I know Ryan is here, and I think Mr. Etchegary is here as well.
If you want to supply us with a short bio of yourselves, that would be great, and we'll say before four o'clock or as soon as you can.
That's a good point, Mr. Doherty.
Thank you, folks.
Let's get started. We're running a bit late, but as you can see, we have four esteemed witnesses in front of us to start this off.
I want to start by saying that the study in and of itself in the motion put forward by Mr. is this:
||That the Committee commence a study of the Northern Cod Stock and its relevance to associated species. This study would evaluate the replenishment of the stock and what other species are affected by it in the region. The study would also look at sustainable harvesting technologies for the future of the cod fishery; and that the Committee report its conclusions to the House.
This is why we are here today.
We have our first group of witnesses. First of all, we have the Honourable David Wells, Senator David Wells from Newfoundland and Labrador.
It's good to see you again, Senator Wells.
We also have with us the former provincial fisheries minister and federal natural resources minister, the Honourable John Efford, and the current fisheries and aquaculture minister, Steve Crocker, from the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods.
It seems you're pretty busy these days, Mr. Crocker.
Also from the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods, we have the deputy minister, David Lewis.
We're going to supply you with 10 minutes each. You don't have to use the whole 10 minutes, of course.
We're going to start with you, Senator Wells. You have the floor.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you, members of the House of Commons, for inviting me and welcoming me here today.
I don't know what background you were given for me, but I'll give a short bio of my background in the fisheries. I started in 1979 in the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. My first job was driving a forklift on a wharf. In the 36 years after that, I've done a number of things. I've managed fish plants. I've written over 100 reports, including policy and technical reports for clients. I was a member of Canada's NAFO team at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization; I was a delegate on that team for a number of years. I was a senior policy adviser to the federal fisheries minister and chief of staff to another federal fisheries minister, and I also sat for a couple of years on the Senate fisheries committee. My background is varied and quite extensive in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery and, indeed, in the Canadian and international fishery.
I could spend all day talking about the fishery, but there are a couple of specific things that I think are important and that the committee should consider in their deliberations. The first one is the markets for groundfish. If there is indeed a return of groundfish as a primary species for Newfoundland and Labrador, I think it's important that the committee members recognize that this is not the cod fishery of old, where cod was king. Cod now competes strongly—and in fact is losing in that competition—with other whitefish species like tilapia, pollock, and haddock. For the most part, cod as the primary centre of the plaice species has lost that place. I think that's important to recognize. There's a new paradigm in the marketplace.
Second, there's the different business model that's presented. In the past, you had many hundreds of groundfish plants and many hundreds of landing stations. You no longer have that since the moratorium in the early 1990s. That whole system has collapsed and was removed and replaced by a different paradigm, that of the primary species and shellfish, primarily shrimp and crab. I think that has to be considered as well when the question arises of what happens to the emerging fishery of groundfish, of cod specifically, but other groundfish as well.
The third thing that I think you should give some consideration to is the recreation of the Newfoundland and Labrador cod fishery. As I said in my initial point, it's a different place. We have fewer harvesters. We have an older workforce in the processing sector. The number that was used a couple of years ago for the average age of a fish-processing worker was 56 years. That was a couple of years ago, and you don't have the young people coming into the processing sector like you once had. This will naturally lead to more mechanization, and that changes the paradigm of the processing sector.
There are also restrictions on entry into the fishery with fishing licences, and for those who have licences, restrictions on access to other stocks. That's something I think should be considered. I've mentioned, of course, the number and locations of landing sites and processing sites. The quality degrades significantly the more you truck fish from a landing site to a processing site. I think the most important thing to do is to get the raw material into processing, wherever that is, as quickly as possible.
The last thing I want to mention is the management of the industry. Right now, we have a situation whereby the harvesting sector is managed by the federal government, under federal jurisdiction, while the processing sector—or as soon as the product lands at the wharf—is under the management of the provincial jurisdiction. I think there's a huge wall between those two. It's hard, and in fact almost impossible, to have an integrated industry when you have two jurisdictions managing two critical aspects of the fishery. I might have some comments on that afterwards if people are interested in that.
Thank you very much.
I'll try to keep it to 10 minutes.
First of all, welcome to the beautiful Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I'll begin in this way: you're going to hear me speak in a different language—and I mean that sincerely—with passion.
I was born in Port de Grave, one of the largest fishing communities on the island of Newfoundland and in Labrador. I grew up into fishing with my own father. Actually, my son is in fishing today, so I've been very close to it.
What I'm amazed at.... I didn't plan any written words this morning. I wanted see what the feeling was around the table and talk to some different people. Ken gave me an opening with his recommendation, his proposal, to do a study in the fishery to see what the cod stocks are like and what the harvesting should be for the future or whatever.
Can you imagine? We closed the fishery. We were part of the closure of the fishery by the federal and provincial governments in 1992. Norway had a closure at the same time for three years, and their stocks were back and they were back fishing commercially, but in 1992 we closed the fishery, and now we're going to recommend to do some studying.
I'm not condemning this, Ken, because it's a good idea, if it wasn't done, but just to think that it's not done, in this day and age, gives me one question that I want to ask you people, as the representatives from Ottawa. What is the role of DFO in the harvesting sector if 25 years later we still don't have any solid scientific information on the cod stocks? That in itself leaves a major question unanswered.
I've said many times that we were blessed with the oil industry, but the oil industry bears no comparison to the fishing industry if it's managed right. It's a renewable resource; it will be there forever and ever if—again, the word “if”—we manage it right.
I look at what's happening, and I have meetings with ministers and meetings with individuals, and I walk away shaking my head. My God, where are we headed down the road? If any other country in the world or any other province in Canada had the resources that Newfoundland and Labrador has in its ocean, we would be floating on air all the time, and here we are today, arguing with each other over what to do next. We're making recommendations and we don't know what the outcome is.
The question has to be answered: what is the role of DFO?
If you go down to the DFO building right now, you're lucky if you get to see somebody for eons. The staff is not down there anymore in any numbers. From what I understand, most of the work being asked for or being done, which is nothing compared with what needs to be done, is done through the union. The union's job is not research. The union's job is to protect the fishermen, but that's not happening.
We have two frustrations going on in the one area: we don't know the science, and we don't know what the role of DFO is.
Here's the other thing that really concerns me. I always thought that people living on an island out in the north Atlantic, as we are, who have the resources around.... How could we would be left in this position of asking this question today? First of all, who is responsible for the fishery, but then who gets the right to catch it? Keep in mind that we know very well that in 1992 prior to the moratorium the small boats did not destroy the cod fishery. They did not cause the closure of the cod fishery, because they can only fish a certain number of months each year, and the type of boats and the type of gear they have restricts them from doing any major damage to such a large resource, when there's 800 million tonnes of cod or whatever the numbers are. So there goes that question.
Now we're back wanting to get into the fishery and the people on those small boats can't get the right to go fishing. They are restricted from catching cod because they don't know whether if the cod is out there to catch or not. We're restricted from fishing in our own area because we didn't have a history in any particular fishery, but I thought that everybody understood that the principle of adjacency should be working. If the principle of adjacency is working, then the first people to get the chance to go back into the fishing industry are those people who operate the small boats.
For example, I know of a fleet. In fact, as you go to Port de Grave tomorrow, which I understand you going to be, you're going to see boats that have been tied up to the wharf since the middle of July, with no fishing rights whatsoever. They have all the gear. They have all the trawls. They are not looking for or asking for money. They just want a quota of fish. Yet the factory freezer trawlers are steaming into the community of Bay Roberts with a million and a half pounds of turbot aboard, or a million and a half pounds of some other species of fish, and the small boats in Port de Grave—the 65-foot boats and so on—are tied up to the wharf and not moving whatsoever. I wonder why, and I wonder what's going to happen.
How do we get a start on the future? After 25 years, how do we possibly start over and begin now to do a complete scientific study to just tell us what happened? If we don't already know, then I wouldn't want to be the person who goes out onto the street and tells the people that we have to start over again. With the new gear, all we have to do is to go Iceland or Norway. We know what type of gear should be used: hook-and-line gear.
We opened up the fishery this year, after all these years, and the first thing we put into the water was gillnets. That's the worst darn thing you could possibly do. We have to get markets, and the only way we're going to get markets for our products is to have quality. You will never get quality in gillnets. With hook-and-line, auto trawls, and other ways of catching fish, why would you want to put gillnets back into the water after all these years? Every week when you turn on the radio or the TV they're talking about a marketplace. There's no market for our cod and no market for our groundfish. No wonder, if we're going to handle fish like that and expect people to pay top dollar.
They say there's no price for cod. I go down to Florida in the winter months. The cheapest cod I can buy in Florida is $11 per pound. The most a fisherman can get for a pound of cod here in Newfoundland is 50¢ or 60¢. It's absolutely ludicrous to have that happen.
There's a reason I told you about the passion. This morning, I didn't expect to hear this. I expected to hear some good news that we had some signs—probably not enough—that would give us a level of comfort to start fishing. No way. I expected that we would have a quality assurance program put in place federally and provincially. Not done. If it was done, we wouldn't allow the gillnets to go into the water. If you catch fish with open line, you're catching a top-quality product. We were out yesterday with my son. He took a cod pot. In the cod pot, the fish were swimming around. That's quality. That's the type of thing that needs to be done, and we don't need to go all over the world and study it again.
It's no good asking for half a dozen things this morning. I'd rather ask for one or two things and get something done. When you people go back to Ottawa, you need to get the message through to the that he needs to take charge of the ship. He needs to be captain of that ship. He needs to listen to people, and he needs to make decisions on exactly what needs to be done, and it's not complicated. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to find out how to get a quality product or to find out how much fish is out in the ocean. As we used to say, you can't put a rubber bag over your head and get down and count it. You have to base it on science, and if we don't have the science now, we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Mr. Chairman, we need to get attention paid to those couple of things. Also, we don't need to have the boats tied up. We need the boats out there doing the actual harvesting in a small way to give us an idea of how much is out there. We know. We know the quantity of stock—the quantity, but not the quality—that's out there in groundfish. We're not talking just about cod.
Please take the message back to Ottawa. We should be ashamed of ourselves if we don't have enough science done. We should be ashamed of ourselves if now, today, after all this time, we still have to use gillnets for the fishery of the future.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, to you and to the committee for the opportunity to be here this morning.
Thank you to MP McDonald for suggesting this as a topic for your committee. It's a very important topic for our province as we move forward. I'll do my best not to go over the points that Senator Wells and Mr. Efford raised earlier so that we have more time for questions.
As we're all aware, the northern cod stock stretches across the northern coast of Newfoundland and Labrador from the Grand Banks to the south of Labrador. The collapse of northern cod was the biggest layoff in Canadian history. It is generally acknowledged that there were several reasons for that collapse. Overfishing, environmental changes, and poor management all played a role. While it is important to learn this in history, we're not here to dwell on the past this morning.
Today, as stocks are built, we have an opportunity for a renewed groundfish fishery with northern cod once again in the forefront. It is extremely important that we rebuild this fishery in a sustainable manner for our fish harvesters, processors, workers, and coastal communities. As we work to achieve economic and environmental sustainability, we must also seek to achieve social sustainability.
As the lucrative snow crab and shrimp stocks decline, we must ensure that our cod fishery emerges as an economic and viable fishery, and we must optimize the value of the resource to all stakeholders.
As we move forward, we must do so with a northern cod rebuilding plan that allows for continued growth of the stock and the rebuilding of the cod industry. Today, management plans require these elements in order for fisheries to achieve market certification, including marine stewardship certification, and I'll speak to that more a little later.
I believe it's also important that we take an enhanced ecosystem approach to the management of northern cod.
While management of the entire marine ecosystem is virtually impossible, we can better integrate the management of improved forage species such as capelin with our management objective for cod. We can also consider the impact of competitors and predators such as seals in the management of cod as we go forward.
In order to do this, we must have guidance from the science community. With the federal government's renewed commitment to and investment in science, it is important that this new investment find its way to Newfoundland and Labrador through DFO. To go back to Mr. Efford's point, science is an integral part of where we have to go with the fishery in the future.
Our government is committed to working with the industry and developing markets for a revitalized cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. One key approach is to promote and support opportunities to enhance market access and to continue to focus on maintaining top quality, from initial harvest through to final market preparation.
Cod is still one of the most important species in the global seafood market. However, market dynamics have changed considerably since Newfoundland and Labrador was a major player in the cod industry in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, the largest players in Atlantic cod fishery are Norway, Russia, and Iceland, which account for more than 80%—more than one million tonnes—of global supply.
There are also millions of tonnes of other substituted whitefish species, both wild and farmed. It is important to recognize that Newfoundland and Labrador has an extremely small share of today's global market. In 2015 our province exported just over 1,100 tonnes of cod fillets, or .0036% of the world total. The large volumes of H and G cod on the world market in recent years has resulted in huge growth in twice-frozen fillets and blocks, primarily processed in China, which are dominating global cod markets.
The largest markets for cod are fresh and frozen fillets in the United States, frozen fillets in the United Kingdom, and salted cod in Portugal. Currently, the Newfoundland and Labrador cod fishery primarily produces single frozen fillets that are portions in the form of tails and loins.
If our industry does not produce and sell high-value cod product, it will be difficult for us to compete with high-quality producing countries such as Iceland and Norway. More importantly, we have to avoid the volume-driven commodity market dominated by China and other countries that are able to produce low-cost product.
