Where Pollution Meets the Tragedy of the Commons

In the vast Pacific Ocean, there is a small fishing town located on one of the most luxurious and beautiful countries. Komave is highly dependent on fishing, as it is Fiji’s third most exported good in the country. The town of Komave is highly visited by both natives and foreigners, due to its rich and diverse species of fish. Others visit for their colorful and lively coral reefs. However, almost two years ago, the natives of Komave experienced one of the most frightening views for two weeks. Instead of their half hour to an hour walk to the “hot spot” for fishing turned out to be closer than expected. For two weeks the residents of this small fishing town, discovered that fishes and other aquatic animals were washed up on their front door. Many residents reported that half the fish washed up were still alive, struggling to make it back to their environment. As some residents attempted to return the fish back in the sea, most were taken and consumed. There are many reasons why fish were washed up on shore for those two weeks, but Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai points out a couple of reasons why this tragic event occurred.

Dr. Mangubhai claims that one of the most likely reasons for the fish to wash up was due to a mix of a pollution and a lack of oxygen in the Pacific water. A reason why there would be a lack of oxygen is due to perhaps other animals in the ocean that are “sucking up the air in there” (Pacific Media Centre). Dr. Mangubhai added that Komave is fortunate that not all fish will be killed if a concurrent tragedy like this occurs, however the Komave is not out of the woods yet.

In 2015, The Fiji Times Online posted an article about Fiji’s current fishing statistics. At the time Fiji was competing with foreign fishing firms eating away at their profits in the Pacific Ocean. The Fiji government at the time approved domestic Fiji fleets duty free fuel for their boats (Singh). This helped domestic fishing companies stay competitive with the foreign fishing companies. This encouraged fishers to continue and even increase the amount of fish they hunt. Fiji, for the past ten years has been overfishing in both the Pacific Ocean as well as in Fiji waters. According to Grahame Southwick, managing director of Fiji Fish Ltd., told the Fiji Times Online that many town representatives and other fishing companies in Fiji are finally advocating to limit the amount of fish to be hunted. Unfortunately, Mr. Southwick also added that this type of consideration, though valuable and considerate, is long over due; about ten years over due. Fiji is still discussing plans to reverse and study the current fish crisis. One of the reasons that Fiji, and other Pacific nations, are adapting and maneuvering with difficulty to the current fishing crisis is because even a slight cutback in fishing for small Pacific nations that depend heavily of the fishing industry will deny any gains in benefits and growth in the economy (Singh). The current Fiji government is considering to subsidy the fishing industry until researchers could accurately estimate the rate of reproduction of the major fish species in Fiji waters. Mr. Southwick estimated that it would take twenty years for the fishing industry to be able to stand on its own without any crutches such as a subsidy. Mr. Southwick also spoke out on the many fishing companies based in Fiji that export the majority of their goods to the European Union market. The EU market has been known to have a “web of rules” and regulations, for example any European Union member must trade within the Union, before considering importing or exporting any good to any nation that is not part of the Union (Singh). This mix of pollution and human carelessness of the environment and the inhabitants of said environment is already quite fatal. But add some good old tragedy of the commons and you create a market that when in growth it only perpetuates itself in more complex issues. Fiji and other Pacific Nations must adhere to both the environmental as well as the economical issues that face one of their largest industries slowly deteriorates the nation.

By Peter Baghdadlian








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