“On the Island” this morning, CBC Radio, an opportunity to make a point about economic indicators:
RE: Salmon fishery, increasing the take from 3% to 15%
My experience with DFO and fish quotas is from Nova Scotia where we lived for 15 years.
We arrived in the nineteen-seventies. The Grand Banks cod fishery supported the economies of Newfoundland, N.S., N.B., St Pierre-Miquelon. Other nations, including the U.S. fished the Banks. It was a healthy fishery.
We left N.S. in 1990, 15 years later. The cod fishery, a renewable resource that had been harvested sustainably for five hundred years, no longer existed. Dead. People said, “Nature is resilient. The cod population will recover.” The truth is that there are tipping points beyond which recovery appears to be impossible. The North Atlantic cod fishery and all that it meant socially and culturally exists only in memory. Communities are gone.
A root difficulty for DFO was consistent pressure from Government and Political bosses in support of commercial interests. Another was our practice of patting ourselves on the back when we are “doing” something about a problem. It doesn’t matter that the “something” is unrelated to the actual CAUSE of the problem.
The response to distress in the North Atlantic cod fishery was “more money”. More money to buy larger trawlers with instant- freeze capability that could go further and further offshore. (Which, of course, also made it impossible for local fisher-people to provide for their families.) The response only hastened the collapse.
Twenty-five years later, looking at the Pacific salmon fishery: I arrived in B.C. from Saskatchewan last year. I watched the documentary film “Salmon Confidential”. It confirmed what I suspected: the reason every grocery store and restaurant in Saskatchewan has inexpensive salmon on the menu is that salmon farms are large. Well, they are HUGE! They contribute an enormous amount to the economy of B.C. I had no idea how much.
The salmon farms are not sustainable, they are not a “right” response to the problem of fish stocks. But Government and Political bosses will protect the commercial interests, in this case the export market.
Politicians must have “Economic growth”. But you can see how people who were once self-sufficient are robbed in the process. If you feed yourself, you and your community will be healthy. But it will have negative consequences for “Economic growth”. Anything you do for yourself does not go through a cash register, it doesn’t get counted, it doesn’t get taxed. And if you and your family are healthy, expenditures on medicare go down.
We measure our progress by economic indicators. But they are not measurements of success. They measure a return to serfdom.