Mr. Speaker, recently in the House we have had emergency debates on softwood lumber and agricultural problems, both of which are extremely important. The issue I raise today is certainly of that magnitude, if not beyond, in relation to the effect foreign overfishing in our fishing grounds is having on Atlantic Canada. I raise it today because of a few incidents that have happened recently.
Mr. Speaker, if you had been with us during the past week as we visited Newfoundland and witnessed firsthand the effect of foreign overfishing on that province, as well as the rest of Atlantic Canada, I would not be making this argument for a debate.
The mayors of towns that have been devastated told us that they were praying for no snow because they could not afford to clear the roads and that they were looking to see which light they could remove to save $20. These are towns that have been devastated by a lack of resources.
Recently our Canadian delegation attended the NAFO meetings. I want to quote from its report. It states:
The Canadian assessment confirms: directed fishing/excessive by-catch of moratoria species; exceeding allocations/misreporting catch; directed fishing after closure; increased frequency of mesh size violations; increase in issuance of citations of apparent infringements; non-submission or late submission of observer reports.
Canada presented three major resolutions in relation to mesh size increase, depth restrictions and, of course, overfishing. They were disregarded and completely turned aside by other countries. We have had more infringements this past year than we have had during the past seven or eight years.
Recently we heard that Fishery Products International was threatening to lay off half of its workforce, 600 or 700 people in the Burin Peninsula, because of lack of resources. That would equate to about 15,000 layoffs in Ontario.
The 30,000 people who have been affected by the fishery in Newfoundland would equate to something like 600,000 people in Ontario. If 600,000 people in the auto industry in Ontario were laid off today we would certainly be having an emergency debate.
Yesterday a boat was detained in Canada for polluting our waters. It was pumping its bilge waters into the ocean. When the boat was brought into port it was discovered that it had in its hold an estimated 60 to 80 tonnes of mature, breeding cod, codfish that are under a moratorium. A sister ship, which was on its way to Newfoundland when it heard the news, changed course and went to Iceland.
Atlantic Canada is being wiped out because other nations are raping our resources and paying no attention to either Canada or the NAFO organization to which we belong. It is an issue that has to be addressed immediately. It is not something we have months, years, days or even minutes to work on. It is something that should have been worked on long ago. The government must take action immediately and we need to direct the government as to what to do.
I know I have the support of the members of the fishing committee in this request. We ask for a positive answer to the request for an emergency debate on this issue that affects all of Atlantic Canada and the economy of the country generally.