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Community-based fishery management and Somali pirates

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What went wrong? Scientists count a number of factors – government subsidies increased the number of fishing boats far beyond what the stock could sustain, a "days at sea" approach led to extensive by-catch, a "race to fish" destroyed habitat, and so on.

Catch shares are supposed to stop some of this, but even catch shares don't always work. To illustrate this point, Seth Macinko at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, once illustrated their potential failures with the example of a pod of blue whales points to a famous paper on blue whales by economist Colin Clark:

Say a community of whalers "owns" owns rights, or privileges, to harvest blue whales in a certain area. According to catch-share theory, they should manage the cetaceans for their long-term health. Except that blue whales, the largest animal to have ever existed, can easily live more than 80 years. They reproduce so slowly that, from a purely economic point of view, the fishermen would do better to kill all the blue whales, sell the meat and blubber, and put their earnings in a bank to earn interest. They'd earn more that way than by waiting around to harvest "sustainably" harvest one whale per human lifetime.

That's an extreme example, but you get the point: Ownership doesn't solve all problems. And if you remember Jared Diamond's case studies of societal collapse in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," neither, necessarily, does community-based management. People sometimes make the wrong management choices about the environment that sustains them, although the right approach seems to be staring them in the face.

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