rn: self-governance and organization: keys to peace


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

One of the lists I moderate is a Canadian oceans list for people who are
concerned about the health of the oceans and coastal communities. As you
probably know, Canada's fisheries are in dire straits. For years the federal
government has encouraged the development of more and more "efficient"
technologies and put policies in place which have pushed small independent
fishing people out and made millionaires of men who own huge fleets of
draggers and fish processing plants.

One fishery that has largely escaped corporatization is the lobster fishery,
however independent lobster fisehrmen are finding it more and more difficult
to keep afloat in recent times. Now there is a new situation which could
threaten sustainability in the fishery and it has come to the fore in the
lobster fishery first of all: a recent Supreme Court ruling recognizes a
Treaty signed between the Crown and native nations back in the 1700s and
which gives native people the right to access things they harvested
traditionally. Some lobster fishermen, seeing native fishermen go out to get
lobster during the months when the local lobster season is closed, have
taken to venting their anger on the native fishermen. Others have seized the
opportunity to further strengthen their system of community-based management
of local fisheries.

In the following article, Janice Harvey, Marine Conservation Director of a
major Canadian conservation group, helps us see why some people are able to
build democracy in a situation of crisis, while others fall into factionalism.

all the best, Jan
To: •••@••.••• (Jan Slakov)
From: •••@••.••• (Janice Harvey/David Coon)
Subject: Re: pls send it by e-mail
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 14:16:28 -0300

