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Making Seafood Sustainable

American Experiences in Global Perspective

By Mansel G. Blackford

Publication Year: 2012

In the spring of 2007, National Geographic warned, "The oceans are in deep blue trouble. From the northernmost reaches of the Greenland Sea to the swirl of the Antarctic Circle, we are gutting our seas of fish." There were legitimate grounds for concern. After increasing more than fourfold between 1950 and 1994, the global wild fish catch reached a plateau and stagnated despite exponential growth in the fishing industry. As numerous scientific reports showed, many fish stocks around the world collapsed, creating a genuine global overfishing crisis.

Making Seafood Sustainable analyzes the ramifications of overfishing for the United States by investigating how fishers, seafood processors, retailers, government officials, and others have worked together to respond to the crisis. Historian Mansel G. Blackford examines how these players took steps to make fishing in some American waters, especially in Alaskan waters, sustainable. Critical to these efforts, Blackford argues, has been government and industry collaboration in formulating and enforcing regulations. What can be learned from these successful experiences? Are they applicable elsewhere? What are the drawbacks? Making Seafood Sustainable addresses these questions and suggests that sustainable seafood management can be made to work. The economic and social costs incurred in achieving sustainable resource usage are significant, but there are ways to mitigate them. More broadly, this study illustrates ways to manage commonly held natural resources around the world—land, water, oil, and so on—in sustainable ways.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Dedication Page

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pp. ix-xii

Born in 1944, I remember clearly the excitement and relief that ran through members of my family on a cold, winter evening in 1952. Then a young boy growing up in a preStarbucks Seattle, I was delighted that my father, who pioneered in the development of Alaska’s king-crab fishery as the captain of the Deep Sea, a combined catcher-processing vessel, was home for several weeks. ...

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pp. 1-8

In 1981, Alaska’s king crab catch collapsed, plummeting by about 80 percent. The harvest in that year came to 28 million pounds, much less than the 130 million pounds in 1980. Spike Walker, a leading fisher, rightly wrote about crabbing in 1981 as “scratchy (poor) fishing.” 1 A bittersweet joke soon made the rounds in bars in Kodiak, Alaska: as a result of the crash in catches, Seattle ...

Part I: Government Regulation

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1. Global Over-Fishing and New Regulatory Regimes

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pp. 11-27

Writing in 1999, boat captain Linda Greenlaw claimed, “Fishermen using only hooks and harpoons could never wipe out any species of fish that reproduce by spawning, such as swordfish. And in seventeen years of swordfishing I have seen no evidence of depletion.” Continuing, she asserted, “U.S. fishermen are not pirates. We are among the most regulated fishermen in the world, ...

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2. Successes and Failures in the Regulation of American Fisheries

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pp. 28-56

Carl Safina has been by far most influential of the writers who have since the 1990s decried over-fishing. After earning a doctorate in ecology from Rutgers University, Safina founded the Living Oceans Program of the National Audubon Society in 1990, serving for the next decade as its vice president for ocean conservation.1 In 2003 he co-founded the Blue Ocean Institute, an organization ...

Part II: The Industry

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3. Salmon Fishing: From Open Access to Limited Entry

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pp. 59-90

In 2008, Alaskan salmon fisher Bert Bender looked back over his thirty years of gillnetting in Cook Inlet, near Anchorage. He noted that “the thought of any commercial fishing in the twenty-first century arouses our fears for the endangered seas.” However, he further observed that, “thanks to our marine biologists and management programs that have existed for many years in ...

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4. King Crabbing: Catch Limits and Price Setting

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pp. 91-121

Returning to her home port of Cordova, Alaska, on 28 April 1976, the king-crab boat Master Carl encountered mechanical problems in the face of a fierce storm featuring waves thirty feet high. Water entered the vessel’s hull as she passed near Montague Island just outside Prince William Sound, and at midnight the ship’s flooded engine died. Tossed by waves, the Master Carl ...

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5. Bottom Fishing: Quotas and Sustainability

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pp. 122-152

When Americans first began fishing in a serious way for sablefish (black cod) and pollock in Alaskan waters in the 1980s, they encountered an unusual problem. In their trawling operations, they caught so many bottom fish that they had great difficulty hauling their nets back to the surface, even with power winches. In fact, several crews found their boats “anchored” to the ...

Part III: Changing the Food Chain

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6. The Companies: Controlling Food Chains

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pp. 155-171

In 2003, Frank Dulcich, Jr., who headed the Pacific Seafood Group, then the fifth-largest supplier of seafood to the American market, expressed concerns to an interviewer about over-fishing. Talking about West Coast processors, he observed, “We’re losing retail and food service business because they [retail outlets for seafood, such as restaurants and grocery stores] want consistent ...

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7. Reaching Consumers: From Processing to Retailing

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pp. 172-200

Faced with localized shortages of desirable species of seafood, the upscale Waterfront Restaurant on Maui reached tying agreements with local fishers. Its owners advertised in 2008 that, “Every day Maui fishermen call Chef Bob to tell him what they’re bringing in, which gives him and his kitchen staff the freshest fish available. Since we are right on Ma’alea Harbor, Chef Bob can ...

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pp. 201-216

In July 2007, David Lethin first took tourists on board his 107-foot king crabber Aleutian Ballard. Lethin had last fished for crabs in the Bering Sea three years before. From the heated comfort of sheltered observation decks on his remodeled vessel, visitors paid $189 apiece for trips to watch Lethin and his crews haul pots of crabs from waters near Ketchikan. The venture was an ...

Appendix: The Top-Ten U.S. Seafood Suppliers, 1999–2006, with Sales

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pp. 217-218

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 219-220


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pp. 221-254

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Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 255-260

This study draws on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, as indicated in the notes for each chapter. In this bibliographic essay, I highlight those sources which have been most valuable to me and which might lead readers into additional avenues of thought. Much remains to be done on the topics of fishers, over-fishing, and seafood chains. ...


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pp. 261-274

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p. 275-275

Few studies in history are truly individual efforts, for nearly all build in part upon the works of earlier scholars. Most historians also depend on the suggestions of others to help them define and clarify their thoughts. I certainly do. I would like to thank William Childs, William B. McCloskey, Jr., and Tom Weeks for their comments on earlier drafts of this work. I would like to thank ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206272
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812243932

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2012