From Readers From Readers

September 1, 2001

Problems with fish quotas

Miriam Wasserman’s article, “The Last Hunting Economy” (Q2 2001) offered an unusually well-balanced perspective on the fishing industry. I do want to emphasize, however, that it is not so much the “quaintness” of fishing communities that may be at risk in management’s move towards ITQs [individual transferable quotas], but their social values.

Many fishermen from Maine, for example, argue that they are better conservationists than most ITQ owners because they want to maintain the industry for their children and grandchildren. Many are in fishing for the lifestyle, not simply the bottom line. In addition, some evidence suggests that despite such benefits as the elimination of “derby” style fisheries, ITQs can exacerbate the “tragedy of the commons.” For example, the high costs of purchasing ITQs can lead to incentives to underreport or take high-grade catches [and dump smaller fish overboard], leading to distortions in biomass estimates and inappropriate quota settings. Some critics also note that because ITQs tend to be associated with large vessels, there is little constraint on where they can fish, and consequently little concern about conserving the habitat of any particular area. Also, privately owned quotas lock owners into the fishery for which they own quota; but stocks of fish tend to rise and fall cyclically, so ideal management would promote flexibility.

Whereas crew members on fishing vessels usually fish for a share of the catch, under ITQ programs, they tend to be hired for set wages that are considerably lower than traditional shares and lack the sense of cooperative venture that a share system generates. The expense of buying ITQs limits the opportunities for young people to enter the industry with the idea of working up to skipper and owner. Ownership relies on access to capital rather than skills and family tradition. In addition, the government cost of administering ITQ programs can be prohibitive.

Rebounding stocks and the collaborative research of scientists and fishermen may eliminate the need to search for the perfect ITQ system, allowing the social traditions, values, and institutions of fishing to evolve, and creating a sustainable industry.

Madeleine Hall-Arber, Anthropologist
Center for Marine Social Sciences
MIT Sea Grant College Program


The cost of veterinary care

It’s worth noting that while “vets now offer many of the expensive medical procedures and remedies available to humans such as chemotherapy, EKGs, and dentistry. . . ” (Observations, Q2 2001), the cost to the animal owner or reimbursement to the veterinarian is NOT comparable. The procedures you list are much more expensive in a human hospital than in a veterinary hospital because human procedures are inflated by insurance and support other services. Vet medicine is a bargain.

Alan M. Beck
Center for the Human-Animal Bond
School of Veterinary Medicine
Purdue University


Building your dream house

Thank you for your article “Building a Home of Your Own” (Q4 2000/Q1 2001). It was accurate, honest, and informative.

My wife and I built our home between 1981 and 1987. We did it all: design, engineering (I am not an engineer), carpentry, electrical, plumbing, roofing, drywall, etc. We hired help to put in the septic tank and a bulldozer to make a foundation hole. I am proud that during the six-year building process we passed every inspection. The only drawback is that we cannot imagine living anywhere else.

I believe we were successful for a number of reasons. I was retired so we were both free to work on the house full-time. Since we had sufficient funds, we never had to deal with banks, mortgages, etc. I had worked on the design for ten years and had planned the house in great detail; the total number of drawings exceeded 100, including everything from formal floor plans to sketches of how a particular detail would be constructed. I also spent over $6,000 on codes, trade books, and journals. Finally, we had no neighbors close enough to object to construction noise.

Saving money should seldom be the goal. One should build one’s home because it will be a challenging, rewarding, and creative experience. If our house disappeared today, we would still have a treasure trove of memories.

Marvin McConoughey
Corvallis, Oregon

  Editors’ note: We would like to clarify the callout on page 23, from the article “Teens in the Workforce” (Q2 2001). Most research suggests that a teen’s chance of getting injured on the job per hour worked is no lower than an adult’s