Archived - Government Response to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Report – The Management of Atlantic Fish Stocks: Beyond the 200-Mile Limit

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Preamble to Responses:

The Government thanks the Committee for its recommendations. The Report reflects long-standing concerns about the state of fish stocks outside Canada’s 200-mile zone on the Atlantic coast on the part of the concerned provinces and territories, the fishing industry, fishers, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and the general public, and the role of various parties and policy instruments in affecting these outcomes. Recent developments have overtaken some of the recommendations - namely the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Sustainable Fisheries Resolution of early December 2006 and Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) meetings on Convention reform during the spring of 2007. The international context to Canada’s reform efforts has improved. This context includes the significant progress made during the last year in improving the management of Atlantic fish stocks on the high seas, the range of direct interests in these developments, as well as developments at the global level in respect of fisheries and oceans governance.

The Government of Canada has led concerted efforts throughout 2005-2006, supported by other members of NAFO, which have led to significant progress towards the reform of NAFO. The reforms include toughening monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), and advancing the negotiations towards an amended Convention with significant improvements to the decision-making process.

Overfishing problems in the Northwest Atlantic are, however, symptomatic of broader global challenges affecting high seas fisheries and not just bilateral issues with other major players in the North Atlantic. The root causes of broader governance weaknesses, coupled with fishing overcapacity, have resulted in overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and degraded oceans ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide. Internationally, it has been recognized that long-term solutions such as stronger global norms and governance improvements are needed to address the economic, social and legal aspects of the problem.

The Government of Canada has developed a comprehensive strategy and taken action to address these challenges, both in the Northwest Atlantic and globally. As background, Canada ratified the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) in December 1999 and played a leading role in its elaboration throughout the negotiation stage. The full and effective implementation of UNFSA constitutes an important tenet of Canada’s strategy to improve international fisheries and oceans governance with UNFSA’s principles of the precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, compatibility between measures taken outside and inside 200-mile zones, and the pivotal role of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) in the management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. This strategy, which was developed during 2005 by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), provides a broad, integrated plan to: stop overfishing in NAFO and other RFMOs; strengthen the implementation of existing international law and agreements in fishing and for broader biodiversity protection as part of improved global fisheries and oceans management; advocate the identification and protection of sensitive high seas ecosystems; and build all of this on better science to improve decision-making. The strategy is aimed at changing the international governance framework for the high seas and thus ensuring sustainable fisheries and healthier oceans as a contribution to sustainable development.

In February 2007, the Government also appointed an Ambassador for Fisheries Conservation with the mandate to represent the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans and Foreign Affairs on fisheries issues internationally.

Background

The Report refers to important fish stocks that are found on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. NAFO is the RFMO that manages fish stocks on the high seas, known as the NAFO Regulatory Area (NRA).

The current Convention establishing NAFO dates back to 1979. Its philosophy and management are reflective of the fishing practices and the fish abundance of that time period. With little adherence to scientific advice or quotas during the 1980s, fisheries resources declined to very low levels due to extreme overfishing. Nine of the 20 stocks managed by NAFO have been under moratoria for over a decade with few showing signs of rebuilding. NAFO, like most RFMOs, offers an "objection procedure" to safeguard a State’s sovereign right not to be bound by a decision with which it does not agree. However, when a Contracting Party objects to a quota and sets its own unilateral quota, this can lead to overfishing. This possibility for the abuse of the objection procedure is widely seen as a structural weakness in NAFO and has contributed to the ineffectiveness of NAFO’s management of fish stocks.

During the current decade, overfishing and ecosystem damage became urgent global issues. The ineffectiveness and structural weaknesses of NAFO and other RFMOs persisted. There were domestic calls to push the limits of international law and the foreign overfishing issue garnered significant public attention in Newfoundland and Labrador and more widely by all Canadians as a result of two reports by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Several ENGOs raised significant pressures for measures to protect sensitive nursery areas on the Grand Banks and called for blunt measures such as unilateral action, banning fishing or certain gear types, as well as trade bans on a global basis, although most States – including Canada as one of the more moderate voices – differed on proposed prescriptions. During this period, Canada held consultations through fora with experts from the fishing industry, concerned provinces and territories, academia, other States and ENGOs which has influenced comprehensive action.

New international instruments were created such as the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) in December 1995 to manage sustainably straddling and highly migratory stocks. The UNFSA created a new international legal framework, incorporating the precautionary approach and an ecosystems approach for the management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks and improved decision-making processes. Canada, which ratified UNFSA in 1999, continues to encourage States to ratify or accede to the UNFSA, and to seek implementation of its provisions in RFMOs, which UNFSA recognizes as the primary vehicle of governance for high seas fisheries.

