Fish

Use Property Rights to Save Fisheries Around the Globe, Says New Study

Anything you think of as an environmental problem is occurring in an open-access commons.

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FishingBoatIgorGorshev
Dreamstime: Igor Gorshev

If nothing is done to reform open-access fisheries around the world, fishing stocks could drop by as much as 77 percent below current levels by 2050, reports a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If, however, property rights were assigned to individual fishers or communities, the yield trajectory of most of the world's fisheries would shift sharply upward and most would recover biologically in only 10 years. These conclusions were reached by a team of researchers led by University of California, Santa Barbara environmental scientist Christopher Costello in their study, "Global fishing prospects under contrasting management regimes."

The team evaluated data from 4,713 fisheries world which represent 78 percent of the world's reported fish catch and found that only a third of them are in good biological shape. Most of these are more or less open-access commons in which fishers race one another to catch as many fish as possible. Leaving a fish behind means leaving it for other competitive fishers to catch, thus open-access leads to a race to the biological bottom that eventually destroys a fishery. A good close to home example is the collapse and closure of the cod fishery off Newfoundland in 1992. Although the cod fishing moratorium essentially continues, that fishery has yet to recover to anywhere close to its historic productivity.

The new study argues that establishing "rights based fishery management" reforms would boost annual global catch by 16 million metric tons over current levels, yield an additional $53 billion in profits to fishers, and increase overall biomass by 619 million tons. Rights based fishery management means giving property rights to fishers. If a fisher owns 1 percent of fishery, he or she realizes that 1 percent of a growing fishery means more fish and more profits.

Even the Washington Post's editorial board endorsed the fisheries property rights reforms outlined in the study:

To bring about this happy ending, governments must give fishermen a stake in the overall health of their fisheries. One way to accomplish this is to require fishermen to hold rights to catch a certain amount of seafood in a certain fishery, which allows governments to manage the total haul and reduces the frenzied competition to scoop up as much as possible as quickly as possible. Ideally, these "catch shares" could be bought and sold so that rights would end up with those who could fish most efficiently.

If you remember nothing else, please remember: Anything you think of as an environmental problem is occurring in an open-access commons.

Note: I will be speaking about free market environmentalism and my new book The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century on Saturday, April 2 at Florida Gulf Coast University at the Students for Liberty Conference on that topic. Go here for more details.

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  1. Unfortunately, in my experience, the quickest way to get an enviro to go against something is to argue for the economically sensible solution.

    1. Yeah, profit off fish? That’s just crazy talk.

      1. That’s enslavement!

    2. Depends on the group. I’ve listened to some EconTalk episodes on this sort of thing. The feeling I get from that is while some groups are vehemently anti-market, others are more willing to listen. The EDF has been cited as one of the more pragmatic groups by at least one EconTalk guest.

  2. Hernando de Soto has been saying this for how many decades now?

    1. HM: Yes, I know. But environmental scientists apparently have to discover the efficacy of property right themselves rather than listen to free market “ideologues.” Sigh.

      1. Unfortunately as each of them discovers this they are cast into outer darkness as a free market “ideologue”. Remember Bono?

      2. Another great example of this is when they have hunters come on NPR to have a round-table discussion about wildlife conservation with peta activists and take phone calls. The hunter comes with all the facts, figures and economics on his side and is probably ignored by 90% of the listeners. The callers on those types of episodes are the best.

    2. From the wiki:

      The Cato Institute and The Economist magazine have argued that de Soto’s policy prescriptions brought him into conflict with and eventually helped to undermine the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrilla movement. By granting titles to small coca farmers in the two main coca-growing areas, they argued that the Shining Path was deprived of safe havens, recruits and money, and the leadership was forced to cities where they were arrested.[8][9] A large terrorist attack was launched against the ILD and de Soto in light of the statements by Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman who saw ILD as a serious threat.

      That’s pretty badass.

  3. OT: An arrest warrant has been issued for Corey Lewandowski for roughing up Michelle Fields last month. He turned himself in. I’m sure this will lead to absolutely no drama anywhere.

    1. Someone here (Gilmore, maybe?) called it the “Shovacaust.”

    2. Go long popcorn.

      1. Going long on popcorn is a very safe bet these days.

      2. I fucking hate popcorn. Should I go long on pretzel bites?

    3. Now can we get an arrest warrant for Hillary?

      1. Yeah, the Obama DOJ will get right on that.

    4. It is with a complete lack of surprise that I discovered that Lewandowski, a person willing to mandhandle a reporter and then publicly state that he never so much as touched her, WAS A COP.

