Madam Chair, I will try to use a bit of a metaphor. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is a huge boat, or perhaps a nice ship, a nice, big ocean liner. The rudder is broken, however, and unfortunately different situations have made this clear. There was the lobster problem last year, and the plan announced in June 2009 for the problems that started in 2008. Eventually we found out that $8.5 million was spent out of $15 million, but we only learned this in February 2010. These dates show that there is a problem somewhere.
The minister and the department acknowledge that there is a problem with the cod and grey seal issues. But nothing has happened for three years. The only one who wins is the grey seal. The seals are fattening themselves up on cod, at the expense of the fishing fleet and at the expense of the communities.
There is also the shrimp issue. Oddly enough, a quota was given to fishers on Prince Edward Island, even though there is no shrimp industry in Prince Edward Island. Oddly enough, the minister is from Prince Edward Island. This is another case of a broken rudder.
I should add that this is unfortunately the case in the crab industry, as well, which is what we are concerned about today. When we hear that this year's crab decision was for conservation reasons, I would simply like the minister to consider the numbers I am about to give. An article published in the Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil talks about the catch rates authorized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans: in 2006, 41.1%; in 2007, 37%; in 2008, 41.2% and in 2009, last year, 46.7%. So as we can see, ultimately, over the years, the conservation issue has not necessarily been the kick-starter for the department. It seems to have been based on rather flexible rules, perhaps even on geography.
So this year, we ended up with a 63% cut. I think it is worth illustrating what this means for the people of Quebec. The landed value for Quebec was about $50 million in 2008. If I look at earlier figures, it was once much more than that. If we cut 63%, that means $30 million less in landed value. And as we know, those amounts are considerably increased if you add the work done in plants and so on. As we can see, this has a huge impact.
When we hear about resource conservation—that is why I am repeating the figures we have already heard—it is not because of a situation that occurred by accident or very suddenly. We have known in one way or another for as long as I have been in politics. My father was a fisherman, and I already knew a bit about this. We all know very well that the resource fluctuates, that fish move around and that shellfish, especially snow crab, go through cycles. Some numbers are way up, while others are way down. People have been thinking about these questions for many years. We know that, with those numbers, we had a catch rate of about 50% of the biomass. Things were already pretty tough, and we knew we were in the low part of the resource's cycle.
Thus, with respect to conservation, these figures were ignored, the requests by a number of scientists were completely forgotten and we concentrated on one thing. If the catch is abundant, many people will be put to work. It is unfortunate that in 2010 we have ended up with a 63% reduction. However, this could have been avoided; it was preventable, and that is the unfortunate thing about all this. However, we cannot change the past, even though I would like to. We find ourselves in a situation where the minister and the department no longer had a choice. We ended up with this 63% cut.
The person or the group who made the decision to impose this cut and made this announcement has a certain degree of responsibility. I am certain that people in the department knew that this 63% cut would have consequences.
Almost everyone expected a 40% or 50% cut. That is what was being bandied about. I asked the minister about it weeks before the decision was made. I suggested figures of 40% or 50%. That was what we were hearing. It was difficult to believe that the cuts would be as high as 63%. We are now living with that decision and the 63% cut has had major repercussions everywhere. I remind members that prices had already been affected significantly. Add to that cuts in the catch and the impact has been even more severe.
Worst of all is what we are hearing from the minister and the department. She seems to be saying that dealing with the impact of the cut is not part of her responsibilities. It is up to the provinces. It is up to Quebec to deal with it. It is up to others to deal with it. I do not believe that. It is a matter of dignity, rigour and responsibility.
I am not attacking the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans personally. I am certain that she is very responsible and concerned but there is a major problem and people everywhere are asking some serious questions. Not only are they asking serious questions, but they also have the answers. They believe that the government does not care in the least about the impact this has on the communities, the fishers and their helpers, and the fish plants.
They say that they gave licence-holders the option to partner so that fishers and companies would not be hit as hard. That is one measure, but it too has an impact. Partnering means fewer employees and fewer helpers on those boats. It does have an impact.
It is unfortunate that this decision about accountability was forced on us. Everyone agrees that people had no choice. I think that the government could have taken action sooner, but what is done is done. The people making decisions like that should be held responsible. They should decide to help people, helpers, fishers, plant workers, municipalities, the provinces and Quebec. If not, fisheries will be treated as though they are in a vacuum.
But that is not how things work. Things do not happen in a vacuum. There is a saying about how when a fish is pulled out of the water, its head is provincial and its tail federal. That sounds odd, but it reflects how responsibilities are shared. There is a constant back and forth between the two. Each is responsible for something, like it or not. When the Department of Fisheries and Oceans makes a decision, it has wide-ranging effects. Unfortunately, this department's rudder is broken. That is becoming increasingly clear.
Take, for example, a press release from May of last year about work in Port-Daniel. That is an area I know very well because that is where I am from. There was an announcement about work that was planned for last year. Now, a year later, that work is still not done.
The government also announced that work was planned for Carleton in 2010. We recently learned that there is some disagreement between Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They have been unable to reach an agreement. They have reached an impasse in the handover negotiations.
Nobody has a hand on the rudder because the rudder is broken. This is very serious. We have to take responsible action. I believe that a lot of people are watching us tonight, except for those who are watching the hockey game and are worried about it. But people are in this situation, this crisis. That is why I think we need to take responsible action. That is why I am urging the minister and the government to acknowledge their responsibilities and deal with this situation.