Positions On Issues



Presented at:
The BC Seafood Alliance Workshop on "Sustainability through Co-Management: Managing for a Sustainable, Profitable Fishery,"
October 9-10, 2002, Vancouver, BC
by Garnet Jones, Fisheries Council of Canada

My presentation will follow up on the points that were made in Edwin Blewett’s paper. Edwin’s paper does a nice job of answering a number of specific questions about how industry feels about co-management:

What is co-management?

Which fisheries can be considered co-managed?

What does co-management entail for each fishery?

What are the benefits of co-management?

How well is co-management working?

While these questions, and others addressed in Edwin’s report, are important, they only scratch the surface with respect to fully understanding why co-management does or does not succeed or what changes are necessary for co-management to be successful.

Let me pose another set of questions:

Why is industry:

So divided?
So focussed on the economic returns?
So difficult and uncooperative to deal with?
So angry with DFO?
Always complaining?

Why is DFO:

So paternalistic?
Difficult to talk to or meet with?
Ignoring the economic objectives?
So inconsistent in decision making?
So precautionary?

Now many of you may say that these are questions for another forum, that we are here to talk about co-management, not about long-standing differences between industry and the Government.

While we definitely don’t want to get into a debate on the reasons behind any of these questions, the solutions to them are imperative for effective co-management.

Specifically, like most things in life, successful co-management requires:

A long-term plan
Clear and supportive rules, tools, and policies
Lots of communication
A change in attitude

A Long-Term Plan: There is an old Chinese proverb which says that: "If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up where you are headed." Government and industry must both know where it is that they want to go. This will result in both parties making decisions, implementing programs, undertaking activities, or setting expectations consistent with the agreed plan. What do industry and DFO want co-management to look like in 10 years? This may be on a fishery-specific basis or across fisheries. For example, there may be a long-term plan for co-management across all groundfish fisheries that may be consistent with the integration of the various groundfish licenses. A long-term plan reduces inconsistency, speculation, reactionary decision making, and ad hoc policy development. It also improves stability, security, efficiency and investment decisions.

Clear and Supportive Rules, Tools and Policies: These generally flow from the long-term plan and are necessary if the plan is to become operational. They can be expressed in an IFMP, the harvest plan, a JPA, an organization’s bylaws, or in agreements between organizations and license holders. Where possible, industry and government must develop such rules, policies and tools that are supportive of co-management. These can be rules to ensure full participation or the proper and complete delivery of a program. Similarly, tools could be developed to simplify co-management funding and ensure that the funding mechanism is comprehensive and equitable.

Lots of Communication: No relationship works without good continuous communication. Industry associations have to be talking to the government and industry participants and providing correct and consistent information. Government needs to do the same within their organizations so that managers and staff are informed, on top of issues, and understand what is expected of them and the organization’s long-term goals and objectives. Communication needs to be welcoming, constructive, non-threatening, and two-way. Industry participants should be able to approach government officials in a non-confrontational manner and discuss issues and solutions. Government officials shouldn’t want to avoid returning phone calls or attending industry meetings. If we need to work together then we must communicate and get along.

A Change in Attitude: Generally, people are slow to change, but quick to adapt. That’s because people become comfortable with, and significantly invested in, the way things have been. When there are major changes in the way their world operates, such people resist and put up barriers. This applies to both industry and government. The management of fisheries is considerably more complex than it was a decade ago and will continue to become more demanding and expensive.

Industry must accept that:

The fishing methods and practices of the past are no longer acceptable;
The government will be more precautionary in the absence of sufficient science and information;
The industry will be expected to increasingly fund research, monitoring and management activities;
Everyone has a stewardship responsibility;
Industry must work cooperatively with government.

Long gone are the days when fishermen picked up their license for a nominal fee and went out and fished for as much as they could catch until the season closed and then belly ached about the Department until next season. Many of today’s fisheries require considerable input from industry in the development of management plans and the delivery of research and management programs. Without such involvement, the fisheries wouldn’t operate or would operate under more restrictive harvest levels and provide much less in economic benefits. Many industry participants are adjusting to this new era, while others are fighting it. The latter will not survive.

Similarly, government officials must accept that:

Industry does care about the resource;
The creation of economic benefits and wealth are an important part of DFO’s mandate and can be achieved in unison with resource sustainability;
Industry does have considerable expertise that would be beneficial to the proper care and management of the resource;
Co-management does not mean taking money from industry to do whatever government wants;
The achievement of government objectives is enhanced through co-management

Government managers can not manage as they did twenty years ago. Today’s fisheries are too complex and the financial and human resources too scarce. Government managers must be progressive and accountable as well as good team players, communicators, facilitators, and coordinators. Some government managers have made this paradigm shift. Others are trying to cling to the past by quelling new ideas, erecting obstacles and surrounding themselves with like-minded people.

Commitment: Co-management, like any relationship, only works if the parties are committed to making it work. If one party carries out its obligations, then the other party must do the same. If either party makes commitments verbally, in a management plan, or in a JPA, they must do everything in their power to honour both the content and spirit of their commitments. Failure to do so undermines co-management. If changes are necessary for conservation or other important reasons, then both parties should work together to find agreeable solutions. One party cannot dictate to the other.

Leadership: Without strong leadership from both industry and government, co-management will not work. Industry leaders must be willing to set the example and work cooperatively with government officials, be willing to share the burden for decisions, and take responsibility for their actions if they are not in the best interest of the resource or the fishery. Senior government officials must also show strong support for co-management. They must push managers to get on board, to break down barriers, and to demand attitude adjustments when required.

Lloyd Webb, a former DFO herring manager, once said that "people make organizations work, organizations don’t make people work". The same can be said for co-management: "People make co-management work, co-management won’t make people work". If you look at the successful co-management programs in effect today, they are the result of considerable leadership, foresight, hard work, and commitment by a small number of people involved.

Thank you for your interest, and I hope that the messages in my presentation, like the messages from Edwin and Rebecca, will help us all in the next day and a half of deliberations on the very important subject matter of co-management.