Skip to comments.Complete collapse of North Atlantic fishing predicted
Posted on 02/18/2002 2:59:11 AM PST by semper_libertas
Complete collapse of North Atlantic fishing predicted
The entire North Atlantic is being so severely overfished that it may completely collapse by 2010, reveals the first comprehensive survey of the entire ocean's fishery.
"We'll all be eating jellyfish sandwiches," says Reg Watson, a fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia. Putting new ocean-wide management plans into place is the only way to reverse the trend, Watson and his colleagues say.
North Atlantic catches have fallen by half since 1950, despite a tripling of the effort put into catching them. The total number of fish in the ocean has fallen even further, they say, with just one sixth as many high-quality "table fish" like cod and tuna as there were in 1900. Fish prices have risen six fold in real terms in 50 years.
The shortage of table fish has forced a switch to other species. "The jellyfish sandwich is not a metaphor - jellyfish is being exported from the US," says Daniel Pauly, also at the University of British Columbia. "In the Gulf of Maine people were catching cod a few decades ago. Now they're catching sea cucumber. By earlier standards, these things are repulsive," he says.
The only hope for the fishery is to drastically limit fishing, for instance by declaring large portions of the ocean off-limits and at the same time reducing the number of fishing ships. Piecemeal efforts to protect certain fisheries have only caused the fishing fleet to overfish somewhere else, such as west Africa.
"It's like shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic," says Andrew Rosenberg, at the University of New Hampshire. He says the number of boats must be reduced: "Less is actually more with fisheries. If you fish less you get more fish."
Normally, falling catches would drive some fishers out of business. But government subsidies actually encourage overfishing, Watson says, with subsidies totalling about $2.5 billion a year in the North Atlantic.
However, Rosenberg was sceptical that any international fishing agreements currently on the table will turn the tide in a short enough timescale. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and the OECD have initiatives but these are voluntary, he says. A UN-backed monitoring and enforcement plan of action is being discussed but could take 10 years to come into force.
Pauly says only a public reaction like that against whaling in the 1970s would be enough to bring about sufficient change in the way the fish stocks are managed.
The new survey was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's 2002 annual meeting in Boston.
|10:30 18 February 02|
Wouldn't higher prices only encourage more fishermen to hit the seas hoping for huge revenues, thus making the shortage even worse?
Pay fifty bucks a pound for pigeon, and watch how fast NYC develops a pigeon shortage...
What natural science theory do you base this on? You really have no basis for these assertions. Natural cycles are actually highly unstable with huge overpopulations and die-offs every few years. The North Atlantic fisheries system will reproduce this, just as the writer predicts.
But the higher prices are the result of poor catches. So even if more fishermen get lured onto the seas and fewer fish really do become available, they'll each be catching less and less. They'll need prices to be even higher and higher to make a profit. At some point fishermen can't pass their expense for going after rarer and rarer fish to consumers who're almost as happy with farm raised at $3-$5 per pound.
Your analog presumes that pigeon's can't be farm raised or substituted with farm raised chickens.
The model is so simplistic compared to real-world economics it's useless.
Comparing that model with what we are discussing is like comparing a light switch with a 4th order predictive filter. (maybe even more extreme)
Because people like to eat fish.
Look, the main argument in favor of capitalism, once you get outside of objectivist moral theorists (of which I am one, don't get me wrong) is that capitalism delivers abundance. Leonard Peikoff might denounce that as pragmatism, but people from the shanty towns to the boards of directors look only at the bottom line. Whatever it is, be it widgets or fish, capitalism is supposed to deliver more of it at a lower price. If capitalism can't make good on that promise, most people will ditch it in a heartbeat.
For that reason, the ecofreaks would love for everyone to believe that capitalism is all about expoiting resources until they are no good to anyone. I say they're wrong, but you seem to be agreeing with them, except that you tack the words "so what" on the end. I doubt you'll change many minds in favor of a free market approach.
Where do we disagree? External factors frequently affect systems that were in equilibrium, and fluctuations occur.
While it's true enough that increasing prices would reduce demand, it's also likely that increasing prices will INCREASE the number of fishing vessels, since any catch at all becomes more profitable.
I find the farm-raised Atlantic Salmon to be a most delicious and affordable standard. Our local market had a sale last week on Salmon fillet of $2.99/lb. We bought extra for the freezer. It's tasty and very healthy.
Modern fish farming has created opportunity, profitability, and lessened prices for catfish, shrimp. and salmon. I'm sure other species will be added to the list.
Sounds like the same polititions made our American immigration laws that severely limited the European quotas and flooded our country with Asian, African, and Arab hordes.
Shame. The "everyday you take another bite" possibilities are endless.
You'd be right if the high prices were caused by increased demand. But not if the high prices are caused by lower supply. In the case of low supply, the cost of finding and catching the rare fish should offset the profit to be had by selling them.
