that. That is why this bill allows the minister to take certain measures in consultation with the fishermen and the industry to ensure this does not happen.
The main food supply of the cod was destroyed through mismanagement under the previous Tory administration. With this bill we
will have brought in a measure by which the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will be able to step in to prevent that from happening in the future.
The other point which the hon. member from the Bloc did not consider was that the bill will also allow the minister, more than ever before, to step in as far as types of fishing gear are concerned.
We could imagine the effect of factory freezer trawler dragging the bottom of the ocean, ripping through a spawning area where fish accumulate at a certain time of year to reproduce. Imagine the effect that would have on the fishery. Imagine the common sense which went into the decision which said "yes, you can use that type of equipment". Where was the common sense? It just was not there.
This bill will enable the minister to make decisions based on consultation with fishermen. They would never allow that to happen. It amazes why this problem was created in the first place. When we look at all the scientific evidence which is available on how codfish and groundfish spawn it is amazing that the Tory government would ever have allowed those types of licences to be issued.
The scientific studies all point to the same thing. They say that during that four week period when fish are in the process of and preparing for their spawning season that even a little food cannot be dropped among them because they will disperse. There were studies done which used gigantic fish tanks to examine the spawning habits of various types of groundfish. When the studies reached that four week period the fish could not be fed. No food could be dropped into the tanks during the four week spawning season. Why was that? The fish would then swim at such a speed they would collide with the sides of the tank. If we disturb a groundfish in the process of spawning it will not spawn.
This bill will enable the minister and any future minister of any future federal government in Canada to look first and foremost to conservation and then to management. There must be management committees. They must consult with the fishers, as it is stated in the bill and as my learned, educated and civilized friend, the parliamentary secretary, pointed out a few moments ago.
The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra has written 23 books and co-authored another couple of dozen, all concerning an aspect of this bill, international law, the law of the sea.
The Speaker is telling me I am out of time.