HTML _ 95-296 - Overcapitalization in the U.S. Commercial Fishing Industry
22-Feb-1995; Eugene Buck; 15 p.

Abstract: Living marine resources -- fish and shellfish -- are among the economically dominant features of the world's oceans as well as vital sources of protein for the world's people. However, the sustainability of these essential resources is at risk. As a result of increased demands for fish products and expansion of fishing fleets, many traditional fisheries around the world are now depleted. As with many nations, U.S. marine fisheries managers have struggled to maximize harvests while maintaining productive stocks. Early attempts at management were compromised by largely unregulated foreign and domestic fleets. By 1976, the overexploitation of several stocks in offshore U.S. waters led to the passage of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA), with the prevention of overfishing acknowledged as the first of the Act's seven national standards for new fishery management plans. Since 1976, increases of 40 percent in the number of fishing vessels and 60 percent in the number of fishermen employed in commercial fisheries have yielded an increase of 50 percent in catches. Such growth, largely attributable to higher levels of consumer demand, government encouragement and assistance, and technological advances, has given U.S. fishermen continued incentive to further expand their capacity to fish. Capital invested in this expansion, however, has not yielded the anticipated returns. By 1993, 65 of a total 231 U.S. marine fish stocks were classified as overfished with the livelihood of the Nation's fishermen becoming as threatened as the fish they seek. With too many fishermen vying for too few fish, the U.S. commercial fishing industry is becoming as overcapitalized as the resource is overfished. Scientists, managers, and industry experts have begun re-evaluating traditional models and techniques for managing fishery resources. Under closest scrutiny is the traditional open access approach to fishery resource use. Some critics insist that, in the absence of some effective form of property rights, marine fish stocks will continue to diminish. A management regime that addresses open access concerns appears warranted, as does an overall reduction in fishing capacity. Nevertheless, significant questions remain. In particular, how and in what form should access be addressed? In what sector(s) and by what means ought reductions in capital invested in the commercial fishing industry occur? And, what is the role of the Federal Government in such proceedings? These questions and several others await careful evaluation by scientists, conservationists, industry experts, and lawmakers alike, while the fates of fishermen and the fish they depend upon hang in the balance. [read report]

Topics: Marine

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