Government Action to Date

In early 2004, the Government of Canada committed $45 million in the federal strategy against overfishing. Canada increased its patrol presence in the NRA to maintain vigilant monitoring and surveillance and to curb incidents of non-compliance on the high seas; it actively engaged multilaterally in diplomatic and advocacy activities that compelled States to take responsibility for the actions of their fleets and allowed more timely action to solve particular problems as they arose. These actions served to significantly improve the compliance of foreign fleets and reduce the level of overfishing. The result has been a new leadership role and the building of an important level of trust and collaboration with Ministers and officials of other NAFO Contracting Parties. This collaborative approach has been constructive in turning the tide and bringing commitment among NAFO Parties to eliminate overfishing.

Given ongoing weaknesses in the implementation of the important provisions of UNFSA, Canada took a further step in international leadership in 2005 and initiated an agenda for comprehensive and significant changes to the international governance regime for high seas fish stocks and their ecosystems. In early May 2005, Canada convened an international conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador entitled The Governance of High Seas Fisheries and the UN Fish Agreement – Moving from Words to Action which resulted in a Ministerial Declaration that found resonance in the UNGA Sustainable Fisheries Resolution. Notably, it called for increased ratification of UNFSA as well as its full and effective implementation within RFMOs.

With this new and firm political commitment to strengthen high seas fisheries governance, focussing especially on international cooperation in fisheries management through more effective RFMOs, Canada proposed to NAFO members that significant reforms be undertaken to the monitoring, control and surveillance elements of the NAFO Conservation and Enforcement Measures (NCEMs) as well as the Convention consistent with the commitments in the UNFSA and other legal instruments which were developed during the last decade. Since the entry into force of these NCEMs in early December 2006, the number of violations in the NRA has dramatically decreased.

All NAFO members have responded positively and demonstrated their commitment to the reform process. A Working Group on NAFO Reform held two meetings during 2006 which was followed by two meetings of the NAFO General Council in September 2006 and April 2007. These meetings have led to significant progress towards agreement and is nearing conclusion on proposed amendments to the Convention text which integrates the principles of the UNFSA, including the application of the precautionary approach and an ecosystems approach to fisheries management. NAFO members have begun to operationalize these new approaches into their management. As an example, NAFO introduced a precautionary closure of four seamount areas to all fishing involving demersal fishing gear in the NRA during January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2010.

As part of its integrated strategy, Canada has increased its engagement with other NAFO States bilaterally and multilaterally on several levels of collaboration. This has resulted in an increasing commitment among Parties to take responsibility for their fleets, to deal with IUU fishing and to eliminate overfishing. Canada has improved its bilateral relations with the European Union (EU) and its member States as well as the other NAFO members. The relationship with the EU is particularly important given the predominance of EU fishing activity in NAFO and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the EU’s strong influence in most regional fisheries management organizations. The relationship is founded on cooperation in a number of significant areas, particularly in a joint interest in eliminating IUU fishing in the Northwest Atlantic and globally. Canada engaged with the EU in joint NAFO inspections during the summer of 2006 and has implemented a Memorandum of Understanding on fisheries cooperation with Portugal. An increased level of collaboration has recently been developed with Spain in the fisheries and aquatic science sector financially supported by both countries. Canada is continuing to collaborate with NAFO members to finalize the text for an amended NAFO Convention which incorporates UNFSA principles and a more mature decision-making process.

The significant advances to date are setting the stage for improved and strengthened management of fish stocks on the high seas regionally and at the global level. These developments underlie the responses of the Government to the recommendations of the Committee as follows.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND RESPONSES

RECOMMENDATION

1. The Committee recommends that Canada support a prohibition on bottom dragging in unregulated areas of the high seas. To condone bottom dragging in such areas runs counter to Canada’s stated objectives in sustainable development and responsible management of the oceans.

RESPONSE

The Committee’s hearings preceded the results of the December 2006 resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and, as a result, the recommendation does not take into account the conclusions by the international community, which did not support a ban or moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. Through international consensus, countries, including Canada, supported the adoption of the 2006 UNGA Sustainable Fisheries Resolution that identifies a collective, international standard to responsibly manage the impacts of bottom fishing in all areas of the oceans.

