Dalhousie Law Journal


collapse, Canada, groundfish stocks, public policy, fishery, underemployment, unemployment, Soviet Union, overstaffing, unsustainable, exploitation, subsidies


This article addresses the collapse of Atlantic groundfish stocks in terms of its significant social and economic impact. How had so many people become dependent on this modest resource? What circumstances contributed to creating a hidden underemployed class in the fishing industry? The analysis adds to the thesis that public support of unproductive industry and income support systems underlie the current crisis, creating barriers to a viable future for the Atlantic Fishery. The authors draw on comparisons with the economy of the former Soviet Union where central planning of an economy based on state owned common property failed to harness market forces and proved unsustainable. They suggest that the common property problem can be addressed by enhancing the security of access to the resource that individuals or groups enjoy, and by increasing user group responsibility for conservation and sustainable exploitation practices. They also advocate the elimination of direct and indirect subsidies to capital and labour which support excessive capacity and ultimately undermine the industry.