Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin this debate on Bill .
Like other responsible coastal nations around the world, Canada is concerned about the economic and environmental impact of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. In fact, we have a moral and legal obligation to help stop these illegitimate practices. Today, with the amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act as outlined here in Bill , we have the opportunity to act.
With the existing Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and regulations, Canada already has a robust control regime for foreign fishing vessels.
In recent years, the international community has been working diligently to strengthen tools to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and activities that support that practice. Improving controls over foreign fishing vessels in port through global standards is one of several important tools to accomplish this goal. I am proud to say that Canada has played an important role in this development.
For that reason, I am proud to lend my support to the proposed legislation before the House.
Before we examine the bill, some background might help to put the proposed amendments into a larger context, which I think members might find helpful, and underscore why they are so important.
For decades, the international community has developed laws and standards to protect the earth's vast marine resources. More than 30 years ago, for example, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea confirmed that states have responsibilities for conservation.
Then, several years later, the United Nations fish stocks agreement of 1995 emphasized the role and responsibility of states in conserving fish stocks. This was also a very welcome measure.
Unfortunately, the practice of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing has become big business. A study produced by the United Kingdom in 2008, for example, suggested that illegal fishing was costing the world economy up to $23 billion annually, representing between 11% and 19% of total reported catch worldwide.
How does illegal fishing hurt the global economy? Fishing vessels that do not follow rules and regulations minimize their operating costs. They then sell fish at a cheaper price than legitimate fish harvesters, distorting prices and markets along the value chain.
While Canada diligently monitors and regulates fishing, we are not immune to the economic impact of illegal activities. Let us consider for a moment that we export up to 85% of our fish and sea products. In 2012, the last year for which the statistics are available, these exports were worth about $4.1 billion. This is an impressive figure, but it could be higher if markets were not distorted by illegal and unregulated catch.
Let me give a real-life example. On the west coast of Canada off British Columbia, the sea urchin fishery has been in place since about the 1950s. It started to grow significantly in the 1980s. Sea urchin was caught and urchin roe was sold to the Japanese market. It is a delicacy there, although I am not sure I understand why.
By 2002 this fishery was thriving. There were 70 boats and $25 million in exports. However, almost right at that time, an illegal and unregulated fishery began around the Kuril Islands, an archipelago stretching from northern Japan to the southeast coast of Russia. This fishery was mainly operated by organized crime based in eastern Europe.
In 2003, for example, in just one day, the illegal fishery dumped the equivalent of B.C.'s entire annual green sea urchin quota onto the market. It was about 200 tons. In just one week, they dumped B.C.'s entire annual red sea urchin quota, about 4,500 tonnes, onto the market. The price fell, and B.C.'s export market to Japan all but collapsed. In British Columbia, this affected real people with families to care for and mortgages to pay.
Illegal fish harvesters do more than wreak havoc on the economy. Their practices harm efforts to protect ecosystems and habitat. Why? It is because they operate for short-term profit, not long-term sustainability.
In 2009, the international community approved the port state measures agreement, technically known as the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. It was negotiated through the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which promised real and cost-effective solutions to the problem of illegal fishing. The agreement requires port state measures for controlling the access of foreign fishing vessels to the ports of coastal nations like Canada. Improving these rules globally is considered a cost-effective way to fight illegal fishing.
I might just say here that obviously the problem has two sides to it. Fishing vessels fly flags of the states from which they come. They have an obligation, as we do in Canada, to make sure those vessels follow the rules; but they also offload in ports, not necessarily their own, and it is these measures we are talking about.
Rest assured that Canada already has strong rules when it comes to foreign fishing vessels, but this would strengthen our point of entry checks on incoming fish and fish products. The port state measures agreement establishes minimum standards for states to deal with foreign fishing vessels implicated in illegal fishing activity.
Canada signed the agreement in 2010, indicating our intention to ratify it. However, before we ratify it, we must shore up some gaps in our own domestic legislation related to monitoring, enforcement and information sharing. That is what Bill is seeking to do. Once approved, the proposed amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act would allow us to meet our international obligations as a responsible member of the international community and to enhance the integrity of legitimate fish harvesting activities in Canada.
With this context, allow me to review and provide some additional detail on the proposed amendments, which can be loosely grouped into three broad categories. The first concerns enhancing and fine tuning controls over foreign fishing vessels that are seeking to access our ports. Under the current act, fishing vessels must apply for a licence to enter Canadian fisheries waters and to access our ports, at least 30 days before they arrive. Under the proposed amendment, the minister could allow a foreign vessel that has been directed by its flag state to enter a Canadian port even if it has not applied for a port licence, to the extent that the vessel has been ordered to port by its flag state for enforcement purposes.
In this case, Canada would issue a specific permit for the sole purpose of inspection and enforcement. While the port state measures agreement generally promotes refusal of entry to fishing vessels that have engaged in illegal fishing, there might be situations where the flag state—that is to say the country responsible for the fishing vessel—might want Canada's assistance to conduct an inspection and to gather evidence of a violation.
It is not enough to direct vessels suspected of illegal fishing into our ports. We must then arm Canadian fisheries protection officers with greater powers to enforce the amended Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and the regulations. These amendments would thus increase the powers of Canadian fisheries officers to inspect a suspected foreign fishing vessel in port and to search for and seize illegal catch when that vessel is directed to port under the new permit regime. This would strengthen current prohibitions regarding the import of fish or marine plants that have been taken, harvested, processed, transported, distributed or sold in contravention of international law. I stress that officers would have to have reasonable grounds to believe the vessel had been engaged in illegal fishing activities for the exercise of these powers.
The second set of amendments involves information sharing. Without accurate intelligence about the activities of illegal fish harvesters, Canada's fisheries protection officers are at a tremendous disadvantage. If we do not have better information about the potential for illegal operations, illegal fish harvesters will quite literally leave authorities in their wake.
To meet the requirements of the port state measures agreement, the amendments provide clarity on the authority to share information. The amendments cover both the type of information and with whom it can be shared.
First, the amendments clearly outline that the minister has legal authority to share information regarding the following: the inspection of the foreign vessel; refusal of entry to port to a foreign vessel; a change in decision regarding such a refusal; enforcement action taken; or the outcome of any proceeding relating to a decision on port access. For example, we could access the results of any enforcement activity or the outcome of a legal proceeding. Knowing that a vessel has been involved in numerous offences also raises a red flag for our fisheries protection officers and would lead to a refusal of port access.
Second, the amendments clarify that the minister can share this information with the flag state of the vessel, relevant coastal states, regional fisheries, management organizations, states in whose fisheries waters the illegal fishing may have occurred, the state of nationality of the owner of the vessel, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and other relevant international organizations. It is a very broad power. For example, if France refused entry to a foreign fishing vessel and then shared the name of the vessel with us, our protection officers would be on the alert if that vessel tried to enter port in Canada.
Third, amendments to the act clarify that the minister may report, to other state parties, actions that Canada has taken with respect to Canadian vessels that have engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or fishing-related activities in support of such fishing. In addition, the proposed amendments would enable Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency to share with each other relevant information related to the importation of fish, fish products and marine plants. That is an important initiative.
Having information is one thing, and being able to act on it is quite another. That is why the third major category of amendments concerns prohibitions and offences and enforcement powers, providing an expansion of the powers of fisheries protection officers.
Currently, fisheries officers can only investigate seaports and wharves for illegal catch, but since illegal catch does not always come to port in fishing vessels, one of the important innovations in the agreement is to target illegally harvested living marine resources and products, including marine plants, that enter not only on a fishing vessel but in a shipping container on a large ship. The bill would therefore prohibit the importation of fish, marine plants and products that have been taken, harvested, processed, transported, distributed or sold in contravention of international law—to use the language of the bill—in order to foreclose this additional avenue of illicit access to our market. The negotiators of the agreement wanted to ensure that strong actions taken against fishing vessels would not be circumvented by the use of other vessels to transport or transship the catch to ports. These amendments would enable Canada to exercise appropriate border controls to close the front door when necessary, so to speak.