States must believe in and support the standards and actions that must be taken or they will not be implemented. Canada supported, and is now implementing this Resolution, which outlines concrete measures that must be used as a condition to manage fishing activities in known, suspected or encountered vulnerable marine areas. Even States that had said they would support a moratorium on bottom trawling said, in the UNGA debate that adopted the Resolution, that the new consensus standard is a major step forward in the international regime for protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Based on the new standard, States are required, through several related actions, to manage the impacts of fishing activities by either:
a. minimizing any potential adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems; or
b. prohibiting the activity from proceeding if such impacts cannot be minimized.

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), as well as those under development, are already moving in the right direction. For instance, in 2006, NAFO adopted measures related to commercial fishing in seamount areas. Additionally, the April/May 2007 negotiations for a South Pacific RFMO (in which Canada participated as an observer), adopted strong interim conservation and management measures, consistent with the UNGA Resolution and received strong support from environmental groups.

This illustrates that the Resolution provides States the necessary guidance to ensure that the impacts of fishing or any other destructive practices on vulnerable marine ecosystems can be addressed successfully and proactively, without the use of blunt measures such as moratoria on certain gear types, and will make lasting progress on high seas governance.

Moreover, through endorsement of the Resolution, States have agreed to transparency provisions so that their actions can be verified and international progress can be measured. A review of actions taken will be conducted by the UNGA in 2009 and Canada intends to be fully prepared for that review process.

RECOMMENDATION

2. The Committee recommends that Canada appoint a national panel of scientific and legal experts in the Law of the Sea to determine whether Canada could prohibit dragging on the ocean floor by foreign fishing fleets on Canada’s continental shelf outside 200 miles.

RESPONSE

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Canada already has rights with respect to sedentary species on our continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. Actions that will be taken to protect these species and habitats would apply to all vessels, not just foreign vessels, and would be taken in respect of the needs of the specific ecosystem, habitat, and activities in question (See also responses to Recommendations 1 and 4).

As described above in the response to Recommendation 1 and later in the response to Recommendation 4, international norms are now focusing on the areas and ecosystems that need protecting from all threats, not just a specific fishing activity or group of fishers.

RECOMMENDATION

3. The Committee recommends that Canada immediately demand that all foreign fishing fleets on Canada’s continental shelf be subject to the same laws and penalties as are Canadian fishermen in that all vessels should have observers and active Vessel Monitoring Systems on board at all times or face immediate return to port and prosecution, and the evidence of fisheries observers should be made admissible in court proceedings.

RESPONSE

The Government concurs with the intent of this recommendation. It is recognized as a matter of fairness that it is desirable to have a level playing field in the conditions, rules and penalties under which Canadian and non-Canadian fishing fleets operate. Non-Canadian fishing fleets fishing outside Canadian fisheries waters in the NAFO Regulatory Area (NRA) are subject to the NAFO Conservation and Enforcement Measures (NCEMs) – which are largely consistent with management measures applicable in Canada.

The NCEMs currently include requirements for observers and the use of a mandatory Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). The NAFO Observer Program requires vessels fishing in the NRA to carry at least one observer at all times while fishing in the NRA – however, derogation from this requirement is possible under Chapter VII of the NCEMs. The derogation allows a Contracting Party to withdraw observers from vessels with functional VMS systems that have the necessary technical facilities in place to send electronic "observer reports" and "catch reports".

Although rare occurrences of defective VMS systems have occurred in the NRA, the NCEMs call for transitory measures such as frequent radio communication of the VMS type information pending activation and repair. These provisions are tied to the authorization to continue or commence fishing.

The admissibility of observer information in court proceedings varies in the administrative and legal systems of the various Contracting Parties including the member states of the European Union. However information provided by observers to NAFO inspectors can be included in NAFO inspection reports. NCEMs Article 37 provides "Inspection and surveillance reports drawn up by NAFO inspectors shall constitute admissible evidence for administrative or judicial proceedings of any Contracting Parties. For establishing facts they shall be treated equally to inspection and surveillance reports of its own inspectors."

RECOMMENDATION

4. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans undertake a comprehensive scientific review of the Grand Banks ecosystem, and invite NAFO members to cooperate in this endeavour. The review, which should include habitat considerations, would be the basis for devising conservation objectives and ecosystem rebuilding measures over a ten-year timeframe.

RESPONSE

The Government agrees with the intent of this recommendation. It has initiated an extensive review of the Grand Banks ecosystem. The Grand Banks and Placentia Bay (PBGB) form one of the five Large Oceans Management Areas identified to date under the Oceans Act.

