Dartmouth Expert Available to Discuss Dire State of Ocean Fisheries


Nov. 25, 2015

Dartmouth scholar D.G. Webster, an expert in marine policy and environmental governance and economics, is available to discuss the perilous state of the world’s ocean fisheries.

“The oceans are heavily overfished, and the greatest challenges to effective fisheries management are not technical but political and economic,” says Webster.

Her new book, “Beyond the Tragedy,” is an encyclopedic chronicle of the economics, politics and science of fishing from the earliest times, showing how fishermen (and fishing companies) continually exceed ecological and economic limits, often aided by regulators torn between fishing’s economic benefits and environmental costs. But the book also documents recent trends that could help save ocean fisheries if consumers use their buying power to incentivize sustainability.

Cases covered range from whaling, Atlantic cod, Pacific halibut and salmon to tunas of all shapes, sizes and regions, as well as the role of pirates.

“For much of history, the oceans were not much different from the Wild West,” Webster says. “Fishermen were both victims of pirates and engaged in piracy themselves. In Europe, salt cod and pickled herring were valuable plunder and, as able-bodied seamen, fishermen were often conscripted by pirate gangs. Piracy thrived with support from communities on land, but with increasingly devastating military technologies the costs of piracy caused greater public opposition and was finally eliminated in much of the world through the efforts of standing navies and conquest of terrestrial bases.”

More information about “Beyond the Tragedy” is available at The MIT Press.

Webster’s main research interest is feedbacks within global scale social-ecological systems. She is the lead principal investigator on a multi-institutional project called Fishscape: Modeling the Complex Dynamics of the Fishery for Tropical Tunas in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Associate Professor D.G. Webster is available to comment at D.G.Webster@Dartmouth.edu.