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Wildlife in the Ocean Commons: Whales and Other Beasts

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Holt, Sidney
Conference: Inequality and the Commons, the Third Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Washington, D. C.
Conf. Date: September 17-19,1992
Date: 1992
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1052
Sector: Fisheries
Subject(s): IASC
resource management
Abstract: "The seas outside recognised territorial waters exemplify the general concept of 'the commons' in international and global context. Especially over the past fifty years many efforts have been made to mitigate the so-called 'tragedy of the commons' in this vast region, through specific international agreements, general evolution of maritime law, assumptions of extended powers by coastal states and in other ways. Scientific paradigms have been recruited to the political, economic and social debates, including especially the idea of indefinitely sustainable use of living marine resources and the possibility of maximising such use without risking the future productivity of those resources. "A complex of major conflicts has arisen, within and between nations. This includes conflict between different users, conflict between different types and purposes of resource use, conflict between users of the resource in question and users of other, biologically inter-acting, resources, and inter-generational conflict. The search continues for ways of deflating, if not resolving, such conflicts, principally by attempting to legislate against inequity. "Efforts to conserve and restore whale resources illustrate in one example almost all aspects of this complex. These efforts and some of their results will be reviewed. Many of the results and some current approaches to management are applicable to other marine living resources and even to some corresponding terrestrial resources. Other results and approaches may not be directly transferable because of the recognised 'special' status of whales and dolphins, biologically, culturally and in international law. But they are nevertheless of interest in their own right, and exercise the minds of more, and more diverse people and organizations world-wide than do other international resource management problems. "One important contributor to current conflicts is uncertainty about the biological nature of the resources and its consequences for management to meet specified objectives; such uncertainty is by no means confined to the whales. How uncertainties may properly be taken into account in managerial regimes has been insufficiently studied, especially with respect to inter-generational equity. While better results could be obtained than in the past, using scientific method, ethical considerations cannot in principle be eliminated, though they can be clarified. This assertion will be discussed in general and in specific relation to controversies about whales and whaling, and current discussions of such concepts as 'sustainable development' and 'the precautionary principle.'"

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