Revisiting Australian Fisheries Economics Part 2

Herewith Bob McDonald’s second post on fisheries economics.

With Australia being the last ‘settled’ continent, the flattest and driest and without reliable streamflow from snow melt it is not outrageous to suggest its fisheries are unique.  Until WW2 Australian commercial fish catches almost entirely came from bays, estuaries, lakes and rivers.  Even the offers of government funded trawlers failed to lure fishermen from these sheltered waters and their reliable catches. By WW2 Australia was changing with rapid population increase, accelerated with industrialisation including the industrialisation of agriculture.

The water quality in these fisheries declined either ending fishing or reducing the reliability of catches to be shared among fewer fishermen.  By the mid 1960’s seawalls and flood gates cut thousands of kilometres of estuarine waterways off in a vain attempt by governments to create agricultural land.  Many more commercial fisheries closed or moved offshore.

Australia has the world’s 3rd largest fishing zone including rich Antarctic and tropical waters and yet one of the world’s very smallest commercial fisheries. Using imported economic and ‘stock assessment models’ these fisheries are, nonetheless, all shown as ‘overfished’ or potentially ‘overfished’. This may be as a result of the modelling used rather than the state of these fisheries.  It may also be a ‘market failure’ in fisheries science where there is to often non-existent or very weak ‘Peer Review’ and significant profits from managing fisheries ‘in trouble’.

‘Cost recovery’ clauses locked in legislation assume that those commercially fishing are the only ones who profit from ‘exploiting marine resources’. The benefits of fishing are shared widely through the economy.  Many others who dispose of sewerage and industrial waste, develop ports in fish habitat and even explore for oil on our behalf also ‘catch fish’ effectively as they ‘exploit’ the same  marine environment.

The recovery of all costs from just the commercial sector that catches the fish – especially when those costs include research on any species deemed by scientists to be impacted by fishing – will inevitably collapse all Australian fisheries. The average license and fee increases of around 100% for 2012, as revealed in a recent Senate Estimates Committee are a clear indication the inability of both managers and scientists to ‘self regulate.

One of the consequences of assuming that only fishing sets the future catches of fish has been that nursery grounds have been given a ‘negative economic value’. Russell Blamey in his paper ‘Valuing Coastal Wetlands’ (1993 Queensland DPI) shows that if the area of functioning fish nursery grounds declines and the numbers of fish also decline the value of the total catch value actually increases.  Under this thesis the reduction of supply increases the landed catch value, demand for less, by an amount greater than what is lost from the reduction of catch volume.  Indeed the rapid increase in the price of fish in Australia – outstripping Europe and the USA – has been as a result of a ‘management induced’ reduction of supply.  Fleet closures and restrictions are done to ‘prevent overfishing’ – assuming that, apart from no habitat impact, all marine species will increase if fishing catches are reduced.

The other consequence of this analysis is that fish habitat is given a ‘negative’ economic value. This is nonsense of course but it is leading to massive compromises of fish habitat. The dredging and redistribution of contaminants of the three most important estuaries of the Great Barrier Reef at Gladstone and the fish nursery habitat destruction planned for poorly designed port development along the Queensland coast is a poignant reminder of the need to revisit fisheries economics.  The long term losses in tourism, commercial and recreational fisheries are unlikely to equal the relatively short term gains.

It was Gosselink, Odum and Pope that first attempted to place an economic value of estuarine wetlands in Louisiana in 1972.  In doing so they attracted the ire of many economists but the economist’s arguments against this valuation, also presented by Blamey, are pretty weak. Of course the production of marshes for ‘shrimps’ used to value these wetlands by GOP is highly variable.  So is the production from pastures for rural industries – but it does not mean it cannot be valued.

Rick Morton in the late 1980’s valued the fish production from mangroves in Morton Bay by simple catch those fish within a known area on the fall of the tide and recording their market value at the time – a value of in excess of $6000 per hectare per annum.  With the increased price of fish this value is likely to have tripled or more making investment by those who catch and eat fish in restiring and managing such habitat profitable – and its destruction a subsidy to those who benefit.

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fxh
fxh
9 years ago

I don’t understand any of this.

rog
rog
9 years ago

The opening up of Hexham swamp has been a priority for local commercial fishermen who remember big catches before the floodgates were installed. After a long hiatus large snapper are now being caught in Port Stephens, which now has several marine parks. So its hard to identify a single contributing factor.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
9 years ago

like fxh, its taking me some time to understand bob’s arguments. Is the following summary correct, Bob, of your main line of thinking?

1. Potentially, Australian coastlines and territorial waters can support a much high sustained fish catch than we have at present.

2. Alternative uses for the prime habitat that generates fish, i.e. estuaries, shallow coasts, wetlands, etc., are leading to much lower fish stocks. These alternative uses include pollution, harbours, flood management, storm defenses, etc.

