House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was illegal.


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11:40 a.m.

Durham Ontario


Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Cardigan, for his speech here in the House today. There was a lot of history to his speech. He talked about long past triumphs, so I have to talk about my personal history.

When I was in the air force, I had the pleasure of serving on HMCS St. John's and actually participating in some of our fisheries enforcement measures, along with fisheries officers who would come on the ship. Our Sea King crew would be on the Flemish Cap patrolling our exclusive economic zone. We saw some of those trawlers out there. It is important that we enforce our sovereignty.

We support the industry. I have a personal history that keeps me passionate, and that is why I support Bill S-3 fully.

I have two questions for the hon. member. The first one is based on the port state measures agreement. Does he not agree that it is important for Canada to be part of that and to update global definitions related to fishing vessels, fishing, and that sort of thing, to make sure we address the modern fleets out there?

Second, the member spoke a lot about our small fishermen. These are some of the hardest working Canadians. I have seen them first hand. Does he not recognize that our European trade agreement presents the most exciting opportunity for Atlantic Canada in a generation? Tariff rates in the double digits would drop for the lobster and mussels that I know his province sells well. Is that not a boon for our industry?

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11:40 a.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his intervention. I appreciate the boats he was on. The only problem is that he arrived here the day the Conservatives formed a majority government. My concern is that the day he leaves there will be no boats. There will be nothing.

My concern is, and I am trying to inform the House, that the path this majority Conservative government is on is one of total destruction. It does not seem to understand the value of the fishery, particularly on the coasts.

He did indicate the importance of Bill S-3 and the port state measures agreement. Of course we agree with the port state measures agreement. However, we are not doing what we need to do in our country to protect our own fishermen and to make sure we know what is going on out in the sea, that we know what boats are out there. We need patrols.

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11:40 a.m.


Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North.

I come from British Columbia and along the coast we have many families and fishermen who are supported by the fishing industry. The bill is extremely important to British Columbians and many people living in my constituency.

The bill would require Canada to ratify the UN Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which Canada signed in 2010. I know that my colleagues in the House agree that this is a good bill and a sign of being part of and working with the international community to not only preserve but manage our fishing resources. The agreement was signed in 2010, yet it took the Conservative government four years to bring the bill to the House.

Not only that, members will notice that the bill begins with an “S”. For people listening at home, that means the bill was introduced in the Senate, the unelected, unethical, unaccountable Senate. I would have preferred it if the bill was introduced here in this House, which is represented by the people. It is a small issue but I do want to point it out.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines sustainable practices of legitimate fishing operations, including those in Canada, and presents unfair market competition for sustainable foods. That is the issue. There are estimates from a number of different studies that point out the economic loss worldwide due to pirated fishing ranges from $10 billion to $23 billion annually. This represents approximately 40% of the catch.

Commercial fisheries in Canada contribute about $5.4 billion in economic activity in this country. Not only that, it generates approximately 71,000 jobs across this country, on the west and east coasts.

There are a couple of issues that I want to point out.

One issue is on conservation, because fish are not unlimited. We know that this is a limited resource. Obviously, we must make sure that we regulate and prevent this illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing in order to ensure the sustainability of this resource, which provides many jobs not only in Canada but worldwide. It is a source of food that is valued across nations, so we must work with other countries to ensure that this resource is sustained.

The other aspect is that not only do we have to manage and ensure sustainability but we also have to enhance fishing stocks. How do we do that? There are many ways, and I will get into that. However, the record of the current government in regard to ensuring the enhancement of the fishing stocks and the environment has been terrible.

We have heard in the House of the cuts that are being made to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and to surveillance. It is fine and dandy to bring in a bill to ensure that we would protect the fishery from illegal and unreported fishing, but if there is no substance or teeth to the bill, how would we ensure that the law would be implemented? What we have seen from the Conservative government over the last three years that I have been here, and before that, is cut after cut to the very people who enforce these laws and regulations.

In the House today, someone pointed out that there was a $4.2-million cut to surveillance. However, I heard the parliamentary secretary say that it was not that much. How much is it?

Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has tried to get information from departments in regard to where the cuts are and who they are affecting. However, under the current government, government departments, whether it be Fisheries, the military or Defence, are all refusing to provide information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. On one hand the parliamentary secretary says that the cuts are not that much. How much are they? Let us know. Let Canadians know how much the cuts are to these departments.

I talked about sustainability. We have seen cuts to the environment. For example, 99% of our lakes, 99% of our rivers have been removed by the Conservative government from the Environmental Protection Act. On one hand, yes, we are trying to ensure we are protected against illegal fishing, unreported fishing and we curtail it. On the other hand, we need to ensure we provide environmental habitats for these fish to flourish and to come into our rivers. However, we have seen cut after cut in these areas where the government is failing to protect.

We have seen another side of things from the Cohen report. I come from British Columbia. This year we had a bumper crop of fish coming into the Fraser River. It was estimated that 26 million came into the Fraser River. In other years, we do not see as many fish coming into British Columbia, and that is because the government has made cuts to scientists. We need to understand what the oceans are all about. However, the government has not only made cuts to the scientists who study the ocean to find out about fish habitat and fish behaviour, it has also eliminated a number of facilities that monitor these kinds of experiments.

The Cohen report talked about fish coming into British Columbia through the rivers. We have seen that one year we get so many fish and another year we do not get as many. In order for us to protect our fishing resources, to protect and ensure that we understand the fish, we need to invest in science. We need to invest in enforcement. However, time after time we have seen the government shirk its responsibility in regard to ensuring the well-being of our families. It should ensure not only that the jobs being provided are protected today, but are protected in years to come, generations to come.

