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.