3. Compared to the estimated value of the alternative uses, the value of more fishing is deemed negative by particular science groups and ministries. This leads to downward pressure on the amount of fish that commercial fisheries are allowed to catch. However, Bob thinks they are wrong and that, if done properly, we would discover that allowing more fishing and re-directing habitat towards fish production would benefit the overall economy.

If true, the key thing to know is why Bob thinks that others are severely under-estimating the value of fishing relative to other uses of the same habitat. He conflates a lot of things together, including tourist fishing and commercial trawling, which would seem to me to be highly competitive with each other.

rog
rog
9 years ago

I think Bob is arguing that penalizing fishermen does not necessarily lead to an increase in fish as their habitat, for breeding etc, also plays an important role. Yet in many areas the environment is being regulated, by EPA, maritime etc in an effort to clean it up.

Commercial fishing was banned in Lake Macquarie and there are plenty of stories about increase in fish numbers. They have also gone to a lot of trouble to get rid of water weeds and clean up storm water. I don’t know if it will ever be returned to its original state but they do appear to have reversed the trend.

However once commercial shipping and exports come into play new rules apply. There’s a big stink in Gladstone harbour with misshapen and diseased fish appearing in large numbers. Commercial fishermen blame the dredging but as no link has been established there is little the fishermen can do.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi folks, stuck with the day job at bity right now but many thanks for the intelligent replies and i am delighted at the awareness of habitat and habitat restoration projects

Now to your issue Nic,

“The recovery of all costs from just the commercial sector that catches the fish – especially when those costs include research on any species deemed by scientists to be impacted by fishing – will inevitably collapse all Australian fisheries.” which you feel is nonsense.

In the Australian Fisheries Act 1993 this is under ‘Full Cost Recovery’. There is no regulation of this part of the act so by attributing ‘fishing as a causal factor’ in any marine environmental problem the research can be funded

The government managers and scientist have interpreted this as any costs deemed to be related to the fishing industry and it environmental impacts, all costs involved in management deemed necessary by the CEO, all costs related to meetings including full payment of scientists and Green Group representatives deemed necessary to be at meetings.

The indirect costs are those borne by fishermen who have to fly/drive from Ceduna, Hobart, Melbourne and Lakes Entrance and ports between to attend meetings in those places Canberra and even Brisbane. In the mid 1990’s the Shark Fishery the meetings of the five committees directly involved in that fishery’s management often took 2-3 days in Canberra. There was an equal number of people employed to manage and scientist for research in the fishery – in the lead up to quota in 2001 -as there were skippers – 60.

Other substantial direct costs for the shark fishery – linked in the senate committee document – include a flagged $300,000 per annum from next year to pay for observers, 24 hour video surveillance and ongoing scientific monitoring by the scientists who allege that fishermen were not reporting over 300 sea lions they killed every 18 months. This is in addition to massive exclusion zones which cut fishing grounds and forced the 4 remaining shark boats in SA to travel further.

Indeed price has been used to rationalise the shark fleet from the outset by combining increasing fees with restrictions as to the amount of net that could be used – that took out 120 shark fishermen by 1993 – and them quota management. This fixes the catch and then income – flake imported from New Zealand a whole lot cheaper – corporate fisheries and low wages – while fees steadily increase. Shark fishermen are price takers. In 1982 it cost less than $500 for a Shark license – now it is in excess of $20,00 per annum plus quota levies paid in advance and non refundable.

So anyway, this in not unique to the shark fishery and is possibly as a result of a market within a market – the market for research and management under full cost recovery.

Contamination from dredging at Gladstone and coincident diseased fish has shut 30 odd fishermen who fished the harbour and increased costs for others who are in the quota based live coral trout fishery who now have to land fish at Yepoon or they die before they go to shore. We will lose fishermen if the dredging goes much longer and it is planned to go for another year. Fishermen say this impacts the market price for all fresh fish in Queensland, consumers and buyers wary of getting any of the well publicised diseased fish from Gladstone. The fishermen there had to close some 600 square kilometres or more when fisheries refused to limit their exposure legally fro people who ate contaminated fish – fish that the fisheries minister said were good to eat. We will lose boats from this fleet .

Fish kills now increasingly frequent in estuarine fisheries from lakes Entrance to the Richmond River in Nthn NSW. This also add costs as fees and bills keep coming and the license fees increase while there is no income etc etc

I hope this, combined with a reading of least part of the proceedings of the Senate Estimates hearing, better explains how cost will inevitably close all Australian commercial fisheries so managed.

By world standards the Australian fleet is tiny. There are (or were 4 years ago) 10,000 commercial fishing boats in Chesapeake Bay in the USA alone. That is far greater than the total ever in Australia.

