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The Economic Theory of a Common Property Resource The Fishery Author s H Scott Gordon Source The Journal of Political Economy Vol 62 No 2 Apr 1954 pp 124 142 Published by The University of Chicago Press Stable URL http www jstor org stable 1825571 Accessed 22 02 2010 20 04 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR s Terms and Conditions of Use available at http www jstor org page info about policies terms jsp JSTOR s Terms and Conditions of Use provides in part that unless you have obtained prior permission you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal non commercial use Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work Publisher contact information may be obtained at http www jstor org action showPublisher publisherCode ucpress Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission JSTOR is a not for profit service that helps scholars researchers and students discover use and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship For more information about JSTOR please contact support jstor org The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize preserve and extend access to The Journal of Political Economy http www jstor org THE ECONOMIC THEORY OF A COMMONPROPERTY RESOURCE THE FISHERY H SCOTT GORDON Carleton College Ottawa Ontario lack of theoretical economic research 2 HE chief aim of this paper is to ex biologists have been forced to extend the amine the economic theory of nat scope of their own thought into the ecoI ural resource utilization as it per nomic sphere and in some cases have tains to the fishing industry It will penetrated quite deeply despite the lack appear I hope that most of the prob of the analytical tools of economic thelems associated with the words con ory 3 Many others who have paid no servation or depletion or overex specific attention to the economic asploitation in the fishery are in reality pects of the problem have nevertheless manifestations of the fact that the natu recognized that the ultimate question is ral resources of the sea yield no economic not the ecology of life in the sea as such rent Fishery resources are unusual in the but man s use of these resources for his fact of their common property nature own economic purposes Dr Martin D but they are not unique and similar Burkenroad for example began a recent problems are encountered in other cases article on fishery management with a of common property resource industries section on Fishery Management as Posuch as petroleum production hunting litical Economy saying that the Manand trapping etc Although the theory agement of fisheries is intended for the presented in the following pages is worked benefit of man not fish therefore effect out in terms of the fishing industry it is of management upon fishstocks cannot I believe applicable generally to all cases be regarded as beneficial per se 4 The 2 The single exception that I know is G M where natural resources are owned in Fisheries Gerhardsen common and exploited under conditions Revista de Production Economics in1952 economia Lisbon March of individualistic competition 3 I INTRODUCTION II BIOLOGICAL FACTORS AND THEORIES The great bulk of the research that has been done on the primary production phase of the fishing industry has so far been in the field of biology Owing to the I want to express my indebtedness to the Canadian Department of Fisheries for assistance and co operation in making this study also to Professor M C Urquhart of Queen s University Kingston Ontario for mathematical assistance with the last section of the paper and to the Economists Summer Study Group at Queen s for affording opportunity for research and discussion Especially remarkable efforts in this sense are Robert A Nesbit Fishery Management U S Fish and Wildlife Service Special Scientific Reports No 18 Chicago 1943 mimeographed and Harden F Taylor Survey of Marine Fisheries of North Carolina Chapel Hill 1951 also R J H Beverton Some Observations on the Principles of Fishery Regulation Journal du conseil permanent international pour l exploration de la mer Copenhagen Vol XIX No 1 May 1953 and M D Burkenroad Some Principles of Marine Fishery Biology Publications of the Institute of Marine Science University of Texas Vol II No 1 September 1951 4 Theory and Practice of Marine Fishery Management Journal du conseil permanentinternational pour l exploration de la mer Vol XVIII No 3 January 1953 124 THEORY OF A COMMON PROPERTY RESOURCE great Russian marine biology theorist T I Baranoff referred to his work as bionomics or bio econornics although he made little explicit reference to economic factors 5 In the same way A G Huntsman reporting in 1944 on the work of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada defined the problem of fisheries depletion in economic terms Where the take in proportion to the effort fails to yield a satisfactory living to the fisherman 6 and a later paper by the same author contains as an incidental statement the essence of the economic optimum solution without apparently any recognition of its significance 7 Upon the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary in 1952 the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea published a Rapport Jubilaire consisting of a series of papers summarizing progress in various fields of fisheries research The paper by Michael Graham on Overfishing and Optimum Fishing by its emphatic recognition of the economic criterion would lead one to think that the economic aspects of the question had been extensively examined during the last half century But such is not the case Virtually no specific research into the economics of fishery resource utilization has been undertaken The present state 5 Two of Baranoff s most important papers On the Question of the Biological Basis of Fisheries 1918 and On the Question of the Dynamics of the Fishing Industry 1925 have been translated by W E Ricker now of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada Nanaimo B C and issued in mimeographed form 6 Fishery Depletion Science XCIX 1944 534 7 The highest take is not necessarily the best The take should be increased only as long as the extra cost is offset by the added revenue from


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