X-Message-Number: 21996
From: "Mark Plus" <>
Subject: Julian Simon's fishy extrapolation
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 16:16:42 -0700

On page 104 of Julian Simon's book, _The Ultimate Resource 2_ (1996 
edition), Simon writes:

"Fish crops are not fundamentally different from field crops. Based on a few 
years of data, the Global 2000 Report issued the influential forecast that 
the world fish catch had hit its limit -- 'leveled off in the 1970s at about 
70 million metric tons a year'. But by 1988 the catch had reached 98 million 
tons a year, and it is still rising rapidly.

"No limit to the harvest of wild varieties of seafood is in sight."

Basically Simon's book makes all sorts of naive, unbounded extrapolations 
like this. His "methodology" applied to the growth of the Internet based on 
mid-1990's data would have led to the prediction that 1000% of the world's 
population, or some comparably nonsensical figure, would be online by now.

Meanwhile, back in environmental reality:


Last chance for European cod

16:48 13 June 03

NewScientist.com news service

Cod fishing in northern Europe must be totally abandoned, because fish 
populations are on the brink of collapse, say the scientists who advise the 
European Commission.

Their warning is the strongest warning yet - if fishing does not stop, and 
stay stopped for up to 12 years, the fishery will be destroyed.

The EC issued a rescue plan for the cod stocks in May, and asked the 
International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, based in Copenhagen, 
Denmark, to evaluate it. The plan's key proposal is to reduce the number and 
power of fishing boats fishing the North Sea, Irish Sea, Kattegat and west 
of Scotland, where stocks are most endangered.

But the reply from ICES is blunt - the plan will not work. "While gear 
restrictions in the plan should help the stocks to recover, they are not in 
themselves sufficient to bring about the required increase in cod," ICES 
warns in a statement issued on Friday.

Instead, "cod fisheries should remain closed until a marked increase in 
spawning stock biomass (SSB) becomes evident", it says. The SSB is the 
estimated tonnage of cod old enough to reproduce.

Smallest ever

In research voyages in 2003, ICES discovered that the cod SSB in various 
regions is even lower, by up to 66 per cent, than predictions it made in 
2002 suggested. Furthermore, in the North Sea, the SSB for cod and the 2003 
crop of mature cod is the smallest ever.

Even on the basis of 2002's higher estimates, ICES recommended in October 
that cod fishing in these waters should stop completely. But fearing 
protests from fishermen, the EC proposed only a 65 per cent cut for North 
Sea cod. And in a stormy session in December, EU fisheries ministers reduced 
this cut to 45 per cent.

Now, says ICES chief fisheries adviser Hans Lassen, the fishery may be at 
the point where, like the cod off Newfoundland, even if fishing stops, the 
fish may never come back.

"We cannot guarantee these fisheries have not reached that point. We can 
only stop fishing, and see," Lassen told New Scientist. Even then, it would 
take at least five and possibly 12 years for the population to recover to 
sustainable levels.

European fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler warned the European 
Parliament on Tuesday that new scientific evidence showed the state of cod 
stocks was "catastrophic". He has the power to shut the fishery for six 
months. But even if he does, Europe's fisheries ministers could insist on a 
resumption immediately afterwards.

Debora MacKenzie

Mark Plus

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