That is how ones works with the international community to ensure treaties like this are actually implemented, so I do commend the implementation by the House of the treaty to protect unregulated, illegal and unreported fish. We need to work with the international community to ensure more countries sign on to this treaty to ensure its implementation. There are only a handful of countries that have signed this, and we need a minimum of 25 countries to ensure that this is implemented.

Working with the international community is something the government has lost. I'll give you an example. Fish do not see boundaries. They travel around from one country to another, one ocean to another. Therefore, we need to work with other countries, but the record of the current government has been horrible.

There was a time when we were viewed as peacemakers. Canada was viewed as a country that would bring others together, but that is not the case now. I will give a prime example of that. In the history of the UN Security Council, we have always had a seat on a rotating basis. We ran, and other countries supported our position and voted for us to be on the Security Council. For the first time in the history, the 50-odd years, of the UN Security Council, the government did not even want to run a candidacy for that seat because it knew we would not get the support of other countries to have that rotating seat on the UN Security Council.

That is the government's record. On the other hand, the NDP leader was the Minister of the Environment in Quebec. He has worked with environmental organizations. He has worked for the sustainable development of our resources. I can assure the House that the leader of the NDP will work with the international community to ensure that we have sustainable fisheries, sustainable resources, not only for this generation but future generations.

I would encourage not only the Minister of Foreign Affairs but also the Prime Minister to work with other countries, to encourage them to sign this treaty so that we can sustain this very valuable resource for Canada and its future generations.

We have talked about this a little, but in order for us to implement this law, we need tools and people, initial resources, as well as surveillance tools to detect unreported, illegal, and unregulated fishing. However, we are seeing cuts under the government. Not only that, we have seen cuts to the scientific community. The government is cutting scientists who would help us enhance the fisheries and their related jobs and products. It is muzzling scientists. The government is not even letting them talk about some of the issues and problems we are facing and how we could solve those problems.

On one hand we need to protect managed fisheries, and on the other hand we need to enhance the fisheries. We need to enhance the habitat and ensure it is protected. Under the current government, 99% of our lakes and rivers do not have environmental protection.

On one side we need to make sure we do not have illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, because we need to preserve and sustain those fisheries. On the other hand, we also need to enhance and ensure that we provide a place, a habitat for the fishing stock to grow. For that, we need to make investments in habitat, science and other resources that will provide that habitat for fishing stock to flourish.

Under the Conservative government, time after time we have seen cuts to our fishing resources and to the environment. Earlier I heard my colleague from Quebec talking about the east coast, and how we need to provide security and safety for the fishing vessels, the brothers and sisters who go out on the rough oceans to fish. It is a very dangerous job. We need to provide enhanced security for them in order to ensure that they bring in their catch.

I heard from my Quebec colleagues earlier and read in newspapers that sometimes when fishing vessels in rough waters on the east coast phone for help, the call is picked up somewhere in Italy.

I am from the west coast of Canada, and even I do not understand the accent in the Maritimes. We need local people. I have colleagues from Newfoundland, and they have a distinct culture. We need to ensure that we do not send their distress calls overseas where their language will not be understood.

On the west coast we have seen cuts to the Kitsilano Coast Guard. My colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam pointed out that two hovercraft are out of commission now. On the one hand, cuts are being made to services that are required to support our fishing industry. One the other hand, we are not providing protection for fish in our rivers to make those fisheries sustainable over a long period of time and taking steps to protect them against unreported and illegal fishing.

I would encourage the government to work with other nations, bring them on board, and provide the leadership role that the government has not provided in other areas. We saw this not only last year when we lost a seat on the UN Security Council but in other areas where it failed to provide that leadership.

On this side of the House, we have a number of issues with the bill that have been pointed out already. We hope that the government will listen to some of the amendments that we will offer to ensure the bill has teeth and will protect fishermen and communities and jobs in this country. I am hoping that amendments would be entertained at committee stage. Over the last number of years, we have seen many amendments to enhance various bills.

Sometimes the Conservatives rush bills through with typos in them. We have seen a number of bills at committee stage that Conservatives were told were unconstitutional. We pointed out at committee stage that the crime bill and a few other bills would be ruled unconstitutional, yet the Conservatives failed to take that into account. They not only failed to take that into account; they simply refused to entertain some of the recommendations that the opposition parties had. Those recommendations were based on facts, science, and legitimate concerns from communities and stakeholders.

I am not going to get into facts and figures, because the Conservatives do not believe in them. They do not believe in science or concrete numbers, so I am going to leave that for another day.

In summary, this is a good step. Hopefully we will get some amendments at committee stage to enhance the bill.

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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the last two speeches, I realized that it is clearly time to set the record straight.

The member for Cardigan talked about the Experimental Lakes Area. It is now being run by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and will continue to provide world-class science. I would make the point that $18 million is being spent to rehabilitate Lake Winnipeg. That is real, on-the-ground environmental work. That is what this government believes in: on-the-ground environmental work.

When members on the other side criticize our environmental record, all they talk about is process. This government is actually doing things to rehabilitate and remediate the environment.

I would also note that in 2010, under this government's watch, there was a record Pacific salmon run, and in 2014, again under this government's watch, there was another record Pacific salmon run. I notice how those members never talk about the actual fish and what is going on in the environment.

I must also make this point. The member for Cardigan complained about the low price of lobster. The price of lobster is low because lobsters are extremely abundant.

My friend across the way talked about habitat enhancement, completely neglecting to mention that this government put $25 million into the recreational fisheries conservation partnership program, funding 400 habitat enhancement projects across the country.

My question for him is this: is he against local angling and fisheries conservation groups doing on-the-ground conservation projects?

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Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will tell the House what the Conservatives' record is on the environment, and it is not hidden: 99% of the lakes and 99% of the rivers have been taken out of environmental protection. That is the Conservatives' record.

