TRANSCRIPT - Michael Weber
Weber is a freelance writer in Redondo Beach, California and
author co-author of The Wealth of Nations and Fish, Markets,
and Fishermen: The Economics of Overfishing.
In your book you talk about how quickly the worlds fishing
fleet has grown could you characterize how that has happened?
the second world war there was such a drive on to expand fishing
that fleets expanded even more rapidly than catches. They would
double, and then double again and for a long time they were encouraged
by increasing catches, but even after the catches started falling
off, they kept going. And I compare it, somewhat, to the arms race
where weve overbuilt and we have all these vessels and the
big problem now is what do we do. An New England d its really
kind of a disarmament for the fish. And were going to have
as tough a time figuring out what to do with all these vessels.
And it continues to happen. It happens fishery by fishery. Its
what one person called the pathology of commercial fisheries. They
develop in a certain way and people see they can make a little bit
of money and you start seeing boats filled.
In our series, were talking a lot about food deficient low
income, third world countries. Do you know anything about the increased
demand of seafood in developing countries?
long term trends in demand for seafood have really lead to fish
being moved from developing countries to developed countries. If
you look at many of the fisheries that are in real trouble now youll
find very often that the markets are in developed countries. And
there are any number of examples of that. If you are eating, looking
at shrimp, most of the shrimp is not being consumed where it is
grown or its being caught, it is being consumed in Japan,
its being consumed in the United States, or its being
consumed in Western Europe. And those same countries come up time
and time again. Theres been a net shift of protein from the
developing world to the developed world.
What is your sense as to why there has been an increased demand
for seafood in Japan, and the United States and Europe?
think there is one key reason for there being an increased demand
and that is marketing. If you look at government programs, or private
programs over the last five decades, there have been millions and
millions of dollars spent that have tried to encourage the consumption
of seafood. And generally, people forget about this. They think
demand just grows in and of itself and people just decide to eat
seafood. But this is a result of marketing. We eat what we are told
to eat. And, thats exactly whats been going on. Theres
no mystery why the demand is going up where its going.
Whats an example of that?
me give you one example. The consumption of shrimp has gone up several
times over in the United States. And thats not because people
have just decided to eat more shrimp. Its because shrimp was
being marketed very, very heavily. If you look at salmon consumption
in the United States, whats happened is there has been such
a dramatic increase in farmed salmon, theyve had to find some
way of selling this stuff. So, they arent just sitting there
waiting for people to buy salmon, they are out there marketing it
any way that they can. And it is one of the most overlooked aspects
of fisheries is that the aspect of marketing. And no one talks about
controlling the marketing. We always talk about controlling the
fishermen, but we never talk about controlling the marketing.
Do you have any sense to what degree the U.S. imports seafood?
is the number one importer, net importer, of seafood. The United
States is number two. And, after that, Western Europe is another
major importer. But the United States and Japan are really the top
net importers. Weve been a net importer of seafood since the
early 1960s. And it continues to grow. We run a trade deficit
in fish, if you will, of four to five billion dollars a year.
You talk about a lot of reasons for overfishing. Somewhere in your
book, you talked about how when the demand increases, more vessels
are attracted to the business. Could you talk about that?
thing that happens is that price can go up for any number of reasons.
And really, price is what attracts additional investment into fisheries.
If you just take the example, for instance, of bluefin tuna in the
Atlantic, what has attracted so much fishing effort in the Western
Atlantic, is the high price thats paid in Japan for bluefin
tuna. And that is partly due to demand, but that is also partly
due to there being very limited supplies. So one of the things that
happens in fisheries that makes economics work against conservation
is that as fish become scarcer, the price goes up. As the price
goes up, more people are attracted into catching those fish. And
in the case of bluefin tuna, a fisherman may go out in a 25 foot
boat, and have a chance of landing a thirty thousand dollar fish.
And I compare it very much to gambling. You dont have to make
a lot of money every day or every week if you know two or three
times during the year, you are going to be able to go out there
and get a ten, twenty thousand dollar fish.