Remember, when I talk about the southern shark fleet of the original 320 prior to Commonwealth management, full and part time, there are now less than 50 boats fishing with a shrinking capped catch, a shrinking fishing ground, increased pollution events and increasing fees. They pay for a 24 hour phone service and have to ring before they go to sea and before they return and nominate a port they will land the fish at.

I can well understand why you would say ‘this statement is self-evidently nonsense’ – but I put it to you it may be the management I am trying to describe that better fits that description.

Part 3 to go, and then I will do my best to address all comments and queries with references where necessary – on blog and off blog

daybee
daybee
9 years ago

Who is Bob and what is his expertise? Paul’s translation is helpful but I agree (assuming Paul captured what Bob meant) that Bob’s posts leave at least one big question unanswered. This is a bit of an odd series to run at Troppo, but could be interesting if it’s building to something with evidence.

hc
hc
9 years ago

I am lost. I am interested in fisheries and in the drift of Bob’s remarks. Nick, if you had posted the lot in one piece it might make more sense.

There is a lot of bioeconomics stuff on the effects of harvesting one species on the survival potential of another. A big problem of multi-species models of the predator-prey type is their complexity. Anything can happen!

I’ll wait for later posts.

rog
rog
9 years ago

Testing of waters around Gladstone refuted the claim that dredging was contributing to fish disease. The official response was that data indicates that fish were diseased while under stress and the source of that stress was to include increased water flows from inland rivers causing rapid changes in salinity, temperature and food.

In other words, the climate.

john
john
9 years ago

The far south coast of NSW is possibly the least changed part of the east coast. There is less farming than there was 30 years ago and more holiday houses but there are no new big outflows, no big dams, no dredging , no conversions of swamp & mangrove forest and yet fish catches recreational and commercial are nothing like they were when I was young.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

rog – The economic incentive for the Gladstone Ports Corporation it to dredge one regardless , for the government to deny the biggest ongoing fish , turtle and marine disease outbreak from dredging toxic spoil from 40 years of industrialisation is just not happening. Perhaps you could have a look at a report by the only qualified person so far to investigate fish disease. This was presented to the IUCN on the 7th of March. They are considering delisting the Great Barrier Reef from World Heritage- but they do it slowly thank God.

This has nothing to do with climate change unless you can find more qualified opinion than Dr Landos to say otherwise,

Go to this site and look at the films of diseased fish being caught and get Nic to send you that power point sent to the IUCN or email me on parrot@jeack.com.au

http://www.gladstonefishingresearchfund.org.au

I am not against Port Development at all – but it has to be located sensibly and done wit intelligence – Shell has shifted already to floating ports for its LPG.

This port development requires a billion dollars plus subsidy from taxpayers, tourist operators which I think is nonsense – thus writing on an economists blog
The Gladstone ports Corporation calls itself a company but is unlikely to be insured and is taxpayer funded – so taxpayers will puick up the bill it they get sued – or the subsidy if they do not. Same for the fishing fleet – now shut ohjut of the harbour for 4 months with no end in sight. The additional costs of not fishing are threatening to close harbour fishermen and having to take live Coral Trout to Yepoon for a lower price as the fish market sees any Queensland fish as risky.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi John,
I agree the south coast of NSW is pretty nice – I am just about to work there – the los of forests from fire and logging and the the rapidly increasing pollution from badly managed sewerage – have compromised it somewhat. The fisheries closures and restrictions for the commercial fleet have been ‘pre-emptive’ in the case of the commonwealth and for recreational fishing votres by the NSW state. The best place to look for environmental change is the history of the oyster industry, estuary by estuary. I am not saying this development is bad – it is necessary for all of us to drink milk, write on paper, eat meat and have holidays – but when we buy fish or any of these other products we do not pay to manage or restore the habitat relied on.

The best fisheries production – inm ost places by 10 fold – is pre european but we can do what we do a lot better if we put, meaure and monitor the economic value of the natural habitat we need to support that ‘production’. The fish catch is the measure of fisheries productivity more likely – not the factor that determines it

john
john
9 years ago

I take your point about the shifting of all the burden-costs on to a ‘scrape goat’.

However re the South Coast.
Fire frequency is not much different to 50 years ago . Not sure about logging , it is certainly going on- our small local mill alone exports 5-7 BDoubles of firewood to Sydney every week in winter. However on the other hand a lot of state forests are now National Parks and virtually all the privately held areas of good soil were cleared for dairy years ago. Silting up of rivers such as the Bega river is very real but mostly dates to the first 60 years of last century. There is more sewage (and it does cost the growers of Wapengo) but it is mostly not industrial ; it could be called fertilizer.

Relatively large creatures that are long lived, slow breeders and take a long time to reach sexual maturity are vulnerable to a ‘slow extinction’ event; a quit small sustained (for decades) increase in mortality rates , from say 48 per 1000 to 50 per 1000 can result in extinction . The near extinction of the southern albatross is a good exmple .

