Do you have concerns about the state of our fisheries, in particular Northern cod and other groundfish off Canada’s Atlantic coast?
This site offers a new and original analysis of our current problems, with intriguing insights into their causes and their economic consequences. It challenges us to change course and adopt a very different approach – one that will lead to a fishery that is sustainable in economic, ecological and social terms.
Why this website?
This website, with the proposal at its core, is intended to stimulate the broad-based, in-depth discussion of policy and practice that is urgently needed if we are to build a truly prosperous and sustainable fishery.
Surely the purpose of harvesting our ocean resources is to achieve maximum economic and social benefits for all involved, while ensuring the sustainability of the ocean’s ecosystem and all the stocks. This can only be done if we focus on maximizing the net economic return to harvesters and their coastal communities, which in turn will benefit the economy and society of Canada as a whole.
But in recent decades, the fishery on Canada’s Atlantic coast has certainly not reflected that understanding; either that purpose has been lost to sight, or it never was there in the first place. Our fishery has declined from one of the most productive in the world to its current economically fragile and environmentally precarious state. The rich dowry of cod that Newfoundland and Labrador brought into Confederation in 1949 had been reduced to commercial extinction by the time of the 1992 moratorium. Twenty-seven years later, the cod moratorium is still in effect and other species are being “fished down”, while harvesters, workers, coastal communities and the economy as a whole continue to suffer. Something’s wrong here!
This ongoing disaster has unfolded under the direction of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. DFO has attempted to manage the entire fishery by calculating Total Allowable Catches and enforcing quotas to maintain stocks. But they’ve failed, because whatever the size of the quotas, and no matter how they are allocated, the fundamental problem remains: the idea that basing fishery management on quotas can work. It hasn’t, it won’t, and it can’t, principally because it depends on scientifically flawed assumptions about the measurability and predictability of fish stocks in marine ecosystems.
However, there is another way to approach fish harvesting – one which can work, and does. The lobster fishery is profitable and sustainable, yet there are no quotas: management is based on effort, controlling input rather than output. Applying this effort-based management system to cod and other species would eliminate a multitude of problems, both economic and ecological, enabling stocks to recover and revitalizing the harvesting sector and the coastal communities it supports.
As we move forward into the 2020s, let’s replace the current unworkable system with the new paradigm of effort-based management, so that we can once again point with pride to the success and sustainability of our fishery sector.
Website launched October, 2019.