Alaska & CPR Management

Alaskan Fisheries and the World of Common Pool Resource Management:

Part 1

Alaska and Common Pool Resource Management:

A frontier of innovation


Since people first inhabited Alaska the primary resource of the land has been salmon. Alaska is not conducive land for growing crops as support for living: frosts set in early in September and do not stop freezing the ground until late April, even May. During those three and a half to four months the sunlight is actually very good for vegetation, and with many natural fresh-water sources around, a good deal of gardening can be done, but not enough to sustain oneself for the whole year or support an economy. The massive cold spells also ruin any chances of raising domesticated animals. The common species of domesticated animals: cows, chickens, and pigs would not survive in the elements, making it more efficient to raise them in a place where heated stables are not required and import them. The large species that do live outdoors in Alaska – Elk, Caribou, Bison and Bear – are too lean, fierce, untamable, or all three to produce enough meat on which one can survive or with which one can support an economy. While Alaskan Natives did have some Caribou farms and supplemented their summer diets with vegetables, their main diet was Pacific Salmon (Jay, 12).

There are five types of Pacific Salmon, all with their own lifecycles. All 5 species are born in fresh-water Rivers, go to the ocean to live out their life, and then return to the rivers from which they came, spawn, and die. The time spent in the ocean varies between species. The largest species is the king salmon, also known as the Chinook, weighing an average of 30 pounds and reaching above 100. They have a lifecycle of 4-5 years. Red salmon, also known as sockeye, have a lifecycle of 4-5 years. Silver salmon, also known as Coho, are the most commercially sought-after species, and have a lifecycle of 3-4 years. Pink salmon, also known as humpback, have a lifecycle of 2 years. Chum, also known as dog salmon, the smallest species, have a lifecycle of 2-4 years (Iudicello, 90-91).

Alaskan natives were aware of these natural cycles as is evident by their sustainable use of the salmon for thousands of years. During that much time of inhabitance and dependency on the fish for subsistence, the natives never depleted this vital resource. When the first canneries were opened in Alaska by European descendents in 1878, the amount of fish in Alaska outnumbered those of the Columbia and California runs from pre-cannery times combined. Of course, by 1878 the Columbia and California runs had been over-fished and indefinitely depleted (Gruening, 246). There are stories from the first settlers of Oregon who wrote about hearing small streams from miles away because of the bubbling of the salmon. They recall seeing virtual streams-of-salmon – salmon leaping over and squirming between each other to make it up stream. This last year I walked the banks of Emerald River (a river originally known for its huge salmon runs) all day during spawning season, looking for spawning salmon. After six hours I got discouraged and decided to walk back. Then I saw one of the most beautiful sights of my life. It was two Coho salmon with their silver scales glistening against the setting sun as they squirmed, getting ready to mate. I watched as the female squeezed out hundreds of eggs onto the river floor then swam out of the way as the male Coho skirted up behind her and sprayed sperm on as many of the eggs as he could. The female then slashed her tail across the floor, trying to cover the eggs in a bit of protective silt, and both salmon turned and floated back down stream to their death. The scene moved me to tears with its beauty and its sadness. It was two fish mating. But just two fish.

There were some entrepreneurs of conservation like Tarleton Bean when canneries were first opened in Alaska. They wanted to make sure the salmon of Alaska never ended up like the salmon of Oregon. But they were just one politically weak stakeholder in a capitalist society where it is hard to stop economic growth. The salmon of Alaska seemed like an amazing tool for revenue for cannery owners from California and Washington, the most powerful stakeholders. Several problems arose from these canneries operating in Alaska. The first and most obvious was the demise of a natural population of fish, a stakeholder in the industry with no voice of its own. There were also other aquatic species that were degraded by the fishing tactics of canneries in Alaska, as well as two species of land animals: the Alaskan Natives, and European Alaskans who were in Alaska before 1887. Both of these human groups of stakeholders had less political weight in their own state then the cannery owners of the south. Any life that is effected by a certain action of the collective is a stakeholder in that collective action (Pellow). In this case, the stakeholders who held the most stake in the fish of Alaska seemed to have the smallest pull in decisions made regarding the fish. First off, the fish, with no pull. The natives of Alaska who almost solely depended on the fish had very little pull. And the European Alaskans had much less pull then the lower-forty eight state’s cannery owners who were less dependent on the fish of Alaska.  Canneries from the lower forty-eight moved to Alaska and took over, exploiting earlier settling European Alaskans, displacing Indigenous peoples, and depleting salmon runs. For fifty years all of these problems persisted. Some attempts were made to stop this, but the pull of the cannery owners prevailed until Alaska became a state. Until then, the people in Alaska had less rights then those based out of established states. Regulation and equality did not fully come until statehood. After this, more of the stakeholders in Alaska’s fish markets opinions were more heavily weighted and changed ensued. Fair limiting laws were placed on Alaska’s fishermen that give the industry, through the salmon runs, sustainability.  The regulations put in place were sustainable for many years. Now, there is a larger problem to be dealt with: world-wide fish depletion. World-wide fish depletion is limiting Alaska’s fishermen to the point of extinction.

In Part 1 I will examine how over fishing in Alaska has been dealt with by Alaskans since European occupation, examine the current problem facing the salmon populations and Alaskan fishermen, and take a brief look at the problems arising in Alaskas current fish market.

Salmon and Early Alaskan History

Most of this section is drawn from Earnest Gruening’s book, The State of Alaska. By ‘state,’ Gruening means current status, not State, as his book was published before Alaska was a member of the union. Gruening mainly wrote The State of Alaska as a cry for statehood. In the first part of The State of Alaska, Gruening spent a good deal of time laying out how and why waves of European descendents came to occupy Alaska and how they dealt with the human-infrastructure and natural world that already existed there. He goes on to show the problems that arose between the European Alaskans, Alaskan natives, the natural world, and the various large industries of Alaska: oil, coal, gold, and canneries (he also does a large exploration into the politics and native cultures of the time). In short, he sets up a good picture of the stakeholders in early Alaskan fisheries.

In the second part of The State of Alaska, Gruening goes on to talk about the laws to protect Alaskans that came out of these early years and how well they worked. Gruening has a great and inside perspective on all of this because he was an active and influential political figure in the United States throughout his whole life. Gruening began as a journalist writing for various prestigious newspapers. He then started the largest newspapers of Portland, Or and Seattle, Wa. But he spent the majority of his life dedicated to the statehood of Alaska: he was appointed governor of Alaska from 1939-53, and was elected as Alaska’s first U.S. Senator from 1959-69.

In this section I will be explaining who all the stakeholders in the early salmon fisheries were, how they were affected by the occupation of the fisheries by cannery owners from the lower forty-eight states, why restrictions on fishing practices were needed, who had a say in prescribing these restrictions, and what finally happened.

First Fifty Years, Before the White Act, Before Statehood:

The salmon runs of the Pacific Ocean were hugely profitable for many large canneries off the shores of San Francisco and Seattle. For about fifty years they rivaled the shores of the eastern seaboard of the United States as the largest salmon producers in the world (Jay, 26). One large difference in Pacific and Atlantic salmon made the eastern industry superior in the long-run: Atlantic salmon do not die after spawning their first time, Pacific salmon do. This made the runs on the east-coast more sustainable with less protective measures. Coming from this tradition of unrestricted sustainability, European descendents quickly depleted the more fragile salmon runs of the west coast by the 1870s (Gruening, 247). These wealthy entrepreneurs needed a new market. In a market based on expensive ships, moving their operation to the east-coast did not seem possible. Their tactics were also very specific to fishing for salmon, not to mention the fact that salmon were by-far the most profitable species of fish to catch, so they could not move to other fish off the same shores.

Around 1860, gold was discovered in Alaska. This brought mining set-ups, shanty towns, and lots of prospectors who were always looking to make more money to Alaska (Gruening, 130). It seems that the second thing they noticed in these pristine fresh-water rivers after large nuggets of exposed gold, were gigantic salmon runs. In 1878, the first canneries were established in Alaska by large cannery corporations from San Francisco and Seattle. Starting that year, for the next 50 years, the Alaskan canneries were the top producing canneries in the world (Browning, 30). In Alaska, they also accounted for the largest investment of capital, biggest annual financial yield, greatest employers of labor, largest source of territorial revenue, and most dominant factor of Alaska’s political, social, and economic life (Gruening, 250). With Alaska not yet having statehood, a political and economic pull like this may seem beneficial for all stakeholders by bringing the territory and its people more revenue, jobs, political attention and pull uncanny for most territories, but it was a double edged sword for earlier established European Alaskan’s and Alaskan natives, and a heavy blow for Alaskan salmon.

Since the cannery operation was set up by canneries of Seattle and San Francisco, they could use their own employees. This was their original tactic. As European Alaskans who were living there before the gold mining and cannery days went to the canneries looking for jobs, the large cannery owners saw a way to make more revenue. They employed the European Alaskans, but for much lower pay (Gruening, 253). It was a simple case of exploitation. The Alaskans needed jobs, but the employers did not need their labor. The owners’ labor base from the south gave them the upper-hand in pay negotiation and they used it. When the Alaskans became upset with this and tried to start operations of their own they faced substantial barriers, most of which were set up by the established cannery owners. To start a cannery, one first needs a boat and equipment. At the time there were no boat or commercial fishing supply markets and the production of large canneries was not an established business in Alaska (Browning, 42). The fishermen of Alaska would have to go to the lower forty-eight states to get boats and supplies. Transportation of these large pieces of equipment is an expensive task.

The established canneries made it even more difficult by raising the prices of their goods when selling to European Alaskans, or simply not selling to Alaskan fishermen at all. It was easy for canneries with boats already established in San Francisco and Seattle to bring their designers, constructers, and materials to Alaska to build the actual canneries. Alaskans obviously did not have this option. The established canneries made it even harder by passing bills through the federal government that put restriction on the types of canneries that could be built on Alaska’s shores. These restrictions made it difficult for Alaskans to get a start, yet some did. As soon as they did, the canneries from the south went one step further to stop them. In 1885 a bill was passed by the federal government saying that 9 out of 10 boats fishing in any of the salmon runs in Alaska had to be vessels from the states, not Alaska (Gruening, 259). Supposedly, the idea was to create more revenue for the nation, because half of all profits made in Alaska by non-Alaskans went to the federal government. It is clear that this legislation was heavily influenced by the large cannery corporations of the south. While the facts that jobs and revenue were brought to Alaska seem good for European Alaskan stakeholders and the political pull of Alaska, the large canneries actually harmed the European Alaskans’ economic potential and diminished their political pull. While revenue of Alaska could have been boosted by tax revenues, most of the money that these taxes were paid-on were brought back to ports in the lower-forty-eight states. When salmon populations started to decline, the European Alaskans were hurt further economically because they lost the jobs they were dependent on, and the cannery owners became more adamant about dominating the market. Although the Europeans that occupied Alaska before the large canneries came gained jobs from the canneries arrival, they were exploited and hindered from progress. They were also economically harmed by the canneries over fishing of the salmon runs.

During this time, Alaskan natives were not employed nor exploited by the canneries, but they were harmed by them. Even today, the Alaskan native population depends heavily on the natural salmon runs. Looking at the history beginning in 1878, it could be said that the salmon and the natives have directly affected one-another. At the time that canneries were formed on the shores of Alaska, the population of both Alaskan salmon and natives had been stable for thousands of years. They were in balance. Before the canneries came to Alaska, Alaskan Natives had a right to keep all the land they were actively using because of the first Organic Act. The section of the first Organic Act that assured them that right was repealed when the cannery owners came to Alaska (Gruening, 261). The indigenous Alaskans’ waters and shores were taken up by canneries. The natives were distraught by this, but they had no say in the matter as they were discriminated against by being left out of all public forums on the issue (this continued until the first anti-discrimination bill was passed in Alaska in 1948 – four natives were elected to the senate in the next election and steps were immediately taken to ratify the injustices incurred on the coast). Having no option, they retreated in-land using salmon only marginally. As the fisheries began to lower the salmon population, the livelihood of the natives was vitally affected. It was harder for them to fish because the numbers of fish were diminishing. Beginning at this time, the suicide rate of Alaskan natives started to climb. Today, with the salmon populations almost gone, the native population is restricted mostly to in-land reservation and they have the highest suicide rate of any group of people in the nation. The Alaskan natives were not just tied to the salmon as a source of food; for Alaskan natives, the salmon were a source of spirituality, of culture. As stakeholders, the native Alaskans were hurt by the canneries coming to Alaska and hurt further by the depletion of the salmon runs.

