Mr. J. H. SINCLAIR (Guysborough).
Mr. Speaker, I desire now to ask the House to dispose of the report of the committee on Marine and Fisheries dealing with the lobster industry, which I discussed shortly yesterday. I will not make any apology for taking up a short time this morning in giving the House the reasons why the committee arrived at their conclusions. My only apology is the importance of the question. I .think I can say that it is of much greater importance than very many of the questions that have engaged the attention of this House during the present session. The committee have made some recommendations in the direction of changing the present law in regard to the lobster industry, and it is absolutely necessary that the government and the House should be put in possession of the reasons that led the committee to arrive at these conclusions. The most .important of the changes recommended is in regard to the size limit of lobsters to be taken along the coast. The coast of Canada is divided under the present regulations into nine divisions extending from Gaspe to the international boundary line on the coast of New Brunswick. The reason for this division is largely climatic. The ice disappears from the coast in certain parts of eastern Canada much earlier than in other parts, so that the fishing can be carried on in .those parts at earlier dates. It is absolutely necessary, in order to give the fishermen the opportunity of prosecuting their business, that this fact be taken note of in dividing the country into districts. I pointed out yesterday that the committee had found it necessary to ask that exact information be obtained as to the size of the lobsters that were being caught along the coast, as a great deal of difference of opinion on that point existed. The committee asked the department to instruct their officers in every division during the past fishing season to have a large number of the lobsters measured, to find out what size were being caught. It was impossible of course to measure all the lobsters arriving at the different points; but the instructions were to select a boat coming in with fish that w.as a good sample of all the others, and to measure every lobster in that boat down to a fraction of an inch, and to Tecord the measurements and return them to the department. Those instructions were carried out, I am informed, in every county along the coast of the four provinces, where lobster canning is carried on. There are a few counties in
the Bay of Fundy district where no canning is carried on, and where measurements were not made, but in all the other counties along the coast it was done. It appears that 600,000 lobsters were measured, and the results tabulated, showing the numbers measured in each district and the percentage of those that were below the size limit. It turned out that in some of the districts more than one-half the lobsters taken were under the legal size, and in one district about two-thirds. This proved two things: in the first place, that the violation of the present law is general all over the coast; and, in the second place, that it is practically impossible to enforce the present size limit, because the result would be to close up every lobster canning factory on the coast of Canada. The regulations relating to the size limit have been in force about 36 years, and the evidence appears to be that they have never been respected at any period in their history, that at no time did the packers refuse to accept what are called illegal or short lobsters, that at no time did the fishermen on any part of the coast throw such lobsters back into the water, that .the universal practice has been to boil everything that was caught.
Now there are great difficulties, as any person will see who is acquainted with the business, in the way of enforcing the size limit. This fishing is carried on over 5,000 miles of coast by about 3,000 boats, the packing is done in about 700 canneries, many of those canneries are situated at isolated points on the coast and are difficult to reach, and a small force of officers would be utterly helpless in enforcing a regulation of that kind. It is so easy to conceal, and so easy to violate it. I do not say it is impossible, I think it is possible, but it would occasion vast expense and if it could be done, I say it would not be wise to do it, because it would be equivalent to the destruction of the industry so far as the packing is concerned. Some fishermen would object to that. There are fishermen in some districts who sell their lobsters alive, who are favourably situated with regard to the Boston market, and who are able to sell them at large prices at points on the coast of the United States. This, however, is not possible on the greater part of the coast of Canada. Most of the fishermen are still dependent on the packing industry. If you will look at the figures, you will find that the packing is a very large business. The total output of lobsters each year is valued at about $4,200,000. Less than one million of that value pertains to the live lobster industry. Three times as much has to be credited to the packing industry, so that the packing or canning industry is by far the largest industry of the two, and it could not be turned down without very grave eonsidera-Mr. SINCLAIR.
tion. This question of the size limit appears to have been a sort of stumbling block to the officers of the department for many years, and as far as I can find, the official opinion has been that it was very difficult to enforce. As far back as 21 years ago, Lieut. A. B. Gordon, R.N., who was the chief fishery officer at that date in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, made a report to the department in which he says :
The present regulations in regard to size limit and the destruction of females carrying exuded ora are intended as protective measures and are without doubt protective enactments; but the question arises how far the enforcement of the enactments is possible with the existing means at the command of the department and the still wider question as to whether the enforcement of the regulations is compatible with the existence of the industry. I consider the fact undeniable that taking the Gulf of St. Lawrence district if the above quoted regulations were strictly enforced not one single packing factory could run for one single day, and if the packers, whose interest and desire it undoubtedly ia to maintain this fishery, were to attempt to enforce the law, the fishermen would directly reply that they could not make a living at fishing with adherence to those regulations, and therefore could not fish for the packers. The rigid enforcement of the existing regulations is therefore tantamount to the closure of the factories.
