Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, May 13, 2005

Property Rights and Fish Farms

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the meeting of diplomats to deal with the problems of declining fish stocks. Well, it should come as no surprise to learn that they reached no decision. [h/t to BF, though the link may be expired by now]

Bureaucrats, scientists and conservationists from around the world emerged from a four-day conference Thursday with no clear action plan to combat illegal fishing in international waters. Delegates agreed on the crisis facing global fish stocks, but the more than 300 delegates from 45 countries failed to reach a consensus on how to move forward.
This is a clear example of the Tragedy of the Commons, as I posted before. Without well-defined and enforced property rights, there will be over-fishing and depletion of the fish stocks. What I mean by property rights, in this context, is not specific ownership of specific fish, but legal entitlements to take a certain amount of fish from the sea. If these entitlements cannot be enforced easily, others will take the fish (as is happening), and fish stocks will shrink.

My expectation, as a result, is that it will likely be (or soon become) cheaper to find ways to fight disease and to improve quality on fish farms than it is to try to enforce fishing limits on the open seas. As fish farming becomes even more clearly established, fish will be more like cattle -- bred and raised solely for profit, and we will not worry about shortages and stock depletion. The reason will be that property rights to fish-farm fish are well-defined and easily enforced.
Who Links Here