The earliest years of commercial fishing in Alaskan were the most disastrous for the salmon populations. The most crude and unspecific tactics were used, and there were weak regulations. Gill nets, dragging river beds with indiscriminate nets, and blocking mouths of rivers with nets, were common practices. Regulations stated that only a certain amount of fish could be taken by boat per day, but they did not limit the amount of boats that could be out, and the allotment did not change with the size of salmon run of a given year. There were also no regulations against killing the fish that were caught above ones limit or of an undesirable species. This made Alaska’s salmon’s lives all the more difficult. Salmon already have a difficult life. Out of every 1000 hatchling, 100 survive the first week. From there, the elements of their habitat must be just perfect to escape to the ocean. They cannot have too much silt in the water or they will suffocate, too little and they will starve. They must have enough water movement to be pulled down stream, all the while not encountering any deadly interruptions, having sufficiently clean water all the while. 60 of every 1000 hatchlings make it to the sea. Here they live a dangerous life as there are many aquatic species that depend on them as their main dietary supplement: Salmon Sharks, Sea Lions, Ling Cod, and many others in addition to an overburdening land predator: humans. Salmon then migrate back to their rivers. 40 out of every 1000 hatchlings make it to the mouth of the river of their origin. At the time of the first Alaskan canneries, this was the most vulnerable point for the salmon: they must all enter the mouth of their river. When gill nets were allowed to be draped across the mouth of salmon’s spawning rivers, numbers were as low as 4 out of every 1000 hatchlings making it back to their rivers. At this point, two land animals still hunt them: bears and humans. If the salmon do not make it to their spot of birth before they grow too weak, they simply die without spawning. Before effective regulation, two out of every one-thousand made it back to their spawning grounds. Keep in mind: it takes a pair to create one batch of eggs, and no one batch of eggs produce 1000 hatchlings. These numbers are an average of a report done by Tarleton H. Bean, presented to the Governor in 1897. The numbers vary for each species of salmon, but it is clear that all Alaska’s species of salmon were being harmed by canneries in an unsustainable manner (Gruening, 264).

All of the problems of these stakeholders were noted from the beginning by many environmentalists and politicians who cared about the state of Alaska. Commissioner M. McDonald immediately moved funds from the general appropriation to early salmon conservation acts. Tarleton H. Bean was an environmentalist who used part of this money to do the above mentioned exhaustive study on the life of the salmon. Several acts were proposed to congress to try and stop the horrendous practices of the canneries, but few did any good. In all, twelve bills passed before the “White Act” (Gruening, 265). This may seem like a significant amount, but when the results are taken into consideration it becomes all to clear how ineffective the true representatives of Alaska were. Most of the regulations focused on a few key facts. First, the environmentalists and politicians who cared about Alaska wanted to give equal rights to Alaskan fisherman. No bill with this clause passed. Second, the environmentalists and politicians who cared about Alaska wanted to limit the amount of fish that could be caught based on the size of the runs. These measures were skewed by limits created to limit the amount of time nets could be set and boats could be out. Even on this clause, no restrictions were implemented on Prince William Sound or the Cook Inlet. Some bills that passed also had regulations on what type of tackle was allowed to be used. These last two pieces seem like a bit of a success, however, no organization was created to enforce these laws and their was no governing body or person in charge of making sure the regulations kept up with the salmon runs. Three government officials from Alaska were told to make sure the laws were being upheld and report to the feds if they were not. These officials were given no boats, no means of transportation across the largest land mass possessed by the United States, and there were only three of them. As Alaska’s governor put it in his report in 1897, “Can anything be more humiliating to a government officer appointed to carry out an important duty” (Gruening, 267). A large reason for the enactment of such poor restriction instead of solid ones like Bean proposed were because of cannery owners like Mr. Dorr, Mr. Moser, John S. Webb, and Aldis B. Brown who went to all the judicial hearing with “scientific evidence” of their own. One such piece of science that Mr. Dorr quoted was, “We all know from practical experience that the great mass of fish go up in spite of anything we can do to intercept them” (Gruening, 267). As we saw from Bean’s more-than-just-practical-experience scientific study, this was just not true. Mr. Dorr also said that restrictions on the Ketchikan River would kill the industry (Gruening, 267). There are now restrictions on the Ketchikan River, and the industry thrives. Yet, for some reason, the people with the bad science had the political pull to stop proper laws from being passed.

Practices continued on as if nothing had happened. The degradation of Alaskans continued on as if nothing had happened. The salmon population decreased with every year. This continued for fifty years before the situation became so dire that congress stepped in and gave the secretary of commerce complete control (Gruening, 269). This was the birth of the White Act of 1924.

The Whit Act of 1924, Before Statehood

The White Act of 1924 was a strong move to establish laws such as the ones people like Taleton H. Bean had been pushing for since 1878. The bill put limits on the type of practices that could be used, banning most gill netting and salmon abuse, and limiting the amount of boats that could be fishing an area at one time. It also established limits on the lengths of time the boats could be out, the specific times they could be out, and who could man them (taking away restrictions on boats manned by Alaskans). It also set “escapement levels” to allow enough salmon to move upstream to spawn in a large enough numbers to sustain the runs. In addition, it made the penalties for breaking these laws clear and strict: the fisherman’s boat and tackle could be confiscated and/or they would be heavily fined; and it created the Bureau of Fisheries, an enforcing body with means to sufficiently enforce these laws (Browning, 46).

The nearly third of a century which followed the White Act was hailed as the Magna Carta of Fishery conservation by federal and industry officials. Yet, these laws were still not created by the stakeholders that were most effected by the laws and thus problems continued. The cannery owners took new tactics to abuse the territory of Alaska, its people and its resources, and an uncanny repetition of what had come before, came again.

Carefully examining the new laws that were going to be imposed on them, the cannery owners looked for loop-holes. They found two large ones that changed the way the salmon were fished and further exploited Alaska’s people and resources. First, they noticed that the cost of having one’s ship and tackle confiscated was far less when one was netting fish from shore rather then from a boat. Second, they noticed that, while there was a large enforcement body, there was still no powerful legislative body to enforce fines. The canneries simply sold their ships to Alaskan fishermen. The cannery owners continued to process and sell the fish caught on these boats; they just bought them from the fishermen (Gruening. 384). The cannery owners continued to net fish from the shore. Problems for the other stakeholders in this situation persisted.

The Alaskan fishermen now had a means to earn a living. This was good. However, they were highly motivated by low prices being paid to them by the cannery owners to exceed the limits established by the White Act. Wardens could confiscate their boat and their gear upon arrest for an alleged violation. The fisherman was then given the alternative of admitting guilt and agreeing on the spot to a fine, or awaiting trial, which because of the highly extended “law’s delay” because of a weak legislative body for these fines, meant losing most, and sometimes all, of the fishing season (Gruening, 385); and thus a whole year‘s livelihood. There were even cases where fishermen were not over fishing, but were charged with doing so by overzealous wardens. The fishermen chose to pay the fine rather than loose a whole year’s wages. Specific examples of this abuse were detailed in a long letter to Delegate Dimond by Frank A. Boyle. Boyle was a former Register of the General Land office, and an attorney who had been persuaded by the United States District Judge and fellow members of the bar to give up his private law practice to accept the United States commissionership at Juneau. His service there had brought him into a direct contact with these practices. He went as far to say that the government and the cannery owners were still working together and labeled practices of fining fishermen who were not over fishing a, “Blackmailing procedure on the part of the government” (Gruening, 385). The hardships of the fishermen of Alaska continued because they still did not have the rights and power in their own land that the cannery owners from the lower forty-eight states had. It is clear that even after the White Act, these Alaskans were being exploited and needed more power in decision making.

On June 2, 1924, Congress granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. But because the right to vote was governed by state law, Alaskan Natives were barred from voting until 1948. This gave the nation and Alaska the leeway to specifically ignore Natives when writing the White Act of 1924. Since salmon runs also did not gain sustainability the Natives gained nothing from the White Act. Unrecorded protest lead by unrecorded leaders lead to the increased benefits on wards for the natives, where they were given land and money in compensation for their displacement. However, their way of life was worth more to them then money or land, as is shown by their response after they gained equality. This is more evidence of a lack of respect for the peoples of Alaska even after the White Act, and a need to empower them.

In the midst of this political mess, a species of life was being lost forever. The fishermen in boats were still over fishing, although paying a price. The cannery owners were operating nets from the shore, still heavily over fishing because they could afford to loose their nets every day. The cannery owners were discarding unwanted species of salmon and disregarding the amount that needed to go upstream to sustain the life that they only saw as a profit. The amount of salmon that survived to spawn in their place of birth continued to decrease every year that the White Act was in place (Gruening, 387): fewer and fewer eggs were laid; fewer and fewer hatchlings made it to the sea; fewer and fewer made it back to their spawning grounds. A whole life-cycle was being damaged, and with it, a whole ecosystem. The animals that depended on them – Salmon Sharks, Sea Lions, Ling Cod – undoubtedly suffered. Without enough hatchlings to eat the organic matter in the water, nitrogen builds up and algae blooms kill all stream life. The White Act did little to help the natural world of Alaska.

For fifty years before the White Act and thirty years after it (eighty years) the people and natural world of Alaska were exploited by canneries from the states. A race of people, a group of people, a species of animal and all that they affected were being exploited, and all laws being passed through the provincial government to stop these exploitations were being skewed or manipulated by big businesses from the states and the federal government. This same type of exploitation was happening in the other large industries of Alaska: gold, coal and oil. It was clear that something needed to be done to give the people who were most affected by these actions and laws the power to control them. There was a clear need for statehood and a clear need for respect for salmon if Alaska’s traditional way of life and rich culture was to survive.

Current Laws on Alaskan Fisheries

The birth of laws that reflected the majority of Alaska’s populations and benefited Alaska’s ecosystem came in 1959, when Alaska was given statehood. The exploitation of resources immediately diminished and Alaskans were given the pull as stakeholders residents deserve. That year, actual Alaskan senators and representatives who cared about Alaska and were chosen to represent Alaska by its people decided how best to run the state. The changes brought about by this ramified into all sectors of exploitation in every industry that exploited a group of people or a place: coal mining slowed, the gold prospecting business came to the hands of Alaskan residents, the oil industry was forced to clean up its procedures, and the salmon canneries, and salmon fishing industries in general, went through drastic changes.

Alaskan Natives who had been members of the senate since 1948, now had the power to create change. Their first priority was to re-introduce as much of their culture as they could. They did not try to gain control of the economic fisheries of which they were never a part, but they did take over some areas and implement tribal fishing practices. The entirety of Fire island was declared theirs in the first year of statehood, and they still possess it to this day. They also have several plots of coastal land in southeast Alaska and the Aleutians (Jay, 42).

Immediately, thought was given to Alaska’s fishermen. An Alaskan Fishermen’s state-wide union was formed to give Alaska’s fishermen the power over big businesses from the lower-forty-eight states (Twomley, 59). This union is still strong today. Gear and vessel restriction, coupled with days of closure declared by scientist who study the salmon runs were implemented to help sustain the fishermen’s way of life. The greatest step made, which reflects a socialist way of thinking, was giving fishermen subsidies for lost days when closures were necessary due to small salmon runs.