Whos to blame for this jam were in? Many times people
want to point fingers.
is one of the problems of working on fisheries issues is there is
a lot of blaming that goes on. But if you look at just the economic
side of it, fishermen are responding, rationally, to an incentive
to go out catch fish. The higher the price, who wouldnt go
out and catch fish. And I often compare it to the kind of behavior
where an individual decision may be rational, but the outcome for
society is irrational, to what happens when people are on a freeway
and they see an accident off to the left, and each person rationally
says, I think Ill look at that and then before
you know it, you have a traffic jam. There is a lot of rational
behavior that goes on. Similarly, consumers have to look at their
own behaviors. And I think people are increasingly looking at what
they are consuming and starting to tie, for instance, their consumption
of shrimp to what may be happening in mangroves in Indonesia.
thats very new. Because generally speaking, we dont
think about where our food comes from. So there is that level of
responsibility among consumers. And then, each other interest group
has its own special interest. A government agency certainly
can have an interest in conservation, and often times people do.
But government agencies also have a certain amount of interest in
continuing to grow, and just like any kind of business. To me, some
of the silent partners in fisheries are the processors and marketers.
And they have a profound influence on what we eat.
A lot of people are bristling and defensive about a lot of these
issues. Could you say something friendly about the fact that most
of these fishermen are not driven by greed?
think one of the misconceptions is that fishermen are bad people
and they are intentionally driving stocks down. But they are behaving
in a perfectly rational fashion as any of us would behave in another
situation. I really dont look at it as fishermen being bad
people. They are behaving in a way that the economics system encourages
them to behave. Having said that, though, they do have a responsibility
for responding to an incentive and not thinking whether or not they
should be responding in the way that they are. And that is the other
part of the equation: That we have a responsibility for our actions
and just saying well, "the economy made me do it," just
wont cut it.
Could you speak briefly, and introduce the problem of open access
fisheries including how they have contributed to the current fisheries
most fisheries, anyone who wants to can come and start fishing.
And as a result of that, when someone finds a new fishery, they
start making money quickly. And people find out about that. And
because its open, people just keep pouring into the fishery.
And as a result, people pour in until there are far more people
out there fishing than really the fishery can support. And its
really that simple. Its just that everybody has access.
Could you describe in a nutshell the overfishing cycle that has
repeated itself all over the world?
fishing happens in a very common pattern. Fisheries develop in a
very common pattern. Theres really nothing mysterious about
it. Its not as if we dont know whats going to
happen in a fishery. In an open access fishery, once people start
making money the people who are first there start making
money that attracts more and more people. And as more and
more people come in, the catches continue going up until they start
leveling off. And everybodys individual catches start getting
smaller and smaller. What happens is if Im going to make as
much money as I possibly can in a fishery, that means I have to
catch the fish before anybody else does. And if I am going to do
that with all these people coming in, I have to go get stronger
nets. I have to get a more powerful engine. I have to get technology.
so I start investing in this so I can get the edge against the other
fishermen. By the time I do that, my mortgage payments are going
up because of this expensive equipment, and the catches continue
to go down. And so what happens, there is, set up, what is called
the race for the fish. And the whole idea is that I have to compete
against that person, that other fisherman, in order to catch the
fish before he does. And there is no value to leaving the fish in
if I leave fish in the water so I can catch it later on when its
larger, or after its had a chance to reproduce, I have no
assurance that I am going to catch that fish. Somebody else may
catch that fish. So people are caught. They really just are caught
into having to go out and behave very rationally and fish as hard
as they can. invest, invest, invest. And its generally only
after weve gotten to the point where the catches start falling
off, that people start saying, " we should really try to behave
ourselves." And thats when what we know as fisheries
management comes in and people start trying to set rules down. By
that time, the fishery very often is in decline and its getting
harder and harder for people to make a living. And the worst situation
to have, is a situation where a group people are struggling to make
a living and then to try to talk to them about setting something
aside for the future. Its just almost impossible. So the dynamic
its pathological. And Im not using that term
to say that people are sick in mind or whatever, its just
the way that open access works.
Because of open access, a lot of management regimes are doomed to
fail. An example of this, is that skippers will always find a way
to make up for a set back. They always find a way around a regulation.
