Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-3.
The amendments proposed in the bill are very important to ensure that we are able to do all we can as a global leader to fight illegal fishing and the damaging impacts it has on our ocean resources. These amendments would strengthen our current robust system by controlling our ports and seafood imports, and would enable us to support the efforts of like-minded nations in the protection of the world's fisheries.
As a British Columbian, I appreciate the great importance of the bill for both the protection of economic interests of law-abiding fish harvesters and the environmental necessity of doing all we can to ensure all fisheries are sustainable.
Today, we have been discussing one of the greatest threats to the survival of the global fish stocks, which comes from illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing. It is in everyone's interest for the global community to co-operate with one another toward the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of the world's fish and other marine resources. These key resources are critically important, providing livelihoods and food security for millions.
The fight against illegal fishing occurs on many fronts. Effective and coordinated steps need to be taken by the coastal states where this fishing occurs, by port states where the suspected fish may be landed for sale, by flag states of the vessels to ensure that the rules are enforced, and by the home states of the owners and masters of vessels who are fishing illegally.
In particular, port state measures are considered an effective and cost-effective way of preventing illegal fish harvesters from profiting from their activities. There is a recognized need for countries, individually and through regional fisheries management organizations, to continue to develop and implement effective state port control measures that are consistent with international law.
Canada is already an active participant in the global efforts to curb and ultimately eliminate illegal fishing. Canada closely monitors domestic fishing activities within our own waters as guided by the Fisheries Act, as well as the activities of the Canadian fish harvesters in international waters.
Through the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, Canada also carefully monitors and regulates fishing and other activities by foreign fishing vessels in Canadian waters, and in certain areas of the high seas.
Internationally, Canada is an active partner in fisheries protection with Interpol. Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials participate in the Interpol Environmental Crime Programme and the Fisheries Crime Working Group.
In this group and in other international organizations, Canada continually advocates for more responsible control of vessels in the states that register these flag ships, and for improved enforcement against those that facilitate the sale of illegal products. Canada is widely recognized for its expertise in intelligence-led fisheries enforcement, including advanced technologies, such as digital forensic analysis.
We are committed to working with other countries to share this expertise and thereby help to build up the global capacity in the fight against illegal fishing.
Earlier I mentioned the importance of implementing effective port state measures as a deterrent to illegal fishing operations. Canada already has a robust regime for port control measures regarding foreign fishing vessels. These enterprises already avoid Canada as a location to land their catches due to our extensive monitoring and enforcement programs.
However, not all countries have as strong and effective a system as Canada. Real international coordination is needed if we are to make illegal fishing an unattractive business proposition.
With this mind, the international community came forward and together negotiated a treaty that would set standards of action for all countries to take regarding foreign fishing vessels in their ports. The result of this process is the agreement on port state measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
For the port state measures agreement to anticipate possible loopholes, the negotiators attempted to ensure that even situations that may not arise often or in all regions of the world would be addressed in the treaty. It should not be surprising, therefore, that in reviewing the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, we found that some sections addressed in the port state measures agreement need to be aligned with our domestic legislation. The bill before us today, Bill S-3, would make the necessary amendments to coordinate our existing legislation with this key treaty.
Even without the need to ratify this treaty, the measures in this bill would strengthen and modernize our legislation in ways that benefit Canadians. This would be accomplished by strengthening controls on our fish and seafood imports from other regions of the world, by providing broader enforcement powers to our dedicated fisheries protection officers in the performance of their duties, and by ensuring that Canadian fisheries officers have the legal authority to share intelligence regarding illegal fishing activities with domestic and international fishery enforcement partners.
By updating our already robust port state measures regime, Canada would be setting an example for other nations that still have further steps to take in order to bring themselves into compliance with the treaty. It would demonstrate that we continue to be committed to maintaining the pressure on illegal fishing operations around the globe, and encourage other countries to follow suit. It would also help to level the playing field for our industry, which must contend with the unfair practices and price distortion of illegal fishing operators.
As we all know, this is a very serious issue. By blatantly disregarding the rules, illegal fishing causes untold harm for the world's marine environment, negatively impacts the profits of law-abiding fishermen, and jeopardizes the safety of those aboard the vessels. I urge all members in the House to join me in supporting Bill S-3 so that we can ratify this important agreement and continue our tradition of leadership in global fishery protection stewardship.
To protect the sustainability of our fisheries and safeguard the economic interests of our global communities and coastal communities, we must take action now, today.