"The causes of the cod collapse have still to be fully understood. There is no simple answer. One thing we know is that ITQs (Individual transferable quotas) did not prevent it. Advocating them as a blanket solution therefore defies experience."
- Herb Breau served as federal Fisheries minister in 1984 under the Liberal administration of John Turner.
Breau was commenting in this week's Hill Times (Just the facts please, on Canada's fishery policy) on a potential move by the Harper government to eliminate the fleet-separation and owner-operator policies, key pillars of the East Coast fishery that protect the sanctity of the traditional inshore fishery.
It's thought that once the policies are gone the Conservatives would implement ITQs. Read here.
Here's another quote from Breau:
"In some fisheries ITQs work well; in others they have a mixed record. They are more difficult to supervise and in some cases the real private-sector experts - the fishermen - firmly oppose them. In this kind of situation, we shoud not resist change but the onus is on the proponets to prove the benefits."
Finally, Breau comments on charges that too many people do too much fishing until stocks collapse, a statement that he disagrees with for three reasons.
First, there's limited entry into the fishery.
Second, "what the federal government has done over recent decades is reduce the number of boats and licences, often by special program "buybacks." The number of fishing vessesl on the Pacific dropped from 5,900 in 1990 to 3,200 in 2004. The Atlantic fleet fell from 29,000 vessels in 1990 to 18,000 in 2010. These were major cuts."
Third, he says the idea of "too many people" causing stock collapse misrepresents reality.
"What counts if fishing power. In some instances, a single large vessel with the latest in fish-finding technology can deplete a fish stock that would otherwise support a hundred smaller vessels in a sustainable way."