Fishing for Solutions



8th in the series of IEA Discussion Papers

Economic Theory

With commentaries by Elaine Sternberg and Terry Arthur

Stories of fisheries collapse frequently grab the spotlight in the popular press. Sometimes these claims are exaggerated, sometimes not. Some species of fish have undoubtedly suffered serious decline in some areas, for example the cod stocks off New England and the Atlantic coast of Canada are now so depleted that they are close to commercial extinction. This publication attempts to provide solutions to this problem by analysing the different ways in which fish are managed around the world. It looks at the means by which individuals can be encouraged to manage marine resources sustainably, focusing on the role of institutions, conceptualised within the framework of the economics of property rights.

Most commentators argue that the solution to the problems faced by the worlds fisheries is more government intervention. But the fact is that government intervention by and large caused the problem in the first place. More often than not catch levels are set and enforced by government officials who have no direct interest in ensuring the sustainability of the oceans’ resources. The author is particularly critical of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which ‘neatly condenses just about everything that is wrong with government management of the fisheries’.

The book concludes that the prognosis for the world’s fisheries is not as gloomy as many commentators have made out but nor is it as rosy as some pretend. Most likely, fisheries management will gradually evolve towards more sustainable practices. This will happen quickly if policy makers follow the precepts laid out in this publication.

1998, Studies in the Environment No. 11, ISBN 978 0 255 36444 7, 88pp, PB

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