Canada’s Fisheries Minister wants the Group of Seven to use military and other surveillance technology to name and shame countries that are conducting massive illegal overfishing operations.
Dominic LeBlanc isn’t ready to name countries yet, but he said Tuesday he has seen recent Canadian Forces satellite images that shocked him – and would shock the conscience of others if they were made public.
“I don’t think, frankly, that we have enough consensus with G7 partners and other partners because it’s not only the G7 that wants to deal with this,” Mr. LeBlanc said in an interview.
One particular image that he viewed was particularly shocking. It depicted an eight-kilometre long net that was scooping more than 400,000 kilograms of wild salmon in the Pacific Ocean, he said.
“This was but one example that I was shown that convinced me that we needed to have a much more robust international effort, and I think the G7 conversation can be part of that.”
Canada has made protecting the oceans one of its key themes when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosts his fellow G7 leaders in Quebec in June.
The government has said its oceans agenda would focus on reducing plastic waste and tackling the threat of rising sea levels, but LeBlanc is suggesting a much tougher, more aggressive approach.
During earlier remarks Tuesday to a conference of G7 youth delegates in Ottawa, Mr. LeBlanc elaborated on the source of his concerns and what he thinks Mr. Trudeau and his fellow leaders ought to do when they convene at their tree-shrouded riverfront retreat in Malbaie, Que.
He pointed to satellite images provided by the Canadian Forces, part of Operation Driftnet – a joint effort with G7 partner Japan to monitor the Pacific Ocean. Scientists analyzed the imagery of the massive, illegal salmon harvest seen in one giant net and made a grim comparison of the amount of fish being dredged.
“That would represent the entire run for some of Canada’s most important west coast salmon rivers. Take the Fraser River or the Skeena River, [a] critical, critical Pacific Salmon habitat,” Mr. LeBlanc said. “The entire annual run would be chewed out in one net in the middle of the Pacific – illegal, unreported and unregulated.”
None of Canada’s G7 partners are involved in illegal and unregulated fishing, he said, but those that were “have a pretty extensive and pretty powerful global network of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”
The various militaries and surveillance agencies of G7 countries should publicly share their satellite data in order “to name and shame some of the worst practitioners,” he said.
“People think that in the middle of the night, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there’s not somebody looking at them. But increasingly, technology says that that’s not true.”
Mr. LeBlanc also suggested G7 leaders consider sanctions or “other economic measures” to put an end to the practice.
Mr. LeBlanc was speaking to a group of youth delegates holding a three-day gathering in Ottawa under the banner of the Y7.
In Paris on Tuesday, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna discussed the G7’s environment agenda with Nicolas Hulot, France’s Ecology Minister. The two ministers discussed the need to reduce plastics in the ocean and to protect biodiversity.