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Spawning trouble: A criminological examination of salmon aquaculture in coastal British Columbia

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Despite considerable evidence of ecological harm, ongoing breaches of law and regulation and systemic failure on the part of regulators, the salmon aquaculture industry has to date been spared criminological consideration. This dissertation aims to begin to address this lacuna through an interrogation of the discourse of environmental harm and risk associated with salmon farming in British Columbia, as represented through a significant moment in its history, the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River. An ethnographic content analysis of the Commission hearings was undertaken, which drew on the Framework methodology. In making meaning of the data, I enlist several theoretical frameworks, including political ecology and risk as theorized in risk society and governmentality scholarship. To this end, I draw on the work of Ulrich Beck, for whom the development of the “risk society” in which a critical-reflexive engagement with the ecological risks of techno-industrialization is a central preoccupation. This is compared with analyses derived from Michel Foucault, where risk is viewed as a form of governmentality. I contend that the environmental governance of salmon aquaculture through “sustainable development” manifests an expression of biopolitical power, deriving from and operating upon a network of relations between the population, the resources upon which it depends and the environment. Material relations are also considered through the lens of Treadmill of Production theory, with a focus on both the drivers of the treadmill as originally conceptualized – capital, labour and state – and countervailing forces such environmental and Indigenous groups. Through a process of capital accumulation via intensive agri-industrial production, the salmon aquaculture industry externalizes the costs of its ecological additions and withdrawals, engendering local, regional and even global impacts through spatially and temporally networked global systems of production and consumption. In this dynamic, the regulatory system is a site of contestation. I consider this adumbration of the material and ideological relations of power with a generative intent and take up some of its overarching implications for engaging with the regulation of salmon aquaculture and with other systems of ecological governance in British Columbia and beyond.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Brockman, Joan
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