We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, August 2. 2011
Readers know that we at Maggie's are conservationists. (That is different from being Greenies. We are not Greenies.) Conservation of the world's fish (and fisheries) is always a concern, especially with the technology and efficiency which is applied to modern commercial fishing. It has been painful to see the Northeast Cod fishery, especially that of George's Bank, go the way of the Passenger Pigeon and the Buffalo.
"Economic and environmental goals may often be in conflict, but fisheries management is one area where they don't have to be."
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I recently sent Doc Mercury a note to read "Atlantic" by Simon Winchester.
He basically IS a Greenie, but he is careful in his writing to keep that well hidden. He acknowledges other viewpoints, other potentials, and varying levels of agreement on issues.
One area that he spent the better part of a chapter is the collapse of the codfishing industry in Canada, and on the issue of fisheries management in general. He was quite clear that the collapse of the cod was, purely and completely, the result of government mismanagement. There is no other way around it. It was not the market. It was not competition. It was not free enterprise.
It was government intervention. All designed to "make things better for everyone".
But he also pointed out where fisheries management has been successful, and the how's and why's of what makes them successful.
Intriguing and enlightening book. I recommend "Atlantic" to all Maggie's Farmers.
I second your "Atlantic" recommendation, but Winchester is way off base on the Atlantic ground stock issue.
While he is correct that government mismanagement played a large role in the collapse of the fishery, this mismanagement allowed competition for landing tons (free enterprise and greed if you will) to occur. Additionally, this management issue contributed to the overall misuse of the Stellwagon and Grand Banks themselves by literally looting, pillaging and general abuse of the sea floor itself. In my opinion, Winchester takes the wrong approach using the correct data.
Still, the book is terrific - I agree.
I've been very interested in the Grand Banks story for years. It was one reason why (as a much younger man) I joined Greenpeace (and left within a year). I happen to love codfish.
I don't disagree that greed played a role. But free enterprise most definitely did not. Of course, if things had been left to their own devices, then I'd have to agree with you - certainly things were headed down that path ANYWAY. In the end, however, the government's initial goal was to SAVE the fishery by limiting not only who (only Canadians) could fish there, but also by setting total limits to the catch. There were massively flawed assumptions made which were driven by greed. Not corporate greed, GOVERNMENT greed. A desire to let a newly enriched area continue to maintain its wealth, with no respect to the realities which had begun setting in.
In general, free enterprise has a relatively good record of managing its own resources. It makes little or no sense for it to be otherwise. When one's livelyhood is dependent on managing stocks, one will do what one can to assure the long term health of these stocks.
In the case of open fisheries, different rules apply because there are often conflicting rules. (as Tom Francis describes pretty well below, even trying to make rules consistent doesn't solve some issues)
The real, initial, problem, in every study I've ever read, is the longlines. They MUST be banned.
The secondary issue then becomes management (as Tom points out, utilizing navies to enforce rules...which Winchester spent a good deal of time explaining quite well with his Falklands visit).
But I disagree that rights based fisheries won't work. If the first 2 rules are put into effect, the rights can begin to take hold and have real bite.
One rule I think needs to be applied (after having another lousy year of fluke fishing in the South Bay) is to stop having lengths that are "approved" for catch. It needs to be a range. Fluke must be returned if they are less than 20.5 inches.
Interestingly almost all of mine, and all my friends have consistently caught fluke smaller than the legal size for the last few years. Evolution? You bet. We are culling the size of these fish by preventing the larger ones from surviving and breeding.
How about setting a 17-20 inch limit this year, 18-24 next, 16-20 the year after, etc?
Then we allow the size of the fish to not be determined by our own stupidly designed laws, and rather by some other form of natural selection - guaranteeing larger fish will survive well into the future.
Right now, we're just assisting Darwin to create lots of tinier fish.