Following a nationally consistent plan for LOMAs, work on the PBGB LOMA has focused on production of an Ecosystem Overview and Assessment Report, definition of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas, Ecologically Significant Species and Community Properties, depleted and rare species, and degraded areas. In early May 2007, Fisheries and Oceans Canada held a workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to review science considerations in the development of conservation objectives for the PBGB LOMA.

As noted in the response to Recommendation 1, the 2006 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Sustainable Fisheries Resolution identifies a collective, international standard to responsibly manage the impacts of bottom fishing in all areas of the oceans. As a result, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations – which represent the collectivity of their membership -- must demonstrate fisheries management based on this new standard. It will be imperative that NAFO implements measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems in 2008 and 2009 to be able to report concrete progress to the UNGA in November 2009.

Therefore Canada has taken a leadership position in NAFO to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and implement an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Concerted efforts by Canada, supported by other members, led to a precautionary closure of four seamount areas to all fishing using demersal fishing gear in the NAFO Regulatory Area for the period January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2010 and the imposition of strict protocols to collect scientific data. Canada also intends to propose to NAFO a suite of measures to provide additional protection for deep sea corals. In close consultation with provincial and industry advisors, Memorial University and WWF-Canada, Canada is developing a proposal, to be submitted at the 2007 NAFO annual meeting, for a Coral Conservation Strategy. This will focus on a large section of ocean area on the Southwest Slope of the Grand Banks, NAFO Division 3O.

Canada is also developing a proposal for submission at the 2007 NAFO annual meeting for a 3NO cod conservation plan and recovery strategy. The proposal will focus on maintaining the existing NAFO moratorium for 3NO cod, along with implementation of more stringent by-catch limits, and implementation of the precautionary approach and ecosystem considerations.

Canada plays an important role in the NAFO Scientific Council and is working with other NAFO members to implement a Study Group on Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries which is consistent with the current NAFO focus on implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

RECOMMENDATION

5. The Committee recommends that Canada immediately inform NAFO and its members that Canada considers the legal text of the draft NAFO Convention (fourth revision, 13 October 2006) is unacceptable in its current form. Canada, as the major coastal state and fishery interest, should take the lead in drafting a new version of the legal text to take forward its negotiations. In so doing, Canada should refuse the imposition of the two-thirds voting rule and any other changes that could weaken Canada’s control within the 200-mile limit and its position outside 200 miles.

RESPONSE

It should be noted that the legal text that the Committee reviewed (fourth revision, 13 October 2006) was the Chair’s Working Paper as a result of just two meetings of the Working Group on NAFO Reform during 2006. This document did not reflect the views of the Government.

The Government agrees with most of the observations noted in the Committee’s report except for that concerning the two-thirds voting rule which is explained below.

Substantive concerns on the legal text were raised in a subsequent negotiation with NAFO members during the General Council intersessional meeting held April 19-20, 2007. Concerns of a technical editing nature were also addressed during the Technical Editing Working Group meeting on May 22-23, 2007. Canada has played an active role in the reform process since it was initiated following a Canadian-European Union proposal at the September 2005 NAFO annual meeting. Canada has placed a reservation on the Convention text that emerged from the two meetings noted above with respect to the area of application of the Convention. Canada will not accept the text unless it is made clear that the new text does not infringe on the absolute discretion of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to manage the fishery inside Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone.

With respect to the two-thirds voting rule for decision-making instead of a simple majority, consultations with NAFO advisors including concerned provinces and territories and industry concluded there are benefits and risks to either voting system. However, after full discussion on this matter, it was concluded that it would be beneficial to Canada to include this higher threshold in the current and future NAFO contexts. At the NAFO General Council meeting, there was consensus among NAFO Parties to maintain a simple majority with respect to requests for ad hoc panels to facilitate resolution of objections and disputes.

RECOMMENDATION

6. The Committee recommends that expert parties outside of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade should advise on the draft Convention and procedural changes. These parties should include former DFO and other former officials experienced in the field, as well as academic and industry representatives.

RESPONSE

The Government recognizes and appreciates the level of Canadian expertise present on this matter in Canada and consults regularly with academics, industry representatives, non-governmental organizations as well as provinces and territories. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officials have also consulted on the proposed amendments of the Convention with former DFO officials experienced in negotiations on NAFO matters over many years. These included witnesses that appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans including two former Directors General of DFO International Directorate and a former DFO Deputy Minister.

