Mr. Chairman, for those of us who are interested in fisheries, it is most gratifying to note that the minister has judged it to be advisable to introduce Iris estimates before the committee at this time. His masterful presentation this afternoon has been most educational and enlightening to all of us. An industry which yields landings of over two billion pounds annually, with a market value of nearly $200 million, deserves study and serious consideration. Our sea and freshwater fisheries are among the most extensive in the world and, with a potential still unknown, are bound to contribute largely to the world's food requirements in the years to come.
The Minister of Fisheries deserves congratulation on the vast growtn and improvement v/hich have taken place in his department during his tenure of office. His department has now passed the stage of being a minor department and its present organization is evidence of the wise management required by the ever-growing fishing industry in our country today. Various policies adopted in the last twelve months indicate the progressive advancement of the industry and the desire of our energetic and able Minister of Fisheries to cope with these developments and to be prepared for future expansion.
It is my intention, on the occasion of the presentation of the 1954-55 fisheries estimates, to express briefly my views on certain aspects related to the fisheries department, mainly on the Atlantic coast and in the province of New Brunswick. I have great admiration for the efficiency and sincerity of the fisheries officials, with a large number of whom I have been personally connected in my fifteen years of service in the federal and provincial fields, first as federal fisheries inspector and then as provincial director of fisheries for
New Brunswick. I realize the difficulties these men have to face as officers enforcing regulations in the protective or in the inspection fields, or acting in the markets and economics branch, or in the information and educational services. In discussing briefly these various branches of the fisheries department it is my intention to try to offer what I may call constructive suggestions which I hope the minister will accept with the same good intention and spirit in which they are being suggested.
An estimate of over $3 million is proposed to take care of the operation and maintenance of the protective branch. The maintaining of officers on land and at sea, the protection of closed seasons, restricted areas, limitation of gear, size limit of fish or shellfish, etc., necessitate large expenditures. We realize that the department has to maintain a well organized and well equipped staff for the enforcement of the Fisheries Act and its regulations. Unfortunately, in limited areas the results obtained are not always as satisfactory as one would expect. There appears to be in certain localities a lack of understanding between enforcing officers and the fishermen. These fishermen are by far the most colourful and courageous primary producers on the North American continent. They are a gallant, independent breed with pride in their heritage and in their profession. They are resourceful, adventurous, staking their all, including their lives, against the elements. They are what we would call a true picture of proud individualism and of free enterprise at its best.
It is essential that the Department of Fisheries, while allowing extensive exploitation of known fish population, must at the same time assure, through protective measures and wise management, the maintenance of production for future generations to come. Unfortunately in the discharge of their duties a small number of enforcing officers are more eager to protect by force and apprehension than by education and a preventive attitude. More efforts should be directed to educating the fisherman and making him understand the purpose and value of existing regulations. Lesser then will become the need of apprehending him and taking him into court for conviction. A fishery officer should be the fisherman's best friend. Better results can be obtained by a fishery officer through a friendly chat at the end of a wharf or even by offering a helping hand than by trying to impose himself as one too self-conscious of his authority.
I was pleased to note the statement made by the Minister of Fisheries when addressing the annual meeting of the fisheries council
of Canada on April 28 last, as reported in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal of April 29. The report reads:
Fisheries minister Sinclair Wednesday said lobster fishing regulations will be more strictly enforced this year. If this and an education program against illegal fishing does not cut down illegal catches, the fisheries department will ask that minimum fines be imposed, he told the annual meeting of the fisheries council of Canada.
It is gratifying to learn from the minister himself that lobster fishing regulations will be more strictly enforced this year. What is most gratifying and encouraging is the statement of the minister that an educational program against illegal fishing will be launched this year in certain localities where illegal fishing has become a common practice. Better public relations and co-operation between fishery officers and the fishermen are a necessity if the conservation service of the department is to prove its effectiveness. Fortunately this unhealthy situation is limited to a very few fishing communities. I feel confident, however, that if an educational and publicity campaign were launched through the public schools in co-operation with provincial or local authorities its results would be most satisfactory.
The fishermen of our fishing communities have been neglected from the point of view of education. The federal government, through its training payments to the provinces for vocational school assistance, could easily work out a program whereby fishing communities could benefit from a practical and efficient training system, as well as from a better understanding of the purpose of existing regulations.
