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Phase III Thinking - Informing Governance for the Future of Fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador

by Dr. Evan Andrews, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, 2017; ©Mirella Leis. 

Using past fisheries research for Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), OFI researchers have taken stock and articulated goals for sustainability. I want to build on this work to foster opportunities to understand and govern the future of NL fisheries. In other words, I am working toward getting the future right.

 

In 2018, I spent eight months on Great Northern Peninsula. I recorded life-stories from 41 fishers and family members. Each told me that in early 1990s, they knew the Northern cod stocks were in trouble and that the federal government, through Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), would respond. Yet, the interviewees did not predict a moratorium. And until years later, they argued, other fishers, governments, and academics alike were not able to describe with any certainty the long-term and sustained social and ecological impacts those fishers experienced.

 

In the almost thirty years since the collapse, much has changed. First, new monitoring systems and opportunities to share information about change now exist. Second, a deeper understanding of NL’s fisheries and communities has taken center stage. We know that coastal communities and the fisheries they rely on are vulnerable to climate change, fluctuating markets, aging populations, and much more. In my research, I asked the same fishers and their family members about their predictions for the shellfish industry. They knew that shellfish were declining fast, but they pointed to the potential rebound of cod and the emergence of Acadian redfish. How that all was going to play out was still uncertain for their fishery, livelihoods, and communities.

 

This uncertainty has been exacerbated by COVID-19, which continues to effect fisheries up and down the supply-chain globally.

 

Now, we are left with a key tension: we want to plan and act to enrich the viability of NL’s fisheries and fishing communities, but we face limited capacity and certainty to predict the future. How then do we proceed? The answer takes us into anticipatory governance, a form of governance that helps us hedge our bets and think about multiple alternative futures.

 

Anticipatory governance is a theory, method, and process. As a theory, anticipatory governance emphasizes understanding and preparing for changes, governing responses used to address change, and the ways those changes and responses shape many different futures. As a method, anticipatory governance gets us to work together to learn from the past and imagine scenarios that anticipate those futures. As a process, anticipatory governance encourages reflections

on the right governance ingredients—principles, institutions, planning, knowledge, rules—to advance those futures and continue anticipating as they unfold.

 

Through anticipatory governance, my research links social change—past, current and anticipated—to different drivers in the environment, communities, economies, and politics. Further, my research keeps a keen eye on the governance systems used to address those drivers of change. To foster anticipatory governance, my research is explicitly transdisciplinary. I will be working on case studies with collaborators and partners to co-create research priorities and processes, and most of all, to make sure we get the futures right.

 

I am going to use my training in transdisciplinary approaches about change and governance in fisheries. In 2020, I earned a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability. Under the supervision of Dr. Derek Armitage, I studied fisher behaviour and its implications for the governance of Atlantic Canada’s inshore fisheries. I worked across disciplines with fishers and representatives from DFO to develop theory, evidence, and new opportunities to understand and incorporate fisher behaviour into decision-making.

 

I am eager to bring my research experiences, lessons learned, and passion for knowledge co-creation to help achieve the right futures for NL’s fisheries. Most importantly, I am excited to work with all of you. We know that governments, unions, NGOs, and communities are thinking about the future direction in NL. In OFI-Module I, researchers have taken stock and identified goals that promote the sustainability amidst future change relating to values, access, recruitment, training, and retention. Now, the Future Ocean and Coastal Infrastructures group are examining the natural, physical, and societal infrastructures that are robust to many futures. In order to get the futures right, we will work with the insights from these projects to co-anticipate futures and the governance needed to sustain anticipation. This task will require us to leverage our knowledge across disciplines—an endeavour that I hope you will join me on.

Now, we are left with a key tension: we want to plan and act to enrich the viability of NL’s fisheries and fishing communities, but we face limited capacity and certainty to predict the future. How then do we proceed? The answer takes us into anticipatory governance, a form of governance that helps us hedge our bets and think about multiple alternative futures.

Through anticipatory governance, my research links social change—past, current and anticipated—to different drivers in the environment, communities, economies, and politics. Further, my research keeps a keen eye on the governance systems used to address those drivers of change. To foster anticipatory governance, my research is explicitly transdisciplinary. I will be working on case studies with collaborators and partners to co-create research priorities and processes, and most of all, to make sure we get the futures right.

Written by Dr. Evan Andrews

Dr. Evan J. Andrews has joined OFI Module I as postdoctoral fellow. He will be helping OFI move toward Phase III, and leading research on anticipatory governance at Memorial University. Previously, he has received a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo's School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability and a Master of Environment and Sustainability from the University of Saskatchewan's School of Environment and Sustainability. His research focuses on change and governance in coastal and inland fisheries. He advances theory and evidence about coastal actor behaviour, interactive governance, and the policy sciences for fisheries in Atlantic Canada and beyond. He also conducts research on transdisciplinarity in fisheries settings, with examinations of community-engaged methodologies, knowledge mobilization, and early career researcher training. In his off time, Evan is international water polo referee, and enjoys reffing across the country and representing Canada in global competitions. 

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