In addition, DFO officials have consulted closely with lawyers at the Department of Justice and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT). Consultations have also taken place with NAFO advisors including the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and senior representatives of the Canadian fishing industry that have been involved with NAFO-related issues for a number of years. DFO officials meet with WWF-Canada several times annually on NAFO related issues including progress on NAFO reform.

Canada also took into consideration the recommendations proposed by the Advisory Panel on the Sustainable Management of Straddling Fish Stocks in the Northwest Atlantic. The majority of the recommendations have been reflected in the proposed amendments of the NAFO Convention.

RECOMMENDATION

7. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans hold discussions with the European Union with the aim of concluding a bilateral agreement on rebuilding fish stocks in the NAFO Regulatory Area. Canada should indicate to the European Union its willingness to make a sizeable investment in research to rebuild those stocks if the EU agrees to match Canada’s contribution in this effort.

RESPONSE

As part of its integrated strategy on fisheries and oceans governance, Canada has increased its engagement with other NAFO members bilaterally and multilaterally on several levels of collaboration. The European Union (EU) and Canada have worked closely together to implement the Greenland Halibut Rebuilding Plan. As noted in the response to Recommendation 4, Canada intends to propose a recovery and conservation plan for 3NO cod at the 2007 NAFO annual meeting.

The rebuilding of fish stocks is a priority for Canada as well as all NAFO members. In order for rebuilding initiatives to be effective, they need to be accepted and adopted by all NAFO members. Ideally, those NAFO members with an active fishing presence in the NAFO Regulatory Area should be contributing to scientific research in the area.

Canada and the EU have also improved their overall cooperation in science in NAFO. In addition, Canada and Spain are cooperating bilaterally in this area. On April 30, 2007, a Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science to renew the commitment between Spain and Canada to collaborate in marine sciences. This followed a successful Canada-Spain Science Workshop in Moncton in March of 2007, involving scientists from both countries.

The Canada-Spain LOI is intended to provide a framework for selecting scientific projects of mutual interest, defining support (both financial and human resource) and funding instruments and other provisions that may be required.

RECOMMENDATION

8. The Committee recommends that, in future, Canada should take full advantage of the options for enforcement, dispute settlement, and other provisions made possible under the United Nations Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFSA).

RESPONSE

Canada ratified the United Nations Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFSA) in December 1999 and played a leading role in its elaboration throughout the negotiation stage. Full and effective implementation of UNFSA constitutes an important tenet of the Government’s strategy to improve international fisheries and oceans governance because of UNFSA’s principles of the precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, compatibility of measures taken outside and inside 200-mile zones, and the pivotal role of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) in the management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. The implementation of UNFSA within RFMOs was a guiding feature of Canada’s approach to the reform of NAFO.

It is envisioned that RFMOs would work to resolve differences through collaborative agreements suitable to the RFMO in question, if relevant, before resorting to formal UNFSA dispute settlement procedures. Canada’s approach is to work to a consensus set of procedures in NAFO that includes ultimate recourse to UNFSA and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) dispute settlement procedures in the event of irreconcilable differences among NAFO Parties. In fact, this is incorporated into the proposed amendments to the NAFO dispute settlement process that establishes a dispute settlement procedure where none was before.

The proposed objective and general principles of the amended NAFO Convention are consistent with UNFSA obligations that provide for modern fisheries management. The precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management are also introduced as guiding principles in the amended Convention. These provisions are intended to ensure effective conservation and sustainable management.

Significant progress has also been made in strengthening the decision-making process and establishing dispute settlement mechanisms. The new decision-making process requires the objecting Contracting Party to provide an explanation and allows for a panel review of the explanation and

Commission decision. Where a panel is convened, the Contracting Party that objects has to establish that the alternative measures it adopts in place of the NAFO measure are consistent with the objective of the Convention and preserve the rights of all Contracting Parties.

The amended Convention also provides for disputes to be submitted to compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions under UNFSA or UNCLOS.

RECOMMENDATION

9. The Committee recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans indefinitely maintain the recent increase in Canadian surveillance and enforcement activity in the Regulatory Area. Further use should be made of Canadian Forces vessels and aircraft in fisheries patrols as part of their training and manoeuvres.

RESPONSE

Given the importance of the Grand Banks to Canada’s interests, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has made an ongoing commitment to maintain, and where possible enhance, the existing level of patrol and inspection activity in the NAFO Regulatory Area (NRA). Indeed, new funding provided in 2004 for an enhanced federal presence in the NRA became permanent in the 2005 budget, allowing long-term fulfillment of Canada’s important enforcement role.