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

John, the fire frequency on the south coast has increased 3 fold in the last decade – especially in national parks. ‘Ecological burns they call them – other overtime burns. Victoria now how has continual fires. Clear falling the catchments of the southern southern coast has been full bore. Just Google Eartch it. Now, they are moving north. We all need paper – but we more likely do it better if the downsteream impact was taken into account. When its wet the fishing is good, when it is dry its poor. Logging of catchments heavily makes the flows sharper and the low flows last longer. Logged area also release massive amounts of dea leaf litter which accumulate and eutrophies in estuaries when forest are clearfelled. By not relating this economically to fish production there is no economic incentive to improve logging practices – driven by government rather than industry.

Untreated ewerage is not fertiliser – but it can be managed a whole lot better but there needs to be a financial incentive to do it – not just feel good. Shoalhaven shire sell it for farm fertiliser, other shires send it through wetlands – but again without financial incentives and better planning.

The fishing is OK on the south coast but to work out what the actual change has been you need to look at the catch per fisherman decade and work out the change in efficiency of the gear used and then the change of effort per fishermen decade – time spent fishing.

john
john
9 years ago

” the fire frequency on the south coast has increased 3 fold in the last decade – especially in national parks”

I perhaps should have said the frequency of fires intense enough to cause erosion issues.
They do do pattern burning on the Barren Grounds so as for the right habitat mix for that rare parrot (and possibly on Montague ?).
But getting the parks lot to do ecco burns on any scale is not easy!

Generally speaking hazard reduction burns in semi rural areas are hard to sell.

And doing hazard reduction fires in Victorian Mountain Ash type forests would be simply to make it look like ‘we’ are doing something; The only way to exclude catastrophic fires from eucalyptus regnans forests would be to exclude eucalyptus regnans .

As for big fires :
The last big fires in the northern Budawangs were between 2001-3. The Mt Bushwalker area was very hot burnt in about 95. The big area from Quiltys Mt south has not burnt in many decades; it is overrun with senile Hakea and senile tea tree. Mt Buddawang has not burnt in a long time. There were some fires on the south end of Monga above Araluen about 2 years ago but the last really big fires were years ago , possibly 1939.

There have been wild fires in the Clyde valley forests (our town football field had 10 big choppers coming and going for two weeks… fun).
There have been lightning strike wild fires in the very remote areas between here and Badja.

And yes, there are more urban people living in fringe areas where carelessness can start a wild fire and above all the number of fire days: 28C+ and strong NW wind have increased enormously…But a 3 fold increase? Where do you get your figures?

As for the clear felling for wood chips, my father was a fairly senior public servant-barrister back in the 60s & 70s, he once said to me that the contracts for the Eden wood chipping were amongst the worse that this state has ever signed… as far as I know those contracts are still going.

Would guess that being relatively easy to individually count, dolphin numbers on this coast might be a better measure of fish(and squid) stocks ? Are there any figures, going back long enough.

john
john
9 years ago

Sorry Bob I was really trying to clarify whether you are talking about all fish stocks (I.e including long-lived slow breeding deep water fish) or about close-in to shore fish stocks.

rog
rog
9 years ago

Dolphin numbers are hard to determine, they move so fast! There is a resident pod in Port Stephens and from tissue samples they are pretty sure that this pod is genetically different from other pods. There is an annual count and it appears that number are increasing.

rog
rog
9 years ago

It is easy to get swept along with Bobs spiel but it is also easy to understand that large vessels using modern technology and sophisticated nets are able to capture vast numbers of marine animals. Those that do not comply with whatever regulation or licence are chucked back in dead, by-catch they call it. Divers I know say that Port Phillip Bay is like a ploughed field as the scallop fishermen work their trade.

FDB
FDB
9 years ago

“It is easy to get swept along with Bobs spiel”

You think so?

I find it near-illegible, and when I take the time to tease out the meaning it’s a series of poorly defined terms/premises, unsupported assertions, and correlation-as-causation, all in defence of a quixotic and predetermined conclusion that fish catch has no effect on stocks.

I agree that habitat plays a massive role in sustaining fish stocks. That is self-evident really. But at a given level of habitat health, and particularly with certain species and fishing methods, the harvest will just as self-evidently affect stocks.

Also, to blame onshore/inshore human activity (other than fishing) for ecological problems depressing fish stocks is to completely ignore the ecological effects of fishing. The effect of overfishing is not limited to the removal of x number of y species – it’s arguably far more about the “trophic cascade” effects on the ecosystem.

If Bob could be much more specific about what he means (in general), and provide references for some of his specific claims, it would be a big improvement.

fxh
fxh
9 years ago

I still have no idea what all this is about. Would it be possible to summarize the conclusion, arguments and what it is arguing against and for, in say a paragraph or two. Plus some references.

fxh
fxh
9 years ago

Is it about fish in the ocean, fresh water fish, farming fish, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, fish eating fish, birds eating fish, fish breeding grounds, or the end of the world as we know it?

fxh
fxh
9 years ago

In its current form this wouldn’t get on any agenda of any meetings I chair.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi John,
You say;
‘Bob I was really trying to clarify whether you are talking about all fish stocks (I.e including long-lived slow breeding deep water fish) or about close-in to shore fish stocks.’

