Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tragedy of the Commons in Our Oceans

In the above news article, the issue of declining biodiversity among the world's oceans has been a direct result from Garrrett Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" phenomena. Hardin argued that when a resource is collectively owned , over-exploitation leads to the resources long-term viability. In the case of our fragile ocean ecosystem, overfishing has caused the demise of our ocean life in the same way Hardin's example of overgrazing causes the degeneration of the pasture in which cows feed. Because of human tendency to underestimate the long-term vitality of our natural resources, there have many instances of the tragedy that have captured the attention of sustainability efforts. In this instance, the high seas are the commons, where the worlds thousands of miles of coastlines offer fish for all. However, overfishing has resulted in a catastrophic collapse of the oceans biodiversity and has had an impact on the larger biota. The oceans fish stock is not the only part of oceans system which has been affected by the overexploitation of this resource. Declining fish populations have larger implications for the oceans oxygen content, causing the spread of dead zones throughout the globe.
The tragedy of the commons occurs when there are not sufficient rules and institutions governing the use and allocation of a limited resource. Massive individual fisheries have acted in the favor of short-term interests and have failed to recognize the balance needed between short-term benefits and long-term conservation. This article offers several reform solutions to the tragedy. First, fish subsidies are suggested to be ended, as fisheries have been depending on government funds to do major environmental damage. Because there is not a required global fishing registry, individual fishermen have easily gotten away with taking more than their fair share of fish. In addition, less than 1% of the high seas are protected by marine reserves. If there were more reserves, more species of sea life would be conserved from the rapture of private corporations.
I believe all of the solutions presented here could work to revive fish populations and curb their overexploitation. Whatever the solution taken, I believe it is necessary that there be large-scale institutional reform to cut overfishing and, more crucially, to change attitudes toward the way we as a collective society share the bounties of the ocean. If we are looking to create sustainable ways to ensure the longevity of our planet's ocean life, we need to recognize that although the ocean may seem vast and limitless, the fragile species that call it home are in danger because of our overzealous demand for them.

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