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Marine Turtles: Whose Property? Whose Rights?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Frazier, Jack
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/242
Sector: Fisheries
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
marine resources
property rights
traditional resource management
customary law
Abstract: "Marine turtles migrate and disperse over vast distances, so an individual may be exposed to numerous human activities in diverse environments, living within the jurisdictions of several sovereign states, as well as on the high seas. These reptiles are charismatic 'flagship species' so they attract a large, supportive clientele. Additionally, humans have been interacting with these animals-- particularly through direct exploitation-- for millennia; and there are a wide diversity of customs and traditions for exploitation and use of turtles. Many populations of marine turtles have declined so these animals are categorized as endangered, and both national legislation and international instruments afford them protection from exploitation, incidental capture, and other human activities. These are shared resources, and are routinely treated as common property, particularly because marine turtles live in the 'global commons', the high seas. This results in divergent claims for rights to interact -- or to limit the interactions of other stakeholders -- with turtles, especially when consumptive exploitation is involved. Discourses to limit impacts and develop conservation programmes for these reptiles include arguments about protecting ecological roles and ecosystem services, concepts that are often juxtaposed to concerns for supporting marginalized communities, recuperating traditional practices, and asserting cultural/ religious rights. The resulting conflicts and debates raise basic questions not only about who has rights to shared resources and what social process should be involved in addressing the debate (e.g., representation and democracy), but in fact what constitutes property. In other words, does the 'property' that is being divvied up by various players have rights that transcend the individual and summed rights of the players, perhaps even having rights of its own?"

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