Case Studies in Fisheries Conservation and Management: Applied Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Case 5: Communism Meets the Tragedy of the Commons: A Fisheries Management Conflict in Rural China

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874189.ch5

Presently, hundreds of commercial fishermen unrestrictedly harvest fish from Caohai Lake using trapnets, gillnets, and various small fish traps. The shallow lake is so choked with trapnets that it is difficult to cross the lake in a boat. Government officials would like to boost fisheries production in the lake in order to help provide food for the local populace. They know little of the current status of the fishery, and they fear local backlash to any management plan that they might implement.

South-central China’s Guizhou Province is home to some of the poorest people in that growing nation. Guizhou’s Caohai Nature Reserve (CNR) is a national wildlife preserve established for the protection of the endangered Black-necked Cranes. The cranes breed in Siberia, and winter on Caohai (“Sea of Grass”) Lake’s 20 km 2 of wetland area. Human population is extremely dense in the 96-km 2 Caohai Lake watershed. Cranes were hunted almost to extinction before the International Crane Foundation (Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA) intervened in the early 1990s to help develop a protection and management plan that allowed cranes and farmers to co-exist. The heart of the plan was the establishment of a community micro-enterprise development grant program that helped the local people establish livelihoods that were not contrary to crane conservation objectives. Locals shifted to enterprises such as hog farming, native plant collection for the herbal industry, and floral horticulture. Fisheries on the lake also have been historically important to the region.