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Alternative environmentalities: recasting the assessment of Canada’s first Marine Stewardship Council-certified fishery in social terms

Paul Foley, Environmental Policy Institute, School of Science and the Environment, Memorial University of Newfoundland (Grenfell Campus)
Dinah A. Okyere, School of Science and the Environment, Memorial University of Newfoundland (Grenfell Campus)
Charles Mather, Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's


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We use a Foucault-inspired environmentalities analytical lens to conceptualize alternative sustainability auditing frameworks. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) claims to administer the international gold standard for sustainability evaluation of fisheries, yet the livelihoods of many people who depend on Canada’s first MSC-certified fishery are in serious jeopardy. After decades of growth that helped fishers and coastal communities alleviate the social consequences of the infamous cod collapse, the northern shrimp fishery in eastern Canada is experiencing ecological change and social conflict over the distribution of quota reductions. However, recent disputes over the distribution, and social consequences, of quota reductions in this fishery are completely invisible in assessment and auditing documents for the successful recertification of the fishery to the MSC’s standard for “sustainable and well managed fisheries” in 2016. We draw upon aspects of an alternative assessment framework to highlight information and knowledge that a socially attentive sustainability audit of this fishery might consider. The alternative auditing framework renders visible social dimensions of Canada’s northern shrimp fishery, including government decision making that incorporates ethical and moral economy principles, the distribution of access to various interests, uses of access benefits for regional and community development purposes, and conflict over policy and resource access during a period of resource decline and dispossession. Although the spread of auditing frameworks across natural resource sectors tends to reinforce neoliberal interests and undermine social justice aims, we argue that the development of alternative assessment frameworks that clearly make visible materialist social development relationship and knowledge can enable action in support of social justice objectives.

Key words

assessment frameworks; audits; environmentality; governmentality; Marine Stewardship Council; sustainability

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087