With respect to the Grand Banks, I think we agree on what happened - I don't think we agree on what caused it. Then again, the point is the stocks need to be rebuilt (which is possible - case in point, the Atlantic Striper) which will require a complete moratorium on ground fish for at least ten years if not more.
In general, free enterprise has a relatively good record of managing its own resources.
We are in complete disagreement here. The ugly truth is that humanity has a tendency pillage our natural food stock resources up to the point of collapse and beyond. The buffalo, blue pike, Atlantic striper, both winter and summer flounder, the Chilean sea bass, tautog, herring (river, gizzard, blue back), etc., etc., etc. All these fish have been hunted down to almost below sustainable levels. Now one could say that environmental factors enter into the equation and they do - undoubtedly. But with weakened stocks and reduced genetic diversity within any given stock do not allow that particular stock to adjust and maintain a reasonable level of health.
Another case in point and one that is almost unbelievable - the hagfish. The Koreans love them and the Japanese are getting into the act - there is a developing Asian market for them and now there might be a moratorium on these ugly critters because they are becoming harder to find. They are slow breeders and their relatively long life span, low reproduction rate and now it's been discovered that their slime can be used in oils and various medicinal ointments and, get this, a substitute for egg whites!!
So no, I can't agree that free enterprise manages it's own resources well. And a rights based system is not going to prevent cheating, political "adjustments" and overall disagreements on an international basis. Case in point - Minke whales in Antarctic waters. Japan, in complete defiance to the international concerns, authorize themselves to take 500 to 800 minke whales per year for "scientific research" a very thin excuse for large scale processing of whale meat and by products. Nobody does anything about it (well, except for the Sea Shepard morons that is and they are pretty inept).
I don't know what the answer is other than a complete ban on fishing and that's not going to happen either. It is a significant problem however and something needs to be done. Then again, nobody in power is going to listen to you OR me. :>)
Great discussion - love it.
Actually, with regard to situations where ownership and rights are involved, the free market has done very well at preserving and managing stocks.
As you should note, I specifically pointed out that fisheries are a huge exception, but that is because the "rule of the sea" (as it were) is very different. I agree that almost every fish has been plundered. I agree that alot of that has to do with greed (either by government or corporation). But most importantly, it has had alot to do with lack of ownership. That is, NOBODY owns the sea or what is in it.
In some cases where a state has stepped in to take action, the results have been good. Not every case, particuarly when the government has done it as a means of preserving and improving standard of living (Canada/codfish) as opposed to preserving long term livelihood. The difficulty, as in any case on land or sea, is those who choose to break the law. And often rule breakers are used as a proxy for "the market". But it's hard to press that case, unless the government is complicit and allows it, and even then you have to point out that it's NOT the market, but government ignorance and inaction.
Rights based fisheries management is no more a "correct" solution than any other schema to protect fish stocks from over harvesting. Why? I'll use the Atlantic bluefin tuna stock as an example.
ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) sets the individual national quotas for Atlantic Tunas. NOAA Fisheries (the US national agency responsible for quota division and accounting) then divides up that international quota according to the seven types of gear used to catch tuna - purse seine, rod and reel, harpoon, handline, bandit gear, and greenstick. For those not familiar with the terms, bandit gear is rod and powered reel (the reel is motorized) and green stick is a trolling method used by charter captains - basically a way to put anywhere from five to fifteen squid lures into the water to imitate a small school of flying fish.
But wait - that's only six gear types - what is the seventh?
Longline. And here is where the real issue lies.
Longlines is a a gear type normally used for swordfish, bigeye, and yellowfin tuna. However, NMFS allocates a quota for landings of incidentally-caught BFT by longliners. The two top methods that, in general, account for most of the blue fin quota are rod and reel (commercial and angling (recreational - about 182 metric tons) and longline (about 72 metric tons). So what's the problem - obviously, the longliners catch less than the rod and reelers do.
