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The Drama of the Commons
ever, noncongruent boundaries are much more likely to simply compound, or even confound, the learning process. A parallel structure, on the other hand, minimizes observational and analytical problems and, if across-scale and between-scale connections exist, provides for a flow of information that can be used to generate an understanding of processes at various scales and locations.
A very important—the dominant—aspect of the collective learning problem is the need to extend the process of learning down to the individual level. Individual incentives—and, importantly, the willingness to enter into restraining agreements—have to be based on a perception of a beneficial connection between restrained current actions and future states of the natural system. In a complex system, in which it is difficult to predict the future state of system components (e.g., species abundance), this would appear difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, so long as individuals are in a position to adapt to changes in system states, the connection between current and (expected) future states does not have to be mechanically precise. It is sufficient that the resulting (expected) future state(s) are positioned within the set of patterns that characterize the typical system and that individuals are in a position, technologically and legally, to adapt to those new states when they appear (i.e., not tied to the fate of particular species). Under these circumstances the probability of a positive economic outcome for the individual is very high and, as a result, so also is the rationality of entering into restraining agreements.
I have in mind here people like Schaefer, Gulland, Ricker, Cushing, Berverton, and Holt— scientists whose work during the 1950s and 1960s formulated the still-extant structure of fisheries population dynamics.
By path dependency I mean the tendency to become locked into a particular (in this case) theoretical approach (Waldrop, 1992). In this instance I would hypothesize that the inability to depart from a particular path stems from the great difficulty that attends any attempt to validate or invalidate theory in this area. Over time programs, data collection, equipment, careers, and legal authority all become more and more tailored to the approach; change becomes more difficult and the inability to validate obscures all but the most compelling reasons to change.
This is not too surprising when one realizes that the Canadian and U.S. scientists were the same people who had worked for ICNAF.
Just as this paper was being sent to the editor, I became aware of an article by Brodziak et al. (2001) that claims a stock relationship is discernable in 14 Georges Banks stocks.
The Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1977 established eight regional fisheries management councils that act as advisory bodies to NMFS. NMFS is located within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce. Council members are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce from a set of nominees supplied by governors of relevant states. Generally, there appears to be an attempt to appoint representatives of the major stakeholders. The regional councils appear to have more weight than the usual federal advisory committee. So long as their advice conforms reasonably with a set of national standards, NMFS/NOAA/ Commerce is more or less constrained to follow.
This interpretation is the result of my observations as a member, and sometimes chair, of the Scientific and Statistical Advisory Committee of the New England Fisheries Management Council.