the commons are still tragic

Paul Krugman points us to the success story of the rebound of US fish stocks. He then makes an amazing leap to climate change saying, Fighting climate change isn’t really all that different from saving fisheries; if we ever get around to doing the obvious, it will be easier and more successful than anyone now expects.”

I actually agree with the first part, and the Vox article that Krugman links to makes the point pretty well, just not in the way Paul wants it to be made.

Now the big caveat: Yes, US fisheries seem to be recovering. But that’s not true for much of the rest of the world. And, given that the United States imports around 91 percent of its seafood, this is a pretty crucial caveat.

All told, the best-managed fisheries around the world — the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland — only make up about 16 percent of the global catch, according to a recent paper in Marine Pollution Bulletin by Tony Pitcher and William Cheung of the University of British Columbia.

By contrast, more than 80 percent of the world’s fish are caught in the rest of the world, in places like Asia and Africa — where rules are often less strict. The data here is fairly patchy, but the paper notes that many of these nations are less likely to follow the UN’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and there’s evidence that “serious depletions” may be occurring there:


“It all depends where you look,” Pitcher told me in an interview last year. “There are a few places where fisheries are doing better: The US, Australia, Canada, Norway. But those are relatively rare. In most places, the evidence suggests that things are getting worse.”

Gee Paul, that’s not quite how you were telling the story, eh?
In other words, overfishing, like climate change, is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own. Our fish stocks are rebounding, and our carbon emissions are falling, but much of the rest of the world is moving in the wrong direction on both issues.
Unless by “doing the obvious” Paul means paying China to stop polluting, the second part of his quote above is naive and misleading.

3 thoughts on “the commons are still tragic

  1. Pingback: The commons are still tragic

  2. Pingback: The Case for Fishery Property Rights | Alternative Risk Investment News Trends on Gold, Money, Currency Markets and Financial Freedom

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