October 3, 1997
This summer, we received a letter from an Australian lobster fisher. He had just met a Canadian fisher, who had given him a photocopy of an Environment Probe chapter from a book about the crisis in our Atlantic fisheries. Excited about our ideas, he invited us to speak at a conference of fishers, fisheries managers, and scientists from Australia and New Zealand.
A few days earlier, I had received a phone call from a snow crab fisher in Nova Scotia. He had learned of our work from a salmon troller in British Columbia, who had heard me speak at a conference about the problems facing the West Coast salmon fishery. He ordered two copies of one of our books: one for himself and one for another fisher.
Last year, we received a letter from a fisher in Rhode Island. He had distributed one of our papers on fishing rights to 160 members of the Marine Fish Conservation Network and the New England Fishery Management Council. He wanted us to know that he had received a number of favourable responses.
Bit by bit, our ideas are beginning to take hold. Long after the excitement of publishing a book, writing an article, or speaking at a conference dies down, our prescriptions for change continue to be debated by those who have read or heard about them. Our proposals percolate through subsequent discussions, meetings, and writings, gradually changing the way people think and eventually surfacing in surprising places.
This has been particularly true of our work on fisheries. Requests to reprint and distribute our papers, articles, and chapters of books have come from across North America and Europe. We’ve even gotten a request to reprint our work in Finnish and Estonian! While most politicians still feel threatened by our ideas, occasionally we find a receptive audience in government, as was the case with Virginia’s secretary of natural resources, who praised our work and requested permission to distribute a paper we authored. Encouragingly, journalists increasingly look to us for help in understanding the most hopeless of fisheries tangles. And most important, fishers themselves are taking notice of our research and our proposed solutions to the problems plaguing their own fisheries.
What is it in our work that has captured the imagination of so many fishers? What is it that leads them to describe our arguments as “new and convincing” or “a breath of fresh air”?
Many fishers are excited by our proposals to establish permanent, exclusive, tradeable rights that would empower individuals, fishing associations, or fishing communities to protect fish habitat and to conserve stocks. They have lost confidence in government fisheries managers, who, recent reports have made clear, are often more concerned about politics than about fish. They see that shortsighted governments have mismanaged fisheries on both coasts, allowing overfishing and habitat destruction with consequences both predictable and disastrous. They know that they themselves, with a real interest in the long-term health of the fisheries, would make wiser decisions. Their confidence is confirmed by our research into fishing rights in England, Scotland, Iceland, New Zealand, and other countries where fishers have the authority, the tools, and the incentives to reduce fishing pressures, implement other conservation measures, and enhance stocks and their habitats.
The work that these fishers are so excited about would not have been possible without the support of our donors. I urge you to help us maintain this timely and valuable project with a generous tax-creditable donation. With your support, and with the cooperation of fishers and fishing communities on both coasts, we will continue our work to preserve Canada’s fisheries.