Bar a few offshore fisheries most of Austraoia’s fisheries were and are – thoug maybe not by value anymore – coastal. The ‘inbetween’ is Orange Roughy which there is only 230t of quota annually for. Ex Austral;ian and US researchers aged thios fish at 26 years from its ear bones – standatrd peractice -n and related it appearence and disappearence to sea temperatures. Toothfish are a southern hemisphere deepwater ‘Cod like fish’

Gor the fisheries that started the dicussion – well they are coastal – rivers esruaries and on the continental shelf.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi Rog, you are right – dolphins are very hard to count- They form huge pods at time – horizon to horizon – and then in a given place go back to being ever present in smaller pods. This underscores the hopelessness of actrually trying to count fish – in my opnion.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Rog you say;

‘ It is easy to get swept along with Bobs spiel but it is also easy to understand that large vessels using modern technology and sophisticated nets are able to capture vast numbers of marine animals. Those that do not comply with whatever regulation or licence are chucked back in dead, by-catch they call it. Divers I know say that Port Phillip Bay is like a ploughed field as the scallop fishermen work their trade.’

Under quota management gear used by boats is deregulated and huge NZ tyrawklers working of the west coast of Tasmania caught more than 50 Australian fur seasl over a copuple of months – from memory – in that late 1990’s. The CSIRO trialing midwater trawls caught dolphins off Flinders Island, and then again off Maria Island. A lot more marine mammals are likely killed by siesmic testing – which i sahre the fault with because we drive cars that use fuel – much like we eat fish.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

fxh,
you say,
still have no idea what all this is about. Would it be possible to summarize the conclusion, arguments and what it is arguing against and for, in say a paragraph or two. Plus some references.

I suggest you look at Menakhem Ben Yam’is website more carefully and read his CV. in summary economics of fish markets and a widely distributed fish population combined with rapid degradation of coastal fish habitat – not fishing -determines the catches in Australian fisheries. Because economists were not involved in analyzing the nature of Australian fisheries and the role economics determines in the species selection – species are selected for commercialisation because they are reliably abundant seasonally or year round – common sense the reference there but economic analyses of the historic markets and the role of price in determining catches would lead to more efficient management.

KImported csience and economics does not apply – in my opinion – so I am trying to make a case for economists to revisit the underlyinmg assumptions of Australian fisheries economics using the wealth of existing data – as yet untapped – and then looking at the appropriateness of the science used – also imported.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

fxh you say,
‘ In its current form this wouldn’t get on any agenda of any meetings I chair.

Herein lies the rub. It may be hard to understan d but the rewards of tackling the problem could be significant – as you may see if the third part is posted.

Others have shown a remarkable ability to come to grips with looking at at the economics of Australian fisheries from a new angle – and see the potential for the research that is needed – research for economists,

Sadly Prof James Kirkley has passed away, but though not in agreement with myself or others he spent time on fishing boats and enagaged thoughtfully over years. I am just tryiong to shift this discussion from the USA to Australia.

For naturalists and others economics is a ‘hard read’ – so I am trying to make natural history and fisheries an easier read – but it still takes effort from all,

john
john
9 years ago

Human hunting has driven many species into extinction and this has happened in very pre-indusrial times and environments.

Australian animals breed at a much slower rate than European, African or American animals of the same size and similar ecological niche, would expect the same applies to fish in our equally ‘low energy’ waters.

Some of our coastal fish are quite long lived.

A common pattern for extinction of longer lived slow breeding animals is a slight increase in the mortality rate for new ‘unestablished breeders’ , a decline in numbers that is barely noticeable because the older already established breeders live for such a long time , this is a process that after decades results in a population were virtually all are very old and then they suddenly all go at once.

The Idea that hunting pressure could not in principle damage breeding stocks is nonsensical.

Alex
Alex
9 years ago

I am also finding this post difficult to follow.
1. The claim that Australian fisheries could be larger. There isn’t much link between size of fisheries zone and the size of the potential catch. It depends on the productivity of the environment.
2. The number of boats doesn’t tell us anything much. What is important is fishing effort which is determined by the size of the boats and the gear.
3. Raw data on costs to the fishers don’t tell us whether license fees are too high, or too low. Most people will pay to catch fish so those exploiting the resource don’t need to be given a great return to keep them doing it at the level that is deemed appropriate. A welfare maximizing license scheme would capture as much of the resource rent as possible for the community. It would, among other things, set the license fee at the level at which the marginal fisher is getting a living wage after cost.
4. Of course you can estimate fish bio-mass.
5. Not quite true that anything can happen with predator prey systems. That’s why we have Lotka -Volterra equations. It is true that they are very delicate and the strong presumption is to err on the side of caution, which of course means on the low side of fisheries harvesting.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi John, you say,

‘Human hunting has driven many species into extinction and this has happened in very pre-indusrial times and environments.