Could you talk about that?
worked in the national Marine Fishery Service for Bill Fox when
he was the director. I remember that very often the staff would
come in and present a set of regulations to try and control a fishery
to avoid overfishing. And one of the first questions that Bill would
ask would be, "how are they going to get around this?"
Because you know as soon as this is out on the street, they are
going to be thinking about how they can factor this into their fishing.
One of my favorite examples of how, once again, people respond rationally
to restrictions, to efforts to make them more inefficient, is in
the surf clam fishery on the east coast where they limited the number
what happened after that? Fishermen went out and cut their boats
in half and added new sections in the middle of their boats to make
them larger. And that is just an extreme example of how people respond
quite rationally to restrictions. And so, one of the problems that
traditional fishery management always faces is, its playing
a game of catch up. All the time. And from an economic point of
view is engaged in the rational behavior of making people less efficient.
And think of it in terms of a consumer. A consumer is having to
pay a higher price because we are having to make fishermen more
inefficient. So, from a consumers point of view, it really
doesnt make any sense.
Youve talked about how temporary closures and buyouts might
just be a pause in the usual cycle. Can you speak to that?
When the fishery in New England started being restricted again in
the 1990s, the idea of buyouts was brought up. And, at the
time, everyone treated this almost as a completely new idea, but
I went back and did research and found that there had been very
similar programs several times in the New England groundfish fishery
since the 1950s. And they start off with good intentions,
but then they become part of a political effort to placate a group
of constituents. And they become beset by having to meet many different
agendas. Theyre almost always under-funded. And, so, most
of them have failed to really meet the target. From the point of
view of a taxpayer, you have to raise the question of why am I putting
money in a fishery, to help people remain in the fishery, or as
it has happened in New England, or in other buyouts, someone may
take that buy out money and go and buy another vessel and go and
get into another fishery.
so, the system is very leaky. And once you start looking at what
the collateral affects are, you find out that you really arent
reducing the amount of effort out there. And about the only way
you can do it is sink the vessels. Thats why well get
into things like closed access. But, the other thing about buy outs,
is that buy outs happen where you have a powerful congressional
delegation. In New England there s been a buy out and thats
because theres a powerful congressional delegation. Theres
been something of a buy out in the Pacific Northwest in salmon and
similarly you have a fairly influential congressional delegation.
In Alaska, you had an enormous buy out of factory trawlers, because
you have an extraordinarily powerful congressional delegation. So
whats happening in the Gulf of Mexico, whats happening
on the California coast.
been very little in the southeast, off of South Carolina, Georgia
and Florida. Theres really been very little buy out there.
And its not because there isnt a need, its because
there isnt the political juice. And so, to me, its rational
once again, from that point of view of that group of people. But
its kind of open access for funding. And the folks with the
most power get in there and they get the funding. And theres
really very little accountability. I think were really at
another one of those historic moments in history where we can look
back and be able to say whether or not we choked. And we didnt
do what we really needed to do. And Im afraid thats
the way things are going.
you are absolutely right. This is a pattern that repeats itself
and repeats itself. And, once again, the efforts are very well intentioned.
Im not taking that away from anyone. But they dont work.
Lets talk specifically about economics. Why do fishermen have
incentives to fish until the very last fish is taken?
of the perverse aspects of economics, is that there is an incentive
for fishermen to catch the very last fish. And that happens because
as the fish becomes scarcer, the price goes up. So, even if it costs
me more to go and try and find the last fish, Im getting paid
more. And if you go and look at any number of fisheries and you
plot the landings against the price, youll very, very often
see the price line go like this, and the landings line go like that.
And basically, the revenues that are coming in to fishermen, are
right in the middle.
so, theres no signal there to say, to make it more and more
difficult for someone to catch the fish. Theres always that
incentive to go out and catch Atlantic bluefin tuna. And because
of their biology, its very difficult to drive fish to biological
extinction, but it is quite possible to drive them to commercial
extinction. And if were talking about fisheries as being not
just fish, but people engaged in fishing and the communities that
depend on that, then we have to realize that we have to back off,
well before we get to commercial extinction, because its not
just enough to maintain just enough fish to continue fishing.
challenge is to keep a right balance between the number of people
that are fishing and the number of fish that are out there. That
is the big challenge, but unfortunately, in this instance, economics
sends a perverse incentive to keep fishing because that last fish
is going to be even more valuable than the fish before.
