The
country of Canada has the benefit of easy access to many marine resources and fisheries
that have long been an important source of economic, cultural and environmental
viability. While the fishing industry represents only a small portion of the
gross domestic product for the country, it was the foundation on which many
areas were built. The development of policy for the management of any natural
resource comes with its own set of challenges, but policy and planning for the
fishing industry proves to be particularly difficult. Typically, management
decisions and policies are developed on the guidance of scientific knowledge
and exploration which creates the basis for a policy framework for sustainable
fish harvesting, processing and trade. While this seems like a concrete system,
the nature of the fishing industry itself plagues science with uncertainty.

There are many unknowns in the environment and it is impossible to understand
the many intricate relationships in an ecosystem that effect fish stocks. An
ecosystem approach to the management of the fishery is becoming increasingly
important, as sustainability has moved to the forefront of management regimes. This
creates a system in which policy makers have to postulate and infer in order to
fill in the gaps of knowledge. Additionally, there are many outside factors
that are not controllable and further complicate policy making. Stocks that
straddle the management areas for the country, stakeholder engagement and
public opinion all prove to challenge policy and planning within the industry.

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Finally, changes in the market are often not predictable, and can be driven by
technological developments, which places even more limits on the development of
policy.  It is because of the nature of
the fishery, the uncertainty of science and the outside factors that a
comprehensive national fisheries policy is not possible in the 21st
century.

         Perhaps the greatest limitation on
creating a comprehensive national fisheries policy lies in the nature of the fishery
itself. Stemming from man’s original nature of hunting and gathering, the
basics of the fishing industry have remained the same for hundreds of years.

Fish harvesters hunt and capture fish, then sell it in order to gain a profit.

The management of this industry has focused on information that is mainly
fisheries dependent, meaning an excess of knowledge on the fish stocks is
gained from the landings and efforts expended by fish harvesters (Thorne,
2005). The difficulty with this arises in the changing nature of the fish
stocks in the ocean. As with any wild animal, fish are continually changing and
adapting to changes in the environment. The immense challenge of creating an
economy surrounding such an unstable resource is reflected in the development
of fisheries policy (Cowan et al., 2012). It is unrealistic to think that
policy can dictate natures natural fluctuations regarding stocks and environmental
conditions. There are many management techniques in place to help reduce the
stress on fishing stocks including catch restrictions, gear restrictions, and
regulations on where to fish, when to fish and who gets to fish. Despite this
there is still overexploitation of many of the fish stocks not just in Canada,
but around the globe (Hauge, 2011). FAO (2016) states that there is an overall
trend of decreasing percentage of biologically sustainable fish stocks around
the world.  The continual decrease in
fish stocks proves that there are limitations to policy making when dealing
with a resource such as fish, as the condition of stocks are reliant on the
condition of the environment. It is far easier to develop policy for natural
resources found in stable environments that show little sign of change. In
addition to environmental changes, exploitation further exacerbates the issue,
as removal of fish from an ecosystem can cause changes in the interactions of
biotic and abiotic factors within the environment. This in turn, effects the remaining
individuals of the exploited species and the stocks of other species. These
factors include age of maturity, size and reproduction. (Roos, Boukal &
Perrson, 2006). Since these are all important characteristics addressed by
fisheries managers, policies put in place may fall short and become ineffective
as changes occur. All this has a drastic impact on the effectiveness of a comprehensive
policy to address the various aspects of the fishery.

         As the fisheries management policies
begin to focus more on an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, there is
an increasing effort to supply policy makers with scientific knowledge on the
inner workings of ocean ecosystems. Policy makers often have unrealistic
expectations of fisheries managers and expect the information produced to be
complete, irrefutable, and applicable in all circumstances. Many nonscientists
see science as always producing information that is complete, but this is
simply not the case. Science is a confounding source of information that is
wreaked with skepticism and there is often personal opinion and intuition
involved in postulating scientific information. The same is also true for
nonscientists, as personal context always plays a role in how policy makers
understand and use the information presented to them by scientists (Weber and
Word, 2011). This leads to the issue that science can simply present the
information that may affect the ecosystem and thus the fishery. However, the
policy makers have the responsibility in deciding how science relates to and
effects the management decisions and what economic and social consequences
result (Sullivan, 2006).

         In addition to the context of
scientific information being a constraint for fisheries policy. Hauge (2011)
states lack of scientific knowledge as being one of the three main contributing
factors to the ineffectiveness of policy and the continued prominence of
overfishing. Whether the cause of overfishing is due to environmental changes
or human exploitation, the same situation with policy making remains. It is
impossible to account for and understand all interactions within an ecosystem.