With these amendments, Canada is once again assuming a leadership role in the fight against illegal fishing, by taking this concept a step further. These amendments take the measures in the agreement aimed at container vessels to the next level, as Canada is entitled to do. They would enable fisheries protection officers to inspect any place, including containers, warehouses, storage areas and vehicles at all ports of entry, including airports and beyond—effectively, wherever such products may be found. This power would enable fisheries protection officers to support and enhance the work of CBSA customs agents. At the same time, fisheries protection officers would have the power to enter and search these places with a warrant and, if circumstances demanded, without a warrant, working in conjunction with customs officials as required.
These amendments would allow fisheries officers to seize illegal, unreported and unregulated caught fish, fish products and marine plants aboard the vessel or in any other place believed to be obtained by or used in the commission of an offence under the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. However, further deterrence is necessary when dealing with illegal fish harvesters whose main concern is monetary profits. If it is shown that foreign vessels have been engaged in or have supported illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing, substantial fines can be imposed: on summary conviction, a fine of up to $100,000; upon conviction on indictment, a fine of up to $500,000; and on a second conviction, double these fines.
Moreover, if a court finds the person guilty of an offence under the act, the court could order the person to pay an additional fine equal to the estimated benefit they expected to gain from committing the offence. This structure would present a significant deterrent to this very serious crime and would demonstrate to illegal fish harvesters that Canada is serious about putting an end to their illegal endeavours.
In addition to these broad categories, the amendments also cover several changes in definitions required by the port state measures agreement. For example, the amended definition of “fishing vessel” could include any vessel used in transshipping fish or marine plants, but it would exclude vessels equipped to transship that are not involved in supporting fishing activity at sea, such as vessels transporting general merchandise.
The proposed amendments would also redefine the term “fish” itself. In keeping with the port state measures agreement, “fish” would come to mean a species of living marine resources, whether processed or not. The amendments would also add a definition of “marine plant”, because marine plants are also living marine resources.
The port state measures agreement outlines cost-effective and practical solutions to the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Bill would strengthen Canada's Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and enable Canada to exercise enhanced port controls and importation measures consistent with, and in fact even stronger than, the minimum standards established in the port state measures agreement. These amendments would once again demonstrate Canada's leading role in the international fight against illegal fishing. These amendments are a step forward in that fight. These robust measures would limit the quantities of illegal fish that enter our market and other markets around the world where Canadian fish harvesters sell their products. Canada's fish harvesters stand to benefit from a more level playing field.
To date, 11 members of the Food and Agriculture Organization have become parties to the agreement. We need to maintain the momentum so that the 25 parties required for the agreement to enter into force will be achieved sooner rather than later. Today, by supporting Bill , the House has an opportunity to move Canada one step closer to ratification, one step closer to helping protect the livelihoods of legitimate fish harvesters, one step closer to effective conservation and management of living marine resources and protection of the fragile ecosystems that support their existence.
I urge all hon. members to join me in supporting Bill . We can do no less.
Mr. Speaker, today, I have the honour of sharing my views on Bill .
I listened carefully to the speech given by the on this bill, and I think that he raised some very interesting points.
This bill should be referred to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for further debate. It should probably also be amended. I hope that the and his colleagues will support these amendments.
Nonetheless, there are some problems with this bill that should be debated here in the House of Commons. My first concern is that this bill has already been debated in the Senate.
Today, the government seems to be ignoring our parliamentary procedures and traditions. Usually, bills are introduced in the House of Commons before they go to the Senate, and there are several reasons for that.
It is not just because members like debating these issues in the House of Commons. It is because we are the elected representatives of the people. We raise our concerns and those of our constituents in a place where they may have some bearing. We should therefore start with a debate here in the House.
People generally believe that the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought and that it provides a second chance to ensure that we did not miss anything in the House of Commons.
Unfortunately, that is not the case here. This bill was introduced in the Senate, where the senators diligently did their job and proposed amendments. Now, the bill has come before the House of Commons, where other amendments may be proposed, and the bill will then have to go back to the Senate for a second time.
This is a waste of time, and this way of doing things disregards the role of the House of Commons. The House should have the right to examine bills first. The House is not supposed to oversee the Senate. That has never been its role.
To be quite honest, I believe that the Senate should be abolished, end of story. This institution has no place in a free, democratic and modern parliament. To some extent, this institution is keeping us trapped in the past, but anyway.
The fact remains that the bill has finally come before us. We are interested in debating it and either passing it as is or amending it. Personally, I believe amendments are needed.
I just want to point out that this bill does more than just amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. The purpose of the bill is to ratify an international agreement adopted by a number of countries, including those of the European Union.
The agreement that will be ratified by this bill is the port state measures agreement. This United Nations agreement shows that it is in our best interest to work with our international partners in order to achieve effective management of a healthy industry, management on which the nations of this world can agree.
I think it is great that the government before us is prepared to adopt an international agreement. We have often seen this government struggle with ratifying, adopting and honouring international agreements, except for those it makes in secret, like the free trade agreements that we still have not seen. I am talking about the free trade agreement with Europe. This government does not want Canadians to be able to read the text and decide whether they agree with it or not.
Fortunately, the United Nations seems to be taking the right approach. It is obliged to disclose agreements before those agreements are ratified. Our government could learn a thing or two from the United Nations.
I absolutely want this bill to promote a healthy fishery in Canada. It will certainly improve things.
There have been many occasions when we have seen shortcomings in the tools available to us. The parliamentary secretary said there was already very effective legislation in place that might be improved by this bill. For the most part, I agree with him. However, if there is an international agreement, if other countries can teach us ways of improving our practices in Canada, then we should listen and adopt those practices, if they can help us.
According to the United Nations, illegal fishing has reached a pretty high level internationally. In 2008, pirate fishing was worth an estimated $10 billion to $23 billion a year. We know that related industries in Canada generate roughly $5.5 billion a year and that 71,000 full-time jobs are linked to the fishery and related industries such as aquaculture and processing. That is a lot of money.
International fishing lowers the price of fish products. We know that the arrival of an illegal product on the market has a negative impact on the price. There are already too many concerns about the price of fish products. Every year lobster fishermen in the Maritimes find it difficult to get a price that will ensure the economic survival of their industry. We have seen this many times in other industries as well.
We really want to have the tools to ensure that prices are realistic and reflect the reality of the legitimate fishing industry. We do not want to subsidize the illegal industry. Unfortunately, today, there is still too much illegal fishing. This bill will help us eliminate much of this illegal fishing.
We should remember that there are elements of the bill that are of great concern. The tools we will provide to our officers will be helpful, but do these officers have all the tools they need? Are there enough officers on the job?
In his question for the parliamentary secretary, my colleague from did say that there were significant cuts to surveillance by Fisheries and Oceans. The parliamentary secretary replied that he was not worried about it and that even if there were cuts, illegal fishing in Canada has declined.
It is quite reasonable to suspect that, if there is a downsizing of surveillance personnel in Canada, we will not be able to properly assess illegal fishing because it is done at night. We need open tools. We need effective tools on the water in order to really control illegal fishing. I think it would be advisable for the parliamentary secretary to take his analysis further and determine what exactly is the actual reduction or perhaps increase in illegal fishing in Canada.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has suffered a huge number of cuts in recent years. I suspect that the department is not capable of putting a figure on how much illegal fishing is going on in Canada. I am sorry, but I have a hard time believing the parliamentary secretary when he tells us that illegal fishing is on the decline. I do not think the data are there to support that assessment. I implore the parliamentary secretary to talk to his minister and ask her to increase the number of staff, not only in surveillance at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but also in all of the department's sectors. This department has probably gone through more budget cuts than any other department.
It is time for things to change and for the department to start increasing spending instead of always making cuts.
We heard in the news that scientists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada were laid off. There is a lack of information on the studies that need to be done, including in the case of the port of Cacouna, an item that recently popped up in the news. We have seen repeatedly that Fisheries and Oceans Canada simply does not have the tools it needs.
The bill will also give surveillance powers to our officers. It is hard to justify these new powers, but I am waiting for the parliamentary secretary to explain where the government is going with this.