      1. Although the manhandling I believe has yet to be proven, knowing he was a cop makes me lean more in the direction that maybe he did it.

        1. Although the manhandling I believe has yet to be proven, knowing he was a cop makes me lean more in the direction that maybe he did it.

          Of course he did it. Whether or not it is something that can be proven in court is another question.

        2. Embedded YouTube video. This angle is a hell of a lot more convincing than the original side view.

          http://twitchy.com/2016/03/29/…..-incident/

          1. Hmm. Choppy video, but it doesn’t look like much more than moving her out of the way, hard to see if it was particularly violent. Wasn’t her original claim about being thrown to the ground?

            1. No. It was about being grabbed and pulled away from Trump hard enough that she almost fell to the ground. Pretty much what the CC video shows.

      2. For me, Lewandowski pretty much is evidence of what a Trump administration would actually be like.

        1. Unfortunately, it’s also probably what a Hillary or Bernie administration would be like.

    5. At least they’re not arresting Robert.

      1. Several thousand people in Dortmund would be all for it.

        1. Don’t get me started on the Dortmund-to-Munich pipeline. I like Munich but them sucking up Germany’s best every year is ruining the league IMHO.

      2. Much to the dismay of Wolfsburg supporters.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRZFvSPJBzU

  4. The problem we face is not how to preserve the environment or improve individual’s economic well being! The problem we face is that some people have more than me and must be punished!

    Prog Sinister

  5. As I’ve been saying for ages, don’t whine about the tragedy of the commons if you’ve chosen to create the commons.

  6. Unfortunately this scheme revolves around global cooperation. Who grants rights in international waters? If the US limits Americans fishing in part of the Atlantic, what stops the Spanish from fishing those waters?

    1. We have all these Cold War era submarines…

    2. The U.S. Navy?

      1. In international waters? By what right can the US sink fisherman in free waters?

        1. By what right does the US government do anything? FYTW.

          1. Then why are we discussing free market solutions? The USN should sink all non-US fishing vessels.

            1. I think you’re taking things a little too seriously here.

              1. I sink so too.

        2. I could see “Saving Teh Planet” offering all kinds of useful cover for extraterritorial authoritarian bullshit.

          1. The solution I would like to see is auctioning off international water fishing rights and giving the proceeds to other countries. The winner then gets the economic benefit and revenue. They could be auctioned yearly or every decade, or owned and resold.

        3. I was just looking at pictures of the US Coast Guard that runs out of the Alemeda, CA port. They were arresting cocaine smugglers in a submarine. They were a couple hundred miles off the coast of Panama.

      1. Correct. But the Spanish do have a massive fishing fleet.

          1. I wouldn’t when you have all the se?oritas to chat with.

          2. No, they bring the port with them. And the madeira, the cabernet, the sauvignon blanc, the tempranillo, the sangria…

            1. No, the Portuguese bring the port and madeira with them.

              1. Like a bunch of Spanish fishermen are gonna discriminate based on national origin.

        1. Would you say that they have an Armada of fishing vessels Jefe?

          1. Oh Si. They have an armada.
            *checks weather report*

            1. Do you know what an armada means?

              1. It means something different when you tack on “leg”.

    3. You seem to be presupposing a monopoly on force is needed to accomplish anything.

      Every “scheme” in every system from govt to anarchy will revolve around some imperfect process for enforcing rules.

      1. FTA: researchers reported that governments have extremely effective policy options to eliminate this tragedy of the commons. If applied globally, modern management plans could rehabilitate the median fishery in less than a decade.

        It’s not my position. The article states it needs to be adopted globally to work.

        1. Yes but you’re the one who is claiming it will not work because of this need, suggesting the lack of a single global granter of rights is a problem.

          1. Really. Because the solution I suggested is auctioning off fishing rights, not a super government granting rights.

            1. I’m referring to the basis for your comment and the followup comment, not the sum total of all you have written or believe in your life. Twice you implied the need for international cooperation meant the scheme could not succeed. The obvious implication being that only with the lack of a need for cooperation, i.e. with some kind of mandatory compliance could the scheme work.

              1. Florida Hipster|3.29.16 @ 11:54AM|#

                The solution I would like to see is auctioning off international water fishing rights and giving the proceeds to other countries. The winner then gets the economic benefit and revenue. They could be auctioned yearly or every decade, or owned and resold

                Do try to keep up. It’s in the very same thread.

