Despite steady injection of public funds by successive administrations, the Canadian fishery industry is characterized by resource depletion, vessel tie-ups, and overcapacity, which have led to plant closures and rising unemployment. This paper assesses the progress Canadian marine policies have been making towards rational use and conservation of fisheries and promotion of employment and economic development in fishing communities since 1977.
The analysis begins with the creation of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and its rationale in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), namely conservation. State subsidies for fleet upgrading, industry modernization, marketing, and the introduction of quota systems, such as the individual transferable quotas (ITQs) and enterprise quotas (EQs), are identified as the key policy initiatives which might realize an economically-viable fishing industry in the post-1977 period. These policies produced corporate expansion and prosperity in the mid-1980s, but there followed corporate losses because of Canadian over-dependence on American markets and sharp quota cuts.
With regard to conservation, shortcomings are identified in the virtual population analysis model (VPA), and the inability of the Department of Fisheries to monitor fishing effort by domestic and foreign vessels. The need for radical change in the future direction of marine policies is emphasized and arguments made which support the following objectives: elimination of ecologically-harmful fishing technologies; use of community quotas (with a modified individual quota system); strengthening of community management systems and development of co-management approaches to fisheries management, involving government and fishing communities.