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Nature, Culture, and the Law in New Jersey: Shellfisheries

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: McCay, Bonnie J.
Conference: Annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association
Location: Washington, DC
Conf. Date: December 4-7
Date: 1982
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/5668
Sector: Fisheries
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): water resources
common pool resources
Abstract: "The traditional 'law of the sea' in North America is that of common-property. Access to marine resources is open to all citizens,albeit subject to government power to license and restrain some of their activities . Most fishery biologist s and economists take the common-property, open-access feature of marine fisheries as given and address its implications for resource management--i.e., the 'tragedy of the commons.' Anthropologists have done the same. In recent years, however, we have begun to appreciate (1) the diversity of 'sea tenure' systems other than common-property in human experience, and (2) the diversity of common-property systems — ranging from common use-rights tied to local law, custom, and practice and accompanied by communal regulation to the 'freedom of the seas' of international law. It is also arguable (3) that the common-property, open-access status of marine resources is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain cases of resource depletion and fishing community poverty; and (4) that , in fisheries as in other agrarian activities, the 'real' tragedy of the commons may be the result of enclosure and appropriation--a tragedy of the commoners. The last is evident in the saga of inland salmon fisheries of the Old World. Today, in some places of the Old World poaching is the only possible expression of the old law of the commons in fisheries."

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