To what degree have technological advances contributed to the fisheries
crisis were in?
innovations have been one of the great uncontrolled factors as well
in fisheries. And if you look at the changes in fishing gear in
the New England ground fish fishery, going back to the turn of the
century: from line trawls, long lines of hooks, to otter trawls,
nets, to the use of diesel engines, then gasoline engines, then
the conversion to steel hulls, then larger and larger vessels. Technology
has made a profound difference in the ability of people to go out
and catch fish. And I would say there is just about no place for
fish to hide now. And it really is just staggering the ability of
people to go out and fish and basically do it in a predictable fashion.
But equally, there are other parts of technology that have influenced
I talk about technology, Im not just thinking about what technology
our fishermen are using, Im looking at processing and delivery.
And all of that. Its just made a profound effect. And you
can see, often times people talk about the serial depletion of species.
There is also a serial development of technology that drives what
people are fishing for. And that has had a greatly underestimated
effect on fisheries.
This maximum sustainable yield, the long term maximum profit results
when you allow the fishery to develop and then harvest the surplus.
This seems like a simple concept, but it still seems that a lot
of a fishery managers dont seem to get it. Could you speak
gold standard for fisheries management and for goals in fisheries
is maximum sustainable yield. And, one of the problems with maximum
sustainable yield is we that always emphasize maximum. And so, if
you look at maximum sustainable yield, generally, people try to
say the maximum sustainable yield this year is so. When its
a matter of fact its going to be different from year to year
to year. So youre really talking about averages. And what
often happens is that, maximum sustainable yield is overestimated.
That means we are always taking more than the fish population is
really getting us. And if we keep doing that year after year after
year, which is what is exactly has happened, then we start driving
the fish population down, and to me, youve hit on one of the
really pernicious aspects of the whole way we view fisheries and
we have since, I would say, the second World War, is that the highest
and best use of fish populations is to take as much as we can possibly
take out of them.
the result of that is that we try and get everything out of them
that we possibly can for commercial fisheries and everything we
can for recreational fisheries, and everything that we can for various
markets and gears and it all adds up to more than is actually out
there and so to me, the big fallacy is that we should be aiming
at the maximum because inevitably we tip over what the maximum is.
If you look at, or talk to someone like Sydney Holt who is one of
the founders of maximum sustainable yield, he will now talk to you
about almost nothing except its limitations. It looks very good
in the textbook and its very good for helping students understand
the basics of populations. But you would never drive a car based
on MSY as a design. Its just not very rigorous.
I was interested in the fact that there is actually more profit
over the long term to take fewer fish over the long term.
of the reason that there is more profit in taking fewer fish and
over the long term. One reason is that, the fewer fish that you
are taking out, the smaller the supply. And so thats going
to maintain the price at a level such that you can be making the
same amount of money on less fish than if you flood the market and
drive the price down. And thats usually what happens. We flood
the market, the price goes down, so people have to keep fishing
harder and harder. And you can look at any number of fisheries where
the price has gone up for a variety of reasons that are well managed
fisheries. And fishermen are making a better living, simply by catching
of the most interesting management regimes I am aware of is in Hawaii
and that is for the ground fish fishery in Hawaii. And what the
people who were involved in developing that management plan decided
is that they didnt want maximum sustainable yield. They wanted
what they called, I believe, sufficiency. They wanted to make enough
money so that they could support their families. To me that was
a revolutionary approach to fisheries. You would never hear an economist
say thats the right thing to do. but here were people saying
our interest is in the long term. We dont need to be rich
people, we just want to be comfortable. So, I dont know whats
happened to that fishery, but to me it was an example of how different,
or how extreme our normal model is, which is to get everything that
we can out of it.
the reason that people dont catch less, is, once again, the
race for the fish. Because I cant leave the fish in the water
because somebody may catch it and it wont be there for me
to catch tomorrow. So, its really back to that pathology again
that prevents us from, basically fishermen, from having a comfortable
To what degree have government subsidies played a role in overbuilding
the size and fishing capacity of fleets?
in Europe would not be nearly the size that they are without government
subsidies. The same is true of the fleets in Japan, the fleets in
China. They are inconceivable without government subsidies.
