Good afternoon, everyone.
I’m delighted to join Ministers Colwell, MacKinley and Olscamp for this all-important Summit.
Let me begin by paying tribute to the Lobster Council of Canada, who took it upon themselves to organize this important event. We all know these have been tough times for the lobster industry, but you have worked tirelessly to find solutions. I would like to personally recognize the hard work of individuals like Geoff Irvine in pulling this summit together. In partnership with the Maritime Provinces, our Government was happy to contribute to this event through ACOA.
The Government of Canada, under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, believes in the growth potential of our Atlantic fisheries. We believe in the future of the lobster sector, but believe that it is the industry itself that must take the lead to build a more prosperous and sustainable fishery. That’s exactly what you’re doing with this Summit.
The challenges are clear, thanks to the analysis in a couple of recent reports, and frankly many reports and studies that pre-date those. What is important is that the momentum that has been achieved this year is not lost. That is why this Summit is important and also why I asked my staff and my officials to ensure the federal government, through DFO, was prepared to respond meaningfully to those recommendations that were directed towards the federal government prior to today.
I would however, like to start this afternoon by taking a moment to highlight recent actions taken by our Government on behalf of the fishing industry.
Our Government is committed to generating opportunities that maximize this fishery’s economic value, open new markets and build sustainability. Every government faces competing priorities, but as someone who grew up in a fishing family, I have a personal resolve to help the industry address its challenges. I’m proud to tell you I fought successfully for several measures in Economic Action Plan 2014 that will benefit Maritime communities.
We all know that small craft harbours need to be “shipshape” to serve the inshore fleet effectively. That’s why the Budget includes an additional $40 million over two years to accelerate repair and maintenance work. These funds, and some elbow grease, should help good projects get done in the near future.
Other major investments include funding for the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, the renewal of the Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, and new money for the National Conservation Plan and the Health of the Oceans program.
But what’s special to me is actually a small-ticket item — the extension of the Volunteer Firefighters tax credit to volunteers in maritime search-and-rescue. This is not a lot of money, but that’s not the point.
People don’t volunteer for potentially dangerous operations for gold stars. They do it because they feel compelled to help their communities. Our Government is proud to recognize the sacrifice of these heroes.
Big or small, the investments in Economic Action Plan 2014 are all about strengthening our fisheries for future generations.
Of course, our support for the fisheries didn’t start this past February. Since 2009, our Government has invested $50 million to improve the sustainability of the lobster fishery in the Maritimes through the Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures Program. The program ends in a few days, but the results are already in, and they’re impressive.
About two-thirds of the funds1 were invested in New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. All told, 244 licenses2 were retired from the three provinces, which translates into the permanent removal of more than 73,000 lobster traps3 from the water.
What a terrific example of how governments and industry can work together to make a difference in the lives of fishermen and their communities.
Let me also mention some recent developments that will have a big impact on the lobster fishery.
Our Government recently concluded a bilateral free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea. This Free Trade Agreement will provide Canadian businesses with unprecedented access to the Korean market. With an annual GDP of $1.1 trillion and a population of 50 million people, Korea is a key market for Canada.
Under the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement, all Korean tariffs on fish and seafood products will eventually be eliminated. But nearly 70 per cent of these tariff lines will be duty-free within five years of the Agreement’s entry into force.
Eliminating Korea’s high tariffs in the fish and seafood sector will level the playing field with the U.S., the European Union and other countries that already enjoy free trade agreements with Korea.
The Agreement is projected to increase exports by 32 per cent and boost the Canadian economy by $1.7 billion annually.
Another ambitious trade deal was announced by our Government last October – the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement with the European Union. When the agreement comes into force, 96 percent of tariffs for fish and seafood products will be lifted. In the first year alone, the lobster industry could save $6.7 million.
I can tell you I had the opportunity to attend the Boston Seafood Show this year and the optimism about what these trade deals will mean for our fishery was contagious. As a federal politician I would happily put the record of our government up against our predecessors any day of the week when it comes to opening new markets for fishermen.
Of course, preferential access to the European Union and Korea is one thing, and getting them to crack open a lobster is something else again. Which is why it’s great to see industry taking leadership on lobster marketing.
- The Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association in LFA 24 gave overwhelming support for a penny-per-pound levy to support marketing, in a test vote.
- Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have just agreed to work towards certification of lobster through the Marine Stewardship Council, which will enhance our reputation for quality and sustainability.
- And the Lobster Council of Canada has embarked on a branding campaign to promote and market Canadian lobster, both nationally and around the world.
These are all exciting initiatives with much promise for the industry. When it comes to solving the challenges in the lobster sector, we must all play a role — harvesters, processors, provincial governments and the federal government alike. I was glad to see that message come across loud and clear in the report of the Maritime Lobster Panel.
Let me look now at the key recommendations directed at my Department. I’m pleased to say that we accept them all, and intend to work with all of you – industry and provinces – to implement them.
First, we recognize that harvesters want to play a larger role in resource management. Therefore my Department will work with the industry to create clear “change guidelines” for the lobster industry. They will clarify what sort of management changes we will accept, and what we won’t.
Second, we will empower legitimate fisheries organizations by working with them when they have a clear mandate from their members.
Third, we will work with industry to clarify our decision-making model for management changes. We will respect the decision of any legitimate fishermen’s organization that is formally constituted with a mandate to speak on behalf of its members.
Fourth, we recognize the need to rationalize the lobster fleet in some locations. However, as I’ve said before, it can’t be at the expense of taxpayers. Therefore, DFO will support industry-led rationalization by showing more flexibility around licencing.
Finally, I agree we can all benefit from a modern, world-class data collection system. Harvesters could learn more about catch and effort. Processors could enhance efficiencies. Exporters and retailers could gather data to help with marketing. And DFO would gain valuable information on the health of the stock.
I appreciate all the hard work and thought that went into this report. Obviously, DFO cannot implement any of these recommendations by itself. We need the support, consent and cooperation of industry and provincial governments. To that end, I’m hoping that by the time we wrap up the Summit we will have clear direction for our next steps.
Before I conclude, I have an important message that I would like to convey.
If there was one theme that came through in reading the Report it was the need for all parts of the industry to work together. That message came through about as subtly as a fog-horn. Too often in the fishery we sub-divide ourselves into tribes; federal or provincial governments, harvesters and processors, Province against Provinces, LFA against LFA. Even within LFAs, we know consensus is rare. While in our small communities the Maritime lobster industry is big business, when you are in Boston, or Brussels or Beijing it can look mighty small. So to tackle new markets and increase value it will take all of us.
As I look around the room, and reflect on the broad experience here, the desire to work together and the willingness to try out new ideas, I feel more positive than ever about the future of the Atlantic lobster fishery. You can be sure the Government of Canada will be with you for the long haul.
Photo caption: Minister Shea addressing attendees at the Lobster Value Recovery Summit on March 27, 2014, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Click here to see more pictures from the Lobster Value Recovery Summit.