Friday, November 10, 2006

The Economist Blog on Overfishing

The Economist magazine has a new blog (which I am a little too excited about) called Free exchange and one of their first posts is about overfishing: why it is a problem and one possible solution.

Here is one excerpt I liked:
I have met many people who, in their quest for health and oneness with nature, eschew all meat but happily eat fish twice a day. This I find ironic, since, whatever the environmental effects of industrial farms, they are as nothing compared to the probleme of overfishing.
And another:
The counterincentives in the fishing industry, unfortunately, are particularly poor: everyone likes to eat inexpensive fish, and the fish aren't cute, or running through our back yards where we can see them.
They propose a solution where the government caps the amount of a certain fish that can be sold by restaurants and grocery stores.


Brian Zabell said...
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Brian Zabell said...

My current science professor is a mussel specialist so he makes it a point to throw this problem out there in his lectures and in any discussion that involves the pollution of sea life.

The proposed change probably wouldn't be very popular for the people who would actually care and lobby on this issue. And when I think about the government capping fish quantities, I'm just imagining an awkward black market for fish..

Anonymous said...

Brian’s comment about a black market for fish made me laugh, but it’s true. With any type of restriction, of course some kind of opposition is going to emerge, but I think it’s the economist’s job consider the negative backlash among all other options and factors in policymaking. In the blog post from Free Exchange, the problem of non-ownership of the waters or the fish and the difficulties in regulating the fishermen are addressed. With no counter-incentives (indeed, killing fish just doesn’t seem as awful as cute baby sheep or cute baby cows, for example), I think a cap on the number of a certain species of fish should be instituted for each country that is overusing the fisheries. I also believe that the restriction on supermarkets and restaurants is a good idea because it stops the over-fishing problem without directly regulating the amount of fish that can be caught. Fishermen can still catch all the fish they want, but they’ll have no sellers and be left with an excess of fish (and who wants that?), and thus, they will eventually catch less fish and the environment and economy will be in much better shape. However, I wonder if prices would go up even more on fish in restaurants due to the limit of the number of fish they could distribute. This might affect the market in a whole different way. Nevertheless, something must be done because no good is coming from the current system. The fishing industry is very close to becoming entangled in the dangerous web of the tragedy of commons in which there are just so many fish that each additional fish is of less value to the consumer. In order to help the environment and economy, some sort of regulation, I think one on distributors is the best suggestion yet, must be instated.

--Sarah O’Donohue

Anonymous said...

One thing nobody has mentioned yet, is the new-found nutritional value of fish. Everybody is talking about the goodness of the omega fats that are found in fish. This has caused demand for fish to increase in recent years and might explain why people are more willing to consume large amounts of fish and less beef, pork and other meats. I doubt it is the lack of cuteness on the part of fish that is causing them to get eaten. I think the overfishing is atleast due in part due to new research that shows fish are not only delicious but also nutritious
-jacob hormes

Andrew L said...

Capping the amount of fish sold by restaurants and grocery stores probably would not work as well as we'd hope. I can't see regulations placed on supermarkets stopping fishermen from catching just as many fish. It would instead simply drop the demand for the entire industry, while supply would change little, wrecking fishermen's already fragile profits. It would be ideal to regulate the fishermen at sea, but, alas, this would be impossible, with the tiny number of boats compared to the vastness of fishing waters. A better strategy might be to regulate the fishermen as they come back to shore.