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Public Fisheries

Josh Eagle, University of South Carolina School of Law
Amanda Kuker, University of South Carolina School of Law


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There is almost universal agreement that the most effective solution
to open-access natural resource problems lies in some form of ownership. Authors disagree
on the secondary question of which ownership form, i.e., private,
community, or government, will produce the most efficient or
equitable results under particular conditions. There has been little
attention paid to the fact that government ownership, that is,
regulation, is certain to produce results that all interested subsets
of the public will view as inefficient and inequitable.
Dissatisfaction flows inevitably from the requirements and realities
of democratic decision-making structures and constraints. In other
words, a democracy puts more emphasis on fair process and the
incorporation of competing values than on achieving any particular
objective. Thus, although government ownership might solve open-access natural resource
problems such as those that occur in fisheries insofar as it creates a peaceable forum
for dispute resolution, it does not lead to what anyone might consider
well-managed fisheries. For government ownership and
well-managed fisheries to coexist, the most logical solution is to
create a subset of government structures, the goals of which are
aligned with the preferences of various interest groups such as
commercial fishers, recreational fishers, and marine
conservationists. This approach, which is used on U.S. public lands,
ensures that, within at least some parts of the public domain,
groups will view management as having succeeded. Greater
interest-group satisfaction should lead to welfare gains because those
groups will, for example, feel less need to expend resources
participating in costly agency processes.

Key words

commons; fisheries; fisheries law; law and policy; United States

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087