It has been two decades since the federal government implemented a moratorium on Newfoundland and Labrador’s (NL) cod fishery. Since that time, there have been very few attempts to bring meaningful reform to Canadian fisheries management. According to a new report released by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), however, Iceland’s experiment with the individual transferable quota (ITQ) following the collapse of its herring stock in the 1970s provides an alternative to Atlantic Canada’s current management system.
In Reforming Atlantic Fisheries: Lessons from Iceland, AIMS policy analyst Shaun Fantauzzo conducts a comparative analysis of fisheries management in Iceland and Canada and concludes that, “The most obvious lesson is relinquishing managerial control of Canada’s fisheries to the provinces, which are invariably familiar with managing their local resources.”
Canadian coastal and inland fisheries are common property and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is responsible for setting catch limits, enforcing jurisdictional regulations, and conducting scientific research on marine ecology. In 1992, the DFO imposed a moratorium on Atlantic cod following years of overfishing, stock depletion, and mismanagement. It has been two decades since the moratorium came into effect and the federal government has transferred billions to Atlantic fishers to subsidize the industry’s decline, instead of producing meaningful fisheries reform. As a result, Canada’s cod stock remains dangerously low and there have been very few signs of sustainable recovery.
Similarly, Iceland’s herring stock collapsed in the 1960s and the government imposed a moratorium to prevent conditions from worsening. Unlike the Canadian government, however, Icelandic policymakers pursued fisheries reform immediately and lifted the moratorium four years after implementation. It has since experienced both stock regeneration and employment stabilization and studies show that Iceland’s management costs are lower than Newfoundland’s, while annual catch value is substantially higher.
Fantauzzo compares the collapse of Atlantic cod with Iceland’s herring collapse, discussing the merits of Iceland’s fisheries reform, the potential of implementing an ITQ system in Atlantic Canada. He concludes, “Affording fishers and fleets ownership of the fishery in which they operate induces elements of proudness, refuge, and endurance, whereas Canada’s current fisheries management system provides only the incentive to contemplate short-term gains.”
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