With regard to the run of 2010 and the run on the Fraser River of this year, we have had good runs in those two years. Is it because of the Conservatives? I can assure members that the fish were not listening to the Conservatives' calls to come into the Fraser River.

What we need is sustainable, long-term planning and management of fisheries. The current government has failed. It has cut funds to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Before the last election, the Conservatives announced the Cohen commission to study where the missing fish went in British Columbia, yet none of the recommendations from that commission have been implemented by the Conservatives. The report has been sitting on their table for over two years.

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12:05 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Surrey North spoke very well about the importance of investing in our fishery, about investing in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, about investing in enforcement and science and habitat. I wonder if my hon. colleague can comment about whether the government is adequately investing in those areas of our fishery.

While some amendments may be necessary, we all agree that the proposed legislation in front of us is a step in the right direction. However, the investment that is needed and that the government should be providing to our fishery across the country and on the west coast is completely inadequate. Could my hon. colleague comment on that aspect?

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12:05 p.m.


Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a wonderful question.

Somehow the Conservatives think that this fishing business is only one year at a time. Let me remind them that we need a long-term strategy in order to ensure that we have fish not only this year but also four years from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now. We need sustainable management of fisheries.

This bill is a good step toward working with other countries. Fish cross boundaries, rivers, and international boundaries. We need to work with other countries to ensure that bills like this one are implemented. However, we need to provide resources for that, and we have heard in this House that the Conservatives have made cuts to the very surveillance that is required to ensure that illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing does not occur. It hurts our economy and our families when those resources are depleted by this unregulated, unreported, illegal fishing.

Under the current government, we have seen cut after cut to fisheries and to the environment, whether it is on the habitat side or on enhancing our fishing stock. The government has not even implemented a number of reports that it commissioned in order to ensure we have a long-term sustainable fishery. All we have are the yearly investments that the Conservatives pretend they are making.

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12:05 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, to return to the actual bill, Bill S-3, and the implementation of international measures to stop the importation of illegal and unregulated fishery products, I wonder if the hon. member for Surrey North would agree with me on something in “Prohibition—importation”, under proposed section 5.6. It says:

No person shall import any fish or marine plant knowing it to have been taken, harvested, possessed, transported, distributed or sold contrary to...

It then lists a number of laws.

We heard earlier from the parliamentary secretary that the definition of “fish” would be changed to ensure that it includes processed fish, as opposed to only fish that have just been caught in the nets.

I hope this law will work to stop the massive injustice of using slave labour, literally slaves, on the fishing fleets of Thailand. Far offshore, they catch the majority of the fish meal that goes into the equally environmentally and horrific practice of shrimp aquaculture throughout Thailand.

This is one of the most ecologically devastating practices, as it begins with clear-cutting mangrove forests. I think that doing something to protect the mangrove forests while at the same time ending the practice of slavery on the high seas would be a legitimate application of this treaty.

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12:10 p.m.


Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member in regard to the definition of “fish” that is being proposed by the Conservatives. I hope that we could look at that in detail at the committee stage.

I have mentioned before that the Conservatives usually do not entertain legitimate concerns from the opposition. I hope that they will look at this bill in detail to ensure that the bill has the teeth to implement its purpose. I hope that the Conservatives will entertain some of those concerns.

We should absolutely all be concerned about labour practices, not only here in Canada but around the world. We should be co-operating with other countries to ensure that labour and environmental practices are in line to ensure that we have long-term, sustainable fisheries not only for Canada but around the world.

As I said before, fish do not see borders. They do not see one ocean or the other. They swim all across the world, so we need to ensure that we work with other countries and our partners. Unfortunately, I am quite doubtful about whether we can do so under the Conservative government.

I can assure members that the Leader of the Opposition works with countries around the world to ensure that we have long-term, sustainable practices in place to ensure long-term prosperity in Canada's economy.

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12:10 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Northwest Territories.

Bill S-3 would amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to implement the port state measures agreement. This is largely a housekeeping bill that so Canada can ratify the UN Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which Canada signed in 2010. The purpose of this agreement is to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets through ports. It is an important agreement and it is important that Canada ratifies it.

Canada's NDP support the bill at second reading, but we intend to introduce several amendments at committee stage to strengthen it. We feel legislation like this should be introduced in the House, not in the unelected, unaccountable and still under investigation Senate, as my colleague mentioned.

Canada should be a world leader in encouraging policies that promote healthy oceans and sustainably managed fisheries.

I would like to talk about the international commitments approved by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, of the United Nations in 2009. Twenty-six countries plus the European Union have signed on to this agreement and it will take effect once 25 states ratify it. It is important that Canada ratifies this.

I would like to offer some background information about pirate fishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It is a major concern. It is a major problem threatening the health of the world's oceans. Pirate fishing fleets are difficult to hold accountable. They obscure their identity. They fly flags of convenience. They are profit-driven and their owners are savvy, wealthy business people who know how to evade detection. As well, their workers face hazardous conditions and slave wages.

Let me offer a few global statistics in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It causes an annual financial loss of about $10 billion to $23.5 billion. It accounts for up to 20% of all wild marine fish caught. Pirate fishing produces 11 million to 26 million tonnes of seafood annually. These are alarming figures. It is important that Canada does what it can to stop illegally caught fish from entering markets through our ports.

My colleague from Surrey North spoke about elements of the fishery. He spoke about the Cohen inquiry. He also spoke about the lack of resources that the government had put into the fishery and the fact that it had actually taken away from the fishery. I would like to talk about another important element of the fishery, and that is sharks.

IUU fishing is an issue I became familiar with while working on my private member's bill to ban the import of shark fins to Canada. Shark finning is strongly tied to illegal fishing. Over 100 million sharks, many of which are threatened and endangered, are illegally caught every year for their fins. That is an alarming and huge number.

