«Tim Martindale Thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology of Goldsmiths, University of London, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, ...»
This was a project that can equally be seen as progressive and colonial. The consolidation of the nation-state in the twentieth century and of fishing as a distinctive occupational (rather than traditional) activity led to changes in the place of fishing within the nation and different expectations and living standards amongst fishers. At the same time fishing became perhaps a more self-conscious career choice for young men who felt more able and driven on a boat at sea than in the class room. So the issue of ‘formal’ vs. ‘practical’ knowledge also raise issues of class, education and learning.
The present chapter and the next both concern the management of fisheries. The first examines the CFP and more specifically its quota system, firstly by placing it within its intellectual and political background and then by looking at an example of the system in action through a court-case. Chapter Six considers some examples of how fish producers in Cornwall understand and experience science and regulation, and their narratives highlight contrasts between the way they see/know the environment they work with and a more abstract, top-down managerial view. The European Common Fisheries Policy is an example of state-led managerialism which has received a lot of criticism from the fishing industry, governments and environmentalist organisations for its reductionist, top-down implementation of measures that are incompatible with, or inadequately reflect local conditions, in addition to the objections to ‘horse-trading’ that occurs at the annual round of negotiations between states in Brussels. A reformed CFP is due to come into force in 2013 and regional forms of management (e.g. adapted to particular seas) and participatory governance (with a greater role for input from industry producers) are expected to play a much greater role. However such changes are likely to be slow and piece-meal as one layer of legislature is built upon another and this chapter addresses the experience of Cornish fishers to date. In Chapter Four I identified the emergence of fish producers as a distinctive occupational group and discussed some of the issues around labour, livelihood and class that concern this group. I now turn from the politics of labour to the politics of environment – the most prominent concern affecting this occupational group and also defining its boundaries i.e. in relation to scientists, policy-makers and a broader public. My concern is primarily with the way epistemic differences are articulated; how these reflect occupational boundaries; and how livelihood generates particular experiences and representations of seascapes and marine processes, and whether these can beneficially inform management models.
There is also the broader issue of the political economy of quotas as forms of property rights. As Mansfield argues (2004), current fishing quota systems reflect an enclosure of ocean resources and space that has to be understood not only as an example of neoliberalism but within a particular history of marine resource economics and science which has converged with market economy approaches. How do evolving quota systems interact with the kinds of economic stratification discussed in Chapter Four and with different forms of fisheries organisation, such as firms, household and kin, owners and crew? This is an open question that has not yet been sufficiently addressed by social science research. In Chapter Seven I explore one example of adaptation to the quota system amongst a fishing family.
Fisheries science and management
At the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London, T.H Huxley famously stated, ‘I believe that it may be affirmed with confidence that, in relation to our present modes of fishing, a number of the most important sea fisheries, such as the cod fishery, the herring fishery, and the mackerel fishery, are inexhaustible’ (Huxley 1884: 1-22). There were at the time a number of scientists who disagreed with this belief in infinite abundance, including Professor Lankester who set up the Marine Biological Association. Nevertheless it was not until the 1930s that scientists began to be able to prove that Huxley was in fact incorrect. For example the British government-employed scientist E.S. Russell published a paper on ‘the overfishing problem’ (Russell 1931). During this period scientists such as Russell and others, mainly employed by governments (in Britain by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or ‘MAFF’, now Defra), studied the problem of what would constitute ‘rational fishing’ where as Finley has described how ‘fish stocks and fishermen would be managed together’ (2009). Theories generated by such studies were incorporated into the principle of ‘Maximum Sustained Yield’ (MSY) as an international goal of fisheries management, adopted in 1955 at an international conference at the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) head quarters in Rome.
As Finley identifies, MSY, which has been the most influential principle in fisheries science and management, entailed a number of anthropogenic assumptions such as the ideas that ocean systems were infinitely resilient and that scientists were able to recognise critical points like those of maximum growth from which the highest harvestable yield could be obtained. It also entailed assumptions about fish
behaviour, biology and abundance:
The ocean was seen as essentially unchanging, implying steady states or equilibrium in fish populations. Fishing which was seen as part of the totality mortality that fish faced, played a role in maintaining equilibrium by removing older fish, freeing up resources for young fish that grow faster. If a stock was overharvested, fishing pressure could be relaxed and the stock recovers (Finley 2009) Agricultural metaphors were also extended to the oceans through the language and principles behind MSY – fish could be ‘harvested’, ‘farmed’ and controlled for human benefit. Theories and strategies of resource management were also at this time heavily influenced by mathematical theories derived from problem solving in military contexts. H.R Hulme had developed an equilibrium equation whilst working in RAF operation research, which according to the scientist Sidney Holt (2008), he had first written out whilst sitting on the turret of a tank in Normandy, plotting the distribution of shells and bombs. Whilst in America, George Dantzig refined the mathematics of optimisation through developing linear programming techniques. His ideas came out of his efforts to optimize training and logistical supply services as Mathematical Advisor to the US Air Force Controller in the Pentagon during the Second World War. Smith (1994) has argued that MSY was based on three partial theories published by scientists in the early 1950s: the yield per recruit theory of British scientists Raymond Beverton and Sidney Holt, which aimed to estimate the maximum yield from each age-group of a fish population; the spawner and recruit theory of Canadian William Ricker, estimating the optimum number of spawn in each age-group; and the surplus production theory of the US scientist Milner B.
