Free-Market Environmentalism in the New York Times

A "libertarian moment" moment: The New York Times defends attempts to establish quasi-private property in fish in the ocean as a means to preserve them. From its editorial earlier this week:

Under the present system, America’s regional fishing councils, which are run largely by fishermen with federal oversight, set annual catch limits. To meet these quotas, most commercial fleets follow a detailed “days at sea” approach regulating the number of days they may fish, how many fish they may catch and what kind of equipment they may use. The system does not work well. Some people obey the rules, and others don’t. The days-at-sea restrictions often lead to a frantic race to catch as many fish as possible as quickly as possible, which in turn leads to indiscriminate and wasteful fishing.

Ms. [Jane] Lubchenco’s [of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] alternative would give individual fishermen or groups of fishermen fixed shares — a guaranteed percentage — of the annual catch, then let them set the rules. The theory is that share-holding fishermen will have a vested interest in seeing their resource grow, much like shareholders in a company.

Fisheries that use this system — also known as “dedicated access” fisheries — have prospered in places like New Zealand. The dozen or so American fisheries with catch shares, accounting for about one-fifth of the total domestic catch, have also done well.

Ron Bailey explained and defended the "individual fishing quota" system for New England back in 2005. A Reason Foundation study on how to implement such quotas in the U.S. from 2004.

[Hat tip: reader Ray Eckhart]

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  • Naga Sadow||

    I'm blown away! Really? I've long had the idea that if enviromentalists(whatever that may mean) had begun using market based approaches to reach their goals they would largely have everything they still fight for these days. Water pollution, air pollution, endangered species, poaching, etc.

  • Xeones||

    Naga, you should read Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson.

  • ||

    I watch "Deadliest Catch" regularly. That Alaskan crab fishery went from derby style to quota fishing a couple years ago, iirc. The overall catch is still mandated by the state of Alaska. The fleet is a lot smaller, with the remaining boats given quotas much higher than they used to catch under the derby style rules.The boats featured on the show have gone from catching around a million pounds of opilio crab in the season, to catching a predetermined quota of 6 million pounds in some cases.

  • ||

    Ms. [Jane] Lubchenco's [of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] alternative would give individual fishermen or groups of fishermen fixed shares - a guaranteed percentage - of the annual catch,

    As long as the shares are transferable, I got no problem with it.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Xeones,

    I have but I like Michael Crichtons "State of Fear" more. A lot more, in fact.

  • Mike in PA||

    A couple questions...

    1. Who decides who can join these cartels?
    2. If my share is guaranteed, then what incentive do I have to catch the most?
    3. What's to keep these cartels from forcing out new competition?

    With nearly every fishing vessel having GPS, I'd be happier to see fishing property rights. You get a certain area to fish in that is your own. You can allow whoever to fish there that you want, but must realize that the fish will ultimately go where they are treated the best. Meaning a clean environment, not over-fished, and protected from natural prey.

    I can also see public fishing grounds for the novice, but you better believe the private grounds will be much better managed. Just like in land. Why does the water have to be different?

  • Xeones||

    I have but I like Michael Crichtons "State of Fear" more. A lot more, in fact.

    I have nothing more to say to you, then. Good day, sir.

  • Chad||

    Naga Sadow | June 24, 2009, 11:44am | #
    I'm blown away! Really? I've long had the idea that if enviromentalists(whatever that may mean) had begun using market based approaches to reach their goals they would largely have everything they still fight for these days. Water pollution, air pollution, endangered species, poaching, etc.


    Ummm....environmentalists have been calling for such "market-based" approaches for decades. Perhaps if you had only been listening before we annihilated many of our fisheries while under the ultra-libertarian plan of "Government is always bad, and shouldn't ever do anything because the market would NEVER make a mistake..."

    Now, for that market-based plan called cap-and-trade...

  • Naga Sadow||

    No insult intended, Xeones.

  • ||

    Now, for that market-based plan called cap-and-trade...

    You're undoubtedly referring to some theoretical cap-and-trade plan, and not the carnival of rent-seeking and command economics currently wending a slimy path through the halls of Congress.

  • Xeones||

    I SAID GOOD DAY.

  • Chad||

    P Brooks | June 24, 2009, 12:52pm | #
    Now, for that market-based plan called cap-and-trade...

    You're undoubtedly referring to some theoretical cap-and-trade plan, and not the carnival of rent-seeking and command economics currently wending a slimy path through the halls of Congress.


    You do realize that the left would be perfectly happy to pass it WITHOUT all the rent-seeking, correct? It is the right that is demanding all the subsidies be put in.

    Wow, the right being doubly anti-market. How ironic and hypocritical.

  • ||

    "You do realize that the left would be perfectly happy to pass it WITHOUT all the rent-seeking, correct?"

    Don't they hold the majority?

  • ||

    "Ummm....environmentalists have been calling for such "market-based" approaches for decades."

    Care to provide some links?

  • Chad||

    Enough About Palin | June 24, 2009, 1:04pm | #

    Don't they hold the majority?


    You are confusing the left with Democrats. It is Republicans and "centrist" Democrats that are demanding all of the rent-seeking in order to protect all of their pet industries.

  • ||

    You do realize that the left would be perfectly happy to pass it WITHOUT all the rent-seeking

    [citation needed]

  • Naga Sadow||

    Xeones!!! Come back to me!!!

  • ||

    Suppresses Internal Global Warming Study:

    The Competitive Enterprise Institute today charged that a senior official of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency actively suppressed a scientific analysis of climate change because of political pressure to support the Administration's policy agenda of regulating carbon dioxide.

    "This suppression of valid science for political reasons is beyond belief," said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. "EPA's conduct is even more outlandish because it flies in the face of the President's widely-touted claim that 'the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over.'"

  • ||

    http://www.globalwarming.org/2009/06/24/epa-suppresses-internal-global-warming-study/

  • ||

    Perhaps if you had only been listening before we annihilated many of our fisheries while under the ultra-libertarian plan of "[yaddayaddayadda]"



    Actually the huge subsidies paid out by governments around the world (including the US) and the resultant excess capacity of national fishing fleets cannot be ignored in considering the question of overfishing.

    And libertarians are the ones responsible for the subsidies, right, Chad? Or is it that the subsidies weren't a stupid government idea because governments are never wrong?

    The fact is that without the subsidies the overfishing that occurred in the 50s through the 70s would have been much less pronounced. Like most goverment programs, of course, they had the best intentions, protecting fisherman from "losing their livlihoods" as fishing became more efficient and fewer people were needed to engage in it.

    But I'm still trying to find the "ultra-libertarian" element of this plan.

    But then most of the time I don't really know what you think libertarianism means.

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