The marketing challenges our industry faces with respect to transitioning back to cod include logistics of transportation of fish off island, i.e., fresh cod fillets. Today in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have a problem getting product, whether it's fresh salmon, milk, or livestock, on and off our island, due to simple logistical issues with Marine Atlantic. If we're going to have a successful cod fishery in the future, one of the things that has to be considered when we talk about accessing fresh markets in the U.S. with cod is Marine Atlantic. That is a problem that we will need to address. Our challenges also are to position ourselves to compete globally, to market and produce a consistent supply, and to produce and maintain a consistent quality throughout the supply chain.
Sustainability is key when it comes to market access. Today, all major cod, pollock, haddock, and most flatfish fisheries are MSC-certified, and that again will be a very important factor as we move forward in the cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We must also recognize that our industry needs time to transition from shellfish back to groundfish. This will not happen overnight, and it will require governments on both levels—federal and provincial—to work with harvesters, processors, and all industry stakeholders to ensure that the necessary attention and financing are there so that harvesters have an opportunity to transition back into the fishery that Mr. Efford spoke about a few moments ago when you look at technologies.
For example, for a harvester today to move into a hook-and-line system for a 65-foot vessel requires an investment of about $150,000. This investment is not easy to come by as you transition into a fishery, so it's important that all levels of government look at ways in which we may be able to help harvesters in the future when it comes to that transition and the significant financial value that it will bring.
This fall, our government will establish a fisheries advisory council that will be immediately tasked with developing an action plan on cod revitalization. We are pleased that the federal government will participate in the fisheries advisory council once it is established.
The importance of coordination between the federal and provincial policies to support the cod sector, particularly during the industry transition, can't be overstated. It is imperative that we work together to optimize the value from the limited resources that are harvested and processed. We believe strongly that fisheries management decisions, such as the setting of TACs, should be based on scientific evidence in order to protect against the over-exploitation of resources and allow long-term sustainability in the fishery.
In closing, I believe the only way to truly achieve our collective objective regarding the northern cod fishery is by all parties working together. Again, both levels of government have an important role to play in management and regulation to ensure that we have a well-managed fishery providing a high-quality product to the world. Governments can only be successful in implementing these necessary measures through discussion and dialogue with the industry.
Also, going back to what was said by Senator Wells and Mr. Efford this morning, I think another thing is to dialogue. We need to continue the dialogue. It's really good to see that this is a part of that process today, but it needs to continue, and not just in meetings like this. When meetings like this or meetings with ministers and other officials end, we need to carry the message forward and continue to work on it.
Our department of fisheries in this province is certainly prepared to engage in that discussion with all parties. We're quite ready to do so. Quite honestly, in this province, we cannot afford to have a fishery of the future that's not well planned and well managed. I feel that this is really our last chance at a good northern cod fishery in this province, and we have to make sure we do it right.
Thanks for that question.
As I said earlier, one of the biggest problems we have and have always had in the industry is that great divide between the harvesting, which is under federal jurisdiction, and the processing, which is under provincial jurisdiction.
In order to have an industry that's integrated and moves smoothly, I think there's a better model to have, rather than to have that divide between two critical aspects of the industry. I'll speak briefly about my couple of years as deputy CEO of the offshore petroleum board here in Newfoundland and Labrador, which is a federal-provincial agency that's at arm's length from both the federal and the provincial governments. It was written into legislation in the 1980s, and its prime directive was to look after four things: resource management of the oil and gas reserves, environmental aspects, health and safety, and industrial benefits.
I think a similar model that looked after resource management and industrial benefits for the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, where you would have integration between harvesting and processing, would be a good model, and certainly a better model than we have right now. You would have no political influence or interference. You would have no special interest groups that would have influence, be they processors, harvesters, plant workers, or competing unions.
Like Mr. Efford when he was minister, Minister Crocker, I'm sure you've hear every day from special interest groups that are looking for something: some favour, some benefit, or some emphasis on their particular aspect of the sector.
I know that when I was a senior policy adviser at the federal level in DFO, and then after that the chief of staff, every day I'd get calls asking if people could do this or that. What I think is necessary is to set the rules, set the structure for the rules, and then stop that influence from the special interests. By having groups comply with the rules, everyone knows the rules, and there are no special interests that would have extra or undue influence. I think that's a model that should be looked at between the provincial government and the federal government.
Thank you very much. I've timed it for just under nine, so hopefully I'll get there.
On behalf of the Association of Seafood Producers, I am pleased to appear before this committee, and I thank you for the invitation.
I'll give you a quick overview of the ASP, our role and work and who we represent, and then provide some brief remarks on our perspectives on northern cod going forward.
ASP is an industry association. It represents the majority of seafood producers in the province by volume and value. Our members include small, medium-sized, and large companies. Most are family owned and several are harvester owned. They are all invested uniquely in rural Newfoundland and Labrador; there are not too many fish plants here on the waterfront in the city. A few have access to their own quotas for some species, but most buy from the independent inshore fleet represented by my colleague, Mr. Keith Sullivan.
ASP's members produce a wide range of species available to the commercial fishery. Our members produce the majority of snow crab and inshore shrimp, at close to 80% or 90% of both, which represent most of the value in the fishery in the province. They also produce a vast majority of pelagic species available to us, such as capelin, herring, and mackerel. We do a fair bit of the groundfish, including cod.
All of what we produce, or most of it, is exported. Our markets are the world over, including North America, Europe, Africa, and, increasingly, Asia, year after year. As an association, we engage in the usual range of activities appropriate to a trade association, including public policy, government, media relations, and services to members. Those services include serving as the client of the first Marine Stewardship Council eco-certification in Canada, for northern shrimp. It was the largest such certified shrimp district in the world at the time, and the first on the eastern seaboard of North America.
As you will know, the MSC is a third party audited standard for fishery sustainability to assure the world—our markets—that our products come from sustainable fisheries in terms of what we harvest in terms of habitat and ecosystems and the management regime. We're now the client for four different certifications covering shrimp in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Nova Scotia, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, and for snow crab in the province. Our members hold other certificates as well.
As somewhat of an anomaly in the industry, we also negotiate fish prices for 67 species per year, as our industry is subject to collective bargaining legislation. That takes up a fair bit of our work.
I have worked for ASP as executive director since 2004, and I have served as chair of the board since 2006. I've also served on the FRCC, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, and on a number of other fisheries or other related advisory bodies.
The reason why you're here, and the reason why we're here, is cod. Cod, to state the obvious, is important. As I often say, it's part of the cultural, social, political, and economic history of this province. We were but an island in the sea and essentially a platform for the seasonal prosecution of the fishery by Europeans. We were later a place of habitation, a colony, and then a country, and now are a province of Canada. Cod, to use a French expression, is our raison d'être. It was the stock market of Europe and the livelihood of our people. It's sad, but we all know the story with the word “moratorium”. Just to say it, says it all.
In recent years, the work of DFO and the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research, CFER, at the marine institute, suggests an increase in biomass for northern cod, and yet—and this is my take-away point—it must be underscored that the fishery is not yet rebuilt. ASP is of the view that a general strategy of restraint is required in our approach to northern cod.
As we wrote to the last year, “a general strategy of restraint grounds any and all increases in science, avoids past mistakes, accelerates stock recovery, and protects the substantial investments that will be required for modernization and for market development”. That restraint includes adherence to the PA framework, the precautionary approach framework to which DFO is itself committed. DFO has said that its precautionary approach framework will guide decisions. The Association of Seafood Producers supports that adherence.
In that regard, it should be noted that stock-building has yet to occur. The biomass remains in the critical zone at just over one-third of Blim. In DFO's PA framework, this means removals must be kept to a minimum. In “Northern cod comeback”, published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences last year, authors Rose and Rowe suggest that with frugal stock management and low fishing mortality, “this stock could rebuild, perhaps within less than a decade”.
Again, to underscore the point, the stock is not yet rebuilt.
ASP is also on record as supporting the position contained in the DFO's Canadian science advisory secretariat's science response from last year, which reads in part that “removals should be kept low to promote stock growth”.
We have noted before in correspondence to the minister, and in concurrence with the FRCC report on groundfish from 2011 titled “Towards recovered and sustainable groundfish fisheries in Eastern Canada: a report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans”, of which I have a copy here, past instances of growth in biomass have been cropped off by premature quota increases.
I was pleased to serve on the FRCC at the time of that report, and I want to reiterate its findings today. Past instances of growth have been cropped off. We want to avoid that, and I think all stakeholders want to avoid it. It remains imperative, therefore, that we follow the science and not get ahead of it. We have to avoid being led by an impressionistic sense of what's out there or by open line radio.
This fishery is being watched with increased scrutiny by our fellow Canadians and the international community, and appropriately so. It's an iconic fishery for collapse, and the world is right to watch what we do. We support erring on the side of caution, not just for the international perspective on northern cod, but because it is appropriate in reality, as per “A Harvest Strategy Compliant with the Precautionary Approach” adopted by DFO. Removals have to be kept to a minimum by necessity, and the low level of removals to date in this stock have been key to the recovery, such as we have seen to date.
Northern cod, it must be acknowledged, is not just an icon or an interesting case study for international observers or for national fisheries management and science. At the end of the day, rebuilding matters to industry participants represented here at this table. Again, the 2011 FRCC report said, “This rebuilding will require sustainable fishing practices, economically viable enterprises and the production of quality, high value products that find acceptance in global markets.”
In an era of increased whitefish supply in international markets, both wild capture and aquaculture, northern cod will be of most value when it supports a modern industry that is economically sustainable with premium quality fish. We're not there yet either. There is some concern, well placed, that we cannot “get there from here” in terms of the structure.
We also acknowledge and support the minister's commitment to ensuring the implementation of a “licence and tags regime for all recreational fish participants...expected to be introduced prior to the 2017 season”. That is an important point.
In closing, let me say that we invite, as always, DFO's continuing collaboration with the industry. We acknowledge DFO's support for our northern cod fisheries improvement project, FIP, which ASP is developing in conjunction with the Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council, or GEAC. That project, like all FIPs, is designed to help prepare northern cod for eventual MSC certification.
MSC, I'd like to remind people, is the democracy of the marketplace, making third party attestations as to the sustainability of seafood products in the marketplace. It is telling to recall that MSC was developed on the back of the groundfish moratorium here in the early 1990s.
The world is watching. Whatever we do with groundfish, and cod in particular, we must do it right if it is to sustain us many years hence. We can be sure now, as we face the prospects of ecosystem change, that the decrease of more valuable shellfish and the resurgence of lesser value per unit groundfish will bring untold pressures to bear on industry participants and the managers. We face some difficult years of transition ahead.
Again, thank you for your time. I'm available for any questions you might have.
Thank you to the committee for this opportunity this morning.
Icewater Seafoods is a family-owned business with an extensive history in the Newfoundland cod fishery. It started seven generations ago when my ancestors came to Newfoundland from Dorset, England. Icewater was formed in 2004 by my father, Bruce Wareham, from the former Newfoundland operations of High Liner Foods.
Today, Icewater is a vertically integrated groundfish company with the second-largest holdings of greater-than-100-foot enterprise allocations for various groundfish stocks across Atlantic Canada. Access to these resources allows Icewater to plan and sustain operations at our plant in Arnold's Cove. Our state-of-the-art plant is solely focused on the production of North Atlantic cod.
With a team of 210 cod experts, we have successfully built strong niche markets for premium quality individually quick-frozen cod portions, which are sold primarily in Europe. Even after the moratorium on northern cod was announced in 1992, our plant operations remained focused solely on cod. This, coupled with the help and support of our community, has made Icewater the largest buyer and the larger producer of cod in Newfoundland since the moratorium.
Prior to 1992, North Atlantic cod was king of the world's whitefish production, which Newfoundland has benefited from since the early Europeans began drying and salting fish along our shores in 1497. However, world production and consumption of whitefish have evolved significantly since the moratorium. Although North Atlantic cod continues to be the preferred whitefish for discerning consumers, it has lost its dominance of world whitefish production, primarily to Alaskan and Russian pollock. In 2016, the 1.4 million tonnes of North Atlantic cod that will be captured represents only 18% of the eight million tonnes of whitefish that will be harvested globally.
The disposition of world markets for North Atlantic cod has also changed significantly since the moratorium. From the late 1950s, when freezing technology was introduced, through to the moratorium, the majority of Newfoundland cod was produced in cod blocks and sold in North America. This market no longer exists. Today, North America represents approximately 5% of the world market for North Atlantic cod. The primary market for premium quality North Atlantic cod in fresh and frozen form is the United Kingdom and western Europe. Icewater sells 90% of its production in the European market and competes with the top producers from Iceland and Norway, where sustainability has been a focus for many years.
Actually, it was the announcement of the moratorium in 1992 that was the genesis of the Marine Stewardship Council, which has become the largest certifier of sustainable seafood in the world. To be blunt, world markets do not need or defer to the mere 4,000 tonnes of northern cod captured in 2015. However, for Icewater, this raw material complemented our existing supply and allowed us to further develop our market presence in high-end European markets.
This is not to say that there is no future for northern cod. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Provided we do this right—that is, we focus on quality and allow the stock to build—northern cod could indeed be the future of the Newfoundland fishing industry. It is with this in mind that I remind you of the following.
