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 . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

World Fish Stocks:
The Tragedy of the Commons

From the Economist's Global Agenda:

New talks begin in Canada this week aimed at rescuing the world's fragile fish stocks. The simplest solution is tougher rules limiting fishing--but politicians have a way of caving to fishing lobbies.
The shortages are becoming more serious because demand is growing while property rights to the fish and ocean fishing areas remain imprecise and only partially enforceable.

One reason for this is the age-old “tragedy of the commons”, whereby anyone with access to a shared valuable resource has an interest in over-exploiting it, and it is in nobody's interest alone to maintain it. Another reason is the tendency of politicians to cave in spinelessly to the demands of the fishing industry, just as they do when faced with angry farmers. The European Union’s common fisheries policy, for instance, is no less absurd than its agricultural namesake. Attempts to alter it—by, for instance, creating no-fishing zones off some member countries' coasts—have been horribly watered down against the advice of independent experts, most recently last December.
One likely outcome is the growth of fish-farming, which is not without problems:

Most farmed fish must be fed with other fish that have been caught in the sea; sometimes several tonnes of dead fish are needed for one tonne to live. Critics also argue that farmed fish is fatty, polluting and stuffed with antibiotics.
The reason fish-farming will grow is that it involves well-defined property rights, leading to conservation, preservation, and growth.
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