All of these were pieces of a sustainable fishery policy that took into consideration many previously exploited Alaskans, but some crucial aspects were left out and the results became clear between 1959 and the 1970’s. Although gear and vessel restriction helped to limit the amount of fish that could be caught by one boat in a certain amount of time, the seas were being over fished and salmon runs continued to decrease in size. The reason for this seemed like an economic progression as more and more Alaskans were taking to the sea to make a living. This was a great time in the minds of a lot of Alaska’s fishermen: they were finally profiting off their given right to fish the waters for their benefit that they had been working on for many years. But this movement of fishermen into the water nullified the new restriction. More and more fishermen began to fish the waters, and fish them harder and harder. Many fishermen fishing for many hours with less productive gear can have a more depleting effect on a salmon population than fewer boats with more productive gear. This was exactly the case, and a depleting effect on a salmon population is eventually going to be negative for the fishermen who make their income off these fish. More and more Alaskans entered the fishing industry during the years between statehood and the 1970’s while the salmon population continued to decline. Fishermen were profiting at the time, but it was becoming clear that their economic success was unsustainable as salmon runs declined (Iudicello, 91). Meanwhile, Alaska’s main stakeholders in the fishing industry were still being ignored: the salmon.

Salmon came to be dealt with for two main reasons. The first is that which I hinted at above, the salmon’s depletion came to effect the stakeholder whose opinions were weighty at the time: the Alaskan fishermen. When their livelihood was being threatened once again, it was clear that something needed to be done. This time the Alaskan fishermen’s livelihood was being threatened because the salmon populations on which they survived was becoming threatened, so it was clear that something needed to be done about this. The politicians and political economists who saw this as a priority got the ball rolling by pushing for more subsidies as fishing got worse and worse (Twomley, 60). This would have merely been a short term solution which would have exacerbated the problem as it would have allowed more and more fishermen to enter the industry. Luckily, a nationwide environmental movement was growing and gaining political power at the time because they came up with a better solution.

The environmental movement really began to gain power in 1970 with the first earth day and the passage of two large pieces of legislation defending the environment: the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the Clean Water Act of 1970. These Acts were reactions to some of the worst environmental problems the world has ever seen. Because of man-made pollution in the United States, rivers were catching on fire, America’s air was beginning to kill the Americans breathing it, and serious thought was being given to the sustainability of a culture that was reeking this much havoc on its resources. The environmental movement began to attack all industries and policies that were not treating the resources otherwise known as the environment with due respect. Due respect in the pure environmentalist terms would have been viewing the environment as a stakeholder on par in power with any other stakeholder. This ideal was never fully realized, but when a creation of this ideal made sense in the economic paradigm, it was adopted and positive change ensued. This amalgamation of ecological and economical sustainability based on cost-effectiveness is the core of environmental economics (Harris, 9). Environmental economics can be seen at the core of the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1970, and the Limited Entry Act of 1973, a set of regulations for Alaska’s fisheries.

The Limited Entry Act of 1973 was the basis for the second reason why salmon should be protected: they are part of the environment. This ideal gave the salmon the power of stakeholders. The Limited Entry Act laid down the current laws and created the current regulatory bodies that have become a milestone in political economics, the study of economics valuing equality most heavily (Foster, 3), ecological economics, the study of economics valuing the future and environment most (Harris, 3), and environmental economics.

First Twenty-Four Years with Current Salmon Fishing Regulations

The tactic to protect Alaska’s salmon while not sinking the economy was to regulate the entrants into the fishing industry by creating a certain amount of licenses that are required to commercially fish salmon in Alaska, and combine this with catch limits and gear and vessel restrictions. The amount of licenses, gear and vessels allowed to fish, were a continuation of the revolutionary idea called escapement. Escapement was part of the White Act, but was not enforced properly. Escapement is minimum amount of fish needed to return to spawning ground to sustain a healthy salmon population. Since most salmon are caught when they return to spawn and die in their rivers of origin, the bill strove to allow a sufficient number of fish upriver to reproduce for maximum sustainability while allowing the fleet to catch all the fish not needed for escapement. Escapement levels are set by fishery biologists with consideration for fun timing, size species, year class, and so forth. The season opens when the required number of fish have passed upstream. This group of biologists is part of the Alaska Board of Fisheries which was created by White Act and given stiff enforcement power by the Limited Entry Act. They also set seasons, designate gear and vessel limits, allocate among gear types and fisheries, and promulgate other management measures (Twomley, 62).

The main establishment of the Limited Entry Act of 1973 was a three-member commission known as the Limited Entry Commission. This small group of individuals is authorized to limit entry into commercial fisheries to, Promote the conservation and sustained yield management of those fisheries and the economic health and stability of commercial fishing… by regulating and controlling entry into the commercial fisheries in the public interest and without unjust discrimination.” Members of the Limited Entry Commission are appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the legislature to two-year terms. Commissioners are to be persons with broad professional experience but without, A vested economic interest in an interim-use permit, entry permit, commercial fishing vessel or gear, or in any fishery resource processing or marketing business” (Iudicello, 93). The commission is empowered to establish a moratorium on entry into fisheries, regulate entry into all state commercial fisheries, establish priorities for the fisheries, establish the maximum number of entry permits for each area and gear type, establish qualification for entrants, and administer the issuing, transferring, and buyback of all permits. The statute enables the commission to collect fees and to administer its programs in accordance with the state’s administrative procedures and rules of evidence and due process (Iudicello, 93).

The Limited Entry Act also created a body to enforce all of these new regulations (Iudicello, 90). This body is called the Alaska Fish and Game department. The Alaska Fish and Game department has become a part of almost all Alaskan’s life’s, providing research, management, and enforcement of regulations on all commercial, charter, and private hunting and fishing.

All of these policies and government bodies created by the Limited Entry Act of 1973 have been the basis of the laws on Alaska’s commercial fishing industry since the day it was enacted, and still are. Over the last 30 years they have benefited the various stakeholders in Alaska’s fishing industry by progressing the three different types of economic thought: environmental, ecological, and political.

The Limited Entry Act was enacted to create the most profitable long term fishery system possible, looking out for resources and the economy.

When creating a limited entry system, if the legislature had been committed only to simplicity and economy, it could have conducted a lottery, or it could have authorized auctioning a limited number of property rights to its fisheries. These approaches were rejected by the legislature because they would not have been consistent with the State’s most important objectives of protecting the resource and those who rely on the harvest of the resource.

This quote from the justification letter of the Limited Entry act shows mindfulness of the fish and the need for a sustainable fish harvest to continue economic growth. They are clearly looking out for Alaska’s resources by protecting the salmon. But they are looking out for the economy first and foremost by ardently worrying about those who rely on the resource. When looking at the value of these resources they had to make a decision. This decision was weather or not it was more valuable to allow over fishing to continue because of the economic value it would bring in the short run, or if the fish population would be more economically valuable in the long run by implementing rules to create sustained harvesting. They chose the limited entry system, because sustainable long term use of the resources was viewed as more economically valuable. This is a huge enactment of environmental economics, and a success story. By limiting the amount of money that can be taken in a particular year, Alaska has created one of the strongest, most profitable industries in the United States. Alaska’s salmon markets are once again the most profitable in the world.

The consideration of the salmon as a long term benefit to human life signifies a step in ecological economics, which values the natural world on par with the economic. Although this was not intentional, having a piece of legislature with this idea at its core may mean a lot for the theory in the long run. It has definitely been an ecological success with salmon populations coming back to a sustainable rate. Scientist have declared that all salmon populations have reached a point where they are all above their long term potential yield (Iudicello, 96). Weather or not the exact numbers are right, the feel of the Alaska rivers during spawning season is something to behold. Contrasted against the depleted rivers of Oregon, it is absolutely breathtaking. Watching thousands, literally thousands, of salmon push their way up the Kenai river in summer, glistening in the sun, being prayed upon by bears and eagles, is something that everyone should experience. It is the picture of a balanced and healthy ecosystem. It is the picture of life, strong and enduring.

With no specific regulations for who can obtain an Entry permit coupled with the $202,000 price of one, the Limited Entry Act could seem politically unfair to poorer fishermen. One would imagine that all the permits could easily be bought up by the large, established fisheries of the lower-forty-eight states. However, the Limited Entry Commission seems to be the Political Economic balance to this bill, as they have maintained Alaskan’s advantage.

This governing body of law (the Limited Entry Commission) has successfully upheld an intent of the legislation to keep the permits in the hands of those who most depend on their fisheries for their livelihood. The percentage of permits held by Alaska residents has remained relatively stable. Today, approximately 78% (more than 10,000) of all limited entry permits are still held by Alaskans, and more than half of that number are held by rural Alaskans.

This second quote from the justification letter of the Limited Entry act shows mindfulness of the political abuse that had been taking place by the fishery owners of the lower forty-eight states against Alaskans for many years. The permits are allowed to be inherited and transferred by those who purchase them, but they are only allowed to be transferred back to the Entry Act Commission. This allows the Commission to keep the permits in the hands of the people that they feel need them most (Twomley, 66). Alaska’s fishermen now have a lot of power in the decision making that goes on in their industry. This is an example of exactly what political economics strives for.

The next step for political economics in the Alaskan fishing markets may be helping the native population. Fishing areas such as fire island and part of the southeast have been designated for native fishing, but Alaska natives still play a very small role in the commercial fishing industry that is profiting from the land which they resided on before the Europeans who benefit from it now. Little legislation has been pointed in this direction, but it will be interesting to see if the political economist pick up on this. It would be another huge step for them, and it is clear that it needs to be taken when looking at the state of the natives. Even with these small plots of fishing land, most of their reservations are on marginal land away from anything of value. They defiantly don’t reside on any land with oil or gold beneath it.

The Limited Entry Act of 1973 was a hugely important act for the stakeholders of Alaska, Alaska’s ecosystem, and the economic stability and profitability of Alaska, the nation and the world. It came into a very convoluted political situation, an almost destroyed ecosystem, and a new state, and profit the economy of Alaska, which has benefited the nation, and brought a valuable product to the world. It gave economic sustainability to Alaskan fishermen, brought all salmon populations above the long term potential yield, and managed not to destroy an economic market. It has been very beneficial for the revenue of Alaska, Alaska’s people and Alaska’s ecosystem. It incorporated a lot of new economic and environmental thought of the time into its logic. For all these reasons, it was hugely successful for the first 24 years of its existence.

The Last Six Years

In 1997, however, new problems began to arise that need new solutions. Fish runs have been decreasing ever since 1997. They are nowhere near the dire rates they were at before the Limit Entry Act was passed, but the decline of their population is growing exponentially. Scientist are worried that extinction is, once again, not far off (Johnson, 1).

The new problems are mostly attributed to ocean survival rates. Two suggested reasons for this are interception by Russian fishermen, and environmental conditions (Iudicello, 97). When the problem was with fishing tactics being implemented from Alaska, the large problem was fish being caught during the part of their life when they were going back up their river to spawn. Now the problem is during the years when they are out at sea growing. It may seem more deleterious to the salmon population to catch them at the mouth of a river because it is so much easier to catch all the salmon that are going to go reproduce, but the problem of over catch while the salmon are at sea is equally disruptive to the salmon and possibly more so to the ecosystem, because the balance of schools and generations is being thrown off and there is more by-catch. Since the salmon populations are decreasing to the point that they could possibly go extinct it must be dealt with as improper fishing tactics. In addition, not only are the salmon being caught at sea the ones that have lived their lives and are then going up stream to die, but so are young salmon that have hardly played any role in the ecosystem at all. A lot of these may not even be large enough to sell, so they are not only being wasted on the other animals and systems of the ecosystems, but also on humans.

The poor environmental conditions that are hurting the salmon runs are mostly due to oil spills, offshore drilling’s damage to ecosystems, and other environmental hazards being leached into the oceans by humans. This is a world wide problem for fish populations.

Overseas competition is also a world wide problem. Suggested to be coming from the shores of Russia and to a lesser extent China. Alaska’s fishermen are being hurt by the competition while Russian and Japanese fishermen are benefiting. With Alaska’s strict regulations, its fishermen are not allowed to fish at all if salmon runs are too low because of overseas competition. Alaskans are at a huge disadvantage. The subsidies they receive for abiding by Alaska’s regulations only go so far, and they are not going far enough now. This can be seen as the industry is growing smaller and smaller.

Alaska and the United States government have come up with several ways to deal with these problems. The two main ideas are international law, and farmed fish. Both of these have their problems.

