Friday, September 24, 2010

A perfect example

On Wednesday, when posting about the Land and Water Forum's proposal for a tradable permit system for water rights, I snarked about the fisheries Quota Management System and the way its caps are set by politics rather than science. Over on SciBlogs, Rebecca McLeod has a perfect example of this today. For the past year or so, the government has been considering adding Giant Bladder Kelp to the QMS. There are serious concerns about the effects of widespread kelp harvesting on the marine ecosystem, and large degree of uncertainty about the effects such harvesting would have. Together, these suggest a precautionary approach should be used, at least until there is better data.

So naturally, the Minister has set a limit three times larger than the largest option suggested in the official advice [PDF](which is itself ten times larger than the second largest option - which shows the uncertainty we're dealing with here). He calls this "a cautious approach to management".

Marine scientists are appalled - not to mention wondering why they bother when the science is just ignored. Meanwhile, a handful of kelp harvesters are laughing all the way to the bank. Thanks to the requirement that new quota be allocated on provisional catch history, a handful of existing permit holders (who presently harvest 20 tons a year) will gain a quota windfall of fifty times as much as they catch at present (no, its not a maths error, the difference is due to the SeaLord settlement).

Phil Heatley just made a few people very, very rich. I wonder if they'll repay him? Unfortunately, thanks to our non-transparent electoral donation regime, we'll never know.