18 Regulation 73 (1995)
Fishing for Markets: Regulation and Ocean Farming

handle is hein.journals/rcatorbg18 and id is 259 raw text is: Fishing for
Regulation and Ocean Farming
Michael Markels Jr.

Although three-quarters of the Earth's sur-
face is covered with water, most produc-
tive activities involve exploitation of land
resources. A plan to fertilize the oceans and har-
vest the resulting exploding population of fish
would face more than technical problems. A
political and economic obstacle, the lack of pri-
vate property rights, could be equally daunting.
Ocean farming of the Gulf Stream along the
Atlantic Coast of the United States could increase
that area's phytoplankton, the base of the food
chain, by a factor of about one thousand-to a bil-
lion tons per year by bringing the productivity up to
the level that occurs naturally off the coast of Peru.
That could increase the fish catch by a factor of
400-from 125,000 to 50 million tons per year. At
400 a pound for fish, that would be worth $40 bil-
lion per year. On a sustained basis, such a revolu-
tion in ocean agriculture could provide half a mil-
lion new jobs, revitalize a declining industry, and
generate high-quality protein and industrial fish
meal for domestic consumption and export. The
atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed initially by
the oceans could exceed carbon dioxide production
from the burning of fossil fuels in the United States.
Michael Markels Jr. is the founder of a national
environmental company, Versar Inc., as well as the
founder, president and CEO of a new company,
Ocean Farming Inc., organized to commercialize
his new, patented technology for enhancing the
productivity of the oceans.

All the ocean farming would take place within
America's 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and
all the impact would be within U.S. waters,
assuring that the benefits from the increased fish
production would be reaped by our fishing
industry. The cost (principally for fertilizer) of
the productivity enhancement program is esti-
mated to be about $100 million per year. The
program would provide over $400 million per
year in additional tax revenues at the state and
national levels. When the benefits from ocean
farming have been demonstrated, they can be
applied to the other U.S. coasts and to similar
ocean currents around the world.
But this plan or any similar plan to make use
of the sea's resources would run into a funda-
mental problem. Since the ocean is a commons-
that is, an area not owned by specific individuals
or entrepreneurs-investment by private industry
may not be possible. Some kind of private prop-
erty rights need to be created so that those who
bear the costs of farming can reap the rewards.
The only other option is for the U.S. government,
the owner of the resource, to become the ocean
farmer. This is a role ill suited to government and
the political process-especially under the cur-
rent political climate of cost-cutting and decen-
The earliest history of the human race shows


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