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Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the Russian container ship that drifted off the west coast raises serious concerns about the response capability of the Canadian Coast Guard. This serious situation was only under control when a U.S. tugboat arrived.
After scathing reports from the Auditor General and Environment Commissioner, and after cutting hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of vital employees, why has the Conservative government allowed our Coast Guard to degrade so severely? What steps are being taken to protect Canadians?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-3, an act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.
Fisheries are so important to many areas of the country, and they are certainly important in my area in Prince Edward Island. Around Cardigan, Prince Edward Island, where I live and which I represent, every community depends on the fishing industry. This legislation is important.
There are over 1,300 lobster fishers on P.E.I., 11,000 inshore fishers in Atlantic Canada, and another 20,000 crew. That is well over 30,000 people involved in the fishery, just in the Atlantic region of Canada, not to mention the processing industry and other indirect jobs involved in the fishery. That is a lot in the inshore fishery.
Fisheries are worth about $1 billion to Atlantic Canada alone. Canada’s commercial fishery, aquaculture, and fish and seafood processing industries contribute $5.4 billion and 71,000 full-time jobs to the Canadian economy every year.
There are many coastal communities that are equally reliant on having a strong fishery and effective enforcement against illegal fishing activities. At times it can be difficult to get people outside the Atlantic region and the west coast to understand exactly what the value of the fishery is and how important it is to the economy. Fish does not come from a showcase. It comes from the sea, and it is important that we have the funds, the surveillance, and the protection to make sure that the stock survives. That is why I am so pleased to say a few words on this issue today.
This bill would allow Canada to meet its international obligations with regard to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, or IUU fishing, undermines the livelihood of fishers who play by the rules, both within Canada and around the world. The global economic loss due to illegal fishing is somewhere between $10 and $23 billion annually and represents somewhere between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish lost to illegal fishing activity. That is a loss of 18% of the total fishery. This is a staggering number, and it is my hope that Canada, along with many other countries around the world, will continue its efforts to decrease this massive economic loss.
We know that our inshore fishers are hurting, and we need to do everything we can to help them receive a proper dollar for the world-class product they produce. In a perfect world, there would be no illegal fisheries. Vessels would all be registered with identification numbers, making them identifiable and authorized to fish by their flag states. It would also be possible to identify the owners of these vessels.
However, the fact is, there is far too much illegal fishing across the world, which is having a devastating effect on fisheries worldwide. No matter where we fish, it has an effect, because it provides an illegal product that is competition. It is important that Canada play a strong role in cracking down on the illegal fisheries, not only to protect fishers’ livelihoods but to help in the conservation of our fisheries and the entire Canadian economy, in which our fisheries and seafood industry play such a major role. If there is any excess supply of fish on the market because of some illegal fishing activity, prices may be driven down, which would hurt our economy and coastal communities and the many thousands of Canadians who make their living on the sea.
Canada has long been considered a leader in the fight to combat pirate, or IUU, fishing. I am extremely proud that the Liberals have taken many steps in past years to combat illegal fishing activity. As far back as 1956, Liberal minister of fisheries James Sinclair indicated that Canada favoured a 12-mile territorial zone. In 1977, former Liberal minister of fisheries Romeo LeBlanc established the 200-mile fishing zone that protected fishermen from foreign trawlers. Mr. LeBlanc was instrumental in the establishment of the 200-mile limit and in shaping the international law of the sea.
Another Liberal minister of fisheries, Brian Tobin, mounted a fierce campaign through 1994 against foreign overfishing in waters in the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, located just outside Canada’s declared 200-mile zone. Canadians across the country took note of this new and aggressive posture, a posture that has not been taken by any minister of fisheries since the 200-mile zone was declared in 1977.
In 1994, the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act was amended to extend its application to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, or NAFO, regulatory area, which is a very significant area of the Atlantic Ocean on the high seas. It was a Liberal government that amended that act.
In April 1995, DFO was involved in the so-called “turbot war”, which pit Canadians against the European Union. Nevertheless, fisheries minister Tobin and the Liberal government of the day received the full backing of the United Kingdom and Ireland in this fight. Later that month, Mr. Tobin held an international news conference from a barge on the East River outside the United Nations headquarters, where he displayed an illegal trawl net that had been allegedly cut from a Spanish trawler that was arrested outside the Canadian zone on international waters.
In 1999, the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act was again amended by a Liberal government. This time it was to implement the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 10 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks of 1995. These amendments in 1999 allowed Canada to further implement international fisheries treaties and added regulatory powers for the government.
During this time, the minister of fisheries and oceans, my colleague from Halifax West, was a strong advocate for the elimination of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Under his leadership, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans made significant investments to expand aerial surveillance and at-sea patrols in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization regulatory area. The increase in patrol and surveillance led to the reduction in non-compliant behaviour and a decrease of 29% in foreign fishing vessels in the NRA.
My colleague from Halifax West was also an active member of the High Seas Task Force, an international task force committed to stopping IUU fishing in parts of the ocean not under the exclusive control of sovereign states. In addition to this, he hosted an international conference on global overfishing, which attracted fisheries and oceans ministers from around the world.
Therefore, we have a very proud tradition in this party of strong and effective leadership and action on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activity. Canada is considered a leader in combating illegal fishing activities, and the Liberal Party and previous Liberal governments have made strong contributions in ensuring that our system is strong.