It is surprising to see Conservatives so keen to tackle IUU fishing, yet most Conservative MPs could not bring themselves to stand up to the PMO and vote in support of my shark fin bill at second reading last year. It lost by five votes, a very close vote. With the overwhelming support of Canadians who supported this, this should have been a no-brainer for many Conservative members. Across the country many felt that the legislation should have been passed quickly so it at least could have gone to second reading and on to committee stage. It is very unfortunate that did not happen.

It is important that Canada tackle global shark finning. As I mentioned, 100 million sharks each year are killed, many for their fins alone, and many are threatened and endangered. One-third of all shark species is threatened with extinction due to shark finning. Evidence of pirate fishing fleets that return to ports with boatloads of shark fins has proven this is an incredibly tough task and that countries need to invest in resources to tackle this problem.

Shark finning is a prime opportunity for Canada's government to take a leadership role in the global fight against IUU fishing. One way we can combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for sharks is by encouraging all countries to adopt a fins-attached policy. Although we do not have a problem with shark finning in Canadian waters to a large degree, many would be surprised to learn that Canada's shark-landing policies are not as strong as they should be. I am hopeful the government will follow through on its promise to introduce stricter shark fin import regulations, yet its silence on this issue has been deafening for me. I have tried over the months to not only contact members, but also the CFIA to see how it is moving forward with the promise the government made to improve regulations.

This is the critical element and the heart of what we are talking about today, proposing amendments to legislation like this. It needs the commitment of the government to go forward with making changes not only in the legislation but in the resources needed to ensure we are able to make changes in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Let me talk about some of the other pressures of global concern on oceans and our wild fisheries. We certainly have an all-party oceans caucus at the House. We are tackling this issue by coming together to look at some of the issues that threaten the health of our oceans. The all-party oceans caucus is playing a very positive role.

I have intimate knowledge of the Fraser River, one of the world's greatest salmon rivers, located in my home province of British Columbia on the boundary of my riding of New Westminster—Coquitlam. It is an important fishery. It is an incredibly important river. We expected a large return this year, but, as members have pointed out, if we look at these runs pre-contact, they were normal. We have seen a trend downward. Even though we think 20 million to 26 million is a large run, pre-contact there were runs of 100 million sockeye to the Fraser. Therefore, we have to keep it in context. Real fundamental issues must be looked at which require science and enforcement.

There are other pressures on our oceans, such as warming waters and ocean acidification. I want to mention that we have the Bacon and Eggheads breakfast coming up on Thursday next week. The topic will be “Ocean Acidification: the other carbon dioxide problem”. I encourage all members to go to this important meeting to hear and learn about ocean acidification. This is another issue that our fishery is facing.

Oil spills, large and small, from tanker and marine traffic are another problem that threaten the health of our fishery. Our scientists would argue that the oil spilling into rivers and storm drains that combine into creeks and rivers and then into larger rivers and eventually into our ocean is a huge problem, as well as the oil from tanker traffic around the world and in our oceans in Canada.

Pollution threatens the health of our oceans, such as industrial waste. We are familiar with what happened at Fukushima a few years ago. Nuclear waste entered into the ocean, and is bringing debris and material over to our coast. The oceans are connected and there is quite a link. Some would argue that we really have one ocean, but our oceans are definitely connected.

There are certainly garbage islands. The gyre has been reported in the ocean and is an increasingly huge problem with the amount of plastics facing our fishery.

These potential impacts, including those from aquaculture, are all playing a key role in monitoring and taking care of our oceans.

In summary, the threat of the IUU, or the illegal, unreported and unregulated, fishing is important. We need to address this legislation in committee. We need to address pirating fisheries and tackle it together, but we cannot forget investing on the resources to tackle that problem.

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12:20 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments on this, especially given the region he represents and the work he has been doing in the House and in his riding.

Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you are aware, and I know my colleague is already aware, the leader of the NDP is very knowledgeable when it comes to the environment and the important relationship between environmental protections and a healthy fishing industry in Canada.

The New Democrats think this bill is going in the right direction. However, there needs to be a couple of amendments. We are concerned that the bill came out of the Senate, but we think we can play a very important part in strengthening the legislation.

Could my colleague elaborate a bit more with respect to the need to consider regulations that are similar to the EU which would require all fish and seafood products entering the Canadian market to be certified and their origins traceable? How important is that?

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12:20 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is really a two-part question.

One is that certification is very important. How we label, approve and certify fishery products is critical. How those products enter the country is really important. As I mentioned in my speech, the amount of fish that is being caught in the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing industry is huge. Therefore, certification is critical to allow consumers to know what they are actually consuming.

The member also mentioned the leader of the NDP being committed to a well-managed fishery and ocean. We are talking about the importance of fundamental protections to the environment and the ecosystems, which then provide jobs and spinoff benefits for tourism. Millions of dollars are invested in tourism each year, providing thousands of jobs. This is all connected to a well-managed fishery and ocean. It provides food for many first nation communities along the Fraser River.

As my colleague mentioned earlier, we need to take a long-term view of managing the fishery, not this short-term view that has put us into this problem.

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12:25 p.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has worked in the area of dealing with the problems of illegal fishing as it relates to sharks and the horrible practice of shark finning. Could he elaborate to some degree on whether he sees this bill as having any impact on that whatsoever and whether, having had conversations with government members, he sees any urgency for government to try to deal with that unfortunate practice?

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12:25 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned in my speech the importance of healthy oceans and sharks and that the illegal practice of shark finning does occur, unfortunately. It takes so many sharks out of the water. Sharks are top predators and play a key role in balancing and maintaining the health of our oceans.

