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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14842/save-the-bluefin-tuna-through-property-rights/

Save the Bluefin Tuna through Property Rights

December 2, 2010 by

This tuna episode is just another demonstration of the conflict that arises whenever government regulation tries to solve a problem caused by a lack of property rights. If people owned portions of the ocean… FULL ARTICLE by Robert P. Murphy

{ 33 comments }

Kakugo December 2, 2010 at 9:16 am

Excellent article.
I am aware that a few companies in Australia are currently trying to farm tuna. Note that this would be an all inclusive process, like is used today in salmon farming, very different from the present practice of catching schools of young tuna and fattening them in closed pens. The process has been excruciatingly slow, mostly because tuna is very picky when it comes to breeding, but this year there have been significant breakthroughs. If someone will save tuna, it will be these entrepreneurs, not a government body.
I would also like to spend a word about careful management by edict. Up until this year Alaska pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) stocks were trumpeted as being “the best managed fish stock in the world” and “highly sustainable” by the US government and various semi government bodies. This year it was revealed stocks have been declining dramatically since 2007, showing a collapse similar to what was experienced by Atlantic Cod.
Nobody has shown any interest into farming cod yet because the EU and the US keep on legislating and subsidizing fishing (for example by paying French fishermen not to work), so making cod much less attractive than the highly prized tuna.
Yes, never learn from past mistakes is the motto the world goes by.

Ohhh Henry December 2, 2010 at 10:24 am

Ruining fishing grounds is not a “mistake”. Destroying the Newfoundland cod fishery was actually a major win for the political establishment. It left thousands of people as dependents on the government not just for fishing quotas as previously, but now for direct government checks in the form of welfare subsidies, education grants, make-work jobs, etc.

Proving that commons tragedies are not simply an accident of misguided but well-meaning economic principles, but a more or less deliberate policy to seize power and money by driving the private economy into ruin.

Another classic example of commons tragedy is desertification caused by overgrazing of common land in arid countries. Who benefits in this case? The peasants are impoverish and starving, then people in rich countries respond with cash, food and equipment, all of which is funneled through the capital cities where it is stolen by the ruling regime and their cronies and family members.

… Government-run enterprises suffer from the calculation problem … In the case of fishing, government regulations are often the epitome of inefficiency and unintended consequences …

I repeat the comment I have made before in response to articles such as this: it is not a calculation problem. The only calculation that has been made is that ruining economic resources benefits government elites. Whether or not they consciously “intended” to do so doesn’t matter. They would never confess to doing so anyways. Government destroys wealth not because they have good intentions but lack the knowledge to do otherwise. They destroy the public wealth because, paradoxically, such a policy increases their own, personal wealth and power.

Gil December 2, 2010 at 11:12 am

Why blame government if people never took up private property rights in the first place? In other words people were quite happy to be hunters and gatherers because it’s far cheaper than to be farming. On the other hand, if some people became farmers and the hunter/gatherers get offended because now the previous common grounds are private property and they’re now potential trespassers and the government helps the farmers protect their property from the disgruntled hunter/gatherers who continually raid the farms for food then, is the government evil again?

Ohhh Henry December 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Why blame government if people never took up private property rights in the first place?

In some cases people may not have asserted property rights over a resource because it was so big and so widespread that it never occurred to them to do so. But in many cases the established pioneers or homesteaders of a resource certainly would have tried to defend it against encroachment, but they were disarmed and prevented from doing so by government.

The government disarms the de-facto owners of a resource or refuses in other ways to allow private property rights to be negotiated or adjudicated, they wait for chaos and conflict to occur, then they step in and say, “Well it looks like nothing is going to be settled unless we control the resource.” Which they do, but because their control and arbitration is a monopoly, it is actually in their interest to allow the resource to be destroyed as a means of preventing independent, untaxed economic activity and then turning the displaced economic actors into slaves.

gene December 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

What? the previous hunting grounds are now “private property”? Who says?

Talk about a “statist” outlook. if hunter gatherers use and depend on certain hunting grounds for their livlihood, why in the world would a “farmer” have the right by libertarian standards to come in “afterward” and make a claim on the same land? and then the state is not to blame for excluding hunter/gatherers from property they have “used” forever?

and then they are “raiders”?

what hogwash. apparently the only good indian is a dead one by that logic.

Gil December 2, 2010 at 8:42 pm

People don’t own the land just because they travel through it every so often. It’s like a stray dog who visits workmen during lunch for free food – until someone places ownership over the dog then no one owns him however the first to claim ownership over him can then lawfully restrict other peoples’ interactions with the dog.

gene December 3, 2010 at 11:12 am

so now they are traveling through it “every so often”?

so how often do they have to travel through it over how many years to stake a claim in your mind? what exactly is “someone places ownership”?

feeding a dog randomly is not an embedded system dependent upon the land that feeds humans. hunter and gatherers have every right to sustain themselves with their labor as someone who plants radishes year after year in the same plot.

your train of thought could and has been used to dispossess every indigenous population on the face of the earth.

the right to self ownership IS the right to what we produce with our labor whether we plant or harvest what the earth already provides. private property rights are built on this premise, they don’t trump it.

