Economic Overview

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Many people and industries depend on fisheries as a means of livlihood and as a food source. When a fishery goes under, it effects a long chain of people. Currently no system of fisheries management has been able to sustain every aspect of the fisheries. There has already been substantial damage to many economies that depend on this natural resource.

The price of fish is still relatively low. Why is the price not reflecting the fact that the supply of fish is diminishing? The fact is the price of fish is rising at a faster level than that of beef and chicken, but if the price surpasses that of cheaper meats people will turn to substitute foods. This is one reason the price of fish is low. Other resons the price is kept in check is because overfishing is still occuring. This means that fish are being supplied at the expense of the fishery. Eventually the supply of fish will dwindle to a point so low that it will cause the fishery to crash.

Currently the cost of running a fishery is much higher than the total revenue of the catch from the fishery. How is it possible then that fishers are able to stay in the business and live from year to year when they are not covering the cost of running their boat? They are able to stay in business because government gives them a crutch in the form of subsidies. These subsidies cover the difference between the total revenue and the total cost of running their boat. These subsidies are keeping fishers in the business that would have been driven out normally. The government's motivation is to preserve employment, but they are doing it at the expence of the fishery. "Even the U.N. now acknowledges that by enticing too many participants, high levels of subsidy generate severe economic and environmental hardship." (Safina 1995)

Over capitalization has also proven to be a huge problem for fisheries. It has been said that if the number of boats decreases the catch would remain the same and profits would increase.(Safina 1995) The reason this seems so simple is because people cannot merely "ditch" their boats . Since there are too many boats in the water profitability is low, this in turn decreases the value of the ships. If these boats were sold it would mean a huge economic loss to the owner. Therefore they are forced to continue fishing to cover the cost of the boat. The fishers are trapped, it is not profitable for them to keep fishing, yet they do not have any way out.

Economic perspective of case studies:
The Chesapeake Bay Fisheries,
The Alaskan Salmon fisheries
The Massachusetts groundfisheries

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