The latest Department of Fisheries and Oceans stock assessment for northern cod, which was released in May 2016, shows that the stock is only at 34% of the lower limit reference point, the point below which the stock is at risk of serious, long-term impairment of productivity. Under DFO's precautionary framework, removal should be kept to the lowest level possible, and the very concept of a commercial fishery is inconsistent with the reality.
There is no doubt that the stock has experienced significant growth in the last five years. It is also indisputable that much of this growth has been derived by a limited number of relatively strong year classes that have appeared as an anomaly and have not been experienced since.
Unless these year classes are allowed to grow and develop into spawning stock and contribute to future recruitment, we could easily revert to the same cycle of collapse as in our recent past. We must, as required by the department's own policy, keep removals at an absolute minimum. If catches are allowed to increase too soon, we will crop off the growth and will for the third time in 25 years lose the opportunity to realize the full potential of the northern cod stocks.
In fisheries, we often base our removals on an assessment of how the fish we catch today may impact our population next year, the year after, and even out 10 years. With northern cod, DFO has adopted a model that is unable to see beyond three years because of stochastic error associated with the model formulation. This limitation forces management decisions to be undertaken without an assessment of what the impacts may be over the medium and long-term horizon. This is clearly problematic, especially when we are only at 34% of the lower limit reference point.
To return to a previous point, prior to the moratorium, the Newfoundland processing industry was production-driven; that is, it produced primarily cod blocks and salted products, which did not require premium-quality raw material.
However, to compete in today's market for premium-quality cod, we must start with sustainably sourced, premium-quality raw material. In this new market, the Newfoundland processing industry must be market driven; that is, we must produce products demanded by the market and must focus on the products that yield the highest value for all steps in the value chain. A premium-quality raw material can only come from a balanced offshore—fall-winter—and inshore—spring-early summer—fishery. We must remember that the northern cod stock is migratory; that is, it spawns in the early spring in the offshore area and migrates to the inshore to feed during the summer months, returning to the offshore areas in the fall.
We understand that various fisheries ministers and department officials have commented that priority access will be granted to inshore for up to the first 115,000 tonnes of northern cod as the fishery recovers.
Priority, however, does not mean exclusivity. From a historical perspective, the greater-than-100-foot fishery is one of the key components to keeping plants operating year-round in Newfoundland. In a recent history of northern cod fishery prepared by a former RDG of the Newfoundland region, it was highlighted that from 1977 to 1992 the greater-than-100-foot sector landed approximately 40% of the total Canadian northern cod landings.
The minister's recent comment that his government would honour any prior commitments to the inshore regarding access as the fishery recovers has been interpreted by some to mean exclusive access. Without an offshore component to the fishery, we cannot maximize the value from our northern cod fishery as it recovers.
One lesson learned from the moratorium is that fisheries managers need the best science available to them when making multi-year management decisions. The northern cod stock covers a very large area, with more than one genetically distinct stock. Although it has been well studied, there are some key deficiencies that exist with our understanding of where it resides, how and when it moves, and its vulnerability to the fishery.
For this reason, and to ensure we are able to fish the stock sustainably and gain MSC certification in the future, the Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council and the Association of Seafood Producers began a fisheries improvement project for northern cod in 2015. The five-year work plan has a budget of $11.7 million and will result in our having the best understanding of the stock that modern science permits. To date, the fisheries improvement project has funded the development of assessment and simulation models, genetic identification of stock components, and work towards the development of a large-scale acoustic tracking array.
In fact, a recent announcement by this government on the Ocean Frontier Institute included a partnership with our fisheries improvement project that will significantly further our efforts to achieve sustainable management of the stock. For this, I and our partners thank you.
The work on our fisheries improvement project has highlighted one key risk: if the productivity of the stock remains low, the population is likely to decline again. Any fishing will increase that risk. In a more positive vein, the stock may indeed continue to grow if capelin production improves and we truly keep levels to a minimum. If this is the case, we could achieve the limit reference point within five to ten years. At that point, the stock will be ready to support a commercial fishery that is sustainably certified and can compete in the world markets.
Thank you for your consideration and time.
It's certainly a challenge to talk about the northern cod fishery in 10 minutes, so I'll get going.
Welcome. Good morning to members of the committee. I'm Keith Sullivan, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union, an affiliate with Unifor. The FFAW is the largest private sector union in the province, representing over 12,000 members, the vast majority in fish harvesting and fish processing.
It's understood that the cod fishery has a deep connection with our province. I'm going to talk about the value of the cod fishery to our members and our communities.
The FFAW union movement started in 1970 when the cod price was 2.5¢ per pound. Back then, we didn't refer to it as “cod”, but simply fish. Cod was our fishery and our identity. The northern cod moratorium in 1992 put tens of thousands of FFAW members, including my family, out of work and dependent on government subsidy programs. The calamity of the cod moratorium forever changed the relationship between fish harvesters and fisheries. The change applied to all aspects of the fishery, from science to marketing to management.
In the wake of the moratorium, it was critical for fish harvesters and the FFAW to establish a larger role in fishery science. To that end, over the past 25 years, the FFAW has developed a full fisheries science program on a variety of species. The union also has a full-time fisheries scientist on staff, so that when DFO discusses matters of science we are in a room with a vast array of knowledge and a voice.
With respect to cod, our two most important science programs are the cod sentinel and cod tagging programs. Sentinel started after the moratorium as a response to a deep disconnect between what harvesters were saying on the water and the results of the stock assessments conducted by DFO in the years prior to the moratorium and that were being given to us. Before the moratorium, information from the inshore harvester was not systematically collected and used to inform management of the stock. Up to the moratorium, information on abundance was collected from the catch of offshore vessels that fished when cod were aggregated and vulnerable. There was limited information from the inshore fisheries on cod.
The cod sentinel program was designed to systematically collect information from the inshore to use for use in stock assessment and management. We now have information on catch rates and much more biological information.
The information that the FFAW collects from its tagging program is crucial. It provides a direct estimate on fishing mortality, and it allows us to estimate the amount of cod removed during a season. It even accounts for removals of recreational catch. Our tagging program is conducted in partnership with DFO and involves attaching spaghetti tags to northern cod in inshore waters. Just this week, we have technicians on the northern peninsula and southern Labrador.
What are our science programs telling us? In sentinel, catch rates have increased substantially over the past five to 10 years. The increase started in division 3K, where experimental nets that once caught four fish are now catching 15. In division 2J, the increase was slower in developing, but over time the catches from experimental nets have gone from one to two to 30 fish per net. What this means is that catch rates are much higher than they were at the beginning of the moratorium, particularly in 2J.
With respect to mortality, the level for this stock is very low at the moment. Fishing mortality refers to the mortality of the species from fishing over the year. For the past three years, fishing mortality of northern cod stock was about 2%. In historical terms, in the 1980s, fishing mortality was around 20%. We're currently at one-tenth of that rate and, more importantly, biomass is expected to grow considerably over the next three years, which is the projection we have from our latest stock assessment.
What all of this points to is the long awaited return of northern cod stock and the corresponding environmental shift. Harvesters and processors have primarily focused on shellfish for the past 20 years. Now the focus is switching to groundfish, and not just cod, but turbot, redfish, and others. Though we're encouraged by the return of cod, we have not lost sight of the importance of conservation.
There is no harvester in this province who wants to relive the challenges of the cod moratorium. The new cod fishery is going to be managed correctly. To that end, we have the WWF, processing companies, and FFAW members attending meetings on a fisheries improvement project for northern cod. It's a very important partnership, with the goal of meeting sustainability standards for the new cod fisheries, which means things like the marine stewardship certification.
The shift back to groundfish is exciting and challenging. The cod fishery is certainly different from shellfish, and all in the province are aware of this. With shrimp and snow crab, we are major suppliers to the market. For cod, we're certainly a relatively small fraction of the overall supply.
In many discussions and debates on how to approach northern cod as it returns, the one point that came back is that we would approach the cod fishery in a much different way than before. Prior to the moratorium, we were a quantity-based fishery serving the fish-stick market. As we rebuild our cod fishery, our focus is on quality, a deliberate and necessary shift for the harvesters of our province.
With quality in mind, the FFAW is part of the Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council. We have developed a ocean-to-plate approach. We're looking first at what the market needs and where the most value can be achieved, and then we're building our cod fishery to meet those needs. For example, we know there is a demand for high-quality, fresh, and once-frozen cod for white tablecloth restaurants and high-end consumers. These markets exist in a variety of places. Icewater Seafoods mentioned their markets in Europe, for example. Iceland has increased the value of its own fishery by providing fresh cod to the eastern United States. With our current connections to Europe and our proximity to the U.S., we have much potential in the cod market.
While it's important to tie our new cod fishery to market needs, we also need to build a fishery that works for our harvesters and plant workers in the future. Harvesters need to be able to land high-quality cod, and they need to be compensated accordingly for the value they're bringing into this industry.
The first thing that needs to be done—and it is within the power of the federal government to do so—is to protect the owner-operator principle. The attack on the owner-operator principle in the last 20 years, primarily but not exclusively by processing companies, has been terrible for the economics of the fishery in our coastal regions. Of particular concern is the impact of trust agreements, that method of undermining the owner-operator and fleet separation policies and its impact on the cost of fishing licences, which has made it extremely difficult for the next generation of harvesters to enter the fishery.
Processing companies with large resources have circumvented owner-operator and fleet separation policies and have bid up the price of crab and shrimp licences to the point where only well-established harvesters—or in most cases, processors—can afford to pay. Harvesters who are in trust agreements often receive less money for their catches. Fortunately, the impact of trust agreements on the cod fishery today is a little smaller. It is not the same as those other fisheries. However, this could change, particularly as the value of the cod fishery increases. Therefore, the owner-operator policies must be protected.
The focus on quality also requires an understanding of what quality cod is and how a quality cod can be landed. As I mentioned earlier, the pre-moratorium fishery was focused on quantity. Harvesters haven't landed northern cod in a meaningful way in 25 years, so we still have some work to do.
We've spent a significant amount of time, at all levels of the industry, on fully understanding what constitutes a quality fish. For the past two years, we've been engaged in a cod quality project, in partnership with ACOA and the provincial government. Teams of harvesters monitor a whole host of variables, from the temperature of the fish, to how it's handled when removed from the net or hook. When this process is finished, we should have a comprehensive guide for achieving top-quality cod, and we'll be able to disseminate this information to all in the industry, including harvesters.
Harvesters also need to be properly compensated for providing quality fish. On this point, we have made important steps. For the past three seasons, we've had a quality-grade price system, where grade A cod receives a higher price than grade B cod and so on. This certainly has its challenges, but harvesters recognize the need to be paid for the quality, and this will be key to increasing value.
The new cod fishery is going to require significant investment, from both a harvester and a processor perspective. For that investment to pay off, the harvester price needs to be good, and the fishery needs to be managed and structured properly. One management change that began this year is having a longer season to allow harvesters to catch more cod so that we can supply a steady stream to the market. The best cod, the cod that provides the best price to harvesters and processors, is one that is landed quickly and shipped to market. We need to move away from a condensed fishing season and to spread out landings and avoid gluts in the processing sector.
In years past, harvesters were limited to 5,000 pounds, which they landed in a week or two. This year, there are limits for weekly landings, but the season is stretched out considerably and over several months. We have many harvesters who have landed 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of cod this year. I've spoken with one experienced harvester who has caught 36,000 pounds of cod using just hook-and-line, just he and his daughter in a boat each day. Landing 36,000 pounds of quality cod is a positive change, albeit a first step for the economics of our cod fishery.
There have also been positive steps taken by the federal government to encourage investment in the inshore cod fishery. Last year, during the federal election campaign, committed to allocate the first 115,000 metric tons of northern cod to the inshore fleet. This allocation existed before the moratorium, and inshore harvesters were given every expectation that it would once again exist, once a normal commercial cod fishery restarted.
In late July of this year, Minister confirmed to me and the senior executive of the FFAW that this commitment stands. The first 115,000 metric tons of northern cod will be granted to the inshore sector. This is an extremely important commitment. We are building a cod fishery from a very small base at the moment. If we are going to change how we catch, transport, process, and market large amounts of cod, those engaged in that sector need to know that there is a consistent allocation of fish, so they can invest with some security.
The commitment to 115,000 metric tons is the best security the industry and our country can receive. It will give us time to rebuild at a reasonable pace, to build markets, to build expertise in catching and processing quality cod, and to figure out how best to fish and manage the new northern cod fishery.
For the harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador, the cod fishery is not about revisiting the past; it is about charting a new future. Our hope is that, 30 years from now, the idea of a cod fishery won't bring to mind images of 1992 and the dreaded moratorium. Rather, we hope it brings to mind images of 2016, images of a man and his daughter catching 36,000 pounds off a hook-and-line, and how we've just started, as I will remind you, the process of turning a sustainable cod fishery into a pillar of prosperity for coastal communities from Newfoundland and Labrador.
First off, I'd like to say good afternoon to the committee and thank you for the opportunity to come and speak before you today.
As Mr. Simms said, my name is Tony Doyle. I am an inshore fish harvester from the 3L region. I currently serve as the inshore vice-president for the FFAW. It's a position I've held since 2014.
