The Economics of Overexploitation

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Science  17 Aug 1973:
Vol. 181, Issue 4100, pp. 630-634
DOI: 10.1126/science.181.4100.630


The general economic analysis of a biological resource presented in this article suggests that overexploitation in the physical sense of reduced productivity may result from not one, but two social conditions: common-property competitive exploitation on the one hand, and private-property maximization of profits on the other. For populations that are economically valuable but possess low reproductive capacities, either condition may lead even to the extinction of the population. In view of the likelihood of private firms adopting high rates of discount, the conservation of renewable resources would appear to require continual public surveillance and control of the physical yield and the condition of the stocks.

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