The Privatization of the Oceans by Rognvaldur Hannesson
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Rich with detail and provocatively argued, this study of the developmentof property rights in the world's fisheries tells the story of one industry'sevolution and provides a useful illustration of the forces that shape economicinstitutions. The emergence of exclusive individual rights of access in the fishingindustry began after the revolution in the international law of the sea that tookplace in the 1970s, when the offshore area controlled by a nation for fish and otherresources expanded from 3 miles to 200 miles. R?gnvaldur Hannesson compares thesubsequent development of private property rights in the fisheries to the historicenclosures and clearances of common land in England and Scotland and finds manyparallels, including bitter fights over access rights and the impossibility ofaccommodating all those who want to stake a claim. Overall benefit to society in theform of increased efficiency, he points out, does not mean that all benefit equally.After tracing the development of the law of the sea since the sixteenth century, Hannesson considers what form property rights in fisheries might take and examinesthe forces behind the establishment of exclusive use rights to fish. He argues thatone form of exclusive use rights, individual transferable quotas (ITQs), bestpromotes efficiency in the use of fish resources. He presents case studies of ITQdevelopment, ranging from successful establishment in Canada and New Zealand tofailures in Chile and Norway to experiments with ITQs in Iceland and the UnitedStates. The development of economic institutions, he concludes, is an evolutionaryprocess subject to contradictory influences.
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