I was born and raised in the small fishing community of Bay de Verde, which is located at the northern tip of the Avalon Peninsula. Right now, we have approximately 400 people in the community living here. My community is a fishing community, and most working-age people in the community are either fish harvesters or were employees at the Quinlan Brothers processing plant, which burned down this spring, on April 11, and is now in the process of being rebuilt. There's a new steel building going up, 640 feet long by 85 feet wide, so it looks good for the future of our community, that rebuilding of the plant. Without this valuable fishery, this inshore fishery, our community has no real future. It's why people came to Bay de Verde in the 1600s and why we've been clinging to cliffs ever since.
I started fishing in 1970 on summer breaks while I was still in school, at the tender young age of 12 years, and at the time I fished in a 28-foot trap boat, which most people did. In 1975, when I got out of school, I got into the fishery full time with my father and uncle. I fished that boat, that 28-foot trap skiff, right up until the late 1990s, due to the fact that I had it fibre-glassed the year of the moratorium in 1992. Now I'm fishing in a 34'11'' boat, which is used primarily to catch crab. I also fish cod with that boat, and I fish lobster and cod with a 20-foot speedboat.
I don't profess to know everything about the cod fishery, but I do know a fair bit. I've been around the water all my life, and I have a fair bit of understanding of some of the changes that occurred and that have been occurring. Back in the late 1980s, in 1988-90, we had three of the best years that we've had in cod fishing, with cod traps and gillnets. Those were the highest earnings that I had received up to that point.
There were plenty of fish on the grounds, of good size and good quality, and the capelin fishery was what we've called “normal” for a hundred years, I suppose. It landed in our area on the beaches around the middle of June. Some time before the June 20, between June 10 and June 20, was the normal regular time for capelin to land. The cod traps would go in the water a few days before, when we would see the signs, and then we had a six-week cod fishery, right up to the last of July. Then the traps came in. Then we went gillnetting for a few weeks, and then into the handline fishery into September and October.
In 1991 things started to change. We had ice in our community, in our harbour, right up until late June, I think. I took a picture. I have it at home somewhere. I couldn't find it to bring it in, but there was ice in our bay on June 9 of that year, and lo and behold, the cod didn't show up, and the capelin didn't show up until well into August. Whatever happened with the environment, with the water temperatures, everything went out of whack for a number of years, right?
In the winter of 1992 we got ready, but there were rumours that the fishery might close and there were no cod. We still had to get ready and go fishing. We had two cod traps in the water that we put out around June 10. When the announcement came on July 2, I hadn't caught one cod up till that time. We took in the gear within the time frame that was allowed, within four or five days. That year, the capelin showed up around the last week in August, almost two months late. They were small and only there for a little while, and then they were gone again.
It was a very difficult year for everybody, being out of work and trying to deal with family and financial issues and everything. Some people had a difficult time, and some of us did okay and pulled through.
In the years following the moratorium, I fished lobster, squid, and lumpfish, low-value fisheries and therefore low-income, but I did supplement the income that I was getting from NCARP for the closure of the cod.
At that time, in the early 1990s, there were virtually no cod out on the fishing grounds. Out where we normally went to get codfish, out on the shoals, there were no cod. Any cod that was around was tight to the shoreline, right in the land marshes almost, and of small size. For three or four years, I don't know if I saw a fish here that was over 20 inches.
Then the fish started to pick up. They started to increase. We saw some increases in size and in abundance. Certainly, we lobbied to get a fishery open. We were eager to get back even though we had crab, but we only had small amounts of crab, small quotas. We were eager to get back fishing and get at it. Now, in hindsight, I think we all realize that was a mistake. The stock hadn't recovered enough. We started fishing cod too early, and within a couple of years we were back into a downturn and closed it off again.
It's also important to understand that during this time the capelin still didn't land. The capelin weren't coming in when they normally did. I remember that about six or seven years ago we fished capelin with capelin traps, a friend of mine and I, with our crews, and July 21 was the first day that we landed capelin, which was still at that time four or five weeks late.
Since then, the capelin have started to move back into a normal mode. For the last four years, not counting this year, they landed in that mid-June time frame, but this year they were a month late again. I can't understand what happened this year, because water temperatures have been good, and actually quite a bit higher than what they were normally were. Through the 1980s surface temperatures were in the five-, six-, and seven-degree range through the summer. I took part in some tagging through the FFAW in the last few years, and water temperatures are up to a 15-degree surface temperature in late June, right through to now. We're in a warming trend, which is not good for shellfish but is more favourable for codfish.
In the past 10 years, like I said, the timing has started to improve. The capelin are arriving earlier, and therefore so do the cod. Cod has been quite plentiful over the last 10 years in our area. We had a guy doing sentinel fishing in Bay de Verde. Through the 1980s, when we fished with gillnets, the average catch was anywhere from 50 pounds to 100 pounds for catch on a 24-hour soak. Pull the nets today, set them back in the water, and pull them again tomorrow, and you're doing real well if you get 100 pound of net. The sentinel fishermen in Bay de Verde in the last number of years were getting anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pounds of net on a 24-hour soak.
We now have fishermen setting nets in the late evening, five or six o'clock, for a 12-hour soak. I talked to one guy last week, and from a 12-hour soak he had 1,600 pounds out of two cod nets. That was unheard of in the eighties, or rare, just every now and then.
The other thing that's happened is that through the eighties we couldn't catch fish in gillnets during the day. This year I set nets, the first year since we've been fishing with this quota. I've always fished with handlines, but this year I tried with the nets. The reason I did it was that I was fishing with handlines and getting 100% grade A, and I wanted to see if I could get 100% grade A, or what I could get, out of gillnets. I set in the morning and pulled back three hours later. Out of three nets, I got 600 to 900 pounds in three hours' fishing during the day. That was unheard of in my time, and even in my father's time fishing. Gillnets came to Newfoundland in the sixties. The first couple of years there were big catches, but then after that it went back to 100 pounds in the net.
I just wanted to let you know that things have improved with the fish in the last number of years. There's a lot of large cod and plentiful and healthy fish. When I was handlining, there was no trouble catching them. Another guy—my crew member—and I would be able to catch 1,500 pounds in three hours with one baited hook each.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the opportunity to join you this afternoon and share some of our experience with your group.
As you mentioned earlier, I am a chair on the board of the Shorefast Foundation. We're a federally registered charity. Our work is done pretty much exclusively on Fogo Island for Fogo Islanders. We're been doing that work now for about 15 years. Two years ago, we started this new organization called Fogo Island Fish. It is a social enterprise, so it's very much a part of our charity's work. All the proceeds and benefits of Fogo Island Fish return to Fogo Island 100%.
Fogo Island Fish is a very small organization. It consists of me and my wife. We operate it on a volunteer basis. Along with all of my comments this afternoon, I want you to bear that in mind. To describe our community a little, Fogo Island has 10 fishing communities. We have 2,700 people or thereabouts. We have approximately 100 fishers on the island. It's interesting to us to hear Tony's previous comments. We've been fishing on Fogo Island for about 400 years. I'm an eighth-generation Fogo Islander. I'm the first generation not to fish.
Fogo Island Fish was designed to essentially reinvent the fish business to serve the community. Let me talk about that very quickly. I've issued the deck that's in front of me, and you're welcome to follow along. I know that some of you might want to read ahead, but if we could go through it together, I think that might help. It's about sustaining communities.
We have 10 communities on the island. We have been fishing on Fogo Island for some 300 years. I think that the lessons we have learned, we have learned well. We have to bear in mind that when you do something for 300 years, you learn a thing or two, and that should carry a lot.
With regard to a bit of history, 1968 was the time that the fishery was changing on our islands from a salt fish product to a frozen product or fresh product. The fish merchants back then did not make the transition in the change to the fishery.
Fogo Island had the good fortune to have the National Film Board come and make some films, and those films became collectively known as the Fogo Process. Out of those films, we formed the Fogo Island co-op, and we still have the Fogo Island co-op with us today. It is our processor. It's community owned. It's a co-operative. It's owned by the fishers and our plant workers. It will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
We have to remind ourselves about economics. For us, it's about economics as if communities mattered. As I said, we've fished sustainably in a small part of the ocean. From within sight of land, you could see your house from where we fish. Where we fish cod today is in the very same waters, so the waters that are populated with fish around our island are still within sight of land. We have fished it in small boats. Usually a trip is three or four hours in length, and we land our fish right away.
There's a tremendous amount of talk in the world about sustainable fish. There are many different definitions of “sustainable fish”. I would like to propose to this panel and to others that we start to talk about who or what is sustained by fish, and who or what needs to become part of the discussion and dialogue about what makes for a sustainable fish. Of course, we have to respect science. Of course, we have to be caretakers of the stocks, and we have to consider who, whether it's coastal communities or corporations, is going to be the beneficiary of fishing.
By the way, all the photos of Fogo Island that you see in front of you today were taken on my iPhone.
Let's talk about the fish itself. Industrial fish are premium fish. For us, it's a very simple matter. In 300 years of fishing, we've learned a few things. It turns out that it's a matter of when you fish and how you fish. Let me talk about that a little more.
That picture on your left in the deck is a very important picture. It may be the most important picture in the deck. The fish on the left was caught using a gillnet by our fishers on the same day from the same waters as the fish on the right, which is a handline fish. This particular handline fish was caught one a time, in a traditional way, bled at sea—
We are talking about the slide, and just in case you want to jump to this slide, I want to show you this picture. It is a critical picture in the deck because it shows the difference. It is a visual difference. These fish are caught on the same day by different catch methods. One fish is gillnet fish. That fish suffocated in the net and is very discoloured. The other fish was handlined, pulled up right away, bled immediately, gutted and washed at sea, put on ice, and brought back to our processing plant within four hours. The difference is obvious.
The other half of this, on the next slide, is a question of who we are fishing for. I think there was reference this morning to who our markets are and who our customers are. If we are fishing for fish sticks, gillnet fish is fine, but if what we want is premium fish for premium markets for premium pricing, we have to take care of that fish at sea.
As you can see in another picture—I actually took this picture with my iPhone—this is the one picture that wasn't taken on Fogo Island. It was taken at a restaurant in Toronto. That is Fogo Island fish served at a restaurant called Luma. It is in the TIFF Lightbox, for those of you who know Toronto.
We have to go back a little here. I want to draw your attention to the next slide. When our current took office, he wrote an open memo to each of his ministers. In his address to the then-, I want to draw your attention to the part of the letter where he says, “Use scientific evidence and the precautionary principle, and take into account climate change, when making decisions affecting fish stocks and ecosystem management.” He also happened to say, “Work with the provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders to better co-manage our three oceans.”
On that count, thank you for coming today. You are doing that part of the work.
Let's talk about the science part of this equation. I talked earlier about when to fish and whether when you fish matters. A copy of the science report is here, in the back of my deck, so a complete copy of this part is available. I would like to read this out loud so that everyone in the audience can hear it:
||Historically, cod fisheries have been prosecuted during all seasons, but simulations of 1997-1999 fisheries indicate that a fall fishery (period of peak physiological condition) resulted in a 8-17% decrease in the number of cod removed from the stock while maintaining the same weight-based quotas, and profiting from maximum yield and better product quality. Spring and summer fisheries resulted in lower yield (6%) and quality (5-26%) of fish products by weight. Seasonal biological cycles could be used as templates for management strategies that promote fisheries conservation and economic benefits by harvesting fish during periods when biological impacts are minimal and economic returns maximal.
That is a scientific statement. I will put it in different terms for you. This might be the first time in the history of mankind when the right thing to do for the cod stocks is the right thing to do for your bottom line.
Science, it turns out, has proven what our forefathers have always known. The gentleman on my left referred to it earlier as well. A cod in the fall is heavier, denser, and firmer. It is better fish. When we fish in the fall, we take fewer individuals from the stock to make the same quotas, and that fish is a higher quality and fetches us higher prices. We now have the science to back it up.
Let's talk about how we fish. I am talking about Fogo Island, of course. We are using primarily two key methods to fish. Fogo Island Fish has focused exclusively on handline cod. We've handlined for cod for some 300 years. It is a terrific method, it turns out, and the market wants it. That is the other key thing about it. We do have this other method with cod pots, and I will talk about that as well.
With handlining, we are finding new ways with old things. There is a picture of it here for the members. I don't know if you are able to follow along here. These are two of our fishers, Boyce Reid and Austin Reid, to call them out by name. There was a small film made by the National Film Board this year that premiered at TIFF, Hand.Line.Cod., and it features Austin and Boyce fishing by handlining.
We also are trying new ways with new things by way of cod pots. For the last eight years, we have done science research with the marine institute. Mr. Gordon Slade has led that effort on our behalf. He's in the room here today, and I want to thank Gordon for all his efforts. We have proven that cod-potting works. It works in the very same way that crab pots work. It's a baited pot. You put it down. It's fixed. It survives in foul weather. If you come back in three days, the cod are still swimming around and relatively happy. Well, maybe they're a little pissed off, but they're in good condition. This new technique is now ready to be industrialized, to be scaled up. It is firmly our belief, and has been proven, that we can catch as much cod as we need to using cod pots.
It is absolutely essential that we talk about capelin. Capelin is a keystone species for northern cod. We cannot have discussions about northern cod in any room at any time without talking about capelin. I will draw your attention to a second science report, which is at the back of your deck here today and is called “Northern cod comeback”. It was authored by George Rose and Sherrylynn Rowe in 2015. I will quote from that report: “Almost in parallel with the decline and increase in cod has been changes in the biomass of capelin....”.