Australian animals breed at a much slower rate than European, African or American animals of the same size and similar ecological niche, would expect the same applies to fish in our equally ‘low energy’ waters. Some of our coastal fish are quite long lived… The Idea that hunting pressure could not in principle damage breeding stocks is nonsensical.’etc

Australian Arctic and tropical territorial waters are among the richest we just barely fish them. for tropics see Stark http://www.goldendolphin.com/WSarticles/Fishy.pdf The loss of American Carrier Pigeons, ascribed to hunting, was due to the entire netting forests loss of habitat essential breeding – many other species.

The species of fish we fish – with few exceptions, are found world wide. Google their scientific names. Their long levity simply means they lay millions of eggs or have dozens of well developed young a whole lot longer. And lastly before fishing can impact species by catch it has to impact a substantial portion of the range of that species by depth or geographically. No Australian fisheries do – for either depth or distribution. Fresh fish fisheries in Australia are tied to the location of the markets for those particular species – nothing to do wuith their geographic range – ie. School sharks tagged in Australia commonly turn up in NZ and visa versa Remember fish species only became commercial because they could be caught reliably and there wwere buyers – a market for them, Gummy shark are $10 + pk in Vic and little more than $3 in NSW – they do not like them. Visas versa for Mulloway and so on.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi Alex, you say,
1. The claim that Australian fisheries could be larger. There isn’t much link between size of fisheries zone and the size of the potential catch. It depends on the productivity of the environment.

The worlds third l;argest fishing zone covering some it is most productive landscaopes withless than 1000 offhsore boats???

2. The number of boats doesn’t tell us anything much. What is important is fishing effort which is determined by the size of the boats and the gear.

With the exceoption of the distant waters vessels – less than 12, the rest are 50-70 fotters with a few larger trawklers – but the trawl fleet is tiny too – less than 100 boat in SE.

3. Raw data on costs to the fishers don’t tell us whether license fees are too high, or too low. Most people will pay to catch fish so those exploiting the resource don’t need to be given a great return to keep them doing it at the level that is deemed appropriate. A welfare maximizing license scheme would capture as much of the resource rent as possible for the community. It would, among other things, set the license fee at the level at which the marginal fisher is getting a living wage after cost.

This is weird. Do you expect fishermen to train for three years at sea, buy a boat and license and quota for 500,000 to $1million offhore and 2 to $300,000 open boats bay and estuary and then fish to catch enough to cover quota and licences annual costs – $25 -300,000 offhsore and 5-10,000 inside annually then they need the same return as any business, Fishermen are not a foreign species of neanderthals who enjoying killing they fish – their bank managers only support profitable businesses. That view which I am sure I misinterpreted would be racist nonsense. And then who is going to catch fish commercially so you can eat them or your Mum?

4. Of course you can estimate fish bio-mass.
First you have to know their range in depth and geographically relative to the fishery. Not a single modeled bimomass in Austraklia has anerror of less than 25% ( being generous)and for many with committee guesed catch rate the arror is infinite. I have a reference fro Ric Dersio’s review of school shark fishery if you like – email address is up.

5. If you do not know the range of the fish spatially otr geographically and you do not take into account predation from birds and and mammals how can Australoian commercial fisheries be significant? Or put another way there are over 100,000 Bass Strait fur seals in bass strait that consume 2.5t of the same species of fish landed – around the same size and their population is growing. The maximum bass strait landed catch recorded and with quota TAC – not necessarily caught – was no less than 40,000t. That is without dolphins, whales and seabirds – so there is no likely predator impact fromAustralian SE or any other fisheries . Can provide any refs you like ioff list. my specialty

john
john
9 years ago

Feel like I am reading a variation on climate/tobacco and so on denial.
See You later

john
john
9 years ago

Ps fur seals numbers are linked to prey numbers , seals cannot switch to eating ‘hamburgers’ when prey numbers drop ; humans (the most mobile of all creatures) can and have done so for at least 50 thousand years with often devastating consequences.

All animals in Australia including quite recent placental arrivals such as the broad tooth rat bread at much slower rates than elsewhere . Phosphate and nitrogen levels in almost all Australian soils are very low, the energy in runoffs from the land mass must be very low compared to elsewhere.
Tropical waters are mostly not rich environments , they do not have the big up-swellings of nutrients that the southern oceans have.

so on and so on

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi John,
a bit off topic here – but if what you say on Australian mammals is true than why dio we have to shoot 2-3 million kangaroos annually?. Its a habitat issue – just like with fish. Lots of roo habitat – little broad tooth rat habitat and so ‘production’, especially with recent ‘pyriomania’.Walter Stark, if you reed the reference provided, compared the catches on ecologically equivalent Tropical Reefs and Australia land less than 20kg per sq k pa compared to Indonesia and other countries who land well over 1000 kg per square k.

