House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.


FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the NAFO states continue to ignore our request for stricter enforcement. They have accepted an increase in Greenland halibut against opposition from Canada and against the scientific evidence from NAFO's own scientific council. Yet they increased the quota. The increase was supported by Japan, Russia, the Baltic states, Ukraine and Poland, among other nations.

If we look at the record, in the early nineties there were about 45 foreign fishing violations each year. At least in those days we had some observers and we had some ships in the area. After 1995 there were almost none, because we had turned our head. We caught one ship, the Estai . We had a great little photo op down at the United Nations with the then minister of fisheries. While the country thought that something was really being done, nothing was being done because we were ignoring the issue totally. We continued to ignore it until yesterday.

It is a big responsibility for the new minister. I give him credit for at least looking at the issue, but he has to do more than that. He has to come up with a concrete plan to not only stop overfishing on the high seas, but to extend Canada's control outside the 200 mile limit where we can be in a custodial role and board ships. If that takes an international tribunal and we need to have other NAFO members, so be it. We can bring them over here and put them on our coast guard boats. We have to spend money. We cannot do enforcement without spending some money.

Since the year 2000, they say the numbers of infractions are about 27 per year. There are some things out on the North Atlantic that are just the same as those 27 infractions a year. Those things are called icebergs. About 10% of an iceberg sticks out of the water. About 10% of the infractions are actually being caught. I would say it is probably less. It is probably 1% or 2% of the infractions that are being caught. It is going on daily.

I am sorry, it is not adequate to simply tell the Faroese they cannot come ashore. It is a start but it is not adequate. My suggestion to this problem is to bring the NAFO countries together and have an international team of fisheries officers boarding boats on a regular basis on the high seas to check on the holds. It would not just be Canada's initiative, it would be a NAFO initiative with Canadians, Faroese, Icelanders, Norwegians and EU people. We should bring in fisheries people from all those countries and work in a co-ordinated effort. Maybe we could do something about it.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:45 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia


Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the parliamentary secretary, the member for Bonaventure--Gaspé--Îles-de-la-Madeleine--Pabok.

I would like to thank the members opposite for their brilliant and nice words. I would like to thank the hon. member for St. John's West for bringing the debate to the floor of the House in such an intelligent manner and to such a high level. We are not all that far apart. We all see it the same way. We might have some differences in that one side governs and one side opposes and can be a little more critical. However I think what we want to achieve is quite similar.

Naturally, people will agree that our government takes these problems very seriously. As the Minister of ACOA, as a former municipal councillor, and as an entrepreneur, I recognize, as do all my colleagues, that there is a direct connection between the health of our fish stocks and of our fisheries and the health of the communities in our region and our country. It contributes to our economic and social vitality.

If the fisheries are threatened by foreign overfishing, then the future of these communities is directly threatened. We recently had an example of this. I am referring, of course to the situation in Canso, the difficulties of which are know to all of us. The member for St. John's West mentioned several other communities with the same problems, perhaps in varying degrees.

During a port inspection of the Russian vessel Olga , and again I want to congratulate the member opposite on his very good system for getting information quickly, my officials determined that the vessel had on board 49 tonnes of cod and 9 tonnes of skate that had been caught outside Canada's 200 mile limit.

The relative amount of cod on board clearly indicated a directed fishery for this species, which is contrary to the moratoria for all cod stocks in the NAFO regulated area. My officials have communicated the results of this incident to the Russian fisheries representative in Halifax and have asked for his immediate attention in this matter. We will also be bringing up this matter with the Russian authorities in Ottawa and Moscow.

For now the Olga remains in port as a result of recent Environment Canada charges on discharging a deleterious substance into Canadian waters. Officials will continue to monitor the vessel.

Incidents like this show clearly why countries must put up a common front to prevent overfishing.

Even though the Government of Canada is taking this problem very seriously, we are also aware that the issue is a complex one and cannot be resolved quickly. Nonetheless, we have made great progress in recent years.

For example, we played a key role in the negotiations leading up to the adoption and introduction of the UN fisheries agreement on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, the UNFA. We were among the first nations to sign this agreement in 1995. Quite simply, the UNFA sets out a large number of fish management principles, which Canada feels are important principles such as conservation and a precautionary approach.

The Olga incident proves once again that we must continue to apply pressure in order to incorporate these principles in all our policies and legislation as well as within regional fisheries organizations such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.

Canada is not acting alone. In fact, foreign overfishing and non-compliance in the NAFO regulatory area are problems which countries the world over are facing, and not just Canada.

We are not letting the challenge stop us. To combat the problem of overfishing I am not ruling out any option at this time. For instance, I have heard the frustrations expressed by many in Newfoundland and Labrador about foreign non-compliance with the rules of NAFO. Several suggestions have been made, a few in the House today, on how to deal with this issue and we are evaluating all these suggestions now.

In the meantime I have asked Pat Chamut, my assistant deputy minister, fisheries management, to consult with Newfoundland and Labrador and industry on an urgent basis to develop options and provide me with recommendations on our next step.

My decision today to close Canadian ports to fishing vessels from the Faroe Islands is further proof that Canada is taking overfishing seriously. After continued violations of NAFO's conservation measures by vessels from the Faroe Islands, which are fishing shrimp beyond Canada's 200 miles limit, I announced today that Canada is closing its ports to all fishing vessels from the Faroe Islands.

While I cannot agree with the member for South Shore that it was because of the question yesterday by the member for St. John's West, I have to say his timing was incredible.

Canada will not tolerate the wilful abuse of NAFO quotas and rules that has been exhibited by this fleet. Let me add that my officials are closely monitoring the fishing activities of several other fleets. If there is evidence of non-compliance similar action is certainly an option.

At the most recent NAFO meeting which was held from January 29 to February 1 in Denmark we brought the problem of foreign overfishing to the table. We achieved positive results on a number of fronts. However some of our key conservation proposals did not meet with success.

Over the coming months my officials and I will be reviewing the results of that meeting and planning our next steps as we prepare for NAFO's annual meeting this coming September. We will be doing so in close consultation with the provinces concerned and with the fishing industry.

I can assure the House that we will work with our industry partners to put together the strongest case possible for the September meeting. Indeed involvement in NAFO affords Canada an important forum to voice our concerns over the fishing practices of foreign fleets as well as to develop solutions to these problems.

I thank my colleague, the member for Malpeque and chairman of the fisheries committee, as well as all members of the fisheries committee for the excellent work that has been done by the committee when it sat in Ottawa and travelled to eastern Canada to get opinions and suggestions from the communities most directly affected.

While I look forward to reviewing the standing committee's report on the issue I would like to add that a unilateral move by Canada to extend its jurisdiction over fisheries would be inconsistent with accepted international law. I assure the House, however, that I will use any other tool at my disposal to stop overfishing outside Canada's 200 mile limit.

All Canadians depend on DFO to manage this resource on their behalf responsibly and with an eye to the future. As minister I take this responsibility very seriously. I stand today in the House to make clear that I will not tolerate the systematic abuse of NAFO's quotas and rules by any country. I will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that this abuse is stopped now and in the years to come.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thank the minister of fisheries for engaging in debate, but I am wondering if we could have unanimous consent to have questions and comments because of the importance of the debate.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before I put the question, sometimes in the past what has been helpful is if we define a period of time for those questions and comments.

I will go back to the member for South Shore if he would like to make a suggestion in that area before I put the proposition to the rest of the House.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would love to say 10 minutes. However that may not be appropriate. If we could not get 10 minutes I would settle for 5 minutes.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent to the member for South Shore to put forward his request?

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok Québec


Georges Farrah LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, first off, obviously I would like to thank the member for St. John's West for having raised this issue in the House of Commons, an issue that has been studied at great length by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

I would also like to highlight the excellent contributions make by all of the members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, who have worked together very effectively, members of all parties. What is important for us, our common objective, is to work hard to ensure that maritime communities are able to live off fish resources adequately and properly.

I would also like to add that, as a member from Quebec, often when we talk about the fishery, people wonder what we are talking about, because in Quebec, the fishery is not seen as an important part of economic activity. What is important to highlight—and this is very important—is that for the maritime communities in Quebec that survive on the fishery, the economic situation for them is as bad as it is for communities in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island.

Accordingly, even though the fishery makes up a relatively modest portion of the entire economy of Quebec, for those communities, it is a very important element of economic development.

As a maritime country, Canada has always been particularly interested in the oceans and their resources. The fishery has long held a significant place in the lives of Canadians, from historical, economic and cultural perspectives.

We understand perfectly well that adequate conservation measures and proper management play a critical role in maintaining the viability of fish resources in our oceans.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the minister for his very effective and very prompt action regarding the situation, particularly beyond the 200 mile limit. As my colleague, the member for St. John's West said, all of the stakeholders in the fishery across the country welcomed the appointment of the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. So it is a great pleasure to work with the hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The Government of Canada regards overfishing to be a serious problem. That is why we have given our full support to the United Nations agreement on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, also known as the United Nations Fisheries Agreement.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which took effect in November 1994, gives coastal states exclusive sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the fisheries within a zone extending 200 nautical miles from their shores.

It does not, however, address the rights these states have over straddling fish stocks and highly migratory deep sea species.

Hence the importance of the action we are taking. If we as a country are taken steps within our 200 mile limit to have highly efficient conservation measures—which is not always easy, given the economic situation of our communities—it is important for countries fishing outside our limits to respect international conventions, for the very purpose of preserving this resource, which is so vital to the development of our communities.

For example, some of the straddling species, such as cod, dab and halibut, move about within and beyond the east coast fishing zones, that is beyond the 200 mile limit, as well as the adjacent offshore waters. The highly migratory species such as swordfish and tuna move about the high seas and the exclusive economic zones of the coastal states.

The United Nations Fisheries Agreement helps remedy some of these shortcomings. It was adopted in August 1995 by a United Nations Organization conference. Canada signed it on December 4, 1995 and ratified it on August 3, 1999. It took effect on December 11, 2001, after ratification by the 30th country on November 11, 2001. This represented a major step in international co-operation as far as the high seas were concerned, an objective of considerable importance to Canada for a long time.

As hon. members are aware, Canada played a lead role in the ratification of this agreement on the international level, and the contribution of all of the fisheries ministers who participated very actively in the adoption of this agreement needs to be recognized.

The agreement establishes guiding principles for the sustainable management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, such as the precautionary approach and the minimization of pollution, waste, discards and bycatch.

It also sets out serious obligations for flag states to respect and contains provisions regarding the oversight and application of fisheries measures established by regional fisheries organizations in order to ensure compliance. In addition, a dispute settlement mechanism contained in the agreement provides for the peaceful resolution of conflicts on the high seas.

What does this mean in the world? It means that regulations are now in place, that regional organizations can effectively take action to prevent overfishing, that in the case of fishing at levels which would not ensure sustainability and when disputes arise between countries, there is a dispute settlement mechanism available.

The principles of the agreement are principles very much after our own hearts, principles such as conservation and the precautionary approach.

This is why we were very proud of our active participation in its development. We played a key role in the negotiations leading to the adoption and entry into force of the United Nations Fisheries Agreement. We were proud to be among the first countries to sign this agreement in 1995. Since then, many other countries have ratified it as well: the United States, Russia, Norway, Iceland, Brazil and Australia.

Canada has never shirked its responsibilities as a leader in the international management of fish. In fact, the Government of Canada took its commitment towards the UNFA very seriously. It tried to incorporate these principles into its legislation and its policies, as well as within regional fisheries organizations such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.

It is all very fine and well that we enforce these rules in our country, but it is also important that they be respected by other member countries and signatories to this agreement.

We just saw how important this is. During the inspection of a Russian ship, the Olga , officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans found 49 tons of cod and nine tons of ray on board. The fish had been taken outside Canada's 200 mile limit. Such activity violates the moratorium imposed on all stocks of cod in NAFO's regulatory area. We continue to closely monitor this situation. However, the case of the Olga clearly illustrates the importance of implementing the principles of the UN agreement on fisheries in all regional fishing organizations.

Above all, Canada has worked hard to get the message through. Over the years, we has assumed a leading role in promoting that agreement around the world.

Whenever we had the opportunity, we explained that the UN agreement on fisheries is a giant step toward the effective management of international fish stocks. This agreement will have a truly positive impact on all the nations that rely on sound and abundant fisheries.

The message has been heard. In December, following its ratification in Malta, the UN agreement on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks officially came into effect. This was a great victory for all maritime nations, and a giant step toward the effective management of the world's fish stocks. Canadians can be proud of this major achievement.

The agreement gives the countries of the world the means to manage fishery resources in a sound fashion, and to protect them offshore. It is a perfect example of the commitment made by Canada and the countries of the world to promote responsible fishing practices, and to ensure the establishment of strong and sustainable world fisheries, now and in the years to come.

In conclusion, Canada will pursue its efforts to convince the states that have yet to ratify the agreement to do so at the earliest opportunity. We will continue to put pressure to ensure the full and effective implementation of the UN agreement on fisheries.

Finally, I applaud the very quick action taken by the minister to ensure that this agreement is respected by all the countries that depend on fishing.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

7:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have just returned from an eight day trip to the east coast with the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I learned an awful lot on the trip and I hope some of it stuck in my head so that I can speak with some degree of confidence in this debate.

The negative effect of foreign overfishing on the Grand Banks and the nose and tail of the Flemish Cap is an extremely serious problem. There is no doubt about that. It reflects to some degree the problems that resource communities across Canada are having.

We have problems on the west coast for some of the same reasons but not necessarily all of them. There are problems with resource based communities right across Canada, whether it be fishing, logging, mining or agriculture. That has to be noted and taken care of. Tonight the debate is on the overfishing of the Grand Banks.

The first item I want to speak to is the rationale for the debate. This is a serious matter that requires immediate attention and consideration by the House of Commons. I am confident that the fishery committee will be addressing it very quickly and putting a report forward to the minister. It is a serious problem that requires some degree of urgency.

There is a tremendous amount of people out of work on the east coast because of the collapse of the cod fishery and other ground fish resources. In excess of 30,000 people are affected. Up to 200 plants that were at one time working to the fullest extent are no longer employing people other than on a very part time basis.

There are a number of problems that Canada has put forward to NAFO, the Northwest Atlantic Fishing Organization. It is supposed to control these kinds of issues and problems. Canada's concerns at NAFO do not seem to be getting the attention they should be.

A number of resolutions were put forward including mesh size, directed fisheries for species at risk which is a huge problem, overfishing, misreporting as well as a number of other issues. What we were told on the east coast is that the stocks are diminishing at an extremely alarming rate. Communities are collapsing. We were even told that the northern cod and even the Atlantic salmon were endangered. The whole stock is in danger of totally disappearing. That is simply not acceptable. Something has to be done and it has to be done as quickly as possible.

NAFO is supposed to act as a forum for its members regarding international co-operation in science, conservation and management in the northwest Atlantic. NAFO was founded back in 1978 following the extension of Canada's jurisdiction to the 200 mile limit which exists today. That is known as the economic zone and it extends to the 200 mile limit.

Outside of that zone is where the nose and tail of the Flemish Cap exists which is part of the Grand Banks. This is where a lot of the problems lie when we get into the situation with straddling stocks that have no boundaries and move back and forth. These stocks have been heavily overfished. The members of NAFO were supposed to manage that with direction while following rules and regulations to make sure these stocks were not endangered. That is just not happening.

There are some 17 or 18 nations that right now belong to NAFO, including Canada, the U.S.A., Denmark on behalf of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Russia and a number of others. They are supposed to provide for conservation and management of a number of stocks.

There are two categories of NAFO stocks: straddling and discrete. Straddling stocks are those found both inside Canada's 200 mile limit and outside on the high seas. Those stocks managed by NAFO are the 3LMNO American plaice, the yellowtail flounder, 3LMNO cod, 3NO witch flounder, 3M redfish and 3M shrimp.

NAFO is headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Canada pays approximately half the annual operating costs of NAFO and presumably should have a good deal of input into the operation and an amount of respect.

The fisheries commission is responsible for making decisions on management and conservation on the high seas outside the 200 miles of straddling and Flemish Cap stocks. It is also made up of member nations and decisions are made by consensus or by majority votes.

Decisions of NAFO are subject to objection within 60 days by any member nation. In this case an objecting member nation would not be bound by the decision it objected to. That seems to be the Achilles heel of NAFO. Certain quotas are supposed to be met. If a member nation thinks it should be able to catch more of a particular species it can object and it is not bound by any decision. The adherence of NAFO members to its own decisions is voluntary. NAFO does not possess any power to impose penalties, financial or otherwise, to member nations contravening NAFO decisions. International pressure is the only tool.

To explain a little more about the exclusive economic zone and the area outside that, which is the area under concern, the nose and tail and Flemish Cap, the EEZ is the 200 mile limit that Canada imposes and controls the management of the fisheries through DFO. To some degree it is reasonably effective.

We visited a DFO site in Halifax that has an aircraft that flies out there. I believe there is also one based in St. John's that has a significant and impressive capability of monitoring and looking at what is going on in that 200 mile zone that Canada has control over. It can spot ships in the dark. It can fly over them and take real-time photographs and images and see what is on the deck, what is being processed, and what is actually being done. It is very impressive and relatively effective.

The problem is the area outside the 200 mile limit, or the EEZ, where the straddling stocks live. The situation is that the continental shelf of Canada extends out to about 325 miles, and that is the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap.

Canada has jurisdiction over the actual bottom of the ocean and the critters that inhabit the bottom of the ocean, the crustaceans. However we have no control over the actual water column which is the ocean above that area outside the 200 mile limit and out to the edge of the continental shelf, another 125 or so miles, where basically the bulk of the species live. Therein lies the problem. We must get a handle on what is going on out there and get some better control.

We had hearings with the committee in a number of communities on the east coast, including Halifax, St. John's, Gaspé, Rimouski and Sydney. The theme of most of the presentations was fairly consistent. The position regarding NAFO in St. John's was to pull out unless it can become effective.

Trevor Taylor, who is a member of the legislature in Newfoundland, said the province has never recovered from the northern cod collapse. He called for action. He said that we have jurisdiction over sedentary stocks and must have water column and migratory species jurisdiction. He added that Canada must take on a management role. He concluded by saying that we should cull seals.

Tim Morgan, who represented Newfoundland boat owners, said the federal government cannot do the job. He wanted provincial control. He said that NAFO had failed and Canada was viewed as weak by the economic union. He also suggested closing ports.

I give the minister credit. He did take a small first step by at least flexing Canada's muscles. He said we were fed up because things were not going the way they should. He added that we would not put up with it forever. The stocks are threatened and if they are not managed properly we will all lose out. However there are solutions.

The Fisheries Association of Newfoundland and Labrador claimed that: rules were broken by NAFO members and names were not made public; reports that NAFO put out were incomplete and not timely; and, observers on NAFO ships were from the nation that the ship belonged to, therefore if it was a Spanish vessel it had a Spanish observer, if it was a Russian ship it had a Russian observer.

That is not in the best interest of the resource to have the fox in charge of the hen house. These people live on these ships, they work with the crews and they go back to their home country when it is all said and done. It is extremely hard to believe that they can always give realistic and objective observations.

I have some comments regarding the Department of Foreign Affairs representing Canada at NAFO. The Department of Foreign Affairs sits in on most NAFO meetings. There is some concern as to whether the fisheries are being managed by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. There are some real concerns there. It is something we need to get to the bottom of.

Other comments were to the effect that NAFO had no force and no teeth.

Gus Etchegary, who is a very well-respected and well-known fishery critic in Newfoundland, claimed that there were a number of problems with Spanish pair fishing vessels. That is when there is a vessel here and a vessel there and they both drag a trawl in between. They catch everything. They caught more than the whole Atlantic plaice quota in their bycatch. How can we manage a fishery with those kinds of things going on? He said that DFO was run politically and it cannot be like that. It just goes on and on.

John Efford was frustrated because no one listens. He felt that management of DFO was dismal. A member of the legislature in Newfoundland and Labrador said that this was not a new problem. He added that NAFO did not work and unilateral action was required.

The comments went on and on. They very clearly stated that there was a huge problem there and that somehow we would have to get a handle on.

I have mentioned that there appears to be some intervention by the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is something that we need to get a handle on, whether DFO is actually managing the fisheries.

I will touch on this very quickly. There are some problems on the west coast which are not totally similar. There is a hake fishery off the west coast of Vancouver Island that has foreign factory vessels processing a lot of that hake. That is something that the minister needs to take a real hard look at. Our fish should be processed in Canadian plants. It is similar to the problem in Newfoundland and Labrador where there is not enough fish. The fish are out there on the west coast at times but they are not all being processed by Canadians. That is not acceptable.

Are there solutions? There may be some out there. We did have some thoughts on potential solutions. The minister should at least consider some of these things which are: fix NAFO; work within the system with political pressure and submissions of non-compliance to member nations overfishing; and, establish a reasonable timeframe to resolve issues. Should this not work then possibly Canada should consider leaving NAFO.

One suggestion that came out very strongly in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador was that Canada should implement a custodial management regime whereby Canada would be responsible to conduct the science, set the TAC and implement and administer conservation-based management systems including monitoring and enforcement on the area outside of our EEZ, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap.

This would put in place a comparable resource management regime for all transboundary stocks. This would not mean that we would take anything away from those who are already fishing. Rather, we would set quotas and manage those quotas in a way that is done properly, where the endangered stocks are monitored and not overfished.

Another solution is to extend jurisdiction whereby Canada would unilaterally move our EEZ to the edge of the continental shelf or further to include the Flemish Cap. This would mean Canada could take ownership of and not just manage the stocks. This would probably be very difficult to do. We do not believe it would receive a great deal of support outside Canada, but it is certainly an option when all else fails.

The realistic approach is probably to start by working strongly within NAFO to change it, to make it more effective and to put some teeth into it. If we are unsuccessful when we move toward custodial management the unilateral extension is a potential. There are solutions out there. The will is there. The minister will have to be very strong and take some firm steps to deal with these problems.

My party and I firmly believe that those most affected by the fisheries must be given more control over management. A resource in an ocean cannot be managed, whether it is on the west coast or the east coast, when the management regime is in the middle of Canada thousands of miles from any fish. It does not make sense. That is a huge problem. We have to get management closer to the resource with more onsite people. There are excellent people in the DFO, but we have some problems in terms of how we manage it. Getting closer to the resources is the best way to do it.

Local communities should have a greater voice in the management and preservation of Canada's fish stocks. We heard from communities such as Trepassey in Newfoundland and Labrador that is basically on its knees. There are no fish to process. Newfoundland survived on fishing for almost 400 years. It is not acceptable the population of an area does not have more input and control over a resource that is critical to its livelihood and well-being.

Canadian fleets should have priority over foreign vessels. Charity begins at home. I do not think there is anything wrong in saying that. It became very clear to me over the last week or so of travelling with the committee that it was very functional. I enjoyed working with those people. When people who work together have good relationships it tends to develop respect for one another and one another's opinions, which was extremely important for the effectiveness of the fisheries committee.

I give a great deal of credit to the chairman who is present in the House. I look forward to working with him to resolve some of these issues in a way that will be successful for the east and west coasts which certainly have problems.

There is a commonality, a common thread across Canada in whatever the resource industry may be. We are talking about fishing tonight, but when we look at the softwood lumber situation in British Columbia with 20,000 people unemployed it is a huge problem. It is just as big a problem in Newfoundland with the fishery.

In closing I thank the member from Newfoundland for raising this issue for debate tonight. It is very timely and very important. I urge the minister to deal with it as quickly and expeditiously as possible.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

7:25 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this evening's debate on overfishing in the boundary area, that is that area of Atlantic Canada which is beyond the generally recognized 200 mile limit. I would like to thank the hon. member for St. John's West for this opportunity to express our views on the fisheries situation, particularly the Atlantic sector.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that the minister has today announced the closure of our ports to the Faroe Islanders, who are accused of breaking the recognized regulations and illegally overfishing our waters and even the waters beyond them.

To clarify the situation, the Faroe Islands, with a population of 45,000, are an independent community attached to Denmark. They are one of the countries that does not respect internationally recognized rules on fisheries.

Before entering into the debate, I would like to see us address the situation in the Grand Banks and Flemish Cap, as well as within the 200 mile limit, in Atlantic Canada, as far as this resource is concerned.

