>Students explore strategies for how to use natural resources sustainably
>Students are familiarised with the ‘tragedy of the commons’ concept
>Fish tokens (make these in the class)
>Three bowls (one per group)
>Cups (one per student)
Based on Fisheries and Ocean Canada Stream to Sea by Dianne Sanford
Australia has a great diversity of fishing opportunities in environments spanning thousands of kilometres. From the humid tropics to the cool, temperate waters of the south, shore and boat recreational anglers seek a multitude of species, in thousands of locations.
Fishing for food has been practised in Australia by Aboriginal people for thousands of years and since the earliest visits by explorers.
Recreational fishing in Australia is a billion dollar a year industry, and an important leisure activity for over 4.5 million Australians.
However, recreational fisheries around Australia are at the crossroads. The next decade could see the decline and destruction of many of our key recreational fisheries, or alternatively these valuable fish stocks and their environment could be conserved and restored for the next generations.
Recreational fishing is one of Australia’s most popular relaxation activity. Photograph: Bill Phillips
Our fish stocks and their habitats are under threat from many directions. Increasing fishing pressure on inshore fish stocks from both recreational and commercial fishers, environmental damage and aquatic habitat degradation from poor land management practices, dams and pollution from industrial and urban discharge are joining forces to push many fish stocks into decline.
This over-use of recreational fisheries illustrates the tragedy of the commons, a dilemma described in an influential article by Garrett Hardin in Science in 1968. The article describes a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently, solely and rationally with their own self-interest in mind, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.
Central to Hardin’s article is an example, of herders sharing a common parcel of land, on which they are each entitled to let their cows graze. In Hardin’s example, it is in each herder’s interest to put the next (and succeeding) cows he acquires onto the land, even if the carrying capacity of the common is exceeded and it is temporarily or permanently damaged for all as a result. The herder receives all of the benefits from an additional cow, while the damage to the common is shared by the entire group. If all herders make this individually rational economic decision, the common will be depleted or even destroyed to the detriment of all.
In this lesson students get to consider the ethical as well as resource management challenges of sustaining fish stocks, and guaranteeing the future for recreational fishing as an integral part of the Australian lifestyle.
More generally, students are challenged with the question, “How do we meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs?”
Tragedy of the commons
1. In preparation for this lesson, during class time or as homework, students should research what fish are endangered, threatened and vulnerable in their part of the Murray-Darling Basin (see also Module in 1.1).
2. Organise the class into three groups and give them one bowl each. Give one cup to each student.
3. Place eight fish tokens in each bowl and explain that there will be two turns per round and several rounds per game.
4. For each turn, each student can remove either zero or one fish and place it in their own cup. Once fish are taken from the bowl they cannot be put back.
5. Explain that after each round (that is, two turns for each student) you will double the number of fish in the bowl and then there will be more turns when they can withdraw a fish.
Remind Students that
2 x 0 = 0!