Fish or Cut Bait!

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Today, only a few years after the collapse of the Atlantic cod stocks, the evidence that the Pacific salmon fishery is facing a similar crisis is overwhelming. Conservation and the fleet's economic viability are now at stake. The federal government's solution is to implement yet another program of fleet reduction and license restriction in an effort to reduce the total number of fish caught by Pacific fishermen. There is no evidence, however, that this plan will solve the long-term problems plaguing the industry. If the Pacific salmon is not to suffer the fate of the Atlantic cod, an alternative to the government's solution must be found.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Fisheries managers in Iceland, New Zealand, and many other countries around the world have come to understand that poor economic performance, depleted stocks and overcapitalized fleets are a direct result of the way in which property rights are handled in fisheries. To solve many of the problems that now face the BC salmon fishery, managers around the world have abandoned bureaucratic management that regulates the amount of effort that goes into fishing in favour of individual transferable quotas (ITQs), a system that grants fishermen rights to a quantity of fish before they are caught.

This book will suggest that a change in policy is needed in order to promote the conservation of salmon and to eliminate costly subsidies to the fishing industry by the taxpayer. There are four sections. First, a fisherman and a fisheries manager address the question of whether individual transferable quotas could be used to foster improved salmon management. In the second section, the authors present examples of experience with ITQ management in fisheries in British Columbia, Iceland, and New Zealand. The third section proposes a plan for a pilot project applying individual quotas (IQs) to the Pacific salmon industry. In the fourth section, it is suggested that quotas are not so much a radical solution as the first step in the evolution of stronger property rights for the protection and conservation of fisheries.

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