What to do about certain environmental problems is the great question of our age. It’s obvious that, steering clear of contentious matters like the atmosphere, that we’re driving some ecosystems entirely into extinction. How to stop this, how to solve these sorts of problems, is something we really ought to be concentrating on. And as it turns out, private property rights are indeed, for some subset of these problems, that very answer.
Take fishing for example: we’re vacuuming everything edible out of the seas at present and we’re really not going to be able to do that much longer. The current bureaucratic methods of trying to control this aren’t working: we’re still vacuuming just about everything edible out of the oceans. Which is what makes this story so interesting.
Chesapeake Bay is that huge squiggle on the map, running some 200 miles south from Washington DC in between Maryland and Virginia. It’s also long been the source of bounteous harvests of oysters (my own immediately post-school teenage years were spent opening such delights for restaurant patrons in the area). However, the legal regimes on each side have been completely different. On the Maryland side, only the “hunting” of wild stock was allowed, on the Virginia the leasing of seabed and planting then harvesting.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to find out that Virginia produces vast numbers of fat oysters and has similarly vast numbers still in the water. Maryland has been pretty much fished out.
We really do need to take note of where fisheries are abundant and where they’re not and then copy the management methods of the abundant ones: the Alaskan halibut fishery, the Icelandic and Faroese general fisheries, the New Zealand Orange Roughy. These are the places which have granted private property rights to fishermen and which as a result have waters still teeming with fish.
In effect, we’ve got to stop fisheries operating on hunter gatherer economics and move them over to working on farming such.