Dave Albin December 3, 2010 at 2:15 pm

They should have had some sort of initial use rights that could have been bought and sold.

P.M.Lawrence December 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I have looked at these issues, particularly in relation to Aboriginal land rights here in Australia. It struck me that the true situation is much as Dave Albin supposes, with the use rights going according to tribal customs (i.e., only producing Mabo-style individual ownership of land in areas where the customs worked out that way, not everywhere the way precedents are now being claimed). That would allow people to settle land as “unowned”, but not to have full enjoyment of it when existing tribal uses got in the way (say, hunting over it). Rather than outright buying and selling of tribal rights – which might be entrenched according to tribal customs – it would make more sense to negotiate quit rents with payer options to renew, on a parcel by parcel basis. Those would probably be handled best by folding them into ordinary insurance payments.

Gil December 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm

If every indigenous popoulations that the West were hunter/gatherers then settlers could indeed set up farms and prohibit them from further hunting and gathering. It would be akin children who played in an owned forest only to return later as adults to find a shopping mall then complain as if they had some sort of ownership because they temporary used the land for a while.

Rob December 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm

I fail to see how subdividing the ocean into parcels would prevent the overfishing of blue fin tuna. Wouldn’t the entrepreneur need to buy the entire migratory range of the blue fin tuna(6000 nautical miles)? Logically, others would catch as many tuna as they could in their parcel before the tuna swam to the next. Subdivision would work better to prevent overfishing of fish with a limited migratory range.

Establishing property rights on the tuna themselves seems to be a better solution. A single company would need to own the fishing rights for the entire subspecies of tuna though to ensure that it is not over fished.

Dave Albin December 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Livestock have been forced to adapt to agricultural practices – it would be the same for aquatic life, so forget about worrying about migratory patterns. Animals are very adaptable, and owners have no incentive to force adaptation to the point that animals are harmed.

greg December 2, 2010 at 1:49 pm

This whole concept is way out in left field, you can’t divide the entire migration area of the blue fin tuna, nor can you assign the world rights to a single species to one or a group of individuals. It is hard enough to get nations to agree on a harvest quota, let alone enforce it.

If you can farm tuna, I can assure you that the Japanese market will not accept the farmed raised fish and continue to pay more for the higher grade wild fish. They won’t even take a wild tuna if it was not handled properly. You have to really understand the fish farming process.

I think you need to eliminate the demand by simply taxing the hell out of those sushi nuts to the point they reduce their consumption or find an alternative fish. Deep fried cat fish is a much better dish!

Daniel January 2, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Regarding the japanese and high-quality fish:
Wasabi

Regarding the rest:
STFU, greg

Tim Kern December 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm

And from whom shall we buy the ocean?

Steve R. December 3, 2010 at 8:24 am

Quite true!

Dave Albin December 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Seasteading – just like homesteading. Also, fishermen have some initial use rights.

John Doe December 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

So, we dump Locke’s labour theory of property in order to save a fish?

Who are the ones that find it “bebeficial” to save this fish, while most others that put their $ behind their opinions seem to be eating the things.

Why is it “BAD” if these fish disappear. For me it’s “GOOD” I hate Tuna!

Who gets to decide what is GOOD and BAD? Why?

Who get’s to assign portions of the sea to individuals, if we accept this premise that this “who” has the right to “give” bits of the ocean to individuals, then we have accepted that “who” is the legitimate owner of the ocean.

On what basis does “who” claim to own the Ocean?

Sorry Murphy, but dumping Locke and getting rid of the bothersome unowned nature, just because YOU want to save a fish smells fishy.

Lee December 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm

The first time Mugg the caveman had to plant beans because he’d produced too many children, he started us on a trail of toil and grief which has now come this. What will we be forced to attempt controlling next?_air? That’s about all that’s left. Then what?
We only have one major problem: too many people. All the other problems come from that, and that is where we should be directing our efforts.

JFF December 2, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I find it curious that any fisherman, solitary or industrial, would fish themselves out of a job in the first place. Governmental restrictions and lack of ownership or not, why would anyone deliberately shoot themselves in the foot?

J. Murray December 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Woe the tragedy of the commons. One fisherman wouldn’t fish himself out of a job, but introduce another one, rationality dies.

Lee December 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm

From some of the things I’ve read about Africa and South America, it’s often “eat today and worry about starvation tomorrow” or ” starve today and be dead tomorrow”. Not much of a choice.

