Mr. Speaker, I move that the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans presented to the House on Tuesday, June 11, be concurred in.
I thank the House for allowing me to move this important motion. It comes on the coattails of the good work of the hon. member for St. John's West. He moved a similar concurrence motion of one of the best reports that ever came out of any committee in the House in recent years. I am speaking of the report entitled “Foreign Overfishing: Its Impacts and Solutions”, which made a number of recommendations to help address the incredible overfishing problem off the Atlantic coast.
This overfishing is having a profound impact. Most people do not realize this but a census published a short time ago showed that every federal riding in Newfoundland and Labrador has suffered a loss in its population. Much of that is because of a lack of opportunities in the fishery which has been taken away because of overfishing. It is a serious issue not only for the fishery but for the whole province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the country. As the population of Newfoundland and Labrador declines because of overfishing, then the burden on taxpayers in the rest of the country becomes even greater.
Something the census did not show was that most of the people who are leaving Newfoundland and Labrador are young people. They are the people who would make our provinces in Atlantic Canada grow, especially Newfoundland and Labrador. They are the people who would buy houses and create new businesses. They are the people who would raise families. Without this whole generation of people this issue creates even more profound social and cultural problems.
Much of the problem comes from overfishing outside of Canada's 200 mile limit. The committee came up with a sensible and totally unanimous recommendation suggesting that Canada become the custodian of the area outside the 200 mile limit that is now controlled by members of NAFO. This has proven to be a total failure as far as enforcement goes.
As recently as last week another ship was inspected. It was caught breaking fishing rules outside of Canada's 200 mile limit. This 200 mile limit issue is flaunted because it provides these ships with safety because there is no enforcement. NAFO enforcement can register the problem, but it cannot enforce it and impose penalties or fines. That is left up to the home country of the ship involved.
In this case it was a Russian ship that was sent to Spain and who knows what will happen. We can bet that ship will be back overfishing again shortly, taking away the jobs and livelihood of Canadians because there is no enforcement beyond the 200 mile limit. The NAFO agreement has failed in that there is no enforcement. It has no teeth to provide protection for us or anyone else.
The committee's main recommendation was that Canada extend custodial management beyond the 200 mile limit. NAFO would create the rules. It would identify quotas for fishing, but Canadians would enforce them. There would be enforcement for the first time ever. This again is on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, an important part of the fishery where the 200 mile limit extends beyond our jurisdiction and where there is effectively no control.
This started out as a good thing when countries formed NAFO. They thought there would be some enforcement and control over overfishing, but it has proven ineffective and a failure.
The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO, was organized in 1978 to provide for conservation and management, but again that has not worked. It will not work until there is enforcement and an organization with a real interest in it like Canada and Canadian enforcement agencies that can understand the impact.
European countries come to Canada and it does not matter to them what happens off our shores. It does not matter to them what happens to our fishery inside or outside the 200 mile limit. They come here to get as much fish as they can. There is no honouring of agreements and no respect for our concerns, our people, our culture and our thousands of fishermen and plant workers who are now out of work because of this situation.
The committee did a lot of work. It had excellent members and came up with a unanimous set of recommendations. It is time for the House and the minister to accept the committee's recommendations. It was surprising when the minister refused to accept the recommendations before he even read the report.
I noticed that the minister of fisheries in Newfoundland applauded the committee for its good work but the minister of fisheries in Ottawa did not even take the time to read the recommendations. They are simple and clear recommendations. The summary of the recommendations is on one page, so anyone can understand them. If the minister took a few moments he could read this one page and know what the committee worked on and what conclusions it arrived at. They are simple recommendations and I will run through them.
Recommendation number one is that observer reports would be more transparent and would be submitted in a timely fashion instead of the process now where they are clouded and delayed, and no one is held accountable.
Recommendation number two is that the Government of Canada amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to implement the custodial management of fisheries resources on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. This is the most important one which would provide once and for all an enforcement body of Canadians with an interest, knowledge and understanding of the situation that would enforce the rules outlined by NAFO and the quotas.