The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has done a complete tour of Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec this past week. During that period, the incident of the boarding of the Russian ship to which my colleagues have referred made us aware of the situation. Representatives of the Government of Newfoundland, the people of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Quebec-- both the Gaspe and the Rimouski area—vented their frustrations to us and shared their feelings about the fisheries situation in this region. Foreign ships take advantage of the opportunity to appropriate our resource, waste it and overfish it so that it is not there for us to use and to take advantage of.

When we visited the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, owned and operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and mandated to audit the status of this resource, two of the institute's biologists were just releasing a study. I will offer hon. members a summary of the content of the Radio-Canada news reports for the Gaspé and Îles de la Madeleine areas.

On March 19, 2002. while the committee was in the area, the following was being broadcast:

Alarm sounded by two biologists: adult cod biomass decreasing.

According to Alain Fréchette of the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, the biomass of adult cod has decreased by 30% in the northern part of the gulf over the past year

This happened when the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was visiting the institute, at the time when a Russian vessel was arrested and at the time when other foreign vessels were taking advantage of the situation to make away with our resource.

To continue:

Mr. Fréchette does not understand this decrease—

I am somewhat surprised that he does not understand this decrease.

—because the number of cod has been increasing slightly every year since 1994.

Another biologist, Ghislain Chouinard, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, from a Department of Fisheries and Oceans institute, affirms that the situation is as dramatic in the southern gulf.

Therefore, the situation does not only exist in the north, but also in the south. Moreover:

Biomass decreased 6% this year. The drop would have reached 12% if a 6,000 tonne quota had been authorized.

We know that foreign countries are increasingly coming to fish outside of the 200 mile zone. We know that foreign countries are stealing our resources, and we have known this for years.

What was our reaction? We took the diplomatic route. What kind of results has the diplomatic route produced? Absolutely none. Not only has it produced nothing, but our resource continues to vanish. Will we continue to pursue diplomatic discussions and resist taking more forceful measures to solve the problem once and for all?

In 1995, there was a great commotion: a Spanish trawler was arrested. Now we have arrested another one. Since 1995, in seven years, what has happened? Have we solved the problem? Have we found any solutions to remedy this situation?

I have a document here that analyzes what happened in 1995, during this great commotion. I have a plethora of articles and texts that have been published since 1995. I have all kinds here and all of the titles are negative, because since 1995, we have taken the diplomatic approach, we have been content to discuss. We have placed our trust in an organization called the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization.

This is outrageous, because we provide 50% of the funds to support this organization. We are being robbed of our resource on a regular if not a daily basis in the gulf, outside the 200 mile limit, with the result that we no longer have that resource inside the 200 mile zone. We are funding a totally ineffectual organization. We are funding an organization that has absolutely no credibility. And we are funding it to the tune of 50%, because we want to act in diplomatic fashion.

We have been acting diplomatically for 20 or 30 years and the problem still persists. Are we going to act diplomatically until the resource is totally gone, until there is none left for our communities, whether it is in Newfoundland, in the other maritime provinces, in Quebec, in the Lower St. Lawrence region, particularly in Cap-Chat, where a large number of groundfish fishers are in a difficult situation? Are we going to wait until there is no resource available? Are we going to wait until everything is gone, until the resource has been completely eliminated, before taking effective action?

I want to go back to the text to which I was referring earlier, and which more or less summarizes what has been going on since 1995. That text was published in 1995, but the situation remains the same. It is from a scientist, Pol Chantraine, and it was published in Le Devoir . It summarizes what happened in 1995, following the arrest of the Estai . It reads:

In spite of the fine speeches, of the jubilation on the docks of St. John's, in Newfoundland, and of the awards given to the captains of the Canadian offshore patrol on Easter weekend—

And now we are getting close to Easter, seven years later.

—the upshot of the turbot crisis launched a few weeks ago with the arrest of the trawler Estai is hardly impressive, even if the entourage of fisheries minister Brian Tobin cannot stop congratulating itself as though they had won Canada's greatest victory since 1945.

First, Canada had to give up half of its turbot quota to the European Union in order to get an agreement. Then, under the agreement, the Spanish, the main European fishers of turbot, will still be able to take some 5,000 tonnes of this fish after April 15, 1995, which will bring the total of their catches to more than 12,000 tonnes, instead of the meagre 3,400 tonnes they were allowed by NAFO in February.

What does NAFO do? Absolutely nothing. What purpose does it serve? Absolutely none. Even after all the to-do over the arrest of the Estai , Canada was obliged to give up three times what it was allowed by NAFO earlier. And this was in a 1995 document. The situation has become worse since.

Not only has the situation grown worse but these are the observations in the material I have been able to gather following the announcement that we were going to have an emergency debate this evening. I can give titles. A Fisheries and Oceans Canada press release dated March 11, 1999, is titled as follows, “Canada Calls for World Action to Bring International Fisheries Conservation Regime into Force”.

Well yes, of course Canada is calling for it, but other countries are not interested. What they want is to help themselves to our resource and sell it on the market. Certainly, I can go and see my colleague and make whatever request I wish; he is free to say no and to continue doing whatever he wants. That is what Canada is doing: letting other countries do what they want. It is letting other countries help themselves to our resource, completely exhaust it, and we, good little sheep that we are, are saying,“We are asking you, we are begging you”. That is one of the texts.

Another press release bears the following title, “Minister of Fisheries Continues Push for Action on International Fisheries Conservation”. That was in 1999. That produced big results. Since then, the situation has grown worse. It is as simple as that.

“Foreign fishing in and outside our waters”. With regard to the nose and tail of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, another document refers to an “environmental disaster”. It was published in 1997. I could quote from a large number of documents.

Scientists have been telling us about the situation and have given us evidence. For 25 or 30 years, they have been saying that overfishing must stop and that we must better control our resource and ensure it can continue to prosper if we want to keep harvesting it.

In my capacity as a member of the Bloc Quebec, I toured with the Standing Committee on Fisheries last week, as did other members from all parties. I was rather surprised by what I heard from local communities as well as from the minister of fisheries for Newfoundland.

The minister of fisheries for Newfoundland came to tell the standing committee of the House the same thing that we, in Quebec, have been saying for years. The minister came to ask the government to allow some form of joint management, which means that each province would be involved in managing the resource and the utilization of this resource. He gave Quebec as an example. I mentioned to him that Quebec was not involved in managing the resource. Only the Government of Canada, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has the power the manage and protect the resource.

Unfortunately, ever since this power was handed over to the federal government, the situation has been getting worse every year. What the minister of fisheries for Newfoundland is asking for is more than Quebec ever obtained in the past. He came to ask for the right to be involved not only in transforming the resource but also in managing it, to ensure better protection of that resource.

Elsewhere, in other provinces, people in local communities reminded us that they wanted to be consulted. They told us repeatedly that the consultations carried out by DFO were meaningless. Basically, the department was having consultations but not listening to anyone. In some cases, the report was even ready before the consultations had begun. That is what happened for instance for class B fishing permit holders.

What do the people from Atlantic Canada and Quebec expect from the government? They want the government to be efficient.

Of course, we can continue to use diplomacy, to negotiate with countries fishing on the Grand Banks around the 200 miles limit, off Newfoundland. We can always ask these countries to sit down with us and negotiate. However, more aggressive measures are also required.

Anyway, those who have economic interests to protect, who are currently overfishing and getting away with it, can agree to sit down and negotiate, but we know full well what the result will be. They will string us along. During the negotiations, they will keep overfishing and destroying our resources.

So, I would ask the government, with the consent of the provinces—in fact, the fisheries ministers from Atlantic Canada should be meeting in the next few days—to think about the impact resource management is having on local communities. I would ask them to think about the impact it has on communities like Cap-Chat and other communities in the Gaspé and in Newfoundland, which are in dire straits.

And I would urge the government to act now.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

7:40 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for St. John's West for bringing the debate to the House of Commons. I also thank the Speaker for allowing the debate to take place. It should have taken place a long time ago. However I am glad we are able to debate the issue tonight.

I will mention a couple of things. First, when we refer to the Flemish Cap and the nose and tail of the Grand Banks we are referring to something we call the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Let us remember that. It is the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It is not the Grand Banks of Lithuania. It is not the Grand Banks of the Faroe Islands. It is not the Grand Banks of Russia, Japan or China. It is the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Second, in the early seventies former Prime Minister Trudeau said the problem with fish is that they swim. He was absolutely correct. In 1979 the hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona who is from Winnipeg took time in his maiden speech to talk about overfishing on our high seas. That was in 1979. I thought I would let members in on that little historical fact.

The Liberal government and previous governments have ignored the issue to date. They have tried to use diplomacy when diplomacy has failed. It is time to take serious action. Atlantic cod stocks are in serious trouble. The wild Atlantic salmon is in serious trouble. The turbot or Greenland halibut is in trouble. The redfish is in trouble. There are a couple of reasons for this within our 200 mile limit but we know why it is so outside the 200 mile limit.

I applaud the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for his words today. I know he is bilingual but he is talking out of both sides of his mouth. One minute he says we cannot take unilateral action because the rest of the world may be upset with us. The next minute he says we will take whatever action is deemed necessary. We cannot have it both ways. Either he will stand up for Canadian fishermen and the fish the planet relies on for its food source, or he will not.

Let us be clear. We are talking about extending the Flemish Cap and the nose and tail of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to the 350 mile limit to include the entire continental shelf. We are not saying all foreigners must leave. We are not saying the boats that operate in those waters must go. We are saying it is time we took over because NAFO has failed. It is time Canada took custodial management of the area to set quotas and enforce penalties. That is what my Liberal, Conservative, Alliance and Bloc colleagues on the fisheries committee heard. It is what we have all agreed to informally although we have not yet put it in our report.

On the subject of enforcement, the committee was in Newfoundland recently. I asked a gentleman from the coast guard how many vessels were patrolling the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador for fisheries violators. This was a few days ago. His answer was none. There were zero. Not one vessel, coast guard or military, was patrolling the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador to look for fishing violations. Their surveillance aircraft was on the ground. They do not have the budget to maintain that type of surveillance and enforcement.

Provincial Airlines Limited does contract work for DFO in terms of surveillance. It does a good job. However it has only one surveillance aircraft, sometimes two. It does not have the funding from the Government of Canada to do more surveillance. It is willing to provide the surveillance but the federal government does not give it the funding.

Why we do not unilaterally take over the continental shelf and tell the rest of the world what we are doing and why we are doing it based on the evidence before us? One reason is that DFAIT representatives appeared at the committee before we left and gave an entire 20 minute speech on why it could not be done.

My hon. colleague from Scarborough asked them a good question. He said it was the same argument they would have given the minister in 1976. He was absolutely correct. The government bureaucracy is timid, shy and nervous. I do not know why. The greatest advice I can give the minister is to completely ignore the officials at DFAIT. He should brush them aside. He should not return their calls. He should get rid of them. If that is their approach the people at DFAIT have absolutely no sense of responsibility. They do not care about the fish stocks off our east coast. If that is the analysis they give us it is absolutely incredible they are still employed by the Government of Canada.

In 1992 on behalf of Jack Harris, leader of the provincial NDP in Newfoundland and Labrador, we had a resolution before our convention. We resolved:

—that the New Democratic Party calls upon the Government of Canada to instruct their representatives at these conferences, to duly notify the participants that, unless overfishing on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks ceases by January 1, 1993, Canada should immediately take the necessary steps to assume custodial management of the fisheries in that area.

That was in 1992, 10 years ago. Today the foreign affairs minister was asked when he would ratify the law of the sea. He said not to worry, the government would do it. How many fisheries ministers and foreign affairs ministers have told the House of Commons they would ratify the law of the sea? We signed it 20 years ago. We are still waiting for the government to ratify the law of the sea. I do not want to sound partisan but it begs the question of how serious the government takes the issues we heard when our committee travelled to the east coast.

There was a gentleman here by the name of Mr. Tobin. We all know about the Estai affair. It looked good. He looked tough. He said he would protect the little halibut and turbot that were hanging on to the continental shelf by their fingertips. The reality is that the ship went back to Spain with all the fish and we paid the money. What did we get out of it? We put observers aboard foreign vessels. I do not know if members have seen a report from any of the observers. We got one in committee a few years ago that was all blacked out and whited out. We could not make out anything.

