Planet Gore

Tragedy of the Ocean Commons

A real environmental concern I spend a lot of time worrying about is the state of the world’s fisheries. Thanks to the lack of genuine oceanic property rights, it’s a real tragedy of the commons out there as each fishing boat tries to tak as much catch as it can before another boat does. Yet the tragedy is made worse by the fact that much of the deep-sea overfishing is directly caused by government subsidy:

“Eliminating global subsidies would render these fleets economically unviable,” said Rashid Sumaila, of the University of British Columbia in Canada, an economist who led the analysis of fishing subsidies. “From an ecological perspective we cannot afford to destroy the deep sea. From an economic perspective, deep-sea fisheries cannot occur without subsidies. The bottom line is that current deep fisheries are not sustainable.”

Until there is some sort of property-based solution to this that stores long-term value of fisheries for fishermen, the best hope fisheries have is an end to these subsidies. That’s why I’m happy to back the Cut the Bait campaign of the environmental group Oceana.