In short, the situation, as far as the inshore fishermen are concerned, is that their bait has disappeared, and it is a strange circumstance. The bait has disappeared apparently at the same time that seiners or trawlers operating from New Brunswick across the bay have been coming into the Annapolis basin and seining up hundreds and thousands of hogsheads of small herring which ultimately are prepared for use as food. I understand from communications I have had from the minister, and undoubtedly he believes this, that his experts have advised him that seining has no effect upon the bait situation. That may be. I quite realize that what may appear reasonable to a layman may not be proven satisfactorily to an expert, but I suggest that it is a strange thing that this has happened.
In December of 1948 and January of 1949 one weir operating in the Annapolis basin caught 400 barrels of bait which was distributed to the fishermen of that district. The seiners appeared from across the bay,
and immediately the fish disappeared from the weir. I am reliably informed by fishermen, whose names I can give to the minister, that from that time on they have not caught any bait in the weir. Five seiners have been operating in the basin catching these small herring, and three carriers have been transporting them across the bay of Fundy to the canning plant in New Brunswick.
As I said, I am not going to quarrel with the experts, but I suggest to the minister that to the layman there seems to be some cause and effect in this matter. I am not so sure whether the cause and effect may not have some relation to the fact that the man who owns the seiners occupies a position not too many hundred feet away from where we sit at the present time, and is very prominent in the councils of the party opposite. That may not have anything to do with it, but it is a very strange thing that these seiners are permitted to operate when trawlers, as I pointed out before, are forbidden to fish within twelve miles of our coast.
It may be that the fishermen do not know what they are talking about. I can quite believe that they may be honestly mistaken, that there is some scientific explanation, but I suggest to the minister that the easiest way to clean it up is to forbid seiners from operating within the basin. He has the power to do it. The licence can be endorsed as licences are now endorsed to the effect that trawlers are prohibited from fishing within twelve miles of the coast line. Certainly seiners could be prohibited from fishing within a quarter of a mile of a weir operated by inshore fishermen. If that is done for a period of two or three years, and the bait situation remains serious, then the fishermen will have to admit that they are wrong, and they will have to bow to the judgment of the experts. Until that is done they are not going to be satisfied. When you have a situation where the bait has fallen off to less than two per cent of what it was before the seiners arrived, I suggest from a practical standpoint that there is something there which warrants the attention of the minister. I will not take any further time now, but I am telling him seriously that, when this matter is before us again on his other estimates, unless some action is promised probably we shall have to spend much more time on the question than we are taking now.