I want to talk more specifically about the power being given to inspectors, who will be able to conduct searches at sea without a warrant. I doubt that this power will pass the legal test. I am not even sure that our border officers have this power. The government wants to give this power to our fisheries officers, when officers on land do not seem to have that power. I do not understand how this power is useful or valid. Once again, I would like to hear from the parliamentary secretary on that, especially if this bill makes it to committee, so that we have a better idea of where the Conservatives are coming from.
If it is true that officers can conduct this type of search, we have to wonder whether they would be putting themselves in danger. That is something that these workers will have to ask themselves. The ocean is isolated. It is rather big. The officers are far from resources and support. It is a matter of safety for workers. I am concerned about this power being granted to workers, but once again, I am looking forward to hearing further justifications from the government so that we understand where it is coming from.
In addition, the bill poses a legal problem: it takes the new definition of justice from section 2 of the Criminal Code.
According to the Criminal Code, justices include justices of the peace and provincial court judges. The problem we have with that in Newfoundland is that justices of the peace do not exist, first of all, and they certainly do not have the capacity to hand out injunctions and search orders.
I am a little concerned that we are creating in inequality between the provinces when it comes to the bill. I want to hear more from the government side as to what it means to give this sort of power to a justice of the peace.
I will briefly quote a court case, which passed through the courts about 15 years ago, R. v. Saunders, 2002. From Carswell Newfoundland, this is section 155, paragraph 19:
Search warrants are obtained on an ex parte basis.... They are often obtained from justices of the peace who have little legal training and they are often requested on short notice. ...many of them have received little if any training. This is unfair...and makes it impossible for them to fullfil their constitutional obligations. This search warrant illustrates that this is a situation that is no longer acceptable. If the power to issue is going to be granted, then at least a minimum level of training should be provided.
A search warrant is a very powerful tool. People who are perhaps ill-equipped to issue one are being asked consider doing so. Issuing a search warrant to officers who will be isolated and unsupported when they go to sea might put them in a very dangerous situation.
Unfortunately, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has made a lot of cuts to the Coast Guard, which has put its employees in an increasingly precarious situation.
The cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada might jeopardize the safety of mariners or Government of Canada officers at sea. We are concerned for their safety. Unfortunately, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is moving in the opposite direction by cutting resources that would give these people the support they need.
I am not interested in talking about recent situations where there were marine safety problems. I would simply like to say that since I was elected in 2011, there have been some fairly serious situations every year where people were in danger when they should not have been. We need to have tools in place to ensure their safety. Unfortunately, the government is moving in the opposite direction.
Not only does this bill jeopardize the safety of our officers at sea, but it also allows someone with little understanding of the potential risk to officers to grant the right to proceed with a search. It is a very perilous situation.
I hope the parliamentary secretary will give us more information on the direction the government intends to take with this. Why is it proposing such a bill? What will it do to ensure that Fisheries and Oceans Canada is equipped to protect officers and mariners in general?
Today, we heard the parliamentary secretary talk about the bill, and I am very pleased about that. However, I doubt that any other members will come forward to debate this bill today. Frankly, I think it is a bit shameful that the government is not taking this opportunity to fully explain its viewpoint. It is unfortunate that the government is not asking members to go over Bill carefully and thoroughly.
We are asking questions, but we are not getting answers. We expect the government to introduce and defend its bills, but all we get is radio silence. Today is no exception. I would be surprised if even one Conservative member made a speech today. It is unfortunate, but that is the way things are.
I will come back to the bill, which I think addresses some problems. Illegal fishing must certainly be stopped. Apart from conducting searches, officers will be able to inspect containers, even on land, and vehicles, which they were not able to do before. In fact, the legislation allowed them to inspect only vessels used directly for illegal fishing. Bill broadens the definition, enabling officers to conduct much more comprehensive inspections. Of course, the fact that they will be able to do so just on a hunch worries me. The government must be very clear and ensure that Bill S-3 is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically paragraph 11(d), which states that any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by an impartial tribunal.
This bill will give the minister the power to impose penalties, but those being penalized will not have the opportunity to defend themselves. We really have to be careful. This bill goes too far in some respects. Some of the powers it gives to the minister are justified, but others are not. Once again, we are heading for court challenges that could take years.
The courts will probably shoot down parts of this bill. Once again, this is a waste of time. Taking this bill to the Senate wasted time, and now more time will be wasted because this bill will most likely go before the courts so that they can get rid of the parts that are unjustified.
If we pass this bill, and that is certainly what I recommend we do, I hope that the parliamentary committee will pay close attention to the witnesses and think long and hard about amending it. That being said, on the whole, this bill deserves our attention and our support.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill .
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 , 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 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. I has ignored the price crisis in the lobster fishery and has 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 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 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 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 fully agrees with me—that we need to put more money into this.
I agree with him on everything.
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay: Mr. Speaker, we need to do this in order to make sure we are able to catch the people who illegally fish. Indeed, the 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.
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North.
I come from British Columbia and along the coast we have many families and fishermen who are supported by the fishing industry. The bill is extremely important to British Columbians and many people living in my constituency.
The bill would require Canada to ratify the UN Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which Canada signed in 2010. I know that my colleagues in the House agree that this is a good bill and a sign of being part of and working with the international community to not only preserve but manage our fishing resources. The agreement was signed in 2010, yet it took the Conservative government four years to bring the bill to the House.
Not only that, members will notice that the bill begins with an “S”. For people listening at home, that means the bill was introduced in the Senate, the unelected, unethical, unaccountable Senate. I would have preferred it if the bill was introduced here in this House, which is represented by the people. It is a small issue but I do want to point it out.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines sustainable practices of legitimate fishing operations, including those in Canada, and presents unfair market competition for sustainable foods. That is the issue. There are estimates from a number of different studies that point out the economic loss worldwide due to pirated fishing ranges from $10 billion to $23 billion annually. This represents approximately 40% of the catch.
Commercial fisheries in Canada contribute about $5.4 billion in economic activity in this country. Not only that, it generates approximately 71,000 jobs across this country, on the west and east coasts.
There are a couple of issues that I want to point out.
One issue is on conservation, because fish are not unlimited. We know that this is a limited resource. Obviously, we must make sure that we regulate and prevent this illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing in order to ensure the sustainability of this resource, which provides many jobs not only in Canada but worldwide. It is a source of food that is valued across nations, so we must work with other countries to ensure that this resource is sustained.
The other aspect is that not only do we have to manage and ensure sustainability but we also have to enhance fishing stocks. How do we do that? There are many ways, and I will get into that. However, the record of the current government in regard to ensuring the enhancement of the fishing stocks and the environment has been terrible.
We have heard in the House of the cuts that are being made to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and to surveillance. It is fine and dandy to bring in a bill to ensure that we would protect the fishery from illegal and unreported fishing, but if there is no substance or teeth to the bill, how would we ensure that the law would be implemented? What we have seen from the Conservative government over the last three years that I have been here, and before that, is cut after cut to the very people who enforce these laws and regulations.
In the House today, someone pointed out that there was a $4.2-million cut to surveillance. However, I heard the parliamentary secretary say that it was not that much. How much is it?
Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has tried to get information from departments in regard to where the cuts are and who they are affecting. However, under the current government, government departments, whether it be Fisheries, the military or Defence, are all refusing to provide information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. On one hand the parliamentary secretary says that the cuts are not that much. How much are they? Let us know. Let Canadians know how much the cuts are to these departments.
I talked about sustainability. We have seen cuts to the environment. For example, 99% of our lakes, 99% of our rivers have been removed by the Conservative government from the Environmental Protection Act. On one hand, yes, we are trying to ensure we are protected against illegal fishing, unreported fishing and we curtail it. On the other hand, we need to ensure we provide environmental habitats for these fish to flourish and to come into our rivers. However, we have seen cut after cut in these areas where the government is failing to protect.