The implementation of farmed fish to Alaska’s fish runs have been fairly successful. The current practice is to trap salmon returning up stream to spawn, take eggs and sperm, raise the salmon in the stream until they are fit to go to sea, let them go, and catch them upon their return. By increasing the amount of eggs hatched and supporting them all in the first, hardest months of their life, this has increased the number of fish surviving each year. It gives the fishermen more to catch, and thus stimulates the economy. However, there are environmental concerns. The fist is to do with the gene pools of the salmon. By breeding large schools off the sperm and eggs of two fish, having only those two fishes’ hatchlings return to those spawning grounds and repeating the process, humans are creating a race of genetically weak salmon. While there are scientists who are ecologically aware and really want to make this work, they are under funded. This last year, again in Oregon, I visited a “green” salmon farm during spawning season.

“This is a very exciting time for us,” said the resident scientist of the farm as we walked out to the muddy banks in our hip waders. He had four hired hands helping him, and my class of onlookers.

The run was just beginning to come in as they got set up. He had his four employees standing in the water about ten feet apart form each other all the way across the river. Each of them poised and ready to grab salmon. The run started to increase and the scientist started giving orders.

“Alright, grab that one,” I heard him yell as he pointed to a wry, fast salmon swimming past the hired hand next to him. The boy made a grab for it, could not get in, and decided to grab a fat slow one next to it. He then took that to the shore, opened it up and put the eggs in a bucket. This kind of slip up may seem small, but having one genetically weak fish produce thousands of offspring is a huge genetic retardation.

In addition, because of the practices used in raising the fish, the levels of toxins in these fish are much higher. This may become a health risk to other aquatic species, bears, and humans. The largest problem, in my opinion, is that this practice is only solving the symptoms of the larger problem, which is world-wide over fishing and pollution.

The tactics to overcome the problems of world-wide over fishing have not worked very well. There is a world-wide governing body that is supposed to regulate laws that have been agreed upon. However, these laws are very weak, almost undefined. The governing body, has a small fleet of enforcers, and no court system, so when violations have occurred, no one is sure where the case should be heard. The trend currently seems to be to strengthen these agencies, but based on the research I have done on Alaska’s fisheries, I do not believe this will work. Alaska’s policies have worked so well, because they dealt with the problem in a very specific way. The laws that were created dealt with a small situation, and were very thorough about acknowledging all involved parties. It would be very difficult to create a similar, specific set of regulations for a large, ore diverse body of fishermen. It is not clear what is needed world-wide.

On the other hand, as far as world-wide pollution goes, it seems that large regulatory bodies are the only feasible defense for the salmon population. Over fishing can be dealt with by each country individually because it is a point-source degradation of salmon runs. Pollution of the seas in a non-point-source depletion. To attach a world-wide, non-point-source problem the whole world must come into mutual agreement upon what is going to be best for all. This could be another important step for environmental, ecological and political economics. Environmental economics could prove to the world, through the same means they did in Alaska, that it will be more economically beneficial to sustainably harvest salmon. Ecological economists could show the world degradation that could ensue if this species is lost. I am sure there are many groups of people that are being unequally harmed by the pollution of the seas for political economist to fight for. One might first look at the poor fishermen working in these waters.

Part 2

Alaskan Fisheries and The World of Common Pool Resource Management:

how each effect the other


In part 2 I further explore the controversy surrounding the disappearing Alaskan salmon. In part 1 I researched the history of this abused population. After years of harmony between the Alaskan salmon and the Native Alaskan people, balance was broken with the western migration of European people. When Europeans from the ports of San Francisco and Seattle depleted the salmon populations to the point of near extinction, and abused the Alaskan Natives and European locals to the point of disgust, government stepped in. It was a long battle between the many stakeholders. Eventually a sustainable system of quotas based on escapement levels, ecologically friendly gear restriction, and politically fairly distributed permits evolved. This system worked smoothly for decades. Recently, however, new problems have arisen.

Enforced escapement levels maintains a certain number of salmon making it upstream to spawn before the fishermen of Alaska are allowed to fish. This system was a great sustainability policy for the salmon that still allowed enough fish to be caught to sustain Alaska’s fishing community, until recently.

Salmon have a unique lifestyle, as I explained last term, birthing and dying in the fresh water inlets of Alaska and living most of their lives in the open ocean. Currently, nations only have sole fishing rights over oceans within 200 miles of their shore. Salmon migrate beyond this barrier. Both the distance given to a nation and the fact that the salmon travel so far have caused problems. First of all, based on the 200 miles of sole fishing rights, Canada and the U.S. technically both have sole rights to 400 square miles of ocean. Secondly, when salmon from Alaska’s streams travel more than 200 miles from Alaska’s shores, they are considered free market. I have followed the Alaskan salmon into the open ocean to examine the greater problems of worldwide fishing and ocean management.

The first issue is a clear problem of who has rights to the fish. The second problem is a bit more complex. Due to the gear restrictions in place to protect the oceans ecosystems, Alaskan fisherman cannot fish in the open ocean, so they fish for salmon at the mouths of Alaska’s rivers and slightly beyond. If the salmon are over fished by other countries using ecologically damaging methods while they are beyond America’s borders, both Alaska’s fleets and the ocean ecosystem are greatly hurt. The amount of fish returning from the open ocean is shrinking closer and closer to the escapement levels that cannot be caught. This means that Alaska’s fisherman are loosing their livelihood to other nations’ fisherman. This is a microcosm of a global problem: the management of Common Pool Resources (CPRs) in the global market. Are the salmon Alaska’s fish because they spawn and die there? How can the international community act to sustain the fish population and every nation’s fishing industry? Can an international policy be created? What should its goals be? What would it look like? All of these are valid question at the forefront of the science of CPR management.

In part 2 I examine the various reasons used to explain current Alaskan salmon depletion that I mentioned in part one (world-wide over fishing and pollution) in the context of the world wide issue of CPR management: I examine America’s current fishing policy; I examine the current international laws on fishing; I examine the different ideas about future management of CPRs through the forefront theories of CPR management; I look at what could be done to create a politically, economically, and ecologically fair and sustainable set of regulations through various case studies like the one I did on Alaska’s fisheries; and I examine how all of this relates to Alaskan salmon.

America’s Fishing Policy and Alaska:

America’s Current Fishing Policy

The 1976 Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA) was the first legislation providing comprehensive federal authority over fisheries within the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ):  the ocean area extending from the seaward boundary of each coastal state out to 200 miles offshore. It established a new fishery governance structure that distributed management authority among the federal government and the regions through a system of eight regional fishery management councils.

The regional fishery management councils are democratic decision-making bodies in which representatives of recreational and commercial user groups, states, tribes, and the federal government collaborate to develop fishery management plans and implement fishery regulations. Scientists, user groups, environmental organizations, and the public participate as advisors and provide testimony at public meetings. The idea of the council system is to develop regional approaches to fishery management within a framework of legally acceptable practice.

Two premises underlie the regional management approach: first, that people who have working knowledge of regional fisheries can make the most informed decisions about those fisheries; and second, that management of fisheries within state waters (in most cases out to three miles from shore) should be coordinated with management of fisheries in federal waters. The regional councils reflect recognition that fisheries are regional rather than national in scale and character.

Despite its recognition of regional fishery interests, the law also protects the national interest in fisheries. Regional fishery management councils recommend management plans and regulations to the Secretary of Commerce, who holds the ultimate authority for their approval and responsibly for their consistency with federal law. In most cases, the secretary delegates this approval authority to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The eight councils take different approaches to decision making and management, as was anticipated and intended when the FCMA was first developed. Each council involves many actors who represent different interests and incentives. The fisheries they manage are diverse and complex.

Council composition is dictated by law: each council has a voting membership that includes the regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, directors of state fishery agencies, and public members who are usually, but not always, representatives of the commercial and recreational fishing industries. A tribal representative sits on one council. Nonvoting membership includes the area directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions, and the U.S. Department of State.

The FCMA has undergone many amendments in response to changing fishery conditions. The most recent amendments are contained in the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA), which amended and renamed the FCMA as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservations and Management Act (MSFCMA). The SFA charged the regional management councils with new, stricter responsibilities for stewardship of the nation’s marine fisheries (Hanna, 63-65).

How America’s Current Fishing Policy Affects Alaska

This system of creating regulations has created the Pacific Coastal Salmon plans, which regulates the fishing of Alaska’s salmon on the national level (Hanna, 66). These regulations are much like the regulations that Alaska created for itself through the White Act. Government agencies monitor salmon schools year-round. Fishing the  salmon during their time at sea is prohibited. This allows the government agencies to monitor the fishing of the salmon when they can be watched most closely and collectively – when they are going upstream. As the fish are going upstream, the government agencies decide how much fish must be allowed to spawn to maintain stocks allowing for long term maximum economic growth.

In my view, this is a flawed model because it is deciding the fate of a species based on it’s economic potential. If the U.S. decided that it was more economically beneficial to fish the salmon population into extinction, the U.S. would. I feel that the salmon have value for their essence as a species. However, the world is currently run by economic entrepreneurship. Accepting this as a given for the moment, America’s current fishing regulations are beneficial in my mind as long as they are maintaining the salmon population. The regulations worked for a long time in Alaska. As they were brought to the whole west coast through the Pacific Coastal Salmon plans, they have slightly rejuvenated Oregon and Washington’s salmon runs. This is positive. However, this has been failing recently. As I have mentioned, Alaska’s salmon populations have been decreasing. This decrease makes me say along with the modern economic entrepreneurs, something needs to be done. Targeting world wide over fishing as the source of the demise of salmon spawning in America’s rivers has brought about the need for world fishing policy.

The government agencies regulating salmon schools know that salmon are a migrating species of fish. Salmon are one of few kinds of fish that are born in fresh water and live in salt water. This life cycle already makes the question of who is entitled to them a difficult question. Do the salmon belong to the country in whose river’s they spawn? This agrees with modern man’s idea of home, but that may not apply to a migrating animal species. Surely nomadic people had no homes, and imposing country’s borders on them affected them negatively. Alaskan salmon migrate far enough to go beyond America’s EEZ. Deciding if America’s laws should thus be imposed on them, who can utilize them economically, and who is responsible for them morally, becomes an issue for the world. Is it best to leave them in the hands of one country? No country? International regulations?

World Fishing Policy and America

Current World Fishing Policy

By its very nature, world fishing policy cannot be as simple as any nation’s fishing policy, such as that of the United States. The United States, like any individual nation, has political autonomy in it’s decision making for itself. The U.S. makes rules for itself as a whole, regulates those rules, and punishes those who break those rules. When many nations, and especially the world, want to make an agreement, they either need to create a body that will govern over all the nations involved, or try to reach an agreement without the benefit of legislative and enforcement autonomy. Since fishing is a topic that affects every country in varied and unique ways, creating international legislation that will appease all nations is very difficult. Due to the possessive ambiguity and vastness of the sea, it is even more difficult to regulate fishing legislation. However, the ocean and its bounty are a CPR for the entire planet, and thus need to be regulated for and by the entire planet.

Many pieces have come together to make up current world fishing policy. World fishing policy is made up of every country’s individual fishing policies, multinational agreements, and a few pieces of global international regulation. This complex system has created a patchwork of environmental, economic and social protection, that varies in its strength from patch to patch. To fully understand the various strengths and weaknesses, each element must be examined.

Individual Countries International Fishing Rights

Just as America does, every country has an EEZ zone extending 200 miles off all their shoreline, in every direction. Theoretically, every country has the right to govern those waters in any way they choose. They could dredge the whole thing, leave it untouched, or fill it in with sand if they want to. However, economically beneficial ways of using this territory normally does not include any of those three options. Some countries, though, may see it as economically beneficial to over-fish their waters. If a country is in an economic bind and has few resources, history has shown that they are likely to exploit, or be forced to exploit, their natural environment. Even when countries are not in economic binds, they tend to do this, as in the case of Alaska. Countries do this because they fear that the world market may change and their resources may not be worth much in the future. This concept of devaluing the future is a common practice, but with CPRd it causes international problems. In the case of fishing it causes problems because many species of fish migrate across EEZ boarders. One country may deplete a supply of fish that several other countries have just as much access to at other times of the year. Many countries actually share large sections of EEZ, such as the United States and Canada. Any two countries that have abutting coast lines will share at least four hundred square miles of ocean. These issues and more make the right to the fish in “your” part of the ocean very ambiguous. But as I said, initially each country has the right to do as they will with their EEZ, even if it means depleting a world resource. The solution to this problem has been the next two parts of the current international policy.

