Impediments to fisheries recovery in Canada: Policy and institutional constraints on developing management practices compliant with the precautionary approach

Anna Marie Winter, Jeffrey A. Hutchings*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The status of many Canadian fisheries is poor, a consequence of inadequate implementation of sustainable fishery policy within the context of the Precautionary Approach (PA). A key component of implementation lies with the provision of science advice. Scientists are responsible for advising on options likely to meet policy intent and objectives. Here, we examine PA-compliance in the role of science in Canada's fisheries management decision-making. We distinguish science-based from science-determined decisions and processes. Science-based decisions emerge from consultation processes involving stakeholders; science need not always have a clear and accountable role that can be transparently separable from other inputs. Science-determined decisions result from impartial, publicly available, peer-reviewed scientific determinations clearly distinguishable from other inputs. Our findings are consolidated with a comparison to the European Union (EU), which is legally bound to PA implementation, but which differs in its institutional organization and decision-making process. Compared to the EU, Canada's science advisory process is less structured and transparent, scientific advice is not always clearly distinguishable, and policy formulation is not explicit in affording science a responsibility compliant with the PA. The institutional structure and policy framework in Canada has potential to obfuscate the role of science, leading to an erosion of credibility and accountability of fisheries management decisions. We emphasize the strengths of a structured and transparent decision-making process, the existence of a coherent system for categorizing uncertainty with respective rules for decision-making, and unambiguous definitions of the responsibility of science in sustainable fisheries policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104161
JournalMarine Policy
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Common fisheries policy
  • Fisheries management
  • Precautionary approach
  • Science advice
  • Scientific credibility
  • Sustainable fisheries framework

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