Exploring the ‘public goods game’ model to overcome the tragedy of the commons in fisheries management

Kraak, Sarah B M
Kraak, Sarah B M (2010). Exploring the ‘public goods game’ model to overcome the tragedy of the commons in fisheries management. Fish and Fisheries 12 (1), 18-33
In situations of declining or depleted fish stocks, exploiters seem to have fallen prey to the Tragedy of the Commons, which occurs when the maximisation of short-term self-interest produces outcomes leaving all participants worse off than feasible alternatives would. Standard economic theory predicts that in social dilemmas, such as fishing from a common resource, individuals are not willing to cooperate and sacrifice catches in the short term, and that, consequently, the resource is overharvested. However, over the last decades, a multitude of research has shown that humans often achieve outcomes that are 'better than rational' by building conditions where reciprocity, reputation, and trust help to overcome the temptations of short-term self-interest. The evolution of the natural human tendency to cooperate under certain conditions can be explained, and its neuro-physiological and genetic bases are being unravelled. Nevertheless, fisheries management still often deploys top-down regulation and economic incentives in its aim to regulate fisher behaviour, and under-utilizes the potential for spontaneous responsible fisher behaviour through setting conditions that enhance natural cooperative tendencies. Here I introduce this body of knowledge on how to overcome the Tragedy of the Commons to the audience of fisheries scientists, hoping to open up novel ways of thinking in this field. I do this through a series of thought experiments, based on actual published experiments, exploring under what conditions responsible and cooperative fisher behaviour can be expected. Keys include reputation-building and indirect reciprocity, face-to-face communication, knowledge on the state of the resource, and self-decision on rules and sanctions.
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland