Many fish suffer from the so called tragedy of the commons, the depletion of shared resources by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one’s self-interest, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to the group’s long-term best interests.
Tragedy of the tuna
Allocation schemes are one way to combat this situation whereby individual users put their own interests above the collective good. In the case of shared fisheries, developing just and transparent allocation helps to ensure stable cooperative management agreements, which will facilitate sustainable fisheries.
Allocation schemes for shared fisheries resources, which have been in existence for decades, have recently been facilitated by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations. These schemes vary in the scale of interested parties, from simple two-country systems sharing Pacific salmon, to multi-country systems sharing Atlantic Bluefin tuna. Most Regional Fisheries Management Organizations base their allocation schemes on historic catch records, the estimated stock in a certain area, or a combination of these two
The more countries, the harder
Remarkably, socio-economic factors do not appear to influence allocation to any major extent. Unfortunately, previous attempts at creating and enforcing allocation programs have not been able to control the depletion of fish stocks. This seemed especially hard when the number of fishing countries is large.
Several fisheries organizations are currently in the process of initiating or reformulating allocation programs. The scientists from Wageningen propose a socio-economic-ecological construct whereby allocation programs can be based on the sharing of benefits other than catch, to call a halt to the depletion of fish stocks.