Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The world now produces more farmed fish than beef

Map of the world's aquaculture production in 2011

You know, years ago when this blog first started, we had a discussion about property rights in fish, large and small, and talked about property rights as a way both to save the oceans, and to de-politicise them.

The solution to the imminent and watery Tragedy of the Commons represented by whale-harvesting and out of control fishing is similar to the problem solved by nineteenth century cattlemen by the imperfect means of branding, and eventually by the invention of barbed wire. It is one of recognising and legally protecting the property right in these animals.
    And no, it’s not easy to protect property rights in big fish, but then there was a time when it wasn’t easy to protect property rights in cattle either, particularly on America’s great plains.  But that was before barbed wire.
    Branding and barbed wire were inventions that allowed the cattlemen to identify "their cattle" and to ask the law for its protection for them. The solution for those who wish to protect "their whales" is essentially the same  -- a technological advance that allows them to identify to themselves and others which whales are theirs, and which therefore have the full protection of law.
    Electronic branding? GPS-power 'barbed wire'? I don't know. The cattlemen embraced the new technology of barbed wire to legally protect their herds (read about it
here); whale watchers [and fishermen] might consider devising a similary moron-proof technology to allow legal protection to be afforded to their migrating 'pods.'  If they want legal protection then frankly the technology of demonstrating “their” marine life is up to them; but if they can produce something, then the law should by rights recognise and protect their property.

That was a few years ago when I wrote that.

Since then, things have changed. A lot.

Did you know the world now produces more farmed fish than beef? And that, says the latest National Geographic magazine, “is just the beginning”!

Consider, nearly half of all commercially caught  fish are now farmed, rather than wild, mostly in Asia.

That’s a change that’s happened in just the last ten years.

The “green revolution” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was ignited by long-overdue recognition of property rights in land. The explosion of production set off a continuing explosion of population and productivity that still hasn’t ceased.

It now looks as if a new “blue revolution” is taking off before our eyes.

Exciting times.


  1. So what is your free market solution to remove all the mercury from these fish? What is your free market solution to prevent anti biotic abuse and farmed fish virus decimating wild stocks?

  2. @Steve What's your force-based solution to these same issues? Not everything *has* a current solution. That doesn't negate progress or invalidate the argument.

    For example, I'd argue that government hasn't meaningfully "solved" any real problems ever. Yet voters never seem to demand a 100% guaranteed solution every time some hare brained piece of legislation is mooted as a "solution" (usually around election time) so why do you accept one imperfect system while abusing another which could at least be tried? I'm also leaving out that perhaps the free market will solve the problem you state above. Don't take my lack of thought on this issue at 7:30am after a bad night's sleep as suggesting the issue is insoluble. :)

    There is no utopia. Anyone who claims there is, libertarian or otherwise, is selling snake oil. No need to sneer at something because the answer to one issue you foresee with it isn't immediately apparent.

  3. Steve

    Respect of property rights solves the issues you raised.



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