February 20, 1934

LIB

Wilfred Hanbury

Liberal

Mr. HANBURY:

In British Columbia.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Yes. Gradually that pack diminished and the northern areas, which are of a different character, became the predominant locality in which salmon was packed. Now, what brought about the change? I think we ought to get this clearly before the house, and if hon, members will bear with me I will make one or two references to some of the facts relating to this matter.

In the first place, it must be remembered that the Fraser river is one of the large rivers flowing into the Pacific, on the upper reaches of which salmon are spawned. I suppose the Fraser river, the Columbia river, the Stikine, and some of the northern rivers as well as some of the smaller streams, the Skagit river and others, are the sources which maintain the supply of salmon. Salmon on the Fraser river are peculiar in this respect that the sockeyes usually have what is known as the heavy run once every four years. One of the phenomena of the world is the way in 7472ft-48|

which the sockeye salmon have an extraordinary run every four years; that is a much larger number come up the river to spawn. Then of course the spawn goes out to sea and it is a peculiar characteristic of our salmon that they go out, nobody knows where, remain there for a certain time and then return to the stream where they were spawned Nature in a most extraordinary manner provides the instinct which brings this about. It has been one of the duties and cares of all governments to maintain the spawning grounds in as good shape as possible, very frequently, by the installation of hatcheries, taking eggs where available from the fish when in proper condition and depositing them in hatcheries, supplementing the efforts of nature in maintaining the run of salmon in the Fraser river.

During the construction of the Canadian National a huge blast was set off in the Fraser canyon throwing into the river, I suppose, millions of tons of rock from the side of the mountain. This for several years caused an interference with the run of the fish up the river. It was soon discovered and not this particular government, but preceding governments spent very large sums of money, I have forgotten the amount, in clearing away this barrier in the Fraser so that the fish might run up. It did, however, have the most damaging effect upon the fishing industry in the Fraser river, as became apparent in the recurring four-year periods by the fact that there was a rapid diminution owing, experts said, to a sufficient number of fish not being able to get up the river to spawn during a certain period. That difficulty was overcome and then efforts were made to obtain spawn and thus maintain the fisheries, but there was a serious falling off in the supply of salmon on the Fraser. So much for nature.

But another factor entered into the situation. It must be borne in mind that when the salmon go out to sea to their habitat wherever that may be, and return to the place where they were spawned, in this case the Fraser river, they come round the gulf of Georgia, round the southern end of Vancouver island-a number go north-through the strait of Juan de Fuca; then they strike the mainland coast and come up the coast from the state of Washington into the area of British Columbia and up the Fraser. The Fraser is a huge river, over a thousand miles in length; it constantly pours into the gulf of Georgia a muddy water that carries in suspension a fine silt. When the river empties into the gulf of Georgia, the working of tides up and down the gulf carries the fresh water to a certain extent up the coast, but chiefly

Salmon Fishery-Mr. Stevens

down, so I would suppose-and I am speaking just from memory-for probably forty miles down the coast will be found silt deposits of the Fraser. This in centuries and millenniums has built up wide flats, what we call tidal flats or shallow areas. I am informed that the fish go out into very deep sea and when they come in they are hard, firm and of very fine quality, but again obeying the dictates of nature, they hover around river mouths in that brackish water of which the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Reid) has spoken. There they remain for a certain period until their physical condition is suitable, shall I sa3', to the necessities of spawning. After hovering there for a certain period, they go up the river to the spawning beds, very many of them going long distances up the main river and its tributaries. I can recall in the early days when the Fraser river would be almost choked with the numbers of salmon ascending, and they may still be seen in large numbers going up the river and its tributaries. But during the period, which may be a few days or longer, they are lying in the brackish ^waters, they gradually softem; their flesh becomes soft and they deteriorate from the standpoint of edibility. Therefore the sooner the fish can be caught after they arrive from the deep sea water in the shallow areas along the coast, the better their condition will be.

