Exploring External Validity of Common Pool Resource Experiments: Insights from Artisanal Benthic Fisheries in Chile

Stefan Gelcich, Ricardo Guzmán, Carlos Rodríguez-Sickert, Juan Carlos Castilla and Juan Camilo Cardenas. Ecology and Society. 18 (3): 2.


We explore the external validity of a common pool resource (CPR) laboratory experiment. The experimental subjects were artisanal fishers who exploit benthic resources on the coast of Chile. A first set of subjects was recruited from fishers’ unions that comanage their resources through territorial user right areas. These unions differ in their performance, which is largely the outcome of the cooperative efforts of their members. A second set of subjects was recruited among nonunionized fishers who do not participate in the comanagement system. They fish exclusively in open-access areas and barely cooperate in their fishing. Membership of a union and the union’s performance in comanagement were related to the subjects’ behavior in the laboratory. In the CPR experiment, members of high-performance unions showed high cooperation with each other, while members of low-performance unions cooperated significantly less. Nonunionized fishers did not cooperate at all. We also explored how the weak external enforcement of an individual quota can trigger changes in behavior, what we refer to as internalizing the norm. Only the members of high-performance unions internalized the norm. They refrained from overfishing until the end of the game, even though the sanction for exceeding the quota was not strong enough to be dissuasive from the point of view of pure self-interest. This study provided insight on the experimental analysis of cooperation in artisanal fisheries and suggested that the capacity to internalize norms is important to the sustainable exploitation of artisanal fisheries common pool resources.


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