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Tragedy of the Commons: Analysis of Sportfishing Industry


  • To understand the 'tragedy of the commons' as a kind of market failure, with specific reference to the fishing industry
  • To analyze the Indian fishing industry with respect to 'tragedy of the commons'
  • To outline the pros and disadvantages of methods by which the 'tragedy of the commons' can be solved to ensure sustainability of fisheries


Our display is on a kind of market inability known as "tragedy of the commons". This identifies the issues inherent with resources that are cared for as common property. Our focus is specifically on the sportfishing industry with India as a case study.

It is essential to first define what we should mean by common property resources. Common property resources share two characteristics: excludability and subtractability. Excludability refers to controlling access to a source of information by potential users, i. e. it is open access. Regarding common property such as fishing waters, every citizen has usage of this resource without the constraints as is the current case in India. Subtractability means that all user of this resource is with the capacity of subtracting from the welfare of other users. That means that if one individual fishes for the reason that water source, you will see less fish stocks and options designed for the other fishers.

Since each fisherman is a rational being, he'll take into consideration only his own marginal costs and earnings, ignoring the fact that rises in his own get will deprive other fishermen of their capture, as well as influence the future of the sustainability of seafood stocks. As seafood stocks continue steadily to get depleted, eventually that source of information becomes so degraded it collapses completely, including the collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery in THE UNITED STATES in 1989. In this case, the market as a consequence to insufficient regulation resulted in surplus capacity and overexploitation of the source of information. Since in the long term the nice is not efficiently allocated, this form of market failing is named "tragedy of the commons".

Tragedy of the Commons in the Indian Sportfishing Industry

Fishing is a large business in India. The neighborhood industries use about 15 million people and overall exports got brought in 2. 8 billion USD well worth of forex to the country. Officially, the government's stance appears to be that sportfishing levels and resources are adequate and that there surely is still further convenience of development and has busied itself with producing mechanized fisheries as a means of catching more fish than a traditional fisherman could. The Marine Products Exports Development Expert (MPEDA), which functions under the Ministry of Commerce, has outlined lots of objectives about the development of the sportfishing industry in India, including:

  • India to be among the most notable 5 seafood exporters in the world
  • Employment in the fishing sector to double by 2015

India currently practices an open access policy to normal water resources or fish companies, i. e. fishers don't require any quotas or licenses necessary to operate. Aside from some laws and regulations against fishing during the breeding season, and using explosives to kill fish, India does not place any great constraints on its angling industry hoping to encourage fishing for the intended purpose of exports. It has resulted in overfishing and depletion of fish stocks.

This strong focus on output has recently positioned India's fisheries under huge pressure, as more and more boats hit the waves searching for fish. According to a 2012 study by Greenpeace, 90% of India's fish resources have reached or are operating beyond their lasting level and poor legislation of the industry has added to a drop in progress of India's fisheries. Fishermen are going further and wider to secure a get as traditional sea fishing areas show depleting amounts of commercially valuable fish.

In such a circumstance, it is unavoidable that India will never be in a position to follow its open access insurance policy for long and will have to put in stronger polices to make its sportfishing industries more ecological.

Possible solutions to the tragedy of the commons

Individual transferrable quotas (ITQs):

Privatization of the normal resources is one of the solutions wanted to the tragedy of the commons, to ensure excludability. Privatization usually provides incentives for logical exploitation of the resource. But marine resources cannot exactly be privatized so that it takes the form of quotas. If the owner has a stake in a particular stock of seafood, see your face or company would want to ensure the sustainability of the stock to ensure a prospect of future profit.

ITQs are a transferrable share of a part of the total allowable get (TAC). These stocks are split into portions for individual quota holders, who is able to get their quota, or on the other hand, can purchase, sell or rent them. Because owners of quotas have long-term access to the fishery, the long-term health of the stock is in their interests, therefore we have a market system that induces sustainability. Since portions of the stock are assured, there is no fear that another person will benefit from the source by exploiting it faster.

However used it is extremely difficult to enforce these quotas as it pertains to fisheries. And since quotas are difficult to enforce, each quota holder seems that the other fishermen might break the guidelines and so continue to take part in overfishing.

