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Roles, Relationships and Challenges in Canada's Market-Based Seafood Governance Network

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Title: Roles, Relationships and Challenges in Canada's Market-Based Seafood Governance Network
Author: Schmidt, Dominique
Department: Department of Geography
Program: Geography
Advisor: Bradshaw, Ben
Abstract: In the absence of effective national and international fisheries regulation, evidenced by the precipitous decline of global fish stocks, market-based governance strategies have surfaced as a supplement to traditional fisheries management. These include certifications and ranking schemes, consumer awareness campaigns, and retailer sourcing commitments, all of which have been deployed in Canada over the last decade. Notably, between 2009 and 2011, all major food retailers in Canada publicly pledged to offer sustainable seafood, and have thus become central actors in this country’s seafood governance network. The network, also comprised of NGOs, certification bodies, fisheries regulators, and industry players, is the subject of this thesis. Research was conducted with the dual aim of describing the structure and behaviour of this emerging seafood governance network and evaluating its maturity and its ability to produce the outcomes intended by its key actors. Semi-structured interviews with these actors, supplemented by a document review and participant observation at two major seafood conferences, yielded a description of the network which highlights the contributions of its key players but also the considerable tensions among them. This thesis suggests that Canada’s seafood governance network has not yet reached a state of maturity in which participants agree to be regulated by a common sustainability standard. The standard to which the network is bound is, in fact, subject to fragmentation and downward pressure due to a number of factors, including: competition between NGOs and their market-based programs; the use of seafood sustainability as a platform for competitive differentiation by retailers; shortages of sustainable product alternatives; and the burden of fishery certifications on the state, which has invited weaker and less prescriptive certification standards.
Date: 2012-08
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