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Gulf of Maine Times

Vol. 5, No. 1


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Technology can link the Gulf community

By Paul Boudreau

In a perfect world with complete, up-to-date and accurate information, good decisions and good management are easy. But in reality, the Gulf of Maine community has to work hard to maximise existing information on our coastal and marine environment. Our information base may never achieve this perfect level, but fortunately, we have a long history of scientific studies, a well-educated and interested population and an excellent communications infrastructure.

GOMINFOEX committee members 
at a meeting in Nova Scotia. 
Photo courtesy of Chris W. Brehme.

Within this milieu, the Gulf of Maine Environmental Information Exchange (GOMINFOEX) has evolved. Building on numerous efforts at data management and information access, a group of people have embraced the challenge of making information exchange more effective. For some, it is the development of a clearinghouse web function. For others, it involves pilot projects in GIS mapping. For still others, it is an opportunity to meet people with a shared interest and a commitment to cooperate. For all it has been an effort. An effort to listen to new ideas, hear new words and try to look at things from a new perspective.

Recognising that good information, best management practices and responsible stewardship are not the purview of any one group of Gulf residents, GOMINFOEX has benefited from the participation and contribution of researchers, K-12 students and teachers, managers, resource users, nongovernment organisations and others. No one person has all the answers. The best chance for long term success results from allowing all to contribute. The level of involvement and commitment will be our measure of success. 

In the Internet world, contributions can be made with minimal cost. Innovative use of e-mails, list servers and on-line voting help to democratise the process and include people unable to travel regularly from one end of the region to the other. This is a great advantage¾but one that has not been used to its fullest potential. 
So, what is the goal of GOMINFOEX? To help people find resources and connect with other users or experts in the Gulf of Maine more effectively. If you are on the Web, don't just point and click; read, find an expert, start a discussion, ask a question, pass on information to a friend. You can always begin at If you are not on the Web, read the Times, call someone mentioned in this edition of the Times to ask a question, attend a meeting in your area, find out more about that local swamp. In closing, get active and exchange!

Paul Boudreau is a habitat ecologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Halifax and a member of the GOMINFOEX Action Committee.

Despite doubts, Canadians benefit from individual quota system

By Robert Repetto

Editor's note: the following editorial refers to an article that appeared in the winter, 2000 issue of the Gulf of Maine Times, on individual fishing quotas, or IFQs. Under IFQ management, the total allowable catch for each species is split into quota shares that are allocated to fishermen. Shares can be bought, sold or traded. The U.S. Congress recently extended a 1996 moratorium on IFQs for two more years. Canada has used a similar system, individual transferable quotas, for several years.

A recent article on individual fishing quotas by Jon Percy quotes a Canadian fishing association spokesman to the effect that IFQs have been a disaster for the small fisherman. Unfortunately, such broadsides are too often accepted as accurate without adequate evaluation of actual experience.

U.S. and Canadian experience in the offshore Atlantic sea scallop fishery, conducted mainly on their respective portions of George's Bank, is illuminating. Since 1986, the Canadians have operated a system in which quotas are allocated to companies rather than to individual vessels, with limited transferability among companies. The U.S. fishery replaced minimum size limits with extensive controls on fishing in 1994, and has grappled with groundfish area closures since then.

Over the period 1985 to 1995, the scallop resource was managed more sustainably in Canada, with much lower exploitation rates overall, and particularly on minimum-sized scallops. Since then, groundfish closed areas protecting much of the U.S. scallop resource on George's Bank have allowed this resource to rebound dramatically, indicating how much overfishing had taken place earlier.

Catch and revenue per unit effort show dramatically different trends in the two fisheries. In Canada, secure quotas have allowed companies to harvest at optimal age with minimum effort, leading to continuing improvements. The U.S. fishery experienced boom-and-bust fluctuations but showed no continuing improvement in catch per unit effort. This was because fishing efforts expand and contract in response to the rise and fall of juvenile scallops entering the catchable population.

Though it is alleged that a transferable quota system will force out the smaller operator, two-thirds of the Canadian quota is still in its original hands. The new entrants in the fishery are the largest and the smallest of the current quota holders. The largest entrant bought quota from medium-sized and larger operators, not the smallest ones.

All current participants in the Canadian fishery, including the unions, favor the allocation system over any other. Quota holders jointly fund the research and monitoring system and are cooperating to map the bottom of their scallop grounds with multi-beam sonar, an innovation that will greatly improve harvesting efficiency while reducing by-catch and benthic damage. 

On the U.S. side, stringent effort controls needed to rebuild the stock elicited strong industry opposition. The fishery is now working toward a rotational harvesting system that will reduce overfishing and will probably involve some kind of vessel quotas. Whether such quotas should be made transferable is an important issue. The industry would do well to carefully study relevant experience in Canada and elsewhere, rather than listen to overheated rhetoric.

Robert Repetto is a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Marine Policy Center.

Challenges for change

The following excerpt is from an open letter written by delegates of the Coastal Zone 2000 Youth Forum. The Forum met last September in St. John, New Brunswick, and included more than 100 young people from ten countries and eight Canadian provinces and territories.

Dear Fellow Citizens,

Even if you have never seen seaweed, a starfish, or an ocean wave crashing on the beach, this letter concerns you. We call for the respect of all living systems, a drastic reduction in consumerism, and an end to complacency. We have challenged ourselves to the following:

  • Reduce consumption: We must reduce our consumption now, particularly in North America. From refusing excess packaging to building smaller homes. We will teach others that having less "stuff" is the goal. We will ask ourselves: do I really need this? We will simplify and reduce our impact on the planet.
  • Become better educated and more aware: We will help teach the youth of today about the fundamental principles of the democratic process, the workings of government, and our International agreements and obligations. We will help teach other youth how to make their voices heard.
  • Show Humility: A drastic shift in thinking has to take place. Instead of asking "How much environmental damage can I get away with?" we will ask "What's the least impact I can make?" We will start thinking about minimum, not maximum, impact, and always bear in mind that we share this planet with other living creatures.
  • Ask "Why?" We will challenge and question the existing ways of thinking, management practices and institutional arrangements. Youth have a large role to play with fresh ideas and open minds.
  • Show no complacency: We will not turn a blind eye when it comes to consumption or our environment. We will ask the questions and call for accountability.
  • Challenge industrial "rights": No industry or company has a right to place profits over the fair treatment of people or the environment. People have rights¾ not corporations. We recognize that it is a privilege to take and with that comes the responsibility to care. We will challenge those who act otherwise.
  • Be an example: We will use our own lives as an example every day. We will help lead the way to sustainability through our own daily actions.
  • We want you to ask yourself: "Could the Earth keep pace if six billion people consumed as I do?

Sustainably yours,
Coastal Zone 2000 Youth Forum delegates

For further information contact Maxine Westhead, chairwoman, Coastal Zone 2000 Youth Forum, (902) 426-4215,