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All the Boats on the Ocean: How Government Subsidies Led to Global Overfishing Hardcover – Illustrated, February 15, 2017

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“As the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports, 90% of global fish stocks are fully fished or overfished. Science historian Finley traces that crisis back to the Cold War, when the United States, Japan, the Soviet Union and other seafaring nations deployed fishing to stake territorial claims. From the 1970s on, trawling and government subsidies forced an explosion in the industry. Now, with little reduction in subsidized fleets and oceans at risk, Finley sees the future of fisheries hinging on holistic approaches involving fish, fisher and environment.” -- Barb Kiser ― Nature

“Finley is an engaging writer, weaving together historical, economic, and societal threads in a narrative that anchors global developments in the accounts of local actors. . . . The tension between the priorities and goals of these competing actors forms the essence of the book. Each faction has its victories and defeats, but the fish are the ultimate losers, as evidenced by the decline or collapse of fishery after fishery: California sardines in the 1950s, Pacific ocean perch in the 1970s, bluefin tuna in the early 2000s. . . . The book has many rewards.” ―

All the Boats on the Ocean is the most comprehensive and empirically grounded account yet of how the modern transnational fishery regime emerged, and it delivers in 167 succinct pages. The book works well in economics, fisheries, geography, and history courses—especially global environmental history.” -- Joseph E. Taylor III, Simon Fraser University ― Oregon Historical Quarterly

“Finley makes her point—that government subsidies to deep-sea fishing are a main cause of the current catastrophe—dramatically clear. Her descriptions of the damage that factory trawlers did to the ocean floor and the speed with which they wiped out fisheries in the ’60s and ’70s are especially powerful. Relevant not only to people who are interested in fisheries and oceans, but also to those concerned with global resource crises generally, this interdisciplinary, pragmatic book surpasses most of the work of historians in this area. Synthesizing scientific material with international law and politics, as well as the internal affairs of government agencies and private businesses, Finley links the fisheries story to the ‘great transformation’ of global ecology in the postwar period by way of the technology, policy, and politics of food production. 
All the Boats on the Ocean is a significant, original book.” -- Arthur McEvoy, Southwestern Law School, author of "The Fisherman’s Problem: Ecology and Law in the California Fisheries, 1850-1980"

“In this compact and highly readable book, Finley argues that overfishing since the 1950s is less a tragedy of the commons than a tragedy of the Cold War. She shows how geopolitics, science, law, and greed combined to generate a scramble for the oceans and a regime of overfishing that lasts to this day. A welcome addition to several scholarly literatures.” -- J. R. McNeill, Georgetown University, author of “Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World”

“Those of us who thought we understood how the oceans' plight came about will find much that is new in this thoroughly researched and highly engaging work. Weaving history, politics, and science, Finley shows how the seeds of the current predicament were sown during the Cold War Era, as government subsidies fueled the rapid acceleration of fishing. Her call for a reinterpretation of the role of fishing within government is long overdue.  A must-read.” -- Ellen Pikitch, Stony Brook University

"The book offers a convincing account of the globalization of fishing fleets through new industrial process and government support. . . . These elements should incite us to abandon the endlessly repeated 'tragedy of the commons' as an explanation of the depletion of fishing resources, so that we can look these all-too-human policies in the face." ―
Books and Ideas

"Carmel Finley's extremely dense, highly readable study of the expansion of world fisheries after World War II addresses the problem of overfishing and the associated destruction of aquatic ecologies… By unpacking the political mistakes of the past, Finley calls for lessons to be learned for future management of global fish stocks." ―
NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin (translated from German)

About the Author

Carmel Finley is a newspaper reporter turned historian of science who teaches in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. She is coeditor of Two Paths toward Sustainable Forests: Public Values in Canada and the United States and the author of All the Fish in the Sea: Maximum Sustainable Yield and the Failure of Fisheries Management, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press. She lives in Corvallis, OR.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ University of Chicago Press; Illustrated edition (February 15, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 022644337X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0226443379
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 5 ratings

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I'm a former newspaper reporter turned historian of science. I'm interested in the oceans, the fish that live in them, and how fisheries and fisheries science have developed. All the Fish looks at how foreign policy shaped fisheries science. All the Boats looks at how post-war government subsidies led to over-capitalization and fisheries collapse.

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