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New Ideas for World Oceans Day

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Washington, D.C., June 9, 2009—This week the United Nations is observing World Oceans Day. The Competitive Enterprise Institute believes this makes it an appropriate time to think about realistic means of saving the world’s oceanic resources. 

“What often goes ignored is the fact that free market approaches have saved parts of the ocean that government and bureaucrats have driven to the brink of destruction,” says Iain Murray, Director of Projects and Analysis. 

He offers five suggestions that will deliver quick environmental improvement: 

  • Introduce “grow and trade” programs for fisheries.  These programs, also called Individual Transferable Quotas, have seen fish stocks recover and thrive in areas as far apart as Iceland and New Zealand.  They encourage responsible management of fisheries rather than overfishing.
  • Conclude an international agreement to end subsidies for deep-sea fishing.  Research from the environmental organization Oceana has shown that most deep-sea fishing would be uneconomic without these subsidies.  Government action is therefore contributing to environmental degradation.
  • Allow homesteading of ocean resources to create genuine oceanic property rights.  Privately-owned reefs operate well in Japan.  Other areas could also be “homesteaded” and looked after by owners who will use common law means to stop pollution and degradation.
  • President Obama should call for an end to the European Union's Common Fisheries Program, which is a bureaucrat’s dream but an environmentalist’s nightmare.  America can use its restored leadership role to make a genuine difference here.
  • Stop the removal of disused oil rigs, which have become artificial reefs and home to millions of animals, who will die if their habitat is destroyed.

Murray adds, “It is ironic that we talk about the freedom of the seas, but bureaucrats see it as their preserve. We should let the free enterprise system work its wonders to help save the oceans and fisheries, because governments have failed whenever they have tried to do so.” 

The UN has also used World Oceans Day to draw attention again to the problem of piracy.  See here for a proposal by CEI Senior Fellow Eli Lehrer that could help solve that problem. 

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.  For more information about CEI, please visit our website at