The Long-Term Future of Commercial Salmon Harvest

The history of human cultural evolution has seen the replacement of roving bands of hunter-gatherers with agricultural economies, then with industrial-based economies, and now, in developed countries with high agricultural and industrial productivity, the rise of the information-based economy. Fishing for salmon is a throwback to the earliest form of human economic endeavor, which is perhaps why an undeniable romance attaches to it.

But this freedom has always had a cost. Just as the cattle ranchers fenced the west, and put an end to the roving sheepherders, it is time to fence in the fisherman. Their business no longer makes economic sense, at least under the present regulatory scheme. We allow too many fishermen to take too few fish in too inefficient a manner. Many public officials, Oregon’s Roy Hemmingway among them, recognize that the fish farmers are going to drive the commercial salmon harvesters out of business. Since 1994, the dollar value of farmed salmon in Washington state has exceeded the dollar value of harvested salmon.101 The commercial harvesters are fighting back, however, by enlisting environmentalist lawyers to shut down the fish farms as sources of "pollution".

101 S. Doughton, “Farm salmon: an industry in straits”, The News Tribune, Dec. 22, 1996.

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