The Fishery as a Watery Commons: Lessons from the Experiences of Other Public Policy Areas for U.S. Fisheries Policy

51 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2006

See all articles by Lawrence J. White

Lawrence J. White

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics

Date Written: November 6, 2006

Abstract

Open access, combined with modern technologies of fishing, has created serious problems of overfishing and threatens the sustainability of many U.S. fisheries. The common pool problem - the ocean version of the tragedy of the commons - is the root cause of the overfishing.

The major regulatory policies of the past few decades that have tried to address overfishing - restrictions on fishing methods and inputs (in essence, command and control regulation) - have largely been failures. Indeed, they have often perversely exacerbated fisheries' overfishing problems by encouraging fishing derbies or races for the fish.

Fisheries are not alone in facing a common pool problem. Other areas of the U.S. economy have confronted similar problems, and public policies have developed to deal with them. This paper discusses seven of these other areas: the use of the electromagnetic spectrum, the control of sulfur dioxide emissions by electric utilities, grazing on public lands, forest logging on public lands, oil-gas-coal extraction from public lands and offshore waters, hard rock mineral (metal) mining, and surface water usage.

Important lessons can be gleaned from the policies that have been developed in these other areas, and this paper applies those lessons to the design of U.S. fisheries policy.

Suggested Citation

White, Lawrence J., The Fishery as a Watery Commons: Lessons from the Experiences of Other Public Policy Areas for U.S. Fisheries Policy (November 6, 2006). NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 06-51. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=945390 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.945390

Lawrence J. White (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics ( email )

44 West 4th Street
Suite 9-160
New York, NY NY 10012
United States

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