Principle 2

We strive to eliminate tragedies of the commons1 by advocating property rights where resources can be exclusive, divisible, and alienable. In these situations, we believe resources are most sustainably managed when users themselves own and manage them.


The Principle in Practice:

  • Environment Probe’s fisheries work has focused on the need to create stronger property rights in fisheries. Conventional fisheries management regimes give political regulators incentives to promote over-fishing and give fishers themselves incentives to over-fish. In contrast, establishing secure, exclusive, perpetual, transferable rights to fisheries creates incentives to fish sustainably. Fisheries rights may take many forms. They may be individual or communal. They may be geographic – a fisher may have rights to a particular stretch of a river, or to a particular reef. For many fisheries, the most promising rights are ITQs – individual transferable quotas that give fishers the rights to specific shares of a catch.
1 The tragedy of the commons, popularized by Garrett Hardin’s essay in 1968, explains individuals’ incentives to exploit common resources for personal gain and the exhaustion of the resources in the process. “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in the commons brings ruin to all.” (Return)

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