                1. Not even going to try to explain the comments eh?

                  Your alternative plan is not relevant. I am talking about the simple question of whether there can be a rule of law without a monopoly on force.

                  1. That’s my point. No one has final say in the Pacific Ocean. Who is going to grant these property rights? Who will enforce the claim? Saying that the world will unite and agree is fantasy. See: China and Japan fighting over islands.

                    1. Ok. So your point is what I thought it was. First of all, as I said, no system is perfect. We have a govt “granting” property rights in the US, yet someone stole the GPS from my wife’s car anyway and the cops could care less.

                      But as for law in the absence of a govt, anarchist theory considers this situation quite a bit. What is needed is enforcement, basically. Your rights regarding murder and the property you brought with you, for example, need to be policed in international waters either way don’t they?

                      As for the question you bring up regarding how they were assigned. Clearly that would need to be in a way that most participants agree with, in order to get their participation at all. Which seems like a good thing to need.

    4. I would imagine some mix of maritime law, private international law and the UN coordinated law of the sea delegating Exclusive Economic Zones. It’s complicated and imperfect but it probably wouldn’t be too different than oil drilling in international waters.

      1. Oil drilling is a little different because it is harder to extract oil than it is to net fish. It’s seems like the prisoners Dilemma game. Everybody wins if you cooperate, but if you screw everyone else you get a bigger payoff.

    5. The Spanish dig all this environmental stuff.

      Remember, the Spanish were the ones so into solar that they built a solar farm that could generate solar power at night?

      1. Not when it comes to fish.

        http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/s…..le=Fishery statistics&lg=en

    6. Cooperation does not need to be global, because most fishieries aren’t global in nature. Certain areas have high populations of certain fish and can be regarded as a unit. For instance the cod fishery in the north atlantic is a specific area over the continental shelf adjacent to Canada. Technically Canada claims rights to it, but I’m not sure if that is recognized.

      I think what we need is some sort of system of international recognition of sovreignty over major fishing grounds in international waters, so that some country can claim jurisdiction. If Canada the US and Iceland all claim sovreignty over the north atlantic shelf, then they can work out a system between themselves. China doesn’t need to be involved, except insofar as they get the reciprocal benefit of having rights over fishing grounds near their coastlines.

      1. I agree. I think in areas where multiple countries can claim fishing rights an auction would make sense or at least a proportional sharing of profits.

        1. Yeah. An auction would allow for a new entrant into the market on an equal footing with other competitors, so it has that benefit. I would think that the multiple countries would establish a joint auction and they would share the proceeds and redistribute it to the losers of the auction , or use it to fund a BIG or something.

  7. We don’t need more fish again until next Lent anyway.

  8. Yes. More stories like this, fewer stories about dumb campus shenanigans and cops shooting dogs.

  9. You still have governmemt setting quotas. I’m all in favor of privatizing fisheries but given their fuzzy boundaries and enforcement challenges I wonder how successful they’ll ultimately be.

  10. If private fishers coordinated between themselves and limited their own catches to preserve the fish, I wonder if they would be violating anti-trust laws.

    1. Probably. This is probably one of those cases where anti-trust laws are harmful. Cartels generally are unstable, but in cases where mutual survival is at stake, they can work effectively. In this case you would WANT a cartel to form in the open, with openly acknowledged and enforced rules for limiting the total catch and punishing defectors.
      The tricky part would be establishing rules to allow new entrants equal access to the market.

      1. Re: HazelMeade,

        Probably. This is probably one of those cases where anti-trust laws are harmful.

        Well, it is assured that it will be one of those cases since anti-trust laws are 100% harmful.

    2. Ha. That would be the lobbyists’ claim for the consortium that would inevitably emerge to fight this type of sound management.

      Not unlike the cab unions trying to stop their logical and necessary end via uber.

  11. Use Property Rights to Save Fisheries Around the Globe, Says New Study

    Yet another study that finds what was obvious to everybody else. Thank you, science!

    The new study argues that establishing “rights based fishery management” reforms would boost annual global catch by 16 million metric tons over current levels, yield an additional $53 billion in profits to fishers, and increase overall biomass by 619 million tons.

    But what about the coral? Doesn’t anybody think of the polyps? Giving property rights to fishermen is yucky! Profits – bleah!

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