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LIB

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

The statement was made at a meeting that the fish caught long ago, that is when there were six or seven thousand millions at the mouth of the Fraser, were just as good as they are to-day.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I am coming to an explanation of that point. In part my hon. friend is correct, but not wholly so. The point I am making for the moment is that the sooner the fish are caught after they come into shallow water, the better, and the longer they remain there, the softer they become. No one will dispute that fact.

Another factor enters into the matter. During the years our United States friends-and in saying what I am about to say, I am not criticizing them; that is their business-knowing these fish come right by their door to enter the Fraser and not having very much interest in that river, simply set themselves to catch as many salmon as they could while they were in waters adjacent to their own territory. I think I am correct in saying that 90 per cent of the fish that run up the Canadian waters of the Fraser would for many miles pass United States territory contiguous to British Columbia. What is the result? Huge canneries developed at Belling-

ham, Blaine and other places just south of the boundary and the United States authorize not only gill net fishing, which is done in a comparatively small way, but the installation of fish traps and) seines. A fish trap is one of the most murderous contrivances ever invented so far as catching fish is concerned. It consists of long reaches of piling with nets stretched along. My hon. friends will correct me if I am stating this inaccurately. I think in some cases a mile or perhaps more of this will be stretched out crossing the known pathway of the fish. As the fish sweep up the coast and strike one of these barriers which are placed at an angle across the pathway they are following, they are guided into what is known as a trap, a trap being quite a huge area of piling with nets down quite deep so that there is no possibility of the fish escaping once they are in it. When they are in the trap, they are lifted out of it by machinery and literally hundreds of tons of fish are taken out of traps in that way. I have seen this and have no doubt hon. members have seen pictures of it. It is a most murderous system of fishing, but it is followed quite commonly and has been to my knowledge for the last ten years.

That is as far as trap fishing is concerned. Then they have another system of fishing with purse seines, a huge net, the dimensions of which are obtainable from the department,- I do not carry them in my mind. This net is thrown out in deep water. When they sight a shoal or when they know that fish are running,-and the men become very skilful at that,-they throw out one of these nets. It is very long, a boat will run in a circle and when a large section of this net is out it is gradually drawn together and pulled tight at the bottom and the whole net drawn into the boat; and fish are taken out by the ton, not individual fish as in gill net and similar forms of fishing. This purse seine fishing is carried on very extensively by our American friends. That again is not a point I am criticizing, it is just a statement of fact. It is done by them before the fish reach Canadian waters at all, before they get near the Fraser river.

A few years ago the government of Canada, largely at the instigation of the government of British Columbia and the fishing interests generally there, worked out what is known as the Sockeye Salmon treaty. This treaty has been discussed pro and con. In any case it was signed and passed this parliament, but it has never been ratified by the United States congress, and therefore is not in effect. The object of the treaty was to deal with this situation, which in British Columbia was felt

Salmon Fishery-Mr. Stevens

to be unfair, because we were spending thousands of dollars to maintain the quantity of fish spawned in the Fraser by supplementing nature with hatcheries, we were restricting our own fishermen so that a certain number of fish could escape up the river for spawning, but while we were doing that our American friends by a system of trap and 'purse seine fishing were taking unlimited quantities of fish. Had the Sockeye Salmon treaty become effective it would to a substantial degree have rectified this condition, but it has not been ratified and we are faced with the stubborn facts. The catch on the Fraser river fell off year by year until in 1931 it was, I think, only 20,000 cases. My hon. friend from New Westminster (Mr. Reid) knows these figures probably more accurately than I. At any rate the catch had fallen to a lamentable degree.