We have seen another side of things from the Cohen report. I come from British Columbia. This year we had a bumper crop of fish coming into the Fraser River. It was estimated that 26 million came into the Fraser River. In other years, we do not see as many fish coming into British Columbia, and that is because the government has made cuts to scientists. We need to understand what the oceans are all about. However, the government has not only made cuts to the scientists who study the ocean to find out about fish habitat and fish behaviour, it has also eliminated a number of facilities that monitor these kinds of experiments.
The Cohen report talked about fish coming into British Columbia through the rivers. We have seen that one year we get so many fish and another year we do not get as many. In order for us to protect our fishing resources, to protect and ensure that we understand the fish, we need to invest in science. We need to invest in enforcement. However, time after time we have seen the government shirk its responsibility in regard to ensuring the well-being of our families. It should ensure not only that the jobs being provided are protected today, but are protected in years to come, generations to come.
That is how ones works with the international community to ensure treaties like this are actually implemented, so I do commend the implementation by the House of the treaty to protect unregulated, illegal and unreported fish. We need to work with the international community to ensure more countries sign on to this treaty to ensure its implementation. There are only a handful of countries that have signed this, and we need a minimum of 25 countries to ensure that this is implemented.
Working with the international community is something the government has lost. I'll give you an example. Fish do not see boundaries. They travel around from one country to another, one ocean to another. Therefore, we need to work with other countries, but the record of the current government has been horrible.
There was a time when we were viewed as peacemakers. Canada was viewed as a country that would bring others together, but that is not the case now. I will give a prime example of that. In the history of the UN Security Council, we have always had a seat on a rotating basis. We ran, and other countries supported our position and voted for us to be on the Security Council. For the first time in the history, the 50-odd years, of the UN Security Council, the government did not even want to run a candidacy for that seat because it knew we would not get the support of other countries to have that rotating seat on the UN Security Council.
That is the government's record. On the other hand, the NDP leader was the Minister of the Environment in Quebec. He has worked with environmental organizations. He has worked for the sustainable development of our resources. I can assure the House that the leader of the NDP will work with the international community to ensure that we have sustainable fisheries, sustainable resources, not only for this generation but future generations.
I would encourage not only the but also the to work with other countries, to encourage them to sign this treaty so that we can sustain this very valuable resource for Canada and its future generations.
We have talked about this a little, but in order for us to implement this law, we need tools and people, initial resources, as well as surveillance tools to detect unreported, illegal, and unregulated fishing. However, we are seeing cuts under the government. Not only that, we have seen cuts to the scientific community. The government is cutting scientists who would help us enhance the fisheries and their related jobs and products. It is muzzling scientists. The government is not even letting them talk about some of the issues and problems we are facing and how we could solve those problems.
On one hand we need to protect managed fisheries, and on the other hand we need to enhance the fisheries. We need to enhance the habitat and ensure it is protected. Under the current government, 99% of our lakes and rivers do not have environmental protection.
On one side we need to make sure we do not have illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, because we need to preserve and sustain those fisheries. On the other hand, we also need to enhance and ensure that we provide a place, a habitat for the fishing stock to grow. For that, we need to make investments in habitat, science and other resources that will provide that habitat for fishing stock to flourish.
Under the Conservative government, time after time we have seen cuts to our fishing resources and to the environment. Earlier I heard my colleague from Quebec talking about the east coast, and how we need to provide security and safety for the fishing vessels, the brothers and sisters who go out on the rough oceans to fish. It is a very dangerous job. We need to provide enhanced security for them in order to ensure that they bring in their catch.
I heard from my Quebec colleagues earlier and read in newspapers that sometimes when fishing vessels in rough waters on the east coast phone for help, the call is picked up somewhere in Italy.
I am from the west coast of Canada, and even I do not understand the accent in the Maritimes. We need local people. I have colleagues from Newfoundland, and they have a distinct culture. We need to ensure that we do not send their distress calls overseas where their language will not be understood.
On the west coast we have seen cuts to the Kitsilano Coast Guard. My colleague from pointed out that two hovercraft are out of commission now. On the one hand, cuts are being made to services that are required to support our fishing industry. One the other hand, we are not providing protection for fish in our rivers to make those fisheries sustainable over a long period of time and taking steps to protect them against unreported and illegal fishing.
I would encourage the government to work with other nations, bring them on board, and provide the leadership role that the government has not provided in other areas. We saw this not only last year when we lost a seat on the UN Security Council but in other areas where it failed to provide that leadership.
On this side of the House, we have a number of issues with the bill that have been pointed out already. We hope that the government will listen to some of the amendments that we will offer to ensure the bill has teeth and will protect fishermen and communities and jobs in this country. I am hoping that amendments would be entertained at committee stage. Over the last number of years, we have seen many amendments to enhance various bills.
Sometimes the Conservatives rush bills through with typos in them. We have seen a number of bills at committee stage that Conservatives were told were unconstitutional. We pointed out at committee stage that the crime bill and a few other bills would be ruled unconstitutional, yet the Conservatives failed to take that into account. They not only failed to take that into account; they simply refused to entertain some of the recommendations that the opposition parties had. Those recommendations were based on facts, science, and legitimate concerns from communities and stakeholders.
I am not going to get into facts and figures, because the Conservatives do not believe in them. They do not believe in science or concrete numbers, so I am going to leave that for another day.
In summary, this is a good step. Hopefully we will get some amendments at committee stage to enhance the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Bill would amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to implement the port state measures agreement. This is largely a housekeeping bill that so Canada can ratify the UN Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which Canada signed in 2010. The purpose of this agreement is to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets through ports. It is an important agreement and it is important that Canada ratifies it.
Canada's NDP support the bill at second reading, but we intend to introduce several amendments at committee stage to strengthen it. We feel legislation like this should be introduced in the House, not in the unelected, unaccountable and still under investigation Senate, as my colleague mentioned.
Canada should be a world leader in encouraging policies that promote healthy oceans and sustainably managed fisheries.
I would like to talk about the international commitments approved by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, of the United Nations in 2009. Twenty-six countries plus the European Union have signed on to this agreement and it will take effect once 25 states ratify it. It is important that Canada ratifies this.
I would like to offer some background information about pirate fishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It is a major concern. It is a major problem threatening the health of the world's oceans. Pirate fishing fleets are difficult to hold accountable. They obscure their identity. They fly flags of convenience. They are profit-driven and their owners are savvy, wealthy business people who know how to evade detection. As well, their workers face hazardous conditions and slave wages.
Let me offer a few global statistics in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It causes an annual financial loss of about $10 billion to $23.5 billion. It accounts for up to 20% of all wild marine fish caught. Pirate fishing produces 11 million to 26 million tonnes of seafood annually. These are alarming figures. It is important that Canada does what it can to stop illegally caught fish from entering markets through our ports.
My colleague from spoke about elements of the fishery. He spoke about the Cohen inquiry. He also spoke about the lack of resources that the government had put into the fishery and the fact that it had actually taken away from the fishery. I would like to talk about another important element of the fishery, and that is sharks.
IUU fishing is an issue I became familiar with while working on my private member's bill to ban the import of shark fins to Canada. Shark finning is strongly tied to illegal fishing. Over 100 million sharks, many of which are threatened and endangered, are illegally caught every year for their fins. That is an alarming and huge number.
It is surprising to see Conservatives so keen to tackle IUU fishing, yet most Conservative MPs could not bring themselves to stand up to the PMO and vote in support of my shark fin bill at second reading last year. It lost by five votes, a very close vote. With the overwhelming support of Canadians who supported this, this should have been a no-brainer for many Conservative members. Across the country many felt that the legislation should have been passed quickly so it at least could have gone to second reading and on to committee stage. It is very unfortunate that did not happen.
It is important that Canada tackle global shark finning. As I mentioned, 100 million sharks each year are killed, many for their fins alone, and many are threatened and endangered. One-third of all shark species is threatened with extinction due to shark finning. Evidence of pirate fishing fleets that return to ports with boatloads of shark fins has proven this is an incredibly tough task and that countries need to invest in resources to tackle this problem.