Multinational Agreements

As is the case with Canada and America, countries that share EEZ zones often come up with international agreements to regulate shared EEZ. Canada and the U.S. share EEZ on both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. They have come up with separate agreements on each ocean. On each ocean there are other countries that fish either one of the countries’ EEZ, or school of fish that resides in one of the countries EEZ part time. These countries must be included in America and Canada’s agreements. On the Atlantic Coast, Greenland and Mexico are included in the agreements. This is because Canada shares EEZ with Greenland, and America shares EEZ with Mexico. In addition, migrating fish, such as the Tuna and Dolphin Fish, travel through all of these countries’ EEZs. To keep economic peace, these countries have come to an agreement on how much each country can fish the shared waters and shared species (Iudicello, 185). Based on the nature of sharing these means, they cannot be over fished. Thus this type of International regulation has created generally sustainable practices.

However, to date, the regulations agreed upon between Canada and America have only covered the fishing of the fish. Maintaining a fish population requires more than just not directly killing the fish. In order for a species to exist, it must have the proper unpolluted, undestroyed habitat. With modern water management, water treatment is often not sufficient. One country’s killing a species of fish or polluting the ocean based on their poor treatment of the environment could impair another country’s stock in the ocean and its fish just as much as if that country were mismanaging the fish specifically. Regulating water treatment has become a large part of global ocean management.

Part of the U.S.’s  Magnuson-Stevenson act focuses on highly migratory species (HMS). This was originally drafted as an inter-America political act. Knowing that many groups and states feel entitled to almost every species of fish fished in the states, the Highly Migratory Species Act was an effort to assuage those concerns. Several parts of the Magnuson-Stevenson act require fisherman who fish highly migratory species to truthfully declare all their catches. This helps government agencies maintain accurate numbers on highly migratory fish populations. Through this they devise sustainable catch limits, gear restrictions, etc., and tally out quotas to the various states, native tribes, and commercial fishing fleets that feel entitled to each species (NMFS webpage) .

While researching these different species, the U.S. realized that creating laws only governing the HMS while they are in the U.S. EEZ would not stop the HMS from being over fished. By their very nature, HMS migrate beyond all borders. HMS go into the EEZs of Mexico and Canada, South America and beyond. The United States has used its massive political and economic strength to make sure that any fish population that it feels it is partially entitled to, is not over fished by another nation. This may seem a bit hypocritical for America to say to starving or developing nations. When the United States was developing, it clearly over fished many fish species that these countries may have been just as entitled to. However, America can now say that they learned the error of their ways, and that steps must be taken to ensure the survival of fish species and the environment.

Indeed, HMS regulations are valuable steps that should, in theory, protect the HMS. Various regulations of HMS have been established all over the world and are now common practice in most fishing agreements between nations profiting from HMS (NMFS webpage). However, the United States has not developed any sort of environmental regulations accompanying their HMS regulation. Not for itself, or other nations. To truly ensure their economic security with HMS, the United States needs to make sure that the HMS habitats are maintained, and that they are given inherent value.

The EU has developed a set of regulations much like America’s Magnuson-Stevenson. The EU has gone further than creating measures that stabilize fish populations through catch limits and gear restrictions, though. The EU has taken more measures to enforce their regulations than fish counts, and it has taken the step of maintaining fish habitats through the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) (Agrifo webpage).

The U.S. has pretty weak measures for enforcing their regulations. In Alaska, the coast guard actually patrols the salmon waters to make sure no boats are out at regulated times. Outside of time regulation on species that are most easily fished in designated areas, vessel to vessel monitoring is virtually useless in the giant sea. The U.S.’s only way to enforce its regulations is counting catches of random vessels and relying on fishery’s fish counts. The EU believes that this is not sufficient. It is easy to see how one could evade such counts or lie on their records. The EU has implemented a Satellite detection system that monitors fishing vessels in their ocean (Agrifo webpage). This system seems very futuristic, and maybe a bit over-the-top, but it has been extremely successful.

The U.S. enforces their regulations well once violations are brought to the court. They have heavy fines for vessels and fishermen caught breaking their laws. However, their laws only extend to the act of over fishing, not habitat destruction (Hanna, 57). If habitat destruction is causing the extinction of a species, the habitat destruction can be brought to court under the Endangered Species Act, but the court that deals with Endangered Species cases is separate from the court created by the Magnuson-Stevenson. This separation causes many problems with fishing regulations not accounting for environmental degradation and habitat destruction. The EU has solved this problem by including habitat preservation laws in their fishing regulations (Agrifo webpage). That way, the court can deal with fish’s existence in a more holistic way. 

As a body of countries, the EU has come to this agreement to appease each country economically. They are attempting to make sure that no country uses up resources that may belong to other countries, and thus avoid confrontation. This focus is the same problem underlying U.S. fishing regulation: they are economically valuing the fish. As long as this is happening, policy can change for the sake of the economy. No matter how strong the regulation over any given country in the EU is, if a country desperately needed to, a country will break any and every treaty. This is because the world view being created with these regulations is that the regulations are in place for economic reasons.

The only way to preserve the fish and their habitats is to change the value system. It should not be based on economics, but quality of life. If fish and the environment are given value beyond that of the economy, they could become viewed as simply invaluable. If we people begin to see fish as an intrinsic, crucial part to our lives, we would not over fish. This argument does not mean the end of fishing. This argument means a relationship based on respect. A country could take only what is sustainable because it feels that is the best thing to do morally, instead of economically. This argument calls for a whole new set of values. However, a new set of values cannot be independent of economy. Maintaining entitlement to food will help maintain sound valuation. Mahatma Gandhi said, “To a starving man, food is god.” If the people who depend on the fish cannot eat, their valuation will put feeding themselves before the propagation of the fish. In addition, keeping people who see their dependence on fish sustained will help to ensure the continuation of their world view.

Global International Regulation

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea set up the most holistic approach to fishing regulations to date. This convention set up a charter that, since 1974, has been continuously ratified to include more and more nations. It now includes over one-hundred and thirty countries (UNCLS).

The Convention is not only holistic because of the number of countries that abide by its regulations, but in the regulations themselves. Like the EU’s regulations, it also takes into account the environment of the fish. This priority can be seen in the title of the convention. It is not called the Convention on the Law of the Fish, but the Sea. This is a very important view to take if the world wants to change the attitude that is causing fish to go extinct. By looking at the environment of the ocean, and saying that all of it needs to stay pristine, The United Nations is saying that they value the natural environment.

The Convention actually goes beyond the sea. If the Convention only covered the sea itself, it could not have over 130 members. There are not 130 countries bordering the ocean. The Convention takes into account that all waterways that enter the sea must be clean and healthy to protect the sea itself (UNCLS). Thus, every country with a waterway connection to the ocean has a stake in the health of the natural environment of the ocean. The ocean is a large part of the water cycle. Who is not affected by the water cycle? This is a very large step in the way people value the sea.

At this time, the United States has not agreed to the terms of the Convention. This is a strange, but classically American decision. Much like part of the United States’ government said about the Kyoto protocol, part of the United States government has said that the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea is unrealistic and will not benefit the United States (Barringer, 1). Part of the United States government is traditionally against any sort of international regulation that governs over their heads. In the case of the Kyoto Protocol, that part of the U.S. government that is against international regulation said that the U.S. could cut their emissions in a way that is better for Americans. If the U.S. government meant the few Americans who own polluting factories, they were correct. However, America has not reduced their emissions as much as countries under the Kyoto protocol, whose economies have done just fine. The U.S. may be saving their large businesses money, but only at the expense of the general public – everyone suffers from pollution. The same vantage point is true for the United States refusal to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Part of United States government believes that they can better serve their people than the United Nations. However, the United States government is not accepting the holistic vision the United Nations is working under. The United States does not have regulations that extend to the whole natural environment. Part of the United States government wants to continue to look at the world as a resource for humans. This is the crucial element that needs to change for the thorough protection of the fish.

The EU is the only other part of Global international regulation. The EU will not buy fish that is not caught under the sustainable guidelines of the EU (Agrifo webpage). The EU regulations thus become global international regulations for any country that wants to do business with any country in the EU. The EU has a fairly good policy. As I said before, their best asset is their regulation. They have a great satellite monitoring system, and court system. They use these elements not only for the governing of fishing, but the treatment of the environment. Being able to use these systems to govern a larger area is another step toward quality environmental regulation that properly protects the common resources of the ocean.

Without being able to have regulations that change the ideas of treatment of the ocean from capitalistic to naturalistic, CPRs will be exploited. If the United States becomes the only country not to follow the rules of the United Nations Convention of the Sea, the Convention of the Sea will not fully work. The huge area of the ocean that the United States continues to do what they want with could become polluted. Because of the nature of CPRs, this would affect everybody who has a part in the ocean and water cycle. In the case of the ocean, tides and the water cycle move waters around the world. Every county in the world has a river, lake, ground water, oceanfront, or rain. Thus every country in the world is affected by the United State’s decision not to comply with the United Nations Convention of the Sea.

The U.S. has seen international coercion happen to them in a negative way that may soon happen to the EU. Because of Mexico’s tuna catching practices, the United States refused to import tuna form Mexico. The United States considered this to be a huge environmental step. Indeed, it was. The practices that Mexico uses to fish for tuna involves huge nets that damage the greater ecosystem of the sea . The nets destroy the ocean floor, and kill many non-target species. Based on this information, the United States said they would not import tuna from Mexico (Iudicello, 93).

However, another global organization stepped in. Mexico brought a suit to the WTO saying that the United States was breaking trade agreements by not importing their tuna. Indeed, they were. So, the United States was forced to import Mexican tuna again, and the U.S. is not even allowed to inform their consumers of where their tuna comes from (Iudicello, 100). This is a case where a large governing body did override the United States. This is a decision that part of the United States government may point at when they say international organizations are bad. But that part of the U.S. government is not looking broadly enough. The WTO has worked for the US many times. The WTO has made the EU buy beef from the U.S. when the EU banned U.S. beef because of the U.S.’s use of hormones. The WTO has also made the US lower their cotton subsidies. And the WTO will probably stop the EU from restricting what fish they buy based on fishing practices of other countries. The WTO does its job.

The United Nations does too. If the United States would use resources like the United Nations Convention of the Sea to set forth rules like the one they would like on Mexican tuna fishing, they could succeed. The U.S. government could succeed on a broader level, changing the mentality of many nations, as the United Nations Convention of the Sea has.

Global international entities like the WTO and United Nations are supposed to work in a democratic manner that serves all of their parties for the betterment of the whole. If they WTO and UN are working in harmony as proper democratic entities, they will protect the commons.

How Current World Fishing Policy Affects America

I think that the most important thing world fishing policy does for America is show America its fishing policy’s short comings. In the face of regulations like the EU, that can prosecute people who harm fish indirectly as well as directly, and monitor offenders of their laws much more effectively than America can, America can see its shortcomings. To more positively ensure the health of its natural environment, and thus economy, the U.S. needs more holistic fishing measures. The U.S. needs to consider offences against a fish’s habitat just as negative as an offence against a fish. The U.S. should probably consider it even worse of an offence, because offences against a fish’s habitat effect many fish habitats, many other animal’s habitats, everybody’s water, and the entire natural environment.

The U.S. has been contemplating joining the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but their reasoning is indicative of their valuation of the environment. The United States has been fighting many wars over seas. Fighting wars over seas entails fighting wars across seas and on seas, up rivers and in reservoirs.  The Persian Gulf has become an exceptionally hot spot for U.S. military presence. This gulf, and many other waters on which the U.S. relies for moving supplies and G.I. s, occupying for strategy, and fighting on, are protected under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

When a country joins the Convention, all of the waterways they have claim to becomes protected by the Convention. This unifies a front against any usurper of the ocean. Those usurpers are then not allowed to use any of the waterways protected under the Convention for any reason. The general opinion of the U.S. among the Convention is that they are usurpers. Thus, the U.S. is not allowed to use any of the waterways (UNCLS).

