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Avoiding catastrophic collapse in small scale fisheries through inefficient cooperation: evidence from a framed field experiment

Therese Lindahl and Rawadee Jarungrattanapong. 2018.


Small-scale fisheries are significant for poverty alleviation but are threatened by over-exploitation and climate change effects leading to more variable fish stocks, including potential negative drastic changes. Are fishers able to adapt? To shed light on this we run a common-pool resource experiment with fishers in Thailand. Fishers face either smooth resource dynamics, or resource dynamics entailing a negative threshold in the growth rate. Whether fishers form cooperate agreements or not depends on the treatment, which theory fails to predict. Groups confronted with the threshold are more likely to cooperate. However, they do not necessarily manage the resource more efficiently. Our analysis also reveals that whereas the threshold treatment is associated with more under-exploitation, over-exploitation is driven by socio-economic variables. Advancing understanding of behavioral responses to climate change effects needs more systematic explorations of how contextual factors influence outcomes. Our work can be seen as one attempt in this direction.

Keywords: behavioural economy, behavioural experiments, small scale fisheries, cooperation

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