Out of Sight and Out of Mind


  • Mike Skladany
  • Ben Belton
  • Rebecca Clausen




Ecology, Political Economy


In the July–August 2003 issue of Monthly Review (titled "Imperialism Now") a number of compelling articles brought into clear focus the rapidly-emerging reconfiguration of U.S. global domination. As John Bellamy Foster noted in his lead essay, "The New Age of Imperialism," the current reshaping of the world under capitalism is indicative of a "systematic reality arising from the very nature of capitalist development." Within this new systematic development, the logic of capitalism penetrates everywhere in its quest to secure new markets and natural resources. This article addresses an important but as yet little examined area of capitalist penetration—the open ocean—and the Bush administration's attempt to privatize this last remaining remnant of common property. The social and economic consequences of such a privatization have yet to be played out, but every indication leads us to anticipate that these will include windfall profits for corporations, slackening environmental regulations, and the relentless externalizing of costs while profits accrue to a handful of oceanic actors, namely oil corporations and fish farmers. Remarkably, the lead federal agency, the Department of Commerce (DOC), is paving the way for these results under a cloak of great secrecy, masking their case for privatization with the disingenuous hyperbole of a seafood trade deficit, "farming the seas," and "feeding the world." Under the auspices of the DOC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has drafted legislation that will allow the ocean waters and bottom lands of the continental shelf to be leased to fish-farming operations, a move that promises to unleash a host of ominous environmental, economic, and social consequences.