14 October 2008
Overfishing Bluefin ~ Tragedy of the Commons
I've become especially interested in the Tragedy of the Commons recently, since so much strife results from this phenomenon -- and so much irreversible ecological destruction. Witness the extinction of the carrier pigeon and moa, saga of Easter Island, probable demise of the Mayans. Professor Jared Diamond's Collapse covers much of this terrain. Today I want to spotlight the Bluefin Tuna, an amazing fish... Historically widely spread in northern and southern oceans...Researchers are tracking these fish using a growing set of measurement and tracking tools. One especially cool example of this is TOPP -- Tagging of Pacific Predators. But increasingly these fish are being consumed by humans -- some would argue over-consumed beyond the replenishment rate or carrying capacity of the fisheries. This is big-business with fish taking first-class flights around the world to reach target markets, such as the remarkable Tsukiji in Tokyo... We need to figure out better alternatives to free-range fishing since this leads to the Tragedy of the Commons where no one has the incentive to maintain the system for the long-term and everyone exploits for their short-term benefit. Perhaps -- and I emphasize perhaps, if done thoughtfully and with a better understanding of the ecosystemic feedbacks involved -- through organized Open-Ocean Ranching we might be able to maintain and even grow global stocks, much like land-based ranching has lead to a boom in cattle and other food animal stocks. This -- in principle -- might allow us all to consume tasty sustainable sushi!