The Tragedy of the Commons | "The Open Access Problem" in fishing waters of the Philippines

The Tragedy of the Commons | "The Open Access Problem" in fishing waters of the Philippines

image source


As the population of the Philippines is exponentially growing, now approximately 106 Million, more and more mouths are needed to be fed. The "less developed" country is suffering from population explosion. The population today is twice as large to that during 1985. In just a span of 30 years the population had doubled.

The Philippine archipelago having a large population and is still a developing country is facing a very serious problem. Countries that are still developing have a higher birthrate and the rate of employment and productions are very low. Luckily for the Philippines, it just had a 5.3% unemployment rate which is considered in economics as full employment in the economy. But, the country has a povery incidence of 20%. That means 25 Million Filipinos lives in poverty as defined by NEDA. Thus, people struggle everyday to make ends meet.

As an archipelago, where its cities and towns are situated near shorelines, the primary source of food of its people is fish. Since the pre-Spanish era, Filipinos depends their sustenance from the waters surrounding them. But with the number of people increasing every year, will the oceans, seas, and rivers sustain the amount of marine produce as their food?

With the booming population and the selfishness of the few, people compete with each other specially with the marine food products. Fish, primarily, is the number one marine animal that is competed since it's the Filipino peoples' favorite viand. In addition, with the declining population of the marine animals and the larger consumption of an exploding population, will the waters of the Philippines sustain the needs of the Filipino people? Let us take a look at the Tragedy of the Commons in the Philippines fishing grounds

aSource: Woldometers
aSource: Megaessays
aSource: Philippine Statistics Authority


The tragedy of the commons is a term used in social science to describe a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.

In simple terms, it is where a person optimizes the use of resources for short term that is not beneficial to others in the long term. The term tragedy of the commons is a misnomer as commons refer to people. Others argued that the proper term should be “the open access problem” or “the tragedy of common access”.

aSource: Wikipedia

The Open Access Problem in the Fishing Waters

1. The Decline of Tuna in General Santos City, Philippines

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The unregulated over fishing of Tuna in the Southern City of the Philippines has threatened the existence of the bigeye and yellowfin tuna. The use of unsustainable methods of fishing by big industrial players as well as other fishermen pushed them more farther into the sea to catch these giant deep-sea fish. Tuna catch is dwindling and are becoming smaller in size and weight. Handline fishers and purse seiners are pointing finger with each other on whose to blame.

The decline in the number of Tuna has pushed the small fishermen to compete with its large industrial competitor to catch the remaining tuna to sustain their living. It is as if they are trying to catch as many as they can fearing that others may catch the remaining Tuna for themselves. People think for themselves than for the common good. It creates a problem to the sustainability of the tuna industry.

The open access to the seas, the lack of regulation, the self-motivated interest, selfishness, and other short-term agenda, leaves the species of Tuna in the Philippines at risk. In this situation, we can see how the tragedy of commons is illustrated. People maximizes their short-term gain in which sooner will bear bad fruits in the long-term for all. The open access of the sea leaves its resources being spoiled and depleted by people acting independently which is against the common good.

Fortunately, the government and concerned individuals act immediately to solve the problem. The problem is caused when people act independently but with supervision and controls it could be solved. The Philippines, a member Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention (WCPFC) , has been compliant with conservation measures imposed by tuna governing body. Because of its rapid response, the Tuna fishing has become sustainable.

Source: Aljazeera
Source: Rappler
Source: Inquirer

2. Overfishing, PH oceans is in Crisis

image source

The problem has now become evident as sardines inside the can are now smaller compared to those way back years ago. Fisherfolks are now having a dwindling catch. They may catch fishes but their size and weight are relatively low compared to catches years ago.

There is now a problem with the open access of the sea. It is not only fishermen who access the sea to catch fish but also large industrial factories that are polluting the fishing waters. The tragedy of the commons are manifested in another way as people in the same side (fishermen) are competing to those in the other side (Industries). As the population of fishes are declining, people still overfish the seas thinking that they are catching less than the catches they did years ago without knowing their numbers as fishermen are also increasing, the fish population are declining, and climate change is in play.

As more fishermen are fishing the seas, the number of catches are also relatively distributed. The more fishermen there are the lesser catches each will have. The less catch they have, the more they will attempt to catch more to maintain their level of catches. The more catches each will do, the more the population of fishes will decline.

There is a tragedy in the fishing waters when people act independently satisfying every peoples desire and self-motivated interest. Thought the manifestation of the problem will be seen in the farther future, the problem has already been building up. When people does not unite but rather satisfy their desires, the common good will be sacrificed.

Source: Ocena Philippines
Source: Businessmirror
Source: Rappler


Acting independently so satisfy one's self-motivated interest against the common good is not for the best interest of everyone. That action will create a chain of more problems to sprout. The lack of sensitivity and care towards one another and selfishness is a problem people has been dealing with since time immemorial.

Despite human failures, humans will always learn to adopt and solve problems. They create problems but they can also solve them. The common good of the people must not be sacrificed for the benefit of the few. As the latin maxim say "salus populi suprema lex esto" (the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law), it is fundamental that people cannot live alone but by working with one another united under common goal.

The Tragedy of the Commons is an example of what are the problems that may arise in an open access resources. May people learn from the past so as not to repeat in the future.

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