Hamburgers comes from beef grown on land that has to be cleared of -all native species just about – fenced, fertilised etc, Soy beeen and wheat crops are worse and the chemicals from these farms compromise river and estuarine and marine fish production – so you and i can eat hamburgers.

Trawling – the most demonised fishery, changes the seafloor, clears the smaller rocks and crushed shellfish and breaks up lots of living things – which attracts fish which are thenm the trawl catch. The area worked in a fraction of 1% of the toal cleared and grazed land in Australia – no chemicals and no introduced species.

Indeed it may be far more economically efficient and environmentally benign and use way less carbon than sourcing protein from the oceans rather than the land – another study screaming for an objective hard nosed economist.

FDB
FDB
9 years ago

Walter Stark, if you reed the reference provided, compared the catches on ecologically equivalent Tropical Reefs and Australia land less than 20kg per sq k pa compared to Indonesia and other countries who land well over 1000 kg per square k.

1) Is this disparity solely due to regulation of our reef fisheries, or might it bear out precisely what John said about productive capacity?

2) No, it’s not “off-topic”. You want to make the argument solely about economics (your alleged area of expertise) and denigrate the work of marine biologists and other real scientists, but you will not be allowed to. Suck it up.

3) Have you had a dive on any of those Indo reefs where they fish a tonne per square k? Have you compared the ecological health (i.e. biodiversity) with our tropical reefs?

Trawling – the most demonised fishery, changes the seafloor, clears the smaller rocks and crushed shellfish and breaks up lots of living things – which attracts fish which are thenm the trawl catch.

Only a “hard-nosed” (I hesitate, but only momentarily, to add feeble-minded) economist could bring the concept of creative destruction into marine ecology. You’re probably better off pretending the sciences of marine biology and ecology don’t exist, or are somehow less rigorous than economics, than flinging out howlers like that.

What a substantial and important contribution you are making.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

2, Not all marine biologists think all species stocks are regulated by commercial fishing alone or at all. The majority do because the ‘market’ for marine biologists, especially with governments that make money from taxing fisheries and votes from closing them is for those tht ‘believe’ in overfishing. I am not blaming anyone – just highlighting a market reality as I see it.

Similarly national and international environment groups sell memberships by attacking commercial fishing and create Marine No Take Zones – but like the Great Barrier Reef, they offer no protection from pollution.

Re –trawling surely the ‘destruction of seafloor’ as you see it – has to be compared to other things that also destroy the seafloor around the Australian coast. We we flush the toilet in Melbourne and other cities the sewerage mixes with industrial waste and where it flows to the sea it keeps a portion of the seafloor dead. Off the Mississippi delta there is one of the world’s largest ‘dead zones’ –due the accumulation of waste and nutrients from that massive catchment in the Gulf of Mexico.

The open cut mines in Australia, dug so we have an economy and the metals we use everyday cover an area far greater than trawling and within coastal catchments likely have a greater impact. Trawling is the most economically efficient way to catch fish and as trawl grounds around the world have sustained fisheries for up to 50 years the problem appears to be emotional rather than factual. That emotion generates $millions annually for marine environment groups.

Alex
Alex
9 years ago

Hello Bob,

Thanks.

1. You are right if Australia also has one of the world’s most productive seascapes. Do we know this? I got the impression while living in Scotland that the biomasses etc etc were much larger in the North sea because of the amount of nutrient in the water and so on – all this only causal of course but I guess the case would need to be established.

2. I was again thinking of my observation of the North Sea fishery. The fishers told me that the boats were getting bigger but more important the motors larger, the GPS systems better and the weather forecasts better. This is what my amateur fishing friends in New Zealand and here tell me.

3. I grew up in a fishing family and have watched a few fisheries wiped out by over exploitation -hence my amateur interest.
For me the question on any of these issues is always this (it could be iron ore or fish or timber or even the produce from land. It doesn’t):
(a) Suppose we have a resource that is collectively owned and we decide that having x of it harvested will be of collective benefit; Then
(b) What needs to be determined is the best way of achieving this in order to maximizes total welfare (not just that of fishers or farmers or miners or loggers etc)? This made up of rents to society and returns to fisher people including their utility values from fishing (I have, for example argued for breaking up the Tasmanian abalone industry to support a larger number of divers and their local communities). I don’t believe, for example that farmers or fishers are a special case and should be allowed to continue if their activities are destructive. Nor should they be subsidised because they enjoy fishing any more than café owners should be subsidised because they enjoy making coffee.

Other people might have a different view of the world, but if your model is not based on maximizing welfare then the basis of your argument becomes unclear.

