The Atlantic region of Canada has been affected by many issues that influence communities in various ways. Overfishing is one of such issues and has caused the formation of dissimilar opinions from the Government of Canada and communities in provinces such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador and Prince Edward Island. The government is constantly putting pressure on fishermen by implementing policies that bar them from fishing certain species of fish such as the Atlantic cod (Gadus Morhua) and salmon (Blanchette, 1994). On the other hand, fishermen in the Atlantic region are usually stressed because they cannot accumulate enough money to support their families because of the limitations and quota on maximum catch and type of fish species caught as directed by the government (Hauser & Carvalho, 2009). Thus, there is a dilemma on whether to mitigate depletion of fish stocks by limiting fishing activities or allow the fishermen more catch to improve their welfare.
Government efforts to stop depletion of fish
The Government of Canada as been concerned that uncontrolled fishing leads to rapid depletion of fish stocks (Hauser & Carvalho, 2009). This is true in view of the fact that uncontrolled or unregulated fishing encourages fishermen to devise many techniques of catching fish, some of which may be harmful to fish stocks in the long run. In addition, uncontrolled or unregulated fishing encourages fishermen to encounter a lot of bycatch since they may use gear that captures many fish of undesirable size or species that are not required and ultimately discard them (Rothschild, 2007).
In an attempt to mitigate depletion, the Government of Canada has implemented other limitation measures such as requiring fishermen to venture into the ocean to a maximum of 100 kilometers from the shore and the fishermen are not allowed to catch salmon or cod (Hutchings & Reynolds, 2004). But fishermen are of the opinion that they are entitled to fish anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean because that is their mode of earning a living. It is now evident that the quality of life of people in the Atlantic region has deteriorated because of the limitation imposed on fishing and the decline in fish stocks due to overfishing. This is discussed in the following section.
Implications of the decline in fish stocks in the Atlantic region
There are concerns that the limitations imposed by the government on fishing and the general decline in fish stocks has caused major job losses since many fishermen have been forced out of the fishing industry (Lauck et al, 1998). This has been translated to other industries such as fish processing factories that have realized declines in productivity due to shortage of fish, thereby implementing massive job cuts.
Whereas fishermen and other communities in the Atlantic region express their frustration at the government’s decision to limit fishing, there is evidence that indeed fish stocks have declined and if no corrective measures are taken the situation is bound to deteriorate. Marine biologists have expressed concern that the Atlantic salmon and cod populations have declined greatly and the two species are on the verge of extinction (Tegner & Dayton, 2000).
The government has been discouraging fishermen from fishing the salmon and cod, instead advising them to target the seal (Tegner & Dayton, 2000). Although this may sound as a solution to the depletion of salmon and cod, it is not a very good idea since the seal is not very popular among the community and is equally endangered. Fishermen have argued with the government over this problem and no agreement has been arrived at yet (Tegner & Dayton, 2000).
The government has noted that the high concentration of fishermen in the Atlantic region is the cause of overfishing and would like to discourage this by ensuring that the fishermen are dispersed (Lauck et al, 1998). But this move tends to discourage fishermen from their occupation since they are fond of going fishing as a community. This notwithstanding, the current situation is that fishermen continue to capture young salmon and cod (recruitment overfishing), which hinders continuity of the fish population.
Case study: Newfoundland
High rates of depletion of fish in Newfoundland (figure 1) have had major ecological and economic implications in recent decades. Many species of fish have been lost, thus posing a risk of collapse of the Atlantic fishery. Consequently, the Newfoundland region has lost a precious source of food, which was depended upon by people for dietary purposes, social values, and economic purposes.
Newfoundland province is one of the areas that have recorded highest rates of job loss due to fishermen’s withdrawal from fishing. Singe 1992, Newfoundland has been identified as the region that recorded the worst collapse in the fishery industry, particularly the cod fishery. The collapse of the fishery industry was caused by a long period of mismanagement characterized by overfishing. The corollary of the collapse of the fishery was that as many as 40,000 people lost their sources of livelihood and the ecosystem went under a condition complete decay (Blanchette, 1994; Myers, Hutchings & Barrowman, 1997).
Today, almost 17 years after the collapse of the Newfoundland fishery, fishermen are still waiting for cod stocks to stabilize; but the tussle between the government and fishermen remains. As a result, the Newfoundland community fish-eating culture has undergone a significant transformation. Many people have turned to eating crabs as a delicacy to supplant the cod, a contrast to the common opinion that the crab is a nuisance to many people in Newfoundland (Rothschild, 2007).
The situation in Newfoundland presents major issues that need to be addressed. One is that overfishing changed the once economically vibrant Newfoundland fishing community to a state of dependence on other economic activities that are not as viable as fishing. Secondly, there is a slim chance that the fishery will improve since anglers still insist on having rights to access the fishery. The insistence by fishing communities to fish in unproductive waters shows how important the fishery is to the community; yet overfishing has increased the people’s dependence.
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