Schaefer. Schaefer’s bio-economic theory not only assumed that fish populations provided a surplus population that could be harvested and that if the optimum harvestable yield was exceeded, and fishing temporarily ceased, than the fish stocks would recover, he also assumed that markets would ensure that fishing operations would cease for particular stocks as soon as they decreased so much as to become uneconomic. Schaefer’s model was popular with governments as it seemed to prove that restrictions on fishing were unnecessary. However the model assumed that markets were open and did not account for the fact of the huge amounts of government subsidies that would be directed into fishing, or the sociological context in which it was difficult for fishermen to pursue less marketable fish or move into other forms of employment. Finley has argued that MSY may have incorporated scientific theories but in fact was largely driven by policy concerns and never represented a unified scientific theory. Rather it was utilised by governments to maintain the ‘right of individual nations to fish anywhere their technology would allow’ (2009). Some scientists, including some of those scientists that were employed by MAFF, disagreed that attaining a maximum harvestable yield should be the goal of fisheries management. Michael Graham was among those that opposed the MSY consensus at Rome. He was instrumental in the early formation of the fisheries laboratory at Lowestoft and came from a farming background, a Quaker family in Northeast England. His politics and scientific work were infused with a Fabianist belief in the rational, but equitable and conservative, use of natural resources. Neither his objections nor those of one of his protégés, Sidney Holt, made much impact at the 1955 Rome conference.
The Common Fisheries Policy The post-war industrialisation of fishing resulted in a tripling of the world fisheries catch between 1948 and 1968 (Cooper 2002). In a period during which many nations were trying to rationalise their fishing to strengthen their territorial claims, several European countries were keen to maintain their access to the fisheries of the Northeast Atlantic Continental Shelf, the waters around Britain – Europe’s richest fishing grounds. Therefore when the Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, one of the conditions he submitted to was that EEC countries would have access to all members’ fisheries which would be shared as a common-pool resource – only the six mile territorial limit was maintained. Cooper argues that one of the reasons the CFP, has lacked legitimacy and effectiveness is that right from the beginning, it was really only a “bastardised” policy of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The 1952 Treaty of Rome included the products of fishing within the general category of agricultural products and within the same objectives of the CAP: ‘to increase productivity, stabilise markets and ensure security of supply and reasonable prices to the consumer 50. There were no common rules for EC fisheries until 1983 when declines in landings were beginning to suggest that there were too many boats with too much capacity chasing too few fish. Technical measures such as minimum sizes for net meshes were introduced as well as other gear limitations, limitations on fishing effort (mainly through quotas) and reductions to fleet sizes (through http://europa.eu/scadplus/glossary/fisheries_en.htm (accessed July 2010).
decommissioning). The quota system introduced in Europe was that of Total Allowable Quotas (TAC). Quota licenses were given to all existing vessel owners calculated on the basis of their fishing history. A system of finite quota has meant that all new fishing operators need to buy or lease existing quota. Quota gives each vessel owner a right to a certain amount of quota per month for each species. Each nation’s TAC is decided at the annual round of fisheries negotiations in Brussels in theory on the basis of scientific recommendations by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). In Britain the TAC is then allocated to each fishing area (see map, Fig.64) by Defra with the advice of its fisheries science agency Cefas. The quota is allocated to individual members or to local Fish Producer Organisations who allocate the quota to their members. Since 2002, when the CFP underwent reform, the EU (in theory at least) has adopted the Precautionary Principle in setting quota limits. This revised the MSY principle of fisheries management, setting instead harvestable yields that were below safe limits in order to reduce the risk of ‘overfishing’. In 1992, the cod fishery of Newfoundland came to a sudden stop when the fishery failed at the beginning of the season and a moratorium was announced. Over 40,000 people subsequently lost their livelihoods.
This event provided a stimulus for fisheries management reform, and along with the precautionary principle, other concepts like ‘ecosystems based fisheries management’ (EBFM) and ‘co-management’ were introduced with the 2002 CFP reform. The CFP is currently under reform again and we can only as yet speculate, but it seems likely that the EU will follow the example of countries like New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Denmark and Netherlands, and adopt an individual transferable quota system (ITQs). Quotas under this system would continue to be allocated to fishing vessels but they would represent a fully tradable, private asset, shifting the conception of rights in fishing as the property of the state, to the private property of individual vessel owners. As the anthropologist Pálsson has said, using Kopytoff’s (1986) terminology, ‘boats and quotas... now have separate cultural biographies’ (1996: 84). A study of world fisheries trends found that ITQs halved the probability that a fishery would collapse (Costello, Gaines, and Lynham 2008).
However there are also concerns that there is unfairness in the neo-liberal system of ITQs in the way that shares are allocated initially 51, and in the way they play out, tending towards the marginalisation of smaller-scale producers and overall quota concentration (Pope and Symes 2000). The evidence for this trend is a matter of some debate (Hentrich and Salomon 2006), but Pálsson has said of the Icelandic case that, ‘the quota system has instituted a new level of social inequality’ (1996).