Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Plenty of questions, not so many answers: My questions to DFO officials

I posed the following questions on Thursday, March 12th, during Fisheries and Oceans Committee... Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses again for returning. Mr. Rosser, just a few questions on some statements you just made. One of the statements you made was that “a flag State might want to direct a foreign vessel to Canadian port so as to not to compromise the evidence”. To your recollection, sir, in terms of foreign vessels outside the 200 mile limit, not inside Canadian waters, how often has that happened in the past 10 years? Mr. Tom Rosser: Thank you for the question. There is one instance that I'm aware of where a foreign flag vessel fishing outside of Canada's exclusive economic zone was directed by its flag State into a Canadian port. But under legislation as currently enacted, my understanding is that unless the boat requests entry into the port itself which it may not chose to do, if it is in violation of applicable laws. We don't currently have the legal authority to accommodate that situation. It has occurred in at least one instance of which I am aware. Mr. Ryan Cleary: So that's one instance in the past 10 years, that you're aware of. That's out of how many vessels that have been cited, roughly, over the past 10 years? Mr. Tom Rosser: I will turn to my colleague Mr. MacLean. He might be able to give you a more precise indication of how frequently citations have been issued over the past decade. Allan, do you have any...? Mr. Allan MacLean (Director General, Conservation and Protection, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management - Operations, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): I do, but it will take me a minute to get to it. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Maybe I'll move on to my next question. Mr. Rosser, you also spoke about the fact that more could, to use your word, “inevitably” be done. Maybe you could expand on that. What more could be done? Mr. Tom Rosser: I was trying to allude to the fact that.... It's an illegal activity. IUU fishing inevitably evolves over time. While we believe that the Port State Measures Agreement and Bill S-3 represent an important step forward, inevitably those engaged in illegal activities, as the international legal regime evolves, may, too, respond to that in some fashion. It is an evolving process. We believe these are positive, concrete steps, both domestically and internationally. But we need to recognize, as well, that we are trying to discourage an activity that is continually evolving. Mr. Ryan Cleary: With all due respect, Mr. Rosser, I don't see this as being concrete in any way whatsoever. I don't see this as changing the situation right now outside the 200-mile limit off the east coast of Canada in terms of foreign vessels, in terms of citations. I know the number of citations are down. I, personally, would say that part of the reason is that there are fewer fish to chase. When you say—I asked you a question the other day—that you need ratification of 25 countries before this can come into force.... I believe right now we have 11. We have 11 of 25 nations. How long did it take you to get 11 nations to come onside with this, and how much longer do you think it will take you to get to your total of 25? Mr. Tom Rosser: What I can say on that is.... I believe that's true. There have been 11 countries that have acceded to the treaty to date. In addition to that, if memory serves, there are, I think, a total of 35 or so that have signed the treaty, or otherwise the state in question has indicated its intent to ratify the treaty. There are dozens of countries—more than enough to bring this treaty into force—that, like ourselves, have signalled an intent to ratify and are moving to take the necessary domestic measures to do so. Obviously, regulatory and legislative systems vary widely across the world, when one is speaking of a global treaty. But we believe this treaty does enjoy a significant international global consensus around it. Mr. Ryan Cleary: How much longer to get 25? Mr. Tom Rosser: It's hard to put a precise timeline on it. But as I said, there are dozens of countries going through processes similar to those we are going through now. Mr. Ryan Cleary: A rough estimate? Mr. Tom Rosser: This is fairly speculative on my part, but I would hope that within a couple of years we would see this treaty enter into force. We believe, though, that beyond simply bringing Canada into compliance with this treaty, this legislation will give our law enforcement officials additional abilities to carry out their responsibilities more effectively. In many cases, there— Mr. Ryan Cleary: I'm sorry to cut you off, Mr. Rosser, but you're going on a.... I have some more questions and I have limited time. I say this with all due respect, sir. I asked you a question the other day in terms of, over the past 10 years, the number of citations issued to foreign trawlers outside the 200-mile limit and the followup in terms of the flag states, the home countries of the vessels in question, what penalties or court fines were imposed over the past 10 years. Can we have that information presented to this committee, sir? Mr. Tom Rosser: What I would say is this. There is—we're speaking, I think, in a NAFO context—a process whereby information is shared by countries undertaking enforcement measures in the NAFO zone. We believe a greater transparency in that regard would be beneficial. