Uncommon property: The fishing and fish-processing industries in British Columbia

Uncommon property: The fishing and fish-processing industries in British Columbia

UNCOMMON PROPERTY 169 descriptions of case studies, but it seeks to analyse how ecosystems in general behave under stress. Although the intended au...

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descriptions of case studies, but it seeks to analyse how ecosystems in general behave under stress. Although the intended audience of this textbook is students taking an upper undergraduate or graduate course in environmental ecology, the book is useful as a supplemental source of information for more general university level courses in environmental studies, and to ecologists and other professionals whose specific interest falls within the multi- and interdisciplinary field of environmental science. I have found some minor mistakes in the book, e.g. the toxic Chrysochromulina algal bloom mentioned on page 7 which caused fish kills and drastic ecosystem changes, did not occur in the Baltic Sea, but in the North Sea. This could easily be corrected for in the next edition. Maybe the next edition could also be expanded to include topics such as, problems and effects of sewage and waste disposal, effluents from the pulp and paper industry, and organic enrichment and eutrophication of marine areas. This would make the book even more complete. Due to lack of suitable textbooks my lecturing at the university has up to present been supplemented by a large number of handouts of reprints. With the appearance of this book I can now reduce the reprints to a handful of papers. NILS KAUTSKY Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden



Uncommon Property: The Fishing and Fish-Processing Industries in British Columbia Patricia Marchak, Neil Guppy and John McMullan (Editors).

Methuen, Toronto, Ont., Canada, 1987. Paperback, xvi + 424 pp., tables, figures, maps, US$21.95. Uncommon Property is a multidisciplinary collection of 15 essays on the fishing and processing industries of British Columbia, The different sections of the book deal with the history and political economy of the British Columbia fishing industry since its inception in the late 19th century, with the structure of labor relations in the industry, and with the social and cultural anthropology of different fishing groups in the province. The unifying theme is the poverty of the received wisdom of managing fisheries as ‘common property’ resources. The ‘commons tragedy’ approach to fisheries and other renewable resources assumes that the main cause of fishery depletion lies in the common-property nature of the resources:




because no one ‘owns’ the fish, harvesters must compete with one another to take as many fish as fast as they can, with the inevitable result that the industry is overcapitalized, the resources overharvested, and any potential profit from them dissipated. Government’s solution, therefore, has been to assert ownership and control over the resource itself, to define fishing as a ‘privilege’ enjoyed at the state’s pleasure, and then to limit access to the resources by such means as harvest quotas, limiting the number of permits to fish, and buying back excess capacity in the industry. The goal is to manage the fisheries rationally as economic assets that belong to the whole people, maximizing income from them in the present while conserving their productive potential in the future. The problem with this approach, as Marchak points out in the volume’s introductory essay, is that overfishing has nothing necessarily to do with the common-property nature of the resources; it has rather to do with the inability of public agencies to take the full measure of the complex problems involved in managing the fisheries. As Marchak claims, “overfishing... is related to how management is carried out, not to the assumed evils of common property” (p. 10). “Instead of talking about ‘the tragedy of the commons’,” she insists, “we should be concerned with the tragedy of mismanaged state property” (p. 5). Canadian efforts to alleviate fisheries problems in the 1970s and 1980s conceived and executed within the common-property paradigm, did little except to make those problems worse. An essay by John McMullan (pp. 107-152) shows how state intervention reduced the size of the salmon fleet but permitted those permitted to fish to increase their capacity; a sudden boom in the industry that came in the early 1980s when Japanese purchasers began paying high prices for Canadian fish, only exacerbated the problem. Indeed, at the same time government bought back fishing vessels to reduce capacity, it subsidized loans to help fishers develop new capacity to take advantage of the all-too-temporary boom (p. 353). The only tangible results of two decades of reform were continued overcapacity, the subordination of small-scale producers to capital, and the growth of a cumbersome regulatory apparatus that, Marchak suggests, may cost as much to administer as the fisheries generate in economic value in the first place (p. 17). In the end, Marchak concludes, government’s inconsistent attempts to conserve the fisheries were frustrated by its more fundamental commitment to promoting the accumulation of private profit in the industry (p. 30). The volume concludes, nonetheless, on a hopeful note: recent crises in the industry have encouraged the fishers themselves to begin cooperating with one another in furtherance of their common interests, even though their halting steps toward ‘co-management’ have not as yet been matched




by an equal commitment on the part of government to cooperate with fishers in the management process (p. 357). This interesting and useful collection is itself evidence that the theory of fisheries managment has grown in breadth and sophistication since the classic ‘commons’ analyses appeared in the 1950s and 1960s; the book contains excellent social-science studies of labor, of native cultures, and of underdevelopment in rural areas of the province. The book indicates at a minimum that new, more multidisciplinary approaches to fisheries problems are necessary and potentially rewarding. The key insight it offers is that fisheries are highly complex systems of interaction between the environments that produce resources and the social, political, and cultural forces that influence the behavior of harvesters. ARTHUR F. McEVOY American Bar Foundation 750 North Lake Shore Drice Chicago, IL 60611, USA


Energy Policy in the Greenhouse: From Warming Fate to Warming Limit, Vol. 1. Florentin Krause, Wilfrid Bach and Jon Koomey. Earthscan Publications Ltd, London, 1990. xii 198 pp., f17.50. Several conferences, symposia and workshops shape the recent Odyssey of the climate-change policy agenda. Many hope that substantial progress toward a climate convention will finally be made in the 1992 international environmental conference in Brazil; that this conference will gear the essentially complete scientific consensus on anthropogenic impacts on the greenhouse effect to viable and responsible policies. Many assume or fear that such hopes are in vain, particularly in the aftermath of a world crisis in which energy policies have received little attention in the debate about climate change. At the same time, according to three major measures of global-average temperatures, 1990 was the warmest year on record. Although global temperature changes are still within natural variability, adding yet another year to the long-term trend of global warming (about 0.4’ C over the last 100 years) continues to weaken the dissenting arguments that promote wait-and-see policies. Krause et al. set out - quite vigourously - to invalidate such policies. Over the last couple of years, the publication rate of books that address the climate-change problem hits record highs. Psychologically at least, the