INPRIS is a legal think tank

‘Hey, My Kids Are Fishermen, Too!’ – But No Mercy for the Trout

23 February 2011. We played The New Commons Game (Łowisko) with PGS – Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowych. The game is about fishing. Students established fishing businesses off the coast of Ireland. The task was to maximize their individual revenue from fishing. Thus, for four hours of a cold February afternoon these future high powered managers and white shoe lawyers were making their living from catching and selling trout.

by Filip Wejman

The exercise was part of the Water Negotiation Project.

Players could engage in restrained or aggressive strategies in exploiting the fishing resources. Restrained fishing would allow the happy trout population to survive and grow over time. Overly aggressive strategies would damage the common resource and inhibit the reproduction rate to the point of possible complete extinction. After each round, the results as regards the individual incomes and the level of the fish population would depend on the mix of strategies applied by the players.

Players could decide on their own fishing strategies but also reward or punish the behavior of other fishermen. Our students could discuss and seek to establish social or legal rules that worked towards the maximization of their joint profits. Players convened several conferences in which they sought to regulate the tricky business of trout fishing, however not to much avail. Sometimes, the conference argument would grow heated because of high stakes. ‘My kids are fishermen, too!’ – was one emotional comment when the community faced rapid decline of the fishing resources, and the fishermen were seriously looking into a prospect of a deserted sea. However, by the end of the day, the conflicting interests, the drive for individual profit maximization, and imperfect information mechanisms prevented our community from reaching consensus over the use of the common resource.

Our wonderful coaches, Jagoda and Asia of PGS were managing the game authored by PGS and gave a theoretical introduction on economics of sharing common resources, most notably on theories advanced by Garrett Hardin and Elinor Ostrom. They also moderated the discussion that followed. We talked about the lessons learned and the context of the game as it applies to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over common water resources, and the solution proposed by Professor Shetreet.

Here you can check out the photos at the Facebook site of PGS.

Thanks again to Dr Morek for making it possible for us to use the facilities at the Warsaw University.