June 14, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Charles A. Langlois (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence; Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Charles A. Langlois (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and to Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this morning to take a few minutes to talk about the motion of the hon. member who represents a riding in Newfoundland. Of course, this issue of fisheries is of particular interest to me because the eastern part of the riding I represent is heavily dependent on the groundfish fishery.

I would like to take a few minutes to address the House on this issue due to the fact that several communities in the eastern part of my riding, in the area known as the lower north shore, are dependent on groundfish activities, mainly codfish. I would like to point out some facts relevant to this issue.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has risen in this House on more than one occasion to describe what would happen if Canada unilaterally extended its jurisdiction for cod or any other species beyond our 200-mile limit. Such gunboat diplomacy may be in violation of international agreements. [DOT]
It would invite retaliatory action and it would threaten the co-operation we are succeeding in obtaining from many states in our efforts to develop rules for fisheries that would promote sustainable development of the fish resources on the high seas.
Private Members' Business
I am surprised that this motion has been put forward at this particular time when Canada and other like-minded states are preparing for their participation in the United Nations Conference on High Seas Fisheries.
The conference held its organizational meeting April 8 to 23 in New York City. Its first substantive session will be held in New York City from July 12 to 30. The conference is expected to complete its work no later than the fall of 1994. If it is successful it could go down in history as a major step toward conservation of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.

This international conference is crucial not only for Canada but also for the rest of the world because, like many other maritime nations, Canada is now going through a serious crisis in the fishery. Scientific indicators show that the biomass of northern cod has reached a critical low, which has led the Canadian government to impose a moratorium on fishing for this species on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It has been supported in this by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, on behalf of its 14 contracting parties. In the past six years, with accumulating scientific evidence showing that the biomass of various other regulated stocks is below the threshold of viable harvesting, the quotas have been lowered every year.

All the members of this House are well aware of the costs of these declines in terms of unemployed people and plant closures. As members of this House know, we have initiated compensation and retraining programs for unemployed fishermen and plant workers as an industry restructuring program.
However Canada is not the only nation faced with declining fish stocks. This is the fate of straddling stocks in many other parts of the world: hake in the southwest Atlantic on Argentina's Patagonian shelf; orange roughy on the Challenger Plateau off New Zealand; blue whiting and jack mackerel in the east central and southeast Pacific off Chile and Peru; and pollock in the so-called doughnut hole in the central Bering Sea between Russia and the United States.
This is also happening in the Sea of Japan where exclusive economic zones have not been established and

June 14, 1993
Private Members' Business
the high seas begin at the limit of the 12-mile territorial sea. However some positive steps were taken in 1992.
While there are several causes for these stock declines including, in Canada's case, climatic change, a major factor has been unremitting and undisciplined overfishing by distant water fishing fleets. No matter how well coastal states manage straddling or highly migratory stocks inside their own waters they have no control over what happens to those stocks when they migrate to the high seas where they are subject to over-harvesting by distant fishing fleets.
The specific rights of coastal states and the obligations of the high seas fishing states are only vaguely sketched out in the Law of the Sea. The resultant legal uncertainty leaves these stocks vulnerable to overfishing on the high seas by fleets from distant water states.
To resolve these tragic situations the UN conference on high seas fisheries must result in an effective regime for the conservation and management of straddling stocks and highly migratory species. By effective I mean a regime that is workable and that does the job it is intended to do, which is to allow depleted stocks to renew themselves to levels of sustainable development.

Since 1989, Canada has made a whole series of high level diplomatic efforts to stop foreign overfishing in its economic zone. The Canadian government would like to establish better international co-operation to conserve fish stocks straddling the 200-mile line, especially cod, halibut and ocean perch, which are being relentlessly overfished outside its economic zone. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and other federal ministers have had discussions with the leaders and fisheries officials of several countries to convince them of the need to stop overfishing.

These initiatives have achieved several notable successes in the past year and a half. The European Community stopped fishing for northern cod on the nose of the Grand Banks at the beginning of June 1992. An agreement between Canada and the European Community, announced on December 21, 1992, has been hailed as a victory for common sense and sound conservation.
The European Community and Canada agreed to comply with all NAFO conservation and management decisions, including quotas. From 1986 to 1992 the European Community set for itself unilateral quotas higher than those set for it by NAFO.
The European Community will ensure that catches by its fleets do not exceed NAFO quotas. From 1986 to 1991 EC catches exceeded most NAFO quotas and in some cases the European Community's higher unilateral quotas.
Canada and the European Community will work together to end fishing by non-NAFO fleets. These fleets, largely comprising Korean and re-flagged European Community vessels, have become an increasingly serious threat to resources outside the 200-mile limit.
Canada and the European Community will work together to revitalize NAFO through joint proposals to add a dispute settlement mechanism to avoid abuse of the objection procedure.
Canada will set a total allowable catch for northern cod based on advice from Canadian and international scientists. Scientific advice indicates that on average 5 per cent of the biomass is outside the 200-mile limit. Canada and the European Community will propose that NAFO make allocations of 2J3KL cod equal to 5 per cent of the total allowable catch. Canada will retain 95 per cent of the TAC.
As the European Community will now be co-operating with Canada in conservation of fisheries resources outside the 200-mile limit, as soon as both parties have given formal approval Canada will treat the European Community in a non-discriminatory manner regarding access to ports, any surplus allocations and any commercial arrangements.
If problems arise with the agreement there will be consultations to seek to resolve them. Either Canada or the European Community can terminate the agreement on 60 days notice.

At the annual meeting in September 1992, all contracting parties of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization agreed to comply with the ban on fishing for northern cod within the Canadian economic zone. In addition, the European Community announced that it
June 14, 1993

intended to respect all the resource management decisions which NAFO would make in 1993.
At their meeting, the contracting parties also approved new management and surveillance measures to be implemented in 1993, including the imposition of a new minimum mesh size and minimum landing sizes. Furthermore, as part of an experiment, NAFO observers will be put on board ships of each contracting party.
I think that Canada in recent years has implemented measures to protect migratory groundfish stocks and of course to ensure as well that our Atlantic fishing industry will survive the present difficult period, while permitting the industry, fishermen and plant workers to meet their needs and continue to support their families.
I would like to assure the House that the Government of Canada is taking every step possible to ensure the sustainable viability of the fisheries sector. I do not think that taking custody of the nose and tail of the Grand Banks would help Canada to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves and for our industry.

Subtopic:   FISHERIES
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