Doable Green

Since I recently said carbon emissions seemed a lost cause, let me emphasize that cap and trade fisheries are big, green, and feasible:

Two years ago, a team of researchers took a broad look at the world’s commercial fisheries and predicted that excessive harvesting would cause them all to collapse by 2048. Now, three other scientists have taken an equally broad look at how fisheries are managed and come up with a more hopeful view. …

[Researchers show] that stocks are much less likely to collapse if fishers own rights to fish them, called catch shares. If implemented worldwide, they say, this kind of market-based management could reverse a destructive global trend. Says David Festa of the Environmental Defense Fund in San Francisco, California, "This gives definitive, concrete proof that this tool does end overfishing." …

Worm’s team had analyzed all the large marine ecosystems in the world and found that those with declining biodiversity tended to have more collapsed fisheries, defined as yields less than 10% of historical maximums.  .. Each fisher was allocated a number of individual transferable quotas (ITQs), which they can use to catch fish or sell to others. The quotas are a percentage of the total allowable catch, which is set by regulators each year …

Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland, among others, claimed success with this approach, but no one had done a comprehensive analysis. Costello, Gaines, and Lynham examined more than 11,135 fisheries worldwide. Only 14% of the 121 fisheries using ITQs or similar methods had collapsed, compared with the 28% collapsed among fisheries without ITQs. Had all the world’s fisheries implemented catch-share management in 1970, the researchers found, only 9% would have collapsed by 2003. The findings are conservative, Costello explains, because most ITQ systems have been put into place fairly recently; each year of rights-based management makes a collapse 0.5% less likely.

Added 9/26: Global carbon emissions increased 2.9% in ’07!

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  • Why do they have regulators decide the quota size? Why not just have the ITQ owners vote on the quota size?

  • Tim Tyler

    The ocean is a tragedy of the commons in progress. Carve it up and then roof it over:

  • Ian C.

    I don’t understand how it can be economical to hunt wild fish. On land, mass production farms easily are cheaper than hunting. What are the fish farmers doing wrong?

  • HH

    “Why do they have regulators decide the quota size? Why not just have the ITQ owners vote on the quota size?”

    Because most of them don’t have a long-term interest in the fisheries. It’s the same reason that employees shouldn’t run big firms. Their goal is to maximize their lifetime income, not provide for the long-term health of fisheries. If you have a demographic situation like the baby boom, you could end up with a big majority of fishermen born in the same decade, all of whom would then vote to maximize the yield of fish over their expected working life. That is, today, a bunch of 30 year olds could vote to manage the fisheries in a way that maximizes their yield over another 30-40 years, beyond which they may or may not collapse. These fishermen wouldn’t care.

  • Doug S.

    What I wonder is, how do you prevent cheating?

  • Julian Morrison

    What’s wrong with just “enclosing” GPS polygons and selling to the highest bidder? Let civil law and the market take care of enforcement. There are precedents for the kind of hunt/farming where the game can move, but you try to persuade it not to with food and shelter – in England, quasi-wild birds such as pheasants “belong to” whoever owns the land they’re on.