On March 31 last, as mentioned by the minister in his statement this afternoon, the New Brunswick fishery regulations were amended to effect changes in the commercial and angling salmon fishing seasons. Similar changes were made in the other four Atlantic provinces. In an answer to a question I placed before the house on April 7 last, the minister said, as found at page 3855 of Hansard:
In recent years a decline in the Atlantic salmon fishery has been giving great concern to both the federal authority and the five Atlantic provinces. On the federal side we have stepped up our research program, have increased predator control and stream clearance and improved our hatcheries. There was also the problem of having uniformity in the length of the fishing seasons, both commercial fishing in the sea and sport fishing on the rivers of the provinces.
On March 1, we had a conference here in Ottawa of deputy ministers from the provinces who met with our officials and discussed and agreed upon a joint program which was taken back to the provinces. I am happy to say we have now received the consent of the five provinces concerned to the introduction of uniform salmon fishing regulations
in the whole Atlantic area. Instead of having five provinces all with different seasons and different sizes of catch, we will now have uniformity over the three areas: the Atlantic coast area where the salmon comes first, then the bay of Fundy, and then the gulf of St. Lawrence.
This program will involve the shortening of the open season for both commercial fishing and sport fishing. This is the type of program which has met with conspicuous success on the west coast, where we are happy to see the salmon fishery increasing each year. I am sure we shall have a similar result on the east coast. I feel I should say that we are very happy about the warm co-operation we received from the five provincial governments concerned.
I fully realize the urgent need for the introduction of protective measures to save this most important fishery from complete depletion. The commercial salmon fishermen as well as anglers have been asked to sacrifice a portion of their regular season and accept a shorter fishing period. It is not my intention to question the decision of the department in shortening the season and adopting uniform salmon regulations for the Atlantic coast. It is unfortunate, however, that the commercial salmon fishermen have been asked without warning to accept this cut in their regular season. I wish they had been given the same warning that the minister gave this afternoon to the western salmon fishermen. If angling is cut down to a period of say seventy fishing days, the sportsman or angler is still in a position to spend almost as many days as he desires with his fishing rod. Of the average of 40,000 salmon caught annually by anglers in the rivers of the maritime provinces, the larger proportion are caught in the Mira-michi and Restigouche rivers in New Brunswick. I have my doubts if a shorter season will result in fewer rod-days and a reduction in the number of salmon caught by anglers in New Brunswick rivers.
The commercial salmon fisherman, whether his system of fishing is by trap net, set net or drift net, is the one who has been asked to sacrifice, not a few hours of leisure or relaxation but a substantial part of his earnings which are so urgently needed for the support of his family. The commercial fishermen are upset by this new legislation which is being imposed on them on the eve of the opening of the 1954 fishing season. They are concerned because they have incurred thousands of dollars in expenses to prepare their nets and fishing gear on the presumption of a regular period of operation.
These same fishermen, however, understand the seriousness of the situation and the purpose of the program launched by the Department of Fisheries. Representatives of commercial fishermen from Restigouche and Miramichi areas have been here in Ottawa
to present their case before the department. Delegations approached me when I visited my constituency during the Easter recess and all were most sincere and logical in their claims. If the salmon are going to be allowed to go by the commercial fishermen's back door what assurance have these fishermen that these salmon will reach the spawning grounds and contribute to the conservation and the reproduction hoped for by the implementation of these new regulations.
If the Department of Fisheries and its officials are sincere, and I have every reason to believe in their sincerity and willingness to co-operate, consideration should be given immediately to the provision of adequate protection to those fish allowed to reach the upper waters of our salmon rivers. An additional expenditure of less than $15,000 a year for the next four or five years could provide adequate protection of the spawning grounds in the main salmon rivers of New Brunswick, and convince the commercial fishermen of the advisability of the department's action. I stress the importance of the minister and his department giving this request immediate consideration. Unless this protection is provided, the change in seasons could be of little advantage.
I am pleased to note that progress has been made in the concentrated study undertaken on the Atlantic salmon problem by the fish culture development branch and the fisheries research board. The predator bird control-project on the northwest branch of the Miramichi river, the survey of all salmon rivers to record the presence of obstruction to migration, or possible pollution, is a step in the right direction. I would suggest that a careful study be made of existing conditions in the Nipisiguit river to determine the possibility of salmon reaching the spawning grounds. I would suggest also that additional consideration be given to the control of harbour seals at the mouth of Miramichi bay.
