Case of the Day: The Grand Banks Fishery
Fisheries are a common (no pun intended) example of the “tragedy of the commons." Since no one has a property right to the fish in the sea, every individual has an incentive to harvest them before others can. This has had a disastrous effect on the volume of fish in some important fishing areas.
The richness of the Grand Banks fishery off of Newfoundland is legendary. However, it too has been overfished. Read the article called "A Fisherman's Tale" from a May 23, 1998 Economist survey on “The Sea” and answer the following questions. (Please let me know if you have trouble with the link. It should work from campus locations.)
Questions for analysis
1. How much of the overfishing problem results from the fact that major fishing grounds are located outside the jurisdiction of national laws and to what extent does it exist even in fisheries that are within a national jurisdiction?
2. How are property rights for forests different than those for fish? Is the “overcutting” problem more or less severe than overfishing as a result of this difference?
3. What (if any) sort of legal structure can help mitigate overfishing? Is it possible to attach a property right to the taking of fish?