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October 18, 2006

The End of Cod

A report on the North Sea cod stocks insists that fiching for cod and associated species must stop.

The main problem is that although cod catches have been cut to 26,500 tonnes a year, more than twice that amount is being caught in bycatches by fishermen chasing other species such as haddock, whiting, hake and plaice. Fishermen accidentally caught about 50,000 tonnes of cod last year, and have to throw the dead fish back in the sea because it is classed as an illegal catch.

Being as polite as I can, a system that throws away unused 2/3 of a scarce and valuable resource is, well, what? Insane? Insanely fucking stupid?

What is really so sad about all of this is that we've known what the problem is and how to solve it since 1968 when Garrett Hardin first pointed to The Tragedy of the Commons. We can solve it either via social (socialist) or private (capitalist) means, as he wrote in a letter to Science.

OK, we've tried the social means for the past few decades and it's obviously not working (see above: insanely fucking stupid). Time to try the other available method don't you think? Privatise the fish to the fishermen: if that means telling the EU to bugger off then so be it.

October 18, 2006 in European Union | Permalink


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Privatise fish? Mind telling us how?

Tim adds: Sure. You give the right to fish in a particular are to a fisherman. That right can be sold, leased, rented, inherited. Just like farmers and fields.

Posted by: Harry Hutton | Oct 18, 2006 9:44:16 AM

But fish don't remain in one particular area. So the incentive remains to fish out the resource as soon as you ultrasound them (or however they do it these days - I hear it can be done by satellite) and before someone else can get hold of them. Might be something to do with the fact that fish cannot be considered to be "fixed property" in the same way that cows can.

This is not to say that the idea of privatisation is not a good 'un. But how would one go about it realistically? Potential problems that spring to mind include the likely pallava that grandfathering will induce, and the strong interplay of fisheries with foreign policy.

Posted by: MarkEJ | Oct 18, 2006 10:10:34 AM

What has this got to do with the problem of the commons?

North Sea Fish are a not a 'common' as there fishing is governed by quota. All the Times article was saying is that cod fishing has been cut back so far that most cod that is landed has been done so by accident.

Posted by: james C | Oct 18, 2006 10:42:25 AM


You gave the examples of Iceland and the Falklands amongst others a week ago and suggested that they have sorted out their fishery problems.

What was their solution?


Tim adds: Iceland, Faroes and Norway have all sorted it. The fishermen own the fish.

Posted by: The Pedant-General | Oct 18, 2006 11:51:35 AM

Sorry, but how do the fishermen off Iceland and the Falklands 'own the fish' as opposed to the exclusive right to fish in a particular area? Cod, in particular, are migratory creatures, and there's nothing the Icelandic government can do to stop freezer trawlers from other countries catching them out in international waters at other points in the migratory cycle.

I'm not saying it's not a good idea; trawlers with the sort of range you need to fish successfully in the mid-Atlantic and Arctic are very expensive bits of kit, so by and large it makes a lot more sense -- made sense about 20 years ago, anyway, which is the period of the industry I know a bit about -- to stick with your existing vessels and to buy your cod in Rekyavik in return for other species you've caught elsewhere and which command a higher price in Iceland, where everyone's fed up with cod, than elsewhere.

Something that I wonder about is whether global warming and so forth have anything to do with falling catches in particular areas. Cod like particular water temperatures, so it makes sense that if the water's warming up a bit, they'll move somewhere more to their taste. Similarly, they'll follow food supplies, which are presumably also affected by the climate.

Posted by: Not Saussure | Oct 18, 2006 2:24:30 PM

The herring moved away long before the era when everything could be blamed on GW, Not S.

Posted by: dearieme | Oct 18, 2006 2:56:29 PM