Private fisheries won’t work

David Lavigne
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).

To view full article in PDF form, click here.


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