All the Fish in the Sea: Maximum Sustainable Yield and the Failure of Fisheries Management

Hardcover | September 15, 2011

byCarmel Finley

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Between 1949 and 1955, the State Department pushed for an international fisheries policy grounded in maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The concept is based on a confidence that scientists can predict, theoretically, the largest catch that can be taken from a species’ stock over an indefinite period. And while it was modified in 1996 with passage of the Sustained Fisheries Act, MSY is still at the heart of modern American fisheries management. As fish populations continue to crash, however, it is clear that MSY is itself not sustainable. Indeed, the concept has been widely criticized by scientists for ignoring several key factors in fisheries management and has led to the devastating collapse of many fisheries.
           
Carmel Finley reveals that the fallibility of MSY lies at its very inception—as a tool of government rather than science. The foundational doctrine of the MSY emerged at a time when the US government was using science to promote and transfer Western knowledge and technology, and to ensure that American ships and planes would have free passage through the world’s seas and skies. Finley charts the history of US fisheries science using MSY as her focus, and in particular its application to halibut, tuna, and salmon fisheries. Fish populations the world over are threatened, and All the Fish in the Sea will help sound warnings of the effect of any management policies divested from science itself.

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Between 1949 and 1955, the State Department pushed for an international fisheries policy grounded in maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The concept is based on a confidence that scientists can predict, theoretically, the largest catch that can be taken from a species’ stock over an indefinite period. And while it was modified in 1996 wit...

Carmel Finley teaches in the Department of History at Oregon State University. She is coeditor of Two Paths toward Sustainable Forests: Public Values in Canada and the United States.

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Hardcover|Feb 27 2017

$58.48 online$58.50list price
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:September 15, 2011Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226249662

ISBN - 13:9780226249667

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1          The Quest for Rational Fishing
2          The Confrontation at Bristol Bay
3          The Pacific Fisheries Frontier
4          The Fish War with Japan
5          Shaping Fisheries Science
6          The Line in the Water
7          The Road to Rome
8          The Meeting in Rome
Conclusion: Fishing “Up” to MSY
Notes Index

Editorial Reviews

“The decline and collapse of world fisheries is repeatedly cited as exemplary of the ‘tragedy of the commons’—the dilemma whereby individuals, acting in their own rational, individual self-interest, destroy a common good. Using extensive primary sources, Carmel Finley shows that this view is incorrect, and that the decline of fisheries had little to do with the inadvertent adverse impacts of individual action, and everything to do with deliberate governmental and international policy. Since the end of World War II, the United States has consciously pursued a policy of encouraging more and more and more fishing, a policy that had little to do with the needs or interests of fishermen (much less fish) and everything to do with U.S. strategic and economic interests. Not surprisingly, fishermen and fish suffered the consequences. It was a tragedy, but not of the commons. It was a tragedy of attempted enclosure. This is a very important book, one that no environmentalist can afford to ignore.”