I have never met Tony before, and I don't think we've properly met, but quite by coincidence, it seems his experience on the water has taught him the same thing.
What are we optimizing for? Are we optimizing for coastal communities or are we optimizing for corporations?
We fish in dayboats for Fogo Island fish. We catch it live. We bleed it at sea. We ice it for a short trip home. We cut it in our own plants. We trim it. We pack it and we flash-freeze it. This results in a very high-quality product. By doing so, we are preserving local Fogo Island co-op processing jobs, and I would like to note that Fogo Island fish pays our harvesters more than double the prevailing provincially negotiated rates for fish. In 2015, we paid our harvesters $1.25 a pound for head-on gutted fish. This year, with strong prices in the marketplace, we increased that. We were able to come back to our harvesters this year and pay them $1.40 for head-on gutted fish.
Good afternoon, and thank you very much for letting me speak here today. I wasn't expecting this, so this is a very happy surprise.
Fishing for Success is here to respectfully request federal policy and regulatory support for our organization to have access to fish so that we can fully develop a youth cod fishery. I'm not here to talk about counting fish, or counting boats, or unions, or any of that. I'm talking about youth, and youth matters, because it doesn't matter what else you try to fix in the fishery if the young people aren't there to take it up. That's what we're concerned about.
I had the fortune of growing up in Newfoundland and Labrador pre-cod moratorium, and it was amazing, and that stuck with me. It made an impression on me, and I wanted to recreate that for young people in Newfoundland and Labrador today. I quit teaching high school science in Florida, a beautiful place where I was happy as a bug in a rug teaching stoichiometry and electron configurations. I would take my kids outside all the time and show them the natural environment, and I noticed that the kids were becoming more and more disconnected from nature. They didn't even know the plants and the animals in their own backyards, which they should know.
As I was coming home to Newfoundland to visit family, I noticed that communities weren't out around the community wharves the way they used to be. I grew up in Newfoundland. As a kid, you went down to the wharf and you helped haul out guts, and you helped cut out tongues, and you got to bring home a bag of fish to mother for supper. That wasn't happening any more. Kids weren't at the wharf because the fishery had changed. It wasn't cod anymore. The money fish was snow crab, and the boats had to be bigger to handle the bigger equipment. The wharves are concrete. There are swinging frozen blocks of bait overhead and forklifts, and that's no place for young people and families.
There are policies and regulations to protect our fish harvesters at work, as there should be, but where does that leave our young people and our families who now are disconnected from the fishing heritage? Think back to just less than about a 100 years ago, when about 100% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were involved in a family fishery. Think about your family farming that you were discussing. Then, in 1992, about 30% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were involved in the fishery, just before the cod moratorium. When I was growing up and could go down to the wharf and participate, there was that mentorship going on. You were at grandpa's elbow. You were at uncle's elbow. You were at nannie's elbow learning how to process the fish, and now, today, less than 2% of Newfoundlanders are involved in the commercial fishery.
Very soon, the stories of the fishing and the fish and the fishery won't even have a place in our families. There are children in St. John's who have not been in boats. There are children in St. John's who have not been fishing. Churchill once said that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were the best small boatmen in the world, and he probably wouldn't say that today.
I took it upon myself to quit teaching high school in Florida, and I moved back home to Newfoundland, but before I did that I went to graduate school at the University of Florida in aquatic sciences and fisheries. I deliberately picked that school because they have a learn-to-fish program, so I could study that program before I set one up here in Newfoundland. Then I wanted to target a place. Where was I going to teach the kids?
St. John's would be great because that is where I would find the most urbanized youth. That's what I wanted: my target audience. I also had the benefit of it being where most tourists come into Newfoundland, so then I could have a pool of some revenue. I could have some tourism programs on the side, and then that could fund my youth programming, because youth programming is difficult to get funding for, so I had a double whammy.
Now, I'm in St. John's. Where am I going to have an active fishing community in St. John's? Well, wouldn't you know it that Petty Harbour has what's called a protected fishing area where they have maintained a handline fishery since 1895? When gillnets came online as a new technology, they voted them out. In fact, in 1964, by order in council, it was put into Canada's fisheries act that gillnets would be kept out of Petty Harbour, and today they fish with a handline and a single hook for their commercial cod fishery.
I even have a copy of the book today. If I weren't such a poor non-profit, I'd have a copy for everyone here today. That was important in teaching youth. You can go to www.islandrooms.org and find a digital copy that you can download that tells the history of it. That was important in teaching young people the state of our oceans today, with the monofilament plastic waste, the sustainable fishing, and all of that. Petty Harbour was it.
Now, how do I get my hands on historic fishing property? It usually gets handed down. I'm in the CSA now and I'm coming back from Florida. All right, so I finally get some property. I spend my own money on it. Now I get some people who are behind me, and we incorporate as a non-profit.
We put together this list of programs you have here on our own. We are up and running. We have a pilot youth cod fishery that we ran this summer with a small group of young people from Thrive. These are at-risk youth who were identified. They came out once a week this summer. They're going to graduate on September 27. We have a certificate for them.
They painted dories, corked dories, and went in the dories for a ride. They rinded sticks, which is a very traditional skill that you need in building fishing stages. We took them fishing. They processed their fish, and they got to take their fish home to their families.
Now keep in mind that these are at-risk youth, so the people they live with are probably food bank dependent. They got to bring home fresh fish, which is something you don't find in a food bank. This is a level of confidence and pride that you give these kids when they can actually bring fresh fish back. This is half of our first graduating class in the youth cod fishery.
I need federal support so that I can have access to fish, because we only had three weeks to do this. The extension to the weekend for the recreational fishery was of no help for us because social workers have no access to these young people on the weekends.
That's short and sweet, I guess. I could go on forever, because I've been developing this for about 11 years now.
Thank you very much.
The very first thing, of course, is having access to fish, because it's a little difficult to teach fishing without access to fish. Once we get access to fish, that then helps a lot of other programs that we want to do. For example, in Quidi Vidi yesterday, we partnered with Mallard Cottage and Wandering Pavilion and held free sessions on filleting fish and cooking up your fish. We also do other kinds of outreach programs like that, because besides fish being a commodity, it's our cultural food and it's related to food security. People in Newfoundland and Labrador, we find, don't know how to process their fish from whole fish anymore, or even how to cook it up.
Talking about some of the programs like fill-in-the-blank to plate, there are fish-to-schools programs, for example, that we would like to get involved in somehow, but again we don't have the fish. Fish is not served in Newfoundland schools, so what can we do to try to get young people in Newfoundland and Labrador to eat fish? As you can see, if you've driven around here, Newfoundland is probably not going to have a lot of cow ranches, so we're probably not going to be big beef-eaters. The protein we're going to have to count on in the future is seafood.
Food security is an issue. Ninety per cent of our food comes in on a ferry, and in three days we're counting on “storm chips”, and that's not really a very good thing to do. Getting folks to “eat local” and to eat local seafood is very important. Introducing that to young people is why we do events of the kind we did yesterday, when we had our staff go out and give filleting lessons. We get the kids involved in that and then partner up to show how to cook up your fish. Getting fish to schools is important, so it's about finding a way to do that, but we need the fish. There's even doing something like partnering with schools in Toronto to have the kids catch it here and then have the schools in Toronto prepare it, and they would have this whole cultural exchange. There are all kinds of things we could do, but until we get the fish we can't get started.
Also, there's one thing I noticed as we were talking about training for fishing. I've been getting some training for fishing so that I can do this. Besides being the representative, the grant writer, the bookkeeper, and all of that, I'm also a boat captain, and I'm going to fishing school. I'm at the marine institute, and oftentimes I'm the only woman in class. That's a concern. A number of the Canada summer jobs students we hired this past summer were young women, and they're interested in fishing. We thought we would start a Girls Who Fish program. That's for young women aged 8 to 80.
Sorry, old white guys around the table, but our heritage doesn't belong just to old white guys around the table: it belongs to youth and women too, because that's also important. When we engage everybody in a conversation, we start coming up with new ways to solve these very tangly problems.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and committee members.
This all came on very short notice for me. I actually heard about the standing committee's work on Saturday at meetings in Moncton, so I don't have a formal presentation. I didn't even know this morning that I might even get on. Pardon me for that. I hope I'm a little bit coherent as I start to piece together two or three things. I'll try to do it as quickly as I can without speaking too fast.
It's been a very interesting day. I thought the topic would be a little more restricted, but I see that it's very broad-based and I know that there are many connecting dots. We're here to talk about the northern cod stock. In the process, we're talking about education, quality, innovation, science, and a range of things, so it's an issue of connecting the dots.
I want to specifically speak about fishing vessel safety today. Before I get to that, there are a couple of points that I want to make with regard to the principle of adjacency and also with regard to a framework structure for working within an environment of shared jurisdiction, as we talked about.
On the principle of adjacency, I know it was talked about this morning, but I feel that it's worth reiterating. For the sake of full disclosure of who I represent, aside from my biosketch that I gave you, I am the policy chair for a party in this country. In the process this year, at one of the national conventions I coordinated the issue around adjacency, and a resolution was passed at a national convention on the declaration of adjacency and what all that means. I bring that up because in the process of doing that, there was a lot of collaboration and consultation in bringing all that together.
In getting it through an assembly of about 3,000 people, I thought it was a monumental idea coming from a specific province and a region and so on. To navigate this through, I needed to talk to aboriginals in British Columbia. I needed to talk to aboriginals in the north and other places in the Maritimes, and so on. What I thought would be a hard job was grabbed onto very quickly. It was something that resonated right across this country, and especially with the aboriginals, who talked about their communities and the social and economic tethers to the community that having the resources available to them should bring.
When it did reach the floor, it got unanimous consent. I wanted to mention that because of its national scope and the way that it resonates nationally. It's not just something out of Newfoundland and Labrador. There was recognition of this declaration of adjacency. Not only that, but it also pointed to the fact that it has been absent for a long time, and that maybe we should put the lens on some things that have happened over the last few years to make some adjustments against that particular backdrop.
In talking about structure in an area of shared jurisdiction, maybe we should say shared relationships. There was mention this morning of the C-NLOPB. As we begin to navigate down the road of shared responsibility, whether it's in harvesting or processing, we need to put some structure around it.
I also have an agriculture background. I was federation of agriculture president here in the province for about six years. My good friend Patrice would know all about this; we've been colleagues in the past on projects. Within the scope of agriculture, it started out to be an agriculture policy framework agreement. In the scope of that agreement, it considered the issue of a shared mandate, including the issues of quality, food safety, food security, innovation and science, and business risk management. It was, in fact, more than a federal-provincial-territorial agreement, more than a bilateral agreement. It was actually a tripartite agreement whereby the producers themselves all became part of a very comprehensive, structured approach on a five-year basis, with proper funding in place and proper bilateral structures. I think it's a great model to consider—fed-prov-territory in collaboration with all the stakeholders—for a framework agreement for fisheries.
Third, one of my key objectives in being here today is to talk about the issue of fishing vessel safety. I have 35 years with the Canadian Coast Guard, most of it in the area of search and rescue. We've had some serious mishaps, fatalities, incidents, and so on, in the fishery. In fact, over 70% of the maritime search and rescue incidents are related to the fishery. I was given the fishing vessel safety file as part of my rescue coordination duties, and I dealt with that for about 10 years, regionally as well as nationally.
A lot of the roots of the issue around fishing vessel safety go right back to DFO management, especially the issue of size restrictions. There's a management tool that's being used extensively—probably more than any other management tool that I'm aware of—around how we manage the fishery, and it has to do with size restrictions.
We had a serious fatality last year in Placentia Bay. The Transportation Safety Board just finished its report about a month and a half ago. It tied the activities of the three fishermen who were lost to the fact that they were in a small vessel. While they were fishing in a 22-foot speedboat, tied up at their dock was a 45-foot longliner that they weren't allowed to use. A lot of contortions have gone on to try to remove this. In fact, the old tool of using size restrictions as a fish management tool is in full contradiction with Transport Canada safety rules and regulations.
We had another fatality almost three weeks ago, and again we're dealing with the issue of size restrictions. Regarding vessel modifications, some vessels are being instructed to remove as much as two inches off the bow of the vessel, off the stern of the vessel. The buoyancy of the vessel is affected, and the whole process costs literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. The full scope of it is more than I can talk about here in these 10 minutes.
I'll just leave it here for your consideration.
My name is Bettina Saier. I'm the vice-president for WWF-Canada's oceans program. With me is Sigrid Kuehnemund, lead specialist. I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to contribute to the northern cod study.
For half a century, WWF has worked to protect nature. The World Wildlife Fund is Canada's largest international conservation organization. It has the active support of more than 150,000 Canadians. We connect the power of a strong global network to on-the-ground conservation efforts. Our NGO has offices in St. John's, Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Iqaluit, and Inuvik. WWF-Canada creates solutions to environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important so that nature, wildlife, and people thrive together. Working with our partners and drawing on science and innovation, we focus our efforts on increasing marine protection, habitat-friendly renewable energy solutions, wildlife protection, and sustainable fisheries.
With this mission in mind, we'd like to talk to you about the relationship between your study on northern cod and what we do to help rebuild the fishery with strong links to communities and the economy.
