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Perspectives on policy in the British Columbia salmon fisheries Ellis, David W.


The principal focus of this comparative-historical study is the fundamental differences in the perspectives of the Indian, commercial, and sportfishing user groups. A second focus is the differences in outlook of the professions involved in the management of the fisheries, and how their management paradigms have developed over time. Evidence is presented on the social history of the fisheries, including their regulatory history and the manager-user relationship. Using the rich material presented by the participants in the Pearse Commission as a primary source, the perspectives of user and manager are outlined. In particular, the views users expressed on the emotional policy issue of TURFs are defined. A comparison of these views clarifies the major interests within the fisheries. Observation of the interactions between the user groups and regulatory authorities, both during and after the Commission, reveals the ability of these interest groups to lobby very effectively within the Canadian democratic system. The major social conflicts within the fisheries that are representative of the importantly different perspectives are: culture conflict, sportfishing/commercial fishing conflict, political ideological conflict, and conflict between profession frames. The most serious conflict is between Indians and other resource users. Indians have sought legal recognition of existing aboriginal rights in fishing, involving increased allocations to Indian users; other users greatly fear displacement as the resources are reallocated. As independent "co-management" planning procedures are being carried on simultaneously between Indian bands and government, and between commercial and sport groups and government, the objectives of the two often conflict. The result is a management and allocation process that remains extremely volatile and subject to such intensive lobbying that rational planning is difficult. The fisheries management and planning process could benefit from the greater inclusion of the social sciences, a move which would help describe with greater accuracy the complex human components of the fisheries. Such an approach would also seek to develop the potential of mediation and negotiation as a means of integrating a number of rational, professional frameworks with user group perspectives, and would imply a continuance in the recent shift from centralist to intermediary planning. It is suggested that crucial management decisions relating to "endangered" stocks of salmon be delegated to councils of professional biologists, for in such cases it is important that lobbying processes not be allowed to compromise conservation principles. Also, economists should assume management roles that can better accommodate, in the processes of policy making, the heavy overlay of politically-important social policies inherent in the fisheries. To date, intense negotiation and bargaining processes, involving both user groups and the management professions, have been effectively conducted on both a public and private level. These processes have promoted ongoing social learning which has had a positive effect within the B.C. salmon fisheries (examples are the Pearse Commission, MAC, CFIC, PARK, and the Canada/U.S. Treaty). These types of processes appear to lend themselves to the establishment of lasting bio-anthropological contracts, and the subsequent realization of more rational salmon fisheries management. A planning process focused upon reducing social conflict, through the development of ongoing negotiation processes between the many participants in the fisheries, is considered the most likely to succeed. Not only will this better maintain the generally good record of biological sustainability of the B.C. salmon fisheries, but also it will gradually enable the full development of their considerable economic and social potential.

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