Shark finning is a prime opportunity for Canada's government to take a leadership role in the global fight against IUU fishing. One way we can combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for sharks is by encouraging all countries to adopt a fins-attached policy. Although we do not have a problem with shark finning in Canadian waters to a large degree, many would be surprised to learn that Canada's shark-landing policies are not as strong as they should be. I am hopeful the government will follow through on its promise to introduce stricter shark fin import regulations, yet its silence on this issue has been deafening for me. I have tried over the months to not only contact members, but also the CFIA to see how it is moving forward with the promise the government made to improve regulations.
This is the critical element and the heart of what we are talking about today, proposing amendments to legislation like this. It needs the commitment of the government to go forward with making changes not only in the legislation but in the resources needed to ensure we are able to make changes in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Let me talk about some of the other pressures of global concern on oceans and our wild fisheries. We certainly have an all-party oceans caucus at the House. We are tackling this issue by coming together to look at some of the issues that threaten the health of our oceans. The all-party oceans caucus is playing a very positive role.
I have intimate knowledge of the Fraser River, one of the world's greatest salmon rivers, located in my home province of British Columbia on the boundary of my riding of New Westminster—Coquitlam. It is an important fishery. It is an incredibly important river. We expected a large return this year, but, as members have pointed out, if we look at these runs pre-contact, they were normal. We have seen a trend downward. Even though we think 20 million to 26 million is a large run, pre-contact there were runs of 100 million sockeye to the Fraser. Therefore, we have to keep it in context. Real fundamental issues must be looked at which require science and enforcement.
There are other pressures on our oceans, such as warming waters and ocean acidification. I want to mention that we have the Bacon and Eggheads breakfast coming up on Thursday next week. The topic will be “Ocean Acidification: the other carbon dioxide problem”. I encourage all members to go to this important meeting to hear and learn about ocean acidification. This is another issue that our fishery is facing.
Oil spills, large and small, from tanker and marine traffic are another problem that threaten the health of our fishery. Our scientists would argue that the oil spilling into rivers and storm drains that combine into creeks and rivers and then into larger rivers and eventually into our ocean is a huge problem, as well as the oil from tanker traffic around the world and in our oceans in Canada.
Pollution threatens the health of our oceans, such as industrial waste. We are familiar with what happened at Fukushima a few years ago. Nuclear waste entered into the ocean, and is bringing debris and material over to our coast. The oceans are connected and there is quite a link. Some would argue that we really have one ocean, but our oceans are definitely connected.
There are certainly garbage islands. The gyre has been reported in the ocean and is an increasingly huge problem with the amount of plastics facing our fishery.
These potential impacts, including those from aquaculture, are all playing a key role in monitoring and taking care of our oceans.
In summary, the threat of the IUU, or the illegal, unreported and unregulated, fishing is important. We need to address this legislation in committee. We need to address pirating fisheries and tackle it together, but we cannot forget investing on the resources to tackle that problem.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to stand up and speak to this particular bill.
In my time in Parliament, this has been a new approach the Conservatives have taken of bringing forward bills through the Senate, which is supposed to have a sober second look at the bills that we create. We are putting the cart before the horse, in many ways. It is really unfortunate that the Conservative government has chosen to make this change in parliamentary procedure. Making appointed people the standard-bearers for government bills is completely inappropriate.
This is a housekeeping bill that gives the government the authority to ratify the UN Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. It was signed in 2010, and we are getting around to it, which is great.
It regulates foreign fishing vessels fishing in Canadian fisheries waters and harvesting sedentary species on the continental shelf beyond Canadian fisheries waters. That is good.
It also extends the application of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization regulatory area and prohibits specific classes of foreign fishing vessels from fishing for straddling stocks. The act also prohibits fishing vessels without nationality from fishing in Canadian or NAFO waters. All these things are good.
My concern in regard to fishing, and the concern I bring today, is about our Arctic Ocean. Measures like this are needed in the Arctic to protect fish stocks now and fish stocks that we really do not understand very well at all from overfishing in the near future.
Climate change is rapidly melting permanent ice in the international waters of the central Arctic Ocean, an area as large as the Mediterranean Sea called the “Arctic donut hole”. The Arctic donut hole is the area within the Arctic Ocean that does not fall within any national boundary. It is open for any type of exploitation by foreign fishing fleets.
Until now, the ice that has existed has blocked large-scale commercial fishing vessels, but with currently limited scientific data and no management measures in place, commercial fishing could pose a major threat to an ecosystem already stressed by dramatic warming.
We see things happening around the world in northern waters. Iceland and Britain are fighting over mackerel stocks that are moving into different locations in those waters.
In the summer of 2007, 40% of the Arctic donut hole was open water. In the middle of the Arctic Ocean, where there is no regulation and there are no territorial waters, 40% was open and could have been vulnerable to overfishing.
Mobile fleets of large factory processors range the world for fish and other sources of marine protein. For example, factory trawlers from Chinese ports travel 12,000 kilometres to catch krill near Antarctica. It is only 8,000 kilometres from China to the part of the central Arctic that was ice-free in 2007.
Today we heard the government say that it was not too concerned about the Arctic. It does not think anything is going to happen there. Wake up. The government needs to wake up and realize that the world is short of protein and it is going to go wherever there is protein available.
In 2011, a senior researcher from South Korea's government-run Korea Maritime Institute said that “Arctic fisheries can become the centre of world fisheries in the near future ”. He extolled their potential to not only meet Korea's high demand for fish when there are declining stocks elsewhere but to rescue the Korean fishing industry from its financial troubles.
The researcher said:
In the near future, the thawing of the Arctic Ocean will influence the fisheries by creating more fishing opportunities....
...[T]he Arctic Ocean coastal states and other states like China, Japan, and EU have competitively established and announced their development policies for the Arctic including those related to fisheries....
...it is no doubt an opportunity for the Korean fishing industries as well as those who are seeking new fishing grounds abroad due to diminishing fishing resources....
Usually international fisheries are regulated through agreements like NAFO.
In the 1980s, unregulated fishing by Poland, South Korea, Japan, and other countries in the international waters of the Bering Sea severely undermined pollock stocks in just a few years. Russia and the U.S. persuaded these nations to sign the Central Bering pollock agreement to close this area to fishing until scientific data and management measures could ensure a sustainable approach.
There is currently no international fisheries organization like NAFO covering the Arctic donut hole, which is precisely why some fear overfishing there. There is, however, an international body that considers sustainable development in the Arctic within its remit. Moreover, it counts aboriginal peoples as permanent participants. It is, of course, the Arctic Council, which Canada right now is the chair of.
Six years ago, the U.S. began discussions on creating a fisheries management regime in the Arctic donut hole. Canada has not used its chairmanship of the Arctic Council to support and accelerate these talks. This is required.
Interestingly enough, when our goes on and on about Arctic sovereignty, he does not take into account that in 2008, the U.S. put a fishing moratorium on the largest disputed area in the Arctic, which is some 7,000 square kilometres in the Beaufort Sea. The U.S. is setting itself up to take those waters away from us by doing the work that needs to be done in that area. They have also put environmental regulations in place in that area. How is that going to stand up in an international court? It is going to favour the U.S.
A key element is to ensure that commercial fishing levels are initially set at zero. It is important to set down the commercial fishing levels until reliable scientific data is available.
Over 2,000 scientists from 67 countries have recently signed an open letter calling for a precautionary moratorium on commercial fishing in the high Arctic. They believe that this moratorium should remain in place at least until it is better understood what kinds of fish swim in the central Arctic Ocean, how many of them there are, and how they can be managed sustainably.
The United States and the European Union have adopted policies recommending no commercial fishing in the Arctic donut hole until new international arrangements can be negotiated. Where are Canada's interests being expressed here?
In the disputed area in the Beaufort Sea, Canada was silent. The U.S. went ahead with the moratorium in that area, setting themselves up for taking over that area and taking over the Canadian interests in that area.
That is what is going on right now in Arctic fishing. Where are we in this Parliament in dealing with that issue? Where are we taking the steps, when we have the opportunity as chair of the only organization that encourages international co-operation by governments that have a stake in the area, the Arctic Council?