WWF-Canada has been working for over 15 years with fisheries stakeholders to help rebuild the cod fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador. We led a successful fisheries improvement project for the southern Newfoundland cod fishery in partnership with Icewater. A fisheries improvement project is a collaborative tool to improve a fishery so that it meets globally recognized sustainability standards. It basically tests the fishery performance against an independent set of criteria and indicators. In March of this year, the fishery became Canada's first Atlantic cod fishery to achieve eco-certification.
Building on the success of the southern cod fishery, WWF-Canada launched a new fisheries improvement project on northern cod in collaboration with the FFAW in April of 2015. This project aims to bring the historic cod stock off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador back to a sustainable level and eventual commercial viability for the benefit and economic well-being of communities.
As the northern cod stock shows early signs of recovery, WWF-Canada has been working with fish harvesters, processing plants, scientists, and retailers to develop a fishery that is sustainable, both environmentally and economically. In particular, over the next five years we will be working hand in hand with harvesters represented by the FFAW, the seafood producers of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Fogo Island co-op, and the newly formed Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council. Indeed, here in St. John's today, the FFAW and WWF are bringing together relevant stakeholders from the industry, managers, and scientists to create a stakeholder-endorsed action plan for the northern cod stewardship fishery.
This is timely, because the resource is growing—in some areas, fast—and management decisions today will influence the future of this fishery. The fisheries improvement project action plan will be a public document that lists activities, budgets, and roles for strategies to address issues with the fishery, such as the requirement for a robust rebuilding strategy. We're hoping to complete the action plan by October of 2016.
On the basis of WWF-Canada's hands-on conservation work on northern cod, we'd like to share four recommendations on how to help ensure that the recovery will be successful and continue to provide for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians into the future: one, take a go-slow approach based on science; two, implement a modern ecosystem fisheries management approach; three, sustainably manage capelin, cod's main food supply; and four, incorporate social and cultural considerations into decision-making.
On recommendation one, a go-slow approach based on science, the maintenance of low removal levels from this stock over the past decades has been essential for the recovery we're seeing today. Hence, a go-slow approach should continue to guide management decisions. A gradual or precautionary approach will ultimately bring the greatest long-term benefits for this iconic fishery and the people who depend on it. WWF-Canada participates in the DFO-led working group tasked with the development of a northern cod conservation and protection plan. We know first-hand the complexity and hurdles that have been faced in its development.
We remain committed to the promotion of a go-slow approach through the implementation of robust harvest control rules that provide for a slow increase in fishing effort as the stock improves and that expedite a reduction in fishing effort as soon as a decline in the stock level is observed.
We applaud DFO's recent work on improving the assessment method for northern cod. Based on this work, we support the further fine-tuning of northern cod science, in particular the development of biologically based reference points that will mark the growth milestones for this stock.
However, science is only as good as the raw data it is based on. It is a critical time for the government to invest in data collection and monitoring programs to protect the health of the northern cod stock. Improving data collection at sea, ensuring that removals from all sources—including recreational fishery—are accounted for, and using the best available scientific methodology are critical when making decisions on managing northern cod recovery.
Number two is to pilot a modern ecosystem-based fisheries management approach for the northern Newfoundland and southern Labrador shelf. Currently, most fisheries in Canada, including the Newfoundland cod fisheries, are managed in a single-species context.
There are separate integrated fisheries management plans in place for northern cod, crab, shrimp, capelin, etc. However, these species do not live in isolation from each other, nor from the surrounding ecosystem. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should commit to the development of a modern ecosystem-based fisheries management approach that considers the broader ecosystem and the relationships between the different species within the northern cod range. Canadian scientists, including those from DFO, have developed a road map to an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management for the northwest Atlantic and the NAFO. Because of this body of work, Canada is poised to ramp up efforts to develop and implement ecosystem-based fisheries management in the northwest Atlantic.
WWF-Canada recommends that DFO build on Canadian expertise and focus investment in science to promote the scientific study of northern cod, capelin, and the ecosystem unit that sustains them.
Specifically, we recommend that DFO initiate a pilot project to operationalize the modern ecosystem approach to fisheries management for the northern Newfoundland and southern Labrador shelf. This could be accomplished, for example, through the establishment of a scientist-manager working group.
We also have high hopes that Canada's current efforts to review the Fisheries Act will aim to incorporate modern safeguards, such as the ecosystem-based approach.
Recommendation number three is to carefully monitor and sustainably manage capelin, cod's main food source.
You have heard already from Dr. John Brattey, Tony Doyle, and Tony Cobb about the importance of capelin as a principal source of food in the rebuilding of the northern cod stock, and concerns presented to DFO from harvesters about the poor condition of cod—for example, starving cod off the coast of Labrador.
This is a concern of WWF-Canada as well. This summer we completed a new assessment of Canada's forage fish, those little fish with big impacts, such as capelin. It showed that we simply don't know enough about capelin. DFO has to prioritize capelin monitoring through acoustic surveys to be completed every year to provide enough information to sustainably manage the capelin fishery, which is important because of the vital role these small fish play in feeding larger predators such as cod, whales, and seabirds. To help identify how to improve capelin monitoring, WWF-Canada is creating a steering committee to bring together capelin managers, scientists, and fish harvesters from Newfoundland, Labrador, and Quebec.
Capelin numbers and growth are linked to environmental changes, so future management of northern cod must also consider the impacts of climate change on the capelin and cod populations. Increasing the knowledge base of climate change impacts on Canada's fisheries is a wise and much-needed investment.
Recommendation number four is to incorporate social and cultural indicators to manage the recovery of northern cod.
The harvesting industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is not homogeneous. Views on how to best manage the recovery vary greatly between the offshore and inshore sectors. For many inshore harvesters, fishing goes much deeper than a means to earn a living. It contributes to their identity and a sense of place, of community, often based on a rich heritage of fishing. Fisheries policy, however, has not always been transparent on how these important social and cultural values are considered in decision-making, if at all. Values are often hard to define and quantify, but we need to incorporate them into decision-making if we are to achieve sustainable fisheries management for the future.
I would like to close by mentioning that WWF-Canada will be hosting a cod symposium in St. John's on June 22, 2017. Our aim is to promote a new discussion on the future of Newfoundland's cod fishery 25 years after the implementation of the groundfish moratorium. Similar to the Ocean Summit WWF posted on World Oceans Day in Ottawa, our aim is to convene leaders from governments, communities, industry, the scientific community, and civil society for a constructive and solution-focused dialogue.
Once again I would like to thank the committee for allowing WWF-Canada to present on this study. I'd be happy to take questions on the points I've raised.
I'll do my best to finish my presentation in 10 minutes.
Thank you to the committee for inviting me to present.
I apologize for the French version of the document you should have a copy of. The translation's only partial. The labels on the graphs have not been translated. We can get that to you sometime this week. It was a bit of a challenge to get all this stuff done during the course of the week, but everything else is translated.
Today what I'll do is talk to you about the changes that have occurred in the environment and the ecosystem structure on the Newfoundland shelf over the last three, four, or five decades.
If you move to slide number two, this gives you an outline of the things I'm going to be talking about today. It's not an exhaustive list, but they are the key features you have to consider as drivers in responses to the changes that have taken place over time.
If you move to slide number three, here we're going to have a little bit of Biology 101 in terms of giving a sense of what the ecosystem structure is around here.
The timing and extent of ice, the weather, and the fluctuations in these features from year to year are the factors that determine the production of the lower trophic levels. They affect the timing and they affect the magnitude of the overall production of the phytoplankton, which are the microscopic plants on which the food chain depends, and that affects the production of zooplankton.
Both these groups contribute to the growth and production of the forage species, which consist of the young stages of fish, capelin, and shrimp, and all three of these components are important prey for the dominant predators in the system, which consist of a variety of groundfish. The dominant ones are indicated here, but there are a host of others, as well as seabirds, cetaceans, and seals.
One of the things to keep in mind when you're looking at an ecosystem is that it's dependent on its standing stock, but more importantly, it's more dependent on its production. The standing stock currently on the Newfoundland 2J3KL areas is about 1.5 million tonnes if you take all the bits and pieces into consideration, and the total consumption that takes place in that system is in excess of 15 million metric tons per year, so there's a lot more production you're not seeing when you're looking at standing stocks.
If you move to slide number four, one of the things we do around here is spend a lot of time trying to get a sense of what the environment is doing. For that we derive a state-of-the-ocean index, which is a composite of 28 time series that include information on meteorological conditions; the extent, timing, and other features of ice; the temperature of the ocean; the extent of the cold intermediate layer, which is a major oceanographic feature around here; and the salinated water, which reflects the balance in terms of the freshwater input into the system.
The most important feature of this graph is the change we saw from the early 1990s to about 2010, when we went from the coldest period on record to the warmest period on record. This is a dramatic change in terms of the overall conditions in that environment, and although there were periods of warm and cold prior to that, this was a rather dramatic change.
In the last few years we've seen a little bit of a cooling off, and that will have consequences to the dynamics of the species we're looking at, but nevertheless, it's an important feature to keep in mind. However, it is in contrast to what's going on in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the Scotian Shelf, and in other parts of the northwest Atlantic, which actually seem to be staying warm and continuing to warm as a result of changes in atmospheric forcing.
If you move to the next slide, which is a little bit more complicated, if you look at the panel on the left-hand side, it shows you the change in the abundance of the different functional feeding groups. By functional feeding groups I mean groups of organisms that feed on the same kinds of things. For instance, piscivores are all feeding on other fish species, and cod is a dominant piscivore in the system, so the changes you see in the blue portion of the graph are actually mostly changes that have occurred in the biomass of cod. The important thing to get out of this, though, is that from the 1980s to about 1994, all the groups collapsed, not just cod. Everything else in that system collapsed. Everything disappeared.
In 1995 we had a gear change, so we've had to adjust the estimates a little bit. At that time, we actually started capturing invertebrates in our nets, and that's why there's a red section there, but what you can see is that from about 1995 until about the mid-2000s, invertebrates increased in abundance, while the other groups weren't doing a whole lot. Starting at about the mid-2000s, the invertebrates started going down, and the groundfish species started to increase in abundance. That's an important thing to keep in mind.
The right-hand panel shows you the acoustic estimates of capelin abundance. Prior to the collapse in 1991, there were about 4 million tonnes of capelin in area 3L, which is just the northern part of the Grand Banks, not the entire area. In 1991, the bottom fell out of it. There were no capelin. They disappeared. They either died or went somewhere else. That was a very dramatic change in the ecosystem. The food base for many of the predators disappeared off the face of the earth—literally—and until the mid-2000s we saw virtually nothing happening. There's been a slight increase, but we're at about a quarter of where we were prior to the collapse.
On the next slide, the top panel shows the trend in abundance, a slightly different index of abundance—the average biomass per tow—of four of the dominant groundfish species: cod, halibut—often referred to as turbot—plaice, and redfish. What you can see is that the most dramatic change has been in cod. It showed a very marked decline, but all the other species declined.
After the period when things settled down, around 1994, the abundance of the other species stayed relatively constant. There was a slight increase in the abundance of turbot, but there wasn't anything else that took over. That's the important thing: there was no filling of the niche that had been occupied by cod.
What we were able to do from these data was identify areas that were dominated by cod, shown as the red symbol in the middle panel on the left-hand side. Redfish is the purple one, halibut is blue, and plaice is green. When you look at the spatial distribution shown in the lower panel of the six panels grouped in five-year chunks, what you can see is that prior to the collapse, most of the Newfoundland shelf was dominated by areas that were dominated by cod.
During the collapse, there was a fragmentation of the environment. The distribution of the communities became very fragmented. Areas where there had been cod disappeared and were basically literally fished out. Following that, there were several years before we actually saw any kind of rebuilding of the cod. What happened is that the community got dominated largely by the halibut and redfish communities, as well as by the expansion of some of the coastal species, which are less abundant in total biomass.
What we saw in mid-2000 to about 2013 was a reappearance of cod-dominated areas, but on the southern portion of the range where we had normally seen the cod. Although this has not been updated to 2015, what's happened is that the area in the northern part, which used to be dominated by cod, still has not recovered.
You saw this next slide last week during a presentation by Dr. Brattey. This is the estimate of cod. What you can see is that although there's been a resurgence in the last 10 years or so, we're nowhere near where the stock used to be.
The next slide shows another thing that changed during the collapse of the cod, which is the shift in the diet. The only things you really have to concentrate on in this panel are the red and the yellow sections. The yellow section represents the relative proportion of capelin in the diet of cod.
You can see that prior to the collapse, the diet of cod was dominated by capelin. During the collapse, there was a shift towards shrimp, because there was virtually no capelin available. In the mid-2000s or so we saw that most of the diet consisted of shrimp, as that was basically the prey that was available.
Since then, we've seen a resurgence in capelin and a decrease in the overall abundance of shrimp in the diet of cod, and not only for cod but for other species of major predators in that system as well. There has been a bit of a shift towards other species as well, which we don't quite understand yet.
Slide 9 shows that we investigated the dynamics of cod during the pre- and post-collapse periods. That was modelled using three key drivers: the capelin abundance, the fishery catches, and the seal predation. All these were estimated based on information, not guesswork. What ended up happening is that both capelin abundance and the fishery were statistically significant drivers of the changes in cod biomass in the region, but seal predation was not, no matter what combination of variables we actually included in the model.
If you look at the panel on the left-hand side, the blue dots are the abundance of cod from the research vessel survey estimates and the yellow dots are the abundance of capelin. You can see that the two track rather well.
