Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak on Bill C-62. I want to thank the hon. member from the Bloc. I must admit I miss these days of not being able to listen to him. His knowledge of the industry is deep and I still miss being in the fisheries committee.
The new bill contains provisions that will authorize the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to enter into legally binding fisheries management agreements with commercial licence holders, aboriginal organizations and other groups, for example, the recreational fishing industry.
This new approach to management, or partnering as we are now calling it, will serve as a cornerstone for developing a new relationship between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and fisheries stakeholders. We have heard on a couple of occasions this evening about the confusion that exists with regard to management and partnering. I would like to clarify some of those issues.
What is partnering? It is the logical next step in the evolution of fisheries management. It will build on and extend their existing co-management approach. It will provide for a more efficient and effective fisheries management regime and also increase the role of industry stakeholders in the decision making process. It will also provide greater opportunities for community involvement. Like any partnering arrangement, co-operation cannot be imposed. It will be up to the stakeholders whether they wish to discuss and pursue fisheries management partnering with DFO.
A partnering agreement between DFO and a group of stakeholders will spell out the terms and conditions on how the fishery will be managed for a defined period of time. It will be legally binding on both parties. This type of security, provided through a legally binding agreement where the rules of the game are clearly specified, is what many sectors of the industry have been requesting for quite some time.
It will provide incentives for better conservation and management of the resource plus give fishers the certainty that will allow for better business decision making and as we said earlier, for more stable incomes.
Discussions were held with most sectors of the industry on a partnering approach. In fact these discussions are still ongoing. Many of the ideas which are being discussed have come directly from the industry. The concept is work in progress. There are still many important issues to sort out with stakeholders. There are already some fisheries in Canada where co-management, which is a precursor to partnering, are already in place. For example, in British Columbia we have a co-management process with the Geoduck fishery since 1990 allowing fishers ongoing input into the management and decision making process.
Similar arrangements exist for halibut and sable fish fisheries where fishers have direct involvement in the management of their fishery. In Quebec, the beluga fishery has been managed since 1982 on a co-management basis, also allowing input from aboriginal fisheries into the management of that fishery.
Agreements in some of the maritime region's crab and shrimp fisheries provide the basis for industry to participate in the decision making process and to share the costs of managing the fishery and research.
Co-management is used in exploratory fisheries as a way to conduct scientific and market studies to determine if a commercial fishery would be sustainable and viable.
In the maritimes, exploratory fisheries for skate, monkfish, Jonah or rock crab and red crab are under way. This approach is allowing the industry and government to learn more about these fisheries in terms of biology, harvesting practices and potential markets.
Our goal is to continue to build on these types of initiatives. Not everyone is ready for change nor do they understand the concept fully. There are those who support the approach and have requested further consultation. Others wrongly view this as DFO's way to privatize the resource. Some have suggested that partnering is only for high valued lucrative fisheries. This is not the case.
To set the record straight the following should be understood. Partnering will allow for joint decision making by licence holders on the management of the fishery. It will allow industry and government to work together to ensure conservation of the resource remains paramount.
It must be considered for fishers in all sectors of the industry and for other resource users and their communities should they wish to explore this approach further. It requires each party, for example DFO and the sector, to bring something to the table. It is a two way street where benefits must accrue to both parties and allow for a more stable operating environment for fleet sectors who are prepared to share in the management of the fishery.
A cornerstone of the partnering approach is that these agreements must be in the public interest and not give preference or special treatment to individual groups. The agreements will not be imposed on the fishing sector. Both parties must agree on the terms and conditions for the agreement to come into force. It must complement and enhance our resource management objectives for the fishery, namely, the environmentally sustainable, economically
viable, integrating both economic and social considerations, and encouraging the industry to be self-reliant.
Both parties should adopt a flexible approach toward developing partnering agreements. These agreements can take on many different designs which will depend on individual circumstances.
There are some things that partnering will not do. It will not lessen the power of the minister with respect to conservation of the resource or prevent the minister from taking action to address conservation concerns. It will not result in change in historical landing patterns or current management strategies to conserve the resource or require all fishers to enter into partnering arrangements.
It should be understood that partnering may not be applicable or feasible in all fisheries. It will not be considered for only high valued lucrative fisheries. All sectors of the fishery are encouraged to explore the process.
Backroom deals will not happen. All stakeholders subject to the agreement will be consulted with regard to the proposed agreement. It will not privatize the resource or result in the fishery being administered or managed by large corporations, nor will it be designed solely to pass on fisheries management costs to the industry.
Partnering means for the fishing industry that it will provide the basis for industry to proceed on a new regime of fisheries management, a fishery that will have less government involvement and real industry input into the decision making process which is what has been requested of this government and other governments.
Partnering will require working with fisheries in coastal communities to find more efficient and effective ways to manage their fisheries. The industry has a legitimate role to play in fisheries management.
Partnership will set the framework for the industry to be more accountable for its actions and assume more responsibility for management activities specifically related to their sector. It will create a more stable operating environment in that DFO would formalize longer term allocation scenarios. This would allow for a stable operating environment within the industry allowing for longer term business planning.
With this in mind, partnering has the potential to change the behaviour of fishers to focus on conservation as they become true stewards of the resource. In some cases partnering could mean sharing the financial responsibility for fisheries management and science.
What does partnering mean for DFO? DFO would be able to evolve from being solely accountable for the management of the fishery to a position of shared accountability. It will continue to be responsible for conservation and protection of the resource. DFO will set the standards and audit industry performance to ensure that the standards are being met. It will be able to manage the fishery more effectively with reduced resources, focusing on its mandate of conservation, doing what government does best and letting the industry do what it does best.
Partnering will allow for direct and full dialogue with the industry. A typical partnering agreement will clearly set out: the allocation process for access to the resource; those who are in the fishery, and the process for additional participation in the fishery; mechanisms for each party to have a say in the decision making process; suggested sanction levels for various offences; roles and responsibilities for each party in the management of the fishery; and the financial obligations for each party.
Where do we go from here and what will happen next? The legislative authority to enable DFO to enter into the partnering agreements has been tabled in Parliament. The new fisheries act, if passed, will provide the basis for the legal implementation of partnering agreements. Until the new act is law, legally binding partnering agreements with respect to management of the fishery cannot be entered into.
The final details on how formalized co-management and eventual partnering will work will evolve through industry and DFO consultations. DFO has been consulting and will continue to consult with the industry.
Partnering will provide an opportunity for all sectors of the fishing industry to speak with a more united and effective voice. It is in line with the Government of Canada's desire to see more influence flowing to the fishers and consequently to their communities where fishing is the mainstay, and I can say that this is no more true in any riding than it is in mine.
The idea of the industry and government working together co-operatively to achieve joint goals and objectives makes common sense. Partnering has the potential to evolve as the management regime of choice as we proceed into the 21st century.