Fellow libertarians, O Cynical Ones, you might be surprised to note that, at least in some cases, it MAY be possible to educate thick-headed and corrupt government bureaucrats and political appointees about the reasons for policy failures, and the government MIGHT even actually decide to cean up its act. While the task may be difficult, it is apparently NOT impossible; there is a silver lining; and persistence may pay off in greater local authority.
The case in point? Signs of hope that the US government is learning from the painful lesson of many disastrously managed fisheries, and is starting to empower fishermen to self-manage that the resources on which they rely, by setting policies that favor "catch share" programs. (I have blogged on the fisheries "tragedy of the commons" a number of times; serious problems continue.) "Free-market" enviro-libertarians have been making the case for such changes for thirty-odd years or so.
(BTW, this is exactly the point that Elinor Ostrom has been making for years, and why she was awarded the Nobel prize in economics. Further, as I have previously noted, even mainline enviro groups - those enviro-facists - have been specifically calling for "catch share" programs as a way to slow the disastrous tragedy of the ocean commons.)
Here are excerpts from a December 10 online release bu the , "NOAA Encourages Use of Catch Shares to End Overfishing, Rebuild Fisheries and Fishing Communities": (emphasis added)
NOAA released today for public comment a draft national policy
encouraging the use of catch shares, a fishery management tool that
aims to end overfishing and rebuild and sustain fishing jobs and
fishing communities. In doing so, NOAA recognized that catch shares are
not a panacea or one-size-fits-all solution, but are a proven way to
promote sustainable fishing when designed properly at the fishing
“We have made great progress in rebuilding many fisheries, but more
than 20 percent of our fish stocks have not been rebuilt, and even
larger proportion of our fisheries are not meeting their full economic
potential for the nation,” Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said.
“Catch shares is a tool that can help us realize the full economic and
biological benefits of rebuilt fisheries.”
programs, which include Limited Access Privilege programs and
individual fishing quotas, have been used in the U.S. since 1990 and
are now used in 13 different commercial fisheries. Four new programs
will begin over the next year. NOAA estimates that rebuilding U.S.
fish stocks would increase annual commercial dockside values by an
estimated $2.2 billion, a 54-percent increase over current dockside
values of $4.1 billion, and help support jobs in the seafood industry
and across the broader economy.
“From Florida to Alaska, catch share programs help fishing communities
provide good jobs while rebuilding and sustaining healthy fisheries and
ocean ecosystems,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce
for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Although this is a
national policy, our emphasis is on local consideration and design of
catch shares that take into consideration commercial and recreational
A catch share program differs from traditional fishery management by
dividing up the total allowable catch in a fishery into shares. These
shares are typically allocated based on historical participation in the
fishery. They may be assigned to individuals, cooperatives, communities
or other entities, who would be allowed to fish up to their assigned
limit. Catch share participants also agree to stop fishing when they
have caught as much as they are allowed.
management programs, fishermen compete for a total allowable catch.
This has lead to fishermen racing each other to catch as many fish as
they can before the total catch limit is reached. This results in more
boats and gear than necessary, quotas being exceeded, increasingly
shorter fishing seasons, unsafe fishing and high levels of bycatch. It
also may result in too many fish brought to market at once, reducing
their market value to fishermen and coastal communities.
“Catch shares allow fishermen to plan their businesses better and be
more selective about when and how they catch their allotment, because
they know their share of the fishery is secure,” said Dr. Jim Balsiger,
acting administrator of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.
“They can plan their fishing schedules in response to weather, market,
and individual business conditions. Catch share programs help eliminate
the race to fish, reduce overcapacity and bycatch, enhance the safety
of fishermen and their vessels, and improve economic efficiency. They
also help ensure fishermen adhere to annual catch limits because the
value of their share is directly linked to the overall health of the
fish stock and its habitat.”
While catch shares are not
always universally embraced when they are first introduced, their
benefits have been well proven. “We fought against the program right up
until the time it passed,” said Alaska fisherman Rob Wurm, referring to
the halibut and sablefish catch share program, which began in 1995.
”But to my surprise, it really has worked well. It has created a lot of
stability, stopped the race for fish and changed the fishing
environment in ways that have made it safer and allowed us to avoid
Members of NOAA’s Catch Shares Policy Task Force, which includes
participants from each of the eight councils as well as NOAA experts,
provided significant input on the draft policy.
Among the policy’s components:
of a catch share program is voluntary. NOAA will not mandate the use of
catch shares in any commercial, recreational, or subsistence fishery.
individual fishery management councils will consult fishing communities
to evaluate the data, effects, and enforceability of any potential
catch share program before moving forward. In some cases, councils may
find catch shares not to be the most appropriate management option.
will provide leadership and resources and work in partnership with
fishery management councils, states and members of the public to help
with the implementation of catch shares. This includes assisting
fishing communities as they make the transition, and conducting
regional workshops, online seminars, and other educational and outreach
thought-out and developed catch share programs will promote sustainable
fishing communities by supporting good jobs, and promoting preservation
of wharfs, processing facilities, and fuel and ice suppliers.
share programs can be designed to set aside shares to allow new
participants into the fishery, including new generations of fishermen,
small businesses, or others.
those councils adopting catch shares to consider a royalty system to
support science, research and management as fisheries become more
profitable under the program. NOAA will also seek appropriated funds to
supplement what may be collected through cost recovery and royalties to
assist in the design, transition period and operation of catch share
Readers may note very close parallels between NOAA`s approach and the common principles for sucesssful management of open-access resources that Ostrom has identified.
Let`s hope that the US and other nations can use similar approaches to begin to manage any number of fisheries that are crashing or are under severe pressure around the world - due both to government-instigated commons problems and to races to catch fish in pelagic regions not subject to meaningful government control. We could use approaches that actually empower the fishermen, and end both government mismanagement and politicization and chaotic systems of widespread, roving and destructive "fish raiders". The alternatives of fisheries that have crash and been placed under bans (under the CITES convention) and politicized deadlocks that we see for whales under the IWC are not very attractive.
So, we ARE making some progress. Forgive me for suggesting that similar efforts by libertarians to play a productive role regarding energy policy might also eventually pay off?