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Saving Global Fisheries

Saving Global Fisheries: Reducing Fishing Capacity to Promote Sustainability

J. Samuel Barkin
Elizabeth R. DeSombre
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    Saving Global Fisheries
    Book Description:

    The Earth's oceans are overfished, despite more than fifty years of cooperation among the world's fishing nations. There are too many boats chasing too few fish. In Saving Global Fisheries, J. Samuel Barkin and Elizabeth DeSombre analyze the problem of overfishing and offer a provocative proposal for a global regulatory and policy approach.Existing patterns of international fisheries management try to limit the number of fish that can be caught while governments simultaneously subsidize increased fishing capacity, focusing on fisheries as an industry to be developed rather than on fish as a resource to be conserved. Regionally based international management means that protection in one area simply shifts fishing efforts to other species or regions. Barkin and DeSombre argue that global rather than regional regulation is necessary for successful fisheries management and emphasize the need to reduce subsidies. They propose an international system of individual transferable quotas that would give holders of permits an interest in the long-term health of fish stocks and help create a sustainable level of fishing capacity globally.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31276-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Acronyms
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The earth’s oceans are overfished. Despite more than a half-century of extensive cooperation among the world’s fishing nations, 80 percent of commercial fisheries are overexploited, significantly depleted, or fully exploited.¹ One particularly alarmist study predicted the complete collapse of global fisheries by 2048.² Other studies suggest that global populations of large predatory fish (those species such as tuna and swordfish that are subject to international management) are at a mere 10 percent of their preindustrial exploitation levels.³ These individual species losses contribute to larger-scale losses within the ecosystem.

    Although the most dire predictions of ecosystem collapse may (or may not)...

  6. Part I: The Problems

    • 2 International Regulation
      (pp. 13-36)

      The regulation of international fisheries faces the same difficulty as all international regulation: the absence of a central authority able to make and enforce binding rules. Any regulation must be by collective action among states. But even beyond this general problem, there are two reasons that fisheries are particularly difficult to regulate. The first is that they are CPRs, meaning that access to fisheries is difficult to restrict, which makes depletion likely. Although states benefit collectively in the long run from cooperative action to protect a fishery, individual fishers and individual fishing states often gain the most by exploiting the...

    • 3 The Political Economy of Regulation
      (pp. 37-62)

      RFMOs are designed explicitly to deal with the CPR aspect of international fisheries. They are supposed to take an open-access resource and make it partially excludable by making states limit the amount of the resource their fishers have a right to remove from the commons. And yet in the aggregate RFMOs are not generating effective global fisheries governance.¹ The concept of a CPR is one that draws heavily on the concepts of the economics discipline, and economics provides analytical tools for addressing the management problems that CPRs present. The field of environmental economics in particular was developed to address the...

    • 4 Regulatory Capture
      (pp. 63-86)

      Global fisheries governance suffers from a problem of regulatory capture, a situation where the entity entrusted with overseeing the public interest instead acts in the interests of industry, as though “captured” by it.¹ This capture is primarily a problem at the national level, but because international fisheries regulation is in effect managed cooperatively by national regulators, the problem re-creates itself at the international level. This pattern favors microregulation over macroregulation because actual capacity reduction would require reducing the size of regulators’ constituencies, but this regulatory capture also undermines the effectiveness of micromanagement.

      Most national fisheries regulators are industry regulators rather...

    • 5 The Cultures of Fishing Regulation
      (pp. 87-104)

      Regulatory capture of fisheries management by the industry is clearly a stumbling block to the creation of more effective international fisheries regulation. But why does it happen? How is it that the industry is so often able to dominate its regulators at the expense of sound management and society’s interest in a healthy marine environment? Regulatory capture is in fact part of a broader tendency in fisheries policy to prioritize the short term over the long term, microregulation over macroregulation, and the interests of fishers over the interests of society at large in a healthy marine environment. There are two...

    • 6 Subsidies and Fishing Capacity
      (pp. 105-128)

      Regulatory capture in the fishing industry and patterns of discourse about the industry that focus as much on cultural maintenance as on sustainable management lead to subsidization of the industry. Subsidies are pervasive, far more so than would be likely without both the regulatory capture and cultural effects; almost every country in the world with a fishing fleet subsidizes it in one way or another. Many different aspects of the fishing industry can receive subsidies: grants, guaranteed loans, or tax incentives can encourage fleet expansion or modernization; discounts or tax deductions on fuel, bait, insurance, or other operating costs can...

    • 7 Economic Development
      (pp. 129-150)

      The idea of overseas development assistance as a subsidy brings to the fore the use of fisheries policy as a tool to promote economic development. The use of fisheries as a tool of economic development policy presents a strange irony: governments are at the same time trying to restrict the amount of fish caught and yet are helping to increase the number of people doing the catching. This process is supposed to increase income somehow. The arithmetic of such a proposition is clearly problematic. And yet both governments and international development agencies have subscribed to it, with frequently disastrous results....

  7. Part II: Proposed Solutions

    • 8 A Global Fisheries Organization
      (pp. 153-176)

      Current regulatory tools are inadequate to the task of managing the fishing industry. These tools are designed to regulate fishing practice rather than fishing capacity. The concepts underlying regulatory practice are oriented to maximizing yield over the medium term rather than ecological sustainability over the long term. Even if policy were operating in a closed system, without problems of multilevel governance and barriers to exit, uncertainty would undermine the effectiveness of management based on concepts of maximum yield. Although existing management patterns are clearly doing some good in specific cases, they are collectively prone to the balloon problem, in which...

    • 9 Individual Transferable Quotas
      (pp. 177-204)

      Although the reduction of subsidies and coordination of general efforts to reduce global fishing capacity are important, these actions alone are not sufficient to save global fisheries. Reducing subsidies will take some air out of the balloon problem but will not impede the flow of the remaining air from one part of the balloon to another. A new global fisheries organization must also be involved in the actual management of fish stocks and of access to them. The approach taken must address the problems of CPRs that have bedeviled existing efforts to protect fisheries. We propose the creation of a...

    • 10 International Tradable Permits
      (pp. 205-232)

      Regulations that create something akin to property rights have worked fairly well at regulating fisheries sustainably at the domestic level, working with aspects of local or national legal structures. The challenge of designing an ITQ system for ocean fisheries is that such a system needs to be international and therefore needs to address all of the complications of the two-level system of international fisheries regulation in addition to the complications of creating property rights in a CPR generally. Moving such processes to the international level will be difficult and affects a number of aspects of the design of tradable quota...

    • 11 Conclusion
      (pp. 233-242)

      The first step in saving global fisheries is to acknowledge that the current approach to regulating marine fishing is not working. Fisheries are increasingly depleted, and fishing industries need to be highly subsidized to support fishers in an increasingly unproductive endeavor as existing numbers of fishing vessels chase fewer and fewer fish. Although some RFMOs have had some success protecting particular fish stocks, they have done so in a context of constant or growing overall fishing capacity, and successful protection in one area simply shifts fishing effort to other areas or species.

      We argue for the creation of a new...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-268)
  9. Index
    (pp. 269-276)