Archive for January, 2011

Old Nursie loves a fish super does nursie cow. But sat in the pasture oi mostly worries too much about lovely fishies in the sea and mostly just avoids it. (Well unless it’s American crayfish from the brook down’t bottom o’ the field, oi can eats them all day.. crazy breeders are ruining our rivers).

Now oi  ‘aint seen much o’ the fish foight. What oi ‘ave seen is friends in the old interwebsphere getting rather hot under their collars. And I aint going to make excusings fer politicians an’ that. But from what oi can tell there ain’t much explainin’ goin’ on o’ just how ‘ard it is to manage a wild resource loik a fishery.. ‘specially fisheries.

By-catch is a terrible waste and a shame. No, more, it is a tragedy, as it would also be if the fishing communities o’ the world lost their livelihoods. Wait that is an understatement, it is not just their livelihoods but their culture, communities and sense of identity. There are no winners. And old Hugh is right there. But old nursie’s friends seem to be coming away with the idea that it is only caused by laziness or stupidity or a lack of care. I won’t lionize them as manage our fisheries but I will take a moment to explain why the problems we face are because of the difficulty of the problem, not idiocy or complacency or even a lack of care.

We can begin by thinking in term of incentives. It is a useful simplification to assume the fisherman’s incentive is to make money. He will therefore react to the system of management so as to make the most money he can. Given that he don’t own the whole fishery and is likely only one boat in the fishing fleet he can’t protect the fish all by himself.

Now perhaps we could best manage fishing by reducing the time they spend out there. Well in that case yer fisherman heads out in an enormous hoover and sucks up what he can, boats get ever bigger, they get smaller boats to ferry the catch back whilst they are out. Perhaps we could set limits on boat gear and instead they take out hundreds of smaller boats. Perhaps we limit boats and they develop new gear what can pull the fish up quicker. And perhaps we think some complicated mixture is right, well it would be very hard to get legislation flexible enough to chase around the fisherman’s reaction to controls. Down this route madness may lie.

The only solution to bycatch suggested on the fish fight website may well be a very good one. But it aint perfect neither. It will be complex to implement and sufficient protection is never certain. The fish fight website mentions the solution suggested by “Client Earth”. They suggest a credits system (being tried in Iceland) where the fisherman is given a number of (catch) credits rather than species quotas. Different fish use up different numbers of these credits depending upon the degree of protection they require. So it would take more credits to land a tonne of Cod than a tonne of mackerel. But the fisherman can land whatever species he gets onboard up to his total credit limit. The credit system has to assume that it can legislate against and police something called High Grading. Now the fisherman wants to make the most he can with each trip. Even if the credits are balanced such that you get lots of credits for cheaper fish, the incentive on a single trip is to get the largest profit. This means that if I were a fisherman I would try to chuck anything cheap overboard and use all my credits up on low volume high value fish. If I can make all of my money in a few boat trips why would I spend all of my credits on lots and lots of trips catching cheap fish? So Cod gets hammered and the cheaper fish become bycatch. For the system to really work the fishermen should land all they catch. This might have to be enforced with CCTV on boats and significant fines. Also the credit system has to deal with both price and rareness. Where this new system begins to threaten livelihoods further the incentive for government is to place too much air into system. Meaning that they may give out too many credits to protect jobs. The overall impact is as yet uncertain. Despite that Old Nursie supports movements like this towards better management. She just knows that most improvements can only come painfully and frighteningly slow even where the political will is there.

Nursie worries that the public’s understanding (based on conversations with non-specialist viewers) is that this could all be fixed overnight. It further undermines trust in specialists and experts and politicians in a manner which may not be helpful. Just a little more, perhaps boring, explanation might o’ been useful. The bit Nursie saw o’ Hugh’s presentation reminds Nursie of criticisms made of journalists embedded with troops. That they get too close. Perhaps Hugh got a little too close to the fishermen and didn’t want to say anythin’ that hinted they might be a part o’ the problem too. Nursie don’t blame the fishermen, it ain’t never worth playing those games with environmental issues. The blame is almost always everyone’s to share, if not through misdeed by complacency.

At this point we have only touched on the barest crumb on the top of the iceberg of complexities involved in fisheries. You’re trying to manage an invisible resource, fished by many different companies in many different countries fishing lots of different species in a fluctuating market. Ya got fiendishly difficult: ecological problems, management problems, enforcement problems, political problems and economic problems.

Old Nursie ain’t one fer a foight loike Hugh. An’ maybe it is easiest ta rev’ up the public, rather than bore them wi’ the full story, so their shoutin’ stiffens political backbones. But Nursie it seems ain’t the only person who feels loike this.


Dare is one simple solution. But oim not so sure that we gots the stomach fer it no more. Well nursie does. Nursie’s got four lovely stomachs an’ that should be enough fer anyone. But humans, humans won’t loik it. Fer once upon a toime privateering was a respectable profession loike that Francis Drake godrestissoul. Now them Somali Poirates are froightenen and not at all funny. But the fish out in the Indian Ocean ain’t half benefitting from the protections o’ all there menacin’. http://www.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2009-01-26-voa51-68761347.html

If British fishermen fancied a sloight change in maritime career they could stay employed, protect the fish and the British would be knee deep in German cars, French Champagne Belgian Chocolate an’ whatever else comes passin’ through the channel. P’raps not eh. Back to the drawin’ board then, let’s see if we can’t puzzle this one owt.

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I walk past an electrical store on the way to work. A pretty standard store, selling light bulbs, kettles etc. The sort of store that isn’t bothered about the environment – they don’t seem to think much of environmental concerns, when the EU announced phase-out of inefficient incandescent bulbs in 2009, they were…er… incandescent with rage, judging by the outraged posters they lined their shop window with.

Anyway, I went in to buy a bulb (long-life energy efficient of course) last week. Guess what, they’re sold out. Now this might be because sales are so slow that they haven’t re-stocked, but given the shelf space made available for these bulbs, I don’t think that’s the case. More likely its an example of a new economic opportunity offered by climate change, that this retailer isn’t awake to – when will the metaphorical light bulb switch on?

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