Because the United States believes there are large stakes in their overseas wars, many people of the United States government have been suggesting that the United States join the Convention. Right now, it looks like the U.S. will join the convention, based on their valuation of military presence overseas (Barringer, 1). The U.S. joining the Convention would, of course, improve the way that the United States treats its waterways. The U.S. joining the Convention would also create a system that would deal with people who violate the codes set out by the Convention, not just those that directly break fishing laws. These regulation changes are positive, but they are the parts of the Convention that make the United States timid to join. These regulation changes make the U.S. timid because they are difficult things to do. The United States has weighed the difficulties of achieving the Conventions regulations, both politically and economically, against the value of using waterways for military action, and has said that abiding by the U.N.’s regulations seems like a good idea (Barringer, 1).

Positive treatment of the massive bodies of water that the U.S. controls would be a great victory for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It would also be good for the natural environment. However, the reasons the U.S. is likely to join the Convention does not reflect a long-term valuation that will be positive for the environment. If the United States government changes its mind about the value of being able to station themselves overseas versus obeying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, all the positive implications of the United States joining the Convention could be reversed. This is the risk that is run with coercing government into environmental decisions.

On the other hand, if the United States could be convinced of the benefits of changing their valuation of the environment, the world could be changed in a sustainable direction for good. How to do this is a difficult question, and seeing the continued destruction of the ocean and subsequent loss of aquatic species, shows that this is not being answered.

How All of this Affects Alaska

Meanwhile, Alaska is still suffering. The plight of the Alaskan salmon is different but equal: they are still going extinct. As long as a species as beautiful and crucial to an ecosystem as the Alaskan salmon is going extinct, there is a problem.

This problem has the potential to get better through new means. The new impositions of the EU will improve the way the salmon and their Alaskan habitat will be treated. The U.S. joining the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea could do the same.

The salmon populations have stabilized through means similar to these. When the United States made the decision to sustainably harvest salmon for economic reasons, it happened. However, despite the regulations put in place, salmon populations are declining again. The United States has not taken enough actions to find out why this is. It has blamed foreign intrusion. While this may be part of it, based on the laws the other countries are working under, I would say there is a bigger problem. This bigger problem has been overshadowed in America’s mind by the idea of foreign intrusion. The bigger problem is habitat destruction. The entire process of extracting oil from Alaska and its waters are incredibly detrimental to Alaska’s salmon. Waterway interference, such as pollution and waterway barriers, is also detrimental to salmon populations. Pollution in general is not good for the salmon. Yet the causes of the demise of the salmon is not being pursued fiercely enough to stop the salmon’s demise. This is because, overall, the valuation of the fish is not great enough. The valuation of their habitat is not great enough.

Basically, all over the world, small infractions against the sea are going unchecked. There are many causes for each of these infractions. Combined, all of these infractions are causing many species, like Alaska’s salmon, to slowly go extinct.

If the world, if the United States, if Alaska, could come to terms with how beautiful and how important the Alaskan salmon and its greater habitat of the worlds oceans are, the Alaskan salmon would not be going extinct.


In the broad scheme of things, human attitude and action toward the environment seems to be improving. On a national level, more diverse viewpoints are being taken into perspective on environmental issues. Regulations are being created that deal with every species individually. These regulations are positive steps. Yet problems persist. The beautiful Alaskan salmon is going extinct.

On the international level countries are coming to terms with the fact that they must share resources. This revelation has created a great series of laws that make countries value the continuation of species. Yet problems persist. The beautiful Alaskan salmon is going extinct.

On the global level, treaties are being created that are changing the valuation of the natural environment. This revelation is probably the most important step that can be taken to ensuring progress in man’s treatment of the ocean and its many species. Yet problems persist. The beautiful Alaskan salmon are going extinct.

In the midst of positive changes in the management of fish, international relations about fish, and a more world-wide holistic view of the ocean, the world’s oceans are loosing their natural beauty. It is important not to loose sight of the small persisting problems in the midst of large positive change. More individual species are going extinct every successive year. The UN predicts that if these trends continue, in 20 years there will only be one-fifth as many species in the ocean as there are now (UNCLS). We are at a critical time for the ocean, a critical time for the Alaskan salmon. Totally depleting the ocean has been a technological impossibility for most of human existence. Even while humans had the possibility to make land animals go extinct, humans lacked that ability with aquatic species. Now humans have that power. We are on the verge of making many species disappear from the face of the earth. The Alaskan salmon is a beautiful, life giving fish. It has provided the native people of Alaska a huge part of their sustenance and culture. The natural world is still important to all of us, whether we can see it as clearly as the Alaskan natives or not. The fish that we buy at the grocery store, the children’s songs taught in Portland elementary schools about the Coho salmon, and the sight of seeing salmon spawn in Northwest streams are nourishing parts of our life. The Alaskan salmon are beautiful for their own sake, and for what they do for the world. The world will be a less pleasant place without them.

The same is true of thousand of species of fish across the globe. It is hard for us to comprehend the depths of the sea. As a species, we humans try to relate everything to our experiences. From this perspective the ocean seems too vast to be affected by our tiny actions. But in the grand scheme of things, the ocean is small. Polluting a river is like lighting the basement of your house on fire, it will spread everywhere. Fish species do not see the ocean as vast. Fish species see the water they swim in and are wholly effected by that. Maltreatment moves as fast and as broadly as fish. It travels all over the ocean. All maltreatment and all fish will come in contact.

To secure Alaska’s and the World’s fish populations a more holistic and simultaneously particular approach is needed. There are many ideas on what this approach should look like. For the rest of this paper I will examine a few of them, and try to see what can be done globally, to improve all local natural environments and the plight of the Alaskan salmon.

New Ideas About Common Pool Resource Management

There is currently a huge movement in science toward solving the problems with commons management called CPR management. It is impossible to write this introduction without mentioning Garret Hardin. In the 1960’s, Harding’s essay, “The Tragedy of the commons,” mostly because of Harding’s shocking language, and assumptions not based on fact, stirred up a whole movement in science. This movement has since gone on to refute most of his arguments, But without him, these new, superior, fact-based arguments would not exist.

I use the term science loosely when discussing CPR management. The “science” of CPR management is as much a political science, a political economy, a cultural study, and an environmental science as it is a science. As a science itself, CPR management observes the laws by which commons function, as the science of physics observes the laws by which mass functions. In the science of CPR management, every function has a depth of implication. Because humanity has become so dependent on the environment, human institutions and psyche are very much affected by CPR management, thus the science of CPR management is a political science. All society’s economies are based on the environment, and since commons are shared by many people, the study of political economy applies also. Many people have deep ties with the land or sea involved in commons, thus the science of CPR management is a cultural study. And the generalization of “commons” is fundamentally flawed. Every common is a unique environment that needs to be treated with the sensitivity with which we would treat a unique individual.

The sea is a very unique common. The sea is the most obvious common in the world. No one owns all of the sea. Every part of the sea is effected by every other part of the sea. In research done for the science of CPR management, the ocean is the most common example. This can be seen in the very title of this new science: common POOL resource management.

It is only right that the sea is the most prominent subject of CPR management. The sea is the most used common in the world, and thus it is the common in the most need of help. The new science of CPR management has many ideas on how to make the commons of the sea work. All are helpful in their own way for addressing the small and large problems with current CPR management – the CPR management that is killing the Alaskan salmon.

In this section of the paper I will outline various authors arguments on the commons, and highlight key points.

Making the Commons Work

A large issue in developing CPR management is discovering in what situations CPR management can work. The modern way of looking at CPR management is to view a common as something that can be balanced between all parties that share it in a sustainable way. As Fikret Berkes points out in his essay, “Success and Failure in Marine Coastal Fisheries of Turkey,” this is not always the case. Berkes examines five fisheries in Turkey: the Bodrom, the Alanya, the Tasuca, the Camcik, and the Izmir. In the very limited resource of Turky’s coastal fisheries, the key questions were around the technical and physical nature of the resource, the decision making arrangements, and the behavior of the users.

The original battle in Turkey focused on who could fish. Turkey has a history of guild use. Guild use is where a group of fisherman control a resource and allow only whom they want to allow to use the CPR. Guilds generally have a leader who managed the resource. This, of course, leads to politics. The modern ideas of CPR management circle around the idea that all groups that feel entitled to a commons should have an equal share in that common’s sustainable use. In this modern era where everyone should get their share, everyone wants their share. It is impossible to decide who has the most right to a common pool resource in a historical contest – no one can ever discover who was there first, and even if they do, does that give them a right? To avoid these problems, Turkey moved toward the provision of ubiquitous use (Berkes, 161).

Ubiquitous use is a dangerous process because of the danger of over fishing. More people fishing increases the likelihood for over fishing. Turkey tried to counter this with catch limits and fishing time limits (Berkes, 162). This is similar to Alaska’s restrictions, but Turkey lacked the sophisticated escapement levels. This lack of escapement levels did not allow the limits to change with extraneous factors on the fish populations such as people getting away with over fishing and environmental damage. Because of these factors and more, the stock was over fished. Now this is a huge problem (Berkes, 168). Since Turkey’s problem is in the water cycle, it is a problem for the whole world.

Several issues around when a commons can be managed in the traditional way are brought up in this example. The traditional guild practices, while they may seem unfair, were sustainable in Turkey. Turkey’s environment was not suited for a large and diverse population of fisherman. Extenuating factors of Turkey’s surrounding environment ruined its stock (Berkes, 173). These are not easy issues to solve.

Unofficial Regulations in the Third World

John Cordell and Margaret A. MeKean outline the effects of giving natives property rights over commons, instead of using the modern idea of sharing common pool resources, in their essay, “Sea Tenure in Bahia, Brazil.”

In this essay the authors lay out the effects of the government giving traditional fishing fleets power in the face of globalized fishing fleets. The means by which the natives fish are effective enough for sustenance, but not broad marketing. Traditional fishing is in canoes with no ice, very little speed, and small nets wielded only by men, not machines. These means make it impossible for the resources of their seas to be overused by the natives. The natives do not care to overuse their means. Just fishing is a fulfilling experience for the natives. The natives have a deep value for the natural world – they would not want to over fish. Because the natives have the property rights to do this, they have maintained culture in the face of big, shiny fleets (Cordell, 183-205).

There are no laws among the native fisherman, just codes. Cordell and McKean call this, “Strengths of life within the contexts of marginality. (Cordell, 207)” Basically, there will be no tragedy of the commons. These people’s love for their commons is deeper than an economic justification. The natives will not change their minds about the benefit of the ocean and destroy it. The native community rewards and punishes people who do not respect the right of the sea. When conflicts arise, mediators are elected among the natives to resolve them (Cordell, 192). This sort of community involvement makes a crime much more deeply penalizing than economic retribution, making people less likely to offend and re-offend.

Giving property rights to native users does work on a small scale. Giving natives property rights being sustainable is basically an example of very small government being able to properly deal with their population and its problems because of the very nature of its size. However, in the modern world, giving property rights to natives is a difficult measure to put into effect. There are few governments small enough to give natives property rights. Most small, self governing peoples are displaced, amalgamated, or dead. Native’s land (or water) can never be returned, and can never be replenished. Giving small groups property rights to commons also cannot work within the fishing communities that now exist in their place. Modern fisherman’s valuation of the ocean is not one in which this type of self governance would work. Large enterprises that put profit over everything else would ruin it. It is feasible that a group of small fisherman would make it work, but one reason the natives worked so sustainably is because of years of balance with the environment. Without the deep scientific knowledge the natives had, and with the new heavily effective equipment modern fisherman have, modern fishermen could potentially ruin an ecosystem trying to find balance. Giving fishermen property rights in the hope of sustainability is not worth ruining an ecosystem.

Even on the traditional scale it not always easy to make the decision to give natives rights over a commons. The natives must be deeply entrenched in their tradition, which is a rare thing in this age of globalized capitalism. To give natives property rights there must also be no dispute over who has traditional rights to a commons. This is a rare situation as well.

Although it cannot be the whole, in the right circumstances, giving the rights of certain commons to traditional natives may be a good part of global common pool resource management.

Where Do We Go From Here?

David Feeney’s essay, “Where Do We Go From Here,” Brings up a lot of interesting points. He examines the current regulation on common pool resource management and notices many of the same faults I pointed out. In his essay, he ponders how to go about developing data to create new information, and how to apply that data to create new regulations. These two question provoke a lot of interesting issues.

