Fishing Places, Fishing People: Traditions and Issues in Canadian Small-Scale Fisheries


374 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-7959-8
DDC 338.3'727'0971




Edited by Dianne Newell and Rosemary E.Ommer
Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Patrick Colgan is the former executive director of the Canadian Museum
of Nature.


Fishing Places, Fishing People presents a broad overview of the current
state of both the fish and the fishers on Canada’s Atlantic and
Pacific coasts. The contributing social and fishery scientists reflect
Canada “from sea unto sea.” The editors, historians from each coast,
bracket the 17 chapters with an introduction and a conclusion, in which
they laudably attempt to set out the importance of the topic, the array
of problems, and the lessons to be learned from the material presented.
Chief among the problems are the disjunctions between germane biology
and management, and between social custom and current reality.

Part 1 (“Community Roots and Commerce”) presents diverse case
studies. Oral narratives are framed in historical settings. Abundant
individual exploration and interpretation result in impressive immediacy
but raise the problem of generalizability. There is considerable
emphasis on such issues as gender relations, changing markets, and
clashes of cultures. From different angles, these chapters highlight the
impact of governmental policies, variously inconsistent or
well-intentioned but unanimously market-driven. Of particular interest
in Part 2 (“State Management and States of Knowledge”) is Sean
Cadigan’s review of inaction on fishery proposals in Newfoundland in
the 19th century—a review that reveals the governmental failures still
occurring. Richard Haedrich, Jeffrey Hutchings, and colleagues once
again present incisive and damning critiques of these failures in the
collapse of the northern cod fishery.

In many cases, the authors are tightly wedded to particular viewpoints,
ranging from governmental criticism, to feminism, to Native advocacy.
Recurring themes include scanty fisheries data, gross governmental
ineptitude, the value of communities, the depth of the cultural issues,
and the promise of approaches involving decentralization, co-management,
traditional ecological knowledge, and sensitivity to scale. The effects
of sophisticated technology, legal wranglings, and treaty obligations in
Native–government relations are made evident in several chapters.

This book joins other recent works such as Michael Harris’s Lament
for an Ocean in documenting what a mess Canadians have made of their
rich heritage.


“Fishing Places, Fishing People: Traditions and Issues in Canadian Small-Scale Fisheries,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,