4. I suspect that the worse your estimates become the lower the allowable catch should be if you value the continued existence of the species and all the unknown affects you get from removing anything from the system.

5. It all depends on tipping points (or bifurcations and singularities) and such like. Most dynamic models (which I do know a bit about) of these things can become very sensitive and switch from growth to collapse with small changes. I think this probably underlies some of the crashes we have seen – Newfoundland, Peru etc etc but haven’t studied it.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

Hi Alex, it is a matter of scale. There are less than 400 Australian fishing boats now fishing in Commonwealth waters – the combines size of the European fishing zone and then some. Most of these boats are 50 -60 feet long.

Perhaps you can help me here – have you ever found a paper that has compared a fished and not fished area with a control to establish the impact of fishing? I have not – but would be keen to see it

A finally found a link to that Power Point Presentation by Dr Matt Landos which highlights present and future issues other than fishing that need to be dealt with.

http://media.crikey.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Status-GBR-WH-Area-Gladstone-M-Landos-030312.pdf

One of the academic myths about commercial fisheries is that fishermen just fish to kill fish and the more they fish the more fish they catch the more money they nmake. The most successful fishermen in a given fleet fish the least, at the most optimal time for fishing and the market and present the fish in the best condition to get the highest price at the market.

Did you ever think of other possible cause for the declines in fish production you observed and heard about? Did you ever discover where the fish nursery areas were for those species and check their condition?

Prof Bob Kearney, a previous board member of AFMA and a great believer in overfishing, nonetheless once referred to pollution as another ‘catch of fish’.
Is the pollution catch on those fishing grounds you speak of growing faster than the fishing fleet?

FDB
FDB
9 years ago

…Power Point Presentation by Dr Matt Landos which highlights present and future issues other than fishing that need to be dealt with.

Bob, nobody is disputing that there are many non-fishing factors which can and do affect stocks. To do so would be lunacy – it’s bone-jarringly obvious.

You however are (or seem to be) denying that overfishing is possible. That it has ever occurred, or could even in theory occur. You have not made any case whatsoever for this.

Additionally, in your argument you are using the impossibility of overfishing as a premise to lead us to your conclusion – that overfishing is not possible. That’s about as fallacious as it’s possible to get.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald
9 years ago

FDB, again it is a matter of scale. In Australia, with the current fishing industry, 350 odd bopats in all of Commonwealth waters and its multitude of restrictions it is impossible – logically,it is impossible. We likely got there a while ago. But because of the way fisheries are managed, for catch, we have no academic way of knowing the is used by any government. All downturns in catch are attributed to overfishing – all increases to fishing restrictions.

By underestimating – indeed failing to identify – the wide range of industries that are profiting from polluting the coastl;ine and rivers and destroying fish nursery areas and breeding habita, by not relating streamflow to fish production and ignoring the wealth of research and dat that does – we are creating economically unsustainable subsidies.

we can argue about the environmental impact of Gladstone Harbour – but the international bad publicity means that it is now costing way more in lost tourism recreational and commercial fish sales than what it is worth.

he reason is not mining nor port development per say – it is bad design. The reason it is badly designed is – in my opinion – a lack of economic analysis and hard nosed rational economic policy.

If companies weant fuel subsidies, tax subsidies and tax cuts on their income then they need to better design solutions. Shell does. It designed floating offshore platforms to both process and ship gas.

A QUANGO called the Port Of Gladstone Corporation – a companies guaranteed and insured by taxpayers – is ‘profiting’ from using their government status and political influence – to do the cheapest nastiest development on public land – Curtis Island – the second biggest island in Queensland. One clearly to me worth far more for tourism than as an industrial estate. it thousand of hecatres of mangroves and seagrass – muc of which is being landfilled wirth more for fish production than industrial rents which will probably be subsidised too.

Xtrata are have also been sent up there by the bureaucrats and will not doubt get federal approval from bureaucrats wanting performance bonuses – but they are nervous as are the pre-exting industries including aluminum. They may lose that portion of their share value that relates to ethical investment and as company they may – if this mess continues – be on the recieving end of the same share value bad publicity.

Economist have the choice of the science they use – i am just asking economists to chose better science – not just the science that a poorl;y regulated science market churns out. How much of the biology that has been used in this argument to date has been peer reviewed – by peers in no way linked to the science?

I hate subsidies – they distort the market.

Bruce White
Bruce White
9 years ago

Hmmmmmmmmmm – looking at overfishing:

– In the overall context of natural and other causes for mortality of fish from egg to natural death; (yes fish do die of old age – laughable I know) fishing would be an effect so minor so as to question if it had any significant contribution at all.

It the context of set catch limits (quota); the term “overfishing” or “fully fished” are common place.

The question is: how does the more common reference to “overfishing” relate to “overfishing” within the overall context?