Mr. Speaker, I will start off by complimenting the member for taking the initiative to ensure that we have the debate we are having here this afternoon. I can tell the member that the government's caucus, particularly my colleagues from British Columbia, take this issue very seriously.
I have had an opportunity to have discussions on this issue, which I believe goes outside the province of British Columbia, but I recognize the sensitivity to B.C. in particular. My colleagues, who are quite opinionated on the issue, want to make sure that the government gets it right, and that is something this government is committed to doing.
It is not quite as simple as some might try to make it appear. The issue of fisheries is something that a land-locked province can still care about, as well as our oceans and the industry here in Canada. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that the wild salmon is protected and that we do whatever we can do as a national government.
The parliamentary secretary to the minister made a couple of statements, one of which I will repeat in the House, because it is in budget 2016. The Government of Canada has invested $197 million over the next five years to improve fisheries and aquaculture science and to inform the development of regulations, which will contribute to further improvements to the environmental performance of this sector. This is really important for us to recognize, because the Conservative member made reference to it in his speech.
When we talk about our fisheries industry, whether it is wild or farmed, we have to make sure that not only is it good for Canada's economy but it is also good for our environment. As a government, not only are we talking about that, but we are also walking the talk on it. This is why we have seen a substantial investment in the area of science.
We have heard members in the House talk about the importance of regulation, and we do have some of the most stringent, robust regulation in the world, I would argue, dealing with this specific issue. It is absolutely critical that we do have that regulation. It is ongoing and monitored, because there is always room to improve. As the Prime Minister likes to say often, there is always the opportunity to do better, and this is a government that is committed to doing just that. In listening to the debate this evening, I believe that there are ideas that have flowed through thus far that will allow for more thought on this very important issue.
There is a lot of information on the Internet in regard to this issue. One of the websites I went to was the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. It comments on some basic facts of the salmon farming industry in British Columbia.
For example, one farm can hold 500,000 to 750,000 fish in an area the size of four football fields. The biomass of farmed salmon at one farm site can equal 2,400 tonnes, which equals 480 Indian bull elephants. B.C. has approximately 137 salmon farm tenures with about 85 farm activities at any one time. This information is coming right from the website, which also indicates that 84 tenures are on eastern Vancouver Island and the mainland coast, 48 on western Vancouver Island, and six are on the central coast. I bring this up because I think it is important that we recognize just how strong the industry really is.
Many years ago when I was first elected in the province of Manitoba, the whole concept of aquafarming was pretty much foreign. We did not really hear too much about that in the public arena because it was just starting. Over the last 10 or 15 years we have seen significant growth in the area. Some countries have really pushed the envelope within the industry.
I can appreciate the need for us to look at the industry here in Canada and realize that it has fantastic potential with respect to growth. The industry has quadrupled in size over the years. It is an industry that not only the Government of Canada or the Province of British Columbia is following, but many of my strong-willed Atlantic colleagues would tell us that there is a healthy, vibrant industry in Atlantic Canada as well and they want to see that industry continue to grow. My colleagues, no matter what region of the country they represent, recognize that we need to foster and encourage that growth but we also need to be sensitive to the environment. We want to make sure that the wild fishery is not negatively impacted.
The essence of Bill C-228, put forward by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, would be to impose requirements on the industry for the use of a technology that has not yet been proven to be commercially viable, and we need to be concerned about that. If we are concerned about the jobs and how the industry impacts many communities, particularly communities on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, we should not be overly quick to impose something on that industry that could virtually shut it down in a short period of time.
The responsible thing to do is what the federal government has committed to do and that is to invest the financial resources in the industry to allow the proper science to take place so that the industry as a whole can be protected.
Our indigenous communities have played a positive role in the development of this industry. They are not only providing the workforce in many ways but they are also spearheading growth within that industry. This growth is coming in good part from strong leadership within the indigenous community. We need to be sensitive to that.
Innovation and technology are two areas in which this government has been exceptionally proactive with respect to budgetary commitments. Maybe at some point in time we will see that difference, which will make what is being proposed in the legislation that much more commercially viable.
From what we have detected and from what the fisheries standing committee has provided and the expert witnesses have put on the record, today's science clearly indicates that as long as we continue to develop strong rules and regulations, ensure that they are followed and respected, and continue to have an industry that is developing and understands its important role, then we should continue to allow that industry to grow and prosper.
I would emphasize that we are not putting the industry's needs ahead of the environment. When we look at the industry we see it is a complement to the overall community, whether it be society as a whole or the economy. The responsible thing will be done.