Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for St. John's West for bringing forth this motion. I would like to read the motion once again so that it is clear for those who may be listening. The motion reads:
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.
For those who perhaps do not know, those areas are outside of our 200 mile limit that we currently patrol, maintain and look after in terms of our fishery resource. These areas happen to be very rich in fishing capability. The areas are fished by fleets from all over the world.
I will go into a little history. When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, it brought with it a remarkable resource. This resource has been badly managed. That resource in the northwest Atlantic was one of the richest natural resources in the world. It once sustained fishing fleets from not only North America, but Europe, Spain, Portugal, Russia and other countries.
From 1989 to present, the spawning biomass of the northern cod stock has declined precipitously to 1% of its former level. A lot of other groundfish stocks are meeting a similar fate. This is of great concern, not only to Newfoundland and Labradorians and others on the east coast, but to all of Canada. This was a very valuable resource.
The collapse of these groundfish stocks has been attributed to a number of issues, including environmental concerns, overfishing by all fleets, poor reporting, poor scientific advice and a number of other things. However, Canada has done its part in trying to control, limit and manage these stocks to the best of its ability.
The problem is that outside of the 200 mile limit the straddling stocks, the stocks that go back and forth across the line because fish know no boundaries, cannot be controlled adequately. The NAFO arrangement that is supposed to manage it has very sadly and badly failed the test.
I will get to the nub of the matter, the demand for custodial management a little later on, but one thing we have to look at is the ecosystem management because it is really the crux of the matter.
There are a number of issues that could help us deal with that, as well as custodial management, but one is ecosystem management. We have to look at the other species that live in our oceans besides fish. There are seals, whales, mammals, et cetera. We have become a predator in terms of utilizing this resource. We have to look at managing the whole ecosystem, rather than just a specific species.
We have tried to manage the fish. We have done a very poor job of it overall. We have to look at some other ways of dealing with things.
I was fortunate enough to be with the fisheries committee group that travelled to the east coast some two years ago. We saw and heard firsthand how difficult things were and how the decline in the fish stocks had affected communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We have communities that are on the edge and not surviving as communities. It is very sad to see these situations happening. For hundreds of years these communities survived on this very valuable resource, but today they cannot survive, and something must change.
The North Atlantic Fishing Organization is supposed to control these fisheries. There are a number of inherent problems with that situation. I will explain why it does not work.
The reason it is not working is because enforcement is left to the member nations. In other words, the fox is in charge of the henhouse. Rules can be violated. Without proper supervision and proper enforcement, the rules will not make a difference. It does not control the situation.
This is the whole problem with NAFO. It is an unmanageable and out of control situation where some nations, not all, flagrantly violate the privilege of fishing off our coast, even though it is outside of our 200 mile limit. That is a huge concern, and it is not being dealt with properly.
Some impacts of the overfishing off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador have been stated by Richard Cashin, chairman of a task force on income and adjustment in the Atlantic fishery. He says:
We are dealing here with a famine of biblical scale—a great destruction. The social and economic consequences of this great destruction are a challenge to be met and a burden to be borne by the nation, not just those who are its victims.
Those words are very true. They were written in 1993, and they are even more relevant today.
It is really difficult to comprehend the scale of devastation, not only in Atlantic Canada and Quebec but especially in the rural outposts in areas of Newfoundland and Labrador, from the loss of the northern cod stocks and virtually every other groundfish stock. It is something of which we have to get a grasp.
What we are doing is not working. When things do not work, we have to fix them. It is time for leadership from this government, as the previous speaker, my colleague across the floor, said. I sit on the fisheries committee with him. He is now the chairman and is doing a very good job. He was with us when we travelled to the east coast. He saw for himself the issues and the problems.
If we were to create a custodial management situation, we would not be saying that other countries could not fish there. What we would be saying is that we could control it in a much more responsible and sustainable manner.
What Canada would do is conduct the science, set the total annual catches, and implement and administer a conservation based management system that would include monitoring and enforcement. This would certainly cost us money, but in the overall scheme of things, the recovery of the fishery and resource would more than offset any costs in the short term.
It should be made clear to other NAFO parties that Canada would regard such an action as a last resort in the event of failure of NAFO. This is from the committee report. Frankly, I think NAFO is failing and has failed. It really is time to get this under control, and try to deal with it in a more equitable manner.
When the committee tabled its report back in June 2002, unfortunately the minister chose to disregard it in its entirety. That was very short-sighted. We have a new minister today. With all due respect to the previous minister, I firmly strongly urge the new minister to take this issue into very serious consideration. The committee recommended the custodial management of the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish cap. It is absolutely critical that this be dealt with in a firm manner. The patrols that were announced recently expanded the controls, and that is useful.
Given the budgetary constraints, DFO is always under difficulty when it comes to budgetary matters and cutbacks. We cannot adequately deal with this issue by just adding a few more patrols. We patrol now and it is inadequate. Even with the inadequacy of our patrolling, I understand that over the last 10 years some 300 violations were documented and recorded. Out of those 300 violations, we have very little knowledge of any penalties that were enforced.
When I was in Iceland last year with the fisheries committee, a fishing vessel called the Olga was caught fishing moratoria cod and was brought into port, I believe, in St. John's. It was released and disappeared. We do not know what penalties, if any, were ever brought to bear on the vessel, its crew and master. This happens time after time.
The bottom line at the end of the day is that Canada has to take control of these areas. I strongly urge the government to look at this, take a very firm hand in the matter and deal with it. I think the support is there.
It is an important matter for all Canadians, not just those on the east coast. It is a matter with which all Canadians should be concerned. It is a matter of our sovereignty. I will be supporting this.