Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the motion by my colleague concerning the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans entitled “Foreign Overfishing: Its Impacts and Solutions, Conservation on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap” off Newfoundland.
As most of my colleagues who have spoken have said, this is a unanimous report tabled by all of the committee's members. I would like to thank all my colleagues who were on the committee with me for their excellent work, as well as its chair, who is with us at this time.
The objective of the members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was a very simple one: to protect the resource off Newfoundland, that is the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. We were made aware of the real tragedy that ensued as a result of the loss of this resource, both in Newfoundland and in Quebec, the Gaspé in particular.
I have just been rereading some of the witnesses' statements and would like to quote Richard Cashin, who headed the task force on incomes and adjustment in the Atlantic fishery in 1993.
It is now 2002, and we are still in the same boat. In fact, the situation is worse. In 1993, Mr. Cashin said:
We are dealing... with a famine of biblical scale—a great destruction. the Social and economic consequences of this... destruction are a challenge to be met and a burden [on] the [entire] nation, not just... its victims.
It was a real tragedy because fisheries management, prior to 1992 and the moratorium, was extremely lax. Things were let slide until they realized that the resource was at risk of disappearing. The day this was realized, the decision was made to establish a moratorium, and this totally demolished the economy of Newfoundland and the region I come from, the Gaspé.
My colleagues, particularly those from Newfoundland, have already referred to this. It is a veritable human tragedy, a profound and unfathomable one, that these people have had to live through. The tragedy continues to this day. In Gaspé as in Newfoundland, fishing was people's livelihood and an honourable one. It brought them in a decent income. Since the 1992 moratorium, they are faced with a totally catastrophic economic situation.
We know that since 1992, the federal government has had to create programs to assist these people. These assistance programs only kept the people of Newfoundland and the Gaspé in a state of poverty that continues to worsen today.
When there is a strong economy, based on resources that belong to the people, it is impossible, by way of assistance and support programs, to completely replace the economy of a province or a region like the Gaspé overnight when the resource disappears. Small projects, that last a few weeks, with paltry wages, cannot jump start the economy of a province or a region such as ours.
Basically, what the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is asking for is quite simple. We made five recommendations, which I believe should have been made back in 1992, and thought of well before the moratorium and well before we reached the catastrophic situation that we experienced in 1992.
It is incomprehensible that today, despite the 1992 moratorium, the federal government is still hesitating to implement real measures to ensure that the resource is protected. Right now, we cannot claim that the resource is being protected.
On the contrary, reports continually point out that the resource is at risk, that it continues to decline and that the fish stocks are not rebuilding themselves. This is what we are being told right now.
Members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans are asking for something quite simple: that custodial management be implemented for the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap.
Why implement this type of management? It is quite simple. It is so that the resource can some day rebuild itself, so that some day, the people who traditionally lived off the resource, and who are still waiting to do so, can have some hope of living off the resource again.
Unfortunately, there are people who are still denied the resource and they have very low incomes. In my region, fishers make approximately $20,000 or $22,000 per year. These are people who could be making $100,000, and even more. These people are living on what I would describe as modest incomes, are being kept in poverty.
In the meantime, the federal government is hesitating to take the necessary measures, some proposed by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Yet, these measures are very simple.
Along with all its other partners, the federal government has set up what is called the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.
All the stakeholders and witnesses who appeared before our committee said—and we were able to see this for ourselves—that the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization is not working and will never work.
The reason is very simple: member countries set quotas, decide whether or not to implement regulations, and decide, at some point, to give themselves additional quotas, in spite of the fact that the resource is in jeopardy and that scientists, who are paid by NAFO, come and tell them that the resource is in jeopardy and that quotas must be reduced.
These people form a majority within NAFO and vote additional quotas for themselves, in order to support their economy. However, they are supporting their economy while wearing blinkers, because soon the resource will be all gone. Soon, these people will find themselves in the situation that we experienced, that Newfoundland experienced and that the Gaspé experienced.
What is even more serious is that this resource is our resource. As the hon. member mentioned earlier, it is obvious that even though there is a 200 mile zone, groundfish does not stay outside that 200 mile limit. It crosses that limit and, therefore, it becomes our resource. This is what we call straddling stocks. Under the United Nations Fisheries Agreement, we have the right to protect our jurisdiction over the resource within the 200 mile zone, our resource called straddling stocks.
To show how disappointed people are about NAFO, I will quote some of the comments made to us when we were in Newfoundland and in the Atlantic regions, including remarks by the hon. Gerry Reid, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Reid said:
If you want to look at what happened at the last NAFO meeting back in January, it becomes obvious that NAFO is not working for the benefit of Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador in particular.
We are well aware that NAFO is only working for the benefit of the European Union countries, which represent the majority within this organization, including Spain and Portugal, which are probably the worst offenders when it comes to respecting the resource.
Here is what was said by Jim Morgan, a spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador Rural Rights and Boat Owners Association.
NAFO was an organization that failed desperately in controlling and managing the stocks on the edge of our continental shelf.
It is obvious that NAFO failed “desperately”, as Mr. Morgan, the witness we heard from, said. This is not surprising, because they basically have no interest in enforcing the rules. They have no interest in depriving themselves of a resource that we are leaving for them, giving to them.
We are applying the rules stringently for Newfoundland fishers, and we have police to monitor Gaspé fishers. But we are letting fishers from these countries, NAFO members, deprive us of our resource and, as my father would have said, take the bread right out of our mouth. This is what the present federal government is letting happen and what it is hesitating to change.
I have here in front of me the five recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. These are very simple recommendations which would enable us to protect and safeguard the resources. They would perhaps give us some hope of being able to restore a fishery in Newfoundland, as well as in the Gaspé. These recommendations must be approved by the federal government. This parliament must give the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the mandate to implement these recommendations.
These recommendations are not difficult to implement. They are simple recommendations. First, custodial management on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and on the Flemish Cap must be implemented no later than one year following the September 2002 NAFO meeting.
We are not asking the government to do it overnight, because we are well aware that this would be impossible. On the other hand, one year after the September 2002 meeting, that is September 2003, is a possibility. It is not impossible, if government decides this is important and necessary.
Another recommendation is that, as I have said, basically all witnesses felt that NAFO is totally ineffective. The countries themselves are the ones allocated resources, when we know very well they really have no intention of protecting the resource, which is not theirs anyway.
Considering that NAFO is totally inefficient and ineffective, and considering that we bear 40% of the costs—if memory serves, the Canadian government pays very close to $500,000 to NAFO to have its resource stolen from it—let us cease to be a member. Let us withdraw from NAFO, useless and totally ineffective organization that it is.
When an organization is ineffective, when one is a member of an organization that does not function, and when one pays 40% of its costs moreover, I believe it is our duty to withdraw from it and to announce that we are going to take control and decide on our own what to do, that is to say protect the resource and ensure that our fishers, whether from the Gaspé or from Newfoundland, can benefit from this resource which belongs to the community.
The fishers of Newfoundland and the people of Gaspé are not the only ones affected by this groundfish catastrophe which has affected all maritime fishers since 1992, or even earlier. They are not alone. Everyone in Quebec, in the maritimes, and in the rest of Canada is affected.
The resource is not the property of only one province or of certain European countries; it belongs to us all collectively.
I call upon parliament to support the motion submitted to us, so that the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans may be implemented, so that Canada may withdraw from NAFO, and so that custodial management is implemented on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap.