all can graze for free. As a result, it is in each herders interest to “increase his heard without limit, in a world that is limited”. By so doing, the heard feeds for free and the shepherd increases his revenue. However, by each shepherd acting independently and pursuing his own interest, the commons is doomed to overgrazing and thereby dooming all (the entire industry). In 1968 this is what ecologist, Garret Harding referred to as The Tragedy of the Commons; in other words, each shepherd acting rationally and independently, contributes to the ruin of all.
The ocean is often viewed as a commons where it is conducive for each commercial fishing boat to maximize his/her catch and thereby increase profits. However, like the commons, would the ocean’s fish be doomed to extinction? Is there some happy medium where fishermen can maximize profits while
insuring sustainability? Enter the National Marines Fishery Service.
The Fishery Conservation and Management Act was passed in 1976. This act created the National Marine
Fisheries Service (as part of NOAA) and established a 200 mile fishery conservation zone. Its function
is to insure sustainability in the fishing industry by establishing a fishing capacity reduction program and promoting research on fishery management, thereby insuring sustainability. The NMFS, to insure stability, has put limits/quotas on the amounts of each species that each commercial fishing boat can harvest, much to the chagrin of the fishermen. To no one’s surprise, many fishermen blame the NMFS for reducing their income and forcing their colleagues out of business. But are fishermen really to blame for dwindling fish
In 2012, NOAA allowed commercial fishermen to catch 6,700 metric tons of Cod, 1.1 million pounds of flounder and 9000 metric tons of haddock (2010 figures) in the Gulf of Maine. This translates to 97,643 pounds per day, a considerable amount. Hold that thought.
In the 1960’s, it was estimated that there were approximately 10,000 seals remaining in the Gulf of
Maine, the primary species being Gray(880 pounds), Harp(300 pounds), Hooded(440 pounds) and Harbor(245 pounds). Seal weights are from NOAA. As a result of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, all seals became protected and the population has conservatively increased to 100,000 in the Gulf. The penalty for killing a protected marine mammal is $100,000 and up to 1 year in jail.
A seal can eat up to 8% of its body weight/day. If you multiply 100,000 x .08 x an average weight of 500 lbs, then seals in the Gulf of Maine can consume up to 4 million pounds of fish/day. Considerably more than what fishermen are catching. Even if you take a conservative estimate, and assume the average seal weight is 250 pounds, that figure becomes 2 million pounds of fish per day, still considerably more than
what is allocated to cod, flounder and haddock fisherman.
dramatically in the last couple of years, they’re (sharks) targeting them”.
As a result of protecting seals, fishing stocks are being depleted, sharks are being attracted to family beaches and some fishermen are going out of business. Maybe it’s time to lift the ban on seals as a protected species.