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Interdependence, state competition, and national policy : regulating the British Columbia and Washington Pacific salmon fisheries, 1957-1984 Urquhart, Ian Thomas


This study explores the politics of regulating the British Columbia and Washington commercial salmon fisheries between 1937 and 1984. The principal focus of this comparative-historical study is upon one particularly striking exception to the tendency of regulators to tighten commercial salmon fishing restrictions over time - the persistence of liberal offshore trolling regulations. The dissertation argues that the anomalous treatment of the offshore troll fishery during this period may be ascribed to the competition between states for the right to harvest salmon - a common property resource. In making this claim, the study questions the adequacy of the interest-group driven explanations of policy which figure prominently in the literature on regulation. Two pillars of interest group theory, the tendencies to explain national policy only through reference to domestic politics and to reduce state behaviour to little more than the product of the demands of private sector interests, are challenged in this comparative case study. The challenge to the first tendency of interest group theory is sustained by examining the relations between national regulatory preferences and the foreign fishery policy goals of Canada and the United States. The pursuit of two goals - Asian exclusion and North American equity - in bilateral and multilateral negotiations demanded the adoption of particular regulatory profiles. Liberal offshore troll regulations may be explained according to the legitimacy and bargaining advantages they lent to Canadian and American efforts to incorporate these two goals into modifications to the traditional fishery regime. The study also suggests that, in a setting characterized by intergovernmental competition, regulatory policies may not always be equated with the preferences of interested private parties. In this setting the state's ability or willingness to respond to even the most influential private sector interests may be limited by the state's evaluation of its bargaining resources and requirements. State competition created a context where government attitudes towards offshore salmon fishing could be understood in terms of state preferences, preferences derived from officials' perceptions of the legitimacy of various national regulatory policies in the context of valued international institutions. While state competition is the centrepiece of the explanation of national fishery policy developed in this study its explanatory power is mediated by two intervening institutional variables - the capacities of states to formulate and implement policies and the structure of the international regime itself. The level of knowledge regarding the salmon resource played an instrumental role in the formulation of regime goals and of pertinent national policies. The extent to which state management in offshore waters was fragmented between different bureaus affected the ability of officials to adopt national policies which suited their international purposes. The redistribution of the American state's fishery management capacity in the 1970s was a catalyst for the severe restrictions visited upon Washington trailers at that time. A second institutional factor, the structure of the international fishery regime, also mediated the competition between states. The series of reciprocal fishing privileges agreements between Canada and the United States was particularly important in maintaining established offshore regulatory preferences during the 1970s when the clash between American and Canadian salmon fishery perspectives was intensifying.

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