That was the opinion of Lieut. Gordon 21 years ago, and he was the officer at that time in charge of the protection of fishing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Now, coming down to the present day, I may give the opinion of Mr. Venning, who is the present commissioner of fisheries. Mr. Venning did not make up his mind without a good deal of consideration. He is a very able officer as we all know, and has given great attention to this branch of the department. Mr. Venning visited the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and I think of all the maritime provinces two years ago, in order to investigate this matter. He called every fishery overseer, every fishery official, or at all events, every fishery inspector in charge of the enforcement of the law and consulted them in regard to the enforcement of the law relating to the size limit, and after these consultations which were very carefully gone into, this is what Mr. Venning says in his report to the department:
The preponderance of opinion developed at the inquiry was to .the effect that in many oases a strict enforcement of the existing size limits would, if not entirely close up the canneries, so cripple them as to make it unprofitable to continue operations.
The view held by the canners to-day seems to be that if they are obliged to render a strict observance of the size limit they cannot proceed with the prosecution of the industry.
Now, I will also call another witness, Mr. M. H. Nickerson, member for the county
oi Shelburne, in the local parliament of Nova Scotia. Mr. Nickerson is a man well acquainted with the fishing industry. He was so prominent in that line that he was selected in 1898 as a member of the Royal Commission that investigated this important question. Both Mr. Nickerson and Mr. W. Whitman, M.P.P. for Guysborough, were on that commission, and they both gave the commission the benefit of their evidence. I will read what Mr. Nickerson says on that point:
Q. Is not the great danger to the lobster industry the taking of -small lobsters?-A. Yes, I have admitted that is so.
Q. The first object would be to protect the industry, and is there not a danger of the fishery being destroyed because of small lobsters being taken?-A. The law gives that nominal protection already; what we want is that the small lobster shall be protected in practice as well as in law.
Q. The law that is not enforced is no good. Whose fault is it that it is not enforced? -A. I am obliged to say that it seems to be tacitly agreed by all parties concerned that the law with regard to size should go by default. It is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Q. That is what is destroying the whole industry, the law is not enforced?-A. I have nothing to say in opposition to that.
Then I want to give the opinion of Mr. H. E. Baker, of Cape Breton. Mr. Baker has been all his lifetime engaged in the lobster industry, and there is no man in the _ maritime provinces who is better acquainted with that industry. The question asked of Mr. Baker was:
Q. If you reduce the size to 7 inches would you not be encouraging the destruction of the female lobster before it reaches the age where it is easily distinguishable as a berried lobster? ^* ^u;-v are destroyed now almost about that size, some about 4 inches in size 1 understand in some places.
Q. Well, what do you say about that, do you think it is a good thing?-A. No, it is not a good thing if one can prevent it. The size limit has been universally disregarded tt0^0?1*^.*11 ^is country but even in the United States where they have been trying to maintain a lOJ-inch limit, particularly in Maine. The fishermen find a way of getting a market for their short lobsters.
Then I take the opinion of Capt, Chas. Lonnes, of Canso, Nova Scotia.
Q. There is no use having a regulation that is not enforced?-A. I think there is not a packer who would not stand up and tell you himself that there is not a factory in Canada that does observe the law, if it did it might as well go out of business. Now what is the good of a law that is just discredited to that extent that the man himself will tell you so? There is no good having that law on the statute book.
- Michael Leehan, of Mount Stewart, Prince Edward Island, was asked:
Q. Bo you think it would be possible to enforce the regulation?-A. If you did enforce it, it would put us out of the business and the fishermen could not fish.
Cj. Supposing we tried to enforce it?-A. We would only last about a week and there would be nobody in the business.