First, when looking to gain information to improve the data collection on common pool resource management, what means should one use? Feeney points out that there are 5 traditional means by which to collect data: case studies, history, prospective data, lab experiments, and field experiments (Feeney, 267). All of these means have their unique positive and negative qualities in regards to common pool resource management research.

Case studies are the most common form of data collection in common pool resource management. In a case study, a common pool resource is observed and data is collected about the way it is managed, how well it works, and why (Feeney, 268). This process has its benefits. The main benefit is that the research takes place in the natural environment in a natural way. However, the natural setting also means that the natural environment could be hurt while letting a case study run its course. An observers duty may to step in and help if a case study is going to harm humans or the environment. Doing so would alter the case study.

Looking at history is like doing a retro-active case study (Feeney, 269), much like the first part of my research on Alaskan salmon. Looking at history is a great tool to gain knowledge, but it is not very proactive. While we can see that it is wrong that the Europeans took the rivers from the natives, there is little we can do about it now.

Using prospective data, a collector looks at what part of history has to do with a present dilemma (Feeney, 272). It is important to look at the mistakes made by the Europeans that caused over fishing, and not allow it to continue. Prospective data is a good and bad process of research for the same reason: it looks specifically at what part of history reflects onto the present. Looking at prospective data leaves out extraneous factors, and assumes repetition.

Lab experiments can prove that the numbers of a projected theory would work, but only in ideal conditions. Lab experiments can be very helpful in learning about complex interactions, but if they over-simplify or over-complicate the problem in relationship to the natural environment, all that is learned can be null and void (Feeney, 275).

Finally, field experiments also have their positive and negative aspects. Field experiments are good because they go beyond theory and test a hypothesis in the real world, but this is also their short coming. If a field experiment is mismanaged, a whole ecosystem is at stake, not just an idea, a test tube, and a pad of paper (Feeney, 278).

So, the idea of how to approach developing a new base of data is complicated. In addition, how to draft new regulations based on data once it is collected is complicated. Even with perfect data on every front, people must come to agree on performance measures.

Most people would agree that sustainability is key for proper CPR management, but what is sustainability? Everyone will define it differently. This is something that needs to be addressed when thinking about regulations for CPR management.

Secondly, what is good? Every body wants good CPR management. Does good CPR management mean letting the environment flourish, or using it in good ways? Again, everybody will have different ideas on what good ways to use a SPRs means. Some may say that industrial fishing is good. Others may say that traditional fishing is good. Some may say that no fishing is good. This is another problem that needs to be resolved in the search for effective CPR management.

Governing the Commons

In her book, “Governing the Commons,” Elinor Ostrom takes creative looks at the three biggest ideas in CPR management: privatization, socialization, and institutionalization. She looks at the positive and negative effects of each idea, and tries to evolve her own framework for CPR management.

She argues that socialization can be a positive form of governance. She points out that socialization works like a leviathan. She defines a leviathan as anything that keeps a group in check (Ostrom, 56-60). A bear can be a leviathan if it chases away fishermen from a river after they catch a certain amount of fish. A government can be a leviathan if they do the same. Leviathans can be both a positive and negative role for the government to play. Ostrom argues that it is only positive when the government is in the right. If a government is not allowing their people to catch enough fish to sustain themselves, they are like a bear killing every person who tries to feed themselves with a fish. If a government allows its people to over fish, they are like a bear helping a fisherman to deplete an ecosystem. Both metaphors have their many varied problems that I touched on in my examination of current world fishing policy. Basically, for socialization to work, the government must have a very holistic, nature-valuing, yet population supporting system to be good for CPR management.

In Ostrom discussion on the Privatization of the commons, she plays off Hardin’s metaphor of the common pasture ground. If a common pasture ground is shared between many people’s cows, the type of privatization Ostrom explores is dividing the pasture into the amount of sections there are cattle owners, giving one section to each cattle owner, and allowing each to graze their cattle on their part of the commons. The positive aspect of this is that people are now working with nature directly, instead of each other, then nature (Ostrom, 130). This is supposed to simplify the “game.” It is also supposed to make each person reap what they sow, so to speak (Ostrom, 130). However, both of these pieces have their flaws. Sometimes people working together can achieve greater mindfulness than people working separately. In addition, the idea that every person will reap what they sow from their own part of a commons is just not true (Ostrom, 135-138). This anti-reap-what-you-sow idea is very clear in the ocean, where if one country fishes all the salmon in the world, they have caused the extinction of salmon for which every other country must pay. Plus, privatization will inherently favor the rich over the poor. One must be able to afford a part of the commons in the system of privatization.

Institutionalization is also called the firm theory. Ostrom’s essay is the first time I had ever heard of this theory, and it intrigued me. It is basically a unique form of privatization where an independent firm governs the commons. They do not actually own the commons, but in a sense, they own its resources. The firm does not harvest the resources, but regulates how they can be harvested and purchases and sells all the products. The firm reimburses the fisherman for their inputs and sells their outputs, thus absorbing all the net loses and gains (Ostrom, 160 – 204). In theory, the firm would do what is best for their long term benefits, which is sustainability. Institutionalization is another case, like that of socialization, where it would work with a good leviathan. If the independent organization really cares about the community and its resources, it may do a very good job regulating the CPR. If not, well, people with stock in the CPR have little enforcement for fair play. The firm could easily rape the people dependent on the CPR of their resources and move on. Institutionalization with a poor leviathan would be a very poor field experiment.

Elinor Ostrom agues aggressively for the preservation of indigenous common use. She argues that it was self-organized, self-governing, and long-enduring (Ostrom, 234). That it is self-organized, self-governing, and long-enduring proves that there is a deep bond between the indigenous people and their natural environment. Ostrom believes this would work on a long term basis. It would be sustainable for the people and the ecosystem. She has many examples of this working into the present day (see Ostrom, 58-102). Of course, preserving indigenous common use cannot save all of the worlds commons.

With the proper circumstances that I discussed earlier, preservation of indigenous common pool resource management can be an important part of global resource management.

The last thing Ostrom talks about in her book is institutional change. She shows that through capitalization common pool resources have been overused, litigation has ensued, and the end result was entrepreneurship (Ostom, 250-261). This is an important thing to remember when thinking about the future of common pool resource management. In the case of Alaska, it looked like this: European’s made the CPR of Alaska’s salmon a capitalized CPR; it was overused; litigation ensued between the various stakeholders; out of this litigation, entrepreneurship came in the form the government enforcing escapement levels. The government was the entrepreneur. The steps in this process have looked differently all over the world, but in most places where a CPR has been capitalized, Ostrom’s general path has been followed. Of course, how long the entrepreneurship remains sustainable is in question, as is seen in Alaska’s fisheries.

Harbor Gangs and Modern Law

In James A. Acheson and Jenifer S. Brewer’s article, “Changes in Territorial Systems in the Main Lobster Fishing Industry,” they explore the relationship between harbor gangs and modern law, and the effect this relationship has had on the environment.

The Main lobster fishing industry was formerly run by “harbor gangs.” These gangs were groups of fishermen that formed guilds. Like traditional guilds, these gangs restricted who could fish in their waters. To fish for lobster is “their” water, one had to be approved by the harbor gangs. The harbor gangs were about keeping the lobster fishing in “their” waters pure. The harbor gangs did not allow mixed use fishing, or unsustainable practices of catching lobster. If someone did not abide by the gang’s rules, the usurper’s gear would be molested by the gangs. This was sustainable for a long time, until modern ideas of CPR management stepped in. The state made gear molestation illegal. The state made catching and convicting gear molesters a priority. Molestation has significantly decreased, and mixed fishing has ensued. Mixed fishing has destroyed the ocean floor, ruining an ecosystem (Acheson 37-59).

Many interesting questions arise from this case study. First, was the original system of harbor gangs a good technique for CPR management? (Acheson, 60) That depends on what you define as good. The harbor gang system was environmentally sustainable, but was it fair? This idea of fairness goes back to the issue of maintaining indigenous people’s rights to manage their own CPRs. The Main lobster industry case study seems like an example of that, but it is not as clear as indigenous use – who did the harbor gangs drive out?

Another interesting question in all of this is, who pushed for the laws stopping gear molestation? Was it concerned citizens wanting to make lobster fishing fair, or was it large fishing corporations that wanted to tap a locally protected resource? Where does all the modern cry for equal shares is CPRs come from? Who does the modern idea of CPR management benefit? Modern CPR management generally only takes rights from indigenous peoples or small fishing operations, and divides it up among more people who want a share, including large, shiney fleets who come to dominate the resource.

Transition in American Fishing Commons

In her essay titled, “Transition in American Fishing Commons: management problems and institutional design challenges,” Susan Hanna pursues many of the issues that are coming up in the many theories on CPR management. Hanna points out that more people in America want fish. This is true in the entire world. Fish is one of the basics for the new conception of a healthy diet. In America, fishing techniques are efficient enough that it becomes easy to over fish (Hanna, 61-65). Hanna shows that the common path in America is the one that Alaska took with its salmon. This path is also the one Elinor Ostrom laid out as the common ramification of the capitalization of commons. It started with foreign exploitation. This is where fish became a commodity. Then there was a domestic territory claim. This is Olstrom’s litigation. Finally, domestic control is won. Then entrepreneurship ensues. However, America’s entrepreneurship is based on economic innovation, which is generally not good for the environment.

As I have said before, current American fishing regulations focus on the cash crops of the ocean. This is immediately good for those species we like to eat. It is also immediately bad for the environment and those who value the future and spirituality of the environment. In the long run it is bad for all involved because the ocean ecosystem will become ruined because of the narrow focus that does not include the environment.

Privatizing the Commons

Tracy Yandle and Christopher M. Dewees’ essay, “Privatizing the Commons, twelve years later: fishing experiences with New Zealand’s market based fishing management,” sheds new light on the three largest schools of thought in CPR management, especially privatization.

From the year 1952 to the year 1992, there was a 300% rise in fishing. Humans went from annually eating 18.5 tons of fish, to 82.5 tons of fish. In this time period, 70% of fisheries reached depletion (Yadle, 90). These are the facts Yandle and Dewees open up with to assure the reader there is a problem with modern fishing tactics and the treatment of the environment.

Dewees and Yandle broaden Ostrom’s 3 specific schools of thought on CPR management to bureaucracy, market, and community. Bureaucracy is socialization broadened to include more complex government control over fisheries. The U.S. and U.K work under bureaucratic CPR management, but are leaning toward market. Community CPR management is the idea of institutionalization broadened to include the community as an institution that can govern its resources independently of the government. The community can thus work out its own separations if it wants. Community CPR management benefits those who favor indigenous rights to CPR management.  Market CPR management is privatization broadened to include the market as an enterprise private of the government. New Zealand and Iceland use market based CPR management (Yandle, 93-98).

Yandle and Dewees focus on the idea of Market based CPR management in New Zealand. New Zealand has developed a system of tradable permits that are based on catch limits. The value of each permit in fish is changed with changes in the size of the schools of fish, like the escapement levels in Alaska. New Zealand raises the cost of fish when fish stocks are low to balance the profit. Even these regulations are not enough to fully compensate for recent lows in fish stocks, and unemployment has ensued (Yandle, 103).

Many holes can be seen in New Zealand’s system. Their system does slow the capital race by increasing the economic efficiency and productivity of the system while maintaining fish stocks. However, their system does not stop the capital race. Fishermen are throwing back small fish to maximize their tonnage of catch through their limitations (Yandle, 107). This results in a negative feedback loop because the fish thrown back were killed in the process of being caught, lowering the next escapement level. Lowered escapement levels lowers the worth in individual fish of a fisherman’s permit, which causes more of the same bad behavior that started the cycle. In addition to this bad bit for the environment, if an escapement level is incorrectly set too low, it could mean the demise of the entire ecosystem. The market based system of CPR management displaces traditional native fishermen and poor fishermen.

With careful science and enforcement, market based CPR management could work in the cases where fishermen did not race for capital, and indigenous and poor people were not fighting for rights to the ocean. It could be another part of a global CPR management success.