Oh, we are setting up an Arctic economic council. We are trying to encourage business development in that area, which is fine, but should we not put the environmental concerns we have in the area first? Is it not a logical progression to set good environmental standards, to ensure that we understand what the fishing stocks are, and to move ahead with the kinds of things that are going to protect that region before we put our efforts into an Arctic economic council, which is going to push forward on resource development, shipping, and perhaps fishing as well?
What the current Canadian government has done on the Arctic Council, with the concurrence of other nations, because they have gone along with it, is create a dynamic problem for the environment in the Arctic. We have taken away the focus we had on the Arctic Council to deal with the environment first and foremost, and that is going to play out in the fishing industry as well.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for . I will have approximately 10 minutes to speak to Bill , which will implement the port state measures agreement.
For those at home, this may seem very technical. I will try to explain what sort of impact this bill will have. I am looking forward to speaking to it, especially since I was recently appointed as a permanent member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Colleagues who preceded me on this committee have had the opportunity to discuss this topic, so I will have to dive right in and get caught up on what has been happening recently in committee.
The NDP's position is simple. We will support this bill at second reading. This bill originated in the Senate, and I would say that it is constructive. However, that does not change the NPD's concerns and thoughts on the Senate. Senators are unelected. We are talking about an international agreement and changes to legislation that will allow us to finalize these international agreements that were signed many years ago. In my mind, it would have certainly been appropriate for the government to take on this file and ensure that it moved forward, but it decided to go through the Senate. That is highly questionable. However, the fact remains that the bill before us is, for the most part, very constructive.
This bill is primarily administrative. It is intended to allow Canada to ratify the port state measures agreement to deter and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, approved by the United Nations. This agreement was signed in 2010. It will affect port inspections. Bill adds to the current law, restricting the import of illegally purchased fish and marine plants, and it clarifies certain provisions concerning the administration and enforcement of the legislation.
The bill includes a number of things that could be very beneficial to and important for Canada. My colleagues are already planning to bring forward some amendments in committee after it passes second reading. From what I understand, they are quite reasonable. I hope this will not prevent us from continuing to work constructively on the bill so that all parties will be in agreement by the time it reaches third reading.
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing undermines legitimate fishing operations. A perfect illustration of this is the Atlantic cod fishery, which spiralled way out of control.
Thousands of families made their living off of cod fishing for hundreds of years, but now there is not enough stock to allow those thousands of families to do so again. There is a lot of confusion about the fact that a big part of the problem comes from illegal fishing that may have taken place off the east coast.
Another issue that is very important where I come from is eel fishing, specifically elvers. In the 1980s, Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued a number of experimental licences to fishers in New Brunswick. They were fishing for elvers, which are basically young eels. They are really popular in some Asian cultures. A small jar, approximately the size of a small peanut butter jar, is literally worth a fortune on the international market. Those licences became commercial in the 1980s. The legal amount that fishers from the maritime provinces were allowed to catch went from 28 kg to 9 metric tons. This is approximately 55 million baby eels a year. Imagine how many tonnes of adult eels we would have had if fewer baby eels had been caught.
Beyond the nine metric tonnes allowed, 220% to 250% of the fishery is allegedly illegal, which is one of the fears that stakeholders constantly share with us. People are not fishing nine tonnes, but perhaps 20 to 23 tonnes illegally, not just somewhere off the maritime provinces, but in New England. The equation is simple: such a tonnage of baby eels equals a gigantic tonnage of adult eels that will never mature and end up in the nets of Kamouraska's fishers.
In Kamouraska, eel fishing is an important traditional practice. On the bank of the St. Lawrence, hundreds of families set up long nets that end in a heart shape. The fish enter and turn into the heart at high tide, then the families collect the fish at low tide. This traditional fishing is a local attraction because it is fun to watch. It also has an effect on tourism. Some smokehouses that have been around for over 150 years are having trouble finding eel to smoke. They have existed for generations. We are starting to wonder whether eel fishing will completely disappear from Kamouraska one day.
Therefore, illegal overfishing off the east coast of North America affects even the roots and oldest traditions of Quebec families in Kamouraska. That is why a bill like this is important. It is one of the main reasons I wanted to speak to the bill today.
Eel stocks dropped so much that in 2009, the Department of Natural Resources brought in a voluntary licence retirement program for commercial American eel fishing along the estuary. The program's goal was to halve the mortality due to fixed trap fishing, which I explained earlier. Individuals who were doing something completely legal are being pressured to decrease their activity by half because people hundreds of kilometres further east are fishing illegally.
Let us come back to the substance of the agreement. Once Canada ratifies the port state measures agreement, we will have to assume a leadership role and encourage other countries to also enforce this agreement. The example of elvers is always relevant, since a great deal of the illegal activity in this area happens in the United States. A similar bill is currently working its way through the American legislative system, but we should encourage our neighbours to work quickly, because this is a global issue. The agreement requires 25 signatories in order for it to work. If some signatories are vigilant while dozens of other countries continue to turn a blind eye to illegal fishing, that will have a negative impact on overall fish stocks, in spite of the steps Canada will have taken in the right direction.
I would like to clarify some aspects of the bill for the people watching us at home. What exactly is included in the port state measures agreement? The agreement stipulates that foreign vessels must notify the port and request authorization to enter. The authorities will then have to conduct regular inspections in accordance with universal minimum standards. This is the type of measure that seems so obvious that it is surprising that a bill has to be passed to implement it. One would think that such a measure would have been clearly set out somewhere in legislation decades ago. It is surprising, but at least we are moving forward.
Among the many changes the agreement would implement, two seem particularly worthwhile to me. First, the bill broadens the definition of fishing vessel to all vessels used in transhipping fish, or marine plants, that have not been previously landed. Just because a boat is not a fishing vessel does not mean that it will be allowed to transport illegal fish products. That just makes sense, and it is important that this is clear.
Second, the bill broadens the existing definition of fish to include shellfish, crustaceans, marine animals, and any part or derivative of any of them. I would like to point out something that I found very surprising. It is clear that the members opposite are going to vote in favour of this bill.
We asked for protection for sharks because a large number of fins has been found on boats. There was smuggling going on.
However, when we tried to have a bill passed on this issue, we lost the vote. We needed only five more votes. The members opposite did not offer enough support. It is a bit strange to see them moving forward on this issue when they refused to accept our proposals regarding sharks.
Mr. Speaker, as one of the seven members of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, representing the east coast Newfoundland riding, the great and beautiful riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, I make sure I take every opportunity to speak on our once-great fisheries, to speak on what were once the richest fishing grounds in the world: the fabled, storied, legendary Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, Canada was elevated from 14th to 6th place in the world as a fish-exporting nation.
In his 2013 book Empty Nets: How Greed and Politics Wiped Out the World's Greatest Fishery, Gus Etchegary writes how Newfoundland presented Canada with the golden gift of her fisheries. Today, those fisheries are but a shadow of what they once were. I wrote an endorsement on the back of Gus Etchegary's book. The endorsement reads, “The rise and fall of the world's greatest fisheries is a crime of the highest order, and Gus Etchegary shows his mettle in telling the tale. He is the ultimate fighting Newfoundlander.”
In 1992, the federal Conservative government of the day and John Crosbie, who was the federal fisheries minister of the day, shut down the northern cod fishery. The shutdown of the northern cod fishery was described at the time as the biggest lay-off in Canadian history, throwing 19,000 people directly out of work. It was compared to the prairie dust bowl of the 1930s. The moratorium that was announced in 1992 was supposed to last two years. It has been 22 years and counting. The province has lost 90,000 people since then. They are gone, most of them never to return.
The fading of our traditional fisheries is having an impact on our heritage; it is having an impact on our culture. To simplify on that impact, how long will we sing of squid jigging grounds, when there are no more squid to be jigged? There has been a modest recovery in groundfish stocks such as cod, but the offshore stocks are still absolutely decimated. The point that I raise now should bring home the gravity of the fall of our fisheries and how far we have fallen. For most of the year, it is illegal for a child to jig a cod from the end of a wharf, to jig a cod from the North Atlantic Ocean. Can members fathom that?
