By any reasonable measure the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy, the sickly sibling of its ailing Common Agricultural Policy, has failed. Created in 1971 to increase productivity, promote technical progress, open up access for European fishermen to all Community fishing grounds and "promote a fair standard of living" for fisherman, the CFP has netted the opposite result: Too many fishermen chase too few fish, fishing villages are as poor as inner-city slums, and competition from overseas markets is increasing due to technological advances in fish storage and shipping.
It appears that by opening the waters to the public, Opération Déclubage has caused, at least partly, the general decline in the quality of fishing in the province of Québec. This paper is an attempt to demonstrate that leaving the waters to the care of unaccountable managers leads to a decline in fish stocks, and that a clear system of private property rights is better suited to ensuring resource conservation – not just in Quebec but everywhere the opportunity exists for private river stewards to improve fisheries management.
A chapter from Political Environmentalism: Going behind the Green Curtain, a collection of essays edited by Terry Anderson exploring the ways in which politics and environmentalism mix to produce perverse results. In this chapter, Elizabeth Brubaker documents the ways in which politicians, pursuing their short-term interest in putting voters to work, subsidized the expansion of the cod fishery and set catch levels exceeding those recommended by their own scientists.
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.
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.
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
Part One of this paper by Martin Nantel reviews the ecological transformation that occurred in Lake Ontario after 1750 and the factors – including overfishing, habitat destruction, and the introduction of exotic species – that contributed to it. Part Two examines the institutions – including the open access regime and “progressive” fisheries management – responsible for the transformation. The paper concludes by arguing for new, locally appropriate institutional arrangements that will set Lake Ontario and its fisheries on an ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable course. 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.
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.
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.
This excerpt from Property Rights in the Defence of Nature reprinted by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, describes the ways in which fisheries owners have used their property rights to protect fish and habitats.