The private member's bill I put forward went to a vote last year and failed, unfortunately. We had a commitment from the government that it would change the regulations. Unfortunately, there has been no action on that. I am very concerned about that. I have talked with members on the other side. I have been very keen to hear what has happened since that vote and that promise to address the regulations, but I have not heard anything. I really hope the government will act on it. I believe it has heard strongly from Canadians from coast to coast to coast about the importance of this.

This is connected to the issue of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. If we were to see a commitment, it would really be on issues like this, like shark regulations or banning the import of shark fins. These are serious commitments the government could play a part in.

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12:25 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to stand up and speak to this particular bill.

In my time in Parliament, this has been a new approach the Conservatives have taken of bringing forward bills through the Senate, which is supposed to have a sober second look at the bills that we create. We are putting the cart before horse, in many ways. It is really unfortunate that the Conservative government has chosen to make this change in parliamentary procedure. Making appointed people the standard bearers for government bills is completely inappropriate.

This is a housekeeping bill that gives the government the authority to ratify the UN Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. It was signed in 2010, and we are getting around to it, which is great.

It regulates foreign fishing vessels fishing in Canadian fisheries waters and harvesting sedentary species on the continental shelf beyond Canadian fisheries waters. That is good.

It also extends the application of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization regulatory area and prohibits specific classes of foreign fishing vessels from fishing for straddling stocks. The act also prohibits fishing vessels without nationality from fishing in Canadian or NAFO waters. All these things are good.

My concern in regard to fishing, and the concern I bring today, is about our Arctic Ocean. Measures like this are needed in the Arctic to protect fish stocks now and fish stocks that we really do not understand very well at all from overfishing in the near future.

Climate change is rapidly melting permanent ice in the international waters of the central Arctic Ocean, an area as large as the Mediterranean Sea called the Arctic donut hole. The Arctic donut hole is the area within the Arctic Ocean that does not fall within any national boundary. It is open for any type of exploitation by foreign fishing fleets.

Until now, the ice that has existed has blocked large-scale commercial fishing vessels, but with currently limited scientific data and no management measures in place, commercial fishing could pose a major threat to an ecosystem already stressed by dramatic warming.

We see things happening around the world in northern waters. Iceland and Britain are fighting over mackerel stocks that are moving into different locations in those waters.

In the summer of 2007, 40% of the Arctic donut hole was open water. In the middle of the Arctic Ocean, where there is no regulation and there are no territorial waters, 40% was open and could have been vulnerable to overfishing.

Mobile fleets of large factory processors range the world for fish and other sources of marine protein. For example, factory trawlers from Chinese ports travel 12,000 kilometres to catch krill near Antarctica. It is only 8,000 kilometres from China to the part of the central Arctic that was ice-free in 2007.

Today we heard the government say that it was not too concerned about the Arctic. It does not think anything is going to happen there. Wake up. The government needs to wake up and realize that the world is short of protein and it is going to go wherever there is protein available.

In 2011, a senior researcher from South Korea's government-run Korea Maritime Institute said that “Arctic fisheries can become the centre of world fisheries in the near future ”. He extolled their potential to not only meet Korea's high demand for fish when there are declining stocks elsewhere but to rescue the Korean fishing industry from its financial troubles.

The researcher said:

In the near future, the thawing of the Arctic Ocean will influence the fisheries by creating more fishing opportunities....

...[T]he Arctic Ocean coastal states and other states like China, Japan, and EU have competitively established and announced their development policies for the Arctic including those related to fisheries.... is no doubt an opportunity for the Korean fishing industries as well as those who are seeking new fishing grounds abroad due to diminishing fishing resources....

Usually international fisheries are regulated through agreements like NAFO.

In the 1980s, unregulated fishing by Poland, South Korea, Japan, and other countries in the international waters of the Bering Sea severely undermined pollock stocks in just a few years. Russia and the U.S. persuaded these nations to sign the Central Bering pollock agreement to close this area to fishing until scientific data and management measures could ensure a sustainable approach.

There is currently no international fisheries organization like NAFO covering the Arctic donut hole, which is precisely why some fear overfishing there. There is, however, an international body that considers sustainable development in the Arctic within its remit. Moreover, it counts aboriginal peoples as permanent participants. It is, of course, the Arctic Council, which Canada right now is the chair of.

Six years ago, the U.S. began discussions on creating a fisheries management regime in the Arctic donut hole. Canada has not used its chairmanship of the Arctic Council to support and accelerate these talks. This is required.

Interestingly enough, when our Prime Minister goes on and on about Arctic sovereignty, he does not take into account that in 2008, the U.S. put a fishing moratorium on the largest disputed area in the Arctic, which is some 7,000 square kilometres in the Beaufort Sea. The U.S. is setting itself up to take those waters away from us by doing the work that needs to be done in that area. They have also put environmental regulations in place in that area. How is that going to stand up in an international court? It is going to favour the U.S.

A key element is to ensure that commercial fishing levels are initially set at zero. It is important to set down the commercial fishing levels until reliable scientific data is available.

Over 2,000 scientists from 67 countries have recently signed an open letter calling for a precautionary moratorium on commercial fishing in the high Arctic. They believe that this moratorium should remain in place at least until it is better understood what kinds of fish swim in the central Arctic Ocean, how many of them there are, and how they can be managed sustainably.

The United States and the European Union have adopted policies recommending no commercial fishing in the Arctic donut hole until new international arrangements can be negotiated. Where are Canada's interests being expressed here?

In the disputed area in the Beaufort Sea, Canada was silent. The U.S. went ahead with the moratorium in that area, setting themselves up for taking over that area and taking over the Canadian interests in that area.