Then the suggestion was made that, inasmuch as there was apparently no possibility of a modus vivendi with the United States, this treaty which we had passed in good faith not having been ratified by the American senate, why should not Canadian interests be permitted to seine in the parallel area on the Canadian side? I admit very frankly that it is a matter for debate whether purse seining should or should not be allowed. I ask my hon. friends to accept that as a fair statement, but not an admission that the whole thing is wrong, I do not want to be so interpreted. However I can see their side of the question. I submit that if the facts as I have stated them are accurate-and I think no one will question them-then it stands to reason that the Canadians might just as well catch a certain amount of fish with seines in the same manner as the Americans do and thus increase the quantity of fish that we can put up. That is on the one hand. On the other hand I think it is demonstrated beyond any question that the fish so caught are of a superior quality to those caught in the river. I will admit with my hon. friend from New Westminster that such gill net boats or individual fishermen as go out of the mouth of the river and fish on the sand heads may catch fish practically equal in quality to those caught by the seiners, but I think generally speaking those caught by the seiners are superior. As my hon. friend knows, you will see fishermen fishing with their gill nets above the Fraser river bridge, twenty miles from the mouth of the river, but in that area from the mouth of the river to as high as the gill net fishermen operate, there will be a larger proportion of soft or inferior fish than would be caught outside the mouth of the river. Therefore I think it cannot be questioned that the fish caught by the seine fishermen in the area referred to in

this order in council are of a firmer and superior quality.

Another thing I want to say-and which to my mind is of greater importance than almost any other point-is that we have in British Columbia salmon fisheries a very fine industry. Perhaps I should say we had, because it was better years ago than it is to-day. But we still have in the salmon fisheries an important industry. However, the competition that we are now confronted with is much keener than it was ten or twenty or thirty years ago. Some years ago our only competition came from the Americans, and at first they competed with us only on Puget Sound. I remember very well when there were very few American canneries in the north. But gradually the American interests extended their canneries in Alaska, where they catch a very fine type of sockeye as well as other kinds of salmon, sockeye being the most attractive for the market. One of my hon. friends said a moment ago that he could not see why Canadian packers could not compete successfully with the American, but my hon. friend must at least do the Canadian packers this justice, that the salmon packed in Alaska, as well as in northern British Columbia, are generally speaking in better condition when caught, owing to the water being colder and clearer, than those caught at the mouth of the Fraser or of the Columbia. Inasmuch as the American pack is largely an Alaska pack we are therefore faced with keener competition from Americans to-day than we were twenty or twenty-five years ago. That is one point. Then in the last ten years the Japanese have come on the world market, they now catch salmon on the Siberian coast and the Asiatic coast quite similar, and quite as good, I am told by those competent to judge, as the Alaska and northern British Columbia salmon. In fact they are the same general type of fish.

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LIB

Wilfred Hanbury

Liberal

Mr. HANBURY:

By what method do they kill them?

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I think methods very

similar to ours.

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LIB

Wilfred Hanbury

Liberal

Mr. HANBURY:

By traps or purse

seines?

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

They use the traps the

same as we do, I do not know whether they are precisely the same, but I think in effect they are the same. I omitted to say that traps are used very freely in Alaska, and they are used in British Columbia waters in one or two cases. The Japanese came on the market, and they have been our keenest competitors in the European markets. Then

Salmon Fishery-Mr. Stevens

within the last five years the Russians have come into the picture, with very extensive government owned and established canneries, and to-day they are amongst our keenest factors in the world market for salmon.

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LIB

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

If I might interrupt, my contention was that price is the predominant factor in Great Britain.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Quite so. I am glad my

hon. friend mentioned that. I was saying that the Japanese and Russians being now in the picture are tremendously keen competitors not only in respect of quality but of quantity. The price competition is accentuated by the presence of these two additional competitors, particularly the Russians. They have made it extremely difficult to sell our fish in the world markets. These facts are inescapable, they are factors beyond our control, and they cannot be lightly brushed aside. We must face them; we must recognize them. What the government of the day are trying to do is this: We are tlying to maintain the high standard of Canadian salmon, and we dare not allow the conditions that obtained in 1930 or 1931 to return. In those years quite a substantial quantity of very inferior fish were packed and placed on the market, and I know that as Minister of Trade and Commerce I received some very very strong protests. Speaking from memory I recall one large distributor who said that he would never take any more British Columbia salmon. In any case we know that it did injure our reputation, and it is with the desire to win back and maintain the excellent reputation we have had on the world market in years gone by that these regulations were brought into force.