Removal of species, changes in temperature and the abiotic composition of an
area all have drastic impacts on the other fish species in the ecosystem. This
direcly relates to the inability to form a comprehensive fisheries policy. With
the lack of scientific information, there are limits on what a policy could
control. In order to truly implement a comprehensive regulatory environment for
the fishery, more knowledge is needed in the field. Simply put, the science
behind heterogeneous ecosystem interactions is often not quantifiable in a way
that can be effectively reflected in policy (Hauge, 2011). The International
Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) provides advice to managers on
fish stocks and quotas. However, while they advocate for a complete separation
between science and policy, the group rarely addresses any uncertainty in the
data they present (Hauge, 2011). Without explicitly addressing the issue of
uncertainty, the difficulty in implementing policy for the fishing industry
will continue (Lane and Stephenson, 1999). Moreover, oceanographic programs
have long focused on a bottom up approach to understanding ecosystems. This
type of approach is common for a system dominated by physical ocean conditions,
but rarely is it effective in managing higher trophic levels. Bottom up
approaches increase the level of uncertainty as predictions are made about the
relationships with upper trophic levels and this causes problems for policy
makers (Thorne, 2005)

The problems with the access to information
is also limiting for policy development in the fishing industry. FAO (2016)
states that there are still countries in the world that do not report their
catch rates and other important data to FAO for compilation and use. In
addition, some countries report inaccurate data, which further complicates the situation.

If the information on fish stocks is not available, then policy simply cannot
be developed. As fish stocks are free to move around the various jurisdictions,
data gathered from stocks in only one area could be very different from the
stocks in another.
         Outside of the environmental
realm, there are external factors that make it difficult to implement a
comprehensive fisheries policy. Issues surrounding boundary disputes have
caused extensive problems for fisheries managers in other areas of the world
and Canada is certainly not immune to this. Dwindling fish stocks often lead to
disputes among those who rely on the resource for livelihood and a source of
protein. As fish stocks continue to decline in Canada, these issues can arise
(Greer, 2016). Territorial disputes over the right to various areas of the
South China Sea have become a serious problem in recent years. With policies on
designated ocean territory for the countries in the region, made by the United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime zones are clear. As stocks
began to decrease Chinese fishermen began to move outside their designated zone
to fish and they were supported by Chinas government, effectively rendering
international policies useless. Disputes such as this are driven by
overfishing, economics and the need for fish as a food source (Manicom, 2012). Formal
policy seems ineffective when customary laws are in place. When natural
resources are considered, sovereignty disputes are often rooted in deep
customary beliefs in ownership and thus modern policy that does not coincide
with those customs becomes difficult to implement.

         As was mentioned earlier, many fish
species including tuna, swordfish and sharks regularly travel long distances
through various ocean jurisdictions. These species become particularly
difficult to manage as there are multiple governing bodies that control the
stocks, depending on the location. Even species such as cod, pollock, mackerel
and squid can occur in an exclusive economic zone as well as in the high seas. The
1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement is a policy that sets out guidelines
to follow on the conservation and management of these species that straddle
coastal waters, across the 200-mile limit or even into the high seas (Munro,
2000). While this agreement sets out to introduce the precautionary principle
of management and states the use of the best available science, there are still
differences**** in policy in assessing the stock of a single species. For
highly migratory stocks, different countries possess different instruments and
have different means in assessing and distributing information. Because of
this, straddling stocks cause problems for an effective comprehensive fisheries
policy.

         The fishing industry is described as
having multiple stakeholders, each with their own goals and objectives. While
more inclusive management policies are important for the industry, it comes
with its own set of challenges. With multiple interests in the management of
the fishery, the complexities of stakeholder management in policy making is
revealed (Mikelson & Jentoff, 2001). While transparent policy making is
important, increasing stakeholder engagement also brings out public opinion,
which in itself limits public policy making. Public opinion and policy making
are almost always congruent (Page & Shapiro 1983).  For an industry such as the fishery, in which
there are multiple stakeholder groups, multiple opinions emerge and this often
slows effective policy making. This issue is not specific to the fishery;
public opinion is an obstacle for any form of public policy (Barados, 2011).

         Additional barriers to creating a
comprehensive national fisheries policy include trade agreements and
conflicting policies at different levels. Policies developed on the provincial
level to benefit the region, can conflict with Canadas international trade
policies. Because trade is such a complex issue, creating a comprehensive
policy could mean negative effects on smaller regions and fisheries that
operate on different scales. Minimum processing requirements provide a prime
example. Provinces in Canada have implemented policies to keep processing in
the local area, and to stop the export of unprocessed fish products to
foreigners. However, Canadas national trade agreements states that locals and
foreigner nationals should be treated equally. While Canada has exempted
certain policies in order to avoid conflict, developing a comprehensive fisheries
policy surrounding fisheries imports and exports would be quite complicated. If
this is considered in the context of international relationships and tariffs
the difficulty continues to rise (Nquyen, 2014).

         While it may be impossible to develop a
comprehensive fisheries policy in the 21st century, the future does
look bright. As technology advances, there may be ways to overcome some of the
obstacles presented here, especially those surrounding the nature of the
fishery itself. In the present, it is evident that the stochastic ecological system
in which the fishery operates makes it difficult to develop a comprehensive
national policy