Gil December 2, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Indeed, one fisherman may want to withhold fishing to allow the fish numbers to build up but knows another fisherman without such qualms will just take the fish anyway getting the immediate profit so there’s no point in abstaining.

John Doe December 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Funny thing about the “Tragedy of the Commons” is that while the Commons historically existed the Tragedy never happened.

It’s all a thought experiment run wild

J. Murray December 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

That’s because they weren’t really commons in the sense we understand them today. They were owned property of the king and administered by the local lord. The local lord administered the rules (rather harshly). It was called the commons then because the common man (ie peasantry), and not the rulership, was permitted to use it for their own personal gain. It was private property that was opened up for limited use by others.

P.M.Lawrence December 9, 2010 at 9:48 am

That first sentence is spot on, and they were indeed ultimately owned by the king just as everywhere else in England was (since no land was ever released as an allod owned free and clear but only ever under some kind of tenure, though theoretically he could have done that).

But unfortunately the rest is absolute rubbish:-

- It wasn’t administered by the local lord at all, let alone harshly, unless he happened by coincidence to be the magistrate, and even then only when someone (usually one of the other commoners) brought a violator before him – and then, he was constrained by law, custom, and the need to keep his office.

- It was not called the commons [sic - that's the plural; there were many commons, and each commoner only had rights on his own common] then because the common man (ie peasantry), and not the rulership, was permitted to use it for their own personal gain. Commoners got called that because each had rights on a common; the lowest of the low didn’t even have that. Terms like “the common man” arose from that. Those rights were property rights, even though they were usually inalienable.

- It was not (usually) private property that was opened up for limited use by others. It was the private property of the commoners themselves (under the king, of course), but which they only owned in the restricted way their rights parcelled up. In general, the local lord had no rights on it at all; the Enclosure of the Commons was all about taking commoners’ property rights away for the first time, not about repossessing anything. There were exceptional cases that were a bit different where commons were more nearly normally owned, as we would understand them: “Lammas Lands” were parcelled out individually for the peasants to raise crops on in certain seasons, and then (typically at Lammas, hence the name) became ordinary common land for the commoners’ animals to graze on during the remainder of the year; and, certain commons could be grazed on by droves of cattle being driven to distant markets, at certain seasons, if the drovers paid a “Thistle Rent” (so called because that was about all that was left by then) to the owner of those rental rights, typically a local lord unless he had sold them off – as sometimes happened to rental rights in general.

It does help to check out some of the historical material.

james b. longacre January 3, 2011 at 12:36 am

“I find it curious that any fisherman, solitary or industrial, would fish themselves out of a job in the first place”

i dont know if worldwide tuna demand if ouptacing the birth rates of oceans of tuna or not.

the fisherman may not be shooting anything. i dont think that tuna are a fish that can be aquacultured as well as tillapia.???

Steve R. December 3, 2010 at 8:34 am

Privatization of a mobile resource such as fish is an absurd proposition. Implicit in owning a piece of property is an assumption that whoever owns it will take care of it. Exactly how do you take care of a mobile resource such as fish? Then there is the guaranteed emergence of that one person who has no interest in sustainability and purposely destroys the resource for their egocentric personal gain. Unfortunately; for a resource such as fish, once destroyed, there is no coming back. Privatization of public resources is an abomination.

J. Murray December 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm

It’s currently not legal in any country to purchase a stretch of coastal water, set up nets, and farm bluefin tuna. Wide open ocean may prove problematic (for the time being, free markets tend to solve problems most of us can’t concieve an answer for), but setting up a coastal fishery for such a purpose would quickly kill off deep ocean fishing as the coastal fisheries don’t have to deal with significant fuel costs, labor costs, and time to seek out the schools, thus dramatically cutting down costs and stabilizing supply.

ABR December 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm

If Joe owns species X, and Moe owns species Y, and X likes to eat Y, does Joe owe Moe?

Gil December 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Yes, Joe is liable and this behaviour would stop people from owning a lot of speices.

P.M.Lawrence December 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Originally, the concept of a tragedy of the commons was used to analyze a hypothetical medieval pasture, where each herder could let as many cattle graze as he wanted… The tragedy of the commons in pastureland was solved by the enclosure movement, i.e., by assigning property rights to individual parcels of land.

No, that didn’t solve it. It was only a hypothetical, remember? In real life the hypothetical had already been headed off by customary restrictions on use. It only ever started to become a problem where those eroded – which could be caused by the advance of the enclosure movement, taking away those customary privileges and obligations ahead of taking over the land.

Leo Hefner December 14, 2010 at 3:56 am

Great article!

http://www.BlueFinHosting.com will donate 10%* of their yearly net to help fund finding a solution to truly sustainable tuna farming.

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