Borderedby three oceans, the country of Canada has the benefit of easy access to manymarine resources and fisheries that have long been an important source ofeconomic, cultural and environmental viability. While the fishing industryrepresents only a small portion of the gross domestic product for the country,it was the foundation on which many areas were built. The development of policyfor the management of any natural resource comes with its own set ofchallenges, but policy and planning for the fishing industry proves to beparticularly difficult. Typically, management decisions and policies aredeveloped on the guidance of scientific knowledge and exploration which createsthe basis for a policy framework for sustainable fish harvesting, processingand trade. While this seems like a concrete system, the nature of the fishingindustry itself plagues science with uncertainty. There are many unknowns inthe environment and it is impossible to understand the many intricaterelationships in an ecosystem that effect fish stocks. An ecosystem approach tothe management of the fishery is becoming increasingly important, assustainability has moved to the forefront of management regimes. This creates asystem in which policy makers have to postulate and infer in order to fill inthe gaps of knowledge.
Additionally, there are many outside factors that arenot controllable and further complicate policy making. Stocks that straddle themanagement areas for the country, stakeholder engagement and public opinion allprove to challenge policy and planning within the industry. Finally, changes inthe market are often not predictable, and can be driven by technologicaldevelopments, which places even more limits on the development of policy. It is because of the nature of the fishery,the uncertainty of science and the outside factors that a comprehensivenational fisheries policy is not possible in the 21st century. Perhaps the greatest limitation oncreating a comprehensive national fisheries policy lies in the nature of the fisheryitself. Stemming from man’s original nature of hunting and gathering, thebasics of the fishing industry have remained the same for hundreds of years.Fish harvesters hunt and capture fish, then sell it in order to gain a profit.The management of this industry has focused on information that is mainlyfisheries dependent, meaning an excess of knowledge on the fish stocks isgained from the landings and efforts expended by fish harvesters (Thorne,2005).
The difficulty with this arises in the changing nature of the fishstocks in the ocean. As with any wild animal, fish are continually changing andadapting to changes in the environment. The immense challenge of creating aneconomy surrounding such an unstable resource is reflected in the developmentof fisheries policy (Cowan et al., 2012).
It is unrealistic to think thatpolicy can dictate natures natural fluctuations regarding stocks and environmentalconditions. There are many management techniques in place to help reduce thestress on fishing stocks including catch restrictions, gear restrictions, andregulations on where to fish, when to fish and who gets to fish. Despite thisthere is still overexploitation of many of the fish stocks not just in Canada,but around the globe (Hauge, 2011). FAO (2016) states that there is an overalltrend of decreasing percentage of biologically sustainable fish stocks aroundthe world. The continual decrease infish stocks proves that there are limitations to policy making when dealingwith a resource such as fish, as the condition of stocks are reliant on thecondition of the environment. It is far easier to develop policy for naturalresources found in stable environments that show little sign of change. Inaddition to environmental changes, exploitation further exacerbates the issue,as removal of fish from an ecosystem can cause changes in the interactions ofbiotic and abiotic factors within the environment.
This in turn, effects the remainingindividuals of the exploited species and the stocks of other species. Thesefactors include age of maturity, size and reproduction. (Roos, Boukal , 2006). Since these are all important characteristics addressed byfisheries managers, policies put in place may fall short and become ineffectiveas changes occur. All this has a drastic impact on the effectiveness of a comprehensivepolicy to address the various aspects of the fishery. As the fisheries management policiesbegin to focus more on an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, there isan increasing effort to supply policy makers with scientific knowledge on theinner workings of ocean ecosystems. Policy makers often have unrealisticexpectations of fisheries managers and expect the information produced to becomplete, irrefutable, and applicable in all circumstances.
Many nonscientistssee science as always producing information that is complete, but this issimply not the case. Science is a confounding source of information that iswreaked with skepticism and there is often personal opinion and intuitioninvolved in postulating scientific information. The same is also true fornonscientists, as personal context always plays a role in how policy makersunderstand and use the information presented to them by scientists (Weber andWord, 2011). This leads to the issue that science can simply present theinformation that may affect the ecosystem and thus the fishery. However, thepolicy makers have the responsibility in deciding how science relates to andeffects the management decisions and what economic and social consequencesresult (Sullivan, 2006). In addition to the context ofscientific information being a constraint for fisheries policy. Hauge (2011)states lack of scientific knowledge as being one of the three main contributingfactors to the ineffectiveness of policy and the continued prominence ofoverfishing. Whether the cause of overfishing is due to environmental changesor human exploitation, the same situation with policy making remains.
It isimpossible to account for and understand all interactions within an ecosystem.Removal of species, changes in temperature and the abiotic composition of anarea all have drastic impacts on the other fish species in the ecosystem. Thisdirecly relates to the inability to form a comprehensive fisheries policy. Withthe lack of scientific information, there are limits on what a policy couldcontrol. In order to truly implement a comprehensive regulatory environment forthe fishery, more knowledge is needed in the field. Simply put, the sciencebehind heterogeneous ecosystem interactions is often not quantifiable in a waythat can be effectively reflected in policy (Hauge, 2011). The InternationalCouncil for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) provides advice to managers onfish stocks and quotas. However, while they advocate for a complete separationbetween science and policy, the group rarely addresses any uncertainty in thedata they present (Hauge, 2011).