That's how it should happen anyway. As others on this thread have pointed out, there are pecularities with this resource that make it harder to predict.
We were there with another aprox 35 boats, looking for a strike from a King Mackeral, maybe two strikse, if it was a good day. Suddenly, along came a comercial boat. It pulled in a thousand Kings, right in front of us, with a comercial cable.One after the other.
You Sir, are a fool, for believing everything you hear on the radio!
Hmm . You have no idea what I heard, but you have a little public temper tantrum and call me a "fool" for believing "everything" I hear. No wonder you're here alone on the Internet rather than out with "all your friends".
Don't talk to me.
You are assuming most systems start from stable equilibrium in the first place. This is what I was disagreeing with. Assuming of course it is really relevent to compare manmade fishing to natural cycles anyway.
I don't see what's wrong with regulating fishing according to wildlife models. They are the basis for instance for every wildlife conservation department in the country - you limit hunting, fishing etc. to replacement.
Let's assume that that's the case. While an equilibrium may eventually be achieved that prevents the fish from being hunted to extinction, it will still stabilize at fish population that is very much smaller than it is today, with no prospect of it coming back.
I think we can do better. In fact, I believe that the ocean fisheries can one day be more abundant than they were in the wild state.
Buffalo used to taste pretty darn good too. A veritable staple of the midwest. Had to eat something else though, folks ran out. Lately, however, there've been more buffalo available and about 10 years ago I started eating buffalo burgers occasionally. Heavy promotions to eat buffalo so as to boost the industry. I do prefer it to ostrich.
As far as objectivism is concerned, I am a fan. But it forms only a small segment of an overall worldview because it avoids much about economics and life in general. (fun to discuss at another time).
As for morality, I have no moral obligation to protect fish per se. I do accept a moral obligation to prevent extinction of fish provided human lives need not be sacrificed. But I don't think that is at all the issue here.
I have a moral obligation to defend individual liberties, so that they may help me defend my own liberty, and perhaps that is more to the point.
When fish populations begin to truly impact large ecomomies I have no doubt that the industry itself will seek alliances, cooperatives, compacts and self-management arrangements (involving government of necessity)such as may be necessary to protect their industry, and their profitability.
Look, if the fish dry up nobody will suffer more than the industry themselves. They will not eat at all, we at least will have the money to buy chicken.
So if we keep the cash flowing so that the most significant impact is to the very people who are doing the fishing, then it will balance itself. But if we monkey around with the cash flow by synthetic diversions by the government then who knows how screwed up things can become.
It's all a matter of trust as far as initial arguments are concerned. There will no doubt be regulation, but it must be driven by the needs of the industry itself, not by the outrageously unprincipled, and corrupt ecodoctrinarians.
The fisherman gain $$ by maintaining a viable industry, the ecodoctrinarians gain $$ by proclaiming an industry in crisis.
I know where to put my faith. (I don't necessarily have the answer, but then again I'm not a commercial fisherman)
Prices rise in response to the cost of business. The margins initially will become even tighter, until only the big boys remain because they can live off of smaller margins for longer periods, fish more efficiently (higher relative margins), or buy out smaller guys and consolidate the industry.
After the initial shake-up of the industry prices may again rise in order to increase profit margins and take advantage of lesser competition.
By the time those margins start to improve the start-up costs for new guys to put back in may be prohibitive.
The biggest problems will come from competitive governments however attempting to subsidize their respective industries.
It may be possible to experience a fishy cold-war in the future.
Like with Dom Perignon, Cadillacs, Rolex watches. . .???parsy
This, to me, is a true environmental issue. It doesn't really mean jack squat whether the snail darter or the spotted owl becomes extinct, or whether prairie dogs are exposed to PCBs. These things shouldn't be wished for, and should be avoided if unnecessary, but human beings don't depend on them. Human beings do, however, depend on ocean fishing.
A good environment is one that supports man. Killing off the dire wolves was good environmental policy. Plowing under the Great Plains and planting wheat was good environmental policy. Allowing (or worse, subsidizing) overfishing is bad environmental policy. We really do need those fish.
Well you may have just assumed that yourself. I assume the aggregate fish population was relatively stable since the last ice age. Perhaps not, there may have been other catastrophes, but I'm not aware of them. So now in the industrial/information age the fish/predator equilibrium is going to have to adjust.
I really dont care it people want to ban together to preserve species for sport or economics. I only have a problem when people think we're going to drive them all into extinction without drastic new action.
Buffalo is an excellent example. (I tasted some for the first time this past summer, and loved it. Bison: The Other Red Meat!)
When buffalo freely roamed the plains, they were hunted almost to extinction. It was touch-and-go for awhile. We very nearly lost the species.