The countries that fish in the Flemish Cap and the nose and tail of the Grand Banks have their own citizens as observers aboard their ships. There are no Canadian observers aboard the ships to review their procedures. In many cases the observers' reports mean absolutely nothing because there is only one observer on the ships. The ships fish 24-7. That is one of the major problems.

We along with the hon. member for St. John's West are asking that we take custodial management and control of the entire continental shelf off our coastlines as quickly as possible. We need to assume full responsibility for the Grand Banks of Newfoundland so that we are the enforcers, managers and custodians. We would then look after the resource and divvy it up as we deemed necessary.

On a more personal note, since 1990 total landings for the sea fisheries are down by more than half a million metric tonnes.

I have some statistics from the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 1990, 40,000 people have left that beautiful province. The Burgeo, Trepassey and St. John's fish plants have closed. In Marystown the workforce is down from 1,000 people working 52 weeks to 650 people working just 26 weeks and they are lucky to have that.

I want to stress something very clearly. In editorials across the country there is the perception that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who work in the fish plants want to work just long enough to get their weeks to qualify to go on EI. What utter nonsense. The mayor of Burgeo and others said at the committee that there was a time when people in that town worked 52 weeks a year at that fish plant. That is what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are doing. For anyone to accuse them of being lazy is simply irresponsible.

Not only has the government given up on its responsibility for the protection of fish and fish habitat, it has also given up on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We simply cannot go on with this any more.

At the fisheries committee I have raised an issue with DFAIT officials and other people. We are going back to NAFO in September and we are going to discuss our concerns. If the government is serious about having NAFO talks, those talks should be in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Bring the world to St. John's. Have those meetings there. With the evidence before them, Canada should tell them “If you do not resolve these issues on your own, we will resolve them for you”.

The government is going to have these talks in September. I ask the minister and everyone else. What will it do in October? The member from the Bloc Quebecois is absolutely right. It will probably talk some more. The time for talk is over. I am certainly not advocating gunboat diplomacy. That is wrong. I am advocating that the government show some backbone.

It is also unconscionable that the former minister of fisheries, now the Minister of Natural Resources, and the former Minister of Industry, Mr. Tobin, knew these infractions took place last September and nobody in the House was aware of it. Those two gentlemen, members of the cabinet, knew exactly what was going on and refused to tell anyone in the House or the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What did the government do? In January it went to the NAFO talks in Denmark to express its concern. According to Mr. Pat Chamut we did not win a thing at those talks.

The minister himself has said “We will go back in September and talk about it again”. What is he going to do in October? If we could have asked the minister a question, my question would have been what will be done on October 1 to protect those stocks and protect the interests of Newfoundland and Labrador and the rest of Canada?

Not only that, the fact is these countries from overseas have absolutely no responsibility toward these stocks. By taking control of that, Canada will be doing them a favour. The management through NAFO simply is not working. It has failed. It was a nice try but it has failed.

We have jurisdictional responsibility for the ocean floor for 350 miles, but we do not have it above the water table after 200 miles. We are asking for that control.

When the member for Gander--Grand Falls was the committee chairperson, he expressed this same issue many times. I want to give credit where credit is due. I work on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in the Parliament of Canada and we are chaired by an outstanding gentleman, the member for Malpeque. He does an outstanding job for our committee.

If the government will not listen to the member for St. John's West, or to me from Nova Scotia or to my colleagues from Quebec or British Columbia, then I encourage the government to at least listen to the member for Malpeque because he heard the same thing we did.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

7:55 p.m.

An hon. member

And his colleagues.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

7:55 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

And his colleagues heard it as well. The parliamentary secretary from Quebec is doing a fine job. They need to stand up not just for Canadians but for the fish stocks. It is the constitutional mandate of the Government of Canada through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect fish and fish habitat.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is from Nova Scotia. When he was appointed as minister he said that as his legacy he would like to leave the department in better shape than when he found it. It is very admirable of him to say that. However, his legacy will not be a very good one if more fish stocks go down or become extinct or are no longer available for commercial processing. His legacy will not be very good if more people leave the east coast to look for work because their traditional fishing industry has been downgraded. His legacy not be good if he goes to Europe and asks them please not to rape our ocean stocks any more, please be nice to our fish stocks. It is time to stop asking and to start doing.

The minister should put his foot down and tell the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister that we need to take this issue very seriously. The Prime Minister had a discussion with regard to softwood lumber. I am asking that he take this issue extremely seriously and not to slough it off as a problem that fish swim, as the previous prime minister has done. He should take a leadership role and stand up for that great province of Newfoundland and Labrador to protect the Grand Banks and institute custodial management of it.

At those meetings in September he should tell the NAFO countries that this is how it is going to be, either to clean up their act or we are going to clean it up for them. That should be the bottom line. On October 1 if the NAFO countries do not agree, so what? Take over custodial management and let the chips fall where they may. That would be responsibility. For a minister to say we should not do that or maybe it is not the right way to do it, I say so what?

How many more people have to leave the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador to look for work? He is the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada, not for Lithuania, Russia or the Faroe Islands. He should stand up for Canadians and protect the fish stocks. If he does that, he will have our full support.

He announced in the House that the ports will be closed to Faroe Islands fishing vessels. I agree and support that. Unfortunately some stevedore jobs will be lost because of that. That is fine. We can accept that. This is what we heard in Newfoundland and Labrador. We will support that decision. It is a reactionary decision. However, what is he going to do in October? I would like to ask the minister what the government will do on October 1.

I suspect that the NAFO countries will carry on with business as usual and we will stand back and say that we will have to have another meeting and discuss it further.

The fish stocks cannot wait. It is our constitutional obligation to protect the fish stocks for future generations. I encourage the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Prime Minister and all parliamentarians to support stronger action when it comes to protecting the Grand Banks.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

8 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burin--St. George's.

I am pleased to take part in this important debate proposed by the member for St. John's West. The member for Gander--Grand Falls has talked about this issue for as long as I have known him and I have been in the House eight years now. Other members from Newfoundland and Labrador have spoken about this issue consistently, including the member for Burin--St. George's and the member for Labrador. They have expressed to the House the concerns of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians about the serious issue of overfishing off the Grand Banks.

Yes, these members have brought forward the issue but I can tell everyone that there is nothing like being in Newfoundland and Labrador as we were last week to hear the people directly, to feel the emotion, to sense the frustration, to see the tears in some cases and to almost touch the anger over this issue in which people see their livelihoods being illegally taken away. They have every right to request directly that parliament and this nation as a whole stand behind them in terms of dealing with that question.

Last Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans had the privilege of holding hearings on this very issue in St. John's. We heard the concerns in spades. I will discuss some of those concerns in a moment.

I want to express first the reason that we were there. Members of our committee, including members from their home ports and coastal communities and members in the House, brought forward to our committee the concern of foreign overfishing. We set up a hearing on the point of extending jurisdiction over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. We know that is a hard sell. We know that. We are willing to look at other alternatives, whether it is coastal management or whatever it may be. We are willing to look at all the options. I will say clearly however that based on what we heard in Newfoundland and Labrador this issue absolutely must be dealt with.

Let me turn for a moment to some of the points brought forward by some of the speakers we heard from while we were in St. John's, although they said it better than I. Mr. Alastair O'Reilly, who is with the Fisheries Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, talked about how illegal fishing has increased recently compared to what it was. He stated:

And what we saw in 1995 was truly extraordinary for Canada to have taken the action it did against the Estai.

That is the Spanish vessel.

And this really brought, I think, a level of consciousness among the various member countries of NAFO to realize that we are just not going to take this kind of behaviour. And that held for the first two or three or four years. But it's begun to erode rapidly and there are not consequences, thus far.

That is until today. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans stood in the House today. He has taken some action. I expect and hope the House demands that all departments, including the Prime Minister's Office, stand with the minister and take further action if it is necessary to do so.

Mr. O'Reilly talked about consequences. Let us look at what has happened over time.

Before 1995, prior to the Estai being seized and the strong action of then minister Tobin, on the Grand Banks outside the 200 mile limit there were 26,000 fishing days a year by 71 vessels. After 1995 when the issue was addressed concisely and aggressively by the nation, those fishing days dropped to 6,000. In 2001 illegal fishing was gradually creeping up again. It is up to 10,000 fishing days.

I say to all Canadians that that is what happens when the nation does not take a strong stand and stand by it as we did in 1995.

Foreign overfishing and illegal harvesting in 2001 included illegal harvests of 10,000 tonnes of species that were under moratorium and quota overruns of 3,100 tonnes of turbot. That cannot be allowed.

I want to point out another point that Mr. O'Reilly made. In response to a question he said:

Maybe you're right, it's much broader than fisheries. But, we feel that even within Foreign Affairs and International Trade, fisheries is an extremely low priority...It's galling how ineffective we are in moving some of those issues forward...Canada was able to be stopped by bureaucrats, not let alone member countries. It's appalling how ineffective we are on that front.

What that points out to me is that we have not worked in a co-ordinated approach up to now. I understand that lawyers in foreign affairs get into legalese, but this issue is more than legalese. It is about the sovereignty of a nation and sometimes we have to stretch that legalese to make our point. That is what has to be done internationally.

When Earl McCurdy, the president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union in Newfoundland, was before us, he said that we had to challenge Canada's sovereignty as a coastal state. He was an adviser at NAFO. He said that the Canadian presentation documented a number of violations and he believed this fall's meeting would be critical. He talked about using Bill C-29 and said that we might be able to use that piece of legislation to shut off Canadian ports. He talked about well documented violations and the importance of the American Plaice to our fisheries. He said that we needed a strong national campaign to protect our straddling stocks.

I do want to correct the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore on one remark he made earlier about Pat Chamut, assistant deputy minister, being before the committee. I am not one for giving compliments to the bureaucracy very often, but when he was before the committee he made a great presentation. He stood strong at the NAFO meetings and presented to us the outcomes of a balanced assessment of the NAFO meeting showing some positive results.

The positive outcomes of that meeting were an increase in the mesh size for the skate fishery, an adoption of a new compliance review process, improved reporting requirements for 3L shrimp, a working group of NAFO management of oceanic redfish and adherence to scientific advice for all stocks except Greenland halibut.

He went on to say, and he was very forceful in this, that the objectives not met were the rejection of Greenland halibut depth restriction and an adoption of a 10% increase on the Greenland halibut TAC. He admits that we failed to gain those points.

Mr. Chamut has very clearly said that NAFO, although it is an important organization, is not working as it should. We are saying, and I am saying on behalf of the fisheries committee and those who I represent, that it is will take strong action for NAFO to understand that it must come back to abiding by the rules that it established itself.

Let me close with this. In May 1994 the Canadian parliament adopted Bill C-29 and its implementing regulations that prohibited stateless vessels and those flying the flags of states listed in the regulations from fishing prescribed straddling stocks in contravention of NAFO. This continues to provide the legislative framework for Canada to arrest ships that are fishing contrary to the NAFO conservation framework.

Following the passage of that new legislation, those vessels stopped fishing for straddling stocks and left the area. That shows me, and I think shows the nation, that when this country stands together and takes the strong aggressive action, then we can force those international countries that are fishing illegally and basically stealing fish stocks from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are Canadians. It is time the nation stood behind them.

We must stand together to conserve that fishery for the future. It will take strong action by all departments, right up to the Prime Minister's office to get this job done.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

8:10 p.m.

Burin—St. George's Newfoundland & Labrador


Bill Matthews LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate and thank the member for St. John's West for moving this emergency debate tonight. I want to thank the member for Malpeque for sharing his time with me. I want to thank all those who have participated so far in the debate and those who will participate later on.

This in my view is probably the most serious issue facing Newfoundland and Labrador today. There are very many serious issues in our province but in my assessment this is the most serious issue facing our people.

I represent an area of Newfoundland and Labrador, the south and southwest coasts, that has been devastated because of mismanagement of our fish stocks by successive federal governments.

We brought into Confederation a tremendous resource. The Government of Canada ended up with the jurisdiction to manage that resource. I would like to go on record tonight by saying there is no other province or region in Canada that would have tolerated for so long the mismanagement of a major resource by the Government of Canada.

Imagine the attention we get in the west when we have a drought. Farms and farmers get hurt. Right now the dilemma of softwood lumber is getting a lot of attention and rightfully so. Kyoto is getting a lot of attention and rightfully so. On and on it goes.

