Herring and Class Struggle

Capitalism came late to Iceland. At the end of the 19th century this large, wind-swept, thinly populated island was made up of small towns, farms and seasonal fishing stations. Then European capitalists saw another Klondike in the herring-rich waters of the north Atlantic..

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Two books that swim against the tide

I have written an article reviewing two books in the latest issue of International Socialism Journal which deal with the crises of modern fisheries and the lives of fishers around the world. These are Fishers and Plunderers: Theft, Slavery and Violence at Sea by Alistair Couper, Hance D Smith and Bruno Ciceri, (Pluto Press 2015), and Tragedy of the Commodity: Oceans, Fisheries and Aquaculture by Stefano B Longo, Rebecca Clausen and Brett Clark (Rutgers University Press, 2015).
Human activity has pushed the world’s oceans into crisis from overfishing, pollution and warming water linked to climate change—and if nothing is done about it the results will be catastrophic for marine systems and the billions of humans who rely on them. The World Wildlife Fund’s 2015 Living Blue Planet Report: Species, Habitats and Human Wellbeing clearly shows that in just over 40 years, marine vertebrate populations have declined by 49 percent. These vertebrates include all our favourite dinner fish such as cod, haddock, salmon and tuna while a quarter of shark, ray and skate species are now threatened by extinction, mostly due to overfishing and environmental degradation. 
At the same time fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations. Even in advanced capitalist countries such as the United States, with theoretically stringent safety rules and equipment, fishers are 25 times more likely to die at work than the national all-worker fatal injury rate.
Fishers and Plunderers and The Tragedy of the Commodity are part of the contested solutions offered to this crisis and they complement each other in that they centre on powerful, fragile marine ecosystems and the ordinary people who live by working them. Both books recognise capitalism’s drive for profit and the commodification of every aspect of fishing as part of the problem and argue that the solutions arrived at have only exacerbated the problems of overfishing and environmental degradation.
Find the rest of the article at here or at isj.org.uk

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