Thursday, April 08, 2010

From the Archive: Overharvesting Fisheries

From an old blog post:

...a couple of economists published an article in Science that pointed out that over-harvesting the fisheries was (surprise) not profit-maximizing for the fishermen. They report:

A new and compelling argument for reducing fish harvests – the profit motive – could persuade world fishers to endure the short-term pain of lower catches for the long-term gain of higher returns for their labor, according to authors of a ground-breaking study on fisheries over-exploitation.

They say their findings, published in the journal Science Dec. 7, will help overcome a key cause of over-fishing – industry opposition to lower catches – by demonstrating that when stocks are allowed to recover, profits take a sharp turn upward.

“It has always been assumed that maximizing fishing profits will lead to stock depletion and possibly even extinction of some commercial species,” says co-author Quentin Grafton, research director at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University (ANU) and one of the co-authors of the paper “Economics of Over-exploitation Revisited.”

“But our results prove that the highest profits are made when fish numbers are allowed to rise beyond levels traditionally considered optimal. In other words, bigger stocks mean bigger bucks.”

The simple reason is “the stock effect”: when fish are more plentiful and thus easier to catch, fishers don’t have to spend as much on fuel and other costs to fill their nets – profits are higher.

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