Summary: Pirates roam the seas, doing massive damage but avoiding retribution from the world’s civilized nations. Because they’re invisible! To stop this scourge we must overcome our blindness. We can do so, if we wish to do so.
Somalia’s pirates are a trivial threat to the world’s economy and political regime. A more serious threat are the fleets of powerful nations, raping the fisheries of poor nations. Their actions demonstrate our contempt for justice and unconcern for the world’s ecosystem. The consequences could be severe.
- “Globalization, Roving Bandits, and Marine Resources“, Science, Boris Worm et al, 17 March 2006
- “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services“, Boris Worm et al, Science, 3 November 2006 — The author’s forecast that unless global policies change, 100% of seafood-producing species stocks will collapse by 2048.
- “Can Catch Shares Prevent Fisheries Collapse?“, Costello et al, Science 19 September 2008
- The ur-articles about the tragedy of the commons (update)
Links to other posts about pirates appear at the end.
(1) Roving bandits of the modern seas
“Globalization, Roving Bandits, and Marine Resources“, Science, Boris Worm et al, 17 March 2006 — Excerpt:
Overfishing is increasingly threatening the world’s marine ecosystems. The search for the social causes of this crisis has often focused on inappropriate approaches to governance and lack of incentives for conservation. Little attention, however, has been paid to the critical impact of sequential exploitation: the spatially expanding depletion of harvested species. The economist Mancur Olson argued that local governance creates a vested interest in the maintenance of local resources, whereas the ability of mobile agents — roving bandits in Olson’s terminology — to move on to other, unprotected resources severs local feedback and the incentive to build conserving institutions. Distant water fleets and mobile traders can operate like roving bandits, because global markets often fail to generate the self-interest that arises from attachment to place.
The effect of roving bandits can be explained by “tragedy of the commons,” whereby a freely accessible (or open-access) resource is competitively depleted. Harvesters have no incentive to conserve; whatever they do not take will be harvested by others. Developing the institutions to deal with commons issues is problematic and slow. Roving banditry is different from most commons dilemmas in that a new dynamic has arisen in the globalized world: New markets can develop so rapidly that the speed of resource exploitation often overwhelms the ability of local institutions to respond.
(2) Will global fisheries collapse by 2050?
“Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services“, Boris Worm et al, Science, 3 November 2006 — The author’s forecast that unless global policies change, 100% of seafood-producing species stocks will collapse by 2048. Abstract:
Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences. We analyzed local experiments, long-term regional time series, and global fisheries data to test how biodiversity loss affects marine ecosystem services across temporal and spatial scales. Overall, rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity. Restoration of biodiversity, in contrast, increased productivity fourfold and decreased variability by 21%, on average. We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.
Replies to this article are here.
(3) Can we prevent the collapse of our remaining fisheries?
“Can Catch Shares Prevent Fisheries Collapse?“, Costello et al, Science 19 September 2008:
Recent reports suggest that most of the world’s commercial fisheries could collapse within decades. Although poor fisheries governance is often implicated, evaluation of solutions remains rare. Bioeconomic theory and case studies suggest that rights-based catch shares can provide individual incentives for sustainable harvest that is less prone to collapse. To test whether catch-share fishery reforms achieve these hypothetical benefits, we have compiled a global database of fisheries institutions and catch statistics in 11,135 fisheries from 1950 to 2003. Implementation of catch shares halts, and even reverses, the global trend toward widespread collapse. Institutional change has the potential for greatly altering the future of global fisheries.
(4) The Ur-source of research about these issues
- “The Tragedy of the Commons“, Garrett Hardin, Science, 13 December 1968 — Alt link here. “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality.”
- “The Tragedy of the Commons Revisited“, Beryl L. Crowe, Science, 28 November 1969 — “Major problems have neither technical nor political solutions; extensions in morality are not likely.”
For more information from the FM site
Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including the Naval warfare and strategy reference page.
Posts on the FM site about pirates:
- All about Pirates!, 12 December 2008
- More about pirates: why we no longer “hang them high”, 5 January 2009
- A Piracy SitRep, 12 May 2009
- What is this “justice” that war-loving Americans speak of?, 31 December 2009
- More about those pirate demons in Somalia, 2 January 2009
- The real pirates sailing the seas, in whom we have no interest and from which we will suffer massive damage, 4 January 2010
- New research about pirates!, 3 March 2010