Friday, February 27, 2009

Dead Fish and Fat Cats

A few years ago, Silver Donald Cameron wrote an article on retired BC fisherman Eric Wickham and his 2003 book Dead Fish and Fat Cats. Here SDC quotes Eric on the DFO (bolding in the text is mine):
'...The second major factor is the mis-management of the fisheries by DFO, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. But, asks Wickham, “How could people sitting at desks kill all those fish?” Wickham identifies half-a-dozen failings — but they all boil down to a lack of realism (and humility), and a lack of courage. DFO’s employees, says Wickham, “are mainly conscientious and some are luminously bright, but the rules they work by — the system itself — has a history, a karma, a life force of its own.”

DFO managers, says Wickham, muzzle and ignore their own scientists, and “dodge tough decisions, usually out of political timidity.” Their scientists told them that the Atlantic cod stocks were collapsing, but DFO allowed fishing to continue, with ludicrously high “quotas,” because closing the fishery would create a political firestorm by putting thousands of people out of work. Result: all those people are out of work anyway — and the fishery is gone.

But nobody lost their jobs at DFO. The Department does not reward good fisheries management, nor does it punish even catastrophic failure. Furthermore, Wickham notes, DFO is organized in separate, jealously-guarded fiefdoms organized by species — a cod division, a salmon division, a herring division. But the fisheries are interlinked. You can’t “manage” cod while ignoring seals, herring and capelin.

And DFO managers change frequently, creating a management with no institutional memory. Wickham once asked a DFO manager about the impact of dragging on the now-barren Goose Island Bank, which once produced 7 million pounds of halibut annually. The DFO guy said, “I didn’t know anyone ever fished there.”

Eric's book is available in softcover, and he's also made it available for a free PDF download. His reasons?
The reason for making this pdf copy available this way: the author's purpose was political. He first wanted to get this story out to the Canadian public. That has been done. The book has sold well since 2003 and the author has been able to make his case on national TV and in many other ways. This pdf will help to continue spreading this behind-the-scenes story to a wider fish-eating planet.
Thanks Eric.


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