April 8, 1957 (22nd Parliament, 5th Session)


John Watson MacNaught (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Fisheries)


Mr. MacNaughl:

Mr. Chairman, I shall be very glad to do so. As I stated in my opening remarks a few moments ago, the committee met in room 497 this afternoon at three o'clock. A quorum was present and there were also present the Minister of Fisheries and five officials from the Department of Fisheries. The bill was considered clause by clause. No amendments were proposed and consequently the bill was reported back to the house without amendment. The Minister of Fisheries made a statement. A statement was also made by Dr. Kask, who is chairman of the fisheries research board. Every question that was asked by any member of the committee was answered adequately and completely. There was complete unanimity as to the procedure.
At the resolution stage the hon. member for Esquimalt-Saanich advanced a very novel, and interesting proposition. I think he based the proposition on two premises, one of which probably has not been scientifically established. He pointed out that fur seals were responsible to a large extent for the destruction of commercial fish, particularly salmon. The evidence given by Dr. Kask today to the committee was to the effect that there was no such proof and, in fact, the experiments carried out up to the present time would seem to indicate that such was not the case. However, the purpose of the convention is to carry out a research program over a 6-year period. One of the matters which will be referred to the committee will be to ascertain whether fur seals are as destructive to commercial fish as some fishermen allege.
The other premise upon which the hon. member for Esquimalt-Saanich based his suggestion was that he could draw some analogy between the present situation and the award under the Ashburton treaty. I submit that no true analogy can be drawn in this instance. Along about 1910 or 1911 the seal fishery of the Pacific coast had almost vanished. It is true that at one time there was a reasonably large fishery on the Pacific coast, but in 1909 or 1911 this had dwindled down so that there were only two boats still engaged in the pelagic fishing of seal, and these boats were not getting many seals. The result was that when the convention of 1911 undertook the conservation of seals in a scientific manner they took over a defunct or a non-existent fishery. At that time I think an estimate was made that there were about 130,000 seals in the Pribilof herd. Today that has grown by scientific conservation to a herd of something between 2 million and 3 million head of seal.
Therefore I submit that the first premise has not been scientifically proved and secondly that no true analogy can be drawn between the Ashburton treaty and the present
North Pacific Fur Seals situation. Furthermore, at the present time the federal government is spending far more money on fishery programs than would be possible under this sum of money. I think the hon. member also would agree with me when I say that it would be unrealistic to try to divide the amount of money that we get from the sale of the fur seals among the fishermen, as was done in the case of the Ashburton award on the Atlantic coast.

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