Over the years, the fishing effort has been transferred from groundfish such as cod to shellfish such as shrimp and crab, but both those stocks are in steep decline. On top of that, the biggest cuts to the quotas we have left are to our inshore fleets, meaning that our coastal communities—those we have left—are still taking a pounding.
Management decisions from 2,000 kilometres away, here in Ottawa, are not based on the principles of adjacency or historical attachment; that phrase means that those closest to the resource are the ones who benefit from the resource. No, that is not what is happening. Conservatives ignore those principles in favour of big offshore companies, most of which have foreign ownership. Managing the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries from Ottawa has resulted in a lack of understanding, a lack of consideration, and a lack of communication. Given all that has happened to our fisheries, to the Grand Banks—the collapse of the stocks, unchecked foreign overfishing, the wipeout of entire domestic fleets, the layoff of tens of thousands of workers, and the loss of almost 100,000 Newfoundlanders—the biggest policy change over the past 22 years has been the decision by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to eliminate the double-hook jigger. Instead of a jigger with two hooks, they can now only use a jigger with one hook. That has been the most substantial fishery policy change in years. It is absolutely unbelievable.
It is in this context that I speak to Bill , a housekeeping bill.
Bill would amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. We support this legislation. The bill is required. It is necessary for Canada to be able to ratify the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Canada signed the agreement in 2010. It should be noted, however, that this UN agreement can only come into force after it has been ratified by 25 nations, and it has yet to be ratified by 25 nations.
It goes without saying—although I will be saying it now—that illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing undermines the sustainable practices of legitimate fishing operations, including those in Canada, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador, and presents unfair market competition to sustainable seafood. It makes sense. We cannot disagree with that.
However, this legislation is only the first step in preventing illegal fishing. Once Canada ratifies the port state measures agreement, we must then take a leadership role in encouraging other nations to move forward on this agreement as well. Good luck with that. Hopefully it will work out better than NAFO, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, which monitors fishing on the high seas outside Canada's 200-mile limit off Newfoundland and Labrador on the Grand Banks. NAFO is useless. NAFO is toothless. NAFO is a joke.
While there has been a moratorium on fishing in Canadian waters since 1992, for too many of those years it has been a free-for-all outside the 200-mile limit. Fishing in Canadian waters stopped dead in the water. It stopped completely. For the first time in 500 years it stopped, but fishing outside the 200-mile limit continued. The funny thing about migratory stocks such as cod is that they do not pay any attention to imaginary lines in the ocean. The 200-mile limit means nothing to a fish. We stopped fishing, but foreign nations continued.
Even today, if a foreign nation is cited for illegal fishing outside the 200-mile limit on the Grand Banks, it is up to the home country of the foreign trawler in question to follow through on court action or penalties. How often has that happened? How often is the book thrown at a foreign trawler by its home country for ravaging what is left of what were once the world's greatest fisheries? How often does that happen? It never happens.
I cannot tell the House how many times, as a journalist and as a member of Parliament, I filed federal access to information requests to try to find out what penalties have been imposed on a foreign trawler cited for illegal fishing. How many times have I filed a federal ATIP? I cannot tell the House how many times. The government has denied the release of such information. Why? It is because it says that it may jeopardize international relations. What about Newfoundland and Labrador relations? Where do we fit in?
John Crosbie was the Progressive Conservative minister in 1992 who shut down the northern cod fishery. He shut it down and he brought in the aid package after that. It was a great big fat welfare package. John Crosbie once wrote, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?” He was a funny man. The better question is who hears the fishermen when they cry.
I refer back to Gus Etchegary's book Empty Nets: How Greed and Politics Wiped Out the World's Greatest Fishery and I quote:
I wrote this book because I, like a few others, refuse to accept that this once huge, renewable resource cannot be rebuilt to play a role in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador and provide a source of food for an increasing world population.
Truer words have never been spoken.
I support this housekeeping bill, but make no mistake, let there be no doubt, let this be beyond the shadow of a doubt: our fisheries and our coastal communities need a hell of a lot more protection than this.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill . As has been clearly stated, this is a very important issue. It is one issue of many dealing with the ocean's ecosystem and issues of conservation and stock management that needs to be seriously considered.
It has been suggested that the bill is a piece of housekeeping legislation in that it is meant to help ratify the port state measures agreement that was signed at the UN back in 2010. It would have to be ratified by 25 nations before it would come into effect.
One would think that Canada, with the longest coastline of any country in the world and with important fisheries on all our coasts, including the Arctic, would show some leadership on this issue and would underline the problem by bringing it forward with some urgency and some import.
However, the government introduced the bill through the Senate. Many of us have suggested that introducing legislation through the Senate is like introducing it through the back door. It indicates that the government thinks it is something that should be dealt with but that is clearly not wholly important. It is not something the government wants bogging down its agenda.
The bill was dealt with in March 2013 by the Senate It passed third reading in March and was ready to come here, but then the Conservative government, in its wisdom, decided to prorogue the House in the fall, which meant that legislation died on the order paper. It had to go back through the Senate again. It had been Bill and had to be reintroduced in the Senate as Bill . Now here we are in September 2014, and the bill has not even passed second reading. Undoubtedly it will, later on this afternoon, but it appears to me as a legislator that the government is not taking this issue seriously enough.
In the whole question of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing, it has been estimated that tens of billions of dollars in economic value are being lost as a result of the practice of nations around the world taking and selling fish and thus undermining regulated markets. It is something that has been going on for centuries.
There is no doubt that the IUU fishery does threaten ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. It violates conservation and management measures, such as quotas and bycatch limits. It is important to recognize that, and there is an attempt internationally to try to control how the signatory countries, the fishing countries, go about fishing these stocks.
We have a lot of science in this country, although if the Conservative government gets re-elected, there may not be any left. However, there is lots of work being done around the world in terms of monitoring the patterns and health of fish stocks to determine the levels at which the individual fisheries should be prosecuted so that the fishery is sustainable.
If we allow millions of tonnes of fish that are subject to those conservation measures to be taken out of the water without any control, then it defeats the purpose. As was suggested by my colleague from , there is some question as to the efficacy of those conservation management measures to control how nations prosecute the fishery.
Nonetheless, here in this country commercial wild capture fisheries, aquaculture, and fish and seafood processing contribute upward of $5.4 billion in total GDP and 71,000 equivalent full-time employment positions to the country's economy. It is a big deal, and we must do our utmost to work on this issue.
New Democrats have indicated their support for the measures provided in Bill because they are part of an international agreement and because we think Canada should be a player in establishing the rules and regulations on the international stage on something as important as the fishery. Some of us would like the Government of Canada to take a much more aggressive role so that we would be much more involved and much more heavily engaged in taking a leadership role on this issue.
My colleague from talked about the problem with the Arctic donut hole, and that is a real problem. That area is unregulated by international agreements, and some foreign nations are beginning to go into that area and fish at will. They are setting up historical fishing patterns that will have an impact when there is some kind of international agreement that affects that particular area. Canada has not played a role there and, I suggest, will suffer as a result.
I will talk for a few moments about the port state measures agreement, the international agreement to which Canada is a signatory and which Bill , once passed, will cement. It states:
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 and information sharing networks will be created.
It is the first global treaty focused specifically on the problem of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. I missed the comment from the parliamentary secretary earlier, but I understand there may be up to a dozen nations that have signed on. However, it is important to understand that 25 nations must sign on and ratify it through legislation, as we have, in order for it to come into effect.
Bill provides regulatory power in relation to authorizing foreign fishing vessels ordered to port by their flag state to enter Canadian waters to verify compliance with law or conservation and management measures of fisheries as an organization. The bill expands the definition of “fishing vessel”, which we have heard, to include any vessels used in the transshipping of fish or marine plants that have not been previously handled. The bill expands the current definition of “fish” from shellfish, crustaceans, and marine animals to include any part or derivative of them.
We are going to talk more about some of those issues in committee because, on this side, we have some issue with the process and with what authority our Canadian officials would have to carry out those inspections. It appears they would need to get a court order, a warrant, in order to be able to move in to inspect the contents of a ship, a plane, a warehouse, or whatever. Any vehicle or structure used in the trans-shipment of fish or fish products is allowed, but the question is how that will happen. What are the provisions and the authorities that would be allowed? We need to understand that aspect better.