By-catch dumping: This occurs just because a vessel or specific fisher cannot forecast the amount of each species that is captured (since even focusing on one species inevitably results in getting more than one kinds). Some species that the quota was already packed may be trapped, and with the quota already packed the only option is to dump the excess fish.

Quota busting: Fishermen take more than their allowed quota of your species. Especially when there are a sizable number of vessels functioning it is difficult to avoid quota busting, leading to a much larger catch than is actually recorded in the state data.

High-grading: The quota is designed for a fixed level of seafood, so smaller or less desired fish are tossed overboard so that the revenue per unit of quota is maximized. These discarded seafood will perish and deplete seafood stocks but aren't counted in the mortality rate of fish in the official records. One way to prevent high-grading is on-board inspectors but this is very costly and impractical especially in fisheries with large numbers of vessels. Another solution to the problem of high-grading is always to provide quotas in conditions of total value of get in conditions of price rather than total physical quantity of get. So there wouldn't be low quality seafood discarded as they could still be sold for a low price and wouldn't drain the quota. But the condition with this process is constant fluctuations in prices may make the quota difficult to determine.

All of these malpractices lead to wrong data being recorded. Further quotas are then chosen the basis of this faulty data, thus threatening sustainability as the quotas would be too high. Currently according to Greenpeace 25% of catch is discarded, but this amount might not exactly reduce with ITQs.

Community transferrable quotas

CTQs would make the learning resource a communal property. Communal property is held by a group or community of interdependent users who exclude outsiders and regulate use by users of the local community. CTQ's would also boost enforcement capabilities and solve the serious problems of high-grading and discarding that are present in ITQ systems. This enhanced enforcement would come from within the community itself. Since all users of the city share the costs of cheating, it is likely that community members would keep a detailed eye on the actions of others. Anyone caught cheating would face not only the fines and like penalties that would include an individual quota system, but would also face a lack of face in the community.

One problem is a matter of definition. It is not clear whether complete communities may trade quotas, or individuals within the communities can exchange their shares among one another. In the previous case, it seems unlikely that an entire community could consent to buy or sell a quota, and if they did, there exists potential for a dissenting minority to lose their to access the fishery scheduled to simply being outvoted. If transferability in CTQ's refers to exchange within the neighborhoods, then it appears likely that the same problem of concentration of possession may occur, though on a slightly smaller scale. Before a community-based quota program were to be integrated, it might be essential to clarify what type of exchange could take place and determine a set of laws for such exchange.

Another problem with CTQ's is that this system might not be able to take into account the absolute size of the sportfishing industry as it is present today. Over are the times when small inshore vessels were accountable for catches; today much of the work is done offshore by large trawlers taking in massive amounts of fish from open up waters, sometimes hundreds of kilometers from the coastline. Community founded quotas appear well equipped to deal with inshore angling, but offshore procedures often involve corporations not set geographically in a "community". These and a great many other issues must be fixed before any type of effective CTQ system is put in place.


Thus we've discussed tragedy of the commons with special mention of the sportfishing industry, and discussed the professionals and drawbacks of specific quotas and community quotas. The federal government of India should take a look at both sides of the issue, and consider local needs of subsistence fishing neighborhoods, sustainability of resources as well as India's international export status while building its policies to deal with overexploitation of fisheries.


David Feeny, S. H. (2006). Questiong the assumptions of the "tragedy of commons" model of fisheries. Land Economics, 187-205.

Greenpeace. (2012). Safeguard or squander: deciding the future of India's fisheries. Greenpeace.

Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Research, 1243-1248.

LeDrew, S. (2003). Property Rights and the Fishery: ITQ's and CTQ's as solutions to the situation of the commons. OMRN.

Narayankumar, R. (2012). Economical efficiency in angling operations - technology, exploitation and sustainability issues. Cochin: Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

NFDB. (n. d. ). About Indian Fisheries. Retrieved from Country wide Fisheries Development Board: http://nfdb. ap. nic. in/html/aboutus. htm

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