That is what is going on right now in Arctic fishing. Where are we in this Parliament in dealing with that issue? Where are we taking the steps, when we have the opportunity as chair of the only organization that encourages international co-operation by governments that have a stake in the area, the Arctic Council?

Oh, we are setting up an Arctic economic council. We are trying to encourage business development in that area, which is fine, but should we not put the environmental concerns we have in the area first? Is it not a logical progression to set good environmental standards, to ensure that we understand what the fishing stocks are, and to move ahead with the kinds of things that are going to protect that region before we put our efforts into an Arctic economic council, which is going to push forward on resource development, shipping, and perhaps fishing as well?

What the current Canadian government has done on the Arctic Council, with the concurrence of other nations, because they have gone along with it, is create a dynamic problem for the environment in the Arctic. We have taken away the focus we had on the Arctic Council to deal with the environment first and foremost, and that is going to play out in the fishing industry as well.

Coastal Fisheries Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. I will have approximately 10 minutes to speak to Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, which will implement the port state measures agreement.

For those at home, this may seem very technical. I will try to explain what sort of impact this bill will have. I am looking forward to speaking to it, especially since I was recently appointed as a permanent member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Colleagues who preceded me on this committee have had the opportunity to discuss this topic, so I will have to dive right in and get caught up on what has been happening recently in committee.

The NDP's position is simple. We will support this bill at second reading. This bill originated in the Senate, and I would say that it is constructive. However, that does not change the NPD's concerns and thoughts on the Senate. Senators are unelected. We are talking about an international agreement and changes to legislation that will allow us to finalize these international agreements that were signed many years ago. In my mind, it would have certainly been appropriate for the government to take on this file and ensure that it moved forward, but it decided to go through the Senate. That is highly questionable. However, the fact remains that the bill before us is, for the most part, very constructive.

This bill is primarily administrative. It is intended to allow Canada to ratify the port state measures agreement to deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, approved by the United Nations. This agreement was signed in 2010. It will affect port inspections. Bill S-3 adds to the current law, restricting the import of illegally purchased fish and marine plants, and it clarifies certain provisions concerning the administration and enforcement of the legislation.

The bill includes a number of things that could be very beneficial to and important for Canada. My colleagues are already planning to bring forward some amendments in committee after it passes second reading. From what I understand, they are quite reasonable. I hope this will not prevent us from continuing to work constructively on the bill so that all parties will be in agreement by the time it reaches third reading.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines legitimate fishing operations. A perfect illustration of this is the Atlantic cod fishery, which spiralled way out of control.

Thousands of families made their living off of cod fishing for hundreds of years, but now there is not enough stock to allow those thousands of families to do so again. There is a lot of confusion about the fact that a big part of the problem comes from illegal fishing that may have taken place off the east coast.

Another issue that is very important where I come from is eel fishing, specifically elvers. In the 1980s, Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued a number of experimental licences to fishers in New Brunswick. They were fishing for elvers, which are basically young eels. They are really popular in some Asian cultures. A small jar, approximately the size of a small peanut butter jar, is literally worth a fortune on the international market. Those licences became commercial in the 1980s. The legal amount that fishers from the maritime provinces were allowed to catch went from 28 kg to 9 metric tons. This is approximately 55 million baby eels a year. Imagine how many tonnes of adult eels we would have had if fewer baby eels had been caught.

Beyond the nine metric tonnes allowed, 220% to 250% of the fishery is allegedly illegal, which is one of the fears that stakeholders constantly share with us. People are not fishing nine tonnes, but perhaps 20 to 23 tonnes illegally, not just somewhere off the maritime provinces, but in New England. The equation is simple: such a tonnage of baby eels equals a gigantic tonnage of adult eels that will never mature and end up in the nets of Kamouraska's fishers.

In Kamouraska, eel fishing is an important traditional practice. On the bank of the St. Lawrence, hundreds of families set up long nets that end in a heart shape. The fish enter and turn into the heart at high tide, then the families collect the fish at low tide. This traditional fishing is a local attraction because it is fun to watch. It also has an effect on tourism. Some smokehouses that have been around for over 150 years are having trouble finding eel to smoke. They have existed for generations. We are starting to wonder whether eel fishing will completely disappear from Kamouraska one day.

Therefore, illegal overfishing off the east coast of North America affects even the roots and oldest traditions of Quebec families in Kamouraska. That is why a bill like this is important. It is one of the main reasons why I wanted to speak to the bill today.

Eel stocks dropped so much that in 2009, the Department of Natural Resources brought in a voluntary licence retirement program for commercial American eel fishing along the estuary. The program's goal was to halve the mortality due to fixed trap fishing, which I explained earlier. Therefore, individuals who were doing something completely legal are being pressured to decrease their activity by half because people hundreds of kilometres further east are fishing illegally.

Let us come back to the substance of the agreement. Once Canada ratifies the port state measures agreement, we will have to assume a leadership role and encourage other countries to also enforce this agreement. The example of elvers is always relevant, since a great deal of the illegal activity in this area happens in the United States. A similar bill is currently working its way through the American legislative system, but we should encourage our neighbours to work quickly, because this is a global issue. The agreement requires 25 signatories in order for it to work. If some signatories are vigilant while dozens of other countries continue to turn a blind eye to illegal fishing, that will have a negative impact on overall fish stocks, in spite of the steps Canada will have taken in the right direction.

I would like to clarify some aspects of the bill for the people watching us at home. What exactly is included in the port state measures agreement? The agreement stipulates that foreign vessels must notify the port and request authorization to enter. The authorities will then have to conduct regular inspections in accordance with universal minimum standards. This is the type of measure that seems so obvious that it is surprising that a bill has to be passed to implement it. One would think that such a measure would have been clearly set out somewhere in legislation decades ago. It is surprising, but at least we are moving forward.

