Regardless of political alignment, our research has shown that catch shares, and specifically BC's ITQ system, have had deleterious effects across the board. The system has made fishing more expensive, more complicated, and less safe. It has resulted in higher unemployment both in the industry and in broader economies, made ex-fishermen wealthier than active fishermen, and reduced the number of new entrants into this sector. We would argue that catch shares have essentially privatized a public resource and radically reduced the ability of smaller vessels and communities to benefit from the industry.
Catch shares replaced the "race for fish" that everyone recognized as problematic with a system that locks up access and wealth. Do fishermen matter anymore?
Our hope is that the data compiled and analyzed by our team will spark interest and debate. We hope others will look into our findings and prove us wrong. Unfortunately, we don’t think so – not only because we work in fisheries, but because we also work in other resource sectors where these patterns of ownership, access rights, and wealth concentration are remarkably similar.
We must ask ourselves how commercial fishing's $300 million in annual landed value should be distributed. Will there be a thriving small boat fleet or will we settle for a few massive vessels? What place will fishermen and coastal communities will hold in BC's future? Does the catch share system represent the direction we want for our natural resource policies in Canada?
Ecotrust Canada is an enterprising nonprofit whose purpose is to build the conservation economy. Working at the intersection of conservation and community economic development, we promote innovation and provide services for communities, First Nations and enterprises to green and grow their local economies. Our work is innovative, entrepreneurial, partnership-based and relentlessly practical.
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The T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation was founded in 1981 by commercial fishermen to protect habitat, prevent pollution, and promote sustainable fisheries. The Foundation supports ecosystem-based management by supporting integrated marine planning processes, connecting decision-makers with affected communities and stakeholders.
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Interactive report and data visualizations by Andrea Robertson.