How do subsidies encourage endless technological upgrades?
of the best examples of how subsidies allow fisheries to improve
their technology and increase their catching power is in the Alaska
ground fish fishery where in the United States fleet in the 1980s
there were millions and millions of dollars invested in that fishery
a lot of it of government funds. Until recently, we had seventy
very large factory trawlers far more than were actually needed
to catch all the fish. That would not have happened without government
subsidy programs that were well intentioned, but like so much else
in fisheries, we overshot.
In your book, you talk about how the negative effects of the governments
subsidies cancel out the other positive measures that have been
taken to protect the fisheries. Can you speak a little bit about
governments dont coordinate their fisheries management programs
with their fisheries development programs. Indeed, in the National
Marine Fisheries Service, there was almost no coordination until
the 1990s. So on the one hand, the managers would be trying
to keep the lid on the size of the fleet, and on the other hand,
there would be loan guarantees being met allowing people to build
In your book, you discuss how the subsidies increase the profitability
phase beyond what the market can bear. In other words, if these
guys didnt have these breaks, in the form of subsidies, it
wouldnt still be profitable to go where these guys are going.
Could you speak to that?
example of a subsidy that allows someone to continue fishing long
after it would otherwise be profitable is fuel. Many countries subsidize
the fuel costs for fishing. And as long as I can cut my fuel cost
maybe by 25%, I will go and fish another day or another couple of
hours. And that happens in the United States, it happens all over
the world. If I can reduce my costs by whatever means, if that means
by the government giving me money, it means that I can continue
Another thing you are talking about in your book, is the fact that
subsidies are a way of charging little or nothing for the use of
a public resource. Can you speak to that?
land, if someone is going to go into a national forest and cut a
tree, they have to pay a stumpage fee. But if someone wants to go
out and catch fish, there is really no cost associated for that
particular fish. And if a fisherman goes out and catches it, they
immediately possess it for free. And if I try to go on that
fishermans vessel and walk off with that fish, Ill be
arrested because all of a sudden he owns that fish. And so, thats
for free. Society, at that point, has gotten absolutely nothing.
In broad strokes, how much bigger than necessary is the world fleet?
a very general way, I would say that fleets are two to three times
the size that they need to be. And they may be many times larger
than they need to be in one fishery and much less so in another.
You talk about how quotas sometimes backfire. A lot of these fishery
management schemes just havent been working. One issue you
talk about is Total Allowable Catch. Can you speak to some of the
inherent weaknesses of a quota system like that?
quota system is fine as long as you can enforce it and you can prevent
other problems that arise when you try to enforce a quota system.
One of the things that often happens with a quota system if a skipper
is rushing to catch as much as possible before the quota is met
is the fishermen will start tossing over fish that are less valuable
than the fish that he is catching at that point something
called "high-grading." So that is one of the problems
that occurs when people are in a rush to try to beat the quota.
extreme example of the irrationality that quotas can produce occurred
for many years in the halibut fishery in Alaska where there would
be two twenty four hour seasons and about the time that the season
was going to open, a couple of thousand vessels would line up. And
the shot would go off and they would go out and try and catch as
much as they can in a twenty four hour period. And there were deaths
as a result of that. There was lost fishing gear that continued
catching fish and what we as consumers got was a lot of frozen halibut
because the processors couldnt handle it. So, quotas like
that, in an open access fishery often times create more problems
than they solve.
