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Planning for Fisheries Co-Management in Canada’s Northwest Coast: The case of Prince Rupert, B.C.

Planning for Fisheries Co-Management in Canada’s Northwest Coast: The case of Prince Rupert, B.C.

Written by: Rabia Nasreen Ahmed
Published in: Outstanding Papers - Year: 2019
Book Line: Vol. 25 No. 20 ISSN 1702-3548


This major paper explores co-management in Prince Rupert, B.C., between active fish harvesters and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the government body responsible for fisheries management. By analysing a combination of DFO policies, Integrated Fisheries Management Plans and eleven interviews conducted between March and April 2019 with fisheries participants in Prince Rupert, this paper explores how co-management is currently configured in the Canadian context and how the fisheries management system impacts access to seafood for local residents in Prince Rupert. Findings suggest that trust between fisheries participants and managers has eroded over the last several decades, largely due to a breakdown in communication between active fish harvesters and DFO, and the loss of visible scientific monitoring on the part of DFO. Barriers to improving co-management were identified, including inequity in the licensing and quota system (leaving active harvesters disempowered and economically vulnerable) and an inaccessible and inadequate advisory process. Meanwhile, the current management system presents significant challenges to improving seafood access for local residents, such as fishermen’s indebtedness to large processors, an export-oriented supply chain, and complex, unsupportive regulations for local sales; these factors have eroded connections and benefits to communities from the fishery. What emerges from this analysis is that active fish harvesters and managers seem to be operating under divergent assumptions of how to participate in co-management, who should participate, whose knowledge system is prioritised and what relationships between competing user groups with different legal and historical ties to the fishery should look like. Despite these conflicts, participants seem willing to work towards a system of co-management that is effective and just. The paper concludes with recommendations on how to move forward with fisheries co-management that can help to empower active fish harvesters, and draws a tentative link to how co-management could improve local seafood access.