Among the many changes the agreement would implement, two seem particularly worthwhile to me. First, the bill broadens the definition of fishing vessel to all vessels used in transhipping fish, or marine plants, that have not been previously landed. Just because a boat is not a fishing vessel does not mean that it will be allowed to transport illegal fish products. That just makes sense, and it is important that this is clear.

Second, the bill broadens the existing definition of fish to include shellfish, crustaceans, marine animals and any part or derivative of any of them. I would like to point out something that I found very surprising. It is clear that the members opposite are going to vote in favour of this bill.

We asked for protection for sharks because a large number of fins has been found on boats. There was smuggling going on.

However, when we tried to have a bill passed on this issue, we lost the vote. We needed only five more votes. The members opposite did not offer enough support. It is a bit strange to see them moving forward on this issue when they refused to accept our proposals regarding sharks.

Coastal Fisheries Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what I like about the bill is the fact that it highlights the importance of international agreements or treaties. Canadians and my colleagues from the east coast have a fairly decent understanding of the amount of overfishing that has taken place around the world. There is a great deal of concern about fish stocks and their preservation.

The port state measures agreement is an attempt to try to deal with this very serious world problem. Would the member comment on his reference to the issue of demonstrating leadership? Canada can and should be playing a strong leadership role on this issue. By having adopted the port state measures agreement, says something in itself. I believe there are about a dozen other nations that have already done so. Could the member comment on that?

Coastal Fisheries Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question. It is kind of like asking whether I am for or against apple pie.

I believe that our political adversaries across the way view the issue from slightly different angles. These agreements will address environmental priorities. Indeed, we are talking about the environment here.

When I joined the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the first study was on the worrisome state of the shrimp stocks. I was previously talking about cod stocks.

My colleague is right. If we want to get results and maintain fish stocks and the fishery everywhere, in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, then every country with a large fishing fleet has to sign treaties. For the Atlantic Ocean in particular it is very important for all the nations involved to sign agreements. We must ensure the sustainability of the cod and shrimp stocks there. It is essential.

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12:50 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my colleague's comments.

He talked about our leader, who truly understands the challenges related to the environment and the repercussions they have on our fisheries.

This bill is just the first step in a process to prevent illegal fishing. Once Canada ratifies the port state measures agreement, we will have to take a leadership role on this.

We must also encourage other countries to follow suit. It is not enough to say we have done our part and then disregard what others are doing. During meetings with representatives from foreign countries, we must ensure that they take a position on these issues and implement regulations.

I have a question for my colleague. We know the repercussions illegal, unreported fishing has on businesses. We have to do more than just introduce bills. We must also go ahead and enforce penalties once they have been established. Far too often they are established, but not enforced.

Would my colleague like to say a few words about that?

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12:50 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, what my colleague said is true.

We must show leadership, but in cases such as this one, there can be difficulties. I am thinking of this government's leadership. For example, meetings were held recently about water supply. The government withdrew. It decided not to attend. Why? Because there is a lot of water in Canada?

However, if tomorrow morning there is no more water in the southern United States and farmers there do not produce fruits and vegetables anymore, we too will suffer. Strangely, the Conservatives withdrew from these meetings.

This type of behaviour can be detrimental when we are examining a bill such as this, which is constructive and should be passed. Recently, there has been a lack of leadership on many other files.

Everyone knows how much I respect the leader of the official opposition. I know him and have worked with him for a long time. In my opinion, he is the best person to restore and even improve the reputation that Canada enjoyed previously, increase our contribution and ensure that many partners—

Coastal Fisheries Protection ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2014 / 12:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

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12:50 p.m.


Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, as one of the seven members of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, representing the east coast Newfoundland riding, the great and beautiful riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, I make sure I take every opportunity to speak on our once-great fisheries, to speak on what were once the richest fishing grounds in the world: the fabled, storied, legendary Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, Canada was elevated from 14th to 6th place in the world as a fish-exporting nation.

In his 2013 book Empty Nets: How Greed and Politics Wiped Out the World's Greatest Fishery, Gus Etchegary writes how Newfoundland presented Canada with the golden gift of her fisheries. Today, those fisheries are but a shadow of what they once were. I wrote an endorsement on the back of Gus Etchegary's book. The endorsement reads, “The rise and fall of the world's greatest fisheries is a crime of the highest order, and Gus Etchegary shows his mettle in telling the tale. He is the ultimate fighting Newfoundlander”.

In 1992, the federal Conservative government of the day and John Crosbie, who was the federal fisheries minister of the day, shut down the northern cod fishery. The shutdown of the northern cod fishery was described at the time as the biggest lay-off in Canadian history, throwing 19,000 people directly out of work. It was compared to the prairie dust bowl of the 1930s. The moratorium that was announced in 1992 was supposed to last two years. It has been 22 years and counting. The province has lost 90,000 people since then. They are gone, most of them never to return.

The fading of our traditional fisheries is having an impact on our heritage; it is having an impact on our culture. To simplify on that impact, how long will we sing of squid jigging grounds, when there are no more squid to be jigged? There has been a modest recovery in groundfish stocks such as cod, but the offshore stocks are still absolutely decimated. The point that I raise now should bring home the gravity of the fall of our fisheries and how far we have fallen. For most of the year, it is illegal for a child to jig a cod from the end of a wharf, to jig a cod from the North Atlantic Ocean. Can members fathom that?

Over the years, the fishing effort has been transferred from groundfish such as cod to shellfish such as shrimp and crab, but both those stocks are in steep decline. On top of that, the biggest cuts to the quotas we have left are to our inshore fleets, meaning that our coastal communities—those we have left—are still taking a pounding.

