After decades of mercilessly laying waste to the East Coast cod fisheries, the federal government is poised to shut them down. The government has no choice: There is nothing left to plunder. It didn’t have to end like this.
A speech prepared for Property Rights, Economics & Environment: Marine Resources, an international conference organised by the Centre d’Analyse Economique and The International Centre for Research on Environmental Issues. The conference took place in Aix-en-Provence, France, on June 21-23, 2000.
I’m feeling a little nostalgic. It’s the tenth anniversary of Environment Probe’s founding, and as I look back over my time here, I find my mind wanders less to the small victories we’ve had from time to time, and more to the rewarding comments I’ve received from supporters over the years, comments that touched and inspired me and led me to squirrel them away in a special file. I’d like to share several of them with you.
On July 2, 1992, Canada’s fisheries minister banned cod fishing off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and off the southern half of Labrador. The northern cod stock, once one of the richest in the world, had collapsed. The moratorium on northern cod marked an unprecedented disaster for virtually all of Canada’s Atlantic groundfisheries – the fisheries for species that feed near the ocean floor.
Politics – not science – drives far too many decisions at the government department in charge of Canada’s fisheries. The extent to which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has become politicized, and the tragic results, have been made frighteningly clear over the course of the past year.
The keynote address to the Tri-State Rock Lobster Industry Conference, held in Adelaide, Australia, on September 8, 1997. In it, Elizabeth Brubaker argues that governments should put control over fisheries into the hands of fishers. She examines the political pressures and bureaucratic structures that deprive government managers of the incentives and tools necessary to make sustainable decisions. She calls for systems of self-managed ownership that remove decisions about catches and habitat from the political arena.
How do fishermen behave? When holding clear rights, do they exploit fisheries recklessly or manage them sustainably? Can we trust them? Such questions are at the heart of the debate over the wisdom of establishing property rights in fish.
How do fishers behave? When holding clear rights, do they exploit fisheries recklessly or manage them sustainably? Can we trust them?
In an article in the Ottawa Citizen, David Lavigne takes issue with Environment Probe’s proposal to establish property rights in fisheries. Continue reading
The current debate over West Coast salmon, focusing on who should catch how many fish, has obscured another threat to salmon: habitat destruction.
This paper, by Evadne Liuson, reviews the agencies and instruments regulating recreational, Aboriginal, and commercial fishing on the Canadian Great Lakes, with a focus on the Individual Transferable Quotas governing Ontario’s commercial fisheries. Continue reading
Presentation to Managing a Wasting Resource: Would Quotas Solve the Problems Facing the West Coast Salmon Fishery?, a conference held in Vancouver, BC, in May 1996.
A chapter from Fish or Cut Bait! The Case for Individual Transferable Quotas in the Salmon Fishery of British Columbia, a collection of essays edited by Laura Jones and Michael Walker discussing tradeable fishing rights and their role in solving the West Coast salmon crisis. This chapter, by Elizabeth Brubaker, documents a century of mismanagement of the Pacific salmon fishery and analyses governments’ incentives to encourage the overfishing and pollution that threaten stocks. It examines alternative regimes that give fisheries owners both the reasons and the authority to conserve stocks and to protect the habitat on which they depend, and suggests that quotas are only the first step in the evolution of stronger property rights to protect and conserve fisheries.
What do the Derwent anglers club in England, some New Brunswick riparians, a number of Quebec fishing clubs and many New Zealand fishermen have in common? They all have established property rights to the fish they catch.
In this final bid to shed light on the issue of privatizing fish resources, it is left for me to propose an alternative. After all, critics may interpret my opposition to private property rights in the fishery as inferring that I support the current system of heavy-handed federal control of the vast resource off our coast. Far from it.
I should feel honoured that my article on the environmental benefits of private and communal resource ownership inspired not just one but four columns from a prominent environmentalist. Unfortunately, Janice Harvey’s retorts, riddled with fallacies, do no honour to the environmental cause.
f the landlubbers in the reading audience will indulge me for another column, I will elaborate a bit further on conserving fish stocks through privatizing marine fish quotas. The primary mechanism for this is assigning individual transferable quotas (ITQs). We only have to look at Canadian experience with ITQs to know it will not work.