Nowadays, people are raising buffalo, and the population is on the rise. Someday, I expect that there will be more buffalo than there ever were before. The more we eat, the more there will be.
The entire difference is attributable to the fact that nobody owned the buffalo of the plains, while the buffalo of today are almost all private property. Until the fish of the sea can--somehow--become the private property of profit-driven individuals, they are at risk of severe depletion or extinction. The limitless rapacity of the human animal that now threatens them is exactly what will save them, but only if ownership can be established.
You may not like my suggested method of establishing ownership. That's fair. Perhaps it is unworkable. Perhaps there's a better method. But I still maintain that private ownership must be established somehow before capitalism can rescue the fisheries.
Socialists can only ever have solutions that advance socialism. Otherwise we have no need for them...
To them the achievement of socialism is far more important than actually solving any other problems. Lack of socialism is the only problem they address.
Oh, and btw, higher prices only encourage fishing because the subsidized fisheries can turn around and sell the fish to Americans and other "free enterprise" bafoons for great profit.
I grew up on an island in the North Atlantic and was ocean fishing at age 5. I owned a boat before a car. I've seen the collapse of innumerable North Atlantic fisheries and it always seems to be due to the same causes. Greed, corrupt politicians and the ignorant sycophants who defend each.
Let me ask you, when the cod goes extint and the last fillet is sold at Christies will the price then be right to preserve the fish? Do you know what a fish school is? Do you know why they school? Do you know what purpose it serves for their survival?
In a few weeks I'm moving to Portland, OR, an area with heavily-managed fisheries. From what I've read it should be the best fishing of my life.
The article is correct but too late. It's either regulation or the U.S. Navy sinking every fishing vessel in the Atlantic for the next 40 years. I've seen the alternative and it's called extinction. There are people on this planet who will eat seaweed and anything else from the ocean. I guess it's o.k. with you to let them strip our oceans like a bunch of locusts.
Extinction per se isn't the issue. Depletion to the point of uselessness is, in economic terms, the same thing. We are certainly headed there if nothing is done.
Look at the whaling industry. It used to be big business, and while the whales aren't exactly extinct, the industry itself is gone. (Yeah, I know, government drove the last tiny remnant of it out of existence, but what really killed it was lack of whales.) We could use that industry back again. People need jobs, and I myself wouldn't mind tucking into a nice, big whaleburger. But to do that, it takes whales.
"Nowadays, people are raising buffalo, and the population is on the rise. Someday, I expect that there will be more buffalo than there ever were before. The more we eat, the more there will be."
Good points both of you, I tend to agree; fundamentally, I think farm-raising of fish is a good start towards solving the "scarcity" issue of that product known as "seafood." I don't doubt that the coastal and inland resources exist (in many parts of the world) to enable savvy entrepreneurs the means to construct modern, efficient, cost-effective (read: low labor and low capital infrastructure) fish-pen facilities that would then crank out literally tons of wholesome, nutritious, edible biomass - be it salmon, trout, catfish, bass, crabs and other shellfish, squid, etc.
Perhaps bigger fish, or the more exotic species of fish that don't lend themselves to pen-raising techniques, would have to be excluded from this approach, but so what: we still could do it with enough of the widely desirable species and make it work (i.e., "we have the technology").
But here's my fear: we don't necessarily have the political will or the economic "convenience" of just going to farm-raising of fish. You would have to have the resolve to displace a thoroughly entrenched boat-based fisheries industry that includes everything from the small fishermen with their boats and trawlers, all the way up to the big factory trawlers and mega processors (the "hoover super-boats" as Colosis from Ireland called them), that profit from high-seas fishing. Don't forget the brokers, bankers, marketers, middlemen, boat-builders, shipyards, etc. etc. It's big business... What - shut 'em all down?
The devil is in the details, as they say. Imagine the penalty that would inevitably be tacked on to the otherwise inexpensive farm-raised fish (i.e. "tax"). You can bet that somebody somewhere would demand that surcharges be exacted in order to help defray the disruption costs to the "boat-based" fishing industry. Pretty soon, you'd be right back to exorbitantly priced fish.
Somehow, methinks the boat-based fishing industry will never allow this "sea change" (i.e., going to farm-raised fish) unless they got a cut of the action, and the consumer would (as always) still come out with the short end of the fishing rod.
Of course, if enough political will existed, and enough consumer preferences supported the fish farms, then these "glitches" would eventually disappear, and we could (should) all be enjoying 2-dollar a pound salmon steaks. Yummy.
Reread my posts. I agree with you.
Yeah...Just like the unregulated, capitalist free-market system preserved the buffalo and the passenger pigeon. Supply/Demand curve is irrelevant when you cannot increase the supply in response to rising demand.
I am SO tired of people who don't know diddly about economics making these dumb assertions....
It really is a problem. Don't listen to the ecofreaks; listen to the fishermen.
