Home > Uncategorized > Tragedy of the Commons

Tragedy of the Commons

When it comes to environmental problems people seem especially unwilling to consider “market” remedies.  Overfishing is a global problems with a variety of negative consequences.  Well, everyone seems to agree that something needs to be done: how about a little privatization.  This post discusses the idea of tradable quotas for fishing – if a company/fisherman owns a stake in the continued success of his product (fish) he won’t overfish them.  

Can property rights promote environmental responsibility? Something of the sort appears to be the case in the fishing industry, where a group led by the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Christopher Costello found that allotting fishermen owners’ shares of fish populations helps to combat overfishing and reverse the widespread trend toward fishery collapse. The study, published in a recent issue of the journal Science, finds that programs that grant fishermen tradable rights to a portion of the allowable catch for a given fishery have halted those fish populations’ slides toward depletion. Aside from suggesting a helpfully market-driven way to curb a worldwide decline in fish populations that some have predicted could lead all the world’s major commercial fishing stocks to collapse within 40 years, the study also gives strong empirical support to the deeply intuitive idea that people tend to care best for the things they regard as their own.

After all, you don’t see ranchers wiping cows off the face of the earth like might be happening to the bluefin tuna
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