Mr. Speaker, I move that the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans presented on Tuesday, June 11, be concurred in.
It is certainly a pleasure to stand and speak to the report recently tabled by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled “Foreign Overfishing: Its Impacts and Solutions”. It is on the word “solutions” that I will certainly be spending a lot of my time.
However, for those who are not familiar with the work of the committee or the issue, I certainly think that we have to look at the background on this major issue as it affects not only Newfoundland and Labrador but Atlantic Canada specifically and the rest of the country generally.
Thirty years ago, the fishery in Atlantic Canada was what we called a golden opportunity for people to find employment. Fishers from all over were involved in harvesting at all levels, inshore, offshore and of different species. Fish plants opened all over the place and provided all kinds of employment, but gradually, as the harvesting increased, the stocks started to decrease. Several things happened simultaneously. Our own fishing effort certainly increased but the foreign effort greatly increased. Instead of the two-masters or three-masters, fully rigged, that visited our shores, we had huge factory freezer trawlers that came over like vacuum cleaners and sucked up everything that was on the bottom.
Gradually, people who were involved in the fishery, the experienced fishermen, began to express concern about the state of the stocks. Nobody paid much attention and the scientists basically said “no problem, there are lots of fish out there”. As we moved into the 1980s the conditions became worse and of course in 1990s it was history as written. In the early 1990s, in 1992, we had the moratorium declared on a number of groundfish species, particularly the northern cod, which was really the staple product that supplied employment to so many Newfoundlanders, Labradorians and Atlantic Canadians.
Since the moratorium, these stocks have not increased. Again we can point to a number of reasons. Scientists will discuss changes in water temperature. They are concerned about what is happening in our oceans that neither our own scientists nor scientists from any other country seem to be able to explain. On top of that we know that we have a seal herd that has ballooned from a million or a million and a half to an estimated seven million. Seals have to eat something, and as a former member of the House, Morrissey Johnson, once said, “They don't eat turnips”. Consequently they must have an effect on the stocks, but one of the major effects is the foreign overfishing.
In the report and in our discussions, members have heard us all talk. When I say “us” I am referring particularly to members of the standing committee, all of whom, as a unit, dealt with this issue. The chairman, a good P.E.I. representative, handled the issue in a non-partisan way because of his concern. Being from the maritimes he understood the situation and has done a very good job as we have gone through our hearings in enunciating to anyone who would listen the concern about the problem. Other members of the committee collectively, regardless of party, have been solidly behind the efforts to deal with this major problem.
A couple of days ago a major announcement was made in Newfoundland and Labrador about the development of the Voisey's Bay project, a major mineral discovery that will create a tremendous amount of employment in the province. Whether it is a good deal or a bad deal, we will know more about it following the three days of the debate which is underway right now in the house of assembly in Newfoundland.
However the federal government put in $150 million to kickstart a small pilot plant that will test the new Hydromet process.
Minerals are finite resources. Whether it is a small discovery or a big one will determine the longevity of any such project. Whether it is 10 years, 20 years, 30 years or 50 years, somewhere along the line the minerals will be taken out of the ground and that area will be finished in relation to providing employment.
The fishery has been with us for 500 years. In 1497 John Cabot sailed to the coast of Newfoundland and reported catching fish in baskets. Whether it was codfish, caplin or whatever, we do not know, but fish were extremely plentiful. That is no longer the case.
My colleague from Antigonish--Guysborough has his plant in Canso, a plant that provided employment for hundreds of people for several years and is not operating. Why? It simply because of a lack of resource.
During our committee hearings we heard from the mayors of two towns in the district of Burin-Burgeo on the south coast of Newfoundland. That area depended entirely on the trawler fishery, boats that fished on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and inside the 200 mile limit in the section we control ourselves. They provided Burgeo 12 months of the year with a steady source of product which provided employment for hundreds of people.
Trepassey and Fermeuse in my own area both had deep sea plants. Fermeuse phased into an inshore plant over the years and is now barely operating because of the lack of resource. Trepassey no longer exists as a processing centre. Six hundred people worked there year round. It was a unionized plant and the wages were good. Families did exceptionally well and students during the summer did not have to worry about programs that HRDC would fund. They went to work in the plant and made very good money. The plant no longer exists. Trepassey, a town of 1,500, is now a town of about 800 where all the younger families have moved elsewhere in the country and a lot of them to Alberta. That is what declining stocks have done to Newfoundland.
However it does not end there because the hurt is still occurring. Fewer and fewer fish are being caught by our own people because just outside the boundary the foreign nations are still scooping up the product, as I mentioned before, as if they were operating vacuum cleaners.
I will talk about the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. Our continental shelf off the coast of Newfoundland extends outward beyond 200 miles. When we brought in the 200 mile limit, and if we drew a circle around the province, we left outside that limit two projections of land, one to the north and one to the south which are referred to as the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. Just outside that limit is another shelf. It is called the Flemish Cap, a place where a few years ago we would not find a shrimp. Today, because of the increased activity in northern waters, the fishermen, not the scientists, say that the major activity on the grounds have caused the shrimp to move with the tides, land and multiply on the Flemish Cap. It is a lucrative shrimp fishing area to the point where several nations are now fishing shrimp, something that nobody did some years ago. They are not only fishing it, they are blatantly overfishing it by four, five and six times the allocated quotas.
