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|
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.