Q. It would drive everybody out of the business?-A. Yes, drive everybody out.
I want also to give you the opinion of a prominent man in the fishermens' union, Mr. D. Scott, of Main-a-Dieu, in the island of Cape Breton. Mr. Scott says he has had large experience in this industry, that he worked in a factory for 18 years, that he has the experience of four years' lobster fishing. And he is now the secretary of one of the most active fishermens' unions on the coast. This is an abstract from the evidence of Mr. Scott:
There- is one thing I have to say, and that is that the law in reference to the protection of the spawn or berried lobster, and the small lobster, that is the lobster under the -size limit, has never been adhered to or observed by the fishermen or the packers in this locality during my 18 years' experience
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I might say that away back in 1893, there was an effort made to enforce the size limit here in this locality, we had the late inspector coming in to harass us, at all hours, even at night, he was coming morning, noon and every other time of day.
Q. That was in 1893?-A. In 1893. It was necessary then in order that we might protect ourselves, I was working then in the factory, to take all precautions. They kept such a close watch on us, and were so hard on us, that the men who were receiving the lobsters on the wharf had to cull all the undersized and all the spawn lobsters as quickly as they could and put them in a separate part of the dock, hiding them to-day in one place and to-morrow in another, in order that we might save the factory or the proprietor from being fined. This was done so successfully, that I think from 1902 to 1906 the factory paid three fines.
I could go on and multiply these opinions of men who are prominent in the business and know what they are talking about, all going to show that this regulation in regard to the size limit has not been observed and that it is not practicable to observe it. The question was asked a number of times what they would think of the proposal to reduce the size limit from eight inches to seven inches. Very little encouragement was given to the committee to report in favour of that proposition. In the first place, it would seem to be too lovs a size to produce seed lobsters. The lobster, we were informed, does not reproduce itself until it is about eight inches in size. So if we legalized the killing of them down to seven inches, we should not arrive a-t the object we seek. And besides, we should have the same difficulty in regard to enforcement-the enforcement'
of the seven inch regulation would not be any easier than the enforcement of the sight-inch regulation. It would appear that, unless the department is willing to put a large force of men on the coast, and, for that purpose, to spend a great many thousands of dollars, it would ba impossible to enforce a regulation of that kind. The committee, therefore, sought to learn whether there was not some other plan that could be adopted that would conserve the industry better than this size limit. Of course, i need to say, we were all impressed with the great importance of preserving the lobster industry. It is the greatest fishing industry we have at present on our coast; and next to the salmon industry in British Columbia, it is the greatest fishing industry of Canada. When we know that it is the last remaining great lobster industry in the world, we realize how important it is. I am informed that lobsters are not found in the Pacific ocean, nor in the Indian ocean; they are not found far north nor far south. They are found only in the North Atlantic. They are now, I believe, quite scarce on the coast of Europe, and there are not many on the coast of the United States, with the exception of Maine. So we have in the maritime provinces the last great lobster fishery of the world, and it is of the greatest importance that we should preserve it. The members of the committee were all impressed with the idea that, as it had proved that the present regulation is not working well and is not resulting in the preservation of the lobsters, and that it is not possible to enforce it without stopping the industry altogether, it was necessary to arrive at some other method by which the smallest of the lobsters could be protected. And the proposal submitted is that a regulation trap be prescribed with the slats so far apart that the small lobsters will have a chance to escape. In this way the lobster can look after himself without the fishery overseer chasing around to look after him. We think this method would work out to the preservation, to some extent at all events, of the industry.
There is some but not much difference of opinion in regard to the question as to whether the trap will work out in practice or not. A great many witnesses-men who had large experience in these matters- were asked their opinion and frankly expressed an opinion and it was always present to the committee in looking over the evidence that, of late years, as the lobsters began to get smaller in size, the slats of the traps began to come closer together. It was obvious that the fishermen were doing this for the purpose of keeping in the small lobsters, and it was thought that, if we could arrive at a regulation trap with slats far enough apart to let the small lobsters out, we should be Mr. SINCLAIR.
making a long step toward preserving the industry. Having settled in our own mind that the old regulation had proved useless altogether, it was felt that a regulation of the kind proposed, if established and carried out, might be of great advantage in preserving the industry. Regarding the recommendations made by Commander Wakeham, we could not make up our minds to agree with altogether, some of them were very good, but others seemed not entirely advisable. For example, he recommended that, west of Halifax, the size limit should be 101 inches. When we looked over the measurements made in that district we found that only about 15 per cent of the lobsters caught in that district came up to the limit he recommended. We felt that to adopt the regulation he proposed would be equivalent to stopping the lobster industry altogether in the district west of Halifax. We found that measurements made were as follows :
County. No. of Lobsters.
