Teaching Men to Fish Sustainably


Reviewing the track records of 11,135 fisheries over half a century, three researchers conclude in the latest issue of Science that privatization promotes sustainable fishing practices. "Implementation of catch shares halts, and even reverses, the global trend toward widespread collapse," they write. "Institutional change has the potential for greatly altering the future of global fisheries." As The New York Times notes, the findings (which should not surprise anyone familiar with the tragedy of the commons) are consistent with earlier research in this area.

The Reason Foundation (which publishes reason and reason online) explained the advantages of transferable fishing rights in a 2004 paper. reason Science Correspondent Ron Bailey explored the subject in a 2006 column.

[Thanks to Paul Rako for the tip.]

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  1. The research was done under the auspices of the Institute of “Well, Duh!”

  2. I can’t fathom why fishery depletion doesn’t get more attention than global warming. I guess it’s hard to compete with a charismatic guy like Al Gore with his fancy Keynote presentations and boom lifts.

  3. The next great fishery invention will be artificial rivers for salmon. I can’t tell the difference between wild and cultivated but a cuisine-head friend of mine claims he does. MMM – Salmon steak.

  4. But I thought everyone’s been saying the fish market system doesn’t work?

  5. Is this some kind of pseudo-market tarpon credit thing?

  6. Alan, I had a working system already devised.

    Build a short artificial river, complete with one strategically placed jump. Stock with salmon.

    When they return, and attempt the jump, they are snatched by my Kodiak-bot (patent pending) in mid-air and tossed into the Salmon-matic 5000 (patent pending), which quickly strips them down to two glistening slabs of pure deliciousness.

    Then I ran the numbers, and realized that Fed/State/Local guv’ment taxes, licensing and fees were going to put me in the red $27.63/unit.

  7. These are generally good ideas. But please keep in mind they lack an important element of free market ‘purity’

    To wit (from the NYT link):

    In this arrangement, scientists set acceptable catch levels, and other authorities allocate shares, species by species, region by region. (emp added)

    It’s a lot like cap and trade for carbon emmisions. Fisheries have the advantage of being a simpler system, so it is far easier, but of course not foolproof, to determine the ‘scientifically correct’ level of production.

  8. It’s water rights as much as fishing rights that need to be put out to the market. Now there is no way for any of the cost of a fish to a consumer to go towards diverting water from hydropower, farming, or anything else that’s taking water from the fish.

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