However, imagine a way of life that is being threatened in great levels, a staggering out migration of people, a proud and historic people who worked year round. I am one of them. I grew up there. I live there. I represent them now. They work 12 months a year harvesting and processing fish.

In the region that I represent in Newfoundland and Labrador, just 15 years or so ago there were approximately 6,000 people working in fish processing plants. Today, because of mismanagement, mainly by the government of Canada, there are less than 2,000 people left working in those processing plants. Imagine the other jobs in small business and other sectors that have been affected because of the mismanagement of this resource by the Government of Canada.

I ask hon. members who are here tonight this. Where else in Canada, where else in the world would such action or lack thereof by a national government be tolerated? I do not think it would be tolerated anywhere else. Imagine if it was some other province in Canada that got that treatment from its national government for so long.

I concur with the statements of other members, the chairman of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the member for St. John's West and the fisheries critics for the NDP, the Bloc and the Alliance. The one thing about the makeup and the membership of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is that it is a non-partisan committee. It puts the issues above partisan politics. We work together and we have worked together for years. This committee is committed and dedicated to seeing the issue addressed properly by the Government of Canada and by this parliament.

I was delighted today to hear the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announce his decision on Faroese. He is going to close our ports to those people and rightfully so. However I want to go on record tonight and say it is only a start because there are many other violating countries out in the NAFO regulatory areas that will have to be dealt with. For awhile, many of them were pretty good, but now they are starting to non-comply.

What are the results? We are talking about straddling stocks that are sometimes inside our 200 mile limit and other times are outside because, as the member for the NDP said, fish do swim.

The area that they are raping is a nursery area for fish species. It is a nursery area because of the nutrients in the water and because of the water temperatures. It is where fish spawn, multiply and grow. It is a natural area for that. We have those nations that go out there and rape the area. We call them rogue vessels.

We have the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization that manages those NAFO areas.

If any member country of NAFO does not agree with the quota that has been set, it is ironic that it can register an objection. Then it can go out in the NAFO regulatory area and catch what it wants. That is just how simple it is. NAFO quotas are set on scientific advice by the NAFO scientific council, but all a country has to do is object to that scientific advice, object to the quota as set by NAFO, and go out and catch what it likes.

I want to elaborate on another point. The member for Malpeque talked about fishing days. I am sure members who are not familiar with the situation wonder what he meant. It means that countries go out and fish for a certain number of days. They catch what they can within the fishing days. It is not that they have 5,000 tonnes of fish to catch and they go home and do not come back any more for that year. These countries fish for fishing days. They catch 10, 20, 30 and 40 times more fish than the scientific advice allows. We can imagine what that is doing to those stocks.

We have a very serious problem with our membership in NAFO. We pay 50% of the cost of NAFO. It is not working for us.

I am convinced that the Government of Canada through the Prime Minister, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Foreign Affairs has to become very involved in this issue. I say the Minister of Foreign Affairs and not the bureaucrats from foreign affairs.

Where else in this country or this world would this kind of abuse be tolerated? Every day I read articles by environmentalists who express concern about Kyoto, GATT and this and that. Two matters are at risk in the issue we are talking about tonight. One is the species of fish that spawns, multiplies and grows in those areas. They are very much at risk. They are very much endangered species.

Another species that is very much at risk is the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They are just hanging on by a thread to their way of life because of mismanagement after mismanagement by successive federal governments.

I am convinced that the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans will do its job. I hope the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Prime Minister will become involved and do their jobs. However I really believe that we will see a mobilization on this issue in Newfoundland and Labrador like we have never seen before. Right now the rural part of Newfoundland and Labrador, the spinal cord, is ready to sever. It is ready to break.

The latest census of the last week or so showed a staggering outmigration from the communities of our province. The age of the people left in our communities is such that our youngest are gone. There is no tax base left for local municipal governments to offer basic services to our citizens. That is how serious the situation is. I am not sure if the movers and shakers of the Government of Canada understand how serious it is in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As a part of the debate tonight, as a part of what has happened with the Russian trawler over the last couple of days, and as a result of the mobilization that will take place in Newfoundland and Labrador, I am hoping that finally the national government, which has full responsibility for the harvesting practices and for the management of our fish stocks, will take the issue seriously.

In the last number of years, because of mismanagement of our stocks, it has cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars for NCARP and for TAGS. If we wipe out the fish and wipe out this way of life, it will cost taxpayers much more.

I congratulate the member for St. John's West for initiating the debate and I thank all those who participated. I plead with the national Government of Canada from the Prime Minister down to get involved. Let us not tolerate any longer abuse and violation of our continental shelf when we can take custodial management, set the quotas, enforce and manage the stock for our people.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

8:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight to enter this debate along with my colleagues, many of whom sit on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

We recently returned from Newfoundland and Labrador where we held hearings on this issue. It is rather timely that just two days ago the Russian vessel Olga under Icelandic control was arrested for polluting in Canadian waters, as has already been mentioned tonight. Interestingly the 70 to 80 tonnes of mature breeding cod found in the hold illustrates the issue we are addressing tonight.

I am pleased to say that vessel was apprehended and legal proceedings are under way appropriately so. The Olga issue underscores the very reason this debate is necessary tonight. This kind of exploitation of our stocks has been going on for some time.

The committee held two days of hearings in St. John's, Newfoundland, dealing with the subject of the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the most prolific breeding grounds for fish in the world and this wonderful resource has been entrusted to us to manage. Sadly the management of that resource has been lacking.

Many of the witnesses we heard had a lot to say. They were very impassioned. Their livelihoods are on the line. As mentioned by the hon. member before me, the recent census indicated that there has been an outflow. Newfoundland and Labrador has lost 40,000 people not because Newfoundlanders, as some have implied, like to be on assistance. The fact is that people left because they are looking for work. They are hardworking people.

Those who would impugn these people by saying they do not like to work are sadly missing the reality of a hardworking people who live from the resource. They were there originally because of the resource. Because of mismanagement they had to leave the homes they loved and go to other places in Canada in search of work.

We heard from many people whose loved ones are off working in Alberta, Ontario and other places. Interestingly enough we are also hearing that story on Vancouver Island where I am from. Many young people have gone to Alberta looking for work because of the problems in fisheries and forestry. The families of many elderly people are gone. Many wives and children are still there while the husbands are off in Alberta working. It will not be long before they join them. We certainly emphathize with Newfoundlanders on this issue and understand the difficulties and the agonies that face families who have to leave the homes they love because work is not available.

I would like to mention some of the testimony we heard when we were in Newfoundland which speaks to the issue more eloquently than I could. I do not believe anyone has mentioned Mr. Trevor Taylor tonight. He is a member of the house of assembly of Newfoundland and is the fisheries critic of the official opposition.

Mr. Taylor referred to the Flemish Cap and talked about an accident of nature. He said that several decades ago officials picked the number 200 from a hat in deciding that the country's coastal management zone would extend for exactly 200 miles from the shores. By an accident of nature three critical fishing areas, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap, fell outside that 200 mile limit.

The same absurdity that set the number 200 in stone also allowed nations from the far corners of the globe to descend on those three areas, the nursery for many groundfish species and an area that many of our stocks migrate to and from. They rake and vacuum away not only the fish but the ecosystem itself.

He went on to say that nations which sponsor this wanton destruction of our continental shelf in their wisdom decided to police themselves through an organization known as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, an organization with scientists that few of them heed, rules that few of them follow, restrictions that many of them flout and a complete absence of effective penalties for violators.

Mr. Taylor went on to say that if there were a better definition of impotence he had not heard it and asked why Canada continued to participate in this farce. It was beyond him. In the years since the turbot war overfishing practices have continued unabated. Last year the number of violations of rules increased over the year before.

Canada was at the NAFO meeting in Helsingor, Denmark, in January. In its presentation at the NAFO some of the violations were mentioned. What kind of violations were we talking about?

The Canadian assessment affirms that directed fishing included excessive bycatch of moratoria species; exceeding allocations or misreporting the catch; directing fishing after the closure, particularly 3-L shrimp; an increase in frequency of mesh size violations; an increase in the issuance of citations of apparent infringements; and non-submission or late submission of observer reports.

On the mesh violations I remember Mr. Earle McCurdy who is with the Fishermen, Food and Allied Workers Union had to say. He spoke very eloquently about these issues. He is very knowledgeable about them. He actually passed around a piece of mesh that was taken from a foreign vessels.

The three levels of mesh were of successive smaller size. Mr. Earle's comment was that an anorexic sardine could not get through the net, which is definitely in violation of the regulations. It is clear that nations are not interested in conservation or in following the rules. They are interested in scooping everything out of the oceans that their nets can take.

There were details of non-compliance. There were numerous observer report excerpts from 1999 to 2000 according to Canada's report to the NAFO meeting in Helsingor. They indicated 36 tonnes of American plaice, 15 tonnes discarded while catching only 4 tonnes of skate and 28 tonnes of American plaice while catching a no moratoria species. American plaice is one of our moratoria species. The stocks have been devastated and have not recovered.

They also indicated 27 tonnes of American plaice while catching no moratoria species and another 26 tonnes of American plaice while catching only 1.2 tonnes of skate. Different observer reports indicate 25 tonnes, 24 tonnes and 24 tonnes.

These reports were from observers who were nationals working on the vessels they were supposedly observing and monitoring. As weak as the observer system is, I think it is fair to quote Mr. Alastair O'Rielly who spoke on behalf of the Fisheries Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a very knowledgeable man. He has been involved in the NAFO discussions and meetings.

His comment was that Canada did not name the guilty countries at Helsingor. He said that Canada was too passive in the NAFO process, that we were too compliant and too nice, that there was no enforcement, and that the reports were incomplete and untimely.

In that the observers were from the same countries could be a problem. They have actually been found to be engaging in work aboard ships. We might wonder about the accuracy or sincerity of someone employed and paid by the company harvesting the fish.

As several of my colleagues have already pointed out it is hard for an observer to be awake 24-7. Some fishermen on the west coast work around the clock but not for too many days in a row. Certainly 24-7 is unreasonable. These ships are out to sea for long periods of time and obviously fishermen have to sleep at some time. The fishing vessels are operating 24-7. How can they observe what is happening when they are not awake?

There are non-reports, late reports, false reports and under-reporting of catch and even location. Obviously are some problems in the reporting procedure. I mentioned Mr. O'Reilly. He said that even though the reporting system is not good, when it is compared with the observation that Canada does put in place it at least has allowed us to determine that the system is not working. I imagine that is of some value to us.

Many of the people we heard from were really outraged. Jim Morgan, the former fisheries minister, was outraged again. He is an advocate of custodial management. He said that the Government of Canada cannot adequately manage the resources. He was not expressing a lot of confidence that we would be able to manage it if we did extend beyond and I think that will bring us to some recommendations, which we will come to momentarily.

We did hear about some successes at the plants that are in operation. The representative for Fishery Products International, Mr. Andrews, spoke about the yellowtail flounder. It is a positive Canadian story. There was a three year moratorium when the stocks hit historic lows around 1995, but after the three year moratorium the stocks have recovered and there is a very successful harvest going on. In this case, Canada's share of the total allowable catch is 97.5%. It is not contested by the international community and Canadians have been monitoring and managing this fishery very well. That has allowed stocks to recover for a sustainable catch.

Interestingly enough, the same is not true of the American plaice, which is also a fish that is supposed to be largely Canada's. According to foreign agreements, it is one of two stocks that is supposed to be mostly ours, yet it has not recovered, largely due to the bycatch or even directed fishing for moratoria species that foreign vessels are taking away. Interestingly enough, the yellowtail flounder, it seems, is one that stays within our territorial boundaries. The story is that fish swim, but there are some that seem to like it in our Canadian waters, and we, because of our own management, have done better. However, for those like the American plaice that stray beyond our zone, they are being devastated by overfishing.

We heard earlier from the hon. member for St. John's West. I do thank him for bringing this subject before the House. I heard him say earlier this evening that the stocks of moratoria fish that are being taken as bycatch and in illegal fishing are more than enough to keep the three Newfoundland plants now open in operation. The three plants are in Marystown, Fortune and Harbour Breton and now are in operation for 17 to 26 weeks a year. Those stocks could keep them operating 50 weeks a year with full capacity. We have a problem with the management of these fisheries and we have a problem with enforcement.

