Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This dissertation aims to understand the history of, and possible alternatives to, managerial responses to socio-ecological issues by examining one of the largest natural resource management failures of the twentieth century—the collapse of the Northern cod fisheries off Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. In 1992, the Northern cod fishery off Newfoundland and Labrador (the world's largest ground fishery) was shut down. The Northern cod had been reduced to 1% of their historic spawning biomass and cod fishing as a way of life had come to an end after a 500 year history. The dissertation develops and applies a critical theory of managerial ecology to explore the history and consequences of managerial ideas and interventions into the cod fisheries. It argues that managerial ecology is deeply implicated not only in leading to the collapse of the cod fisheries and the failure of cod stocks to recover, but also in creating new ecological and social problems that cannot be solved by new and improved managerial designs. The dissertation describes the ascendance of managerial ecology within Newfoundland and Labrador cod fisheries beginning with the history of the birth of the fisheries management idea and its development up to the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing. Developments post-1992 are then presented, emphasizing the tendency of politicians, bureaucrats and academic researchers to offer innovative managerial strategies for the cod fishery rather than calling into question managerial relationships themselves and proposing fundamental alternatives. It illustrates how under post-92 reforms, cod have become managed as elements in complex ecosystems as opposed to single species populations; how traditional fishers who want to continue fishing are required to become self-managing professional fish harvesters; and how industrialists and government bureaucrats promote the idea that the wild cod fishery should be replaced by industrial fish farming. The dissertation concludes with a reflection on the development of managerial ecology in the face of natural resource collapse. Suggestions are made for future research directions in environmental studies that move beyond managerial ecology by focussing on lessons emerging from complex ecosystem science that challenge the efficacy of management as well as normative-political arguments that question its legitimacy.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season