Thoughtful reform is unusual. PERC has explained the scope of the environmental and economic benefits that can emerge from amending the structure of a regulatory regime, but logic and evidence are rarely enough to carry the day. Constructive changes in policies often come about in a time of crisis or when there are few special interest groups working to protect an existing structure.
Namibia is something of a backwater. A large country—double the size of California—it has a small population, of just two million. It was long an appendage of South Africa and gained independence only in 1990. As there were few established economic interests, especially in fishing, the slate was clean. Fortunately, as Laura Huggins describes, the result was the adoption of a fisheries policy so amazingly sensible, one might think it was designed by PERC!
Fisheries around the world suffer abuse due to the lack of property rights. The result is environmental destruction and economic waste. In a few instances, when fisheries were in collapse, developed nations were spurred to adopt individual quotas or some other rights-based approach that produced better environmental and economic results. Don Leal and Robert Deacon are premier scholars in this area and we thank them for reviewing this Policy Series.
Unique about Namibia is that a catch share system was adopted in a poor nation with a population consisting of several deeply-rooted tribes. This development shows that market-based reform is not a Western notion that somehow conflicts with traditional values. The lessons from Namibia and other fisheries success stories discussed in this essay illustrate that property rights and environmental protection can happen anywhere.
Fencing Fisheries in Namibia and Beyond is part of the PERC Policy Series of papers on timely environmental topics. This issue was edited by Roger Meiners and designed by Mandy-Scott Bachelier.