Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Standing Senate Committee. On behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, I would like to welcome you all to our province. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you about the fishery, which is of vital importance to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The resources of the sea, particularly the fishery, have been a key economic driver for Newfoundland and Labrador for over 500 years. As a result, developments in international law relating to the rights of coastal states have been followed with keen interest in this province.
Of all of the fish stocks that have contributed to the economic viability of this province�s fishery, the fish stocks on our grand banks have been of particular importance.
Unfortunately, the Canadian 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) does not encompass the entire bank. The nose and tail of the bank are in international waters and several key stocks that are vitally important to our province straddle the 200 mile line. These stocks have been subject to massive overfishing by other nations, and our government will continue to stand firm against such activity.
Historically, the most noteworthy of these over fished stocks has been northern cod. Prior to the establishment of the Canadian zone, this stock felt the impact of foreign overfishing. In 1968, for example foreign vessels landed approximately 800,000t of northern cod. This stock has never fully recovered from this unsustainable level of fishing.
Besides northern cod, there are currently other stocks that straddle the 200 mile line that are of key importance to the economic viability of our province. One such species is yellowtail flounder, of which Fishery Products International (FPI), a major Newfoundland and Labrador company, currently holds 90 per cent of the Canadian share. And Canada currently holds 97.5% of the global stock.
These examples alone indicate the extreme importance of these fisheries to our province, and the need for coastal states to have more control over the management of fish stocks that are adjacent to them. It is the position of our government that we simply cannot afford to let foreign overfishing continue to destroy our precious fish resources.
Our government will continue to adamantly support any measure that is aimed at deterring foreign overfishing on the nose and tail of the bank.
This includes NAFO reform. When the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) was established in 1977, it was meant to alleviate many of the problems associated with foreign overfishing. It was established as a multilateral organization responsible for managing fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic.
The mandate of NAFO is to contribute through consultation and cooperation to the optimum utilization, rational management and conservation of fisheries resources throughout its convention. This includes those on the nose and tail of the grand banks that are of vital importance to our province.
Indeed, NAFO has failed to live up to its mandate in this area. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, as well as the Report of the Advisory Panel on Straddling Stocks reached this same conclusion after examining the performance of NAFO.
The problems throughout the 1980s and 1990s are well documented. NAFO�s objection procedure allowed vessels to grossly overfish stocks when they were not happy with quotas that had been assigned to them. Furthermore, NAFO could do nothing to prevent the misreporting of catch.
The Government of Canada has responded by increasing its patrols and surveillance in the NAFO regulatory area. This has certainly been a deterrent to foreign vessels operating on the nose and tail of the bank.
And we are certainly pleased with the progress achieved at the 2006 NAFO meeting. The province sees the new monitoring, control and surveillance measures and dispute settlement procedure as improvements to NAFO.
Indeed, recalling vessels to port for serious infringements will act as a deterrent to foreign overfishing. As well, having a dispute settlement process in place will allow NAFO members who are engaged in a dispute over quotas to have the conflict resolved within a prescribed timeframe.
This will lessen the extent to which objecting members can overfish stocks simply because they are not satisfied with their assigned quotas.
However, the province is concerned that NAFO members were given the option to reduce observer coverage to 25% when they are using increased electronic surveillance. Electronic surveillance has not been tested in traditional groundfish fisheries. We believe observers should remain in place until there is proof that this is an improved monitoring tool.
This is why our province insisted at the recent NAFO meeting that this program be evaluated after a three year period.
While the accomplishments at the NAFO meeting are significant, the implementation of these measures has yet to be tested. We need to see these new policies in action, and until we are confident that they will effectively address non-compliance, we do not see this as a substitution for Canadian custodial management.
Indeed, Newfoundland and Labrador continues to support custodial management to protect weakened fish stocks.
By applying custodial management out to the edge of the continental shelf, Canada would manage the stocks that currently straddle the 200 mile limit. This would ensure consistent application of resource conservation measures, while respecting the established shares of other nations. It will also ensure the application of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFA).
As the coastal state, Canada would assume responsibility for ensuring that conservation and scientifically-based management is applied. Canada would be responsible for surveillance and enforcement.
This would be the start of a solution that can work in a multilateral context. NAFO, as the regional fisheries organization, would continue to be responsible for access and allocation decisions, scientific recommendations and the management of discrete stocks.
