North Atlantic Cod Commons: Overfishing and It's Solution

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Robert ‘Ben’ Johnson
Engr. 183-EW
10/31/12
North Atlantic Cod Commons: Overfishing and it’s Solution
Over fishing has led to an almost complete wipe out of the mature cod population in the area of Northern Europe. With lack of regulations, the world could witness an entire species of fish destroyed due to rational behavior of man to want more. This is a classic example of a “commons” which Garrett Hardin discusses in his essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” (Hardin, 1968). The North Atlantic Cod is a natural resource that, although regulated minutely, is being overfished and exploited. Even though the fishing industry is an important industry that feeds many third world countries and provides income to most of those countries also, allowing the exploitation is unacceptable. Today’s society is not effectively reducing or efficiently stopping the damage that is being done to the populations and environment. In order to solve the problem of over fishing cod in the Northern Atlantic we must apply a combination of technical and ethical solutions. I would have the United Nations pass specific laws regulating major fish populations which could be an extension of the Third Committee: Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian or (SOCHUM) of the United Nations. I would also have specific incentives put up by SOCHUM to promote research into developing more widespread aquacultures and better fishing technology that better targets older species of fish.

Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” is a paper on the logical outcome of rational self interest. Rational self interest is what any person weighing their options would do to gain the most benefit. An example from the text is given about herdsmen. A herdsman would first increase his herd, disregarding the effect the increase number would have on the field the herd grazed on, to increase his profit. Hardin demonstrates that eventually, with every herdsmen acting in this way, the field that is grazed on will eventually not be able to hold the amount of animals on the field. Then, the herd will have nothing to feed on and the commons of the field will be used up. The commons is a resource that is open to anyone and is not regulated. Hardin shows that with these kinds of problems only an ethical solution can be applied. This is opposed to a technical solution that would make the common resource infinite. A technical solution would eliminate the problem or make a resource infinite. An ethical solution would only control and sustain a resource. Technical solutions include using the Sun as an energy source or building a nuclear fusion reactor. Technical solutions may not always be possible depending on technologies advancement at the present time and ethical solutions do not eliminate the problem, they merely sustain a replenishing resource. Hardin summarizes technical solutions as “A technical solution may be defined as one that requires a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality” (Hardin, 1968). Ethical solutions aim to change human values and moral standards. Ethical solutions also require someone to hold the parties using the commons accountable for their use of it, a “police officer” of sorts to enforce the law of the commons. This, as Hardin talks about, creates another problem. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” which is Latin for “who shall watch the watchers themselves” (Hardin, 1245-1246). There has to be some force to keep the enforcer honest and diligent. The essay also explains how altruism is not a viable solution to this. An altruistic person would eventually be cut out and removed from the equation for they would be taken advantage of by anyone who is not altruistic. Hardin is not trying to argue for or against commons though. He proposes ethical and technical solutions, but does not argue for either one. Hardin is merely trying to make...
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