Books  Sustainable Development  Water Resources & Management  Marine Resources & Management 

All the Fish in the Sea: Maximum Sustainable Yield and the Failure of Fisheries Management

By: Carmel Finley

210 pages, b/w photos, b/w figures, b/w maps

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | Sep 2011 | #192157 | ISBN-13: 9780226249667
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £22.50 $28/€25 approx

About this book

Between 1949 and 1955, the State Department pushed for an international fisheries policy grounded in maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The concept is based on a confidence that scientists can predict, theoretically, the largest catch that can be taken from a species' stock over an indefinite period. And while it was modified in 1996 with passage of the Sustained Fisheries Act, MSY is still at the heart of modern American fisheries management. As fish populations continue to crash, however, it is clear that MSY is itself not sustainable. Indeed, the concept has been widely criticized by scientists for ignoring several key factors in fisheries management and has led to the devastating collapse of many fisheries.

Carmel Finley reveals that the fallibility of MSY lies at its very inception - as a tool of government rather than science. The foundational doctrine of the MSY emerged at a time when the US government was using science to promote and transfer Western knowledge and technology, and to ensure that American ships and planes would have free passage through the world's seas and skies. Finley charts the history of US fisheries science using MSY as her focus, and in particular its application to halibut, tuna, and salmon fisheries. Fish populations the world over are threatened, and "All the Fish in the Sea" will help sound warnings of the effect of any management policies divested from science itself.

While its title sounds harmless enough, this book explodes the myths surrounding MSY, which we learn began its career supporting the commercial interests of the U.S. tuna and salmon fisheries against their competitors--long before scientists anywhere knew how to calculate anything resembling maximum sustainable yield. It is fascinating, although it does demonstrate how ignorant we are of the strange origins of what is still a controversial concept. There is a stark lesson to be learned in an era in which a similar new term, 'ecosystem-based fisheries management, ' is bandied about as if people know what it is.--Daniel Pauly, University of British Columbia

--Daniel Pauly

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Carmel Finley teaches in the Department of History at Oregon State University. She is coeditor of "Two Paths toward Sustainable Forests: Public Values in Canada and the United States".

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