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Questioning the Assumptions of the "Tragedy of the Commons" Model of Fisheries


  • David Feeny
  • Susan Hanna
  • Arthur F. McEvoy


The "tragedy of the commons" argument predicts the overexploitation of resources held in common. There is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. The descriptive accuracy and predictive validity of six categories of assumptions of the argument are examined. These include individual motivations, characteristics of individuals, nature of institutional arrangements, interactions among users, the ability of users to create new arrangements, and the behavior of regulatory authorities. The tragedy of the commons argument is seriously incomplete. It needs to be replaced by a richer and more accurate framework.

Suggested Citation

  • David Feeny & Susan Hanna & Arthur F. McEvoy, 1996. "Questioning the Assumptions of the "Tragedy of the Commons" Model of Fisheries," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 72(2), pages 187-205.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:72:y:1996:i:2:p:187-205

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Burton, Peter S., 2003. "Community enforcement of fisheries effort restrictions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 45(2, Supple), pages 474-491, March.
    2. Carsten Lynge Jensen, 1999. "A Critical Review of the Common Fisheries Policy," Working Papers 6/99, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics.
    3. Lorelei Crisologo-Mendoza; & Dirk Van de gaer, 1997. "Population Growth and Customary Law on Land: The Case of Cordillera Villages in the Philippines," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n761197, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
    4. Richard O. Zerbe & Howard E. McCurdy, 1999. "The failure of market failure," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(4), pages 558-578.
    5. Tarui, Nori & Mason, Charles F. & Polasky, Stephen & Ellis, Greg, 2008. "Cooperation in the commons with unobservable actions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 37-51, January.
    6. repec:spr:irpnmk:v:14:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s12208-017-0175-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Yang, Zhenzeng, 2013. "Private Property Rights and Pollution in Emerging Market Economies," MPRA Paper 48717, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Jongwook Kim & Joseph T. Mahoney, 2002. "Resource-based and property rights perspectives on value creation: the case of oil field unitization," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4-5), pages 225-245.
    9. Jeff Dayton-Johnson & Pranab Bardhan, 2002. "Inequality And Conservation On The Local Commons: A Theoretical Exercise," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 577-602, July.
    10. John Kamau Gathiaka & Moses Kinyanjui Muriithi, 2017. "An Empirical Analysis of Livelihood Strategies and Food Insecurity in Turkana County, Kenya," Research Papers RP_338, African Economic Research Consortium.
    11. Pezzey, John C. V. & Roberts, Callum M. & Urdal, Bjorn T., 2000. "A simple bioeconomic model of a marine reserve," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 77-91, April.
    12. Matthew Freeman & Christopher Anderson, 2013. "Modeling Effort and Lobbying in a Heterogeneous Common Pool Resource Setting," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 56(3), pages 399-414, November.
    13. Richard Schwindt & Aidan R. Vining & David Weimer, 2003. "A Policy Analysis of the BC Salmon Fishery," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 29(1), pages 73-93, March.
    14. Damania, Richard & Bulte, Erwin H., 2006. "Renewable resource regulation and uncertain prices: The role of financial structure and bankruptcy," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 41-53, January.
    15. Bimonte, Salvatore, 2008. "The "tragedy of tourism resources" as the outcome of a strategic game: A new analytical framework," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 457-464, October.
    16. Greenville, Jared W. & MacAulay, T. Gordon, 2006. "Protected Areas and the Management of Fisheries: An Institutional Perspective," 2006 Conference (50th), February 8-10, 2006, Sydney, Australia 139739, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    17. Pfaff, Alexander & VĂ©lez, Maria Alejandra & Ramos, Pablo Andres & Molina, Adriana, 2015. "Framed field experiment on resource scarcity & extraction: Path-dependent generosity within sequential water appropriation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 416-429.
    18. repec:spr:eurase:v:7:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s40822-017-0076-y is not listed on IDEAS

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