A tragedy of the commons

Dave Killion — November 8, 2011

How about saving some crappie for the rest of us?

My membership in the Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association includes a subscription to The Outdoor Edge. I was saddened to see this letter to the editor in the most recent edition –

“A few years ago, you published an article on local fishing spots in the lower mainland of BC. One of the lakes you mentioned was Hatzic Lake, just east of Mission City, and indicated that it was noted for its large number and size of black crappies. ┬áThe following spring and every year since (and all year long) certain people have fished the lake from early morning until late in the evening and kept everything they caught. There are now few fish left in the lake.

There are no plans to restock Hatzic Lake for various reasons and to see a good spot totally ruined by a small group is rather disheartening. Please don’t tell where the good areas are – let people find them on their own and possibly we will be able to keep some of the good areas good for a little longer.”

In response, here is a letter I have written to the Outdoor Edge –

“I don’t do a lot of fishing, but I know from experience there are few things as exciting in a person’s life as catching that first fish. Because of that, I am especially fond of places where catching a fish isn’t too, too difficult for a novice, and like the author of the above letter, my heart aches over the loss of such spots. However, the writer does Outdoor Edge a disservice by holding the magazine responsible for this particular tragedy. The overfishing of Hatzic Lake is clearly yet another failure of government stewardship. Had the lake been privately owned and the owners permitted to profit from it, black crappie would continue to provide exciting sport for many, rather than briefly filling the freezers of a selfish few. So long as resources are left in the commons to be managed by politicians driven principally by their pursuit of office, such incidents will occur over, and over, and over again.”

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