Nope. Why? Longline bycatch. NOAA allows an unbelievable 160 metric tons of bycatch - bycatch meaning "accidental" species catch. If you add the two together, longliners are catching 240 metric tons of bluefin. NOAA has to stay within the ICCAT limits, so it down sizes quotas for other types of gear because of this bycatch. That seems to be the correct thing to do right?
Well, no- because a good three quarters (3/4) of the bluefin tuna bycatch is discarded - thrown back as it were. And no rights based scheme is going to change the basic facts of how this type of gear is used unless it is banned totally - which isn't going to happen. The stake holders (meaning the type of fishing gear employed) have their own lobbyists and stacked "advisory" committees and it's a never ending battle - doesn't matter if it is rights based or not - you still have to set quotas and abide by them.
If you apply the above scenario to other fisheries (as in cod, flounder, herring, etc.), you can see where there is a problem. And we haven't even begun to touch on the outriders - the outlaw harvesters (including nationally sponsored harvesters - I'm looking at you Japan) who harvest beyond any ICCAT quota taking everything and anything that swims.
The only solution, and it is one that unfortunately will never be enforced, is strict international limits, enforceable by national navies within their specified areas of influence to eliminate cheating and have the individual national quota assigners actually assign hard and fast quotas that benefit all sectors of the industry, not just one (longliners vs everybody else).
Thnx 4 the clarification in the beginning, and also, that most difficult example of win/win, where property keeps things flourishing, instead of the tragedy of the commons and the lower animals. That is to say, that other people own property is in your best interest, non-intuitive to say the least. No easy hurdle with the Oceans, and one that in so many ways defies commonality and is hence difficult to see, yet ... the tragedy of the commons is the way of the locusts, or the sandlewood trees, unfortunately.
Humanity is f ed, but we've always been, let us hope that we continue to assist life and discovery. It's a big woirld out there.
You know, the opening line to this post "we at Maggie's Farm are conservationists" really speaks to me.
Here's why: most people ASSUME you have to support government intervention on everything in order to be a conservationist.
Let me explain why this is wrong.
I will, typically, oppose most government intervention. It rarely works. I exempt the seas from this statement for obvious reasons. However, rights ownership DOES work.
While I was growing up, I lived in the country. My stepfather bought 7 acres of uncared for and declining land. Over 17 years, we improved it dramatically - and not throught "development". We were able to clean up what had essentially been a discarded dumping ground into a habitable property. We recognized that just having junk all over was not a solution to a difficult problem with regard to living and the local community. By the time we sold, new cesspools were installed (biologically safe ones) for the home, the stream was cleaned and had swimming holes. We had few fishermen coming through when we moved in, but saw them regularly at the end (we posted it, all of them would ask permission).
As a Boy Scout, I planted trees every year. At Philmont (owned by the Scouts) part of the 2 week stay was engaging environmental improvements. We built a switchback, used downed trees to build lean-tos for other campers, as well as a cleaning up trash left by other, less socially conscious, campers. Seems that agreeing to leave it cleaner than when you arrived is often said, but not always done.
I will not give to Greenpeace (having joined and left, I despise them). I do give to the Nature Conservancy. Whenever I take my boys somewhere, I point out that we do the world a service by leaving it cleaner than when we arrived.
None of this requires government intervention or rules. It just requires individuals to think - and act - about what sustains them. I am actually far more "GREEN" than most "GREENS". I have a fellow on my street who talks alternative energy, how the government needs to this or that, etc. I asked him what he's done. Nothing. I told him how I've investigated all the alternatives and EVEN WITH government intervention and subisdy, the ONLY alternative worth discussing is geo-thermal. And frankly, that's only worth discussing if you're building a new home.
I WANT a windmill or a solar panel. IF it makes economic sense. It doesn't. But it could soon. Until it does, I'm not interested. People say that makes me a non-conservationist. It makes me somehow "evil". But this is where the rubber hits the road - they are the "evil" ones because they refuse to look into what they want, they refuse to do much about it at all. They want everyone to be FORCED to do something.
I simply want to be left alone. Call me Marlene.