In this lesson, students analyze a select real-world social-ecological system by looking at factors of the resource(s) and ecosystem, resource user behaviors, and governance, to develop recommendations for improving the sustainable management of the resource.
Three Mexican fisheries
Students compare the stories of three Mexican fishing villages to understand the factors that enabled some villages to sustainably manage their fishing resources, while others failed.
This classroom material covers the Gulf of California region in Mexico, where marine resource fishing has historically and currently high cultural and economic importance. Students get to know the ecology of one of the marine species and derive recommendations for the sustainable management of the species.
Then they read about the history and development of three fishing villages Seri, Puerto Peñasco and Kino and compare them by various factors that may have contributed or hindered the sustainable management of their fishing resource.
Finally, students can transfer their understandings to a different sustainable resource use scenario, such as climate change.
- Teaching material type Analogy mapping, Full lesson plan, Reading text
- Subject Areas Biology, Civics, Economics, ESD, Geography, Interdisciplinary, Politics
- Learning Goals Interdisciplinary Thinking, Systems Thinking
- Suitable Grade Levels 9-12, Undergraduate
- Concepts Common Pool Resource, Cooperation, Sustainable resource use
- Content Anchors Common-Pool Resource management, Sustainable Development Goals
Author: Susan Hanisch
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- This article generalizes a set of core design principles for the efficacy of groups that was originally derived for groups attempting to manage common-pool resources (CPRs) such as irrigation systems, forests, and fisheries. The dominant way of thinking until recently was that commons situations invariably result in the tragedy of overuse, requiring either privatization (when possible) or top-down regulation. Based on a worldwide database of CPR groups, Ostrom proposed a set of principles that broadly captured the essential aspects of the institutional arrangements that succeeded, as contrasted to groups whose efforts failed. These principles can be generalized in two respects: first, by showing how they follow from foundational evolutionary principles; and second, by showing how they apply to a wider range of groups. The generality of the core design principles enables them to be used as a practical guide for improving the efficacy of many kinds of groups.
- A major problem worldwide is the potential loss of fisheries, forests, and water resources. Understanding of the processes that lead to improvements in or deterioration of natural resources is limited, because scientific disciplines use different concepts and languages to describe and explain complex social-ecological systems (SESs). Without a common framework to organize findings, isolated knowledge does not cumulate. Until recently, accepted theory has assumed that resource users will never self-organize to maintain their resources and that governments must impose solutions. Research in multiple disciplines, however, has found that some government policies accelerate resource destruction, whereas some resource users have invested their time and energy to achieve sustainability. A general framework is used to identify 10 subsystem variables that affect the likelihood of self-organization in efforts to achieve a sustainable SES.
- To move beyond Hardin’s tragedy of the commons, it is fundamental to avoid falling into either of two analytical and policy traps: (1) deriving and recommending “panaceas” or (2) asserting “my case is unique.” We can move beyond both traps by self-consciously building diagnostic theory to help unpack and understand the complex interrelationship between social and biophysical factors at different levels of analysis. We need to look for commonalities and differences across studies. This understanding will be augmented if the rich detail produced from case studies is used together with theory to find patterned structures among cases. In this paper, we briefly illustrate important steps of how we can go about diagnosing the emergence and sustainability of self-organization in the fishing context of the Gulf of California, Mexico. By doing so, we are able to move away from the universality proposed by Hardin and understand how two out of three fisheries were able to successfully self-organize, and why one of them continues to be robust over time.