Monthly Archives: March 2018

Friday, 9 March 2018 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

Kristin Wintersteen (University of Houston)

“Chronicles of a Collapse Foretold: Global Science and the Bioeconomics of Fisheries Management in Peru, 1970-72”

In the 1960s, the Peruvian anchoveta fishery was, by almost any measure, the largest in the world, harvesting millions of tons of these sardine-like fish and turning them into fishmeal for use as fertilizer and animal feed. Then in the early 1970s, the fishery abruptly collapsed. In this talk, Kristin Wintersteen will weave together correspondence between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and California-based fishing industry executives to show that though virtually all of those involved (in business, policy, and the scientific community) were concerned about the health of the fishery, none of them knew how best to respond to the ecological dynamics unfolding before them. The collapse, she argues, was not necessarily the direct result of negligent management by the Peruvian authorities, as many critics have assumed, but can instead be traced to the difficulty of devising policy amidst conditions that were dynamic and uncertain — uncertainty that was fully shared by US and European scientists and mathematicians at the top of their fields at the time. The documents Wintersteen brings to light help illuminate the challenges of devising science-based policies in such changing environments — challenges that go beyond the usual risks of cooptation by private sector interests.


Kristin Wintersteen is an assistant professor in the History Department at the University of Houston. She holds BA degrees in Latin American Studies and Spanish from the University of Washington and a PhD in Modern Latin American History from Duke University. She specializes in the environmental history of industrial fisheries in the Southeast Pacific and is currently completing work on a book to be entitled “Protein from the Sea: The Global Rise of Fishmeal and the Industrialization of the Humboldt Current Ecosystem.” In 2014-15, she was a resident fellow of UT’s Institute for Historical Studies.