Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sustainable fisheries

The August Environment and History has a review by Joseph Taylor III of two books on the sustainability of the fishing industry: Ray Hilborn, with Ulrike Hilborn, Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford UP, 2012) and Mansel G. Blackford, Making Seafood Sustainable: American Experiences in Global Perspective (U Penn Press, 2012). The review has some valuable insights into the larger issue of the sustainable use of commons resources.

Taylor summarizes one of Hilborn's arguments thus:
An unavoidable consequence of fishing is that fish die; thus pristine and pre-industrial biomass estimates are not particularly germane to modern managers, especially when we exploit the seas so heavily.... ‘Even in systems that are sustainably managed for long-term maximum yield’, Hilborn observes, ‘abundance is expected to be only 20% to 50% of what it would be in the absence of fishing’.
This raises some very interesting questions about what we mean by sustainable use, or the exploitation of resources in a way that leaves them available for future generations. The review also engages some other central issues in debates over commons resources and privatization:
Blackford... uses Alaska’s fisheries to illustrate how market-oriented fleet and stock management, which closes access to fisheries and distributes allocations through forms of quasiprivatisation, has emerged and succeeded in Alaska to the point that it is gospel among fisheries managers. 
Yet, Taylor notes, Blackford's exploration of the link between politics and management reinforces
the old insight that conservation has been a struggle not just to save nature but for whom it will be saved. Quasi-privatisation in Alaska usually enhanced corporate control in both fishing and processing. Natives, rural residents and women with historically poor access to capital fared poorly in the transition, and profits from privatised allocations fell wholly to the first generation.

1 comment:

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