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Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession

From Fish Management to Fish Rewilding: A Finnish Case Analysis

Contentious Politics
Environmental Policy
Green Politics
Political Theory
Normative Theory
Markku Oksanen
University of Eastern Finland
Markku Oksanen
University of Eastern Finland

Fish is somewhat a paradoxical biological category as a target of natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. For instance, the US Endangered Species Act considers fish as a target species of conservation (consider the snail darter vs. dam building as a classic case) but curiously enough, the species of fish is not included in the concept of wildlife but forms a category in its own right. This, of course, raises the question whether fish is a biological category that can be something to be rewilded or is this just idiosyncratic use of the language. As we see it, this example indicates that fish is an exceptional category through which shed some light to the idea of rewilding. Our purpose is to concentrate on Finland and the changes in public policies regarding fish management and conservation. We ask how the concept of rewilding fits in fish and fisheries policies.
Since 1996, the fisheries management in the Finnish economic zone in the Baltic Sea has been governed by the European Union, and also biodiversity conservation is the subject of European Union legislation. Moreover, Finland has adopted a number of international environmental conventions (Rio, Ramsar, Bern). There are also a number of border river treaties and other relevant EU directives. All in all, we have a complicated area of regulation and governance at hand. All of these supranational norms affect domestic law and policy-making but although sovereignty over fish management and conservation might be restrained it is not, however, non-existent. This paper is a mixture of theoretical speculation and analysis of key regulative texts. Speculation is inevitable since the notion of rewilding is new and there is no one concept of what it means to rewild fish population, in particular, migrating fish populations. For example, what does the viability of fish stock mean in the light of rewilding? Or does rewilding of migrating fish need natural waterways and breeding habitats? The more empirical part of the paper consists of the analysis of laws and preceding law-making discursive processes. It focuses on two cases of law-making, the 1982 and the 2016 Fishing Act. In our paper we, analyze political debates and written materials of the Finnish parliament eduskunta. In these debates, the concept of rewilding has not been used but the ideas related to rewilding were clearly articulated. As we will claim, there is a policy transition from mere fish management to the maintenance of viable fish populations and their habitats. Nevertheless, there are some inherent contradictions, as fish tends to remain an object of continuous fishing interest that result in human-affected fish populations. As long as fishing continues, it is not clear whether rewilding is taking place or not.

(Co-authors Timo Haapasalo and Outi Ratamäki, University of Eastern Finland, have no MyECPR profile and will not be present.)
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