Something's Fishy: Public Policy and Private Corporations in the Newfoundland Fishey

Year Published:  1983  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX2869

Abstract:  SOMETHING'S FISHY examines the structural problems which underlie the crisis-ridden Newfoundland fishery, an industry now in the midst of another government-sponsored restructuring. Noting that most of the explanations offered for the fishery's current porblems focus only on "accidental" factors such as recession, or intangibles like "laziness," and pamphlet looks at how the fishery is actually set up, and how it came to be that way.

A central factor was the emergence of large, vertically-integrated companies as fozen fish largely replaced salted in the post-war period. While the salted fish industry which was dominant for several hundred years was based on severe exploitation of fishery workers by merchants, it also allowed fishing families and communities to retain a certain degree of control over their actual working conditions. By contrast, the trend in the post-war period has been toward ever-greater company control, with many formerly independent people becoming employees, and many others becoming more closely tied in to relatiohship with the particular company dominant in their area.

These trends have been assisted by both provincial and federal governments, partly because of ideology that private enterprise is the only or the best way, and partly because a belief that "modernization" and "rationalization" are the way to economic development. As a result, many outport communities were forced to close down with the inhabitants being moved to larger towns where they could be used as a pool of labour for the fish plants. The number of people employed in fishing has fallen dramatically; smallscale and inshore fishermen have faced licensing problems and reduced quotas, while overfishing by both foreign and company fleets have severely damaged the long-range of the fishery.

In contrast to the government's solution of ever-greater centralizatiion and massive subsidies to larger companies, SOMETHING'S FISHY argues that nationalizaiton of the fishery on the basis of local rather than government control is a more sensible approach. At the same time, the pamphlet recognizes that such a solution, even if achieved against the weight of government and corporate opposition would only be a partial one,a step, as long as an intenational economic system geared to trade cominated by large corporations and government defines the context of economic activety.

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