I am pleased the government has brought this bill and intends to join the port state measures agreement. However, I do wonder why the government recently took away $4.2 million from Canada’s offshore surveillance of foreign fishing vessels. This will result in a significant reduction in Canada’s monitoring capability and has been done as part of the government’s gutting of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In fact, this will result in a reduction of the total of NAFO sea days from 785 to 600, and a reduction in NAFO air hours from 1,000 to 600, along with the loss of 23 full-time employees.
It is fine to bring forward this legislation that would let Canada meet its international obligations, but the government needs to put teeth in the bill. We need money to make sure we can enforce the legislation. I hope the government can respond and indicate why it made this cut to Canada’s offshore surveillance of foreign fishing vessels and what effect it thinks it will have. Gutting DFO and taking a significant amount of money away from offshore surveillance was wrong, and I hope the government will re-think that and many other cuts it made at DFO.
The government has downloaded extra costs to our fishers such as tags, at-sea observers, and logbooks. It has made changes to quotas and taken them from fishers to pay for scientific research, which should be the responsibility of the Government of Canada, not fishers. It has made drastic cuts to DFO science, fisheries, and conservation officers, the coast guard, and small craft harbours, have ignored the price crisis in the lobster fishery, and have spent nearly a year considering whether it should eliminate the owner-operator and fleet separation policies.
However, I am pleased to say that we are generally quite supportive of the bill the government has brought forward and of Canada’s ratification of the port state measures agreement.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill S-3 has three points: to implement the port state measures agreement, prohibit importing illegal fish and marine plants, and clarify administration and enforcement powers in the act.
The bill contains a number of amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act so as to implement the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 2009 agreement on port state measures to prevent, deter and eliminate the unreported and unregulated fishery.
On November 22, 2009, a conference of the FAO approved the port stage measures agreement. Canada signed the agreement on November 19, 2010, but has yet to ratify it. The amendments to the act and regulations are necessary for Canada to meet its commitments to this important international agreement.
The agreement will enter into force 30 days after 25 countries have ratified it. I believe 11 countries have currently ratified the agreement and another 18 have signed on with the indication that they will ratify this agreement. From my understanding, government officials are hopeful that the PSMA will enter into force in one or two years.
The application of the port state measures act would contribute to harmonizing port state measures, would enhance regional and international co-operation, and would block the flow of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fish into national and international markets.
Enhanced port state control can act as a disincentive to those who take part in illegal fishing by increasing the cost of their operations. For example, if they are prohibited from coming into one port, they will have to find another port, and their costs will increase. Hopefully, we will have something in place to make sure they do not enter any port. That is what this agreement is all about.
The FAO described the port measures agreement by saying this:
|The Agreement aims to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets through ports. Under the terms of the treaty, foreign vessels will provide advance notice and request permission for port entry, countries will conduct regular inspections in accordance with universal minimum standards, offending vessels will be denied use of port or certain port services….|
Information will be shared among the countries that have signed.
IUU fishing poses a considerable threat to the conservation and management of many fish stocks. It can lead to the loss of economic revenue, impair the conditions of the stock, or at worst, can have a stock collapse. This is something we in this country need to be extremely vigilant about and guard against.
Liberals support the main thrust of this piece of legislation and support sending Bill S-3 to committee for review. I do wonder why the government signed the port state measures agreement in 2010 and has waited four years before bringing this legislation to the House. Perhaps the government could shed some light on that.
Over the next number of years, there is going to be a major demand for fish products. It is estimated that the world cannot supply the demand for fish and protein that will be needed in the world in the next 25 years. That is why it is so important that governments invest in the protection of our fish stocks, our fishers, and the safety of our fishermen. As I mentioned, the downloading of tags, at-sea observers, and logbooks, all these costs go against our small fishermen.
There has been a slashing of the small craft harbours budget. At one time it was over $200 million and now it is under $100 million. I know the government announced $40 million over two years. I do not know when that will come, but I can assure the House that in the area I represent it is very much needed.
There have been many other major cuts at DFO over the last number of years. By 2017, it will amount to about $300 million. DFO just cannot afford this type of slashing.
It is awful hard for me to understand certain things. Number one, the government needed to bring this piece of legislation forward, but just before it did, it cut $4.2 million from offshore surveillance. This will mean that NAFO sea days will be cut, as I said, from 785 to 600 days; the air hours will be cut from 1,000 to 600; and the employees who are desperately needed, not only there but in many other places, have been cut by 23 in this particular cut.
That is only a small amount that has been sliced out of DFO. As other speakers have indicated, we have cut search and rescue offices on the east and west coasts. Any sensible human being would think that on the coasts there would be search and rescue offices, but obviously the government does not agree that they should be on the east coast and off the coast of British Columbia. These are things that are so important and we need to take a strong look at them.
Again I say that it is important that Bill S-3 goes to committee. Liberals would support it going to committee, where we will be evaluating it. However, the government must realize that if it is going to put anything in place in order to work with countries around the world, we have to take care of ourselves. We cannot be continually slicing, cutting, and gutting the departments in charge of making sure we are observing. If we do not have the planes out to keep an eye on the foreign fishing vessels, how are we going to know what is going on? How are we going to know what vessels are coming in? We will not.
The fact is—and I am sure the Minister of Foreign Affairs fully agrees with me—that we need to put more money into this—
Hon. John Baird: I agree with him on everything.
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay: —in order to make sure we are able to catch the people who illegally fish. Indeed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is very concerned about the constituents in Cardigan, and they know that.
In all fairness, this is a vital piece of legislation to deal with the world community, but we have a big job here at home. We cannot continually slice and cut the very requirements that we need in order to enforce this type of legislation. I hope the government will take a strong look at that.
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