Lessons in fisheries politics
Advocates for recreational fishing, public servants charged with fisheries management, and scientists and other experts who provide objective advice, all need to understand the nature and dimensions of fisheries politics.
Accusing someone of “playing politics” usually is intended as a criticism, even an insult. But politics is the social process by which differences are expressed and resolved. If you don’t have differences, then you don’t have politics. A political situation, whether it is in a family, the workplace, government administration or a contest for public office is the process through which differences are discussed and settled.
Fisheries politics takes place at many levels. It determines the resources available to manage fisheries and understand their impacts. It defines the relationship between conservation and extraction. It determines the allocation of harvest between competing interests. It sets the international rules between nations for the conservation and sharing of migratory and straddling stocks.
Underlying these political relationships are rules and norms of political behavior that can be learned and practised by those who wish to maximize their influence over how fisheries are managed and practised.
Canada’s West Coast provides a useful example of efforts by the Canadian government to facilitate fisheries politics by providing structures and processes within which different interests can contribute to the politics of fisheries management. A participant-observer brings his perspective as both an ardent angler and a political scientist specializing in the relationship between interest groups and government to suggest some rules for effective engagement in fisheries politics.