Fisheries policy in the United States has led to disastrous declines in many species because of a phenomenon known as the tragedy of the commons. When a resource is available to all, no incentive for conservation exists. Ronald Bailey of Reason Magazine describes the problem with American fisheries, and reports on a fascinating recent conference of the Philanthropy Roundtable, an organization which seeks more effective giving, in part through promotion of the use of market—based incentives. Mainstream journalism remains immune to any understanding of the importance of such incentives, of course. An excerpt:
The New Yorker profile notes that Maine's lobster fisheries remain healthy and productive, but attributes that success mostly to "stringent practices" such as state—mandated size limits. The profile does mention in passing: "Lobstermen informally divide the ocean among the towns and precincts whose shores it borders. A lobsterman from one town who drops his traps in another town's waters can expect to find his strings cut and his traps disappeared." In other words, Maine "harbor gangs" avoid the tragedy of commons in their fisheries because they treat their local lobster fisheries as their private communal property and exclude outsiders. In other words, property rights, even informal property rights, can help restore and protect fisheries.
Hat tip: Dennis Sevakis
Thomas Lifson 8 27 06