It is heartening to see attention given to both the decline of our ocean fisheries and wildlife and to possible solutions. Fishermen, however, are not hellbent to “beat out good science,” they’re simply trying to make a living under a truly perverse regulatory system, one that encourages overfishing and habitat destruction.
Marine reserves offer great promise, but they are incomplete without changing the nature of fisheries management.
In New Zealand, the creation of harvest rights to fish so self-interest lines up with conservation and the future health of fisheries resulted in something anathema to most fisheries in the United States: fishermen agreeing to catch less than they were allotted by the government.
From communal village tenure over coral reefs in the South Pacific to the offshore fisheries of New Zealand, owners of fishing rights or territories press for and enforce their own conservation measures, including marine reserves and multi-species management.
Marine reserves can only be as effective as the respect given to their boundaries, and as long as we manage fisheries to encourage rapacious behavior, fughettaboutit.
Michael De Alessi is director of natural resource policy at Reason Foundation