Management decisions from 2,000 kilometres away, here in Ottawa, are not based on the principles of adjacency or historical attachment; that phrase means that those closest to the resource are the ones who benefit from the resource. No, that is not what is happening. Conservatives ignore those principles in favour of big offshore companies, most of which have foreign ownership. Managing the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries from Ottawa has resulted in a lack of understanding, a lack of consideration, and a lack of communication. Given all that has happened to our fisheries, to the Grand Banks—the collapse of the stocks, unchecked foreign overfishing, the wipeout of entire domestic fleets, the layoff of tens of thousands of workers, and the loss of almost 100,000 Newfoundlanders—the biggest policy change over the past 22 years has been the decision by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to eliminate the double-hook jigger. Instead of a jigger with two hooks, they can now only use a jigger with one hook. That has been the most substantial fishery policy change in years. It is absolutely unbelievable.

It is in this context that I speak to Bill S-3, a housekeeping bill.

Bill S-3 would amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. We support this legislation. The bill is required. It is necessary for Canada to be able to ratify the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Canada signed the agreement in 2010. It should be noted, however, that this UN agreement can only come into force after it has been ratified by 25 nations, and it has yet to be ratified by 25 nations.

It goes without saying—although I will be saying it now—that illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing undermines the sustainable practices of legitimate fishing operations, including those in Canada, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador, and presents unfair market competition to sustainable seafood. It makes sense. We cannot disagree with that.

However, this legislation is only the first step in preventing illegal fishing. Once Canada ratifies the port state measures agreement, we must then take a leadership role in encouraging other nations to move forward on this agreement as well. Good luck with that. Hopefully it will work out better than NAFO, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, which monitors fishing on the high seas outside Canada's 200-mile limit off Newfoundland and Labrador on the Grand Banks. NAFO is useless. NAFO is toothless. NAFO is a joke.

While there has been a moratorium on fishing in Canadian waters since 1992, for too many of those years it has been a free-for-all outside the 200-mile limit. Fishing in Canadian waters stopped dead in the water. It stopped completely. For the first time in 500 years it stopped, but fishing outside the 200-mile limit continued. The funny thing about migratory stocks such as cod is that they do not pay any attention to imaginary lines in the ocean. The 200-mile limit means nothing to a fish. So we stopped fishing, but foreign nations continued.

Even today, if a foreign nation is cited for illegal fishing outside the 200-mile limit on the Grand Banks, it is up to the home country of the foreign trawler in question to follow through on court action or penalties. How often has that happened? How often is the book thrown at a foreign trawler by its home country for ravaging what is left of what were once the world's greatest fisheries? How often does that happen? It never happens.

I cannot tell the House how many times, as a journalist and as a member of Parliament, I filed federal access to information requests to try to find out what penalties have been imposed on a foreign trawler cited for illegal fishing. How many times have I filed a federal ATIP? I cannot tell the House how many times. The government has denied the release of such information. Why? It is because it says that it may jeopardize international relations. What about Newfoundland and Labrador relations? Where do we fit in?

John Crosbie was the Progressive Conservative minister in 1992 who shut down the northern cod fishery. He shut it down and he brought in the aid package after that. It was a great big fat welfare package. John Crosbie once wrote, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?” He was a funny man. The better question is who hears the fishermen when they cry.

I refer back to Gus Etchegary's book Empty Nets: How Greed and Politics Wiped Out the World's Greatest Fishery and I quote:

I wrote this book because I, like a few others, refuse to accept that this once huge, renewable resource cannot be rebuilt to play a role in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador and provide a source of food for an increasing world population.

Truer words have never been spoken.

I support this housekeeping bill, but make no mistake, let there be no doubt, let this be beyond the shadow of a doubt: our fisheries and our coastal communities need a hell of a lot more protection than this.

Coastal Fisheries Protection ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where to start.

One of the issues that my colleague brought up was the favouring of corporate issues and corporatism when it comes to the fishery, which we have not seen in a long time. In this particular case, when it comes to shrimp allocation, it is quite obvious now that those being favoured are the corporations with the larger boats.

He also talked about outside the 200-mile limit. Fish overruns in the case of turbot or Greenland halibut, as it is known, amount to 60% to 70% by foreign nations. Inside the 200-mile limit, the measures by which we conserve the species are much greater.

The member has indicated that he supports this measure. Beyond this particular piece of legislation, what needs to be discussed in the House to adhere to all of the inefficiencies that he so eloquently talked about?

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1 p.m.


Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member brings up a good point in terms of shrimp. I mentioned in my speech that the fishing effort that had been on groundfish, such as cod, has been transferred to shellfish, such as crab and shrimp. Now we are seeing those stocks decline.

The most recent news is from earlier this year, and it is a decision that we and everybody in the fishing industry support. Scientists announced the decision that the shrimp quota must be cut. However, there is an imbalance in the cut. Most of the cut is to the inshore sector, versus the big business offshore.

What I saw first hand in the member's riding in Newfoundland and Labrador in the summer, in places like Fogo Island, is that the cut to the inshore shrimp quota is going to have a devastating impact on our fleet and on our communities.

As for the broader question about what needs to happen, in my opinion, what we need is a fisheries revolution. We need a revolution in fisheries management. The status quo does not work. It does not work for the fish stocks. It does not work for Newfoundland and Labrador.

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1:05 p.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate hearing from the member. He has, as he indicated, a fair bit of a experience writing about the fishery and the collapse of the northern cod off Newfoundland and Labrador and the east coast. He talks about the failure of the Canadian government, and globally, to deal with the problem of foreign overfishing.

Here, we are talking about illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. I wonder if I could suggest that the member has indicated that he feels less than confident that the government is showing the kind of urgency necessary to deal with the serious problems in terms of overfishing and illegal fishing and the impact on the ecosystem and local fisheries on the east coast and throughout the coast of Canada.