by Greg Krehbiel on 22 October 2013
Dave sent this — The ocean is broken — which is a sailor’s lament at the sites he saw on a recent trip.
I think the article mixes a few things together that should be kept separate, like (1) stupid fishing practices, (2) junk in the water from the tsunami that hit Japan, and (3) junk in the water for other reasons. Numbers 1 and 3 we might be able to fix with appropriate rules, but I don’t think we can pass a law against tsunamis.
The problem is that somebody trying to make a buck today has no incentive to save resources for tomorrow, especially if he knows that other people are going to do the wrong thing and harvest irresponsibly. This is part of the Tragedy of the commons.
[T]he tragedy of the commons is the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one’s self-interest, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to the group’s long-term best interests.
IOW, if I don’t catch every tuna that I can (and destroy the ecosystem in the process), the other guy will. So I might as well catch what I can today.
There are problems with fisheries all over the world. Something needs to be done.
I suspect that the best thing to do would be to create some organization that can issue 20 year leases to corporations for various fishing grounds — with various conditions attached, and some oversight. The point would be to give the fishermen an incentive to preserve the resource and defend it against people who would exploit it.
-- 2013-10-22 » Greg Krehbiel