What complicates the whole process is the fact that inside the 200 mile limit the Canadian government, regardless of stripe, manages the stocks. It allocates quotas whether they be individual quotas in the case of the inshore fishery, company quotas or general quotas, but it tries to manage the stocks relatively well.
The frustrating thing for the minister of fisheries, his scientists and advisers is that no matter how they manage the stocks there seems to be very little increase in many of them, especially those called straddling stocks.
If we put rocks in a garden and put a fence around them, they will be there for eternity. Fish however are not the same. We cannot tell them there is a 200 mile limit and that they cannot swim outside the line. Fish move. When they are inside the line our own fishermen can only catch certain amounts. In certain species they cannot catch anything. When they do catch a certain species, they are subject not only to quotas but to the type of gear they use and the time of year they fish because of breeding periods and whatever. However once these fish move outside the line, and sometimes we are talking inches and feet rather than miles, the foreigners are there waiting for them.
Many but not all of the countries that fish on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks are members of NAFO, the Northern Atlantic Fisheries Organization, an organization that has been in place for 20 years. For 20 years it has allocated quotas to the 18 countries involved. Some of them, such as Canada, have adhered to those quotas. Others, like Spain, Portugal and the Faroe Islands, have not. The Faroe Islands has been banned from the ports of Newfoundland because of the blatant overfishing of shrimp. Some years ago Spanish and Portuguese boats were banned because of non-adherence to rules and regulations, and that still exists today.
In speaking to the ministers of fisheries from all these countries, they will say that they are very concerned about the stocks in their own waters and in our waters where they share quota. However the companies and the individual fishermen continue to blatantly abuse the stocks outside the limit.
Recently, because of the attention that the committee and perhaps ourselves have drawn to the issue, people generally have become more vigilant. Because of tips we received and that fisheries acted on, we saw boats being checked as they entered port to transship their product. This has been going on for years but recently a few boats were checked. What did we find? In the first one we found 49 tonnes of cod, a species that we are not even allowed to catch.
When a sister ship about to arrive at port realized that boat number one had been caught it suddenly turned around and returned to Iceland. It was a Russian boat fishing out of Iceland. We are seeing a lot of Estonian and Russian boats flying under Iceland's flag to catch fish that is landed in Iceland.
The second boat that was checked did not breach any regulations according to the department of fisheries. What it did have was a tremendous amount of redfish, for which there are no rules or regulations as to where or what can be caught outside in 3O, the size of one's thumb. The gear it used was like the old hair nets that women used to wear years ago when they worked in the fish plants. It was smaller than caplin seine. It had X number of tonnes of cod liver. It had fishmeal. There was no way to explain how it could get those amounts of product without overfishing and fishing illegal species.
There was no correlation between the manifest that showed what it had on board was legal and the actual catch, but no one did anything about it.
What happens when we catch something like boat number one where we saw a blatant abuse of a resource that is under moratorium? Canada cannot do anything. Canada can only let the boat go back home and hope the ownership nation will take action. In many cases no action is taken. Observers are supposed to be on the boats. Our observers are excellent and report on time. Other nations also follow that example and it is helping somewhat. On many occasions the observers are employees of the companies involved. Reports are either not tabled, tabled late or inaccurate and the system is not working.
In a nutshell, for 20 years NAFO has not been able to handle the blatant abuses of a renewable resource. This resource creates, as Joey Smallwood used to say, not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands of jobs for Atlantic Canadians and improves the economy of Canada generally. We let this resource be abused day after day and all we say is that when we go to the next NAFO meeting we will ask them to live by the rules. We have done that for 20 years and things are getting worse.
In listening to the fishermen, to the people in the towns affected, to the people who have followed it for years and to the officials of this very government, the committee members realized there was only one thing we could do. We had to manage the resource adjacent to our shores to which we have every right to manage. If we were to scrutinize the law of the sea regulations we would see that we are responsible for managing the resource. I was going to say we have to extend jurisdiction but the minister has said the government will never do that. What we asked for, which he says is the same thing but it is not, is custodial management. The adjacent state should be the managers of the resource. It would still allow countries that have legitimate quotas to fish them but to fish them legitimately under our supervision. If we do our work properly I am quite sure many of those countries would agree with us. All we are asking for is custodial management. It would not extend jurisdiction, as the minister says it would.
The other statement he made, which I have to refute because when the report was tabled he turned it down even, as he admitted, without reading it. He said that we could not do it. He did not discuss it with anyone. He is more concerned about the foreigners than our own Canadians. That has to stop.
The majority of the members on the committee were Liberals and some very good ones. He said that the committee only gets its information from those who do presentations while he listens to scientific advice. That was a slap at his own members who make up the majority.
I challenge anyone to do a poll in this country and ask people who they would rather depend on, the scientists at the department of fisheries who may be good but because they are so underfunded and there are so few of them they cannot do a good job, or the fishermen who have fished these grounds for years and who know what is happening, the towns that have been affected and the people who have followed the decline of this resource over the years. I would hedge my bets that the majority of the people would say that those involved in the industry know best.
In summation, we have made our recommendations. I am looking forward to the Liberal members, especially the Newfoundland members who are even more drastically affected than I am, getting up and letting the House know how important the report is. It is one chance to save an industry, a renewable resource that can add to the Canadian economy and provide employment for years.