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Encounters Old and New in World HistoryEssays Inspired by Jerry H. Bentley$
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Alan Karras and Laura J. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824865917

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824865917.001.0001

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Who Owns the Fish in the Sea?

Who Owns the Fish in the Sea?

The Dukes of Medina Sidonia and Spain’s Tuna Fisheries

Chapter:
(p.78) Six Who Owns the Fish in the Sea?
Source:
Encounters Old and New in World History
Author(s):

Carla Rahn Phillips

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824865917.003.0007

From the fourteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, the ducal house of Medina Sidonia held exclusive rights to fish for Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in south-western Spain. Framed by recent theories about the privatization of access to natural resources, this essay explores the history of successive royal grants to the house of Medina Sidonia. It then examines statistical evidence for the tuna catch over the long term, especially in the late sixteenth century, when the annual catch reached a peak and then suddenly declined. The ducal house may have contributed to that decline by overfishing. During the long term, however, ducal control may unintentionally have aided in the conservation of tuna stocks in times of population pressure, both by not fully exploiting their exclusive rights to fish, and by preventing all others from doing so.

Keywords:   Spain, fishing, foodways, Bluefin Tuna, territoriality, Almadraba, Europe, law, early modern history, aristocracy

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