Seminar by Dr. Pınar Ertör Akyazı (Sabancı University)

20/05/2019 11:00

Cooperation in resource use dilemmas and nature conservation: Evidence from field experiments with small-scale fishers in Turkey 

The governance of natural resources is one of the most important problems facing our society. While mainstream economic theory predicts free-riding behaviour in resource use conflicts, recent findings in ecological and behavioural economics suggest that cooperation can be achieved and sustained under certain conditions. Several formal and informal mechanisms have been proposed to avoid over-exploitation of natural resources, yet, the relative effectiveness of these are relatively understudied. The present study investigates cooperation subject to different formal and informal institutions in an experimental setting. Field experiments were conducted with 240 fishers to assess cooperative behaviour and compare the effectiveness of different formal and informal institutions for the small-scale fisher sample in Turkey. Extraction and earnings were measured under two different formal institutions (monetary penalty versus purchase of fishing rights) and were compared to an informal mechanism involving face-to-face communication as well as a baseline representing open-access. While monetary penalty was effective to reduce extraction relative to baseline (open-access condition), the other formal institution, purchase of fishing rights, did not significantly reduce extraction, even though providing the same level of economic incentive to the fishers. Face-to-face communication was the most effective to increase earnings and improve income equality across fishers. This experimental result supports the general argument that community-based institutions and co-management (entailing internal communication) can improve resource use practices and livelihoods of small-scale fishers in a developing country context. The results further suggest that differently framed economic incentives may lead to differential outcomes in terms of cooperation, earnings and distribution of income. These findings contribute to fisheries management as well as to other sustainability policies in dealing with resource use conflicts in general.