There is another issue here, which the House is aware of and which the hon. member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore mentioned earlier this evening.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

8:30 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

It's time to take action.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

8:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Yes, that is a very good point. It is time to take some action.

There is the issue of enforcement. If we have rules and do not enforce them it is no different from not having any rules. That is what the member brought out when he asked if there in fact were vessels on the water. The startling response was that there were not any vessels on the water. There is no enforcement. If we are not out there looking, how will we catch anybody? It is a very sad state of affairs if we simply abandon our responsibility to manage the stocks.

Therefore we need enforcement. We need to be out on the waters. We need observers that work. We need to take responsibility for this fishery and we need to manage it in a responsible manner.

I want to bring in another issue because I think it is germane. We also have heard from salmon producers. We are talking about some of our North Atlantic species being endangered. This strays a little bit from the Grand Banks, but I think it bears mentioning that Atlantic salmon are in danger of becoming an endangered species as well. There is huge concern about the seal population. Realistically, because of international pressures we have interfered with the traditional seal harvest. We have a huge problem with a seal herd that is now estimated, it is said, at between 6.5 million and 7 million. Each seal consumes about a tonne of fish a year. We are told that for conservation measures, for a sustainable seal herd we need about 2 million to 2.5 million seals. With 6.5 million to 7 million animals out there eating a tonne of fish each, that is four million tonnes of fish. If we are talking about 100,000 tonnes of species under moratorium potentially being overfished by foreign vessels, it is clear that this over-predation is decimating our stocks as well.

Going back to the people who spoke to us about salmon, seals are being found miles upriver where they never used to be. When the salmon come and go to and from the rivers they have to spend a few days in the estuaries of the rivers. There is clear evidence that the seals are simply devastating those stocks coming and going.

It seems that we need to be realistic in managing this great fish stock that we have out there. Man is not the only predator that is devastating the sea nurseries. We allow the seal herd to grow in an irresponsible manner. We are again abandoning our responsibility for looking after this resource.

As Canadians surely we have a responsibility to look after one another's resources and interests. We feel that way on the west coast with our softwood lumber problems right now. There are 20,000 people in British Columbia out of work. We feel it is the responsibility of all Canadians to take an interest in this. We are looking to the government to help us in this regard. As well, we know that when the farmers are stressed, and they have been, they need the support of all Canadians to resolve the issues.

We feel that Canada needs to stand up for Newfoundland on this issue. We need to take responsibility for our coastal waters, for our offshore banks and for our continental shelf. The continental shelf is part of our jurisdiction and we need to claim that which is ours. It seems to me that Canada needs to rediscover its quills; if we are in a wrestling match being pummeled by a big guy, we need to discover our elbows. Frankly, foreign vessels are disregarding the rules, raping the stocks and devastating the future for Newfoundlanders and other Atlantic Canadians. We have a big problem in Canso. If we manage the stock well, I believe that the Grand Banks can recover. I think there can be a future for Newfoundlanders in the fishery. I believe Newfoundlanders across this country would love the opportunity to go back to their land and to be employed in the land they love.

Frankly, compensation was thrown to Newfoundland after the collapse of the groundfish stocks in 1992, with big sources of money trying to create other venues of work in the coastal communities that are there for the fishery. It has not worked. We heard the mayors of many of the small towns speaking in desperation about what is happening in their communities.

We need to stand up for Newfoundland. We need to stand up for Canada. We need to stand up and do what is right. I join my colleagues in calling on the government to take this matter seriously and get on with what it takes to let NAFO know that Canada is serious about this. We need to extend our custodial management of this area and take responsibility for this great resource.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

8:40 p.m.


Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, allow me to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague on the fisheries committee, the hon. member for Bras d'Or--Cape Breton.

I am very pleased to take part in the debate this evening. I will begin by congratulating the hon. member for St. John's West for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I also want to congratulate the Speaker for permitting an emergency debate on this very important subject.

What is the subject? Tonight in my speech I am speaking to people like me from urban settings in Canada. What is the topic? The hon. member for St John's West put it succinctly in his letter of March 20, 2002, to the Speaker. I quote: “the negative effect of foreign overfishing on the entire region of Atlantic Canada”. That says it all in one short phrase.

One might ask what I, a member from an urban riding, Scarborough Southwest, am doing speaking on this very important subject. My answer to that is this. Scarborough Southwest is a completely urban riding. My southern boundary is Lake Ontario, but having said that, there are no fishing interests in Scarborough Southwest. However, listening to my colleagues in caucus over the years, I have heard members and colleagues of mine, particularly members from the Atlantic region, talking about the problems with the fisheries, the difficulties their constituents were having and the difficulties the fisheries problems were causing in the economies of their people. Quite frankly, I found it rather difficult to relate to those lamentations because I had nothing with which to compare it. I decided it was time to learn about the subject matter firsthand and I asked to become a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

I want to tell the House that in the time I have been a member of the committee I have listened to many witnesses, I have travelled with the committee, I have seen many of the areas concerned, I have talked to the people concerned, and I have learned. I want to tell Canadians that I have learned a number of things, but above all two very important lessons.

The first one is that fish and fishing are critically important to Canadians on our coasts and in particular to Atlantic Canada and especially Newfoundland. Newfoundland's reason for being, as we were told by witnesses, is the fish in and around that beautiful island, for which people have fished for hundreds of years until recently.

Second, I have learned that fishing is important not only to the coastal economy but to the entire economy of Canada and to the people of Canada. After all, if fishing is bad, fishermen cannot make a living and those of us in the rest of Canada come to their aid financially. That is the nature of our federation. If one part needs help, the others help. Clearly if fishermen can fish, then they can earn a living and the rest of Canada does not need to come to their aid. That is what fishermen want to do. They want to fish. They do not want to sit idly by and watch foreigners take our fish.

Our committee just returned from Atlantic Canada where we got an earful. We learned a number of things. Many of the speakers have already mentioned these things, but it is important to restate that our cod stocks, which have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, have been decimated. There has been a moratorium on cod since 1990 or thereabouts, I believe. We heard that there are 7 million harp seals, not 7 million seals but 7 million harp seals alone, and there are all kinds of other species. Those seals need to eat. They are predators. They eat fish. The cod is gone. What do they eat? They eat other fish. If they eat other fish, there are less species that we Canadians can fish.

What are we to do about that? Or are we to hide from that because it is politically incorrect to talk about seals and what to do with them when the predators start taking the very livelihood of our families and our children? We have to grapple with that.

We heard very compelling witnesses, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador. My hon. colleague from Nanaimo mentioned a name. I was struck with one phrase that Trevor Taylor, a member of the house of assembly and the opposition fisheries critic, said. He stated “As goes the fishing, so goes Newfoundland and Labrador”. That is so true. If there is no fishing, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are gone.

We heard the hon. member for Burin--St. George's talk about the population decline. People are leaving the rock, as they say, to go to other places. There is nothing wrong with their coming to my riding but they do not want to come to Scarborough necessarily when they have been fishing all their lives, when their parents and grandparents have fished and that is all they have known and it is what they are good at.

The minister of fisheries, Gerry Reid, talked about the crisis in the fishing industry and how stocks are being pillaged for foreign overfishing. Allister Hann, the mayor of Burgeo, told us that his town has pretty well folded up because of the lack of fishing. Tony Hewitt, the mayor of the town of Trepassey, talked about what a wonderful town it was, how lively it was and how there was full employment. Auditoriums and various things were being built for the people. The fishery is decimated and the town is decimated. Its population is half of what it used to be because there is no fishing. That is what negative overfishing does to people. This is an issue of people.

What is the problem with foreign fishing? We have a jurisdiction of 200 nautical miles from our shores. I am not going to get into the long history of all of this. I will simply say that some of the richest fishing grounds in the world are centred around Newfoundland. Everyone knows them as the Grand Banks. Most of them are within the 200 mile economic zone.

There are three little areas that are outside of that 200 nautical mile zone. They are known as the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. They are just outside the zone which means that foreign fleets can go there to fish. Quite frankly in the absence of any agreement, they could pillage that resource. We are not talking about ground fish which stay in one spot. We are talking about fish that straddle inside and outside of the area because they swim. Many of those are the commercial fish that we are talking about in the economy of Newfoundland.

What are the foreign fleets doing and what have they done? This has been proven and demonstrated internationally. They have raped and pillaged the fishery at will. That had to stop and lo and behold we came up with NAFO. NAFO, as has been mentioned by many members, is the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.

Of course like good Canadians we tried the legal route, which is the correct way to start. We have done everything we possibly can to get the 17 contracting parties to abide by the rules and regulations that we have come up with in NAFO.

Sadly, based on what I and the committee have heard, NAFO is a toothless tiger, plain and simple. There is no punishment. There is no deterrence.

We saw that recently when the Russian trawler was caught by chance for polluting our waters. The hold was opened up. What was in there? A banned species of fish which the Russians had obviously been fishing. What did we do about it? Absolutely nothing. There is nothing we can do about it. We cannot even touch the fish because it was not under NAFO that they were caught. It was under environmental protection. What kind of an agreement is it when a fishing trawler is caught red-handed and nothing can be done about it? It is ridiculous and it has to stop.

It is critically important that we go to NAFO in September, that we lay out the minimum criteria we expect from these nations and tell them that if they do not enforce NAFO regulations, we will walk out. We will extend custodial management. We will protect the fish stocks. We will protect the people of Atlantic Canada. We will make sure that if they do not, we will. I call upon everyone to get behind Atlantic fishermen and look after their interests.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

8:50 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to enter into the debate this evening and acknowledge the work put forward by my colleague from St. John's West. He has been vigilant in bringing this message forward, as has the chairman of the fisheries and oceans committee and several others in the past, but certainly my colleague from St. John's West has been carrying the banner.

I am the rookie member on the fisheries and oceans committee. It has been six months since I was assigned to the committee. My early impressions are I am very pleased and proud to be a member of that committee. Our recent trip to Atlantic Canada reinforced that .

The committee is very capable, competent and committed to finding out the truth and researching each of the very wide range of issues that are placed in front of it. The partisan aspect does not play a huge role. Committee members are more committed to finding out what is right and advising as to what is right for those involved. It is acknowledged on the Hill as a very hardworking committee that does its share of great work.

As I said, we did the Atlantic Canada swing and had the pleasure of meeting with plant workers, plant owners, fishermen and people who play various roles throughout the industry. We spoke with groups that made presentations on a wide range of topics.

We were very fortunate that in my own constituency of Bras d'Or--Cape Breton we spoke with fishermen who currently are steaming eight hours off the shores, 130 miles out of their home harbours, to chase fish to try to harvest the resource. They are doing it in 35-foot boats because of inshore licence restrictions. They are certainly putting themselves somewhat at peril and are concerned for their safety.

My colleague from Scarborough Southwest mentioned the impact that seals have had on the fishery. It has been devastating. There are six million harp seals. Seals are being found up rivers, at the mouths of rivers and places where they have never been seen before. They are laying at bay at the mouths of rivers waiting for runs of particular species. It is like a buffet table. It is having a devastating impact on the fish stocks.

Without question the presentations which addressed the nose and tail and the overfishing were the most compelling testimony. It was one issue which galvanized the presenters. It was an issue that was not specific to a community or specific just to the industry. It has galvanized the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador. All of Atlantic Canada is alert on the issue. It is one that certainly puts the entire fishery in jeopardy. In the presentations that came forward each presenter reinforced this.

We talked at great length about NAFO. NAFO is comprised of 17 different contracting parties. Within NAFO is the fisheries commission. It is one of the three constituent bodies of NAFO. Within the fisheries commission there is a standing committee on conservation and enforcement measures. The conservation and enforcement measures comprise seven sections: management; gear; vessel requirements; scheme of joint international inspection and surveillance schedules; project for observers; satellite tracking; and port inspections.

We heard pretty much from all of the presenters that NAFO is a body that is intended to protect the stock but it has no teeth.

Concerns have been brought to NAFO before. Concerns have been addressed. It has been identified that parties were overfishing, overharvesting, bi-catching, and high grading their product. These concerns have been brought forward but there has been no penalty. As a matter of fact in most cases they have not even identified the perpetrator.