If you turn to slide number 10, these are the dynamics of shrimp. We did not have good, reliable estimates of shrimp prior to 1995. You can see that the abundance of shrimp increased significantly—this is SFA 4, so it's areas 2J and 3K, basically. The abundance of shrimp increased until about the mid-2000s. It has been in decline ever since.
If you look at the middle and left-hand panels in the graphs here, they're a little bit complicated. I'll try to walk you through them.
The red line indicates the annual production, normalized or standardized so that we can put everything on the same scale. The red line represents the production of shrimp, and you can see that it fluctuates a fair bit from year to year, but the general trend from 1995 to 2015 has been a decline. When we started, we had high production in that system, and that's the increase in the biomass as well as the fishery catches relative to the previous year. That's generally been in decline.
In the middle panel you can see the composite index of environmental condition, which has been flipped so it makes the figure a little bit less noisy. Warm is down, towards the bottom, and cold is up, towards the top of the graph. You can see that it tracks fairly well with the changes in production from year to year. It's also reflected in the timing of spring phytoplankton booms. The dynamics of that whole ecosystem, from lower trophic levels to upper trophic levels, is reflected in this graph.
However, at the same time, if you look at the right-hand panel, the blue line or the black line shows the abundance of predators, and the green line shows the estimate of consumption. Again, they've been standardized to put them on the same graph. You can see that during the period when there was a decline in the production of shrimp, there was an increase in the number of predators and the overall consumption by predators. The most recent decline that we see in the graph, on the right-hand side in the green line, is basically because there's been a shift from shrimp to capelin in the diet of the major predators.
The next slide shows you the time series of capelin, which we discussed earlier. I'll walk you through the bottom graph. It basically shows the relationship between the production of the capelin stock and the timing of the ice retreat in the spring, just to give you a sense of how important the environment is to the dynamics of this stock. There are two lines on this: one is the pre-collapse and one is the post-collapse relationship with the timing of ice. It basically reflects that there's been a regime shift in the system that we don't really quite understand at this time.
The final panel here shows you the time series of catch per unit effort for crab in relation to the availability of cold water during the first year of life. You can see that in all situations there's fairly good tracking between the availability of cold conditions and the production of the crab stock.
On the final slide, to summarize, the biomass of Atlantic cod and other groundfish species as well as capelin has increased since the mid-2000s. The abundance of northern shrimp and crab have declined as a result of warming ocean conditions. The recent cooling trend may be beneficial to shrimp and snow crab, but the impact on groundfish and capelin is still uncertain.
We're going to continue to monitor the environmental conditions and investigate species interaction. We're currently conducting research to better understand and forecast the effects of changes in ecosystem structure on these key species.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of Parliament, welcome to St. John's.
My name, as the chair pointed out, is Ryan Cleary, and I'm the former member of Parliament for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. I served in the last Parliament from 2011 to 2015, and I spent most of that time on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
We did a fair number of studies, but the committee only travelled once, and that travel wasn't to any province in Canada, but to Washington D.C. as part of a study on closed containment aquaculture. You can study a problem to death in an Ottawa boardroom, but you can't underestimate the impact of being on the ground, and I think all MPs and the chair will agree with that. When I say, welcome, I sincerely mean it, and I hope to see you here often in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Simms.
I speak to you today, first, as a former journalist. I covered the northern cod moratorium on July 2, 1992, when John Crosbie shut down the fishery, and I worked for the local daily newspaper The Telegram. The front page headline of the next day's paper—I pulled it out last night; I kept a copy—read, “No Fishing: 19,000 out of work in northern cod ban”. That was 19,000 direct jobs on the water and in fish plants. That did not include spin-off jobs. The total number of job losses as a result of the northern cod moratorium was estimated at closer to 30,000, and that was compared to the dust bowl that swept thousands of prairie farmers from the land in the 1930s. The moratorium was initially supposed to last two years, and as you know, it's been 24 years. Newfoundland and Labrador has lost an estimated 80,000 people in those 24 years.
One of the biggest concerns back then was what was termed “transfer of effort”. It was feared that the intense fishing effort that had been directed at northern cod would be redirected to the next species, and then the next species, and then the next species, until there was nothing left in the north Atlantic. Thankfully, that hasn't happened, as you know, although the health of other stocks like shrimp, crab, and capelin have fluctuated wildly.
I also speak to you today as one of the leaders of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters, or FISH-NL. FISH-NL has been described as a breakaway union. Most fishery workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, including fish harvesters, fish plant workers, and offshore trawlermen are currently represented by the FFAW, the president of which was here and spoke before you earlier today. We see that as a conflict of interest. Fish harvesters specifically want to break away and form their own stand-alone union, FISH-NL, and that will play out over the coming months.
Part of the reason fish harvesters are ready to revolt in this province is consultation, and the fact that there isn't any. This year's northern cod stewardship fishery is a prime example of that. The absence of consultation has resulted in a northern cod fishery that puts the lives of harvesters at greater risk, and has led to the dumping of untold thousands of pounds of northern cod.
FISH-NL has held meetings around Newfoundland in the past few weeks. These meetings have involved hundreds of fishermen, fish harvesters, and I have yet to meet a single one who said they were consulted about this year's northern cod fishery. Fish harvesters say the one-year management plan has resulted in thousands of pounds of northern cod being left dead in the water. This year's fishery eliminated the individual quota, or IQ system, in favour of an extended season with weekly landing limits. Harvesters could take 2,000 pounds of cod from mid-August to early September, and 3,000 pounds of cod a week from early September until the end of the season.
Harvesters all-to-often reach their weekly quota when they still have gillnets in the water. As a result, when all the nets are hauled, thousands of pounds of dead cod are left in the ocean. Harvesters don't exceed their quota, so they're not charged with overfishing. Fish harvesters have a theory that the cod fishery was stretched out over more weeks, so the FFAW could collect more union dues. Harvesters see no other logical explanation.
Safety is also an issue because, with only 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of fish to take a week, it doesn't make economic sense to take a longliner or a bigger boat out to catch cod, not when you have to pay your crew and your expenses.
Harvesters say they're being forced into smaller boats, which obviously aren't as safe. Earlier this month, four fishermen from Shea Heights—that's a neighbourhood right here in St. John's—were lost in a 22-foot open boat not far from St. John's harbour.
I was also eager to appear before this committee to alert federal politicians, such as yourselves, and the Government of Canada to a growing crisis of confidence in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery involving the FFAW, their union. On the one hand, the FFAW is responsible for holding the Government of Canada to account for day-to-day management decisions and overall fishery policy. On the other hand, the FFAW takes in untold millions of dollars a year from various federal government departments and agencies to administer various fisheries programs, so there's a conflict of interest to begin with in terms of the FFAW representing fish plant workers and fish harvesters. But the added element of conflict of interest and government funds undermines faith in the industry. Normal checks and balances that accompany a regular union-management dynamic can be compromised when funds change hands between the two, negatively impacting the entire fishing industry.
I wrote to the Auditor General of Canada earlier this summer and I asked the Auditor General to investigate federal funds directed to the FFAW, but his office declined, referring concerns to DFO auditors, which is another conflict.
I heard earlier today presentations by the president of the FFAW and the provincial minister of fisheries. Both the union and the provincial fisheries department have outlined the science roles they've taken on, and they've taken on these science roles because the federal government hasn't been doing its job. It hasn't been doing the work. But it's the Government of Canada that's responsible for the harvesting sector, as has been made clear today. The Government of Canada is responsible for proper management. The lines between the function of the fishermen's union, the federal government, and the provincial government have all been blurred. We need to bring those roles back into focus. To quote a fisherman in an article that appears in the local news just today, “The union now is DFO to us....” Who the manager is is not exactly clear.
The Government of Canada must be made to live up to its responsibilities to manage the fish stocks. That means good science, that means proper enforcement, and it means a sound management structure. But 24 years after the northern cod moratorium was handed down, we're only now, as there's a sign that cod are coming back, taking a good look at a management plan. From my perspective, from the perspective of a former parliamentarian and as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, we should be ashamed.
I didn't prepare anything so I guess I'm just going to talk from the heart.
I'm the white elephant in the room. There aren't many of us left. I'm under 35 and I'm a fisherman; I'm 33. After spending roughly $2 million to get into the fishery, my brother and I are doing quite well. We work hard and we do what we have to do.
Our shellfish stocks are in decline now—for me, it's mostly crab—so the return of northern cod is very important to me. It's my future and that of a lot of people like me. The trouble is when you make those decisions in Ottawa and you haven't had any input into it. It's disgusting what happened this year with the FFAW not consulting its members. I travelled across the province and we asked everyone, thousands of fishermen, if they had seen this proposal, and they hadn't. We still haven't seen it.
We don't know if this fishery.... We're told it's 15 weeks or so many weeks. We don't know. Now there are rumours on the wharf that it's closing in two weeks and that the total allowable catch is nearly caught. We don't know. We still haven't seen it and it's not right. We want to get it fixed.
I could talk to you today about lots of different things such as the price of fish and stuff like that. But the bottom line is that the price of fish is not your responsibility. The provincial government has us regulated so that we're getting pennies from what we should be getting, so you don't have to worry about that. That's a fight we're going to take up with the provincial government. They have to let us have free markets so that the market dictates the price, not a half-dozen merchants who pay us what they feel like paying us.
I'm going to focus more today on what we do and what you can control, and so on. We're going to form this new union. We really are. After Christmas, we're going to have this straightened away, so I encourage you not to make any major long-term decisions before this is done. We don't want three- or four-year agreements signed before we have input into what's actually going in there. We need to be a part of this process. We can't be left out again. It happened this year, and it can't happen again. This is forcing us back into small boats by taking our individual quotas, which our fathers and grandfathers fought for before my time. It was a monumental slap in the face.
If we had 30,000 pounds of fish, that's roughly $18,000 in today's market in Newfoundland. If we catch that in one week, it's $18,000, but if you stretch it out over 20 weeks, it's still $18,000. We're trying to make a living here. We don't want some sort of social program. To me, a fishery is a business. We like to be able to plan ahead. Maybe we can do something differently, but you can't do everything at once. We want our individual quotas put back. That's something we'll be fighting for.
I heard a lot of talk about Iceland today and everything they do over there, gillnets, and so on. I encourage you to do some more homework on it before you make any decisions about it. I've attended conferences and seminars with people from Iceland, and the gillnet fishery is still the most dominant fishery in Iceland. It still produces good quality fish. It's just that hook and line is obviously better. There's no doubt.
In Iceland, the reason they receive such good money for their fish is that they have a free market. They can market themselves. If I wanted to market myself, for example, take out a TV ad or who knows, in Iceland you have the opportunity to do that. But here in Newfoundland we don't, because we're regulated by archaic provincial legislation. We're going to fix that, too.
The only reason Iceland is successful is that there's no one else taking their fish. I have some papers here. I think you have them. It's a NAFO fisheries management schedule for 2016. When you get a chance, you can take a look at that. It lists the different species such as cod, redfish, and Greenland halibut, which is turbot.
You can see what percentages we get compared with every other country that's in NAFO. The percentage of cod in 3M, which is the Flemish Cap, is a disgrace. Canada is getting 0.8% of fish that are adjacent to us. Come on, boys.
Let's go over to turbot, Greenland halibut; it's probably the most lucrative fish that we have in terms of finfish and here we are with 15% of the quota. Every other country can come here. The EU has 6,400 tonnes. It's not good enough.
We often hear from the union that we can't invent quotas and we can't make fish for people to catch, but the fish are there. It's just everyone else is catching them.
What I noticed just last week on the Georges Bank, where the cod quota is shared between Canada and the U.S., Canada has the lion's share of that quota and we're sharing that bank. We're not sharing the Grand Banks with anyone adjacent and we get nothing.
It's time for people to look at it. I don't know what's going on, if it's with foreign trade or why we're getting sold out, but Newfoundland is getting sold out. The fishermen have been sold out.
Mr. Simms, you've been in opposition and you now have a chance because you're in power.
Mr. McDonald, it's your first term. Why don't you leave a legacy? Why don't you fight for us and make sure you fix this? This is wrong. What happened is wrong. I know you're good people and I know you're going to try. That's all I have to say.
First of all, thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. We're here on very short notice, as you know.
We made some notes before we came to the meeting this morning, but I have to tell you that I disposed of them during the previous three panels, because many of the statements made are tremendously important statements, and I'm sure you see, not only from the statements of these gentlemen but from others, that the fishing industry in Newfoundland today is one horrible mess. This comes at a time when the fishery, which is so important to the economy, has no real indication of recovery, despite what they say. Yes, there are some indications here and there, but by and large there is not an awful lot on the horizon, unless some miracles occur.
This discussion and your terms of reference have been on the northern cod stock. The northern cod stock is a very important resource. We've fished it for many years. We know the migration pattern, which begins with spawning on Hamilton Inlet bank off Labrador, to a large degree, and finds it way over its migration path and pattern down the Grand Banks to the nose of the Grand Banks, which is outside 200 miles.
By the way, I have listened over the years to tremendous arguments on that between Canadian scientists and foreign scientists in ICNAF and NAFO. In the case of the Canadian scientist, he says that only 5% of the northern cod go outside 200 miles, while in the case of a foreign scientist, it's up to 25% and 30%. That's important. I'll come to it later.