It was found that 55-9 per cent of these lobsters were under the legal size-that is. under nine inches-and only 15 per cent were over 10 inches. To adopt a limit of 10i inches, as any hon. member can see, would be equivalent to stopping the whole lobster industry in that territory. There were 53 canneries operating in that territory in 1909, and they produced a total pack of 1,451,720 1-lb- cans valued at $362,930. The regulation, in that case, of course, would protect the lobsters. But, in my opinion, it would kill the fishermen. We do not think the lobster industry in such a bad position that it is necessary to do that.
But instead of this, we are making the recommendation, of which I have already spoken, prescribing a certain kind of trap to- be used. You will see, sir, how easy it is for the inspector to inspect the traps. He can take a trip along the coast in the spririg of the year before the fishing begins and have a look at them. He can easily tell whether the traps are or are not made according to the rule requiring that the slats be not less than 11 inches apart.
While it would be impossible for him to watch. 10,000 or 12,000 fishermen and 700 factories, it is quite possible for the inspectors along the coast to have an eye on the traps and to see that they are not used unless they are made according to the regulations. This question was put to a large number of witnesses, and if the House will bear with me I would like to put these witnesses on record. I know that
there will be a great deal of criticism of what the committee have done. I know there are many theorists along the coast who will say we have taken a step backward, and that the step we have taken is likely to result in the destruction of the lobster industry; and, for that reason, I would like to show to the House and the country that in this investigation held by Commander Wakeham along the coast a large number of men have undertaken on oath to give their opinion in regard to this proposal, and also in regard to the right kind of trap or engine to be used so as to protect the fish. I shall read a number of these opinions. The following is the opinion of Mr. Wm. O. Porter, who describes himself as a fisherman:
Q. What is your opinion about the matter of the trap, do you think that the taking of small lobsters could be regulated by insisting on a certain legal trap with a fixed space between the slats?-A. I do not think there is any doubt but what you could build traps so that all of them below the proper size would find their way out, because they are very active in hunting their way out of the trap. I have found them nearly out when hauling the trap.
Q. Some fishermen hold that once the trap is disturbed the lobster will not try to get out?-A. I suppose that is a matter of opinion. I know that if I put a trap in the water with the laths wide apart I do not get as many small lobsters, it is a question whether they get in or not.
Q. Is there a tendency in recent years to narrow the slats?-A. There has been with me I know.
I wish to give the evidence of Augustus Harris, a member of the executive of the Fishermen's Union of Long Beach, N.S.:
Q. Is there any difference in the trap you now fish with compared with that in use when you began years ago?-A. Tes, I doubt if the space between the laths will now average three-quarters of an inch, and it used to be one and three-quarters.
Q. That reduction must have been made for the purpose of holding the small lobster, was it not?-A. Certainly, that is the only reason.
Q. Do you think we could protect the general run of small lobsters by insisting on a standard trap with a certain space between the laths, say one and a half inch?-A. Yes, I have always been of that opinion.
Q. You think that would govern it largely? -A. Yes, I could give you the figures of lobsters that I counted myself and the number of traps; one man fished 38 traps and he had 381 lobsters, 152 from 9 to 101, and he had only 12 tinkers; another man had 96 traps closely lathed, and he got 36 large lobsters, 156 from 9 to 10| and over 400 tinkers.
Charles Lonnes, of Canso, says:
Q. We were looking at some traps on the wharf and they run about one inch here?- A. Yes.
Q. Do you think that has anything to do with the capture of small lobsters? Do you
think that the capture of these small lobsters can be controlled to any extent by regulating the width between the slats?-A. To a very great extent. If you put the slats close enough together you are bound to capture the greater amount of small lobsters that go in, whereas if the slats were far enough apart so that they could go out any way you would get very few of them.