How about distant water fleets. Do you think distant water fleets
are another strategy to cope with overfishing another strategy
that potentially is not going to work. Could you speak to that?
you look at landings of fish over the last thirty or forty years
around the world, youll see that the waters of the Atlantic
were fished out first. And they were fished out both by vessels
from Europe and North America, but also vessels from Japan, Taiwan,
Korea. The vessels then started moving into the Pacific Ocean and
started fishing very, very heavily in the Pacific Ocean, bringing
more and more pressure to bear.
there are still too many vessels. There are far too many vessels
to catch whats available in the Pacific. So youre starting
to see various fleets like Japan and Spain and other fleets,
moving into the Indian Ocean. And so the pattern that we see globally
is a pattern that happens in individual fisheries as well, or in
areas off of individual countries.
pressure from distant water fleets really isnt relaxing. At
all. And the Spanish, for instance, are continuing to build vessels.
And, the European Union refuses to prevent them from exporting their
problems around the world. Which is exactly whats happening
How about "flags of convenience"? Do you have any updates
on those or how much of a problem those are?
happens when a country joins an international organization to manage
fisheries is that the vessels that fly their flag have to obey the
rules of that organization. What often happens though, is that a
country may join a particular organization but then its vessel owners
will stop flying the flag of that country and go and register in
another country that is not a member of that organization. So its
just a way of getting around having to play by the rules. And its
a very prevalent problem. Its so prevalent that the United
Nations actually convened a series of meetings to develop a treaty
to prevent the movement of vessels to flags of convenience. The
treaty was negotiated. Its been signed by many countries,
but still countries are flying the flags of convenience because
they simply want to get around the rules.
Do you have any sense of the effect of distant water fleets on artisenal
fisheries in developing countries?
fleets in the European Union have had a very serious impact on artisenal
fleets and fisheries in West Africa, for instance and really have
had a devastating impact there. There have been problems that have
been caused by distant water fleets. Shrimp trawlers, for instance,
in Indonesian waters going in and "hoovering" up
fisheries that are artisenal and small scale fishermen there depended
upon. So you see less of that now, because people are watching more.
But its still the case that it persists and sometimes the
governments of countries whose artisenal fishermen are going to
suffer are the very ones who sell those fishermen out because economically
speaking, it makes more sense for them to get the hard currency
from a European Union country that they can then use to improve
the lot of their population generally and the sacrifice that they
make of small scale fishermen is marginal in that kind of very cold
economic view of things. So, there s a certain amount of economic
calculation or rationale to it, but the impacts can be devastating.
Considering all of the failed management regimes, what is the answer?
important tool for improving the management of fisheries are Individual
Transferable Quotas. They are simply a tool. They cant be
used in every fishery. They shouldnt be used in every fishery.
But they are a tool that can make a real difference in some fisheries.
the controversy over individual transferable quotas has been going
for decades and it seems to get hotter and hotter and hotter. And
most of it is theoretical. And I know all the theories. Ive
read the theories. Ive read the pros and the cons. But what
I was interested in finding out, is how have they actually performed.
And if you look at the three Individual Transferable Quotas in the
United States, there hasnt been massive consolidation by large
corporations. Thats not happened at all.
the case of the halibut fishery, what has happened is you no longer
have a race for the fish that puts a thousand boats or more on the
water at the same time to try and take the fish in twenty four hours.
As a consumer it means that, in California, I can get fresh halibut,
which I couldnt get before, and fishermen are getting paid
more for the fish that they catch, because that fish is fresh. Its
no longer being frozen.
really dont care whether stewardship is being generated. Some
places there is, maybe some places there isnt. The important
thing is to look at the fisheries and you can see, that say for
instance in the surf clam fishery, the number of vessels, in that
fishery has decreased. The number of vessels have decreased in the
halibut sable fish fishery as well.
fishermen who are remaining are making a better living. To me, Im
wondering whats wrong with this picture. What can be so wrong
about fishermen making a decent living? And many of the criticisms
that have been leveled at Individual Transferable Quotas need to
be addressed. And they can be addressed in the design of Individual
other really important aspect of this is that on the one hand many
people say the most important problem we have is too many vessels.
We just have too many vessels out there. So, my question is, how
are we going to finance getting those vessels out? There isnt
enough money, there isnt enough political, will and
not enough money in the treasury to buy all those vessels out that
we need to buy. And I have to question whether or not tax payers
should be doing that across the board.
me, ITQs provide a way for self financing reduction of a fleet
in a fishery so that the fishermen who remain are in better shape.