Without explicitly addressing the issue ofuncertainty, the difficulty in implementing policy for the fishing industrywill continue (Lane and Stephenson, 1999). Moreover, oceanographic programshave long focused on a bottom up approach to understanding ecosystems. Thistype of approach is common for a system dominated by physical ocean conditions,but rarely is it effective in managing higher trophic levels. Bottom upapproaches increase the level of uncertainty as predictions are made about therelationships with upper trophic levels and this causes problems for policymakers (Thorne, 2005)The problems with the access to informationis also limiting for policy development in the fishing industry.
FAO (2016)states that there are still countries in the world that do not report theircatch rates and other important data to FAO for compilation and use. Inaddition, some countries report inaccurate data, which further complicates the situation.If the information on fish stocks is not available, then policy simply cannotbe developed. As fish stocks are free to move around the various jurisdictions,data gathered from stocks in only one area could be very different from thestocks in another. Outside of the environmentalrealm, there are external factors that make it difficult to implement acomprehensive fisheries policy. Issues surrounding boundary disputes havecaused extensive problems for fisheries managers in other areas of the worldand Canada is certainly not immune to this. Dwindling fish stocks often lead todisputes among those who rely on the resource for livelihood and a source ofprotein.
As fish stocks continue to decline in Canada, these issues can arise(Greer, 2016). Territorial disputes over the right to various areas of theSouth China Sea have become a serious problem in recent years. With policies ondesignated ocean territory for the countries in the region, made by the UnitedNations Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime zones are clear. As stocksbegan to decrease Chinese fishermen began to move outside their designated zoneto fish and they were supported by Chinas government, effectively renderinginternational policies useless. Disputes such as this are driven byoverfishing, economics and the need for fish as a food source (Manicom, 2012). Formalpolicy seems ineffective when customary laws are in place. When naturalresources are considered, sovereignty disputes are often rooted in deepcustomary beliefs in ownership and thus modern policy that does not coincidewith those customs becomes difficult to implement. As was mentioned earlier, many fishspecies including tuna, swordfish and sharks regularly travel long distancesthrough various ocean jurisdictions.
These species become particularlydifficult to manage as there are multiple governing bodies that control thestocks, depending on the location. Even species such as cod, pollock, mackereland squid can occur in an exclusive economic zone as well as in the high seas. The1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement is a policy that sets out guidelinesto follow on the conservation and management of these species that straddlecoastal waters, across the 200-mile limit or even into the high seas (Munro,2000). While this agreement sets out to introduce the precautionary principleof management and states the use of the best available science, there are stilldifferences**** in policy in assessing the stock of a single species. Forhighly migratory stocks, different countries possess different instruments andhave different means in assessing and distributing information.
Because ofthis, straddling stocks cause problems for an effective comprehensive fisheriespolicy. The fishing industry is described ashaving multiple stakeholders, each with their own goals and objectives. Whilemore inclusive management policies are important for the industry, it comeswith its own set of challenges. With multiple interests in the management ofthe fishery, the complexities of stakeholder management in policy making isrevealed (Mikelson & Jentoff, 2001). While transparent policy making isimportant, increasing stakeholder engagement also brings out public opinion,which in itself limits public policy making. Public opinion and policy makingare almost always congruent (Page & Shapiro 1983). For an industry such as the fishery, in whichthere are multiple stakeholder groups, multiple opinions emerge and this oftenslows effective policy making. This issue is not specific to the fishery;public opinion is an obstacle for any form of public policy (Barados, 2011).
Additional barriers to creating acomprehensive national fisheries policy include trade agreements andconflicting policies at different levels. Policies developed on the provinciallevel to benefit the region, can conflict with Canadas international tradepolicies. Because trade is such a complex issue, creating a comprehensivepolicy could mean negative effects on smaller regions and fisheries thatoperate on different scales. Minimum processing requirements provide a primeexample.
Provinces in Canada have implemented policies to keep processing inthe local area, and to stop the export of unprocessed fish products toforeigners. However, Canadas national trade agreements states that locals andforeigner nationals should be treated equally. While Canada has exemptedcertain policies in order to avoid conflict, developing a comprehensive fisheriespolicy surrounding fisheries imports and exports would be quite complicated. Ifthis is considered in the context of international relationships and tariffsthe difficulty continues to rise (Nquyen, 2014). While it may be impossible to develop acomprehensive fisheries policy in the 21st century, the future doeslook bright.
As technology advances, there may be ways to overcome some of theobstacles presented here, especially those surrounding the nature of thefishery itself. In the present, it is evident that the stochastic ecological systemin which the fishery operates makes it difficult to develop a comprehensivenational policy.