Enacting and contesting neoliberalism in fisheries: The tragedy of commodifying lobster access rights in Southwest Nova Scotia
Atlantic Canadian fisheries policy exhibits a tension between competing objectives of economic efficiency, and of well-being and equity within coastal communities and small-scale fisheries. The struggle between different actors over these objectives has generated distinct forms of neoliberalism in different regions and fishing fleets. In the lobster fishery, the right to fish has been concentrated since limited-entry licensing policy was introduced in the 1980s. This paper examines actors and events at two scales, including Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 34 Advisory Committee meetings involving fishermen, representatives of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and other stakeholders, and broader scale strategies of the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation (CIFHF). A Foucauldian perspective aids in understanding how fisheries governance is the product of struggles between the power and agency of individual fishermen, fishing organizations, processing companies, the DFO, the Minister of Fisheries and the courts. While many theorists view fisheries through the lens of the “tragedy of the commons”, alternative tragedies are developing in Atlantic Canadian fisheries. These include rising levels of debt, reduced earnings, vulnerability to financial volatility, loss of fishing rights within communities, and too much processor control.