The present moment is a powerful goddess. Goethe
The three legged stool metaphor for sustainability, a balance
between the economy, society and the environment, is a prime example of
the self-interest bias that wrong foots decision making in fisheries and
forestry in B.C. Focusing narrowly upon the present economic generation
ignores solutions, misdiagnosing symptoms for problems. The politics
and media coverage of both the Mifflin Plan and Golden's Evans Forest
Products ignore the historical dimensions of unsustainable fishing and
logging and the necessary changes that need to be made.
A three legged stool will only remain usable if each of its legs
is equal and strong. Sustainability in this metaphor is a question of
balance. Unfortunately, from any point of view except our own in the
immediate present it is ludicrous to suggest that the economy, society
and the environment are equally important. Salmon provide a good il-
Salmon as a species are more than one hundred million years old and
salmon runs on this Coast have adapted to the changing geology of hundreds
of thousand year glaciation cycles, cycles in which the mighty Fraser is
but a most recent rivulet.
People have been fishing salmon on this Coast for at least one
hundred centuries. Salmon have been a prime resource in the development
and maintenance of generations of individual cultures (societies) on this
Coast over the ten thousand years since the last glaciation.
The present salmon fishing economy is scarcely more than a century
old. This particular approach to utilizing salmon, combined with damage to
local salmon habitat, has endangered untold future generations of fishers
by eliminating or seriously threatening the vast majority of salmon runs
on this Coast.
The present generation of fishers (sports, commercial, aboriginal)
is but one wave on the beach in salmon time, a speck in the eye in the
lifetime of the salmon fisher (society) on this Coast, but they are the
overwhelming focus of the fisheries management debate. Fishers' problems:
access, finances, entitlement, etc., and not the problem of disastrous
management of human interaction with salmon, drives the debate. This focus
limits a search for solutions that will safeguard salmon opportunity for
untold future generations of fishers on this Coast.
There is no immediate shortage of salmon for fishers. The problem
is more complex and insidious. Salmon are divided into thousands of
genetic sub groups each specific to a particular fresh water tributary.
While many runs remain bountifully healthy, non-specific overfishing com-
bined with habitat degradation has already eliminated or presently
threatens the majority of salmon runs.
The solution is regulating all fishers (and all habitat degrading
human interaction) so that each specific salmon run has a
rebuild to ecologically sustainable levels. One necessary component is
the elimination of non-specific fishery methods. Seine and gillnet har-
vesting methods should be replaced by a specific trap and weir fishery
augmented by an information producing troller fishery.
This trap and weir commercial and aboriginal fishery methodology is
efficient, easily regulated, and, above all, sustainable. Combined with
land use and sports fishing regulations that are salmon run specific, there
would be every hope of unabated opportunity for untold generations of
Unfortunately, this restatement of the problem and solutions is
not even on the menu for debate. Attention is almost completely focused
upon the economic welfare of but one generation of fishers. The entire
Mifflin Plan debate concerns the welfare of this one generation of fishers,
and the short term economies of their communities. Complete elimination
of seiners and gillnetters is considered politically impossible.
Instead of perceiving the economy as a subset of society, which in
turn is utterly dependent upon the continuing health of the environment in
which it is nested, balance is contrived as maintaining the stability of the
status quo even when, as is the case with the seine and gillnet fishery,
there is no question that this status quo is endangering the environmental
basis for both the society and its temporal economy.
In forestry the sustained yield methodological analogue of this
relentlessly economic approach to management continues to limit opportunity
for future generations of British Columbians: future forest workers, rec-
reationalists, all our forest dependent communities - all dependent on water
and oxygen-carbon regulation as well as on timber and fibre opportunity.
The NDP forest and land use policies parallel the Mifflin Plan in being
totally focused on the needs of the present generation of stakeholders.
Their balanced approach to maintaining business as usual continues to
ignore the basic problem of an approach to forestry that endangers forests.
Salmon and trees and all those multitudes of future generations
of British Columbians have no vote, no say, in fisheries and forestry
management. Markets don't aggregate their preference; media don't convey
their views to informed publics. Democracy remains management for the
privileged few - us. Self-interest relentlessly erodes the salmon and forest
basis for politics, markets and democracy, perhaps even, incredibly, en-
dangering the future of salmon and forest on this Earth. Consider this
when you read the next story about angry fishers or an over-regulated