Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Other places, other solutions

We have received an article from Cato Institute, a well-known think-tank in Washington D.C. on the subject of New England fisheries and the appalling problems it faces. Some of it will be very familiar to our readers: 

In a crowded meeting hall in Portsmouth N.H. [New Hamshire] the New England Fishery Management Council voted in January 2013 to recommend drastic new cuts to the catch limits for Atlantic codfish off the New England coast. Over the strenuous objections of local communities and fishermen the council proposed 77 percent reductions in the allowable harvest for each of the next three years in the Gulf of Maine and 66 percent cut in next year's catch on Georges Bank. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration approved the proposed catch limits and other "emergency" measures in May 2013.

New England fishermen and other opponents of the plan fear that the restrictions will doom the centuries-old local fishing industry. Plan proponents, however, counter that the measures are the only way to save the rapidly collapsing Atlantic cod industry. Unfortunately, even these severe new limits may be too little, too late. The latest measures follow years of mismanagement, overly optimistic stock estimates, and misguided fishery policies that failed to align the economic interests of the fishing community with the long-term sustainability of the fishery. In the 1990s, for example, the fishery stock assessments indicated that short-term catch limits and fishing effort reductions could rebuild the fishery stock and ultimately lead to higher long-term yields. Nevertheless, local fishermen and their political representatives vehemently opposed any such reductions.

All arguments that we have heard before together with some indication that decisions are taken for political reasons rather than economic or environmental. The article goes on:

It would be easy to attack new England fishermen for being short-sighted. To do so, however, would ignore the incentives they face—incentives created by the existing regulatory structure. Incumbent fishermen have little incentive to agree to catch reductions because they would be unlikely to capture the full value of the rebuilt stocks. A rebuilt stock would encourage inactive trawlers to resume fishing and active trawlers to increase their fishing intensity.

The authors' proposal may sound radical but, as they point out, this has been discussed for a while and there is empirical evidence to prove that "property rights in fisheries through territorial or catch-share allocations among fisheries participants" can ensure an economically and ecologically sustainable fishing industry.

It is worth reading the whole article, as some of this blog's readers may not have thought about this idea before. However, FAL actually has discussed it and is, as an organization, opposed to the notion. Tradeable Quotas /Transferable Fishing Concessions and was originally in the proposals for the “reformed CFP” but “discarded” after opposition from all and sundry except the Commission. The reason for the opposition is obvious: this idea plays into the hands of those with the biggest economic clout to the detriment of the small communities.


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