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September 15 2011


Ruling May Jeopardize 'Safe Dolphin' Label

Although the full implications are unclear, the World Trade Organization has decided that American trade rules on tuna are overly restrictive.

June 28 2010


Toxic Mercury Delights More in Seawater, Study Finds

A new study suggests that mercury in saltwater fish like tuna, mackerel and sharks pose more risks to humans than mercury in freshwater fish. Mercury in seawater is more likely to be present in a toxic form, researcher report in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

March 05 2010


Price dynamics harms conservation

Japan says won’t comply with bluefin tuna ban | Reuters.

Bluefin tuna is a highly valued fish worth up to $200-$300 per kg but stocks have depleted rapidly. It is particularly sought-after in Japan, where a single fish can fetch as much a $100,000.

“If worse comes to worst, Japan will have no choice but to lodge its reservations,” Senior Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Masahiko Yamada, was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

I’ve done some fishery dynamics models in the past, and the models mostly reach an equilibrium of stock and effort whereby fishing effort is diminished before stock reaches 0. Interestingly, the models mostly assume constant prices – which is, for want of a better word, stupid.

My previous work on the matter, based on data available from this article, used a rudimentary sensitivity analysis to show that small increases in fishermen’s discount rates were enough to throw the stocks into decline in a heavily regulated setting such as the EU’s fisheries, because effort doesn’t really drop as a result of  lavish subsidies. Price increases, of course, would have the same impact.

A race to the bottom, as long as someone is willing to pay “whatever”. Clearly an intersection between economics, psychology and social norms is at play here.

Punchline: prices may be good for conservation, if the markets function properly, but they can also be bad is they value commodities at ridiculously high prices.

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