In 2006, NAFO adopted a series of new monitoring, control and surveillance measures. These strengthened measures resulted in fewer infractions in the NRA while the number of inspections has remained at the same enhanced level.

DFO has a longstanding agreement through Memoranda of Understanding with National Defence (DND) which provides a framework for the Canadian Forces to support DFO patrol activities in the NRA and other areas such as the north Pacific. Working within the context of DND’s mandate, priorities and capabilities, DFO continues to work closely with them to identify opportunities for enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of NAFO patrols.

RECOMMENDATION

10. The Committee recommends that Canada press its partners in the Northwest Atlantic to make NAFO a model and much more successful Regional Fisheries Management Organization, with a bigger voice for the coastal state and with appropriate provisions for the European Union as the other major member.

RESPONSE

Canada has made the strengthening and modernization of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations a key element of its Strategy to improve international fisheries and oceans governance.

As part of its integrated strategy, Canada has increased its engagement with other NAFO members bilaterally and multilaterally on several levels of collaboration. In this regard, Canada’s relationship with the European Union (EU) is particularly important given the predominance of EU fishing activity in NAFO and the EU’s strong influence in many regional fisheries management organizations. Canada’s relationship with the EU is founded on cooperation in a number of significant areas, particularly in a joint interest in eliminating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Northwest Atlantic as well as globally.

Canada and the EU also have cooperated in the reform of NAFO. Following the May 2005 conference on the Governance of High Seas Fisheries and the United Nations Fish Agreement, upon the Canada-EU proposal, NAFO initiated a reform process in September 2005 to modernize the Organization, its procedures and standards. Meetings of the Working Group on NAFO Reform followed by meetings of the NAFO General Council in September 2006 and April 2007 have led to significant progress towards agreement on proposed amendments to the Convention text which integrates the principles of the United Nations Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFSA), including the application of the precautionary approach and an ecosystems approach to fisheries management as well as the obligation by Contracting Parties to apply penalties commensurate with the severity of infractions.

The proposed amendments to the Convention also provide for a mature decision-making process which requires the objecting Contracting Party to provide an explanation and allows for a panel review of the explanation and Commission decision. Where a panel is convened, the Contracting Party that objects has to establish that the alternative measures it adopts in place of the NAFO measure are consistent with the objective of the Convention and preserve the rights of all Contracting Parties. The amended Convention also provides for disputes to be submitted to compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions of UNFSA or United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

However, Canada has developed important working relationships with all NAFO members, and not just the European Union. This has been constructive in bringing commitment among Parties to eliminate overfishing.

Together with this new collaborative approach, the proposed amendments to the NAFO Convention, which integrate the principles of UNFSA, promise to make NAFO a much more successful regional fisheries management organization.

RECOMMENDATION

11. The Committee recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans jointly evaluate the effectiveness of NAFO’s sanctions system to determine whether the guidelines adopted in September 2006 are deterring violations in the Regulatory Area, and report to the Committee no later than 31 December 2008.

RESPONSE

The Government is evaluating the effectiveness of the improvements to the NAFO Conservation and Enforcement Measures (NCEMs) which entered into force in early December 2006. The NAFO Standing Committee that deals with monitoring and compliance issues (STACTIC) conducts an annual assessment of compliance in the NAFO Regulatory Area. NAFO Contracting Parties also are required to report to the Standing Committee on International Control (STACTIC) each year regarding the follow-up to infringements, including a full accounting of penalties imposed, either administratively by flag States or as a result of court proceedings.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) will closely monitor the penalties imposed since the entry into force of the amendments to the NCEMs in September 2006. The Government will report to the Committee by December 31, 2008 on its evaluation of the new measures.

 

GLOSSARY

DFAIT Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
DFO Fisheries and Oceans Canada
DND National Defence
EEZ Exclusive Economic Zone
ENGO Environmental Non-Governmental Organization
EU European Union
FAO UN Food and Agriculture Organization
ICCAT International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
IUU Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated
LOI Letter of Intent
LOMA Large Oceans Management Area
NAFO Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
NCEMs NAFO Conservation and Enforcement Measures
NRA Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Regulatory Area
PBGB Placentia Bay and Grand Banks
RFMO Regional Fisheries Management Organization
STACTIC NAFO Standing Committee on International Control
TAC Total Allowable Catch
UN United Nations
UNCLOS United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea
UNFSA United Nations Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, or United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement
UNGA UN General Assembly
VMS Vessel Monitoring Systems