To use an analogy for an old hockey official like yourself, Mr. Speaker, it would be like having your game and your rules and a penalty takes place. The referee calls the penalty but does not say who the penalty is going to, not even what team. The game goes on and the abuse continues. It has no teeth and that came out time and time again with all the presenters.

I would like to share some testimony that was brought forward by Mr. Gus Etchegary. Gus is a gentleman who started in the fishery in 1945 and has been in the fishery since then. I will quote his testimony:

When a foreign owner [from] any...foreign fishing ports, distant water fishermen who come three or four thousand [miles]--some of them from the Baltic states, Estonia, or Latvia, or Lithuania, they come three, four, five thousand miles to our shores to catch fish. Do you think they're concerned about conservation?

Do you think there's any connection whatever with their government? Do you think the people in their government who administer fisheries had the slightest concern about their practices 3,000 miles away? Put yourself in a Canadian troller fishing in the Baltic Sea or the Bay of Biscayne and he's there--I own the vessel and he's my skipper and this vessel cost me $15 million and that crew has to earn a living. They're going to catch whatever in hell's name they can catch. They'll high grade as much as they can possibly get away with in order to maximize the return to that vessel and to the crew.

If there was one presenter that was impassioned in his tone and spoke with a degree of urgency, it was Gus Etchegary. The points he brought forward represented what was going on in the kitchens in Newfoundland and Labrador and in eastern Canada.

There are not a lot of easy days in the office of the minister of fisheries. I commend my colleagues, even some of the opposition colleagues who stood and recognized the decision the minister made today with regard to the closure of the ports to the Faroese. It was recognized as a bold step. It was a first step. We want to continue to support the minister as he continues to move forward on this very important issue.

In summary, we certainly can appreciate the tone and the candour of the debate. The situation on the east coast is critical. The situation off the Grand Banks is critical. It is imperative that we continue to support the minister and we make sure that DFAIT and the office of the Prime Minister get involved to bring this issue to a resolution.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

9 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting evening. A lot of the members who are speaking are maritime members. It is interesting to hear the focus on Atlantic Canadian issues, especially from those members who are not from Atlantic Canada. They are now starting to get at least a little impression about what Atlantic Canada is like, what we are about and some of the things we face.

I also find it incredible that we are talking about overfishing. I remember in 1991 when that great Newfoundlander John Crosbie made the incredibly tough decision to put a moratorium on fishery. It was a heart wrenching decision. Those of us who were here will never forget the anguish that he went through, and many of his colleagues went through, to shut down the fishery in his own province. It was a courageous move. He took an awful lot of criticism and ridicule over it but it was the thing to do and he put the moratorium on. Here we are 11 years later talking about overfishing.

The only reason we are here tonight is because the hon. member for St. John's West brought it up after a Russian vessel was arrested for polluting Canadian waters and it was discovered that it had illegal fish in the hull.

Why are we faced with it? It is because the rules have not been enforced; the NAFO agreement is not working; and the NAFO countries are not abiding by the rules and not respecting the fishery.

Another thing that I find incredible is the convergence of issues that we have been talking about today. We talked about species at risk all day. Here we are talking about a fishery on which there is a moratorium because the species are at risk and there is no enforcement. Here we are still talking about overfishing even though the species at risk is what we talked about all day. It is an amazing coincidence.

Another coincidence is the census that just came out that said that government policy, it did not specifically say government policy, is driving people out of rural Canada into the major population centres. It even identified Newfoundland and Labrador as the worst victim of this out migration.

It is not only the fishery policy, it is the economic development policy that has been slack for rural Canada, Atlantic Canada and other parts of the country.

It is policies like moving the department of Indian affairs Atlantic regional office from a small town called Amherst to a major centre because the bureaucrats want to move. There are 140 families that work for the Atlantic regional office of Indian affairs but it does not matter about the 140 families. There are a couple of bureaucrats who want to live somewhere else so they are actually considering moving this regional office.

It is policies that affect Canso, a small town in the riding of the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, which is completely shut down because of overfishing and fishing policies that have been abused and mismanaged over and over.

It is ironic that we are talking about the Faroe Islands which is under management by Denmark. Today we talked about our new ambassador to Denmark, Mr. Gagliano, who will now go over there and speak on our behalf on these issues.

Tonight someone mentioned the debate we had on softwood lumber and how the Prime Minister was involved in that debate. However in less than three hours from now the Americans will probably be successful in putting a huge countervail charge or export tax, or whatever on this resource. This is another resource that is being battered around by foreigners in the same way our fishery is.

It is ironic and amazing how many things converge on these issues because of government policy, lack of action, lack of policy, lack of administration, lack of enforcement and management by dealing with a crisis only.

I believe that tonight we will make some headway on this issue. I believe it will get some attention. It might have just been a little announcement that a Russian ship was caught for pollution charges and found that there was fish in the hull. Thanks to the hon. member for St. John's West who brought our attention to it and who created so much focus on it and raised public awareness.

It is interesting to hear all the speakers from all over Atlantic Canada, Scarborough, British Columbia and everywhere else become involved in this. We are starting to the get the impression that maybe there is a little awareness about the situation that people in Atlantic Canada are facing over this fishery.

When it first happened, and for 10 years maybe, the attitude was that there is a problem down there, let us throw some money at it and maybe it will go away. However, that is not the case. Money is not going to fix this. This is a way of life and it is a heritage. It is a tradition that has not been protected and it has been abused.

Perhaps now the government will take action to take control one way or another over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap and really protect our resource. There is no reason why foreigners should be able to fish that area dry, dump their bilge waters, abuse our waters and our fish, and our systems and environment with no enforcement or repercussions.

Hopefully this debate will generate some interest and some focus on it. We know there are not enough fisheries officers, patrol boats, or helicopters. We know there are not enough resources put into the fishery to protect it and enforce the rules. Because of that NAFO countries are running roughshod over our rules and our fishery.

This was a Russian ship under Icelandic control. How many other ships are out there from how many other countries doing this? How many are doing the same thing that we do not catch because they do not dump their bilge water? It is a crisis and hopefully we will get some action.

We need a real plan. There are some options and it is certainly encouraging to hear government members talking about this. I hope they speak tomorrow to their colleagues, to their minister, to their Prime Minister as we have been for a long time. It is healthy and encouraging to hear this.

We are talking about the health of our communities in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Quebec as well. The accidental boarding of this ship was a stroke of luck. It was certainly a stroke of luck and good management. The hon. member for St. John's West ensured that it did not slip through the cracks and we got the attention on it.

With regard to Denmark, I picked up a report a few minutes ago from the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization called “Canadian Assessment of Compliance in the NAFO Regulatory Area”. Lo and behold, the meeting was held in Helsingor, Denmark, which again is the parent country of the Faroe Islands which today was isolated from our ports. So a lot of different approaches are tied together. They all come together in this whole story but this is an incredible report which was given just two months ago in Denmark.

It says Canada is increasingly concerned about the unacceptable level of non-compliance fisheries and it goes on to detail the incredible circumstances. Observers reported one CP had 655 fishing days in shallow water and 40% of these days were clearly utilized for moratoria species. On these days a catch of moratoria species was five times that of legal fish. What happened to them? Was there any enforcement or protection? No, there was not. There was nothing done to protect our resources.

Legitimate shallow water fisheries do occur for skate and redfish. During the remaining 400 days that operator harvested at a daily rate of 18% of non-moratoria fish. This is incredible.

The Canadian assessment confirmed that directed fishing and excessive bycatch on moratoria species was rampant. Exceeding allocations and misreporting was frequent. Directed fishing after closure was always increasing, frequency of net size violations was everywhere. There were always non-submissions or late submissions of observer reports.

In 2001 one of the contractors exceeded its Greenland halibut allocation by 23%, that is 3,000 tonnes. In 2001 there was a significant misreporting of 3L shrimp and 3M shrimp, particularly in December. What happened? Nothing happened nor was there any enforcement or any repercussions.

In 2001 two contractors fished in excess of 100 days yet reported catches within the quota. In 2001 the requirement for each contractor to limit the number of vessels fishing shrimp in 3L at any one time to one vessel was ignored. It goes on and on. It is an incredible report and everybody should read it.

Another violation refers to mesh size. Vessels from one contractor continually used small mesh gear and liners in the 3O redfish fishery. Over a period of just 30 days Canadian and EU inspectors issued four citations for use of small mesh gear or liners to vessels from this contractor. Citations, but what happened? Nothing.

These are the reasons why our fisher people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Canso are all out of work. In 2000 three contractors did not submit any reports. In 2001 six have yet to submit a single observer report. This is the Canadian report just presented two months ago. In a total of 200 shrimp reports 80% of a total estimated requirement of 250 have not been submitted. As one of the members said it is one thing to have regulations but if we do not enforce them it is the same thing as not having them.

Non-compliance in the NAFO regulatory area was increasing. Non-compliance was increasing, not decreasing. The deterrence capacity of some contracting parties enforcement programs was questionable given the frequency and continuing nature of non-compliance. Nobody was even trying to stop it.

The report indicated that many contracting parties did not review observer reports or respond to clear incidents of non-compliance. It stated that the continued discrepancy between observer reports and dock side inspections had yet to be resolved. NAFO was not going to do anything about it. It just said it had to be resolved. It just goes on and on.

The report recommends that Fisheries Canada should consider and adopt specific management and conservation measures to stop significant incidents of non-compliance. That makes sense. Why does it not do it? It adds that this should include effective measures to stop directed fisheries for moratoria species and stop misreporting excessive catches.

It recommends the following next steps: verification and reconciliation of all dock side inspections and observer reports should be implemented; standardization of sanction regimes for mesh size; increasing interaction between inspectors and observers at sea; providing real time observer reports to NAFO and inspecting contractors to guide sea and dock side inspections.

This is not in the report but it was said tonight more than once. The people in the industry must be involved; they must have input. They must have some control over fisheries management. Time after time these are the people who have been proven correct. They have been proven knowledgeable and they have been proven right.

There are three options available. Canada must demand that NAFO takes action to enforce quota allocation. It must do that. It is only fair. Canada must claim custodial management over the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. We should extend unilateral jurisdiction over the entire continental shelf, nose and tail of the Grand Banks. Finally, the fishery inspection infrastructure and equipment must be brought up to snuff. It must be brought up to an adequate situation so it can handle enforcement and control of the fishery.

We have seen our fishery devastated. It is 11 years after the moratorium and we are still standing here talking about it. I hope John Crosbie is not hearing this discussion tonight.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

9:15 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my hon. colleague from St. John's West for raising this issue today and for bringing this important matter of the state of the Atlantic fishery to the floor of the House.

I know the issue is of concern to many members of the House, particularly those of us from the Atlantic region whose regions were affected by the downturn in the fishery in the early nineties, particularly in the cod stocks. It is clear to many of us that nowhere was that impact more keenly felt than in the hon. member's home province of Newfoundland, although it has been felt in other parts of the country as well.

I have talked to fishermen in the communities of Sambro, Prospect, Terence Bay, West Dover, East Dover, Indian Harbour and other communities in my own riding of Halifax West who rely on the groundfish fishery. They were severely impacted by the moratorium and obviously by what led to the moratorium in 1992, which was the downturn in the groundfish fishery. It was devastating for many individuals. Many people relied directly on fishing for cod and other groundfish species for their income. Overfishing hit them hard. It was very difficult. Some people have not fully recovered yet and are still having a tough time making a living because they relied on that fishery.

My riding was fortunate in many ways because it has a diversified fishery. For example, the lobster fishery has done reasonably well in southwestern Nova Scotia as it has in many parts of the province over the past number of years. It brings in tremendous revenues for people in our province and provides a livelihood for many families, as does other parts of the fishery.

Nevertheless, I do not mean to suggest that the fishery is particularly healthy. The fact is that the downturn in the fishery has had a very negative impact on communities in the Atlantic region.

We have heard in recent weeks about the concerns of people in Canso who have obviously been hit by the downturn. Fifteen to twenty years ago Canso was a tremendously thriving community with lots of people working in the fish plants and on the ships going out to sea. Lots of the resource went into Canso to be processed and the community was thriving.