Take the opinion of Mr. John W. Sproull, a fish dealer and packer of Canso, N.S., who has a large experience in this business and whose opinion is worth as much as that of any man on the coast of Nova Scotia on such a question:
Q. Other propositions have been made, some have said, 'give us a 7 inch limit instead of an 8-inch limit and we will observe the law.' You know that we began with a 9-inch limit which was not enforced and then an 8-inch limit was given because they said they would observe that, and now they want a 7-inoh limit.-A. I would not propose anything of that kind. If you were going to propose anything along this line I -would propose that the trap should have a certain space between the slats.
Q. What would you put that at here?-A. The fishermen around here use the head of the hammer as a gauge, and that is about an inch. There are a few undersized lobsters caught in those traps, but I should say that if the space were made 1 and I inch it would be all right.
Take the opinion of a man in the Magdalen Islands, Mr. W. C. Leslie, a lobster packer of the Magdalen Islands, who says:
The ordinary traps here have laths an inch apart and they very seldom take lobsters under 7 inches.
Mr. Robert Bell, of Alberton, P.E.I., gave the following testimony:
Q. Do you think the regulations have ever been enforced in your recollection?-A. Not strictly.
Q. Were they ever, at any time, more strictly enforced than they are now?-A. Seme 15 years ago there was a law passed that the first two laths of the trap had to be an inch and a quarter apart. That was strictly enforced. At that time also there was a limit regulation and that was very strictly enforced. I know that because I was fined once.
Q. Have you ever heard of anybody being fined recently?-A. Not very recently.
Q. Was that when Sir Hibbert Tupper was minister?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. What do you think yourself of that regulation limiting the space between the slats? -A. I think it had a great tendency to protect the small lobster and the really small lobsters are of no value to the packer. It is a great injury to the industry to destroy them.
Here is a man who had had experience, and who used the trap made according to that regulation 15 years ago, and he gives his experience that it did operate to protect the small lobster.
Take the opinion ,of Peter Mclsaac, of Bay Shore, P.E.I.: ,
Q. What would you fix the limit of 6pace at, say in the three lower slats?-A. I would say not less than an inch anyway. I put mine at about an inch or slightly over that. That is from my own experience, I find it better.
Q. Do you not think by having a space of at least an inch and a quarter a larger proportion of the undersized lobsters would escape?-A. Well, yes.
Q. It must be wrong, must it not, to kill off the small lobsters?-A. It is, but the trap at the end, as a general thing, has heads that are knit with quite a large mesh and a large number of the small lobsters work through anyway.
I want also to give the opinion of Mr. T. C. Gallant, a canner and fisherman of Summerside, P.E.I.:
If the fishermen build their traps with only half an inch space between the slats they will catch all the small fish, but if the slats are an inch apart those lobsters have got a chance to work their way out. I believe in hatcheries all right but not in spending money on them and then allowing the fishermen to take lobsters that are only four inches in 6ize.
W. A. Macdonald of Grand Tracadie Harbour, P.E.I., said:
Q. What distance apart are the slats in your traps?-A. I don't think they would be more than three-quarters of an inch at the outside.
Q. Do you think it is desirable to have the slats as narrow as that; do you not think it would be wiser to keep them a little farther apart and in that way allow the small lobsters a chance to get out?-A. If you lost the small lobsters on the north side you would lose them all, and you might as well shut down.
Q. What lobsters do you throw out?-A. We dont throw out any.
Then take the evidence of Mr. J. A. Ellis, a canner at Cape St. Mary, N.S.:
Q. Do you think by establishing a standard space between the slats it would be possible to allow the escape of the small lobsters?-A. Yes, I think it is. Of course the narrower you have the space between the slats the smaller lobsters you will hold; you will let out the very small lobsters if you have a little more space between the slats.
Wm. McLeod, of Alberton, P.E.I., gave the following evidence:
Q. Now, with a view to protecting the fishery, are there any changes you would suggest in the regulations?-A. I would suggest to put the laths in the trap far enough apart to let a 7-inch lobster go. It would be a little bard for a few years but it would bring thf fishery up again to its former state.
Q. What would you say to a regulation which would do away with the size limit, control the distance between the slats, and close the fishery on the 1st July, always protecting the berried lobster as thoroughly as possible?-A. I think that would be a good thing.
Q. Do you think if that were done and carried out strictly it would have the effect of preserving the industry?-A. It would have that effect.