Tuesday, April 05, 2005

CNN.com - Fish farmers see future in oil platforms - Apr 4, 2005

I'm an environmentalist. A skeptical environmentalist (Fantastic book and a good dose of reality against those eco-doom people) but an environmentalist nevertheless. So I do my part to conserve the environment, try to persuade people not to drive unsafe (there are not only more prone to overturning but when it does, it actually kills a higher proportion than other vehicles, something like 4% of turn-overs but 30% of deaths) fuel inefficient (and I don't simply mean in comparison to compact models) SUV.

So when you see me railing against global warming hysteria or the Kyoto Protocol that's because I think the treaty and mechanisms are flawed and that economics make a better arbiter and regulator than most people give it credit for. Remember, airs get cleaner because people get richer and have the time, energy and resources to do something about it. The impact of governmental legislation is remarkable limited according to a study done by the LSE regarding particulate pollution in London.

Pretty comprehensive article. Nicely protrays the economic pressures for fishing as well as setting it off against the environmental impact of farming (The Ocean Conservation likening it to hog farming).

Background issues:

1. Over-fishing: Classic "Tragedy of the Commons". Beyond certain nautical miles from a nations shore, territorial waters become free for all. As such, there's no impetus by any nation to actual conserve the biological resources i.e fishes. In fact the opposite is true, everyone will try to extract the maximum scarce resources from these common areas because if they stay their impulses, someone else would go ahead anyway. This was the scenario with the 'commons' in England back then. Basically overgrazing of common pasture land to the detriment of all.

Reform? Well, one way would be to allocate property rights to the person most that would make most economic use of it. That's the theory behind Coarsen Bargains (named after Robert Coarse, nobel prize winner) where land will, through economic allocation and the price mechanism, fall to those who would make best economic use of it. Along the way, (negative) externalities will be subsumed and prized according by the market. But there's no global authority that would be capable of parcelling out the land without various nations squabling over the outcome. Not to mention enforcement will be a nightmare. So pray that we come to our environmental senses before we destroy the ocean.

2. The economics of farming. It's very very viable. so viable in fact that catfish farmers in USA are screaming for protection from Vietnam. Granted that that isn't deep ocean farming but the economics are pretty sound. We like fish, people eat fish. More people eat more fish every year (apparently). So yes, there's big business to be made in mass produced fish.

3. Environment. Well on the good side, there's recycling of oil rigs instead of letting them rot where they stand (which does wonders for coral formation by the way as well as precious metal mining, the more reactive precious metals basically replacing the less reactive ones at the rig....or is it the other way round?). Environmental groups of course scream unless there are torn down and shipped away (see Shell in Nigeria and the South Sea) but it's expensive and this is definately more economic efficient. On the bad side, pollution (see above). But considering that the fish stock is supposed to be depleting, then these extra fish shouldn't be straining the OCEAN's eco-system especially as was mentioned in the article. Strong currents mean dilution of the 'pollution' which is really acceptable because that's what fishes would have been doing anyway

4. Tourism. Honestly, the aesthetics suck. But we gas guzzlers should not and cannot complain (yes all you SUV drivers...grr...) But would people pay to go visit one of these farms? Um...well you decide and leave comments.

5. Taste. I'm hardly an epicurian of ANY rank, but I like my food and I know what I like. Yes, farmed fish does taste different from caught fish. But personally I think the quality is improving and honestly, without farmed salmon, I doubt I could eat my lovely grilled salmon or Unagi (eel) as often. So I'm not going to stick my nose in the air and dismiss these fishes as beyond hope in terms of fillets.


Post a Comment

<< Home