That's why God said "Let there be Longhorn's" (Medium Rare please).
I'm with you on the "prices will rise"...but why do you think "the number of fishing vessels will drop?"
Let's look at a hypothetical situation where there are 10 vessels, each catching 10 fish, for sale at $10 per fish (to make the math easy). That means each boat's revenue is $100 per year.
Now, let's say this causes overfishing, such that the number of fish that can be caught falls by 50%. Each boat now catches 5 fish per year. But if the price rises to $20 per fish, the boats still make $100 per year, and so keep fishing, driving the fishery to even lower production.
This is a classic "tragedy of the commons" problem. No one fisherperson ;-) owns any part of the fishery, so each person is encouraged to get all he can, even if it drives the fishery to exhaustion. The solution is to give property rights, such as tradeable/saleable fishing quotas. In the absence of property rights, the fishery gets driven to exhaustion, even with capitalism.
However, one way capitalism IS helping in this regard is that "fish farms" are booming. ("Fish farms" are privately owned areas where many fish are grown in close quarters.) These "fish farms" hold down prices. THAT'S what forces the fisherpeople in the wild fisheries out of business (at least for those that compete with fish that are grown on farms). For example, suppose that following year, the fisherpeople in the wild can only catch the same 5 fish...but the price of the fish REMAINS at $10 each (because of the fish farms). THEN each fisherperson in the wild only gets $50 a year, rather than $100. THAT'S what forces the wild fisherpeople out of business. (Unless the government subsidizes them to stay in business, of course!)
"Capitalism" alone doesn't save things in "tragedy of the commons" situations. The solution is to fully or partially ELIMINATE the commons...by providing tradeable/saleable property rights.
Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)
P.S. This website discusses fish farming (aquaculture): Discussion of aquaculture
Interestingly, though this is a World Resources Institute site, they seem (pleasantly!) surprisingly welcoming of the idea of aquaculture.
P.P.S. The oceans cover 2/3rds of our planet, but only provide something like 1% of humans' total food intake. This is a pathetic state of affairs. We need to privatize the oceans ASAP! In fact, I'll bet with genetic manipulation/identification, it would be possible to assign ownership of each fish to a person. That would encourage more people to "sow" fish in the ocean, just like farmers. There's no incentive to do that today, since the fish one "sows" can be harvested by anyone, without compensating the "sower." Capitalism AND private property rights...that's where the magic is.
P.P.P.S. Some may wonder just what "tradeable/saleable" property rights are. Suppose that hypothetical fishery can support a maximum sustainable level of 40 fish per year. You give each of the existing 10 boat owners a permit to capture 4 fish per year, in perpetuity. Since the right is tradeable/saleable, some of the 10 boat owners sell their permits to the other boat owners, and "cash out" of the fishing business. Without those permit rights, there's no way to "cash out" of the business, because you don't have anything of value when you leave, like a permit. The saleable/tradeable permit is what encourages boats to get out of the fishing business, even if the fish prices are high. Rather than spend all year fishing--which is nasty work, by most accounts--for a lousy $100 (4 fish at $25 per fish), one sells one's permit to a more efficient fisherperson for, say $50 a year, and then one gets into website design. Then, the person that one has sold the permit to can now catch 8 fish per year, for a total revenue of $200 gross, or $150 bucks net, after he pays the $50 value of your permit. The maximum sustainable yield of the fishery (40 fish per year) is never exceeded, even if the price of the fish goes through the roof. (Of course, one has to subtract out the costs of making sure that only authorized boats are fishing...so that $150 net is actually somewhat lower.)
Somehow I think the fish have done quite well over the millenia without "owners."
Forget about Willie, Free the Fishes! ;)
Does Jesse know about your plan to enslave the altitudely challenged? :)
"Eat fish-free dolphin." :)
No, without owners, if the demand for fish is more than the fish can supply themselves, the number of fish will go down. If the fish have owners, the owners have an incentive to: 1) grow more fish, and 2) not let the number of fish be less than the amount that makes the most money.
A wise man once said something like, "Both jayhawks and humans eat chickens. But if you have more jayhawks, you have less chickens. If you have more humans you have more chickens." This bit of wisdom is absolutely true for chickens...because people OWN chickens. It's NOT true for fish...UNLESS people own the fish.
Forsooth, but that was before people discovered how delicious they were.
Does Jesse know about your plan to enslave the altitudely challenged?
I prefer to call them "vertebrates of different..."
(...wait for it...)
perhaps. I'm not sure of the "final solution", but I do know it must be industry led, not pushed by enviro-extremists, or junk science. Government subsidies probably should be gradually removed.
Perhaps there is a model in auctioning licences as we do for broadcast airwaves. Only that system now is also fraught with corruption.
Industry first...delay as long as possible so that industry may shake itself out. There is no real threat of extinction, at this point.