Activities in the oyster culture field have been most encouraging in the last ten years. Over 450 private leases for the culture of oysters have been granted along the northeastern shore of New Brunswick, most of those being located in Gloucester county. The oyster crop for New Brunswick increased from a mere few thousand barrels in 1940 to 32,000 barrels in 1948. Oyster leases in the Maisonnette and Shippigan areas deserve all the assistance and service available from the oyster culture section. Rumours have reached me that the staff at the Shippigan substation will be reduced to a minimum. Here again I wish to stress the importance of this particular service and ask for further expansion of facilities, rather than a curtailment of the present organization.
An estimate of slightly over $1 million is set aside for the operation and maintenance of the inspection branch. I want to congratulate the minister and his department for the responsibility that has been assumed in assuring that the fxs'h reach the buyer and consumer in prime condition. A rigid system of inspection is necessary for raw material as well as for the operating methods and plant sanitation. Considerable progress has been achieved in this field during the last three or four years and further efforts should be made to train help in the various operations involved in handling, curing and preparing for market the various fish products.
I was pleased to see the minister, his deputy and his chief of the inspection staff attend the annual meeting of the National Fisheries Institute of America at Cleveland, Ohio, earlier this week. I am convinced, from the minister's own statement this afternoon, that he and his deputy minister came back impressed by what was said and what they saw at the National Fisheries Institute meeting concerning the possibilities for our deep-sea fishing industry. This new method of marketing frozen or pre-cooked cod fillets, known as fish sticks, could easily revolutionize our cod fishing industry. It could *easily mean an additional outlet for approximately 30 million pounds of frozen cod fillets or 90 million pounds of fresh ground fish. Here again I strongly urge the minister and his department to closely follow this new development and, through adequate controls, prevent abuses that might lead to the loss of this important new outlet.
It was with satisfaction that I listened to the minister earlier this afternoon tell the house about the improvement in market conditions for the different varieties of fish. The sending of a trade mission to Portugal, Greece and Italy should be of great benefit to the salt cod industry. His statement concerning the condition of our domestic market was most encouraging, and his department is to be complimented for its achievement in this field.
The newly created markets and economic service has added much needed statistical information on the fisheries of Canada. The department is to be commended for its activities and close attention to current events affecting the market for fish, as well as its closer relationship with the trade commission service of the Department of Trade and Commerce. The establishment of a program of insurance for fishermen's boats and gear is another evidence of the department's [DOT]determination to improve the social welfare of Canadian fishermen. Let us hope that the minister will consider the advisability of
extending this benefit to a wider field, covering additional types of gear and larger fishing vessels.
I should like to bring to the minister's attention a resolution passed at the last annual meeting of the fisheries council of Canada held in Ottawa on April 26-28 last. The resolution reads as follows:
Therefore be it resolved that the fisheries council of Canada request the government of Canada to amend the present regulations so as to permit fishing craft over 65 feet in length of Canadian registry to fish to within three miles of the coastline of Canada.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I wish to question the advisability of such a move. I realize that foreign registered craft are permitted to fish to within three miles of the Canadian coast line. I understand also that there is no indication that within the near future there may be international agreement on the twelve mile limit for coastal waters. I would suggest, however, that before taking any decision to amend existing regulations serious consideration be given to the condition of deep-sea fishermen along the Quebec, Prince Edward Island and northeastern New Brunswick shores.
In Gloucester county we have one of the most modern and most effective deep-sea fishing fleets on this continent. In less than eight years our fishermen, with federal and provincial assistance, have built up a fleet of 50 modern draggers valued at over $1-75 million. This fleet has revolutionized the entire fishing industry of the area, and in the last few years Quebec and Prince Edward Island have adopted our fishing methods. All these vessels measure less than 60 feet in length, and their yearly operation is limited to less than six months because of ice conditions. In view of this situation I would suggest that the interested fishermen be consulted before any decision is reached concerning this resolution.
Before closing my remarks I should like to call to the minister's attention a matter of great concern to our commercial fishermen. It is unfortunate that our fishermen cannot qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. It is true that this particular problem comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labour, but I am suggesting to the Minister of Fisheries that a joint committee be formed representing the departments here to study the possibility of covering commercial fishermen by unemployment insurance. I cannot see why an engineer, cook or deckhand employed for a period of five or six months a year on a fishing vessel, cannot be asked to contribute to the unemployment insurance fund in order to qualify for benefits during his period of unemployment in the winter
months. We must not forget that the fishing season closes in October or November, and it is late for the fishermen to look elsewhere for employment. Let us hope that something will be done to remedy the situation and that we can count on the co-operation of the Department of Fisheries in this case.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES