PROJECT M
 

Plenty more fish

Balancing sustainability and the needs of the fishing industry is a difficult task, as the case of the orange roughy highlights

Greg Langley
© Corbis

Plenty more fish

Balancing sustainability and the needs of the fishing industry is a difficult task, as the case of the orange roughy highlights

Greg Langley

The tragedy of the commons

Coined by biologist Garrett Hardin, the expression describes a situation in which individuals, acting independently and rationally, deplete a shared resource such as a village common or fishing area. each individual gains by herding an extra animal or taking an extra load of fish, though this individual action invites ruin of the resource for the whole community. Elinor Ostrom (1933 – 2012), winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences, claimed that such ruin is not inevitable, that people don’t always act for short-term profit and that locals often come up with solutions themselves. However, she noted, “If the community doesn’t have a good way of communicating with each other or the costs of self-organization are too high, then they won’t organize and there will be failures.”