Let me say first-and I say this to my hon. friend from New Westminster very courteously-that I do not think any further diminution of the catch by gill net fishermen has resulted from the use of purse seines in the area to which the order in council refers than would have obtained if we had done nothing and simply allowed matters to take their course. I would go further. If there has been a slight diminution-and I do not think there has been very much-we are making up for it in the better condition of the fish and in being able to meet the keener competition I have just mentioned.

Then I was going to say a further word with reference to the other order in council which was passed and later repealed. My hon. friend from Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) spoke in rather scathing terms of that order in council. I recall that he protested at the time, but I want to say that it was an effort

to meet a condition which I think is inimical to the best interests of the canned salmon industry. I will give an illustration of that. A certain individual had a cannery in the harbour of Vancouvex-, which obviously is not the place for a cannery except to take fish locally. Not being able to get fish locally, he encouraged men to go away into the north-and we had abundant evidence that they went for several hundred miles- and there buy up fish and bring them down to Vancouver to this cannery, so that when the fish reached the cannery they were several days old. I am sure that neither of my hon. friends will assert for a moment that fish handled under those conditions are calculated to give the best results in our canning operations; indeed, sir, it is a menace to the canning industry. I do not want to say that the man who builds a cannery in the harbour of Vancouver should not be given a chance to live, but there is reason in all these things. A man who will build his cannery there and expect to get his fish from around Rivers inlet or the Skeena river, is foolish. He should not be encouraged, and it is obvious that he has no claim on any government for protection or assistance. If he were getting his fish at his pier certainly he should be entitled to every consideration, but the effort should be to get the fish to the cannery as quickly as possible after they arc caught.

Let me remind my hon. friend of another matter, and I do not refer to this because I am a Conservative and the government to which I am going to refer was Liberal, but rather in order to give the point of view that was taken by a government in which undoubtedly he would have confidence, and in order to disabuse his mind of any thought that the action was taken by a government whose whole outlook was out of sympathy with his own. During the entire period Sir Wilfrid Laurier was in power there was a very strict boat rating system in operation in British Columbia, and what was the boat rating system? It was a most ai'bitrary system. In the light of all that has passed I am not prepared to say that it was not the best system, although I fought it when I first came to parliament nearly twenty-three years ago. Under that system the Department of Marine and Fisheries, as it was then, without any particular rule but in an arbitrary fashion allocated to each cannery a certain number of boats. I think it ran from about twenty-five boats to fifty or sixty, and the average would be about forty. The cannery secured the allocation of boats, and then it allowed certain individual fishermen to take

Salmon Fishery-Mr. Stevens

the cannery boats and fish, but no one could fish in the area contiguous to that cannery and allocated to it but the boats of the cannery itself. In other words, under the regulations that obtained for about a score of years, the cannery had an absolute monopoly of the fishing in the area in which the cannery was located. I am not prepared to say that this was wrong; after seeing free fishing in operation all over the coast, with the grief, the trials, the tribulations and losses that have occurred, I am inclined to think that some such system in operation to-day might have a better result. For instance, a moment ago the hon. member for Comox-Alberni asked why the acting minister did not adopt something along the line of the N.R.A. in the United States. That is precisely what the N.R.A. is doing to-day; they are simply restricting the competition in business, shall I say, insisting upon an arrangement between business and workers, and arbitrarily controlling it.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

But not on one end only; on both ends.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Of course, but the N.R.A., applied to the canning industry on the Pacific coast, would result substantially in something such as I have mentioned. I must say, however, that looking back over the years I am not now' prepared wholly to condemn that system, but certainly that system was condemned by those who held the view now held! by my hon. friend. I condemned it; I argued) for open fishing along the Pacific coast long before my hon. friend came to the house. We achieved that change, but the intricacies of the business and the factors entering into it, which I mentioned a moment ago-^the competition from the United States the use by United States fishermen of traps and purse seines, the fact that they had the first chance at the fish before they get into Canadian waters, the fact that competition from Russia and Japan must be faced in the world market, the gradual diminution due to heavy fishing on the Fraser river and so on-all have tended to make the industry less profitable than it was twenty-five, thirty or thirty-five years ago, as I saw it in the early days when I first went to British Columbia.

