In his popular essay The “Tragedy of Commons” Gareth Hardin presented a model whereby a commons, grazing pasture, would eventually be degraded and depleted. He showed that every herder with the right to grazing pasture would graze as many animals as possible for personal gain which in turn would lead to a depleted grazing pasture, the tragedy (Hardin pg. 10). Self-interest drives the over consumption of this common resource. Over the years this model by Hardin has been important in understanding the degradation of many common-pool resources.
The Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) is a body of water separating the Baja California Peninsula from Mexico mainland. It has a surface area of about 160,000 km2 and is home to thousands of species (Pipes pg. 4). According to Cannon Raymond the Sea of Cortez is mega-diverse and rich in fish used for commercial purposes, food and for tourism purposes (pg 44). The Gulf supports the lives of thousands of people and sea-life creatures.
Over the years, the Sea of Cortez has been subjected to overfishing. Due to its biological wealth, the commercial fishing industry has thrived resulting to overfishing which has become a big threat to both the species found in the sea and people depending on the sea as a source of livelihood. Greedy and selfish individuals, out there to make money have taken advantage of the lucrative commercial fishing industry by practicing overfishing at rates faster than which the fish can regenerate. This unsustainable fishing has resulted to lower fish numbers resulting to both the fishermen and commercial traders lacking this precious commodity. Overfishing, practiced by commercial fish traders and individuals in the poverty stricken Mexico has resulted to a tragedy of depleted fish stocks.
As a result of depleted fish stocks and the near extinction of some of these fish species, measures have been put in place to combat this tragedy. For example the Mexican government issued a decree to establish a Biosphere reserve to protect the conservation of endangered species and to protect the ecological processes of breeding and reproduction in the Sea of Cortez region. This move was supported by the locals and conservation groups. There is also the proposal of establishing fish farms to meet the demand and supply of fish which is a good step aimed at conserving threatened species and ensuring sustainable harvest. There is also the formulation of policies and laws regulating fishing enforced by the Mexico’s fishing protection agency. However, it is difficult to establish protection rights to fish of the sea given their migratory nature. This has provided an avenue for the continued exploitation of these natural resources. The fact that the sea is also shared between countries makes it difficult to enforce laws as individual countries usually focus on their coast lines.
The objectives of this study are to establish the link between the demand for fish and fish products in the USA to overfishing in the Sea of Cortez, to know how poverty in Mexico contributes to the problem of overfishing and to propose better methods of promoting sustainable fishing in the Sea of Cortez.
Cannon, Raymond. The Sea of Cortez. Menlo Park, Calif: Lane Magazine and Book Co, 1966. Print.197
Hardin, Garrett J. The Tragedy of the Commons. Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1968. Print
Pipes, Michael S. Physical Characteristics of the Sea of Cortez. Tucson, Ariz: Pima Community College, 1990. Print.