The fact of the matter is that I have appeared before this committee many times in the past. Obviously, practically all of you are new faces to me. I would imagine that in many cases this industry and what you've heard today are somewhat confusing in many ways, but I'm sure that somewhere along the line you're saying to yourselves, “What in the hell ever brought this once huge industry to the mess it's in today? How did it come about?”
I came into this fishery in 1947, two years before Confederation. At that time, there were three things occurring in the world. One was the end of the world war and the tremendous damage that was done in Europe. The second was the transition that was taking place between the traditional salt fish industy and the new and developing fresh fish industry. Third, we joined Confederation. The day we joined Confederation, Canada was elevated from fourteenth place in the world to sixth place in the world as a fish-exporting nation.
That was the value of the fishery that Newfoundland—not eastern Canada, but Newfoundland and Labrador—brought to the Confederation, from 14th to 6th place in the world. This was one of the largest and most diversified fisheries in the world: groundfish, in the form of cod, flounder, turbot, and other species; pelagic, with mackerel, herring, capelin, and so on; and crustaceans, shellfish. It's huge.
The transition from the salt fish industry began, and I was fortunate enough, at a very young age, to be manager of one of the first four frozen fish plants in Newfoundland, on the ice-free south coast, which was very important, particularly in those days. We eventually built a company that employed 5,500 people over the years, men and women, in plants and on ships. About 4,000 of those jobs were 50-week jobs, and the others were seasonal because they were in areas where ice was a major factor.
For the first 20 years, from 1950, let's say, to 1968-69, we developed a fishery and our own particular company. We built the first marketing organization in the United States, with offices in Trondheim, Norway; Cuxhaven; and London to serve the European markets. We associated ourselves with a very large company in Japan to gain access to Japan. For 20 years, and very.... It was annoying to me today to listen to people saying that the fishery prior to 1992 produced cod blocks. It just goes to show, well, a generation has passed since the moratorium, so many of the people who are contributing to this discussion today.... By the way, much of it was very good. Some very intelligent comments and suggestions were made, and I compliment them all, but the fact is that we brought into this country one of the most diversified and strongest fisheries—you might even term some of it “virgin fisheries”.
What happened? Well, here is what happened. By the way, I might say to you that one of the main factors in what I call the demise, almost, of the fishery was the fact that at the end of the war in Europe, the millions of starving people who were left had to be fed, and the agricultural industry had been just about destroyed. In the meantime, in most of those nations there were enormous naval shipbuilding operations, so they turned to fish protein as a source of keeping the people alive in Europe for the next several years.
The Marshall plan by the U.S. took care of the industrial regrowth and redevelopment, but they were hungry. What happened? Well, over the next 20 years, 1,400 freezer vessels and factory freezer vessels descended on the resources adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador, with 60,000 fishermen, and for the next 30 years, until 1978, they carried on a totally uncontrolled and unrestricted fishery, right in front of a country, Canada, to which we had transferred one of the greatest fisheries in the world to do one thing, sustainably manage it. Remember, it is a common property resource—not owned by a union, not owned by the Fisheries Council of Canada, not owned by any government in Canada or in Newfoundland. It is a common property resource owned by the people.
What has happened has been a catastrophe. I was a commissioner in ICNAF and NAFO and was sent for a month every June to listen to 20 nations sit down and decide what they were going to take, when they were going to take it, and how they were going to take it. Let me say to you this. A science council made up of scientists from all these nations, including Canada—by the way, we had some of the best scientists in the world as part of that group—sat down during the year, carried out their assessments on the various cod stocks, and made their presentation to the plenary session of ICNAF, in the first week of those meetings. I am talking about 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and so on. I was in it for 20 years. In each case, they made recommendations.
Incidentally, I was one of 50 commissioners who accepted the scientific council's recommendations for quotas and so on. The fishery, which was supposed to be conducted on the basis of, what they called FO.1 level, which was roughly 18% of the biomass. In other words, you could take 18% of the biomass and have a sustainable fishery.
Every year, contrary to what most people say, the scientists warned the participating countries that you're not fishing at 18% to 20%, but closer to 30% to 35%. At the rate you're going with your fishing; it's going to go. This is in 1965, 1966 and 1967. I can guarantee, I have the official proceedings as a result of my presence in that organization.
Our own Dr. Templeman, from Newfoundland, one of the best fishery scientists that I know, supported a presentation that we made as a result of our experience in ICNAF, and with the uncontrolled and unrestricted fishery. He spent a lot of time on research vessels, on the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, so we made the presentation with his backing. We went and sat down with Mitchell Sharp, Don Jamieson, and Jack Davis, who was minister of fisheries, for two and a half days. Twenty-five of us from here, in October of 1971, made a presentation that showed them documented evidence, scientific evidence, that a continuation of the fishery, at the level that it was taking place, would mean the end. It would virtually become a cottage fish industry.
I'll give them full credit, these three ministers were shocked. During the presentation we made, since I was chairman of the group, they asked, could you have this presentation abbreviated for the Prime Minister? The following morning, we found ourselves sitting down with Pierre Trudeau and eight of his senior cabinet members. During the presentation, some of these people were agog, particularly those from the east coast. They had no idea in the world that the situation had reached this far. This is 1971. This is not 2002.
At the end of our presentation to the Prime Minister, they were shaken by it all. It was at a time, of course, that everybody was talking about extension of jurisdictions to get some protection. This is what we were after, some kind of protection for the resource. Within 24 hours of our presentation, Premier J.R. Smallwood received a telex, a copy of which I have, telling him that Canada was shocked, the Canadian government was shocked, and they were going to take action to extend jurisdiction to cover the total Canadian shelf; in other words, give the fishery on the continental shelf on our east coast full attention and full protection from the pirates from across the water.
Seven years later, they extended jurisdiction to 200 miles, leaving two of the most productive areas of fisheries on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap at the mercy of the foreigners. I was shocked today to hear the representative of DFO answer your question, “Did the foreigners have any impact during the moratorium?” He said, no, they didn't.
I'll speak about Spain. I don't know if you people are familiar with an organization called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. I don't know if you're familiar with it or not, but they have carried out studies on these fisheries and on the subsidies received by participating nations in NAFO. Spain alone received $8 billion U.S. in subsidies to conduct foreign offshore fisheries.
For him to sit and make a statement like that is typical of what has happened to DFO's attitude toward the Newfoundland fishery since 1970.
I realize I'm coming to the end of my time, but this is off the cuff, and it's not entirely what I had in mind. Nevertheless, I felt it necessary to make you people aware that the collapse of this fishery is due to one thing and one thing only, and that is the fact that the Government of Canada has failed to do its job in terms of what the fishery was transferred to Canada for, and that was to sustainably manage the resource.
Of course, this has been on the agenda for quite a long time, and many people have felt that should happen.
You have to remember that this fishery that we delivered to Canada is unique with respect to other fisheries on the east coast. For example, when the moratorium occurred we lost 20,000 jobs and 80,000 people moved out of the province to Alberta, where they were fortunately able to get employment.
In the case of the Maritimes, Nova Scotia, if you looked at the value of their exports prior to and after the moratorium, it would be exactly the same. The reason was it was 85% to 95% crustacean, shellfishers. In our case it was basically a groundfishery. Admittedly, one of the valuable fisheries, but unique in the sense that not only were we impacted by this but we were the only province in the fisheries on the east coast that had international implications in our fisheries. They were at our doorstep. They are at our doorstep today. They're fishing on the migrating stocks that are going over that imaginary 200-mile line on the tail of the Grand Banks and on the nose of the Grand Banks and on the Flemish Cap. Let me say to you that in the southern cod fishery, there are five main cod stocks. They're all very valuable, but the one on the southern Grand Banks has been exposed to foreign fishing ever since 1978 and the extension of jurisdiction.
By the way, one of the statements by the DFO man was correct when he said that the Barents Sea is greatly affected by the Gulf Stream current. He didn't say it, but the same applies to that resource on the southern Grand Banks. That yielded 100,000 to 110,000 tonnes of cod every year prior to the overfishing. Today it is as barren as that table because of continuous overfishing by foreign fleets, especially the Spanish and Portuguese, and the Russians to some degree.
You might ask, how in the hell can Spain and Portugal today, in the financial strain that they're under, send a $20-million vessel over 5,500 miles to fish on the Grand Banks with 60 men on each vessel? It's done because the European Union subsidized it to the hilt.
Another point I want to make reference to before I forget it is that the DFO man said, and rightly so, that the scientific capability of the White Hills organization today, is down here. He said we have fewer ships and fewer people. He also said that when you ask about capelin, which by the way hasn't been assessed, not for two years or three years but for nine years, and it's the most valuable fishery out here because it is the main food of a lot of the groundfish, he said problems with boats was one of the reasons it hasn't been carried out.
I can tell you that in the last 20 years the DFO capability has gone down to such a level. Beginning in 1995, Paul Martin reduced the budget to the White Hills science capability by 50%. We have documented evidence that shows that incrementally since then it has been lowered to a point where the WWF now is almost taking over from DFO. We're beginning to wonder who is running the show. DFO has lost control.
How did they lose control? Let me say to you that it all began, not necessarily the loss of control but the dictatorial attitude of DFO, in 1974, when the then minister of the day dissolved the federal Fisheries Research Board. Remember that name, the federal Fisheries Research Board. It was an organization made up of membership from every sector of the fishing industry.
Its job was to develop, along with scientists who were members of the organization, science programs, projects, for the continental shelf, which is almost one million square kilometres, and to develop a budget and deliver it to the minister. Not once during the time that I was involved did the minister ever change it, because of the calibre of the people who were involved in the federal Fisheries Research Board.
Then he dissolved it in 1974, transferred that responsibility on his desk, and thus became the dictator of fisheries for eastern Canada. From that day onward, you can trace, without much difficulty, the demise, the lack of control, and a reduced capability of DFO, and it went down and down.
The unfortunate thing is that the moratorium is 25 years old. There was some recovery on the St. Pierre Bank off the southern coast of Newfoundland, a very important bank, with a tremendous fishery, actually—yielded about 80,000 to 90,000 tonnes a year.
There was a slight recovery, maybe 10 years ago, and DFO made the big mistake of reopening the fishery when the base of the fishery, in terms of year class—one-, two-, three-, four-, five-, six-year-old fishery—was not there. They opened it up with a 20,000 tonne quota, and only one and a half years later had to reduce it to 8,000 tonnes because the scientists doing a little work on it saw the thing on the way down again.
Now that fishery, which had been historically 75,000 to 80,000 tonnes, today is.... Some scientists, in universities particularly, are saying it should be on the endangered list. This is one of the most important cod stocks we have. We haven't learned anything. This thing has happened over a long period of time. If you look at any of the graphs the scientists have produced, you can see the impact of overfishing and going down...for example, some people are talking about 300,000 tonnes in northern cod at the present time.
In 1962, the spawning stock in that cod was two million tonnes. The spawning stock was under seven years. In addition to the two million tonnes, there was a fishery that was over seven years old, and that was estimated to be something in the order of a million tonnes. Today it's 300,000 tonnes, allegedly. Again, some of the fishermen are questioning that, and I don't blame them.
We're not doing any science. We're not doing the work. There's no science. Therefore, in the longer term.... The economy of this province is going to be based on the success or failure of the fishery in this province in the years to come.
Oil is not renewable. Minerals.... I come from a mining town; I know. Mining is non-renewable, but the fishery is renewable. Here we have the potential for one of the largest fisheries in the world. The population of the world is going from six billion or seven billion, up to 10 billion. The demand for fish is growing. I have contacts in the U.S. and Europe in marketing. There are two million tonnes of cod fillets alone sold in the U.S. annually. This friend of mine is someone who markets the Bering Sea cod, and he's selling 35 million pounds of cod.
For anybody to be talking about looking for markets.... It's not a question of looking for markets; the markets are there. It's a question of good, solid fisheries management that produces good, solid, market-sized fish that are firm, good quality, and can be produced as fish nuggets, fish loins, fish tails, and a variety of packages that the food industry, either retail or food service, has taken from us for years and years.
Once upon a time we were a main competitor for Iceland and Norway. As a participant in marketing, I can tell you there were times we sat down and beat out the Icelanders and the Norwegians on contracts with universities. I remember one distinctly with UCLA, in California, with 80,000 students on campus. They wanted a particular product. They gave us all an option to provide it. We spent a year, had machines built, produced cod lines, and got the contract, at 20 cents over the market, as a result of it.
All that's gone, because in the process of this going downhill, from 1965 to 1971, the size of cod as documented by Department of Fisheries officials in production plants went down from an average of 4 pounds to 2.2 pounds. The catch at sea for a 100-foot trawler, a side trawler in those days, went down from 2,000 pounds a fishing hour to 880 pounds. That's the story of the Newfoundland fishery.
A change has to come, and a change has to come by rebuilding our scientific capability, beginning now. A large body of fisheries of various species and so on has to be properly assessed so people aren't guessing and arguing about whether it's 300 tonnes or 500 tonnes or whatever. That's the job of DFO, not WWF. It's the job of DFO. These are the ones that are responsible in Norway—the government—and in Iceland. They refused to join the common market. Why? To protect their fisheries.
I was invited, prior to the last vote taken in Norway, to make four or five speeches from Hammerfest in the north to Oslo in the south to give them our experience in Newfoundland. Not that my presentation had that much effect, but it was the last time that Norway voted not to join. Why? Because Spain, Portugal, Russia, and 20 other countries would converge on their fisheries and beat the hell out of them.