Our province believes that this is a resource stewardship concept that would seek international support as consistent management measures would strengthen compliance and provide more deterrence for fisheries violations outside the 200 mile limit.
This is not just a solution for Canada, and for Newfoundland and Labrador, but for all countries that fish in the Northwest Atlantic.
However, if this cannot be implemented with NAFO, we will continue to urge the Government of Canada to pursue this option through other means, such as creating an alternative Regional Fisheries Management Organization as suggested by the Advisory Panel chaired by Dr. Art May.
Custodial management is a multilateral and collective opportunity to restore, protect and share resources for the future. Our government�s support of this policy option speaks to Newfoundland and Labrador�s awareness that the current system is not working. It is indeed time for something different. Our stocks need to be protected.
I would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate our government�s support of Canada in not agreeing to an outright ban on bottom trawling on the high seas. We support the position that a ban on bottom trawling outside of 200 miles would result in tremendous pressure on our country to implement the same ban within 200 miles.
From our province�s point of view, a ban on bottom trawling in Canadian waters would come at the detriment of many very important fisheries in this province.
In fact, it could eliminate fisheries for shrimp, flatfish, clams and scallops and have a significant impact on fisheries for pelagics and redfish. Furthermore, bottom trawling is an instrumental component in harvesting yellowtail flounder, a major fishery for the Fishery Products International (FPI) operation in Marystown.
These fisheries play a critical role in providing a livelihood for many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We cannot jeopardize the communities which depend on these fisheries and therefore we encourage the federal government to continue to stand firm on this issue.
Our government does support sound environmental practices, and there are indeed legitimate issues associated with bottom trawling. However, rather than completely ban bottom trawling, our government is in favour of finding ways to address these concerns. Indeed, alternative measures of protecting the ocean habitat should be explored rather than wide sweeping measures that would devastate fishing communities.
Such measures include the development of smart fishing technologies and techniques that minimize gear contact with the ocean floor, and the development of Marine Protected Areas.
Our government will continue to work with the federal government to identify and implement possible solutions. To that end, our government firmly believes that a greater level of funding for science is required, and we encourage the federal government to increase funding in this area.
If we are to develop solutions, we need to understand fully what the impacts are, and what the best ways are to address them.
Before closing, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly discuss some other issues that are of significant importance to Newfoundland and Labrador.
First and foremost are the EU tariffs that are applied to Canadian seafood products. These have adverse effects on many products, most significantly on shrimp, but they also have profound impacts on many groundfish species and pelagics.
This has been a longstanding deterrent, and our province has been actively fighting these tariffs for 10 years, with modest results. Most recently, I led a delegation to the EU union where we met with the Director General of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission in Brussels, as well as senior officials from the Directorate General for Trade.
These meetings were very productive, and there is reason to believe that short-term relief is coming on shrimp. However, we need to continue to press this issue, and we need the Government of Canada to join with us in making this issue a significant priority.
Our government continues to combat the misinformation regarding the Eastern Canadian seal harvest. This harvest contributes significantly to the economic well-being of our province, and we must continue to be diligent in communicating to the world that our seal harvest is highly humane and sustainable.
Our efforts appear to be productive in the United States, where there is a clear indication that our seafood markets have not been hindered by various protests and other activities aimed at condemning our harvest.
With a vote coming in the EU on whether to completely ban the import of all Canadian seal products, the merits of the seal harvest must be emphasized. Of course, the Government of Canada has a big role to play in this regard and we encourage them to redouble its efforts in this regard.
I am entertaining a delegation from the European Union fisheries committee at the end of November and the seal issue is a central focus of our meetings.
And I would like to remind you all of the fisheries renewal exercise that our province has engaged in with the federal government. It represents a new approach to addressing the challenges facing the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. We continue to be hopeful that this process will generate meaningful solutions.
In closing, I would like to reiterate the importance of the fishery to our rural communities. We can no longer tolerate the overfishing of our crucial stocks by foreign vessels. We will continue to support all measures aimed at them deterring this activity, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure the economic sustainability of this province�s most critical industry.
Again, I thank you for the invitation to speak
to you today, and I look forward to your questions, and to
further discussing these issues with you this morning.
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