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Is that a yes or a no? Mr. Tom Rosser: What I was going to suggest was that we would certainly be willing to undertake with the NAFO parties a suggestion that greater transparency be brought to the information sharing— Mr. Ryan Cleary: Does that mean no? Mr. Tom Rosser: No, it doesn't mean no. It means that I believe you've made a constructive suggestion that we, upon reflection, have thought is worth raising with our NAFO partners. Mr. Ryan Cleary: So you need their permission first before you could do that? Mr. Tom Rosser: It is a cooperative agreement, yes. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Do you think that's in Canada's best interests to get permission of foreign nations to release that sort of information that could be used to build a case against, say, the weaknesses of NAFO? Mr. Tom Rosser: We think that it's important to work respectively with our international partners. We think that transparency is important and are willing to discuss with them how NAFO can become more transparent in this respect, yes. We appreciate your suggestion in that context. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Thank you. I would really appreciate, though, that information. That would make my day. In terms of a illegally caught fish outside the 200 Mile Limit or illegally caught fish inside the 200 Mile Limit off the east coast, you mentioned global numbers the other day, but do you have any numbers for specifically Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap? Mr. Tom Rosser: Again, I will perhaps turn back to Mr. MacLean, who may be able to offer greater precision than I on that matter. I don't know, Allan, if you were able to lay your hands on the document you were seeking in response to the earlier question. Mr. Allan MacLean: Just in response to the earlier question, I have breakdowns I have to go through, but, again, going back to 2002, there were 34 citations issue, in 2004, there were 9. So we've seen that steady trend since 2002 downward. When there are changes in measures, sometimes we see a slight peak upwards, but we have seen, traditionally, the trend downward. Your question was related to value—was that the question?—the value of IUU product or illegal product fished on the Grand Banks? Mr. Ryan Cleary: No, I'm just looking for it. Do you have, for example, of an estimate of the amount of illegally caught fish from the Grand Banks? Mr. Allan MacLean: No, we do not. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Not even an estimate, in terms of...? Mr. Allan MacLean: No, I have nothing here, and I don't know if there's been an evaluation done on that. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Do you have an estimate of the amount of illegally caught fish brought into Canadian ports? Mr. Allan MacLean: Not with me. Mr. Ryan Cleary: But isn't this bill all about preventing illegally caught fish from coming into Canada? Mr. Allan MacLean: Yes. Mr. Ryan Cleary: If the purpose of this is to prevent illegally caught fish from coming into Canada, you don't have any estimates on how much fish is coming into Canada or no idea of what kind of problem, the extent of this problem? Mr. Tom Rosser: Allan or Angela may wish to offer their perspectives, but when we talk about IUU fishing, we're talking about a global problem. We know in global terms Canada is a very minor contributor to the problem. We have a very robust regime— Mr. Ryan Cleary: The answer is no, you don't know how much— Mr. Tom Rosser: Well, by definition, it's hard to be certain about the level of illegal activity. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Not even a ballpark? Mr. Tom Rosser: I would guess that we probably would have data on enforcement actions taken where we have identified instances of illegal fishing. Obviously, almost by definition, we can't know about those that we did not observe. But we take action where we see them, and, as a result, are confident that it is a relatively minor problem in Canada. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Then why is this bill before the committee? If it's a relatively minor problem, you don't seem to have a grasp on the amount of illegally caught fish we're talking about, why are we taking the time to even look at this? Mr. Tom Rosser: Well, because it is a very serious problem globally and we're trying to do our part to help address a problem that is, although minor in Canada, serious globally. In so doing, with this legislation, it is also our view that we will improve in a very commonsense way, the enforcement powers of our fisheries officers and other law enforcement officials. We see there being a domestic benefit to this legislation and it is also a Canadian contribution to resolving what is a serious global problem. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Thank you. The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Cleary.

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