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Impacts of harvesting rights in Canadian Pacific fisheries

DISCUSSION

The task set before the consultants was to assess the move towards harvest rights (ITQ) schemes in the three groundfish fisheries, and to determine whether or not they represented an advance over the previous management scheme, which this report has described as limited entry combined with Olympic style TAC harvesting. That there may be flaws in the present ITQ schemes cannot be denied. Nonetheless, the general conclusion is that the ITQ schemes represent a marked advance over the previous management scheme.

In part, this general conclusion arises from the fact that the previous management scheme became increasingly untenable. The relationship between DFO and the fishers has been described in terms of a Principal-Agent relationship. Due to the fact that previous scheme resulted in what has been described as a classic Prisoner's Dilemma competitive game among the fishers, the so called "incentive gap" became intolerably large. The economic returns from the fisheries to the true principal (the people of Canada) were probably negative.

It was argued that the only solution was to institute a management scheme that would transform the fisher competitive game into a cooperative one. What evidence there is suggests that this has been achieved, to the benefit of both the long term sustainability of the resources, to the long term economic viability of the fisheries, and to the long term benefit of the Canadian economy. The move to an integrated ITQ scheme is particularly innovative and encouraging.

There is nothing particularly novel or surprising about this conclusion. It is essentially the same conclusion arrived at by Environmental Defense, in its review of North American fisheries (Environment Defense, 2007), and its insistence on the importance of what it terms Limited Access Privilege Programs, "LAPPS", which includes (but is not restricted to ITQs).

Finally, in the case of the three fisheries under investigation, the "LAPPS" have taken the form of ITQs. We would cheerfully concede that in other fisheries the same results could be achieved through the implementation of "LAPPS", in the form of fisher cooperatives, territorial use rights, or combinations of different forms of "LAPPS".

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