Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be standing here once again to talk about something that is certainly a topic of discussion in my riding, which is probably the understatement of the night. Northeastern Newfoundland is predominantly my riding, as well as central Newfoundland or, as the fishermen like to call it, parts of 2J, 3K, 3L.
I would like to commend my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl for bringing this bill forward. I have the honour of being one of the seconders of this legislation and it may come as no surprise that I speak in favour of it.
I have a few comments about the earlier speaker. I understand the intentions of wanting to create the right markets and the situations by which our harvesters can get more value from the occupation that they have to the point of being able to pass it on to the next generation. However, putting things in the window, like a capital gains tax, is probably not what we want to rely the entire fisheries policy on, given the fact that the value of that catch has decreased so badly that the capital gains tax is probably worth even less than that 1¢ people got off the price of their Tim Hortons coffee this morning.
I do want to talk about stock rebuilding. I bring that up because we did a study with the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, as my colleague across the way, from British Columbia, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, can remember. It was November 2005. We paid visits to eastern Newfoundland, to Bonavista in my riding as well, and Twillingate. In those areas, what we saw and heard was, to me, some surprising testimony about how all the efforts being made to help recover a stock were not showing the results we wanted. Time and again, the stock assessments were showing, in the offshore stock, less than 2% of what they were in the 1980s.
Again, over quite a period of time, from the time of the moratorium when the directed fishery was ended on a mass scale, that was July 1992, until now, we have not seen that recovery. By his own admission, the member who just spoke talked about over 800,000 tonnes of a catch in the late 1960s and now down to 12 tonnes. So we can talk about markets all we want, but this is a question about stock rebuilding and how we go about doing that. Even the Auditor General, a few years ago, pointed out that it has been a dismal failure over the years and therefore we have to look at it. I am not specifically blaming any one particular government. I blame them all, as we should blame ourselves as well.
However, there is one element that the government needs to look at and I think has failed somewhat on this scale. The Conservatives entered into negotiations with NAFO. For anybody who is watching at home or in this House, NAFO is the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the international body that governs the offshore stocks outside of our 200 nautical mile limit. In this particular case, we saw bandying to the point where there was trade and negotiations going on that did not work in our favour, only to find this out after the fact. When the House voted to go against these NAFO agreements, the government went ahead and decided to reverse that and go ahead with this agreement, which I think is a shame, with species such as turbot, not just cod or Greenland halibut as it is called.
However, in the meantime the offshore directed fishery from international fisheries, primarily western Europe and I will not pick out any of the countries as they know who they are, have had their time on the open water. We have seen a lot taken from us in that particular vicinity, not only outside the 200 nautical mile limit but inside the 200 mile limit as well. When I look at the state of the fishery now in the northeast, and again I will restrict my comments to just the northern cod species, we see a small directed fishery taking place. In excess of 2,000 pounds would be the average. We are looking at a recreational fishery isolated to four weeks, three in August and one near the end of September. Right now, we are seeing an overabundance of cod.
I remember when we did the study and we talked about the fact that there was an offshore stock and inshore stock. The science was saying that the offshore stock was quite low. In many cases, the science was saying that the inshore stock was also very low. However, our own fishermen told us that this was not the case.
We have situations now where a bycatch of cod on the inshore becomes drastic. Believe it or not, for many of these fishermen, the cod has become a nuisance species on the inshore. Therefore, when they say that enough studies have been done, I do not agree.
In this case, why do we have a stock that is in danger, overfished, yet on the inshore we have stock in abundance? This past season was a successful season for those who had the small quotas. These are the questions we need to ask and we need to ask them each and every time.
Right now, as members know, we have to take into account elements like climate change and seal populations. The seal population itself has grown exponentially just in the past two or three years, millions upon millions. To this day, even during the study we did in November 2005, there is not an exact science as to how much, or even why, these seals are eating all the biomass of cod. It is incredible. We need to look further into this.
When the government decides it will get to its deficit cutting and budget measures, but announces that the science assessments will be over a three-year period, it is a major mistake.
Stock assessments are on an annual basis and I would argue there should be more than that. It should be done twice a year, or three times a year, or even more, if the science that had been invested in was bad. As Conservatives say, it was bad to begin with, but they said that they would fix it. I remember former minister Loyola Hearn saying much the same, but it did not get much better. In fact, it is much worse as far as the science investment is concerned.
The recommendations of the FRCC show up in our report quite extensively. It is quite incredible. Why would they do this? I remember being on the government side with the Conservatives in opposition. They told us about all these changes that we needed to make. We fell short of these goals, but now it is even worse.
However, we should do this study. The effects of the offshore fishery, the international markets, those people who line up along our 200 nautical miles looking for fish and who are certainly not flying the flag of Canada, needs to be reassessed. We need to reassess the biomass itself across the northeast.
Cod was the king species that sustained a people for hundreds of years. My colleague pointed this out in his speech some time ago, and I will not reiterate. However, where I come from, we all know what it meant to us. Now we find that the king species are the snow crab and shrimp as well, but even those are not near what cod brought us over the generations.
The member is right in the sense that we have to do a more extensive study. The hon. member talked about the studies that had been done in his speech. Not really. The right studies have not been done yet. It takes a vast effort to look at how we can rebuild the species and not just the one species, but ecosystem management itself.
Fishermen, such as George Feltham from Eastport and Rick Kane from Bonavista North, were quoted in this study. They are harvesters, one with a smaller boat and one with a very large vessel. They talked about how they would go out to catch snow crab and shrimp in their nets and find large cod. How is this happening? Within the inshore regions, why do we show high numbers of cod, yet each and every time, northern cod gets close to the endangered species list? Do we know that this is the case?
When fisherman tell me that they went out and it took them three hours of fishing to catch their quota of over 2,000 pounds, and they are not big boats either but it is a lot of fish in a very short period of time, then one has to ask why this has happened. The fact is science is telling us we cannot have the fishery we used to have and that there is a long way to go. Somebody is wrong, and it is not the fishermen who show me the fish on the wharf.