I gave the following 10-minute speech today (Sept. 18th) in the House of Commons on Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.
As one of seven Members of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador representing the east coast Newfoundland riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, I make sure to take every opportunity to speak on our once great fisheries.
To speak on what were once the richest fishing grounds in the world—in the world, Mr. Speaker; The fabled, the storied, the legendary Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, Canada was elevated from 14th to sixth place in the world as a fish-exporting nation. In his 2013 book, Empty Nets, How Greed and Politics Wiped out the World’s Greatest Fishery, Gus Etchegary writes how Newfoundland presented Canada with the golden gift of her fisheries.
Today those fisheries are but a shadow of what they once were.
I wrote an endorsement on the back of Gus Etchegary’s book, the endorsement reads:
“The rise and fall of the world’s greatest fisheries is a crime of the highest order, and Gus Etchegary shows his mettle in telling the tale. He is the ultimate fighting Newfoundlander.”
In 1992, the federal Conservative government of the day shut down the northern cod fishery.
It was described at the time as the biggest layoff in Canadian history – throwing 19,000 people directly out of work, and was compared to the Prairie Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
The moratorium was supposed to last 2 years—2 years, Mr. Speaker.
It’s been 22 years and counting.
The province has lost 90,000 people since then—gone—most of whom never to return.
The fading of our traditional fisheries is having an impact on our heritage and culture.
To simplify, Mr. Speaker, how long will we sing of squid jiggin’ grounds when there’s no more squid to be jigged.
There has been a modest recovery in groundfish stocks such as cod, but the offshore stocks are still decimated.
Mr. Speaker, the point that I raise now should bring home the gravity of the fall of our fisheries. For most of the year it is illegal for a child to jig a cod from the end of a wharf, to jig a cod from the North Atlantic Ocean.
Can you fathom that, Mr. Speaker … it’s illegal to jig a cod from the North Atlantic Ocean?
Over the years the fishing effort has been transferred to shellfish such as shrimp and crab but both those stocks are in steep decline.
On top of that, Mr. Speaker, the biggest cuts to the quotas we have left are to our inshore fleets, meaning our coastal communities, what we have left are still taking a pounding.
Management decisions from 2,000 kilometres away here in Ottawa are not based on the principles of adjacency or historical attachment.
No, Mr. Speaker, that’s not what’s happening.
Conservatives ignore those decisions in favour of big offshore companies, most of which have foreign ownership.
Managing the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries from Ottawa has resulted in a lack of understanding, consideration and communication.
Given all that’s happened to our fisheries, to the Grand Banks, the collapse of the stocks, unchecked foreign overfishing, the wipe out of entire domestic fleets, the layoff of tens of thousands of workers, the loss of almost 100,000 Newfoundlanders, the biggest policy change over the past 22 years has been the decision by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to eliminate the double hook jigger.
Instead of a jigger with two hooks you can now only use a jigger with one hook.
That’s been the most substantial fishery policy change in years.
It is in this context, Mr. Speaker … that I speak on Bill S-3, a housekeeping bill.
Bill S-3 is an act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.
We support this bill, Mr. Speaker.
This bill is required, it is necessary for Canada to be able to ratify the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.
Canada signed that agreement in 2010.
It should be noted, however, Mr. Speaker, that this UN agreement can only come into force after it has been ratified by 25 nations.
And it has YET to be ratified by 25 nations, Mr. Speaker.
It goes without saying, Mr. Speaker.
Although I’ll be saying it now.
That illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines the sustainable practices of legitimate fishing operations – including those in Canada, in Newfoundland and Labrador – and presents unfair market competition to sustainable seafood.
Makes sense, can’t disagree with that.
This bill is only the FIRST step in preventing illegal fishing.
Once Canada ratifies the Port State Measures Agreement we must then take a leadership role in encouraging other nations to move forward on this agreement as well.
Good luck with that, Mr. Speaker.
Hopefully it will work out better than NAFO, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, which monitors fishing on the high seas outside Canada’s 200-mile limit, off Newfoundland and Labrador, on the Grand Banks.
NAFO is useless and it is toothless, it’s a joke, Mr. Speaker.
While there’s been a moratorium on fishing in Canadian waters since 1992, for too many of those years it was a free-for-all outside the 200-mile limit.
Fishing in Canadian waters stopped dead in the water.
But fishing outside the 200 mile limit continued.
The funny thing about migratory stocks such as cod is they don’t pay any attention to imaginary lines in the ocean.
So we stopped fishing and foreign nations continued.
Even today, if a foreign nation is cited for illegal fishing outside the 200-mile limit on the Grand Banks, it’s up to the home country of that foreign trawler to follow through on court action or penalties.
How often does that happen, Mr. Speaker?
How often is the book thrown at a foreign trawler – by its home country - for ravaging what’s left of what were once the world’s greatest fisheries?
How often, Mr. Speaker?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve filed federal Access to Information Requests, Mr. Speaker, to try and find out what penalties have been imposed on a foreign trawler cited for illegal fishing.
This government has denied the release of such information saying it may jeopardize international relations.
What about Newfoundland and Labrador relations, Mr. Speaker?
Where do we fit in?
John Crosbie once said who hear the fishes when they cry?
Who hears the fishermen when they cry, Mr. Speaker, that’s the better question.
To sum up I refer back to Gus Etchegary’s book, Empty Nets, How Greed and Politics Wiped out the World’s Greatest Fisheries,
“I wrote this book because I, like a few others, refuse to accept that this once huge, renewable resource cannot be rebuilt to play a rule in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, and provide a source of food for an increasing world population.”
Truer words have never been spoken, Mr. Speaker.
And so, Mr. Speaker, I support this Housekeeping bill, but make no mistake, let there be no doubt, Mr. Speaker.
Let me be beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Our fisheries, our coastal communities, need a hell of a lot more protection than this.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.