And to me, that is, apart from conservation, a perfectly laudable
In simple terms, could you explain how ITQs are a potential
a fishery that is open access, there are generally far more vessels
than necessary to take the amount of fish out there and as a result
of that, everyone is operating at a very marginal level, financially.
In an ITQ fishery, what I can do is I am given a share of the quota.
Some percentage share. If I want to get out of the fishery, I can
sell that share. So I can leave the fishery. And thats exactly
what happens. People sell their shares off, the rent their shares,
they lease their shares. And the fishermen who are in the fishery
who werent catching very much because they were having to
race against everyone else, can actually buy more share or rent
more share and that will make them economically sounder.
so, inevitably what happens is that the fleet reduces. One of the
arguments that is made against ITQs is that there is a reduction
in employment as a result of that. Crew members lose jobs and so
on and so forth. And its true. There are far fewer fishermen
crew members in the halibut sable fish fishery, but all of those
crew members fished two days a year before the ITQ program came
into effect. Right now fishermen and crew members have a steadier
job working in that fishery. It isnt just two days a year.
Its maybe ninety or more days a year. So, there is a dramatic
change but inevitably it means that the fleet is reduced. And the
fleet does it by itself. It isnt the hand of government coming
in and saying were going to buy you out.
is going to be consolidation. That just goes logically with the
reduction in the number of vessels. But you can also have a consolidation
because people go out of business. And thats really the course
were on. Fleets are going to get reduced. Theres no
doubt about that. And we can do it ugly, and we can basically let
people get gradually strangled out of fisheries. Or we can try and
make it somewhat rational and humane so that people who have invested
a lot in a fishery in their lifetime can get something out of it
if they want to leave. Right now in an open access fishery, theres
now way for them to do it. The only option is failure.
How overbuilt is the world fleet at this point, compared to the
resource thats out there?
the amount of fish we have out in the water globally right now,
we probably have two to three times as many vessels as we need.
And up until the 1960s, the limit on the amount of catch was
the number of boats that we have. Now the limit on catch is the
number of fish.
We have seen a lot of backlash against ITQs that seems to
be related to the fear of industry take over. Could you speak to
the need for caps?
controversy over ITQs generally is very, very theoretical.
And my question always is, "An ITQ in which fishery, and what
kind of ITQ?" That, to me, is the critical question because
ITQs need to be designed with the particular fishery, the
composition of the kind of fleet that you would like to have, the
social values that you want to maintain. Those are perfectly legitimate
considerations to put into the design of ITQs, so to me its
not good enough to talk about ITQs, its to talk about
what kind of ITQ in which fishery. And, I think in all of the ITQ
programs in the United States, and certainly in the ITQ programs
in halibut and sable fish, there are caps on the amount of shares
that any one person or corporation can own.
that is a perfectly legitimate thing for an ITQ program to include.
And I would say that most people would agree with that. most people
believe where there are small fleets, we want to maintain those
small fleets. I would say, in addition to that, that a small fleet
is going to be able to persist much longer if they are making good
money. And theyre not going to make good money in an open
access fishery. So there is an element of strength that can be gained
by small fleets from ITQs, but it takes a matter of thinking
of it that way, and planning it that way for it to happen. Its
not going to happen because someones going to do it for you.
Youve got to get in there and make sure it happens.
You are around these issues a lot. Are you optimistic about the
future? Do you think these new ways of thinking might save the day?
think were now at a point where there could be dramatic change
for the better, but its going to require an awful lot more
work. And the groundwork for that was really laid in the early 1990s
with the emergence of the conservation community in the fisheries
issues because theres finally someone in there whos
sticking up for the fish. That is a voice that has not been heard
before. And, so that causes me hope. There are plenty of situations
and problems that can cause me to get kind of discouraged at times,
but theres enough going on that is really encouraging on the
thing that concerns me most, in the United States is the continued
moratorium on Individual Transferable Quotas. And to me, this is
really a strategic error. This is not a tactical error. It is a
strategic error and we are going to pay dearly for it.