The world’s fisheries face severe decline. Because many of the world’s ocean resources are not “owned,” they tend to be overexploited—as everyone attempts to fish out of the ocean as much as possible before competitors can consume the resources. Several governments actively subsidize such destructive practices in attempts to protect traditional fishing industries. However, where genuine, tradable rights have been assigned to ocean resources (as in New Zealand), owners of these rights help ensure long-term conservation and at the same time increase their profitability. Meanwhile, where those rights are bureaucratically controlled, as with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “catch share” program, fishermen have instead suffered needlessly.
Similarly, private establishment and ownership of artificial reefs have helped preserve habitats, while government attempts to create artificial reefs have been catastrophic failures. Many of these man-made structures provide critical habitat and ensure plentiful fish supplies.