Another author, Einar Eythorsson examines the market based CPR management as it pertains to Iceland in his essay, “Stakeholders, Courts, and Communities: individual transferable quotas in Iceland. Eythorsson believes that Iceland’s CPR management is even broader than a market-based method. She says it can either be defined as co-management or participatory (Eythorsson, 129-130). But Eythorsson leaves these new terms pretty much undefined.

In Iceland, fish are the most important commodity. There has always been political controversy over fish in Iceland. Right now, Britain does not want Iceland’s EEZ to extend 200 miles. As of now, Iceland is the only country in the world with an EEZ that does not extend 200 miles. This has caused its fishermen to be taxed by other governments. Iceland’s fisherman want nationalization (Eythorsson, 147).

Right now, Iceland’s government has quotas for catch limits. Because of over fishing by Britain and others, this has hurt Iceland’s fishermen. Iceland’s fishing town are all towns of less than 1,000 people. These towns have few resources, and a deep respect for their country. Because of the purchasable quotas that Iceland installed, big fishing businesses have come into these small towns and bought up permits (Eythorsson, 153).

There has been huge resistance from Iceland’s fisherman at every turn: the quotas, the vessels, the QTC’s, and who gets them (Eythorsson, 163). Iceland has really been an example of how a market based system of common pool resource management can become corrupt.

Micro-Credit and Common Pool Resource Management

The ideas of natural, human, and social capital play a large role in evaluating CPR management. In “A Framework For Analyzing the Physical, Social, and Human Capital Effects of Micro-Credit on Common Pool Resources,” C. Leigh Anderson, Laura A. Louker, and Rachael A. Nugent discuss natural, human and social capital as they relate to another issue in CPR management: micro-credit.

The micro-credit summit set a goal for micro-finance organizations (MFOs) to reach, ‘100 million of the world’s poorest families, especially the women of those families, with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services by 2025. (Anderson, 266)’”

That is 10 times the amount of people with current economic aid from MFOs, and one-third of the world’s poor. How would this effect common pool resources?

The authors of this essay say that communities given micro-credit loans become empowered, thus empowering their people, raising both human and social capital. The authors also say that when communities are granted these micro-credit loans, they will develop in the traditional way – using their environment – thus lowering natural capital. Based on these assumptions, they say that the rise in human and social capital outweighs the loss in environmental capital.

Assuming all of their assumptions are correct, for the moment, I say that the rise in human and social capital does not outweigh the loss in environmental capital. In a community based on the land, can that community improve with the destruction of their land? I don’t think so. Can a people deeply connected with the land benefit from its desecration? No. However, I would argue that if a community deeply reverent of their land becomes empowered, they may actually protect their land and improve all three forms of capital. This is why more thought must be given to the authors assumptions.

The authors of the essay talk about micro-credit loans with environmental stipulations. There are many MGOs that are environmental organizations. The Grameean bank states in its sixteen traditions that, “They will keep their children and environment clean.” Many MGOs attach this clause to their loan, trying to ensure environmental capital remains in the country (Anderson, 174).

Lots of positive things can then come from these loans. Natural capital can become secured. Through the empowerment of women, families can become stronger. This will benefit children, raising human capital. And through group lending communities can be built. Communities can then make better decisions about their environment. This is good for natural and social capital.

Indeed, in this model, everything works out very well, but you will notice that this model is working in a capitalistic system, which strives for capital at the expense of humans, societies, and the environment. Giving these categories the label of capital is supposed to make them factors in the capitalistic system. Indeed it has, but in the process it may have degraded the worth of a human, a community, and an environment.

Micro-credit loans are a very hot subject in themselves right now. Part of the debate is how well micro-credit loans work to empower people and save the environment. Moving that debate aside for the sake of this paper, if micro-credit loans could be managed properly, they too could be a beneficial part of a good global common pool resource management system.


To begin the discussion of CPR management change, there must be a clear goal for the future of CPR management. This needs to include a definition of sustainability and proper use. The modern idea of proper CPR management is that all parties who feel they have a right to a CPR should get an equal share in an ecologically and economically sustainable fishing system. This is not a perfect system. For most existing systems, this modern idea will allow more fishermen on to a fishery than are currently there, which raises the chances of over fishing and ecological damage. This shift to modern CPR management could also cause a change in valuation to economic valuation, which is inherently dangerous for an ecosystem. The modern idea of CPR management may also cause a displacement of a native peoples. The big question is, “Who is the change toward a modern idea of CPR management going to benefit?” Most people in the science of CPR management would argue that a switch to the modern idea of CPR management is not going to benefit lower class people, but large, shiny, expensive fishing fleets – global fishing enterprises. Should global fishing enterprises have a share in every part of the ocean?

I have examined case studies and the ideas behind the three major methods of modern CPR management. We have seen that there are benefits and flaws to socialization, privatization, and institutionalization. In each case there must be a fair political, social, and environmental leviathan. Without these good leviathans the environment, peoples livelihoods, and economies, collapse.

Giving local peoples property rights is often a defense against poor leviathans. We have also seen that there are questions involved in giving local people property rights: how does one justly give property right to a single group when many feel entitled to a CPR? how can one be sure that a local group will continue to treat the environment with respect? and finally, how does one empower locals?

The big answer to that question has been micro-credit, but the effectiveness of micro-credit itself has come into question. Will it empower people? Will it keep the environment clean? Will empowered people protect their environment, or use it up as other nations have done to become developed?

A lot of questions arise in the debate of CPR management. In a CPR as interconnected, and intraconnected as the ocean, these questions must be discussed on a worldwide scale. Humans are at a critical point in their relationship with the sea – they could start killing species and the ecosystem on a massive scale. A global discussion on this issue needs to take place soon.

Conclusion: Can a worldwide discussion of the sea take place? Who should take part?

The worldwide discussion has already begun. It has begun in every nation where someone is using an aquatic CPR. The discussion, decision, and use of every aquatic CPR effects the water cycle. Thus every group with any stake in any aquatic CPR should be a part of the world discussion. No matter how small a discussion on aquatic CPR management is, its ideas should be brought to the world’s attention. Everyone should be able to speak in, and everyone should listen to, every CPR debate to do with the water cycle.

As someone with a stake in the CPR of the world sea, there are two points I would like to highlight as my argument in the discussion. I would like to argue for the empowerment of long-time sustainable managers of CPRs, both politically and ideologically. Because of the complex place the world has reached with dependence on CPR management, long-time sustainable managers, such as indigenous people and guilds, cannot be sole proprietors of all CPRs. In situations where it can be decided that it is fair for long-time sustainable managers to control the CPR they are closest with, I feel that it should be done. Long-time sustainable managers have proven to be the most reliable managers of CPRs. This is both because of their valuation of CPRs that have sustained their people for many generations, and because of a wealth of knowledge about their CPRs that has come from a deep relationship with it. In any case where there is a long-term sustainable manager, that long-term sustainable manager should be used as a wealth of knowledge for future management. The Alaskan natives have many valuable lessons to teach Alaskans about how to manage fishing Alaskan salmon, even if it is impossible to give them sole property rights to Alaska’s salmon. In addition, the Alaskan natives would probably have valuable things to say to the world of thought on CPR management of the water cycle.  Long-time sustainable managers should be given a loud voice in the discussion about worldwide fishing policy.

The last argument I would like to highlight in the international discussion of CPR management, is a change in valuation. The loudest debate in the discussion of the ocean CPR is in regards to fish. I think most people would agree that fish should be around. To keep them, we must value their existence beyond the economy. When people see prices on fish, they ignore what is around them. The fish, the sea, and the water cycle must be valued differently than they are now to save the fish. The most important thing I can see in sustaining the ocean, is valuing it truly and deeply. I think we should take capital labels off the natural environment. I feel that the sea is intrinsically deeper than any form of currency we can create. To save the fish, the sea, and the water cycle, we must see how interconnected it is, and how important it is to all of us.

I have listened and thought about many ideas on CPR management. I have given my ideas and valuations of what should be done in the future. To fairly manage the complex commons of fish, the ocean, and the water cycle, everyone who cares enough to think about it and to give their opinions on it, should be listened to equally. All decisions made affecting the CPR of the ocean should be made with all of these opinions affecting it equally.


My neglecting the issue of farmed fish was intentional. Forced-spawned fish that trickle down rivers to get plump for someone’s dinner table will never be a replacement for the natural salmon that have battled against the toughest odds and currents to spawn in the pure streams of Alaska. No scientific invention can supplement the symbol of a species persevering. That symbol has created myth for many people, songs for many children, a symbol for great struggles, and a positive reflection on the human experience. Judging the justification of the reconciliation of this with farmed fish is something I am not willing to do beyond dismissing it in this afterward.


Agrifo webpage:

1.) Fishing Laws and Regulations,

2.) FAO technical guidelines for responsible fisheries

3.) Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Scotland) Bill

4.) International Law

Barringer, Felicity “Federal Oceans Commission Finds Decline Along Coasts,” The New York Times National, Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Browning, Robert J. 1974. Fisheries of the North Pacific: History, Species, Gear and Processes. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Co.

Cicin-Sain, Biliana., and Knecht, Robert W. 2000. The Future of U.S. Ocean Policy:

choices for the new century. Washington D.C.: Island Press.

Foster, John Bellamy, “Ecology Against Capitalism,” Monthly Review Vol. 53 Issue 5

(Oct. 2001), Pp. 1-15.

Gruening, Ernest. 1954. The State of Alaska. New York: Random House Publishing Co.

Harris, Jonathan M. 2002. Environmental and Natural Resources Economics: a contemporary approach. Houghton-Mifflin Company.

Iudicello, Suzanne., Weber, Michael., and Wieland, Robert. 1999. Fish, Markets, and Fishermen: the economics of over fishing. Washington D.C.: Island Press.

Jay, Tom, and B. Matsen. 1994. Reaching Home: Pacific Salmon, Pacific People. Seattle, Wa.: Alaska Northwest Books.

Johnson, H.M. 1997. 1997 Annual Report on the United States Seafood Industry. 5th ed. Bellevue, Wash.: H.M. Johnson and Associates.

Making the Commons Work, Edited by Daniel W. Broomly, 1992 Institute for Contemporary Studies:

Chapter 7, Berkes, Fikret “Success and Failure in Marine Coastal Fisheries or Turkey.”

Chapter 8, Cordell, John and McKean, Margaret A. “Sea Tenure in Bahai, Brazil.”

Chapter 12, Feeny, David “Where do we go from here?”

NMFS webpage:

1.) NOAA Fisheries To Start Mandatory Cost-Earnings Reporting In HMS Fisheries

2.) Southwest Regional Office

Ostrom, Elinore Governing the Commons, 1990 Cambridge U. Press.

Pellow, David Naguib. 2002. Garbage Wars: the struggle for environmental justice in Chicago. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

The Commons in the New Millennium: challenges and adaptations, edited by Nives Dolsak and Elinor Ostrom, 2003 Massachuses Institute of Technology

Introduction, McCay, Bonnie J. “Introduction.”

Chapter 2, Acheson, James A. and Brewer, Jennifer F. “Territorial Changes of the Maine Lobster Industry.”

Chapter 3, Hanna, Susan “Transition in American Fishing Commons: management problems and institutional design challenges.”

Chapter 5, Yandle, Tracy and Dewees, Christopher M. “Privatizing the Commons…Twelve Years Later: fisheries experiences with New Zealand’s market based fisheries management.”

Chapter 6, Eythorsson, Einar, “Stakeholders, Courts, and Communities: individual transferable quotas is Iceland.”

Chapter 9, Anderson, Leigh C., Locker, Laura A. and Nugent, Rachael A. “A Framework for Analyzing the Physical, Social, and Human Capital Effects of Micro-credit on common pool resources.”

Chapter 10, Berner, Regina and Wittmer, Heidi, “How Do Local Communities Gain Political Influence? A theoretical approach and empirical evidence from Thailand.”

UNCLS, The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,

Twomley, B. 1994. “License Limitation in Alaskan Salmon Fisheries.” Pp. 59-66 in Limiting Access to Marine Fisheries: Keeping the Focus on Conservation, ed. K. L. Gimbel. Washington, D.C.: Center for Marine Conservation and World Wildlife Fund.

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