Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of opinions with respect DFO's policies in recent days, some from my hon. friend from Cardigan. I am not here to say whether I agree or disagree with these policies but to say that we need to be able to have a discussion about these things. I am not alone in this position. In the words of the respected host of The Fisheries Broadcast in Newfoundland, John Furlong, it is time to have “Discussion without fear of recrimination”.
We have heard a broad spectrum of views and many people have expressed how important it is to understand the origins of these policies. My colleague has mentioned this as well, but allow me to provide a bit more background on both the owner operator and fleet separation policies to which he has referred.
The fleet separation policy was introduced in the Atlantic inshore fishery in the 1970s. Basically, it states that corporations and processing companies may not be issued new fishing licences. Originally, the purpose was to separate the harvesting sector from the processing sector to help prevent any one group from controlling the supply chain. The owner operator policy was introduced in the 1980s to address an imbalance that emerged from the fleet separation policy. This policy requires licence holders to be onboard the vessel to personally fish the licence. It was designed to support the individually operated inshore fleet.
These policies have evolved over time in response to specific requests. Many rules have been adapted over time to allow for exemptions. This has led to regional variations that complicate the administrative process and may create unfair advantages. Thus across the country we can find these policies displayed in many different ways. In British Columbia, for example, neither of these policies are in place. However, in Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, a fisherman can get a 120-day exemption from the owner operator policy, allowing someone else to operate his vessel. Perhaps he is sick during that period. In the Maritimes region, the exemption only permits 30 days. As another example, in some cases processors were providing capital to harvesters in order to secure a supply of fish, and in some cases trust agreements did indeed put the control and decisions in the hands of the processors.
As a result of all these changes, another policy was introduced in 2007 to preserve the independence of inshore harvesters and strengthen the owner operator and fleet separation policies. Last year, the fleet separation policy was further amended to allow wholly owned corporations to hold fishing licences. Accordingly, these policies have developed and evolved over the years.
Typically with every rule and policy that has been adopted over time, exemptions have had to be adopted to provide the flexibility that harvesters need to manage their business. Therefore, to be clear, our review is not focused solely on the owner operator and fleet separation policies, though we recognize their importance to many harvesters in the Atlantic. These policies and others are complex and need to be considered in today's context to see if they remain effective in the face of fluctuating resources and changing market conditions. The purpose of our current work is not to arbitrarily remove or support policies but to see where there are unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies that exist, and to identify barriers to improved economic prosperity for fishers. I hope the hon. member would agree with that goal.
It is for these reasons that we went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not. Now we are going to consider the feedback we received, through in-depth and objective analysis, which will allow us to better understand the issues.