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There is now widespread agreement that fish stocks are severely depleted and fishing activity must be limited. At the same time, the promise of the green economy appears to offer profitable new opportunities for a sustainable seafood industry. What do these seemingly contradictory ideas of natural limits and green growth mean in practice? What do they tell us more generally about current transformations to the way nature is valued and managed? And who suffers and who benefits from these new ecological arrangements? Far from abstract policy considerations, Patrick Bresnihan shows how new approaches to environmental management are transforming the fisheries and generating novel forms of exclusion in the process.
Transforming the Fisheries examines how scientific, economic, and regulatory responses to the problem of overfishing have changed over the past twenty years. Based on fieldwork in a commercial fishing port in Ireland, Bresnihan weaves together ethnography, science, history, and social theory to explore the changing relationships between knowledge, nature, and the market. For Bresnihan, many of the key concepts that govern contemporary environmental thinking – such as scarcity, sustainability, the commons, and enclosure – should be reconsidered in light of the collapse of global fish stocks and the different ways this problem is being addressed. Only by considering these concepts anew can we begin to reinvent the ecological commons we need for the future.
Patrick Bresnihan currently works as a researcher for the National Economic and Social Council in Dublin, Ireland.
"Eloquently written, deeply researched, deftly argued. This is a brilliant, critical reappraisal of capitalism's relationship with the sea and should be read by anyone concerned with environmental crisis more generally."
– Christian Parenti, assistant professor of liberal studies at New York University and author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence
"A gracefully written and analytically powerful account of the crisis of European fisheries. Bresnihan's Transforming the Fisheries ranks among the most insightful of a new wave of political ecology, ably weaving together work, power, and capital. It is must reading for anyone concerned about ecological crisis and global capitalism."
– Jason W. Moore, associate professor at Binghamton University and author of Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital
"Transforming the Fisheries is a milestone in current debates on the commons. It not only offers an insightful discussion of the many radically divergent approaches to the commons and their complex relations to politics, but also provides a framework for rethinking and expanding the commons beyond its intense liberal and humanist entanglements. It introduces an understanding of the commons as a shared practice of socio-material experimentation."
– Dimitris Papadopoulos, associate professor at Leicester University and coauthor of Escape Routes: Control and Subversion in the Twenty-First Century