Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being able to take part in this discussion at private members' hour. I want to remind the House that we are talking about the motion by the hon. member for St. John's West:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take immediate action to extend custodial management over the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and of the Flemish Cap.
The reason I am rising today to discuss this matter is my involvement in the fisheries and oceans committee of the House. This particular matter has been of great interest to the fisheries and oceans committee for over two years.
On June 5, 2002, the fisheries and oceans committee tabled a report entitled “Foreign Overfishing: Its Impacts and Solutions, Conservation on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap”, under the able chairmanship of the hon. member for Malpeque.
The report was the result of some significant work that the committee did. I was on that committee. We travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador to listen to the people of that province talk about the difficulties they had with the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization and what it was or was not doing.
It is a lengthy report in the sense that it details a lot of the problems, but what I want to bring to the attention of the House is that the committee unanimously recommended certain things. This is important, because at that time there were five parties that had members on the committee and this was a unanimous report of the committee.
What did it recommend? The committee recommended custodial management. On page 18, the report states:
Under a custodial management regime, Canada would assume sole responsibility for the management and conservation of the areas of our continental shelf beyond the 200-mile limit: the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. However, foreign fishing interests would not be removed; instead, historic allocation and access would be respected.
...Under such a regime, Canada would conduct the science, set the [total allowable catches] and implement and administer a conservation-based management system that would include monitoring and enforcement.
...The Committee believes that imposing a custodial management regime is a necessary and reasonable response to the failure of NAFO to rectify its current problems and to bring its members under control.
Recommendations were made accordingly. Almost immediately, the then minister of fisheries and oceans rejected out of hand the recommendations of the committee. This was unfortunate, because it did not indicate that there had been any serious study of the recommendations of the committee and of why that committee unanimously came to the conclusions it did.
Eventually the member for Malpeque was promoted to solicitor general and a new committee was constituted. I became the chair of the committee. The committee revisited this issue after it received the formal response of the government, which the committee felt was totally and utterly inadequate. We re-examined the issue and, again unanimously, five parties came to the same conclusions that we had come to earlier.
We tabled that report in March 2003. We were even more specific in what we wanted to say. We gave even further deadlines that we thought were appropriate. I am not going to go into all of the rationale. I just want to say that there was nothing in the government's response that impressed any of the members of the committee. That is why the committee a second time unanimously indicated that it wished the government to implement custodial management.
The second recommendation was:
That the Government of Canada inform NAFO and its contracting parties that Canada will proceed with the implementation of custodial management on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and on the Flemish Cap, and will withdraw from NAFO no later than December 31, 2004, in accordance with Article XXIV of the NAFO Convention.
On unanimous report two, again rejected by the government, the government gave the standard bureaucratic response of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and basically of the Department of Foreign Affairs that we could not do this because of international law.
The fact of the matter is, if we examine international law, it is not developed by the meek. It is developed by the bold. It is not developed by the reticent. It is developed by the confident. In this case, we either watch the Grand Banks die, we watch the fishery die, we watch Newfoundland and Labrador die or we do something.
The hon. member who moved the motion, in his earlier remarks, made the comment that he thought the Government of Canada did not have the guts to do it. Of course the problem is that this is not a one particular government problem because this has been an ongoing position of the Government of Canada.
Indeed, if we look at the comments of the person who probably will be the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, in an interview with the Moncton Times and Transcript of February 20, he stated:
Federal responsibility for fisheries should focus on ensuring fairness in our international agreements. I will endeavour to substantially reform the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization so that Canada's fish stocks will be better protected, and I would reserve the right to take unilateral action to protect them if these international arrangements fail.
That sounds pretty much like the policy today. However, it is time for some testicular fortitude by the Government of Canada. We have to assert our recognition that the stocks are in serious danger, and the problem with NAFO is that it does not have an effective enforcement mechanism.
We can catch the people. We can have the observers. They can report that fish taken were too small or too many fish were taken or the wrong species were taken, but ultimately those fishermen are then sent back to their own country and it is the laws of that country which do or more particular do not enforce the breaches of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization's quotas that have been set. There is a very ineffective enforcement mechanism in NAFO.
When the fisheries committee travelled to Europe to talk to NAFO nations, this was clearly acknowledged by everybody we talked to in Norway, Brussels and Iceland. Wherever we went, it was clear that NAFO had very few teeth. There is no way that NAFO is doing the job to protect the fishery. I think it is fair to say that the Government of Canada realizes this.
I note that on March 5, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of National Defence announced collaboration on marine security initiatives. What they said among other things was, and I quote from the news release:
--they plan to enhance the fisheries patrol presence on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks. Specifically, [the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans and Nation Defence] announced that their departments are working aggressively on a strategy that would ensure a continual fisheries patrol presence on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks in the near future.
It is about time. One of the reasons in all likelihood that the ministers have come to this decision, which is a good one, is because of the pressure put on them by the fisheries and oceans committee of the House of Commons, recognizing this problem, travelling around the world, bringing this problem to the attention of fishing nations and explaining to them just how serious an economic impact the lack of fisheries is to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I want to praise the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans and National Defence for coming up with this initiative. What this initiative shows us is if they feel it is necessary to have a patrol presence on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, clearly NAFO is not working. If NAFO were working, we would not need to have patrol vessels out there and a grand announcement by the two ministers that we would do this. There is something seriously wrong with NAFO, and that is there is not an enforcement mechanism.
The only way we can ensure that we save the fish there, not only for us but for future generations, is to implement custodial management. All the talk in the world, all the diplomatic niceties in the world will not do the trick. If NAFO cannot do it, we will have to act unilaterally, not in our own interest but in the interests of all fishing nations. All historic fishing nations will have their rights protected.
We constantly hear the Department of Foreign Affairs saying that we cannot do this or we cannot do that. At one time we had a three mile international limit. The reason we had it was because the cannonball fired three miles. If the technology had existed back then for a 200 nautical mile cannon, then we would have a 200 nautical mile limit right now.
I support the motion. I would urge that we do it in accordance with the dates set in the most recent unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.