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Why Is Fish Scarce, But We Don’t Run Out of Turkeys?

As millions of us prepare to buy a turkey and prepare all the delectable dishes that go along with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, JLF’s Senior Economist, Roy Cordato, poses a fascinating question about why we sometimes see scarcity when it comes to popular fish such as tuna or cod, but there’s always plenty of turkeys to go around:

Many millions of pounds of these fish are harvested each year from the oceans by profit-seeking fishermen. These fish are also destined for an afterlife similar to those of the turkey. And yet, unlike the turkey, we are told that the populations of these and other fish are dwindling dramatically. According to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, over the last 40 years, populations of the Atlantic bluefin tuna have fallen by 72 percent in the eastern Atlantic and 82 percent in the western Atlantic. Governments have put in place aggressive recovery plans meant to stem this tide and hopefully reverse this trend.

So, the question arises, why are we running out of tuna and cod but not turkeys or chickens? Why is it that we can eat all the turkey we want on Thanksgiving and never be concerned about whether there will be enough turkeys available this time next year for our annual feast?

Roy explains that fish and turkeys are harvested for sale in very different institutional and legal settings, with private property rights helping to ensure a plentiful harvest. Read on; it’s really interesting.

 

Donna Martinez / VP of Marketing and Communications

Donna came to the John Locke Foundation in January 2003 after freelance writing for Carolina Journal and contributing to projects for the North Carolina Education Alliance. He...

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