The following article is published in the Thursday, April 30th edition of Blacklock's Reporter, Minding Ottawa's Business, an online publication.
MPs Endorse Bootleg Fish Bill
A Commons committee has passed a bill proposing new enforcement on illegal fishing amid complaints that regulators have no estimate of the size of the black market.
MPs on the fisheries committee endorsed the bill that sets $500,000 fines for importing or processing unlicensed fish.
“I do feel frustrated by this process,” said MP Ryan Cleary. “How much of that illegally caught fish may be coming into Canadian ports? We have no figures.”
Bill S-3 An Act To Amend The Coastal Fisheries Act permits the seizure of illegal catches.
Black market fish and seafood imports account for up to 32 percent of the U.S. market, by industry estimate. No comparable Canadian figures are known.
Tom Rosser, assistant deputy minister of fisheries, earlier told the committee that Canada “is a very minor contributor to the problem”, but acknowledged the department has no data:
“Obviously, almost by definition, we can’t know those that we do not observe,” Rosser said.
“This bill is all about illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, but when we asked questions about illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our waters or on the continental shelf outside the 200-mile limit, we didn’t get any figures whatsoever,” said Cleary, New Democrat MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl; “We never got any answers and we’re still not getting answers.”
The bill permits the sharing of information on black-market trawlers between other nations that are signatories to the 2010 Port State Measures Agreement.
MP Randy Kamp, Conservative parliamentary secretary for fisheries, said the measure should be effective.
“Some of these illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing fleets know how it works and they’re willing to pay the cost of doing business sometimes by paying the fine,” said Kamp. “This makes it more difficult for them.”
MP Lawrence MacAulay, Liberal fisheries critic, noted the bill failed to address catch methods used by black market fleets in illegally harvesting fish.
“If the fish are not caught in a proper manner as we see in this country, how do we deal with that issue?” said MacAulay, MP for Cardigan, P.E.I.
“It’s not the import problem, it’s the illegal catching of the fish that’s concerning me,” MacAulay said. “It’s okay to deal with the regulations regarding imports, but we want to know if we agree about how the fish are caught in the first place.”
Bill S-3 returns to the Commons for final passage into law. Worldwide the black market fish trade is estimated at US$50 billion a year. Other countries to sign the Port State Measures Agreement include the U.S., European Union, Norway, and Chile.