The Ottawa Citizen
July 17, 1997
We have a serious problem with fisheries in this country. Anyone who has been reading the Ottawa Citizen over the past few weeks will understand a large part of the problem: repeated failures in fisheries management, due in part to a failure by government bureaucrats and politicians to heed scientific advice and to learn from the past — a common tendency of governments, which the late historian, Barbara Tuchman, called “wooden-headedness.”
Appropriately, the Citizen has begun to discuss remedies, first in an editorial (“Fishy Science,” June 26) and then in an opinion piece by Elizabeth Brubaker, executive director of Environment Probe (“How to save fish … and fishers,” July 8). In both cases, the proposed solution to the fisheries crisis (and perhaps to our environmental problems generally) is “privatization.”
This is analogous to suggesting that the solution to a car with a flat tire is to give away the car.
The first problem in implementing privatization is defining the resource to be privatized. Is it a single species such as Atlantic cod? Or Atlantic cod and its habitat? Or the entire ecosystem in which cod is found, including its prey species, predators and the many components that have no immediate or obvious economic value.
Assuming we can define the nature of the resource, the next problem is determining its geographical limits. This is not unique to the privatization solution; it is a major issue in resource management generally. One of the greatest difficulties in the current Pacific salmon war arises because fish do not respect international boundaries (or boundaries of any kind).
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