There is another part to that. The bill adds a number of new provisions under which a justice may hear applications for a search warrant, a warrant authorizing a protection officer to seize something, or a forfeiture order. We will want to seek some clarification of that. We will do that at committee.
On this side of the House, we have seen the commitment from the . As a result of his experience on environmental issues, he understands how important ocean health and the ecosystem of our oceans is in terms of how the fishery is conducted and what it means to the overall health of our planet and our environment. As members on this side have intervened in this debate, we have heard them raise concerns about the government's commitment on issues such as conservation, habitat management, and questions of science.
As an example, when I look at the added responsibilities of Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers under Bill , I wonder how they are going to be able to carry them out, given the cuts to their staff over the past three years under this government. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut out of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We have seen a reduction in the number of vessels available to the department and to officers to carry out surveillance and to apprehend, and we have seen a reduction in the ability of our coastal agencies and our navy to be able to help out. The ability of the Coast Guard to intervene is certainly in question as a result of the damaging cuts the government has made.
Likewise, we question the government's commitment to ecosystems, to fisheries management, and to measures to enforce those issues.
We have seen cuts to the inspection staff. We have seen cuts to the rules with respect to legislation and regulations governing what can appropriately be conducted on a lake, a river, or the ocean and we have seen the impact it will have on the fishery and the ecosystem. What the government has done over the past three years will have a detrimental impact on our ability to maintain a sustainable fishery on all our coasts. It will affect these fisheries and it will affect the ability of the people who prosecute these fisheries to do so in a safe and healthy way. It will affect the ability to ensure that families and communities are able to prosper, not only now but well into the future. That is what the whole idea of a sustainable fishery is.
We heard members talk about what happened last spring with northern shrimp. The government weighed in on the side of the corporate fishery, in particular on the side of the big factory trawlers, against the small fishery, the coastal and community fisheries. The result has been, and will be, the loss of hundreds of jobs, not only for the small boat fishery but also in the processing that goes along with this in a number of communities throughout northern Newfoundland and the south coast of Labrador.
That is why some of us are asking questions and raising concerns about the government's commitment with respect to the fishery and ensuring that we have a sustainable fishery. We need to do everything in our power, not only within our purview but within the areas where Canada and the Canadian government have an impact, to protect the environment and ensure the fisheries and those oceans are healthy and we have a sustainable fishery. The government needs to actively participate in a leadership capacity in those international bodies that set regulations, conservation and other management measures, such as quotas and bycatch limits. It needs to ensure that not only are we managing the fishery properly within Canada, but that internationally we are doing everything we can to ensure fishing is sustainable so we do lose that as a result of overfishing, bad management and driving species out of existence. That is happening far too often already. We need to a better job with this.
Let me reiterate a couple of points about Bill . I am disappointed with the way the government introduced these provisions. This was an international agreement signed by Canada in 2010. We are now in 2014 still dealing with the legislation. Why is that? That is because government first introduced the bill not through the House of Commons, not through the front door, but through the back door. It came in through the Senate. The Senate dealt with it in the spring of 2013. That bill ended up dying on the table because the government prorogued the House in the fall of 2013. This does not give us a sense that the government understands the urgency of this problem and will move quickly to deal with the issue.
The whole question of the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery is a serious problem. Canada needs to be at the forefront of measures like this to ensure this agreement is ratified by at least 25 nations and that we get the job done. Then the government will need to put the resources forward to ensure we can properly enforce the agreement and do everything we can within the powers of our country and of Canadians to ensure we do our part to stop the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise and speak in support of Bill . Before I start my debate, let me take a few minutes to congratulate my colleague from for the stellar job that he does in representing his constituents here in the House, and also for the stellar job he has done in handling his file of Fisheries and Oceans. It is not an easy task to handle that file when we have a government that is so bent on taking away environmental protections and putting much of our oceans and waterways into jeopardy. Congratulations to him. The constituents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour are very well served by their current member of Parliament.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate my friend from . For those of us who are from B.C., we know he is the Fraser man. He is the gentleman who swam the length of the Fraser River. He has also been a very loud and effective voice in the House, whether it has been about shark finning, the protection of our waters, or the saving of our Coast Guard, all critical issues to those of us who live on the coastlines, and I would say, to all Canadians. Both of these colleagues have done an absolutely amazing job of holding the government to account, and also of putting forward what I would say are effective policies and how to have good policies when it comes to our oceans and fisheries.
The bill that is before us is a very important one. As many colleagues have mentioned, I am a little embarrassed that the bill originated in the Senate. After all, it is the House of Commons that is supposed to build the bill, have it go through the process and then the bill goes to the Senate for the second sober look. However, the way the government has been handling some of the legislation recently would put into question that second sober look. Maybe we all need to be taking more time, slowing down and having meaningful debate during the legislative process instead of rushing through with legislation.
I will tell members why the bill is so important to Canadians and specifically to the coastlines, coast to coast to coast. The 2008 study, which I am sure every parliamentarian has read because we all know how important the fisheries are to us, estimated the economic loss worldwide due to pirate fishing ranges from $10 billion U.S. to $23 billion U.S. annually. That is a huge number and that is what the bill tries to address to a small degree.
Canada's commercial and wild capture fisheries, aquaculture, and fish and seafood processing contributes $5.4 billion in total GDP and 71,000 in full-time equivalent employment to the country's economy. What we are talking about here is very significant, not only to protect the species and to make sure that we have fishing on an ongoing basis so that my children and great-grandchildren can fish our beautiful oceans and actually find fish there, but it is also because illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing equates to anywhere between 11 to 26 million tonnes of seafood caught illegally. That represents 40% of the total catch in some fisheries. That is scary. We know that in order to manage the fish out there, quotas are set. How can we set reasonable quotas for catching fish when we do not even know how much fish is being caught?
This goes to something that I really have to hit on here. The current government, never mind environmental protections that would lead to proactive caretaking of our fisheries, which it has failed on miserably, has also failed to provide fundamental protections because of all the cuts.
There are some very basic things. I have to talk about the cuts to the Coast Guard in Kitsilano. It is very important for British Columbians, putting the lives of many fishermen and also regular seafaring folk in jeopardy. However, we have also had cuts to the fishing department at a time when really we need to have more enforcement because so much illegal activity is going on. We also know the current government has very little respect for science or expertise and informed advice because we know it has an allergy to it and does not like it. We have seen that not only with cuts to science but in ignoring sound advice from scientists and experts. We have argued ever since I have been here over the kind of damage that is being done to habitat with the sweeping changes that the government brought in, buried in the budget bill of course, to habitat protection. That has put creeks in my riding, like the Bear Creek Park creek, into jeopardy. That in itself is unacceptable.
We have just so much work that has to be done in this area, and this is a baby step. Even though this is a baby step in the right direction, and we are supporting this baby step, my colleagues will have some amendments. This baby step has a few flaws in it, but we are counting on the Conservatives and their good will in wanting to see this legislation go through to pay heed to the very informed amendments my colleague from is going to be presenting at the committee stage. I know they just cannot wait to hear those amendments. We are looking forward to working on those.
We are also pleased to hear that the bill will have the government endorse a UN position, which is long overdue. As we know, the European Union, Norway, Sri Lanka and Myanmar have already ratified the port state measures agreement, and we are going to do the same. However, I am also hoping that our government will now persuade other countries to join this agreement. Once again, I despair at times because I am wondering what kind of an influence we really have left after the damage that has been done to our international standing by my colleagues across the way, whether that is with the Security Council or the fact that some of the positions we have taken have isolated us from the international community in different ways.
Let me summarize because I know there are going to be lots of questions. In summary, I would say that we will support this but there will be amendments. Let me urge the Conservatives to look at all the cuts they have made to Fisheries and Oceans and let us take some real action to protect our oceans and fisheries for our children and grandchildren. Let me once again recognize the work done by our member for and my well-respected colleague from .