I think the only quarrel I would have with the two hon. members who have spoken is with regard to their attack upon the Acting Minister of Fisheries (Mr. Duranleau) because they allege that he is not interested in the fishermen and is disregarding their interests. Speaking for the government I think I can ajay that we are just as keenly interested in

the welfare of the fishermen as my hon. friends are, but we cannot ignore those factors to which I have referred, which undoubtedly play an important part in connection with the industry as a whole.

I have just one word in conclusion. My hon. friend from New Westminster rather taunted me, I thought. It was rather cleverly done and nicely placed upon Hansardi, so that he can read it to his friends on the Fraser river and say how he told the Minister of Trade and Commerce, on the floor of the house, that he was the friend of the big interests and the packers and therefore was not a friend of the fishermen. I would like to ask my hon. friend, as a good sportsman, whether he thinks that is quite fair.

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LIB

Wilfred Hanbury

Liberal

Mr. HANBURY:

May I point out that he did not say anything about the miners of East Kootenay.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I do not quite see what the miners of East Kootenay have to dlo with the fishermen. I appeal to my hon. friend at least to give those of us who may differ with him credit for honestly differing. I want to tell him very candidly that I have not the slightest interest in any way-I am not talking financially but sympathetically-with the canners of British Columbia other than my interest in them as ordinary business men of the community. Here in this house, in our efforts to meet this difficult problem, and while extremely anxious to assist, in this instance, the fishermen, we must not simply escape by saying to the fishermen that the fellow who does not succeed in helping to solve their problems is failing because he is a friend of the employer or the packer or the business man. As a matter of fact, everyone from British Columbia knows perfectly well that the canning industry has had an exceedingly difficult time during the last ten years. I question if there has been any profit, or very much profit, of any kind made out of the canning industry, and certainly there has been a great deal of money lost in it.

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LIB

Albert Edward Munn

Liberal

Mr. MUNN:

Too much watered stock.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

There is. I say to my hon. friend very frankly that I have not an atom of sympathy with watered stock, for instance, in Canadian Canneries, and I would not have a bit of hesitancy if he brought the matter forward, to help him wring it out. While the operations of many canneries may not be paying, there are some operators in British Columbia I can assure my hon. friend who are just as honest as he is or myself, or at least as we think we. are.

Salmon Fishery-Mr. Stevens

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

The lad} doth protest too much.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

No, you will acquit me of that. We cannot make rascals out of everybody unheard, and I am not going to be a party to it. If my hon. friend (Mr. Reid) really takes any comfort out of these insinuations I shall not quarrel with him a particle, but I say that a government must take cognizance of all the facts of the case, and while we are just as anxious as he is to protect the interests of the fishermen on the Fraser river, we cannot interfere with the American operations south of the line to which I have referred, and which undoubtedly get the major portion of the fish originating in the Fraser river. Nor can we combat with nature or overcome the depletion of the fisheries due to man's operations and the falling off of production, except to the extent that we impose regulations that will protect the fish.

My hon. friend asked a moment ago why we did not allow longer gill nets, and he suggested very skilfully that these should be allowed only outside. He knows very well that with the drift net system-he knows, as well as a few others who have had the experience-that you could send half a dozen or a dozen or fifty fishermen out of Steveston with a net twice as long as the present regulations allow. They go out into the gulf, and with the ordinary drift of the incoming tide it would not be long before the nets would be across the mouth of the river, and they would block the river.

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LIB

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

But if the tide was going out.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I am pointing out what could happen, and my hon. friend knows that the fishermen are just cute enough to do that, and I would not blame them for trying. But my hon. friend knows, and I as a member of the government and the minister, must remember that there must be permitted a certain amount of escape up the river.

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February 20, 1934