>A Tale of Two Wharves

by Janice Harvey

     In one scene, a frenzied mob of white fishermen and their families
provoke a confrontation with a single native man who dares manoeuvre his
fishing boat through the armada of licensed fishing boats tied up at the
Yarmouth wharf.  The 150 boats from southwestern Nova Scotia have converged
in protest against native lobster fishing in the wake of the Supreme Court's
Marshall Decision. A fight breaks out and two people are arrested. This
follows their criminal action of dragging the waters off Yarmouth for native
traps, which they haul up and destroy. Then, in a show of intimidation and
mob bravado, they move towards the nearby home of a native woman where a
small group of natives are gathered.  The RCMP forms a human barrier between
the whites and the vastly outnumbered natives.
     One protest leader later boasts that the protest was 'largely peaceful'
and that he is 'proud' of that. The RCMP, in an attempt to justify their
inaction against the move on the native house in the first place, says they
are trying to moderate angry behaviour by not intervening unless physical
harm or property damage is threatened. They do not explain why they allowed
destruction of lobster traps or failed to arrest those responsible, though
traps clearly constitute property and vigilantism is still illegal in Canada. 
     In another scene only an hour's drive from Yarmouth in a meeting room
at the old Cornwallis military base, representatives of Mi'kmaq and licensed
fishermen are discussing how the two groups can co-operate in managing the
fishery in St. Mary's Bay in Digby County.  The meeting has not been easy to
come by.  Emotions and fears are high in the Digby area as well. But
positive leadership and the experience of two years of open relations with
Mi'kmaq Chiefs over the native food fishery have prevailed to encourage
dialogue rather than confrontation. The discussion is difficult, the
landscape full of pitfalls and hazards. Long term success is not guaranteed
but an initial agreement to form a working group on the St. Mary's Bay
fishery is struck, a sign of mutual respect and goodwill.
     These Nova Scotia scenes are a study in contrasts. The issues and the
parties involved are the same, and yet the differences in strategy are
striking. In Yarmouth, a confrontational approach driven by anger, fear,
ignorance and ultimately racism leads to violence and criminal action.
Around St. Mary's Bay, tension and uncertainty are tempered by intelligence,
foresight, fairness and practicality. Digby County fishermen are not any
more virtuous or have any less to lose than their peers to the south. Yet,
as the Marshall Decision can only be understood in historical context, so we
must analyze the different responses to that decision in the context of the
organizational history of the inshore fishery.
     For the last few years, inshore fishermen along the Nova Scotia shore
of the Bay of Fundy have formed democratic, accountable organizations around
the concept of community-based fisheries management to which most fishermen
now belong. This was in response to the threat that DFO would privatize the
entire fishery through individual quota allocations, effectively ending the
owner-operated small boat fishery. Initially, these groups fought for and
then took responsibility for community fish quotas, an innovation agreed to
by DFO and implemented on both sides of the Bay. 
     From there, interest evolved towards managing their fishing activity in
ways that respect the life cycle and habitat needs of the fish. This, they
believe, is a more effective conservation strategy than DFOs [federal
Department of Fisheries'] failed quota system. Since the ecological context
is bigger than just their fishing zones, they extended an invitation to
other Fundy fishermen's associations to form the Bay of Fundy Fisheries
Council. While it wasn't necessarily an easy sell and hasn't always been
smooth sailing, currently all professional inshore fishermen's associations
in the Bay of Fundy are members of the BFFC. 
     The underlying principles of the BFFC acknowledge that sustainability
of fisheries must be in the context of the whole Fundy ecosystem, that
fishermen in their communities must have the primary responsibility for
stewardship and thus resource management, and that decision-making must be
democratic, transparent and trustworthy. Through a process of kitchen table
meetings and workshops, they have been developing the implementation rules
for community-based ecological fisheries management. Once finalized, their
challenge will be to convince DFO to let them fish by their own rules.
     Herein lies the seed from which a co-operative approach with native
fisheries has sprouted. Fundy fishermen advocate self-governance of their
inshore fisheries based on principles of community and ecosystem
sustainability. First Nations advocate self-governance and management of
resource harvesting based on the principle that they must sustain the earth
for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future. They have a
common philosophical foundation on which to build a practical solution to
this current crisis.
     Instead of screaming for DFO to impose restrictions on the native
fishery, the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association, the Maritime
Fishermen's Union Local 9, and the local First Nations bands will form the
St. Mary's Bay Working Group to arrive at local solutions to integrating
native fisheries into the area. The working group will start by addressing
joint research work, interim harvesting plans, enforcement, safety and
security, and information and data collection on landings and catch rates in
St. Mary's Bay.
     According to a statement released after their Saturday meeting,
everyone agreed that "the key to short term needs and long term goals is
face to face cooperation, respecting the points of view of both nations, in
meeting our shared responsibilities to manage the resources." Spokesperson
Arthur Bull noted that the two groups are not "negotiating" an agreement.
Instead, they hope to cooperate in a way that ensures sustainability of the
resource while respecting the autonomy of both groups in managing the
fishing activity of their members.
     Back now to the Yarmouth wharf.  The protestors' situation deserves
some empathy. Like the Digby area fishermen, they have witnessed the
foundation of their small-boat fishery being consistently and progressively
sold out by DFO to the most aggressive elements of the fishery: the big
processors and the highly capitalized mobile fleets. In their last remaining
stronghold, the lobster fishery, they fear losing ground once again,
although to a different party. This new party, unfortunately, is an easy
target and thus is bearing the brunt of years of pent-up frustration.
Unlike the Digby area, most protestors gathered there are not members of any
professional fisheries associations. Thus there is no accountable or
representative leadership and  no established mechanism for problem-solving.
There is no history of constructive, respectful engagement with native
bands, and so no basis on which dialogue might be built. Without the
experience that comes with working inside and through organizations to meet
common needs and goals, there is no collective maturity to draw from in time
of crisis. The crowd, susceptible to inflammatory rhetoric and one-sided
points of view, degenerates into mob mentality where intimidation is the
tactic of choice and responsibility and accountability are absent.
     Ironically, the protestors are looking to the source of their problems,
DFO, for a solution, despite the fact that DFO has undermined their
interests in the past and has proven to be ineffective in fisheries
management. That the department should be waited upon to solve this crisis
is naive and even hypocritical. The appointment of a mediator might be
helpful, but a satisfactory long-term solution will only be found if these
people stop hiding behind the excuse that DFO inaction made them do it, and
start to mend fences and open avenues for positive dialogue directly with
the native fishermen who have a rightful place on the fishing grounds. Such
is the logical extension of their clamour for less top-down and more
bottom-up control over the fishery resource. 
     Bringing the parties together under the umbrella of an ecosystem-based
community management model such as in St. Mary's Bay puts the initiative for
solving the crisis where it is most likely to succeed: in the hands of
native and non-native fishermen themselves, working responsibly through
their representative and accountable organizations. From here may well come
the most positive, long lasting contribution to responsible fisheries
management of the next millennium.

Janice Harvey is the Marine Conservation Director of the Conservation
Council of New Brunswick.  She can be reached by e-mail at •••@••.•••.

- 30 -
Janice Harvey
Marine Conservation Director
Conservation Council of NB
David Coon
Policy Director & Ecological Fisheries Director
Conservation Council of NB
Phone: 506-466-4033
Fax: 506-466-2911
E-mail: •••@••.•••