Or, mourn technology is applied to the sea, to resolve the “Tragedy of the Commons” situation.
Rights-based fishery policies can guarantee a rapid rebound of fish stocks, biomass and profits for fishermen.
A surprising study in PNAS scores a win for private property, appropriately managed. Though many environmentalists have been worried about the collapse of seafood markets due to overfishing, a dozen scientists from the University of Washington, University of California at Santa Barbara and the Environmental Defense Fund have found a path to recovery: stop “business as usual” policies, and veer toward “rights based” fishery policies. PhysOrg explains how it works:
The analysis suggests that implementing reforms such as those based on secure fishing rights are critical to providing the combined benefits of increased fish populations, food production and profits. “Fishing rights” is a fishery management approach that ends the desperate race to fish by asking fishers to adhere to strict, science-based catch limits in exchange for a right to a share of the catch or to a traditional fishing area.
“We now have a clear roadmap for how to recover fisheries: Give fishermen secure fishing rights so they can control and protect their future,” said co-author Amanda Leland, senior vice president for oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Countries from the U.S. to Belize to Namibia are leading a turnaround by implementing secure fishing rights and realizing benefits for people and the oceans.”
Although they don’t mention the old economic problem of “tragedy of the commons” that drove early pilgrims to near starvation until they were given control over private plots of land, the principle appears the same. Rights to fish certain areas without competition, except for agreement to sustainable catch limits agreed in advance, give fishermen the incentive to protect their areas and make them as productive as possible. Since they know that overfishing would drive them out of business, they would have the incentive to protect and control their future by conserving their fishing rights.
This is a win-win situation all around, the scientists calculate after looking at the most heavily-fished areas around the world. Even with the expected rise in world population and seafood consumption, there should be plenty to go around under rights-based fishery policies, if implemented now.
Applying sound management reforms to global fisheries in our dataset could generate annual increases exceeding 16 million metric tons (MMT) in catch, $53 billion in profit, and 619 MMT in biomass relative to business as usual. We also find that, with appropriate reforms, recovery can happen quickly, with the median fishery taking under 10 y to reach recovery targets. Our results show that commonsense reforms to fishery management would dramatically improve overall fish abundance while increasing food security and profits.
The methods could include cooperatives, territorial rights or individual transferable quotas to achieve the conservation and ecological objectives. Costs to consumers, they figure, are only a fraction of the potential benefits. Some of these benefits have already been seen in the experience of Iceland, New Zealand and Australia. Moreover, it would not be necessary to put some areas off-limits to fishing, because the rebound will more than offset the time to recovery:
Our results suggest that some of the greatest economic improvements in fisheries may come more from improving institutions than from improving the status of fished stocks. Furthermore, these gains in profit can occur quickly following institutional reforms, because they do not exclusively rely on stock recovery. Such rapid economic gains can help offset many of the necessary short-term costs associated with stock recovery when catches must temporarily decline to enable recovery.
In fact, the tradeoffs are few. It’s good policy all around. Fish will like it, fishermen will like it, and consumers will like it. It seafood prices rise temporarily, they will likely fall when supply increases.
The future is actually gong to be pretty good!
Note: Greenpeace had nothing to do with this. Indeed, during the time the ocean fish stocks were being gutted by state-subsidized Korean fisherman, Greenpeace was blathering on and on about that socialist fraud called global warming.