Chapter 4: The Legal Process and Fisheries Management
Jeffery A. Ballweber and Harold L. Schramm, Jr.
Ownership and management responsibility for fish and wildlife resources and the land and water on which they are dependent have been serious legal considerations as far back as the Roman era. As different forms of government evolved and became increasingly more complex, management responsibilities for fish, wildlife, and other natural resources were shared among different branches (i.e., executive, legislative, and judicial) and levels (e.g., national, state or provincial, county, and municipal) of government.
This evolution has created a labyrinth of seemingly overlapping and conflicting governmental authorities and agency goals. To chart a path through the maze, the initial issue to resolve is who “owns” or has management responsibility for a particular fishery. This question may be answered explicitly by national constitutions or implied from other governmental powers. Wild fish and wildlife are public resources that the government manages to ensure the resources’ persistence for future generations. Depending on the nation and, in some cases, the geographic area (e.g., international water bodies such as the Great Lakes) or specific fishery (e.g., salmon in the Pacific Northwest), management authority is shared among different levels of government (national, sub-national, and local). In addition, different branches of government have different roles in fisheries management.
Within this framework, fisheries professionals manage fisheries resources and are also charged to be fisheries advocates in other water and land management and development decisions. This chapter provides information that will enable fisheries managers to function more effectively in the legal realm of fisheries management and to enhance their effectiveness in representing and advocating for fisheries in issues of land and water management. The chapter begins with an overview of North American governmental organization and then provides some background on the historical basis for governmental management of natural resources. These two topics are then integrated to show the interrelationship of different levels of government in fisheries management. Opportunities to interject fisheries management concerns within broader watershed and ecosystem management efforts are also discussed. The specific information presented, except as noted, pertains to the United States (USA); in most cases Canada and the United Mexican States (Mexico) have somewhat similar concepts and principles with different terminology.