Where have all the salmon gone?

If you love to eat King Salmon you probably won't be eating it for awhile. King Salmon populations in Oregon and California have dropped from 775,000 in 2002 to 90,000 in 2007 and the number is expected to drop to 59,000 this year. This is prompting fish and wildlife experts to ban the harvesting of King Salmon for an undetermined amount of time starting in May. Fisherman are not opposing this action and generally support it to allow salmon populations to replenish themselves. Scientists do not know exactly why this is happening but believe it has been caused by cyclical changes in the oceans environment. Because of short term temperature changes the food supply for juvenile salmon swimming to the ocean for the first time in 2005 was significantly decreased possibly causing the salmon population to decrease. Salmon disappearing. So what does this have to do with economics? If you like to eat seafood this problem is going to make your meal more expensive even though King Salmon won't be on the menu. Fishermen will need to make up income somewhere and the most likely thing for them to do is raise the price of the other seafood they catch. With the decrease in supply for King Salmon the demand for other types of salmon will increase and make them more expensive. Don't be shocked the next time you head to a seafood restaurant and your bill is more than you expected. The question that will remain unanswered is how long will this ban on King Salmon be in effect and what will this do to seafood restaurants during this ban?


carter said...

There have been a decline in all wildlife and this has made a lot of people a lot of money, but it has also cost people a lot of money. What is the true cost of the diminishing wildlife?

Lily said...

There are so many costs associated with loss of an entire species. The most pressing cost is people are unable to enjoy this type of salmon anymore. Then the price of similar goods becomes more expensive. Businesses must change and absorb costs. Ecosystems are then disrupted because a link in the food chain is now missing. For example, if there were no more salmon then the water-flies that they eat could become over populated. The water-flies subsequently devour an entire crop of produce. Produce prices rise and the cost of goods related to produce rise until the cycle begins again. It’s a bit extreme but possible.

Jacques said...

The King Salmon is an example of a common good, which is difficult for future quantities to be controlled without some sort of regulation.

I remember reading somewhere about Australian lobster fisheries and their system of limited licensing. While other parts of the world had struggled to maintain thriving lobster populations, Australia, since the introduction of its licensing in the 60's, has had consistently abundant supplies of those tasty crustaceans. This way of moderating consumption makes sense; however, I couldn't tell from the article if King Salmon had this constraint in the first place or if the problem is rooted in ocean conditions alone.

Dr. Tufte said...

Jacques makes an excellent point about licensing.

What I'll add is that population dynamics for top carnivores like salmon are very volatile. I'm not saying this is excusable, but I'd bet that the story about an acute food shortage that isn't likely to be repeated is probably true.