When the fish stocks were healthy, communities like Canso and so many others, like Trepassey in Newfoundland and many others across Atlantic Canada were thriving and healthy. People were working and bringing home a decent paycheque, certainly not a huge paycheque but at least a modest paycheque. They were feeding, clothing and providing homes for their families. It provided hope to those families and their communities. To have overfishing deplete and destroy so much of the fish stocks off our coast has been devastating to many of those communities as members of the fisheries committee know so well.

In view of the situation we have seen in recent weeks and in view of the situation we have become aware of over the past number of years, particularly in the early nineties with the downturn in the fishery and the impact it has had on the Atlantic region, it was interesting to see what happened this week.

I am sure the people of Canso, who are desperately trying to find some way to get more fish for their community to process, were suprised to hear that off our own coast, just beyond our 200 mile limit, foreign vessels are catching cod, a fish stock that is under moratorium and a fish they agreed under NAFO not to fish.

We know, for example, the Russian ship Olga had 49 tonnes of cod and 9 tonnes of skate on board. I reacted when I heard the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans say those numbers earlier today in the House by saying that was some by-catch. It is unbelievable that could be a by-catch. It clearly was not an attempt by that ship to catch skate. The intention was clear. With the technology available today, ships can identify the kinds of fish they are after and can go after the ones they want.

If the Russian ship had 49 tonnes of cod in its hold and 9 tonnes of skate, it was because it was going out in a directed fishery looking for cod, a fish stock that is under moratorium. It was an outrageous action. I am pleased that the minister has taken action on this matter, particularly in relation to the Faroese ships that have been fishing for shrimp off our coast.

We know that over the course of 2001 and 2002 the Canadian government confronted the Faroese a number of times in relation to their actions in the fishery off our coast. We know that last year the quota for the Faroe Islands fishery off our coast under the NAFO agreement was 67 tonnes of shrimp.

We also know that they fished for over 100 days. I talked to some officials and we know that generally speaking one of the ships takes in 15 to 20 tonnes of shrimp a day. For 100 days at that level there will be a heck of a lot more than 67 tonnes. They are clearly overfishing.

We know they misreport their findings. We know they were supposed to submit observer reports 30 days after each of their trips. In the last two years they have submitted no reports at all. We know they were permitted to have one ship in area 3-L but they had two to three ships at a time. This was clearly a case where the Faroese were not following the rules. I am pleased the minister has taken the step of closing our ports to those Faroe Islands vessels. It was an important step.

We know these ships are fishing beyond our 200 mile limit and that is a problem for us because we are trying to work within international law. I understand the constraints the minister faces because of international law and because it is international law that provides for us the 200 mile limit, which allows us to have management of the stocks within that 200 mile limit. However when we are seeing other countries' ships fishing just beyond that area, on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, and destroying the same fish that swim back and forth across the line and that are part of our fish stocks, we have to be concerned. I think all Atlantic Canadians are anxious for the government to take whatever actions it can to ensure that the stock is protected.

Let us talk a minute about the Russian ship we know about and the situation with Russian vessels. Perhaps we are just picking on the Faroe Islands and the Russians but I am sure other members will be talking about the ships of other nations, such as the Spanish ships. We are familiar with the history of that and the history of the turbot when Brian Tobin was minister of fisheries.

We know, for example, that we had trouble with the Olga back in December. Those troubles were raised with the Russian government. I have been told by officials that the Russians are responsive. They say that they have taken action on these ships and have fired captains, and yet we see the Olga back again doing the same old thing. How can we believe the Russian authorities when they are telling us that they are actually taking real actions against these vessels or the captains. It is a little hard to believe. We would like to see them take much more effective deterrent action. That is their obligation. They have obligations under NAFO and under the UN fish agreement, of which they are one of the few members of NAFO who have actually signed on.

However, having signed on to it, the Russians ought to follow it, live up to those obligations, control their actions and ensure compliance with the rules of the agreements they have signed. Otherwise, what would be the point of having these agreements and international laws? If there are violations, it is their responsibility to take effective actions to deter those violations.

As I said, we are talking about taking action on the fishing that is going on beyond our 200 mile limit. We are not talking about taking action within our limit. We are not talking about the Canadian zone exactly. That creates an obvious challenge and an obvious problem for the government because it is a situation where, rather than being able to easily enforce these international agreements, we need to rely on negotiation, diplomacy and whatever other tools we can use to persuade, cajole or push these other countries to follow those rules.

The closing of our ports to those ships is an important step in the right direction. I think members on all sides of the House would agree that closing our ports to those ships is a very important step. More can be done but we hope that gets a reaction. Our first hope is that these countries will recognize that they need to have access to our ports. They need to recognize that if their ships cannot get into our ports to get supplies or whatever, it will cause them great problems. They will have to go back to their own countries perhaps or much farther away to get supplies. If it does not work for them, they had better start looking at another way to do this. They had better start looking at following the rules so they can get back into the ports. Let us hope that will work. That is the first step. If it does not work, I hope the government will look at other possibilities and all means possible to bring this to a head and to get a reaction from these countries so that we do not have this problem going on and on.

I think the point to keep in mind here this evening is that the impact of overfishing is an impact that is felt by people, by Canadians in Atlantic Canada particularly who have suffered through a decade or more of a downturn in the fisheries. Especially in Newfoundland, as I mentioned earlier, the impact has been very harsh.

We have seen the recent census in which the population in Newfoundland has declined and in which the population of every province in Atlantic Canada, except Prince Edward Island, has declined. We have to be concerned about that decline. We have to be concerned about why it has happened. It is clear to me that in Newfoundland particularly, the downturn in the fishery is the obvious reason for that decline. We know that in outports all over Newfoundland those communities would have been thriving during the time that the fishery was strong. With the downturn in the fishery, those communities have suffered. People in all those communities and their families have suffered.

I think it is important that we, as members of parliament, remind the government of that, that we remind ourselves of that constantly and that we keep mindful of that fact. That is why we are talking about this issue. That is why it is important. That is why it is important that the government take whatever actions it can to ensure that our fish stocks are protected.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

9:25 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague from Cumberland--Colchester, I feel that I should not have to be standing here, that none of us should have to be standing here talking about overfishing off Newfoundland off the Atlantic shore. We have been talking about this issue for 20 or 25 years. The problem is we have not been doing anything or anywhere near enough about it.

I want to recognize the member for St. John's West who proposed this emergency debate. It is obvious that we need to press the government to take definite action, so I thank him for this opportunity.

These are observations from my travels to the east coast, never having resided there, but they are very much fixed in my mind, especially in regard to Newfoundland and Labrador. We are not just talking about the loss of an industry. We really are talking about the loss of a culture that is unique, certainly to Canada and I would argue unique to the world. That was brought home in the debate this evening as we listened to the members from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans with those heart-rending tales of misfortune by fishers who live in that area.

In 10 or 20 years will have to say that we are sorry, that we recognized the problem back in 2002 and we recognized it back in the 1980s, but we just did not do enough about it? Will we have to say “Sorry, as a culture you have disappeared?” That is not acceptable but it is what we are faced with.

I was just reading some notes from the United Nations Global Environmental Outlook Report 2000 from which I will quote. It states:

In the North Atlantic, 21 of the 43 groundfish stocks in Canadian waters are now in decline and 16 more have shown no recent signs of growth. Groundfish, such as cod, haddock, redfish and several species of flatfish, are most affected by pressure from overfishing, and ground fish stocks off the east coast, especially cod, have nearly collapsed. The Atlantic finfish catch, of which groundfish form the bulk, declined from 2.5 million tonnes in 1971 to less than 500,000 tonnes in 1994.

Then it lists several other causes for this. It goes on to say that failures within Canada's domestic fishery management system and foreign overfishing outside Canada's 200 mile limit are the major causes. It points the finger directly at the government for permitting the overfishing.

We heard that again from the minister earlier this evening. He put his hands up and says that he cannot even think that they might do something more, that we have to stay behind that 200 mile line and that it would be against international law. I could not help but think back to my law school days.

When I was in law school in the late sixties and early seventies, I can remember all sorts of so-called experts saying that Canada could not extend its limit, which was only 12 miles at that time, that international law would not permit it, that we were a small country so we could not do that. “Oh woe is us” was really what they were saying.

That is what we heard from the minister again this evening. That is hogwash. When we look at what has happened, to suggest that we will stand back and say that international law will not let us do it is just not acceptable. It is not acceptable to the peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador and it is not acceptable to the country as a whole because it is not true. International law does not work that way.

Look at what we could be doing. We could be saying to those countries that allow those ships offshore to totally devastate our fisheries that they cannot do that anymore. They were given the opportunity. We set up NAFO, they have participated in that and the result has been a total devastation of our fishery. That is a responsibility we have not only to Canada but to the rest of the world. Every sovereign country owes that to the rest of the world.

If the international system is not working, then we have to take control of it ourselves. We have to say to that part of the international community, which refuses to comply with the agreements we have with them and comply with the system we have established internationally, that this has not worked, that they have had their opportunity and that we are now going to protect those fisheries for Canada and we are going to protect them for the international community.

I want to follow up on the comments of my colleague from Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore. We will be going to those negotiations in September. Do we have any contingency plans? I suggest again that we do not because that has been the pattern of the government.

Look what happened when the fishery was in such terrible shape in the middle nineties and the way the government further devastated those communities by dismantling the protection we had at that time in the unemployment insurance scheme. That was done by this government. It shows how much it cared for that area of the country.

What is the government going to do on October 1 as more and more fishers are no longer able to sustain themselves from the fishery? Is it going to maintain the EI system as it is now? Probably. Should it? Obviously not. Is it Will it extend the economic zone? Again, we heard from the minister this evening, probably not. However we should.

I think it was the member for Malpeque who talked about the negotiations that went on in January at NAFO. I would like to list some of the things that happened there. He wanted us to believe that it was not so bad, but here is what happened.

NAFO members voted down measures proposed by Canada to protect stocks under moratoria. They voted to increase the total allowable catch of Greenland halibut in clear contravention of the advice of NAFO's own scientific counsel. There was a long list of violations, the vast majority of them from the European community. Nothing was done about it. The European community led the attack against an important measure proposed by Canada to restrict fishing depths for Greenland halibut. Nothing was done about the extremely well documented misreporting of shrimp landings. That misreporting is one of the major problems. It is underreporting, non-reporting or outright falsification. Nothing has been done about it. There has been no enforcement.

Again, I come back to post-October 1 of this year. We know from experience that those NAFO negotiations will not be successful and will not be of any use in protecting the fishery off the Atlantic coast.

I urge the government to begin to plan for a conservation and sustainable program that would involve total and complete custodial management in the hands of Canada, not just the government, not just the bureaucracy within the fisheries department, but a custodial management program and plan that would have active, meaningful participation from the communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I strongly urge the government to consider looking at the banning of certain technology that is being used now. The dragging, which at one point was at 1,000 metres in depth, is now over 2,000 metres and appears to be extending itself on a regular basis. It is probably only a matter of a short period of time until that depth will be 3,000 metres. That dragging is devastating to the fishery. It destroys so much of the terrain under water. It destroys the habitat of that fishery. Even if they are not successful at getting one fish, it has a devastating effect on the overall fishery because of what it does to the habitat. I urge the government to look at that and to consider banning that technology where its use is inappropriate.

I urge the government to get serious about enforcement. We cannot depend on NAFO or the international community for enforcement. That is obvious. If we could, we would not be here this evening. We would not be in a crisis. We would not be looking at a fishery that is almost gone.

We have to seriously consider resources being put into the ocean, to monitor those custodial management plans and to monitor and enforce the regulations that would protect the fishery, that would give it an opportunity to recover and that would give those communities a lifeline.

I recently was on a panel as the environment critic for my party. It was more on the environment side, monitoring and identifying spills, investigating them and laying the appropriate charges. One of the individuals on the panel stated, and there were several who confirmed this, that currently off the entire east coast, that we have either a plane, helicopter or a surface ship in that area monitoring and trying to enforce one day out of every five. That on average is what we are doing. We have at this point absolutely minimal ability to enforce.

Again I urge the government, come October 1 that has to change. We have to have a plan in place that would let us take control of this fishery and enforce the regulations that we pass at that time. If we do not, the fishery will be gone and the whole culture and heritage of that island will disappear.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

9:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for not only being in the Chair tonight to listen to this important debate but for allowing it to take place. We all owe you a round of applause.