Now we can add fish to our list of fake food.
This slice of salmon was never near the ocean. Plant-based, it comes from an Israeli startup venture:
Like WTO (World Trade Organization) subsidy negotiations, vegan salmon could reduce our overfishing problem.
The Washington Post tells us that salmon migration shifted last year. Alaska’s Yukon River had a tenth of its chum salmon while sockeye salmon numbers were spiking in Bristol Bay. Located 400 miles from each other, the two bodies of water could be experiencing the consequences of North Pacific water temperature changes that affect migration and mortality. As a result, scientists are now studying salmon samples and ocean conditions. They hope to collect the data that will tell them the impact of global warming on the salmon population.
Meanwhile, the WTO is attacking the problem from a different direction. For them, the issue is subsidies. Governments give the fishing industry money that reduces the cost of production. Fuel subsidies, for example, let countries replace depleted local waters with far-off fisheries. The result is “too many boats chasing too few fish.”
As economists, we can display the impact of a subsidy through a supply curve that shifts to the right. One result is more quantity demanded:
All of this takes us to an Israeli startup company and vegan salmon. They say that they can use 3D printing technology to produce fish that are visually and nutritionally equal to real salmon and taste the same too. They expect to launch commercially during 2024.
Our Bottom Line: The Tragedy of the Commons
This is where the tragedy of the commons enters the picture. Whether looking at air pollution, an overgrazed pasture or overfishing, people have the incentive to abuse publicly shared resources. Privately benefiting from our behavior, we tend to ignore the impact of everyone using the resource together. The result is a tragedy of the commons.
Vegan salmon and subsidy reductions are just two of several overfishing initiatives targeting the tragedy of the commons. Happily, also, they would increase the food security of lower income countries that depend on fish.
My sources and more: Thanks to my friend Bruce for introducing me to vegan salmon. From there, these articles, here and here, on real salmon, were the perfect complements. And finally, this report on China’s fishery subsidies completes the picture. Please note that several sentences about the tragedy of the commons were in a previous econlife post.