Recommendation number three is that the Government of Canada inform NAFO and its contracted parties that Canada will withdraw from NAFO and proceed with the implementation of this management of the nose and tail of the Grand Banks no later than one year following the September 2002 NAFO meeting. It puts a deadline on it. It makes sense because it cannot go on forever.
Recommendation number four is that the Government of Canada conduct a targeted public information campaign to increase public awareness of violations of NAFO.
Recommendation number five is that Canada make clear that it is prepared to use the provisions of Bill C-29 against NAFO members who have not ratified the UNFA, and that in the case of NAFO members who have not ratified UNFA, Canada is prepared to use the provisions to ensure conservation.
These are basic, common sense recommendations. The House should ratify the committee report and the minister should implement it as quickly as possible.
I live in Nova Scotia. There are communities up and down the coast of Nova Scotia that have been devastated by overfishing, both within the 200 mile limit and beyond the 200 mile limit. We cannot talk about fishery devastation without mentioning Canso, a little town in the riding of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough that recently lost its fish plant, the main employer in the whole community. It has shut down and the town will be devastated.
It is a terrible example of what happens when this fishery crisis hits a small community. People are already moving out and a lot more will move out as the school year ends because there are no opportunities for the fish plant workers. There are no opportunities for the fishermen and fisherwomen. There are no opportunities for the young people graduating from school now. They have no choice but to leave.
This again puts a bigger burden on the people who remain. It guarantees there will be no future. If there are no young people, there is no future. There are no future small businesses. It puts in jeopardy the schools and the health care institutions. Everything is in jeopardy when this happens. That is why the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough has worked so hard trying to convince the minister of fisheries to help, and the minister has not helped even a little bit.
This is a renewable resource if it is managed right. It is not like an exhaustible resource. The member for St. John's West pointed out the other day that this resource can be renewed and be there for decades and hundreds of years for future generations of people along the Atlantic coast to earn their livings, create their communities and protect their culture. However no one is protecting the resource. It is a renewable resource that should be protected and it is not.
The committee's report would take steps to guarantee that the renewable resource is protected and would stay there. It would allow for careers for our young people. It would also allow for the culture of our communities and the population to remain. Without this protection all these communities along the Atlantic coast would be hurt.
It was surprising when the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans rejected the report without even reading it. The minister has a responsibility to at least respect the work of the hon. members on the committee who worked so hard to develop these recommendations. They travelled from coast to coast, town to town and village to village. They met with unions, fishermen, mayors and councillors. They did a great deal of work. To table the report and have it whisked off the table is disrespectful and disappointing to say the least.
We urge the minister to reconsider his approach to this. Rather than state all the reasons it cannot work, he should say that perhaps we can make it work. Perhaps we could take a risk. The government does not take many risks but here is a chance for it to take one.
Why does he not go to the NAFO meetings in September, put this position forth and stand up and be counted rather than say we cannot do this or that because we have never done this or that? It is time to do something new and different or our fisheries will be completely devastated. It is hard to believe that we are still talking about overfishing after what the country has been through since the early 1990s and the trauma that the provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have gone through with the cutbacks and restrictions.
When the cutbacks first started we thought it was a delay and if we waited two or three years the fishery would come back. Here we are 10 years later still talking about overfishing. It is hard to believe we are doing it. No other country in the world would allow that to happen.
The answer is here. The minister does not even have to think. All he has to do is read one page and then implement the recommendations. It makes it real easy for him. All he has to do is read the one page of recommendations. The answers are there to resolve this issue.
We urge the minister to think about the impact on villages, communities and workers all along our Atlantic coast and say that perhaps it is time we did something proactive. Rather than say we cannot do anything, perhaps it is time to take a risk, to take a stand at the NAFO meeting in September, and say we will do this and then do it.